My wife and I seem to have the worst luck when it comes to movies. For what felt like the longest time, we couldn't find something decent to watch. And by that I mean we couldn't find a movie where, when it's all over, we turn to each other, smile and make more positive comments than negative ones. We don't go just for a big-name actor/actress, a highly publicized show or one that the critics really enjoy. We often look for a flick that either makes us think, wows us with special effects, or (in the case of my wife) has Johnny Depp in it!
I will mention a few of the more prominent losers we have recently seen, without reliving too many of the negative feelings surrounding these bombs. And, I understand that not everyone's taste in cinema is the same. So, take these opinions with a large grain of salt.
In 2005, "The New World" was released on Christmas Day. This action/adventure movie seriously lacked adventure and action which doesn't make for a good movie in my book. The entire dialogue could fit in a quick 10-page high school paper. As a matter of fact, I think a high school student did put together the script. And it's not like the action scenes were all that riveting. This turned out to be more of a poorly-done romance film set in the 17th century. The long "beauty" sequences of pristine nature in pre-colonial North America were fascinating the first 10 times they appeared, but not the last 90 times. The 135 minute movie could easily have been 90 minutes. There are not too many movies where I find myself genuinely falling asleep. This was one.
Another loser in our minds was one that felt compelling at times, but like most Coen brothers movies, left the viewer scratching their heads unsure of what just happened. I'm speaking of "The Ladykillers." While the edited-for-television version we watched was clean enough, this movie obviously lacked in intelligent/creative plot, clean use of the English language and quality humor; all important characteristics for a good comedy to survive. The length of the film was fine, but in classic Coen fashion, it was all too weird for our taste.
The Coen brothers have done much better, i.e. "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Raising Arizona" even though, admittedly those movies also contained plenty of odd characters and off-the-wall plot twists and turns. Two thumbs down for "The Ladykillers."
Now, I'm not one to leave on a down note, so I will pass along a few recommendations for movies that I have seen lately and, in my book, earned at least an A- grade. In no particular order; "Ben-Hur" (classic, epic starring Charlton Heston during the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ), "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991 version of English adventure story starring an accent-less Kevin Costner) and "The Time Traveler's Wife" (2009). I give no explanation on the last suggestion, as I would encourage you to check this movie out if you want to watch a film with a unique plot, well-developed characters and mix of intrigue. It is based on a book with the same title, a book my wife says is an excellent read.
Happy hunting for that next quality movie!
(Lyman is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)