Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Of Nazi Plotters, Castle Rats & Growing Young

Since last Tuesday, I have been home in Western Pennsylvania for the Christmas holidays. It's been a relaxing break filled with visits with family members and friends.

We saw three new movies during the week: "Valkyrie," "The Tale of Despereaux," and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

"Valkyrie," which we saw Christmas night, falls short as a "historical thriller." Christy Lemire, the Associated Press movie critic, correctly asserted in her review that Tom Cruise was the film's "weakest link." Cruise just doesn't have the emotional range to pull off the part of would-be Hitler assassin Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, leader of the July 20, 1944, plot.

"The Tales of Despereaux" is a good computer-animated flick with all the right ingredients -- a kingdom, a castle, a princess, lots of soup and assorted rats and mice. I took my four-year-old nephew to see it the day after Christmas. I can report that he paid fairly close attention during the action sequences but was less interested in the development of the characters and the plot. And, the notable voices of Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson and Matthew Broderick didn't faze him in the least.

I also would recommend "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which was based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I think it may be most enjoyed by those who appreciate "semi-fantasy" fare on par with "Forrest Gump." I enjoyed the unique characters and the "aging in reverse" plot device.

I should note, however, that the the old high school buddy with whom I who saw "Benjamin Button" was not impressed -- and downright annoyed by the Hurricane Katrina story arc and the performances of stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

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