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Pleasant surprises

By Lady Liberty
web posted August 10, 2009

Julie & Julia

**** out of 5 stars

Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 123 minutes

A friend of mine has been looking forward to this one for quite awhile. Though this isn't usually my kind of movie, the premise intrigued me and the actors are obviously top notch. It wasn't hard to talk me into buying a ticket.

Julie and Julia plays on the similarities of two women who live two very different lives in two very different eras. The one thing, the overwhelming thing, the two women have in common is that they're both looking for something to do, something that's both fulfilling and which matters.

Julia Child (Meryl Streep), the famous (and infamous) chef, finds herself living in diplomatic splendor in France in 1949 when her husband (Stanley Tucci) is sent there on a government posting. Julie (Amy Adams) works for the government in New York City in 2002. She and her husband (Chris Messina) live above a pizzeria in Queens. Julia, who is bored out of her mind as a housewife, goes to cooking school and eventually writes a cookbook. Julie, who is a frustrated writer and unhappy cubicle denizen, decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook and blog about the experience.

But that overview barely scratches the surface of the story. Both women endure joy and pain, successes and setbacks. And with scenes that alternate and twine between the two disparate lives, we come to see the parallels that Julie does between her and Julia for ourselves.

This may be the only movie ever based simultaneously on two true stories. The real Julie Powell really did do that cooking and write that blog (and eventually a book). The real Julia Child did write an autobiography and a cookbook that serve as references for the other half of the film. Fortunately for us, both stories are interesting in and of themselves, and the combination is very, very good indeed.

The actors are all just terrific, most notably Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci who have a surprising onscreen chemistry that makes the lifelong love affair between Julia and her husband Paul entirely believable. Amy Adams is also good, though her chemistry with her co-star isn't as overt and I believe takes a little something away from her scenes that might otherwise have added just the right amount of spice to them. While you might expect some times of real drama, there are also some moments of genuine comedy that make Julie & Julia a wonderfully rounded and entertaining movie experience.

It should be noted that, while the appearance of office cubicles and small apartments in New York several years ago wasn't much of a stretch for set decorators, Paris in the late 1940's was, and they stepped up brilliantly. I found myself wanting to visit Paris for myself, but not just any Paris. No, I want the Paris beloved by Julia Child and depicted so beautifully in this movie!

BOTTOM LINE: I was as much prepared to dislike Julie & Julia as to like it. What surprised me was just how very much I did like it. The friend I was with (another woman) really enjoyed it, too. I'd recommend it with no reservations whatsoever (though I'll caution you right now that this is probably not a movie either younger men or young children will enjoy).

FAMILY SUITABILITY: Julie & Julia is rated PG-13 for "brief strong language and some sensuality." That's probably just about right. Little ones wouldn't like it anyway.

POLITICAL NOTES: Paul Child served in Paris during the McCarthy era. McCarthy and his cohorts saw Communists behind every tree and in every office. Child and his wife felt some of the effects of that paranoia even across the Atlantic. Their experiences serve to remind us just how all encompassing and damaging such witch hunts can be. While it's important we all learn that lesson from history, we cannot afford to ignore possibilities, either. Neither Communist sympathizers then nor Jihad proponents now are everywhere, but they could be anywhere. As an aside, I must also point out here that our government is currently being overrun by those with genuine Communist and socialist bents, a threat from inside our borders that we would do well to treat with wariness at the very least. Without jumping to conclusions on any front, our freedom depends on being watchful, prudent, and sometimes proactive. As Thomas Jefferson said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra

**** out of 5 stars

Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 118 minutes
WARNING: Mild spoilers

I first saw previews for GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra a couple of months ago. As the trailer unfolded onscreen, I found myself getting more and more excited. What was this awesome movie that I was so absolutely going to see? Then I saw the big title appear: GI Joe. How embarrassing. A few weeks later, I saw the previews again, and was sucked in again. I even admitted to a few discreet friends that I just might have to go see it (yes, they laughed). Well, now I've seen it and I'm going public with that fact as well as my reaction: I loved it, and I'm not ashamed to say so!

I don't know anything about GI Joe the doll—I'm sorry, the "action figure"—nor am I familiar with the comics. In fact, I didn't even know that there were GI Joe comics. So I came into the theatre with a group of friends and no expectations or foreknowledge.

Duke (Channing Tatum) is an American soldier whose team is tasked with guarding some very nasty warheads developed by the MARS corporation. Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) is his friend and fellow team member. Despite the team's impressive firepower and expertise, a group headed up by the Baroness (Sienna Miller) ambushes them. The technology of the attackers is off the scale, and Duke and Ripcord find themselves fighting for their lives in what appears to be a losing proposition. At the last minute, another team joins the fray and they, too, boast some very high tech weaponry. Fortunately, they're the good guys.

Such is Duke and Ripcord's introduction to GI JOE, a special black ops team headed up by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). Their determination to avenge their team sees the men fighting along side such GI JOE luminaries as Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) against baddies like Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), "the doctor" (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the mysterious Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), and their very wealthy, very powerful supporters including the man behind the weapons genius of MARS, McCullen (Christopher Eccleston).

The stories and back stories being told are surprisingly intricate, yet even with no prior knowledge of the characters or setting, I had no problem following everything. But let's be honest here: the story isn't why you go to see a movie like this. It's the action, the explosions, the special effects that draw you in, and GI Joe has 'em all in spades. The effects are fantastic and the action is almost non-stop. Frankly, the story could have been simpler and the movie still pretty good; the fact that the script doesn't let us down is a real and welcome bonus. Simplistic? Yeah, in many ways it is. Simple? Not even close.

With a movie like this, acting ability is almost superfluous. Muscles and stunts are what it's all about. There is actually some decent acting in GI Joe (most notably from Sienna Miller and Christopher Eccleston), though some performers don't measure up in that regard. But that's okay, because the muscles and stunts are there; the fight scenes are intricately choreographed and well executed; and the CGI is both effective and, at times, jaw-dropping. Oh, and where low tech but nice surprises are concerned, keep your eyes open for a nice cameo from an actor we've seen in one or two other action flicks.

BOTTOM LINE: I had a ball. The friends I was with (three guys in their early 20's) had fun, too. If you're more into serious dramas or sophisticated comedies, stay away from this one. But if you like action, special effects, and pure movie entertainment, go ahead and put GI Joe on your movie-going itinerary. By the way, GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra positively screams, "Sequel! Sequel!" I'll tell you right now that, based on the first movie, I'll be buying a ticket for any follow-up they care to make.

FAMILY SUITABILITY: GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is rated PG-13, which is fairly appropriate. The violence is almost non-stop and is, at times, fairly graphic. While there's no sex, and profanity is sparse and mild when it occurs, the overall film is quite intense, too much so for little ones. That being said, I suspect most little boys (older than, say, 7 or 8) will have no problem seeing GI Joe and will probably like it quite a bit. Most little girls likely won't like it at all.

POLITICAL NOTES: One world government? That's a problem for me, and apparently a problem for GI Joe as well. In the movies, the ultimate goal of the bad guys is supposed to horrify us and make us want them to fail. What do the bad guys in GI Joe want? A one world government. That's not a bad message to send, especially given the proclivities of some in this country to institute just that. ESR

Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.

 

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