Monday’s Movie: “Avatar,” “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (1939)

It’s been a while since I did a “Monday’s Movie.”  I’m not sure if the meme is still active, but I’ll post anyway…

“Avatar” (2009)
Finally got around to seeing “Avatar” over the weekend.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see it, but it’s just been finding the time.

I’ve read a lot of places that James Cameron spent the better part of a decade waiting for the technology to catch up to what he wanted to do in “Avatar.”  Looking back, I wish he’d spent a bit more time working on the script and not having it be a retread of “Dances With Wolves.”

Cameron has created a movie that is visually stunning but lacks any depth when it comes to story or characters.  Every plot point is clearly telegraphed well in advance and the characters rarely grow beyond their original character description.   Within five minutes of meeting everyone, I knew pretty much how their story would work out and be resolved before the final frame unfolded.  It’s a shame really that a movie that looks this good can be so empty.  It’s the Lays potato chips of movies.

I’ve also read a lot about how some audience members have returned to the movie multiple times because the world of Pandora is so immersive and they want to feel like they’re a part of the culture created there.   Looking beyond the environmental message that Cameron beats you over the head with like a two-by-four, I was reminded a lot of my recent experience watching “The Invention of Lying.  Both movies, on some level, deal with the question of how human beings find a greater meaning and order to the universe and their lives beyond just themselves.  Where “Lying” was a satire and offered up the viewpoint that religion is based on a lie, “Avatar” seems to say that we find meaning from how we’re connected to the world and each other.  On Pandora, all things are connected and can interconnect, which is a fascinating concept if one that isn’t necessarily all that well explored or thought out.

But we do see some moments where the natives do have their own types of religious expression, related mostly to the natural environment of their world, and how that has a greater meaning for them.  They worship and find meaning from a mother earth figure, which plays into the final act of the film and serves more as a deus ex machina than offering anything substantive to say about Pandora, the characters or the story.

The movie has some opportunities that it really fails to explore, including the fact that in the real world, Jake is paralyzed but in his avatar body he’s able to use all his limbs.

There are some interesting ideas that could or should have been explored in a better script and story.  Unfortunately, “Avatar” ends up being all style with little substance.

And I’d say that, quite frankly, if you were looking for a better genre film to put up for best picture, “Star Trek” was far more deserving…

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”
It was fun, it was breezy and it didn’t overstay its welcome.  Running just under 90 minutes, this animated feature is a real joy and I really enjoyed it.  I watched in on DVD and found myself amused the entire time.   It’s not “Up” but it still has a good heart.

“Hound of the Baskervilles” (1939)
The first pairing of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson is a fairly faithful adaptation of the original novel.  The script does play up the red herrings as to who is behind the infamous hound and the story does seem to have a kind of gothic horror sensibility to it at times, esp. once the action shifts to the area surrounding Baskerville hall.   Interestingly, Rathbone doesn’t get top billing (the movie seems more a vehicle for the actor playing Sir Henry).

It’s been a while since I’ve seen any of the Rathbone and Bruce movies and I found the typical image we have of Bruce at Dr. Watson to both fit and not fit here.  Bruce, at times, seems a bit bungling or there in the role of a “Doctor Who” companion–around for Holmes to explain the plot to.  But here he has a more active role and despite one scene in the cave when he throws a tizzy about Holmes being out on the moor in disguise, his take on Watson works fairly well.

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