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Last Updated: August 3, 2023

Summer Movie Reviews

In this week’s newsletter I’d like to review these three popular summer movies. Click on the links to see the trailers.

  1. Asteroid City
  2. Oppenheimer
  3. Barbie
 

Asteroid City

Asteroid City

I paid good money to see Asteroid City based on how much I liked director Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. The trailer for Asteroid City had the same kind of style. Any movie about a science camp for gifted kids also immediately gets my attention. However, the trailer tricks the audience into seeing a movie they were not expecting.

Had Asteroid City stuck to the story of a camp in the desert southwest for gifted students in science, I probably would have loved it. However, that is a story within another story. Half the movie, of which you see none of in the trailer is in black and white, taking place somewhere off Broadway, in which a struggling director and misfit actors are brainstorming on making a play about such a science camp. My interpretation of the color scenes is another set of actors playing out a first draft of such a Broadway play. This starts out well but it in the black and white world they go in different directions on the plot and that leads to various ridiculous directions in the color world. My interpretation of some of the color world actors trying to leave the set is them being fed up with the whole thing.

This could have been a great movie had they simply left out all the black and white scenes and took the story seriously as in Moonlight Kingdom. I also get the feeling the movie is full of Hollywood inside jokes, which does nothing for me or the other 99.9% of the audience who don’t get them, including me. This movie was a big waste of a great cast of some of the biggest names in the business. In my opinion, the movie was one big joke at the audience’s expense.

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer

I can’t not see a movie about Robert Oppenheimer. For those who don’t know, he ran the Manhattan Project, tasked with making the world’s first atomic bombs. I’m proud to say I own a piece of trinitite from the project, which is sand fused into glass from the heat of an atomic test. I am also proud the United States won a three-way race to build the first atomic weapon and believe it’s use in World War II was a the lesser of two evils.

Much like Asteroid City, the trailer betrays what you get with the movie. I hoped to see scientifically based movie about the Manhattan project. However, there is more to Oppenheimer’s story than just building the bomb. He had been under investigation the whole time for being a Communist and after the war was over, lost his security clearance to continue research in that area. I learned a lot about that part of Oppenheimer’s story from the movie. However, unlike what you see in the trailer, the story of Oppenheimer’s political leanings was the overriding thrust of the movie.

Much like Asteroid City, the movie cuts back and forth between color scenes. This time the color scenes related to the scientific quest for the bomb and black and white ones about the anti-communist forces working to thwart Oppenheimer. Much like Asteroid City, I would have preferred all the black and white scenes be left on the cutting room floor with more attention paid to the science. One movie is not enough time to cover both stories properly.

Another big complaint I have is all the special effects and overpowering soundtrack. I don’t think the camera ever stayed on one shot for over ten seconds the entire movie. In between shots there was completely unnecessary cuts to animation of uranium nuclei breaking apart. The makers of this movie must have thought the audience would have the attention span of a five-year-old. Yet, they also made the movie three hours long. By the end of it, I felt exhausted. A friend of mine who saw another showing admitted she fell asleep.

The first step to making a good movie is to simply tell a story. I suspect director Christpher Nolan thought the audience would get bored with a science-heavy movie. Instead, the audience gets whipped around in time and topic every several seconds. Perhaps Nolan was right, as IMDB gives the movie an 8.7 rating. My own rating would be a 5.

If you are interested in Oppenheimer, I suggest reading the Wikipedia page instead. However, the movie wasn’t a total loss. It could be I would appreciate it more with a second (or more) viewing as it went over a lot of material and it was hard to keep all the characters straight on one viewing.

Barbie

Barbie

I admit I have been looking forward to the Barbie movie. My June 1, 2023 newsletter was about Barbie trivia, to help me get any inside jokes the movie might throw at me. This research did help me appreciate the movie better.

Unlike the previous two movies in this newsletter, I thought the trailer represented the movie well. The movie was heavier and more serious at times than the trailer suggests, but that’s okay. The premise is that there is a Barbie Land, in which life plays out much like Barbie’s does in the real world. They are parallel universes and what happens in one affects the other.

To make a long story short, Barbie goes to the “real world” to meet her real owner and find out why she has been projecting her feelings of insecurity on Barbie. Ken accompanies her but goes back early when he sees how much better men have it in the real world and wants to bring those changes to Barbie Land. Meanwhile Barbie is more interested in the real world and ends up getting chased by Mattel executives who don’t want her rocking any boats. That’s about as far as I’ll take it.

Margot Robbie absolutely shined as Barbie. A perfect casting choice. Also notable were America Ferrera as the mother and Rhea Perlman as Ruth Handler (the creator of Barbie). The story carefully wove the arguments why women both love and hate Barbie. I thought the writing and jokes were quite clever. The only part of the movie I didn’t like was Will Ferrell and all the other Mattel executives. They added a slapstick storyline that I didn’t think needed to be there. Both the beginning and the ending I thought were outstanding.

All things considered, I enjoyed the movie. As the advertising suggestions, the movie is safe for both Barbie fans and haters. A major point of the movie is questioning whether Barbie was a good or bad thing for women in general. However, anyone who has no interest either way probably wouldn’t get many of the jokes and not appreciate the controversies the movie explores. As for me, I give the movie a strong thumbs up.