Avatar – 6.5

Avatar the Experience was seamless: I never questioned whatever world it was the 3D glasses helped transport us to. Was it any more remarkable a cinematic experience than Lord of the Rings, though? Or, for that matter, The Wizard of Oz, which we watched on TV last week? (The flying enoks of Pandora seem to derive, in equal part, from African bee-eaters of the natural world and the Wicked Witch of the West’s monkey guard.) When it came down to other parts of the movie – i.e., plot and character – there was nothing novel, and director James Cameron almost seemed to embrace the cinematic clichés that abounded. As in so many movies, the intellectually interesting puzzles posed by the story devolved into a smash-mouth battle climax that reduced the value of human life to about zero and ended, as every such battle invariably does, with the superhero and the supervillain somehow finding each other, to face off mano-a-mano. I liked what I perceived as the anti-Iraq subtext (substitute “oil” for “unobtainium”), until my wife and other reviewers pointed out that almost every other war and territorial conquest fit the same bill. In the end, what will linger in my mind from Avatar the Experience is the haunting beauty of the Na’Vi, a blueskinned, 10-foot-tall, mink-like race, especially the one cloned from an actress with the appropriately exotic name of Zoe Soldana.

Pirate Radio – 3

Absurd from start to finish, this disaster film contained not a single enjoyable scene, and it was barely kept afloat by its snippets of memorable, albeit too predictable, ‘60s music. It was especially disappointing coming from Richard Curtis, who contributed to such prior favorites as Love, Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral. If it was meant as a spoof, for which there was no evidence, then the filmic allusions at the conclusion to the Titanic and Dunkirk were notably tasteless.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox – 6

The Harvard Lampoon used to put out issues that struck its editors, but few others, as hilarious. I felt in the presence of similar “inside” humor as I watched Mr. Fox trot on down the hill in post-Roadrunner cartoon style. Obviously, when you hire George Clooney and Meryl Streep to voice your characters more is intended than a simple cartoon, but what was it? Scene after scene evoked deeper emotional relationship issues, but always in the briefest, most cliché-ridden terms; so nothing could be taken seriously. And whom were we supposed to root for – a chicken-stealing fox who betrays his wife and only child? The movie, however clever, conveyed little more than an attitude, a not terribly respectful one, at that.