This Week's Review: "The Mule," "Aquaman" and "Vice"

The theater I usually attend added an early-morning feature during the holidays; that allowed me to spend much of Christmas week at the movies. It two days, I indulged myself in “The Mule,” “Aquaman” and “Vice.”

I started with Clint Eastwood’s “The Mule”; the trailers had been more than misleading, so I never knew what to expect. Eastwood’s use of understatement is a far cry from his earlier action films. I did not know that the film was based on an actual 90-year-old man who took up drug-running in his declining years, but Eastwood makes the man credible, if not admirable. The film is interesting, but not essential.

I stayed at the theater to see “Aquaman” and was stunned by the visual effects. The influence of James Cameron’s “Avatar” is very clear; I wish now I had seen this film in 3-D. It is no secret that the Aquaman character, created in the 1940s and aimed at DC’s least-demanding readers, has been a very bad joke to comic-book enthusiasts; that should change.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, DC’s editors and writers, such as Geoff Johns, began to ponder Aquaman and realized that a character who lives in the deepest part of the oceans would have strength more than comparable to Superman or Wonder Woman’s. If you add an edgy temper, comparable to that of Marvel’s Namor the Sub-mariner, you have a viable character who can support an entire film. This is definitely worth seeing on a big screen.

I returned the next day to see Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in “Vice.” It was interesting but intensely partisan in its depiction of the former vice president. Bale will probably receive an Oscar nomination for his work in the film, but Steve Carell and Amy Adams are also good as Donald Rumsfeld and Lynne Cheney. The film becomes increasingly polemic as it progresses, and the audience has to wait until the last few minutes to learn the identity of the narrator. The acting is good enough to justify seeing the film, but the DVD should be more than enough.

I plan to continue my holiday viewing with another political film, “On the Basis of Sex,” which is based on the early career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. After this many movies, I should be ready to confront another semester of unwilling and ungrammatical students.