Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

IMDb plot summary: Two young Swedish children experience the many comedies and tragedies of their family, the Ekdahls.
Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Bertil Guve, Ewa Fröling, Börje Ahlstedt, and Pernilla Allwin.

For some reason I thought this was by Francois Truffaut, a filmmaker I have not particularly enjoyed, and I groaned at the thought of spending three hours with it. Turns out, however, I was very much mistaken and this is actually Ingmar Bergman, a filmmaker I've liked very much on the whole. While I still think this film is longer than it needs to be (I'm not sure if all the many familial subplots help the overarching story), it has a lot to recommend it. The movie definitely gets a boost when it's clear there *is* a primary continuing plotline rather than just a series of episodes, and as that plotline unfolds, I was particularly struck by how much I enjoyed the supernatural elements woven throughout. Some of the best scenes in here are not terribly pleasant to watch -- I was captivated in horror throughout the scene where the bishop interrogates Alexander and punishes him for his lies. This review is a bit scattered (my apologies) because my thoughts on this are still a bit scattered, but I bet this is one that would improve on a rewatch when I am better able to connect the movie's many dots.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Fanny and Alexander > Kung Fu Panda
Fanny and Alexander < Gone In 60 Seconds
Fanny and Alexander > The Red Shoes
Fanny and Alexander > Two Weeks Notice
Fanny and Alexander > You Can't Take It With You
Fanny and Alexander < A Clockwork Orange
Fanny and Alexander < Three Colors: White
Fanny and Alexander > New York Stories
Fanny and Alexander < Watchmen
Fanny and Alexander > The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Fanny and Alexander < Oscar
Final spot: #719 out of 2610.

Gomorrah (2008)

IMDb plot summary: An inside look at Italy's modern crime families.
Directed by Matteo Garrone. Starring Salvatore Abbruzzese, Simone Sacchettino, Salvatore Ruocco, and Vincenzo Fabricino.

Ugh, why are crime films so dull? I try to give it my best shot and work to stay invested in the film, but there's just so little human emotion to get attached to most of the time, which seems weird, given the subject of the story. I felt largely the same here. There were so many characters in here that it was tough for me to keep track of them all, and frequently ones I HAD noticed to would just fade out without much of a mention. The two violent young men were the only ones I ended up being interested in, and their plot is solid, but the rest of the movie is a slog.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gomorrah < The Day After Tomorrow
Gomorrah < Courage Under Fire
Gomorrah < Susannah of the Mounties
Gomorrah > The World Is Not Enough
Gomorrah > Capote
Gomorrah > Dangerous
Gomorrah > The Art of War
Gomorrah > Men of Honor
Gomorrah < The Butter Battle Book
Gomorrah > Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
Gomorrah > Turner and Hooch

Final spot: #2289 out of 2609.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Gifted (2017)

IMDb plot summary: Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, and Jenny Slate.

This is one of those movies that is pleasant enough to watch but when you're done it just glides right on out of your memory, leaving basically no imprint whatsoever. Everybody's pretty competent in this, even the little girl who, despite being a child genius, is shown as having actually pretty realistic 7-year-old emotions (thanks to competent screenwriter and actress). Lindsay Duncan as the grandmother is the only one whose performance rises above "basic competence," thanks to a single scene where she makes me want to follow her character, and only her character, for the rest of the movie. It's sweet, it's fine, but it hits every predictable beat (and one or two ridiculous ones) and as a result, it doesn't actually make a mark.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gifted > The Day After Tomorrow
Gifted < Gone in 60 Seconds
Gifted < The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Gifted < Silent Hill
Gifted < Hide and Seek
Gifted > Four Weddings and a Funeral
Gifted < Twin Sisters
Gifted < Ghostbusters II
Gifted < The Lost Weekend
Gifted > They Made Me a Fugitive
Gifted < Is It College Yet?

Final spot: #1260 out of 2608.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Night to Remember (1958)

IMDb plot summary: An account of the ill-fated maiden voyage of RMS Titanic in 1912.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker. Starring Kenneth More, Ronald Allen, Robert Ayres, and Honor Blackman.

In my last movie challenge someone gave me Titanic, which I enjoyed pretty well. This time around, I got another film portrayal of the Titanic disaster, though I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, either from a spectacle standpoint (though obviously I wasn't really expecting that) or from an emotional. The film spreads itself so thin among so many characters that you don't ever actually get attached to any of them, so every scene is like watching it played out with strangers. That can sometimes be powerful, but it also means there isn't a lot of opportunity for personal investment in the story, at least early on. The final scenes bring that a bit closer to home not because we've gotten to know the characters but because the circumstances they're in are so extreme it's easy to sympathize with any of them even if we don't know who they are. Overall the movie plays more like an educational film than a narrative, so it's all a little drier, a little more distanced, and a little bit more focused on the historical implications of the tragedy (an ending title card even informs us how regulations adapted in response to the ship sinking). A good watch but nothing spectacular.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
A Night to Remember > Outbreak
A Night to Remember < Gone in 60 Seconds
A Night to Remember < The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
A Night to Remember > The Wedding Singer
A Night to Remember < Fish Story
A Night to Remember < Nine Lives
A Night to Remember > Bee Movie
A Night to Remember > The Last Unicorn
A Night to Remember > The Revenant
A Night to Remember < Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Final spot: #1105 out of 2607.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pontypool (2008)

IMDb plot summary: A psychological thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Ontario town.
Directed by Bruce McDonald. Starring Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, and Hrant Alianak.

This was a terrifying and exhilarating ride. It's one of the most creative horror films I've seen in recent years. I'm not sure it all hangs together logically, but you know what? I don't actually care because it does such a good job of staying true to the creepy atmosphere and bringing the audience along emotionally. Even if you have to stretch your suspension of disbelief pretty far, the movie really helps to pull you along, so it works out. Right from the opening few scenes, the film builds a sense of claustrophobic tension, and as the story slowly reveals itself, that tension gets pulled tighter and tighter. I love seeing horror movies that depend on psychological tension rather than jump scares, and I like talky one-room thrillers, and this hit on both levels to become one of my favorites of the challenge thus far.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Pontypool > Outbreak
Pontypool > All's Faire in Love
Pontypool > The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Pontypool < Equus
Pontypool > United 93
Pontypool < Shaun of the Dead
Pontypool < Frozen
Pontypool > Kick-Ass
Pontypool < 50/50
Pontypool > Searching for Bobby Fischer
Pontypool > Shattered Glass

Final spot: #228 out of 2606.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Muppets (2011)

IMDb plot summary: A Muppet fanatic with some help from his two human compatriots must regroup the Muppet gang to stop an avaricious oil mogul from taking down one of their precious life-longing treasures.
Directed by James Bobin. Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and Rashida Jones.

This movie is definitely meant for those who grew up on the Muppets, which is... not me. I watched my first Muppet movie ever as part of my 2014 movie challenge, and I never saw the show. So the huge sense of nostalgia it's drawing on is lost on me. However, what it does deliver to newcomers is mostly enough. It's smart and funny and makes character dynamics clear and has entertaining cameos and good songs (aside from the completely forgettable "Party of One" number). It does resolve somewhat abruptly, only actually wrapping up the main plot conflict in the credit sequence, but overall it's a solid little movie, and I bet it would offer even more to those who are fans of the Muppets to begin with.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Muppets > Death at a Funeral
The Muppets > Kolya
The Muppets < The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Muppets < Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
The Muppets > Little Children
The Muppets > Hidden Figures
The Muppets < A Streetcar Named Desire
The Muppets < The Invisible Man
The Muppets > Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Muppets > Father of the Bride (1991)
The Muppets > Hard Candy

Final spot: #519 out of 2605, which may be slightly too high.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

IMDb plot summary: Small town band hits it big, but they must battle a nefarious plot in the music industry.
Directed by Michael Schultz. Starring Peter Frampton, Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, and Maurice Gibb.

Oh, this movie is so weird. Going into it, I didn't know it didn't actually feature the Beatles, just their music (though if I had noticed it was made in '78, I would have known, I guess) so at first it was a bit of a shock when Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees were wandering around singing their songs. The most obvious comparison here is Across the Universe, another movie relying on Beatles cover songs with barely any plot. While this isn't nearly as visually striking as Across the Universe and the songs don't have the same emotional impact (AtU at least attempts to craft a story around the songs), there's something sort of charmingly haphazard about it, particularly the fact that there's almost no spoken dialogue at all. The movie jumps from song to song with no pretense whatsoever that it's making any sense, and every moment is so deliberately just an excuse to sing another song. I have to kind of admire the absurdity of that, even if I'm struggling to think of anybody I know I'd ever be able to recommend this to. I'm not going to complain that I watched an hour and 50 minutes of decent covers of great songs. I had a good time, even if the movie is mostly nonsense.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Death at a Funeral (2007)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Secondhand Lions
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Nacho Libre
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Monsters University
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Blow Out
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Harry and the Hendersons
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Punch-Drunk Love
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Melinda and Melinda
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Alice Adams

Final spot: #1375 out of 2604.