Monday, December 5, 2016

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

IMDb plot summary: A brother and sister driving home through isolated countryside for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature which is on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree.
Directed by Victor Salva. Starring Gina Philips, Justin Long, Patricia Belcher, and Brandon Smith.

(Very mild spoilers ahead.)

I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before going into it, other than that it was a horror flick. It has a pretty strong start to it before seriously devolving. I appreciate how, despite it being a very typical horror movie in so many ways, it doesn't go for the cheap scares. Its scary scenes are slow and creeping and well-earned for the most part, and the first reveal that Something Is Wrong At the Old Church is very effective.

There are, however, two things that seriously drag the movie down in its second half. For one, the design of the creature. Once we actually see it, and not just faintly or for a moment, but once we start spending a LOT of time watching it in close-up, it's hard not to just dismiss it as a guy in makeup. The look is a bit intimidating but not particularly creepy, so much as... maybe a fantasy movie orc.

Secondly, while the characters make a snide comment early on the film about horror movie characters being stupid, these kids really are. They spend SO much time stopping and fighting and staring at things when they clearly just need to run, and I found myself growling, "Just GO ALREADY!" at the screen on several occasions. That wears very thin very quickly for me, and it's a shame, because the two have a very natural brother-sister chemistry in the first half.

So... a promising beginning that goes way downhill in the second half. It ends on one last tiny high note -- the last few seconds are wonderfully creepy.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Jeepers Creepers < Following
Jeepers Creepers > The Ghost and the Darkness
Jeepers Creepers > What's Up, Tiger Lily?
Jeepers Creepers < Stand and Deliver
Jeepers Creepers < Frequency
Jeepers Creepers > The King and I
Jeepers Creepers > The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Jeepers Creepers > Less Than Zero
Jeepers Creepers > Luther
Jeepers Creepers < Good Night, and Good Luck.
Final spot: #1513 out of 2541.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Shallows (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Blake Lively.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is exactly what I wanted it to be: a tight, interesting shark thriller. I've never thought of Blake Lively as much of an actress, but she does a decent job holding this movie together, and, even more importantly, her character is written to be smart. She tries everything she can to improve her situation, and I really like how she is the one who defeats the shark at the end, rather than someone swinging in to rescue her at the last minute. The moments that are most interesting here are the ones told off screen. I found the deaths of everyone who she enlisted as a helper pretty terrifying, and the movie made a smart choice to not go too overboard with the shark. Because they had been pretty chill with the shark earlier, I was able to get on board with the big dramatic "SHARK EATS A BUOY!" ending which felt, yes, a little silly, but it worked to resolve that tension. This movie is a pretty solid one-person-one-location, even if it doesn't quite sit on the same plane as something like, say, 127 Hours.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Shallows > Following
The Shallows < Pretty Woman
The Shallows < Elf
The Shallows > Hitchcock
The Shallows > Nine Lives
The Shallows > The Prestige
The Shallows > Strictly Ballroom
The Shallows > Men in Black
The Shallows > Yellowbeard
The Shallows > The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
The Shallows > Adama

Final spot: #953 out of 2540.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bulworth (1998)

IMDb plot summary: A suicidally disillusioned liberal politician puts a contract out on himself and takes the opportunity to be bluntly honest with his voters by affecting the rhythms and speech of hip-hop music and culture.
Directed by Warren Beatty. Starring Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, and Don Cheadle.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

This movie is... incredibly strange. It's got kind of a silly premise to begin with, and then it goes about it in such an uncomfortable way. Just one example: It feels like 15% of what Warren Beatty says is done in the form of uncomfortable "rapping," which could have been done once or twice as an odd bit, but they keep pushing and pushing it. The rest of the movie is equally squirmy.

All that being said, I could have at least understood its appeal if it had stuck to that awkward satirical tone all the way through, but, no, suddenly in the last few seconds, we get a big dramatic ending that I assume is supposed to elicit some kind of emotional reaction from us. What it really made me do was comment incredulously, "They think THAT'S the kind of movie this is?" It's a weird mess of a film.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bulworth < Dark City
Bulworth < The Ghost and the Darkness
Bulworth > Men of Honor
Bulworth < Doctor Zhivago
Bulworth > To Kill a King
Bulworth > Yes Man
Bulworth > VeggieTales: The Star of Christmas
Bulworth > Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Bulworth > Tears of the Sun
Bulworth < The Thirteenth Floor
Bulworth > Hostage
Final spot: #2066 out of 2539.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Night Must Fall (1937)

IMDb plot summary: When a rich but cantankerous dowager on an isolated estates hires an engaging handyman, her niece/companion becomes suspicious of his motives.
Directed by Richard Thorpe. Starring Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Dame May Whitty, and Merle Tottenham.

I hadn't heard anything about this movie before I saw it, but apparently it's based on a play. That makes sense; it's an extremely dialogue-driven mystery thriller. I wasn't ever sold on Rosalind Russell's character -- I couldn't quite get into her back-and-forth between fear and attraction. That's a tough line to walk as an actress, and I didn't buy it from her. But oh my goodness. I now want to go watch everything Robert Montgomery has ever done. His was a much-deserved Oscar-nominated performance. The few moments when I *did* buy into Russell's performance, it was actually on the strength of his acting, not hers. The scene in the kitchen where he calls her out on her deliberate flirtation with danger was my favorite moment of the movie, wonderfully capitalizing on the building tension, both sexual and non-sexual. It's a great role, and it's a great script to showcase that role, and I just wish Russell's character was a little smarter or more capable or even just more self-aware to serve as an adequate foil to that role.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Night Must Fall > Dark City
Night Must Fall > Argo
Night Must Fall < A Man for All Seasons
Night Must Fall < Repulsion
Night Must Fall < Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Night Must Fall > Reservoir Dogs
Night Must Fall < Southside with You
Night Must Fall < Thermae Romae
Night Must Fall > Sleeping with Other People
Night Must Fall < Tickled

Final spot: #589 out of 2538.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Batman Forever (1995)

IMDb plot summary: Batman must battle Two-Face and The Riddler with help from an amorous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.
Directed by Joel Schumacher. Starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, and Nicole Kidman.

I know this movie had a reputation as being one of the terrible Batman movies. It is absolutely ridiculous but... I actually had a pretty good time watching. I've always thought Batman's villains were significantly more interesting than Batman himself, and that's absolutely true here. Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones turn the ham up to 11 here and while their performances ride RIGHT on the fence of being annoying, they end up making a really welcome respite from an extremely boring everything regarding Batman. Val Kilmer is 100% the weakest link here, both his villains and his sidekicks outshine him while he just kind of sits around and looks conflicted and confused. Hurray for a delightfully silly supporting cast willing to get goofy all around him. It's not a good movie, but I had a good time. (On a rare technical note, I do wish the lighting in this movie didn't constantly undo the wonderful garishness of the bright costumes. You can't dress your characters in neon green, brilliant purple, and stop sign red and then forever keep them in the shadow. Come on.)

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Batman Forever > Goldfinger
Batman Forever < Argo
Batman Forever < The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
Batman Forever > Happy Christmas
Batman Forever < Marooned
Batman Forever < The Kid
Batman Forever < The Dresser
Batman Forever > No eres tu, soy yo
Batman Forever > Star Trek Into Darkness
Batman Forever < Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam

Final spot: #1095 out of 2537.

SK1 (2014)

IMDb plot summary: An investigation by a young inspector who quickly becomes obsessed with stopping a monster.
Directed by Frédéric Tellier. Starring Raphaël Personnaz, Nathalie Baye, Olivier Gourmet, and Michel Vuillermoz.

(Mild spoilers.)

The format of this movie is different from most movies of this ilk, jumping back and forth between the hunt for the serial killer and the accused man's trial. I especially loved how the movie jumped ahead to the most relevant points of its story, creating a narrative that spanned years and felt epic in its scope, rather than limiting itself to a narrower location and time as many other similar movies have done. The problem is that over its two-hour run time, it builds up to a finale that... never happens. The big question is resolved in an unsatisfying manner in the last few minutes of the movie. A very disappointing way of closing out what was otherwise a very interesting movie.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Serial Killer 1 > Goldfinger
Serial Killer 1 < Eat Pray Love
Serial Killer 1 < The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
Serial Killer 1 > Happy Christmas
Serial Killer 1 < The Tourist
Serial Killer 1 < The Magnificent Ambersons
Serial Killer 1 > The Dresser
Serial Killer 1 < Badlands
Serial Killer 1 < Bride & Prejudice
Serial Killer 1 < Star Trek: Generations
Serial Killer 1 > High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Final spot: #1087 out of 2536.

Arrival (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Forest Whitaker.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

Wow. This is a really beautiful movie. It takes quite the unexpected journey, moving from an alien invasion thriller to a drama about language and communication to... whatever you'd call the last 20 minutes of the movie. I expected it to be a movie that would make me think and muse, not one that would make me cry. It unravels itself in such a way that you don't even realize you've been given pieces of the puzzle until they suddenly all come together at the end. The visuals are also incredible. The movie takes place in just a few locations, but those locations are so vivid and the design of the alien spacecraft and the aliens themselves are both so well done that it fully immersed me in the story.

Overall, although I'm finding things to rave about, it's actually pretty difficult to articulate my love for the movie. It's one of those films that just digs down into my soul and sits there. I think to really analyze this flick, it'll take another watch or two and a lot more digestion time.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Arrival > Spy Game
Arrival > Argo
Arrival > The Beaver
Arrival > 'Night, Mother
Arrival < Arsenic and Old Lace
Arrival < Psycho
Arrival < Sleuth (1972)
Arrival < The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
Arrival > Take the Money and Run
Arrival > Catch Me If You Can
Arrival > Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Final spot: #149 out of 2535.