Monday, May 29, 2017

Walking and Talking (1996)


IMDb plot summary: Things have been tough lately for Amelia. Her best friend moved out of the apartment, her cat got cancer, and now her best friend, Laura, is getting married. She copes with things, from the help of Andrew, Frank, Laura, and a brief romance.
Directed by Nicole Holofcener. Starring Catherine Keener, Anne Heche, Liev Schreiber, Todd Field, and Kevin Corrigan.

I'm not sure I'm sold on the full narrative arc, but, my gosh, is Catherine Keener an engaging character in this movie. If I hadn't known going in already that this was written and directed by a woman, I probably would have guessed it solely by watching that character, who is so genuine and real and unglamorized and I instantly felt a connection to her even though we're very different people because she seemed like someone I could actually know in real life. Watching her interactions with Anne Heche's character is magic, as the two of them play off each other so very naturally. The script as a whole is a little bit more meandery than I would like, and I can't find much justification for the character growth that happens, but I'd happily watch another full movie of just Keener and Heche's characters hanging out together.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Walking and Talking > Cypher
Walking and Talking > Kolya
Walking and Talking < Breakfast at Tiffany's
Walking and Talking < Godspell
Walking and Talking > The Dictator
Walking and Talking < We're Not Married!
Walking and Talking > Cold Comfort Farm
Walking and Talking < The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Walking and Talking < Super 8
Walking and Talking > Sneakers
Walking and Talking < Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Final spot: #549 out of 2622.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memphis Belle (1990)


IMDb plot summary: In 1943, the crew of a B-17 based in UK prepares for its 25th and last bombing mission over Germany before returning home to the USA.
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Starring Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Tate Donovan, and D.B. Sweeney.

While the language in this obviously makes it not a kid-friendly movie, there's a cheery optimistic wholesomeness to it that makes it somehow feel like a Disney true story. Usually that'd grate on me, but I found myself kind of responding to it this time with an, "Aww." At no point were the stakes ever raised high enough for me to believe these boys were in danger, but I'm not sure I ever was supposed to, I was just supposed to root for them and their (mostly) inevitable win. If this movie ran any longer than it does, that'd be a problem, because you'd better justify a 2-hour movie with more compelling stuff than this, but as it is, it is exactly what it's trying to be: a feel-good movie about war heroes. Nothing deep, nothing surprising... so nothing outstanding, but if you're in the right frame of mind going into it, it'll do just fine.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Memphis Belle > Monster
Memphis Belle < Kolya
Memphis Belle < The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Memphis Belle < Bye Bye Birdie (1995)
Memphis Belle > The Nanny Diaries
Memphis Belle > One, Two, Three
Memphis Belle < North by Northwest
Memphis Belle > Serial Killer 1
Memphis Belle < Deconstructing Harry
Memphis Belle < Anna and the King
Memphis Belle > The Wailing

Final spot: #1175 out of 2621.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bridge to Terabithia (2007)


IMDb plot summary: A preteen's life turns upside down when he befriends the new girl in school and they imagine a whole new fantasy world to escape reality.
Directed by Gabor Csupo. Starring Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, and Robert Patrick.

I somehow missed out on reading this book growing up, but if the movie's an accurate representation, I don't feel like I missed out on much of anything. It's a really generic "imagination is good" story with one of the most obvious Mary Sues I've seen in a long time, and it doesn't do much to flesh out characters or themes beyond that. The most interesting part to me was these characters' real lives, and those never actually got dealt with in any meaningful way, but nor do they explore their imaginary world in a meaningful way either. Basically there's no substance on either side. I'm trying to think if this would have been more interesting to me if I had seen it or read it as a kid, but I'm not sure it would have.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bridge to Terabithia < Koyaanisqatsi
Bridge to Terabithia > The Bone Collector
Bridge to Terabithia > Persona
Bridge to Terabithia < Magic in the Moonlight
Bridge to Terabithia < Our Idiot Brother
Bridge to Terabithia < Frequency
Bridge to Terabithia < Cassandra's Dream
Bridge to Terabithia < The Hidden Fortress
Bridge to Terabithia > Hush (1998)
Bridge to Terabithia > Alfie (2004)
Bridge to Terabithia < The Spanish Apartment

Final spot: #1629 out of 2620.

Monday, May 15, 2017

L'auberge espagnole (2002)


IMDb plot summary: A strait-laced French student moves into an apartment in Barcelona with a cast of six other characters from all over Europe. Together, they speak the international language of love and friendship.
Directed by Cédric Klapisch. Starring Romain Duris, Judith Godrèche, Audrey Tautou, and Cécile De France.

What started off as a very interesting, creatively-edited movie that looked promising kind of devolved as it went on into a typical rambly "finding yourself" film that didn't pull together the way I wanted it to. The more I saw these friends wandering around and testing things out and cheating on each other and getting away with being either terrible people or flat characters, the less I liked them and the less convinced I was that someone could learn how to live from them, but that's exactly the route the story took at the end. This film needed a much tighter narrative script that could paint our protagonist's life lesson in more cohesive strokes. Really disappointing, because I loved how it started off.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
L'auberge espagnole < Koyaanisqatsi
L'auberge espagnole > 27 Dresses
L'auberge espagnole > La Dolce Vita
L'auberge espagnole < Magic in the Moonlight
L'auberge espagnole < Our Idiot Brother
L'auberge espagnole < Frequency
L'auberge espagnole < Cassandra's Dream
L'auberge espagnole < The Hidden Fortress
L'auberge espagnole > Horton Hears a Who
L'auberge espagnole > The Imitation Game
L'auberge espagnole > The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Final spot: #1627 out of 2619.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Whisky Galore (1949)


IMDb plot summary: Scottish islanders try to plunder 50,000 cases of whisky from a stranded ship.
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick. Starring Basil Radford, Catherine Lacey, Bruce Seton, and Joan Greenwood.

Based on plot alone, this movie could be billed as a crime comedy, but it's so light-handed with both the crime and the comedy that it puts me more in mind of something like The Secret of Santa Vittoria, another movie about a village coming together for the sake of their alcohol in times of war. It's not quite as charming as Santa Vittoria, but it has its moments, and there are a few moments where the comedy breaks through the filter of folksy charm and makes me laugh out loud. (The voiceover epilogue is unexpectedly hilarious.) Definitely not a movie I would have sought out on my own, but it's fun.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Whisky Galore! > Koyaanisqatsi
Whisky Galore! < All's Faire in Love
Whisky Galore! < The Red Shoes
Whisky Galore! > Bully
Whisky Galore! > Struck by Lightning
Whisky Galore! > I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK
Whisky Galore! > Runaway Bride
Whisky Galore! < Brothers
Whisky Galore! > Wide Awake
Whisky Galore! > Cloak and Dagger
Whisky Galore! > Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie

Final spot: #992 out of 2618.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Last Castle (2001)


IMDb plot summary: A court-martialed general rallies together 1200 inmates to rise against the corrupt system that put him away.
Directed by Rod Lurie. Starring Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Burton.

I don't watch a lot of prison movies or military movies, but I had to admit a lot of this felt extremely familiar. Even without a lot of familiarity with the genre, the many tropes are obvious. Frankly, if I *had* been better versed in the genre, I think I would have found it distractingly unoriginal, but as it was, it worked for me. It helped me instantly connect with the characters and the stakes and everything I needed to. In the end, it took me down all the right emotional paths and I ultimately enjoyed it more than I think is warranted by the actual quality of the film. I had a good time with it, but I'm not sure who I would recommend it to.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Last Castle > Monster
The Last Castle < All's Faire in Love
The Last Castle < The Red Shoes
The Last Castle > Bye Bye Birdie (1995)
The Last Castle > Muppet Treasure Island
The Last Castle > The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
The Last Castle < Runaway Bride
The Last Castle > The Good Dinosaur
The Last Castle < Thor
The Last Castle < A Bug's Life
The Last Castle < Hook
The Last Castle < The Shallows
Final spot: #1011 out of 2617.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Shane (1953)


IMDb plot summary: A weary gunfighter attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act.
Directed by George Stevens. Starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, and Brandon De Wilde.

Westerns are typically a tough sell for me, but as far as westerns go, this one isn't too bad. It's an overly simplistic story but the core of it works for me, especially the moments seen through the eye of the young child -- not because I found myself giving into the sentimentalism of these scenes (in fact, the kid himself was pretty annoying), but because it adds a different perspective to the story. Actingwise, only Jean Arthur stands out, but she does a great job here, playing the worried wife and mother in a very believable fashion that heightens the tension without falling into hysteria. The farmers are not that distinct individually, but as an ensemble they add a lot to the story, and I frequently found myself paying closer attention when they were all gathered. Shane himself, on the other hand, is not particularly interesting, and the film's big showdown is so short it's a bit of a disappointment, but there are some good moments here.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Shane > Monster
Shane < Gone in 60 Seconds
Shane < The Red Shoes
Shane < Bully
Shane > The Nanny Diaries
Shane < National Treasure
Shane < The Dark Knight
Shane < Die Hard (why is this so low?)
Shane > Short Circuit
Shane > Water for Elephants
Shane < Cast Away

Final spot: #1218 out of 2616.