Monday, September 25, 2006

The First Wives Club (1996)

This was not high on my list of movies to see, and I didn't actually care for the vengeful theme of the plot (never actually been much for "it's not revenge, it's justice!" idea). This movie was saved not by the plot or dialogue, but by the characters, all clearly defined and all surprisingly believable for a fluffy comedy. And because they were believable, I genuinely cared about what happened to them. 3.5 stars.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Anna had been recommending this to me for ages, and I finally got a chance to see it on TV. It worked surprisingly well. I'm not a huge Tom Cruise fan, but his character was likeable here despite having some major flaws. Renee Zellweger is nearly always likeable. The kid was amazingly cute for being not all that realistic. The spiel at the end was so sappy and so silly romantic drama... but somehow it worked. All the elements came together to make rather a very good movie. Not sure I'd purchase it, but I'd definitely recommend it to others. (And as an aside, am I getting less cynical or am I just seeing better romantic movies these days? Hmm.) 4 stars.

Eight Below (2006)

What do you rate a movie that you personally really hate the genre for but it's well done as its actual genre? That's my conundrum with this movie. My mom's whole family loved it and cried through the whole thing, and I suppose as far as animal survival movies go, it's very well done. And huskies are beautiful animals anyway. But if you're not a lover of dogs, or snow, or if you get cold easily, don't bother watching the movie. I had to go and get a sweatshirt and a blanket while watching this in Florida because just seeing people get frostbite made me start shivering. 2 stars.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Hmm... Hmm, hmm, hmm. I watched Adaptation and loved it except for the end. I watched this and loved select portions of it, but the rest made me go, "Um... okay." Charlie Kaufman, the writer, has so many moments of brilliance, writes some incredibly funny stuff, and no one could ever accuse him of being unoriginal, but there are far too many moments when his plot degenerates into something that doesn't quite live up to previous expectations. 3 stars.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)

Hmm. War training movie romantic comedy? No, that doesn't sound like my type of movie, does it? And it really wasn't. It started out interesting but then got very disjointed and wandered all over the place. Couldn't decide on a sensible balance between the two genres, mostly. Plus, you can't really take any movie ALL that seriously when it includes a guy in a Navy uniform yelling, "I don't want you to love me! I don't want anyone to love me! I just want out!" 2 stars.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cabaret (1972)

I saw a production of this at my local community college last year, and was blown away by the music and the story and determined to see the movie. The first and last ten minutes of the movie lived up to my hopes and expectations, but the rest of it wasn't even close. The play spent a lot of time portraying the thoughts and fears coming out of the political situation of the time. It was chilling, haunting, horrifying to see characters we'd really cared about developing such clear hate toward other characters - just because of their Jewish heritage. The movie lost that entire aspect of the story. There were almost no political aspects, just a focus on the characters of Sally and Brian (named Cliff in the play). Nearly all the depth of the story was lost. A real disappointment. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fever Pitch (2005)

Okay, so I'm not a fan of romantic comedies, Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, or baseball. So there's no reason for me to have seen this? Not entirely true. The book was written by Nick Hornby, author of "A Long Way Down," "High Fidelity," and "About a Boy," all of which are marvelous stories. So I watched this in the hopes that the good storytelling would save the movie. It saved it from being utter blah, but didn't make it stand out in anyway. Don't forget, there's still the very bland Drew Barrymore and the very consciously acting Jimmy Fallon to recover from... and while it recovered, it didn't recover ENOUGH to make it a memorable movie. Passable, sure, but not memorable. 2.5 stars.

Fight Club (1995)

What a fascinating film. Not just because of the plot, not just because of any social commentary in there, but because of the thought-provoking dialogue and the actual filmmaking (something I almost NEVER notice). It was one of the most intriguing movies I've ever seen, as well as, in many ways, one of the most disturbing - there were so many moments where I sat there thinking, "That is so wrong. That is so WRONG." But the movie kept being interesting, and I kept getting caught up in the dialogue, and watching the characters interact, and laughing, and gasping, and digesting ideas. Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did, most of the time. Will I ever watch it again? Probably not. Will I recommend it? Eh... that very much depends. Not everyone will like it. But those who do, will probably love it. 4 stars.

Corrina, Corrina (1994)

This was a very, very strange movie. Heh. You know how sometimes you watch a movie, and although it's not a very good movie as a whole, each individual moment is fun and you enjoy it anyway? This was the opposite. Each individual moment made me go, "Well. Okay. That was weird," but somehow I enjoyed the story as a whole and kept dismissing the weird moments as isolated incidents (even though they weren't). That's got to be some sort of mark of a good movie, that it can cause me to overlook glaring flaws. Like that individual moments made no sense. But yet I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Bizarre. I've never encountered that before. 3.5 stars.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

What an interesting movie. Johnny Depp is one of my favorite actors, not only because he's brilliant, but also because he usually picks good roles. There aren't very many things he's been in where I thought, "Now that was an utterly average movie." Leonardo DiCaprio is NOT one of my favorite actors - I usually find him bland - but he was absolutely marvelous in this. Entirely convincing in this role.

If I have one complaint with the movie, it would be this: although at the end I could tell this movie had a clear destination, I couldn't get any sense of it in the middle. About forty-five minutes into it, I still wasn't sure which characters or sideplots I was supposed to be paying the most attention to. I was horribly afraid this would be one of those movies where I'd get to the end and have no idea what it was actually about. Now, fortunately for me, they managed to switch that around and give me a very satisfying ending. But they had me worried there for a bit.

Overall a very good movie, though. Sweet without being overly sentimental, funny without being over-the-top. Good stuff, although I'm not sure it'll stand out in my memory it five years from now. 4 stars.

The Sting (1973)

Ooh. Classy. Stylish. Probably the first of its kind. There's just always something satisfying about a good heist movie... Even if it takes a long time getting to the end, watching the bad guys get what's coming to them makes me go "YES!" and feel like all's right with the world. This movie was full of those "YES!" moments, all the way through to the lovely ending of it. Newman and Redford are both fantastic in their roles. The dialogue was wonderfully snappy. The heist was beautifully executed. The ragtime music set the tone perfectly. I'm using a lot of adverbs here, but it's because although these aren't my FAVORITE genre of movies... they just don't get much better than this. 4 stars.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Let me start off by saying I'm a huge fan of Waiting For Guffman, and then someone suggested this to me, so I finally got a chance to see it. I was NOT disappointed. I was a little worried in the first fifteen minutes ago that it wasn't going to live up to expectations, but after about half an hour I was starting to laugh out loud, and by the end I was convinced this movie was wonderful. I plan to watch it again with my family, which I'm looking forward to. There were so many wonderful throwaway lines that I couldn't possibly have found them all the first time. Although with Guffman I had the theater connection to keep me interested, this managed to hold my attention all by itself. Fantastic. 4.5 stars.

The Family Stone (2005)

This is possibly the most emotionally painful movie I have ever watched. Ugh. How did I dislike this movie? Let me count the ways.

1. I thought I was going to like it at first. I really did. It was really fascinating for the first fifteen or twenty minutes, and then I started realizing that it wasn't going anywhere. So, first off, I'm disappointed in them for giving me something good and then messing with it and making it silly.

2. I really have a bone to pick with those "for people to love you, you have to lose your inhibitions" stories. For me, it entirely destroyed the entire point of that story when it was revealed that he didn't actually love her. "Sure, we'll love you for who you are... Oh, except if you are really nervous and try too hard. Then you have to be like us. Adopt OUR flaws." Grawr.

3. By the time I got to the end, the romantic switches were laughable. Or would have been laughable if they weren't so pathetic. I think any two people on the verge of being engaged who break up with each other and then immediately, THAT SAME DAY, go out and sleep with/ask out their former almost-fiancee's sibling.... Man. There are some deep issues there I'm not even going to get into. That's not a happy ending. That's ridiculous.

And 4. The most important one. I could have forgiven all these other bits of nonsense if the characters had been either remotely likeable OR believable. But almost none of the characters were given enough depth, and the few who were, were not pleasant people.

I'm going to be generous, however, and rate it 1 star instead of half a star, because I did genuinely like the first fifteen minutes.

Oh. I forgot to mention they used Meet Me In St. Louis in there, which, although it was a musical, was a horrible musical with equally random plot points. That also scores against it.

Edit after reading a few reviews: This was a comedy? Wow. Could've fooled me.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Okay. Here were my thoughts, complicated as they are. This was an odd movie, somewhere between horror flick and courtroom drama, never quite reaching either one. (I don't watch a lot of horror flicks, but nearly everyone I've spoken to who does has said this wasn't up to par with what they were expecting.)

My main gripe with the movie, however, is the theology. It tried to be as realistic as possible about demonic possession, giving possible scientific reasons for the whole thing. I had someone tell me that this movie was ambiguous about whether or not demons were involved... It most definitely was not. I can't see any other way to interpret the ending of the Dr. Cartwright sideplot except to say that there were demons involved in at least some way. (Erm... in the movie.)

So. We've established that they are attributing Emily's illness to demons. Okay. Fair enough. I'm a Christian. I believe in demons. I believe demonic possession is possible. However, here's where I think they missed the entire point, and that is: The pinnacle of Christianity rests on the fact that God is bigger than everything. The pinnacle of this movie rests on the fact that God is sometimes bigger than some things as long as you use the right rituals and say the right words. One person claims the exorcism didn't work because of the medicine she was taking. I'm kind of thinking that if God can conquer a demon in the first place, he can handle medicine.

There were other problems I had with the movie, but that was the main one. Nearly every movie that involves demons does this - presents an evil dark force without presenting God's the promise of omnipotence. Even this movie, which claimed to have it from a Christian perspective, completely missed the boat.

As far as an actual artistic movie goes, I suppose it was done well enough. I was just distracted and bugged by the fact that they set the whole thing up to be a spiritual challenge from a Christian perspective when it only presented half the story. Far as I'm concerned, that means the "Christian perspective" was completely wasted.

Wow. This is a long rant. I'm done. 2 stars.