Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Friends With Money (2006)

This flick was intriguing, in that it went from boring to good back to boring again. One or two of the characters were interesting (Frances McDormand's character rang very true for me) but then didn't really go anywhere. Was this movie trying to say something? Was it trying to make a point? If so, I couldn't find it. Nothing got resolved, but the movie ended with the clear message of "Now we've resolved it all." Perhaps much of this comes down to the fact that I don't care for Jennifer Aniston as an actress. I just never find her believable. Her character seemed to the pivotal one, the one who found true happiness at the end, whose story I was supposed to feel got resolved. Mostly I just felt bored by her and confused by everyone else. Too bad, because there was a moment or two of really interesting stuff in here. 2.5 stars.

Sullivan's Travels (1941)

To be honest, I was hoping for something slightly snappier. I'd heard that Sturges was a wonderful writer of dialogue and hoped that even where I wasn't enjoying the story, that the dialogue would carry me along. This was the case much less often than I was hoping for. Still, it's an interesting movie, and quite entertaining for watching one time through. There are too many moments where the momentum sort of stops for me to have really loved it, though. It liked to swing from zany comedy to fairly dull drama. Meh. 3 stars.

The Lake House (2006)

Keanu Reeves is not my favorite actor, and while Sandra Bullock is a good actress, she tends to pick unfortunate projects. (Miss Congeniality 2 should NEVER have happened. Come to think of, the first one wasn't anything to brag about either.) But I ended up sitting down and watching this... and probably would have liked it a lot more if I was a chick flick fan. As it was, it was difficult for me to get past the glaring nonsensical plotholes (I kept going "What? That doesn't work that way!") and the occasional IDIOCY of the characters (at one point I actually did yell at the screen, "You stupid girl! Just flippin' look him up in 2006!") However, it had a fairly decent, satisfying ending, and really not all that bad an execution. If they'd tightened up the script a bit more, figured out the plotholes, and made the characters smarter... it could have been a decent flick. 3 stars.

Metropolis (1927)

Silent movies are often looked down on as being boring, or silly, or melodramatic. (People who say that must not have actually watched many films of today either. Heh.) The story and acting are less interesting here than is the technical aspect. I watched a portion of this in my film appreciation class, but I think even without that background I would have enjoyed this. It's fascinating how much modern cinema has borrowed from this movie. It's full of methods of framing and special effects that are really amazing, considering they were from 1927. The overexaggerated acting and the lack of sound was really the only thing that made me remember that this was a 1920's film - it felt more like a sci-fi thriller of the 1940's. Fascinating stuff, although I'm not sure I'd sit down and watch it solely for entertainment. 3.5 stars.

Jaws (1975)

One of the classic thrillers of our time. Fascinating in that it managed to build an atmosphere of suspense without constant gore or needless spring-loaded cats. Most of this movie is about the process of catching the shark, more than "OH MY GOSH IT'S A SHARK WATCH OUT!", which, honestly, is what I think makes a movie more effective. Look at Psycho. The majority of that movie was a simple murder mystery, no horror or gore... which made the few, sudden moments of terror all the more shocking. I wouldn't put Jaws on the same plane as Psycho - the in-between bits were much less interesting - but I'm glad I took the time to watch it. 3.5 stars.

Hairspray (1988)

When I saw the show on Broadway, I loved it. When I ssaw it on film, I only liked it. Now, I realize the film doesn't have the added bonus of wonderful songs like "Timeless To Me," but it also was much bleaker than the musical. Not necessarily in what happened, but in... hmm. The setting was a part of it. In a few places this made it even funnier (I laughed out loud at Penny and her mother a few times, a few black moments in here that don't appear in the show), but in other ways I just thought, "Hmm. That doesn't feel right." The moments I enjoyed the most were the ones that kept the same cheery optimism as the musical does. It's still fun, it's still silly... But if you have a chance to see the show, go do that instead. 3.5 stars.

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

This was not on my list to see, but then it was mentioned in an episode of All Movie Talk (I plug it again: www.allmovietalk.com - go there! *grin*) and sounded interesting, so I went out and picked it up. The first fifteen minutes made me think, "Erm, okay. Well, they said it got better, so let's see." And then all of a sudden it was kicked into high gear and I kept cracking up laughing. Lots of true laugh-out-loud moments, although unfortunately it's mingled with quite a few "okay, let's get to the good parts" moments. Really an interesting movie, and definitely one worth watching, although not one I ever would have picked up on my own. 3.5 stars.

Top Secret! (1984)

When I was in New York, Sarah, Naomi and I managed to catch the last half of this on TV. After flipping through the channels and wondering every time around, "What IS this show??" we finally sat down and watched it. So when I got back home, I hunted it down so I could watch the whole thing. And, dang, it was fun! It's written by the same people who wrote Airplane!, which I absolutely adored, and is a spoof on spy movies and Elvis movies. Er, yes, together. While it doesn't quite reach the artistic brilliance of Airplane!, it certainly has some great moments and had me giggling out loud a few times. 4 stars.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Plot: In London, four very different people team up to commit armed robbery, then try to doublecross each other for the loot.

It's definitely worth seeing. My dad recommended it to me so I sat down and watched it and while it wasn't my favorite movie of all time, it actually did make me laugh out loud several times, which is pretty impressive for a comedy, since I usually don't laugh out loud during films. Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline are both very, very funny in their roles. John Cleese and Michael Palin play more subdued characters but do a wonderful job. Overall, a movie I'd definitely recommend. 4 stars.

Shattered Glass (2003)

This is the story of a young journalist who's suddenly discovered to have fabricated one of his pieces. It's an intriguing look at an interesting character. I have to say I'm impressed with Hayden Christensen in this role. He was boring with Star Wars and a bit over-the-top (although mostly believable) in Life As a House... but here, he's just perfect. Completely believable as a character the whole way through. My only complaint with the movie was that I wasn't ready for it to end. It got to what felt like the climax of the movie, and then suddenly stopped. (Also, the trailer is completely misleading. Although I liked the movie as much as I thought I would from the trailer, they're otherwise nothing alike.) Very interesting film that held my interest all the way through. 4 stars.

The Graduate (1967)

This movie was rather bizarre, but thoroughly enjoyable. At first I thought it was a serious drama, but this isn't the case at all, and once I realized that, I was able to sit back and enjoy the silliness of the whole thing. Dustin Hoffman is truly wonderful in this movie, creating a very distinct and memorable character. I'm not sure I was overly enthralled with the VERY sudden melodramatic ending. The movie had slowly gotten more serious over the past 20 minutes, and then suddenly it went zanier than it ever had before. It felt slightly inconsistent with the rest of the film. Other than that, though, a truly charming, very amusing film that I would definitely recommend. 4 stars.

Citizen Kane (1941)

This is considered by many to be the best movie of all time. I'd definitely vote for Casablanca over this, but watching it in film class and keeping my eyes open to the sorts of technique Welles used to make this movie was certainly fascinating. The story is only moderately compelling - more so if you're into epic biographies - but when I was actually paying close attention to the cinematography and the lighting (things I don't usually pay attention to) it was one of the most visually beautiful films I've ever seen. The visual aspect of it was WONDERFULLY executed. The story as a whole... eh. Okay. The acting... pretty good, but nothing that made me sit up and say, "Wow, that was incredible." However, this movie is probably worth seeing. Just keep an eye out for technical stuff. There's a lot of chiaroscuro effects that are simply gorgeous. 3.5 stars.

Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Okay. I'll grant you that this movie was important in forming surrealism. That doesn't mean I have to like it. Most of the people I watched it with didn't like it, either, but that's because they just thought it was stupid. I found it profoundly disturbing. I really, really dislike movies that feel like dreams - I like recording my dreams but hate being in the middle of them - and so I was truly uncomfortable throughout this entire film. That's quite possibly the reaction Bunuel was going for... but, man. Didn't like this at all. 1 star.

Chicago (2002)

There are very few musicals done as slickly or as magically as this. Yes, I've decided to use the word "magical" to describe this movie, despite the dismal setting and morbid plot. But there just are very few other words for it. Every musical number captured my attention, despite the fact that I am not crazy about the show in general. THIS is how movie musicals should be made. Take a look, people working on Hairspray. Don't let the movie musical follow down the path of The Producers or Phantom of the Opera as sub-par representations of good shows. The movie musical does NOT have to be dead, not with gems like this just waiting to be made. 4.5 stars.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

I accidentally ended up seeing most of this when my family decided to rent it. I didn't care for the first Spy Kids - didn't feel it was at all interesting as a spoof - and this was about 10 times worse. The dialogue is ridiculous, the characters are idiotic, the plot is terrifyingly inane. And I'm not even going to touch on the 3-D thing. 0.5 stars.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

I was so ready to like this movie. *So* ready. So what happened? No one in it made sense, is what happened. Yes, it had a few nice images, and it had a nice premise, but character shifts happened abruptly. Plot points were glossed over. I got the feeling that someone went through, said, "Oh, this isn't scary, let's toss it," and edited out every single transition moment. It could have been a truly great movie, but mostly I just found it laughable because of its complete abruptness and lack of real characters. 1.5 stars.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sherlock, Jr. (1924)

I got to sit down and watch this in my film appreciation class, and it was a total blast! I don't usually get into the older slapstick comedies, but this had several moments where I literally laughed out loud. Even a few of the moments that last a little longer is necessary for the viewers to get, don't last *too* long - after all, the film's only 45 minutes total. Overall, this is a wonderfully crafted movie from the early days of comedy. Makes me want to go and hunt up some more Buster Keaton movies. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Rules of the Game (1939)

I sat down and watched this from beginning to end (musing often on how it reminded me of Sondheim's "A Little Night Music") and yet I'm not sure it left any sort of impression on me. It was an interesting story, told in an interesting way, but it meandered perhaps a bit too much. I kept thinking we were at the climax of the film.... but not yet. Because of this, the last 20 minutes felt incredibly anticlimactic. Still, a fascinating piece of filmmaking. I'm going to have to continue thinking about it and see if my thoughts on it change. 3 stars.

Detour (1945)

Saw this in my film class as examples of film noir and B-movies. Prime example of both. :-) However, as far as B-movies go, it's actually fairly decent. Plays the genre nicely, and although the acting is even more over-the-top than the well-known, classic noir, it was still a fairly satisfying film overall. I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone who couldn't get past the cheesiness of it all, though. 3 stars.

Goldfinger (1964)

On the recommendation of the guys over at All Movie Talk (www.allmovietalk.com - everyone go check it out now!) I sat down and rented this movie. Bond sounded like a fun character, and I was hoping I'd get a good evening's entertainment out of this film. However, I forgot one important part of the equasion... I don't actually like action films. Or spy films. I was hoping that this would be interesting enough that I could get past that and just totally love it... but not quite. I was able to sit and enjoy it, but I'll most likely never see it again. I think I will check out a few more Bond films to see if the character grows on me enough to watch them all. (Actually, I'll probably end up watching all of them, since I intend to watch everything, eventually.) However I'm giving it a medium rating because my not liking it had little to do with the movie's quality and more to do with my attitude toward this genre in general. 3.5 stars.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Awakenings (1990)

This. Movie. Is. Wonderful. From the opening shots to the closing shots, it was fascinating and beautiful and touching and completely captured my attention. This is one of the best performances I've ever seen from Robert De Niro (of course the last thing I saw him in was Hide and Seek, which, you know, WASN'T his best role). Not overly sappy. Not overly cynical. Just from beginning to end, it's a beautifully crafted movie. I'd definitely recommend it. 4.5 stars.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Man For All Seasons (1966)

Plot: The story of Thomas More, who stood up to King Henry VIII when the King rejected the Roman Catholic Church to obtain a divorce and remarriage.

This movie was fascinating. I didn't actually think I'd enjoy it as much as I did, but the dialogue is beautifully crafted. It didn't surprise me to learn that it was based on a play. It all centers around the dialogue. It was fascinating, given that it's so highly focused on moral values and private consciences as well, something that's not really given a lot of praise in the entertainment industry these days. Even in places where I disagreed with Sir Thomas's beliefs, I had to admire the steadfastness with which he held to those beliefs. Pressure from the government couldn't shake him from what he believed to be right. Quite an interesting story... I'd love to see it on the stage some day. 4 stars.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Broken Flowers (2005)

I saw Lost in Translation and liked it quite a bit... Not so sure about this one, although Bill Murray's character is essentially the same guy. This had a good beginning and middle, and I was getting very interested in and wrapped up in the story and all of a sudden... nothing. It ended. It was over. Not even a satisfyingly sad ending. Just a nothing. This is a trend that I'm not particularly fond of in movies, the not-ending ending. Meh. I'd rather have some sort of resolution, even if it's a tragic one. 3 stars.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

American Dreamz (2006)

I don't traditionally like pop culture comedies, or political comedies, so I pretty much got this with my fingers crossed hoping it'd be entertaining. Turns out, it was. Even the political stuff didn't bug me, and the American Idol spoofing was dead-on and absolutely hilarious. This flick hit all the right notes for me while managing to be the sort of film I never enjoy seeing. Now that's pretty impressive. Much of that is due to the nearly-always-present charm of Hugh Grant, but not all of it. Most of the other actors do a wonderful job as well. Even Mandy Moore is much funnier and more interesting than usual, creating a character I could actually believe in this time around. Good stuff. 4 stars.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Annie Hall (1977)

This movie was absolutely delightful. Two characters who felt very real even in the outrageousness of their neuroses. An ending that appealed to my cynical side with a middle that appealed to my sentimental side. Noteworthy lines and moments all the way through. I'm not sure how well it would stand up to a second or third viewing, but I really very much liked it the first time around. I'm really surprised it isn't rated higher than it is on here. 4.5 stars.