Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gangs of New York (2002)

This movie took me three days to watch. I found the story uninteresting, the characters bland, and the acting uninspired. However, there were two high points. I absolutely loved the final scene (not the climactic scene - no, I'm talking about the 30 seconds or so before the credits). Visually beautiful. And Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as the Butcher was chilling. Other than that, it's a difficult movie to watch. Not because of the violence, but because it's so aimless. 2.5 stars.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert (2001)

An incredibly well-cast version of Sondheim's musical. Patti LuPone, who I usually don't like, is absolutely perfect as Mrs. Lovett. George Hearn is also great in his role. The music is amazing, although most of the time it's hardly pretty. The lyrics are fascinating. There's a lot of great dark comedy in here. Overall, quite a treat to watch, especially after the far-more-bland Sunday in the Park With George. 4 stars.

The Number 23 (2007)

My goodness, reviewers were incredibly harsh to this movie. Sure, it had a "twist ending" that's been used before, but it told its story well. Sure, there's at least one gaping plothole, but *nearly* everything fit together. Jim Carrey was certainly fine in the title role. I personally enjoyed the movie quite a bit as a fluffy psychological thriller. It deserves nowhere NEAR the razing it got. 3.5 stars.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sweet and Lowdown (1999)

As you should all know by now, I'm a huge Woody Allen fan, but found this a bit disappointing. It was neither as thought-provoking as his best dramatic work nor as funny as his best comedic work, although I did laugh out loud at a few moments. Sean Penn does a great job of creating the character, though, and it is fascinating to watch just as a quiet character study. Not fantastic, but very solid. 3.5 stars.

Gangs of New York (2002)

This movie took me three days to watch. I found the story uninteresting, the characters bland, and the acting uninspired. However, there were two high points. I absolutely loved the final scene (not the climactic scene - no, I'm talking about the 30 seconds or so before the credits). Visually beautiful. And Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as the Butcher was chilling. Other than that, it's a difficult movie to watch. Not because of the violence, but because it's so aimless. 2.5 stars.

Mallrats (1995)

There's a Fry and Laurie sketch in which Hugh Laurie reads a poem to the audience and Stephen Fry's response is, "Hugh, you chose that poem... For God's sake, why?" This quote kept running through my mind as I tried to write this review. While watching the movie, I kept thinking, "Wait. Why am I watching this again?" And after the movie ended, I still can't come up with any sort of answer. The characters are obnoxious (with the *possible* exception of the one guy who is portrayed as the "nice guy"). The humor is aimed at those people who think the very mention of... well, *anything* to do with sex is absolutely hilarious. I found this movie not only unfunny, but actually unpleasant to watch. 0.5 stars.

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

After this movie ended, it took some thinking before I decided whether I absolutely loved it or absolutely hated it. (Possible spoilerishness ahead, although nothing specific.) I adored the first 3/4 of the movie... and then the ending took a turn that I wasn't expecting and left me feeling wholly unsatisfied. (Possible spoilerishness is over now.) However, thinking back on the theme of the movie and the ideas behind it, I'm now convinced that not only did I love it, but it was a deeper movie than I was giving it credit for. Woody Allen has a way of mixing sorrow and joy in his movies in a way that I really connect with. My only problem was I initially forgot (emotionally, not for real) that I was watching one of his movies... and started expecting something totally different. This is quite possibly my favorite of his movies, after Annie Hall. Also, this movie has confirmed to me once more that Jeff Daniels is awesome. Both his characters in this movie captured my interest and held it until the end. Just great stuff. 4.5 stars.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sunday in the Park with George (1986)

This is not Sondheim's best musical, not by a long shot. The music is rambly and, for the most part, unmemorable. However, there are some very good lyrics, and the story is fairly interesting. The second half of the show is better than the first, easier to connect to. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters are both superb in their roles. I would recommend this if you're a Sondheim fan already... Otherwise, I'd recommend watching Into the Woods to become a Sondheim fan before you watch this. :-) 3.5 stars.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)

Ah, Woody Allen, you are amazing. This plot in most people's hands would be stupid and full of completely lame gags. It's not terribly original, you can see the plot coming a mile away... and yet it manages to be a thoroughly entertaining movie, even if it does have a moment or two of cheesiness. Very funny throughout, as well as being a nice tribute to detective movies and romantic comedies of the 40s. Certainly not his best but fun to watch! 4 stars.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New York Stories (1989)

A totally enjoyable series of short movies by some great directors. Scorsese's segment, "Life Lessons," was fascinatingly told and beautifully filmed. I'm not sure I understood Coppola's segment, "Life Without Zoe," but I thoroughly enjoyed it even if I'm not sure what the point was. Woody Allen's segment was my favorite (not a huge surprise there), absurd but hilarious. Definitely worth checking out. 4 stars.

Empire of the Sun (1987)

While this movie was well-made, I felt almost no connection to the characters and had difficulty getting into it. Christian Bale does an amazing job as the young child (it was fun to see that he was not only a brilliant actor now, but as a child as well). The story feels a bit disjointed but there are some very genuinely touching moments. More likely to be enjoyed by people who like the genre in the first place. 3 stars.

Pleasantville (1998)

I loved some of the things this movie did with color... some great moments. However, I had a problem with the actual message of the movie, particularly regarding the mother, who only came fully into color once she cheated on her husband. Call me old-fashioned, but that feels like a less-than-admirable trait. A lot of the movie felt like that to me... it just had a very different set of values from me. Not only that, but the movie appeared to be more concerned about making its social point than telling the story. The ending is haphazard and confusing, with plotlines suddenly being resolved with no explanation. Too bad, because the concept is wonderful. 2.5 stars.

Grease (1978)

Nearly all of this movie is pure delight. Fantastic musical numbers, likeable main characters... great stuff. And then it gets to the end and everything goes haywire. Sigh. (Spoilers ahead.) Sandy discovers that the only way to get her guy is to change everything about herself. That is NOT sweet or romantic. That's bleak and depressing. (Although possibly more justified if you consider that he was apparently about to become a jock for her - so at least they were going to mutually try to change for the other person.) Also, the lyrics for "You're the One That I Want" make zero sense in that context. "To my heart I must be true"? That's clearly not the case, since she's just changed everything about herself for a guy. Harumph. That lame ending lowered my rating half a star. However, I am going to salvage the movie from the mess it turned into, by pretending that post-movie they tell each other, "It's okay, you don't have to change, I really DO like who you are" and all is well. 3.5 stars.

Fast Food Nation (2006)

Meh. It seemed to be substituting a political point for a coherent story. We get the idea, fast food is disgusting. But there is no reason this couldn't have been a documentary. None of the characters had personalities or lives I cared about. Plot points were wrapped up abruptly. If you're not going to bother making interesting as a fictionalized version, don't bother fictionalizing it at all. Just keep it as a straightforward nonfiction story. It'd have been more interesting. 2 stars.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Like most quirky indie comedy/dramas, this plays up the quirky so much that I can no longer identify with the characters. These aren't people, they're living breathing quirks. There are definitely some good moments, but overall it goes too far over the top for me to really like it. 3 stars.

Run Lola Run (1998)

Fascinating movie that scared the heck out of me. It's dark, it's bleak, and even with a happy ending it still kind of freaked me out a little bit. Marvelous filmmaking, though. There were a LOT of moments that made me think, "Oooh. That was a nice shot." So, well done, I moderately enjoyed it, but the atmosphere isn't a terribly pleasant one. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hollywood Ending (2002)

This is not nearly as bad as most of the Flixster reviews claim it is. It's a light, fluffy, and pleasantly uplifting comedy in typical Woody Allen style... which means I liked it a lot. :) Some great moments in here. It's also significantly less cynical than many of his other movies (although cynicism is fun too). Overall, a very enjoyable watch. 4 stars.

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Definitely one of his better movies. It's more hopeful than Manhattan and warmer than Annie Hall. The characters are all fascinating and it's satisfying to see it all somehow turn out in the end. I liked seeing how the individual stories connected. Everyone had a story that got to be told. Very good movie. 4 stars.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Big Daddy (1999)

Slightly spoiler ahead, although why anyone would care about this movie enough to worry about spoilers is beyond me. Yeah, everyone knows my stance on Adam Sandler. We should hang him from a tree and beat himuntil he repents of all the horrible things he has wrought. This movie is SLIGHTLY less horrible than Mr. Deeds - less of a cruel streak and more of a simple "Well, that's not even close to being funny." Plus, we're supposed to feel sympathy for this guy? I was rooting the entire time for the kid to go to someone else. (Hoorah for that ending.) As an older sister, I did not chuckle warmly at the antics throughout the movie, but kept going, "Uh! Well, that's just obnoxious." Urgh. Adam Sandler has still done nothing to change my mind about his worth as a celebrity. 0.5 stars.

The Gold Rush (1925)

While I wasn't blown away by this at any point, there were enough laughs to keep me smiling throughout. Sometimes the simplest gags are the best. I'm not a Chaplin fan overall, but this is a pretty good film overall. 3 stars.

Hairspray (2007)

Pure delight. I'm a big fan of the movie and show, and this was a nearly-perfect adaptation of it. (Amanda Bynes was my one gripe - she portrays far too much confidence to play Penny. I missed that awkward character... I always sympathize with her.) This movie may not have the most substance of any movie out there, but it's certainly one of the best feel-good flicks I've seen in awhile. You can't help but come out of this with a smile on your face. Special "Yay" goes to James Marsden, who was absolutely perfect in his tiny role. Goodness, can that guy sing! 4.5 stars.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

I didn't expect to enjoy this nearly as much as I did. Indie comedy/dramas are all the same, right? Quirky cast of characters, usually a road trip involved... Except this one was both genuinely funny and genuinely touching. The characters were quirky but their quirks did not overpower them. The ending scene at the pageant should have been cheesy and lame, but somehow it worked... a satisfying ending. Overall, a very good movie with great performances from the whole cast. Definitely worth watching. 4 stars.

The Green Mile (1999)

This story was well-told and remained fascinating up until a half hour from the end, when it suddenly turned and ran off in a completely different direction. The ending five minutes made me giggle out loud, which I suspect wasn't the response they'd have hoped for. It didn't feel in tune with the rest of the movie at all. It was quite disappointing, because I liked the rest of the movie up until then. 3 stars.