Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wings of Desire (1987)

What an incredibly beautiful movie. It succeeded in every way City of Angels failed (i.e. a LOT). It's not your typical love story -- it's not even what CoA made it, a typical love story "but, like, with angels! Get it?" It's a moving exploration of what it means to be human, what it means to be alive. In scene after scene, the angels follow the humans around, looking at them and yearning to understand what drives them. Stunning use of color and sound, and a thoroughly satisfying ending. This is, I'm sure, one of the most beautiful movies I have seen in my entire life. 4 stars.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Lady Eve (1941)

Right from the beginning, this movie is full of great dialogue and interesting characters. There are no huge out-loud laughs, but I'm pretty sure I smiled throughout the entire film. The two main characters are a great match, and it is a pleasure watching and observing their relationship. The ending left me slightly unsatisfied -- it seemed almost unfinished, although perhaps looked at from the right perspective it is exactly what it needs to be. But that would really be my only complaint. Very well crafted movie. 3.5 stars.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Across the Universe (2007)

Plot: The music of the Beatles and the Vietnam War form the backdrop for the romance between an upper-class American girl and a poor Liverpudlian artist.

It's hard not to compare this to Moulin Rouge, another movie musical using pop songs along with creative visuals to enhance the songs. So I'm not going to try to not compare them.

Moulin Rouge was definitely better. Beatles songs actually *are* better, but much of the time it felt like they were hesitant to play much with the actual musicality of it. The visuals, sure, the visuals can be as crazy as you want-- but the music has to stay classic Beatles, at least in tone, or everyone will be angry. Well, unfortunately, that means that many of the vocal performances sound like nothing but decent American Idol performances, lacking much of the musical originality that Moulin Rouge brought to the table.

However! Visually, this works almost as well. Not every scene is pushed quite to the extreme of Moulin Rouge, but there are definitely a lot of scenes that I remember because of the stunning visual effects. My favorite was probably the bizarre twist on "I Want You," where a series of robotic soldiers put several young men through a series of tests to determine draft eligibility.

Although this review is now incredibly long, I just wanted to briefly mention a few of my other favorite moments: "With a Little Help From My Friends" becomes a rollicking, well-natured partying song that conveys a warm fuzzy sense of camaraderie. "I Am the Walrus" is a stunning psychedelic whirlwind. "Strawberry Fields Forever" takes on a dark undertone as an artist furiously struggles to portray his thoughts on canvas. And "Across the Universe" takes place in the middle of a peace-march-turned-riot, as the singer stands amidst the screaming crowd firmly vowing, "Nothing's going to change my world."

Lots of brilliance throughout...and definitely worth rewatching. But all-in-all, it was just slightly disappointing, falls *just* shy of the mark of greatness. So close, Julie Taymor. So close. 4 stars.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Charlie Bartlett (2007)

I can't think of the last movie I enjoyed this much. What a satisfying watch, all the way through. Anton Yelchin plays Charlie with charm and distinctive personality, and Robert Downey Jr. is thoroughly compelling in his role as the principal. The movie unfolds in a way that makes complete sense every step of the way. The dialogue is clever and the humor quiet but entertaining. Definitely a great watch. 4.5 stars.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Hustler (1961)

What a beautifully poignant look at this character's life. This movie takes a different turn than is expected. It starts off fast-moving, fast-paced, as adrenaline-packed as a movie about pool can be, and it's easy to assume it's nothing but a charming heist sport movie. But forty or so minutes in, it takes an unexpected turn... and an hour and a half in, an even more unexpected one, until at the end you realize with a shock that it really isn't about the game or how he's going to pull it off - it's about him as a person. Paul Newman brilliantly tackles the character and truly brings him to life. This is one very well-done movie. 4 stars.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

This is one of the best kids' movies in awhile. Refreshingly original, incredibly funny, and sweetly touching. I enjoyed every minute of it. It may have some moments that are a little difficult for younger kids to understand, but should be able to be clarified pretty quickly. Definitely a quality movie. 4 stars.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The General (1926)

I know this is one of the most critically acclaimed silent comedies in existence, but I personally thought it was far less funny than the first Buster Keaton movie I saw, "Sherlock Jr." The gags were good, but there was a lot of plot clogging it all up. However, it must have done its job thoroughly for everyone who isn't me -- my little brothers have all pronounced it to be one of their favorite movies. Still a very good movie... I just was disappointed, having such high expectations of it. 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Multiplicity (1996)

A totally funny, inoffensive little comedy. Michael Keaton portrays his four various characters without going over-the-top with any of them. Well, okay, possibly with the last one. But that was all right. Andie MacDowell is always a thoroughly unlikeable heroine, but she is not the central character throughout this so can be easily tolerated. This is not a modern classic by any means, but not bad for a little bit of fluff. 3 stars.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mean Streets (1973)

The fact that it took me six viewings to get through this movie says a lot about how intrigued I was by this movie. I don't see anything to distinguish it from any of the other "Yes, the streets are cruel" movies released in the same decade. 2 stars.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Zelig (1983)

This has very little of the humor I'm so drawn to in Woody Allen films, but manages to weave an interesting story. It's the earliest mockumentary I've ever seen (were there others before this? It was definitely before Spinal Tap). Its ability to mesh current and vintage footage was also fascinating... Forrest Gump did the same thing, but eleven years later. Although the story and ending point itself was less interesting than some of Allen's other flicks, it's still enjoyable, and is worth watching for the movie history reasons as well. Very innovative. 3.5 stars.