Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Inception (2010)

Christopher Nolan has done it again. The guy just can't make a less-than-awesome movie. Inception has an intelligent plot, interesting characters, great acting, some phenomenal action sequences (I particularly liked the one where Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character fights the guy in the hotel, as the room spins madly around them). I was glued to the screen the entire time. Very, very well done. One of my favorites of the year. 4.5 stars.

Logan's Run (1976)

Roger Ebert's review hit the nail on the head for this movie, when he said it "delivers a certain amount of fun, once it stops taking itself seriously." The movie is utter nonsense, incredibly cheesy, and bizarrely acted, but it's somehow extremely entertaining, and not even necessarily in a "so bad it's good" kind of way. It's just pure silly. 3 stars.

The Dinner Game (1998)

I had high hopes for this movie. After seeing Dinner For Schmucks, which wasn't too bad, I figured the French original would be ten times better. But it somehow left me a little cold. I never really laughed or cared much about the characters. Not a bad movie, and I'd definitely recommend it to people who haven't already seen the other, because the premise is still good. But this was a disappointing movie for me. 3 stars.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Other Side of Sunday (1996)

A very natural, very nicely done coming-of-age story about a girl in a very religious family. It's both a bit sacred and a bit blasphemous. Its emotional grip wasn't especially compelling, but it was a well done movie. 3 stars.

Roberta (1935)

By far not the best of the films Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did together. In fact, they're hardly in this one, delegated to background characters while far less interesting or appealing ones take the main stage. Altogether, a very forgettable musical. 2.5 stars.

Top Hat (1935)

A mildly entertaining musical, but not nearly enough dance numbers for the stars. The plot is fluffy and enjoyable, but occasionally clouded by an attempt at melodrama. 3 stars.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

The cast of characters is silly, but once you allow yourself to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the B-movie quality of it, it's actually kind of an enjoyable film. Far too much attempt at plot and not enough attempt at scares, though. Vincent Price is thoroughly entertaining (as he always is in this kind of film). 2 stars.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Extremities (1986)

Based on a play, this is a compelling story with two distinct halves to it. The acting is not all that great, although Farrah Fawcett holds her own, but the dialogue is sharp and the story believable. I'd be interested in seeing a stage adaptation of it to see if a change in acting would push this from merely "pretty good" to "very good." 3.5 stars.

Dinner For Schmucks (2010)

Although it has moments where it relies too heavily on crude sexual humor, overall this movie is somehow charming and sweet. Steve Carell is impossibly awkward but somehow very likeable, and Paul Rudd is believable as the man torn between sympathy for and disgust with Carell. The highlight of the entire movie for me, however, was the appearance of Chris O'Dowd (from my favorite Brit sitcom, The IT Crowd) as the blind swordsman. Not a bad movie, but not a great one. 3 stars.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Killing of Sister George (1968)

I can understand this movie being culturally significant, but it just isn't a very good story. The set up is a good one, but each character behaves bizarrely, and I'm never sure whether they're trying to show us that these characters are bizarre and broken, or whether they're trying to make some kind of "all lesbians have this funky powerplay thing going on." The ending didn't make the least bit of sense, either. Definitely not worth watching. 1.5 stars.

Date Night (2010)

Tina Fey and Steve Carell are thoroughly entertaining in this movie. I laughed out loud several times. It's nothing that will stick with me for years afterward, but it's a very enjoyable Friday night chick flick. 3.5 stars.

David Copperfield (1935)

Though Freddie Bartholomew is a surprisingly compelling young actor, the movie as a whole is like the book: long, sprawling, feeling more like an aimless documentary of someone's life rather than any kind of cohesive story. 1.5 stars.

The Full Monty (1997)

An extremely entertaining British comedy that handles the idea of male stripping far more elegantly than you'd expect. Rather than being a tasteless sex comedy, it's just your average story of some guys who are looking to reclaim their roles as men. I laughed out loud more than once, and the final scene held a note of triumph that made the entire movie feel very redemptive as a whole. 4 stars.

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (2004)

What IS the purpose of this movie? Nothing about it is redemptive, nor does it inspire any kind of action to prevent these kinds of things from happening. It's one of those films that seem to have come about when someone said, "How many horrible things can we have happen to a young boy?" Nothing worth seeing in this but 2 hours of unnecessary misery. 0.5 stars.

Wedding Crashers (2005)

Surprisingly heartwarming, but disappointingly not-that-funny. Those who enjoy an abundance of sex-related jokes are more likely to enjoy this than I did. I found some of it to be over the top. There were enough entertaining moments to keep me going, but I wouldn't watch it again. 2.5 stars.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I can't think of enough good things to say about this movie. I loved every minute of it. The second time I went to see it in theaters, I commented to the friend I was with that right from the beginning, I just couldn't stop smiling. It's a fast-paced, entertaining underdog story filled with video game references, sudden music interludes, and tiny jokes that fly by you the first time you watch it but pop out at you the more you see it. I'm going to go ahead and rate this five stars, something I haven't done since seeing Moulin Rouge. 5 stars.

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

There's nothing wrong with this movie, but its worth for me hinges on a few particularly interesting scenes, not the overall arc of the story. Much more likely to be enjoyed by film enthusiasts (partly because of the subject matter and partly because, oh em gee, it has subtitles and stuff). 3 stars.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

David Mamet's dialogue is unbelievably sharp in this adaptation of his play, and the performances are absolutely perfect. They speak every line as if it were the most natural thing to say in the world. Jack Lemmon in particular is absolutely amazing as the man desperate to make a sale no matter what. Excellent drama. 4 stars.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

Although it does have a few entertaining moments ("The dough must have fallen in the tool chest"), overall this is not Keaton's best film. It drags and waits far too long between jokes. Buster Keaton's mostly-plotless shorts are usually a more entertaining watch than his longer films. 2.5 stars.

Convict 13 (1920)

A thoroughly entertaining short set inside a prison, with some great laugh-out-loud moments. 3 stars.

Daydreams (1922)

One of Buster Keaton's least plot-driven shorts, but also one of his funniest. Even the oddly morbid ending made me laugh out loud. Not sure why this one remains so unknown, it's very funny. 3.5 stars.

Forgiving Dr. Mengele (2006)

An extremely interesting documentary about a survivor of the Mengele twin experiments in Auschwitz, who decides she needs to forgive Dr. Mengele and the rest of the Nazis, as an act of self-healing (releasing herself from their hold on her through bitterness). Understandably, she meets with a lot of resistance as she tries to teach other people that they too need to forgive. The movie does a wonderful job of showing the ways people reacted to her message, both good and bad. I'm not usually one for documentaries, but this one kept my attention from the beginning to the end. Fascinating story, and I'm glad it was told. 4 stars.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Solid crime story with very good casting. It's not at all a genre I get into, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself enjoying the ride. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Les Miserables (1935)

A very solid adaptation of Victor Hugo's book, though some of the acting seems dated and stilted. (Young Cosette in particular is very difficult to watch.) Fredric March portrays an extremely human Valjean who is easy to sympathize with, and Charles Laughton is threatening and immovable as Javert. Aside from the overacting of some of the side characters, quite watchable. 3.5 stars.

How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (2003)

There's really nothing all *that* wrong with this movie, but there's nothing really right with it, either. it's pretty generic. Matthew McConnaughey and Kate Hudson are capable but bland. The showdown at the end of the movie was unbelievably uncomfortable to watch. It had all the elements of every romantic comedy and not one thing to make it stand out. 2.5 stars.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Goodfellas (1990)

I went into this movie prepared to dislike it. I hated The Godfather and didn't like Scorsese's earlier Mean Streets, so I couldn't imagine enjoying this. To my surprise, I thought it was wonderful. The dialogue was snappy, and each of the characters really popped as their own individual person. By the end of the movie, I felt a cohesive story had been told, rather than just a series of ministories. This is the movie that changed my mind about Martin Scorsese. 4 stars.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mary and Max (2009)

Sometimes dark, sometimes hilarious, sometimes tragic, always touching, this is one of the most interesting animated films I've ever seen. The script is sharp and the story is extremely compelling. It's told largely in the form of letters between the two main characters, and in most movies that method would get old quickly, but this makes it work wonderfully. So glad I got a chance to see this. 4 stars.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ace in the Hole (1951)

This movie has been compared to some of Billy Wilder's other dark flicks - particularly Sunset Blvd. and Double Indemnity. It's not as good as Sunset but I liked it better than Indemnity. The story is an unusual one, and Kirk Douglas is wonderful as the newspaperman desperate for a scoop. By the end, I was wrapped up in the story. Well done. 4 stars.

Ramona and Beezus (2010)

A very capable adaptation of the books. I was hesitant when I heard about it, since I was a huge fan of the book series, but with good casting and screenwriting, this manages to make the transition nearly seamless. Most appealing to younger audiences or those who grew up with the stories. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Australia (2008)

Baz Luhrmann's epic sweeping visuals made Moulin Rouge genius, and they're also what make this movie what it is. It's a vast romantic western that seems much more grandiose and important than the actual story warrants. It's visually arresting, with Luhrmann's characteristic (if odd) juxtaposition of silly humor with over-the-top drama. It's a little long for me, but it's thoroughly entertaining. 3.5 stars.

Away From Her (2006)

(Spoilers ahead.) Far better than The Notebook in terms of dealing with this sort of material. It's sweet and sad and beautiful. I teared up multiple times. My only problem, really, was with the subplot where he slept with the other patient's wife. I felt like this made his faithful devotion to his wife much less impressive, although I understood what could have pushed him to that point. Other than that, however, it was truly a wonderful movie and I will have to keep an eye out for Sarah Polley's work in the future. 4 stars.

Chaos Theory (2007)

This movie toes an odd line between black comedy and serious drama, and it never seems entirely sure which side it wants to fall on. Somehow in spite of all this it managed to be very entertaining, and I found myself enjoying it, even if I wasn't sure I was supposed to. In the right roles, Ryan Reynolds is charming, and I've always enjoyed Emily Mortimer. Nothing deep here, but it's enjoyable. 3.5 stars.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

Wow. This movie has some incredibly powerful imagery. The final scene may be one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. It's a very slow movie, but it's really the only way it could have worked. It lets the horror of the story slowly work its way in instead of trying to force it on the audience. 4 stars.

American Splendor (2003)

Brilliantly done biopic. I particularly liked how they used a huge variety of methods to tell the story - comics, voice-over narration, interviews with and footage of the real Harvey Pekar, as well as the acted-out story. Also, Paul Giamatti impresses me more and more with every movie I see him in. 4 stars.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

The first half of this movie easily gets 4 or 4 1/2 stars. It's a fascinating commentary on the dehumanization of troops in training. The famous scene in the bathroom is one of the scariest things I've ever seen on film. However, once the movie turns to the actual war scenes, it loses some of its edge. It reclaims it in the final five minutes, but there's a good hour or so in the middle that just doesn't stand out like the rest of the movie does. Like most of Kubrick's movies, I find it sadly uneven, and wish I could just watch a portion of it and call that the whole movie. 3.5 stars.

The Chorus (Les Choristes) (2004)

This movie is not going to turn the film industry on its head and start a new wave of anything, but it's one of the more charming teacher movies. I'm a sucker for stories about art changing people, and so I was easily drawn into this world and found myself very connected to all the characters. It's a very accessible foreign film (that fact has drawn some criticism for the movie) but I like that I've discovered a solid French film that I can recommend to most of my friends without having to worry that they won't "get it." It's not brilliant, but it's enjoyable. 3.5 stars.

Awake (2007)

If you've suspended disbelief enough to allow the story to exist in the first place, it's a fairly well executed thriller. I found myself squirming as I watched it - it evoked a good sense of the dance the main character was in. Good Saturday night popcorn flick, nothing more. 3 stars.

Less Than Zero (1987)

Despite some good performances, the whole things feels a bit heavy-handed and dated. I was all excited when I saw it was based on a Bret Easton Ellis novel, but it kind of fizzles. Nothing really hits home. Disappointing. 2.5 stars.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud (2010)

This odd little independent drama is strangely compelling. Zac Efron is quite good as the reclusive Charlie St. Cloud who communicates with the ghost of his little brother. Some of the scene are truly beautiful - there's a moment where the heroine is running through a bizarre gothic statued area of the island. It shouldn't work, but it somehow does. I don't think I could claim this is a good movie. But it moves me, and I can't explain why. 4 stars.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Boys Don't Cry (1999)

(Mild spoilers ahead.) I felt like this was a movie I should have appreciated, even if I didn't enjoy it, but somehow it all fell flat with me. The way it ended made it all seem more like some sort of TV cautionary tale rather than the story of a real person. It never clicked with me. Hilary Swank does a very good job in the role, however. That's one thing going for it. 2.5 stars.

The Perfect Score (2004)

It's a teenage heist movie, which means it's twice as fluffy as either a teen movie or a heist movie on its own. It's great fun, though. The movie is nothing special, but the characters make it entertaining. Good mindless comedy. 3.5 stars.

Lo (2009)

I've been listening to the FlickFights podcast for awhile, which features the writer and two of the actors of this movie. That's how I found out about. It's a decently entertaining movie, an interesting mix of horror and comedy (and, oddly, musical). Some of the moments just don't work for me- the musical numbers stretch on a little long and some of the moments seem a little forced. However, this is all made up for by the final scene, which I found extremely touching. If the rest of the ride was a little smoother, I'd be tempted to bump this up to 4 1/2 stars. As it is, it's worth watching mostly for the final 10 minutes. 4 stars.

Paris, je t'aime (2006)

As is the case with most short film collections, there are some that work and some that don't. I was mildly disappointed with this movie by how *many* of them didn't work for me. There were really only one or two I found myself interested in. (The vampire story with Elijah Wood was probably my favorite - absolutely beautifully done.) I love stories about Paris, so was a little sad that this wasn't as solid as I'd hoped. 3 stars.

Distant Drums (1951)

I struggled to make it through this one. It's a very generic western, without really anything setting it apart. Fans of Gary Cooper or old westerns will probably enjoy it, but it just never set quite right with me. 2.5 stars.

Cujo (1983)

Movie versions of Stephen King novels generally don't turn out well. This is one of the ones that didn't. It's poorly acted, oddly directed, and it takes far too long to get to anything actually menacing. That wouldn't be so bad if it was either setting up a menacing atmosphere, or building characters we cared about, but it didn't accomplish either one, so it just felt like a lot of wasted time. Too bad, because I enjoyed the book. 1.5 stars.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

Sometimes I don't get Scorsese, but then there are times when he makes movies like this and I think I should look for more of his stuff. It is one of the most vastly entertaining movies I've seen in awhile. I was kept interested in it the whole time. It's all very consistent, brilliantly acted, well-written... Definitely one of the year's best. 4.5 stars.

Extraordinary Measures (2010)

Surprisingly touching medical drama, made more interesting by the fact that it is based on a true story. Harrison Ford redeems himself from the awkward movies he's taken on in the past few years with a very good performance. Brendan Fraser, never a favorite of mine, is also very good. People who like true inspirational stories will DEFINITELY like this... For the rest of us, this one works surprisingly well. 4 stars.

Avatar (2009)

I am so confused. Why were people so obsessed with this movie? It's a very pretty movie, with one or two good concepts, but its plot is rather thin and it's a much longer movie than any of its good qualities warrant. It actually made me a little sad that they used all these awesome technical tricks on a movie that really didn't do it justice with a strong enough plot. 2.5 stars.

Tooth Fairy (2010)

Right from the beginning, you know you're getting into trouble. A hockey player is yelling things like, "You can't handle the tooth!" and "The tooth will set you free!" The easiest way to describe this is as the same plot as The Santa Clause, but the quality of The Santa Clause 3. I always feel bad for the tough guys playing these roles. How far they have fallen. 1 star.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Reader (2008)

Well-acted, well-crafted drama on a war-related subject we don't get many stories on. It all ends up as a rather beautiful epic tale of love and forgiveness and making decisions. 3.5 stars.

It's Complicated (2009)

It remains true that I don't like Meryl Streep playing "normal" people. She comes off as shallow, airheaded, and juvenile. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin both do what they can with the not-very-funny material they're given, but Streep is just uninteresting from beginning to end. 2.5 stars.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? (2009)

This was, surprisingly, not as awful as I thought it would be. Most of it is due to the saving charm of Hugh Grant, who can take a boring script and make it entertaining. Sarah Jessica Parker is good in this particular role. Their performances are about all the movie has going for it, amidst a bunch of uninteresting sight gags and jokes that can only be made funny by Grant's dry delivery of them. 2.5 stars.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

How to Rob a Bank (2007)

A light-hearted, if far-fetched heist movie. The main actors are both entertaining in their roles. If you don't take it too seriously, it's extremely entertaining. 4 stars.

The Others (2001)

I had a very similar reaction to this as I did to The Sixth Sense, a movie this is often compared to. While this is much more straightforward ghost story, it evokes the same beautiful gothic imagery and feel to it. Nicole Kidman's performance in this movie is stellar. The entire film is just completely beautiful, beginning to end. 4.5 stars.

Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972)

This was a Neil Simon play I wasn't crazy about even when I first read it. Its dialogue is not as witty as others, and its plot seems a little shaky, especially at the end. However, Alan Arkin plays the part very well and makes it much more enjoyable a watch than it was a read. I'd never call it one of Simon's best, but it's not a bad watch. 3 stars.

Captains Courageous (1937)

I really didn't expect to like this movie. I thought it would be an obnoxious childhood movie. However, Freddie Bartholomew is not really all that bad as 1930s child actors go, and Spencer Tracy is phenomenal in his role of the fisherman who helps take care of him. The story's very compelling and not as dated as I expected it to be. Well done! 3.5 stars.

Nine (2009)

What a waste. They have Rob Marshall directing, who clearly CAN do musicals, as we've seen from Chicago. A musical by Maury Yeston, who is quite competent. An all-star cast. Based upon a Fellini film. It should have been much, much better than it was. As it was, the musical numbers seemed drab and dull (with the exception of "Guido's Song" and whatever that song was that Kate Hudson sang - both of them had an energy the rest lacked). The rest of the movie clearly takes a backseat to the musical numbers, so there's really nothing of worth to look at here, unless you find individual clips of those songs online. 2.5 stars.

Who Am I This Time? (1982)

One of the most charming little love stories I've ever seen, in an hour-long TV movie. Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon are fantastic in their roles, and their roles within roles. I'd recommend it even more strongly for theater nerds. 4.5 stars.

Easy Virtue (2008)

An easy-to-watch romantic drama with some very good comedic moments. Now, a few months after I've seen it, it's hard to remember much of the plot, but I'm still left with a sense of having thoroughly enjoyed it. 4 stars.

In Bruges (2008)

This was not at ALL what I expected it to be. I was expected some sort of harsh action thriller and instead got this brilliant action comedy. Very dark comedy, yes, but comedy. Colin Farrell in particular is hilarious in his role as the whiny assassin incontent to stay in Bruges. I'm not sure what I thought of the ending, but whether I liked or disliked it, it didn't detract from how fun the rest of the movie was. Definitely recommended. 4 stars.

The Circus (1928)

I really haven't seen very many Charlie Chaplin movies. This one had enough genuinely funny moments that I liked it, and the less-interesting dramatic part of the story didn't take over it. On top of that, this film was only a little over an hour, which I felt was just about the right length. Too much longer and I would have begun losing interest. 3.5 stars.

The Room (2003)

It's being listed in various places as one of the worst films of all time. It definitely didn't disappoint. From the terrible acting to the terrible writing to the terrible directing to... EVERYTHING else, this movie is a colossal pile of hilarious crap from beginning to end. I told a friend as I was watching it, "Any movie that makes me crack up laughing when the mom announces she has breast cancer is doing something wrong." I'm hard to impress with bad movies, but this one was truly fantastic in its awfulness. 1 star.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

With just as much heart as the previous two Toy Storys (but more genuine laughs than Toy Story 2, which I didn't care for much), Toy Story 3 is a wonderful final act in the saga. It features some of the funniest things the series has done, and one of the most emotionally powerful animated sequences I've ever seen. And, yes, I cried at the end. Who didn't? 4 stars.

Dangerous (1935)

Wow, what an uninteresting melodramatic mess this movie was. Aside from one or two good moments, it just consisted of a lot of over-the-top writing and awkward performances. 2.5 stars.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)

I didn't expect to like this as much as I did, but it's a fairly solid romantic drama. It takes an interesting premise and does interesting things with it, while still letting the story be character-centered. Not an all-time favorite by any means, but certainly a good watch. 3.5 stars.

Play Misty For Me (1971)

It's revered as a classic horror movie, but I don't get it. It's very clunky in its execution, with scenes that were supposed to be scary but made me laugh out loud at a few moments. That being said, the two main leads do a good job with their performances, and it's not a BAD movie at all, just a decent one. Not at all the marvel of cinema it's sometimes held up to be. 3 stars.

Dumb and Dumber (1994)

I've never been a fan of "dumb" or gross-out comedy, so it's not really a surprise that I didn't love this movie. It was as well handled as the material could be, though. The first 15 minutes were entertaining, and then I was emotionally ready to be done with these characters. Most of the situations are not particularly clever and the dialogue is predictably stupid. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels are likeable as always, but the movie just never quite takes off. 2 stars.

My Sassy Girl (2008)

This makes me want to see the Japanese film it was based on. It's a decent movie with good acting, but it's all a little too quirkily clever, as in the style of Juno, but without Ellen Page to balance on the side of awesome. Nice try, but it never quite works. 3 stars.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hawking (2004)

I first saw Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC TV show "Sherlock" and decided to look up what else he'd done. In this made-for-TV movie, he does an *excellent* job playing Stephen Hawking in the early days of his diagnosis. The movie's writer, Peter Moffat, also wrote the fairly-entertaining Einstein and Eddington, but the writing is sharper and more interesting in this older one. Well worth checking out for fans of biographies, science stories, or Benedict Cumberbatch. 4 stars.

Biloxi Blues (1988)

As far as Neil Simon comedies go, this one feels unusually...not-comedic. It's a much more dramatic story for Simon. And while it has heart (as all his plays do) something falls a bit short. Maybe I was just expecting too much, since Simon is one of my all-time favorite writers. It was enjoyable, but nothing special. 3 stars.

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Judi Dench is what makes this movie. She takes on a somewhat terrifying role as a woman manipulating her "friendships" to get what she wants out of them. The dialogue is well-written, the story compelling, and the rest of the actors (Bill Nighy in particular) do a great job. Overall, a very solid movie. 4 stars.

Fifth of July (1982)

This is clearly a very, very good play. However, not so good a movie adaptation. The editing is awkward, making it seem stilted and choppy, rather than the flowing nature of a theatrical production. The acting is all very good, however. If I ever got an opportunity to see the play, I would certainly take it. But I wouldn't go out of my way to see the movie again. 3.5 stars.

The Savages (2007)

Good acting, good writing, and solid direction... Somehow it all feels a bit flat, although I can't put my finger on exactly how or where. However, it's still a good watch and is worth seeing. 3.5 stars.

Friday, July 30, 2010

American History X (1998)

As far as I'm concerned, Edward Norton can do no wrong. He has been amazing in everything he's been in. The interesting thing is, a story like this is basically a reformed sinner story and could have been absolutely ridiculous - very corny, very cheesy. But the dialogue somehow managed to be realistic. Edward Norton's performance was fantastic - completely believable every step of the way. This movie is well worth seeing. 4 stars.

Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical (2001)

Oh, boy. David Hasselhoff is not a good actor and not a good singer and does not belong in this show at all. I giggled all the way through "Confrontation." It was that bad. I like the musical itself. It's got some wonderful, wonderful songs in it, but anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a fan of Leslie Bricusse's lyrics. The rest of the cast is pretty good, aside from the fact that they couldn't keep their British accents intact. Hasselhoff was the worst, though. He was clearly put in the show just for star draw, and he ended up being very hammy... and unfortunately, he has the bulk of the show. Any part he was in was pretty much ruined. 2 stars.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

Let me start off by saying I really, really like Excellent Adventure. It's one of the most fun movies ever. But this one... Well, the original didn't did have a lot of time spent wandering around taking people to the mall, but this sequel felt even more unfocused, and not in a good way. Evil Robot Bill and Ted were great, but the rest wasn't consistent. There were a lot of places it could have gone, but it didn't. It set up its main problem a little bit too seriously and then just wandered. Not super impressed. 2.5 stars.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

I'm supposed to like this movie, aren't I? Well, it's very long and very rambly and I didn't get it. I don't understand Coppola, I just have never understood his work. Sometimes I see a movie where every scene definitely means something. In this movie, every scene meant something, but I was never sure what that something *was*. In the end it's apparently all anti-war, but it's very confusing and feels like a series of paintings that they tried to turn into a movie. I didn't know why each scene was there, or what they were trying to do with it. It was very disjointed and long and boring. 2.5 stars.

Fanboys (2008)

Fanboys should have been a lot more fun than it was. It had a couple moments that were really great (meeting William Shatner was hilarious, and the ending was wonderful) but as a whole there wasn't much to set it apart from its movie peers. They had a few moments where they could have made it really honestly about geek culture and it ended up being mostly just generic road trip movie with a slightly geeky element to it. Very hit-or-miss. It did have a few brilliant scenes, but that didn't make up, for example, for the completely pointless scene with the guacamole with the peyote in it. That just wasn't very interesting. It was a good try. It would have been a good first draft. 3 stars.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)

This is held up as the classic interpretation of the play, but this was definitely very 1940s awkward theater movie. Mickey Rooney was creepy *and* annoying as Puck - again, that's set up as the trademark person to play him, and he was awful. All the acting was very 1930s stylized, almost like they were still in silent gothic romances, and... it's not. It's a talking comedy. I was not impressed with this. I feel like even judging it on the grounds of the era in which it was, it still wasn't a good movie. 2 stars.

Alice Adams (1935)

This was a lot more interesting than I expected it to be. I wasn't ever sure whether it was going to turn out to be a sad movie (a desperate drama kind of thing) or something more upbeat. I like Katharine Hepburn, and here she was a fascinating character, a lot of fun. She reminded me of an Anne of Green Gables kind of character. It was enjoyable, but a guilty pleasure movie. I'm not going to argue that it was brilliant or really well-written, but, like most decent romantic comedies, I liked the characters and wanted them to do well, and it was emotionally satisfying when it ended nicely. 3.5 stars.

The Wicker Man (1973)

This is one of the most dismal movies I've ever seen in my life. It's very dark. The final scene was terrifying in a good way. Depressing, but well put together. The music is very weird. There are several sudden breaks for creepy musical interludes - and I'm all for breaking up the action with singing and dancing, but it was creepy, in an icky way. I really have no interest in seeing the new one now. Not super impressed with this one. 3 stars.

Touch of Evil (1958)

Don't get me wrong, Orson Welles is great. I really liked his acting in this. But this is one of those movies where I have to think about it to remember what it was. When I think about it, I remember, "Oh, yeah, that was good," but it doesn't immediately pop into mind as something that I was impressed by. I think it'll end up being high on my FlickChart, because when I'm pushed to think about it I remember it as a good movie, but for me it blends in with a couple other movies and I have to think hard to distinguish it. 3 stars.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

I could see this film being very distracting and disconcerting for someone watching it, much in the way Cloverfield was. It's trying to capture how the main character sees the world, and so it's a shaky camera and a lot of quick eye movements and such. It's a really interesting movie, but the ending came as a surprise to me. I felt like when it ended, there was no resolution, really, in his life, and that was a disappointing way to leave the movie, even if it's what happens in real life. 3.5 stars.

Despicable Me (2010)

After hearing all the hype for this movie, I was excited about seeing it, and while it managed to avoid the usual DreamWorks pitfall of being overly pop-culture-y, it still is nothing special. When it comes right down to it, it's one of those annoying "tough guy takes care of kids" movies, and it's hard to make those new or fresh anymore. 2.5 stars.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Dresser (1983)

What a powerful movie. Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay turn in brilliant performances, creating characters who have layers beneath layers beneath layers. As a theater person, I was drawn completely into the story - but even for those not particularly interested in the theater, this is well worth checking out. 4 stars.

A Single Man (2009)

Colin Firth is marvelous in this movie. Up until now I had mostly seen him in parts that most people seem to toss out as "fluff." This film proves he is, after all, a very, very good actor. Too many actors would overplay this role - displaying the emotion and the loss the character feels deeply inside. Instead, Colin Firth remains stoic and composed as his voice-over calmly says things such as, "My heart is broken." The story itself fell apart a little bit with an unnecessary ending, but Colin Firth remained brilliant. Heartbreaking, beautiful, moving. 4.5 stars.

Planet 51 (2009)

Surprisingly, this spoofy little movie works. At least a lot more than I expected. While there are quite a few "DreamWorksian" moments (sacrificing actual humor for pop culture references), there are almost as many jokes that actually DO work, once you get past the overall cheesy premise of the film. The land rover's obsession with rocks in particular lends itself to some entertaining moments. It's perfectly suitable for kids, and is certainly a half step above some of the nonsense animated films have spewed out at us lately. TriStar could certainly do better, but they could do a lot worse. 3 stars.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Don't Look Now (1973)

This whole film felt somehow off to me. Nothing seemed connected, and when the ending came and I suspect I was supposed to be scared, I was mostly perplexed. I did very much enjoy the visual tone of the film, and found that part very effective, but was too distracted by the awkward writing (characters respond to questions that haven't been asked - is this deliberate? If so, what is it hoping to accomplish) and the convoluted plot. This film failed to do its job - it failed to scare me. 2.5 stars.

Brick (2005)

Once I settled into the fact that this was a 1930s noir detective story that just happened to be set in a modern-day high school, this was a very enjoyable film. The actors delivered wisecracks smoothly, without playing them for awkward laughs (as they very well could have). The story is typical, we've seen this kind of thing before, just usually in a film starring Humphrey Bogart. But in this new setting, I was made much more aware of the words, themes, and cliches of the style. The style of this movie is far more important than the actual substance... but the style is definitely delivered. 3.5 stars.

Friday, July 23, 2010

United 93 (2006)

A sensitive, beautiful tribute to the passengers of United 93. I was only 14 when this happened, and don't really remember much of it. I didn't live in or have friends in New York, and it didn't really hit me how important this event would be to our country until about a year later. The final few moments of this movie are an amazing reminder of how even when some people do terrible, terrible things, others can do wonderful sacrificial things to do what is right. 4.5 stars.

There Will be Blood (2007)

Fascinating portrayal of a dark, twisted character. The story itself is not particularly interesting, but Daniel Day-Lewis completely captivates the screen. Paul Dano also turns in an amazing performance. Their two strong personalities duke it out for much of the movie, and the final scene, although bizarre and seemingly out-of-place, does not disappoint. 3.5 stars.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Victor/Victoria (1995)

Although the story is still entertaining and has some good slapstick moments, Julie Andrews is, oddly enough, very awkward on stage in a role that she perfected on screen. The supporting characters are capable - Gregory Jbara is entertaining as the bodyguard, Rachel York is hilarious as the young American woman, and Tony Roberts as Toddy is warm and charming. The story is stretched slightly beyond its limits to become a 2 1/2 hour stage musical. One of the few occasions where I would suggest seeing the film version rather than the filmed stage version. 3 stars.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Let's just get this part out of the way: I DON'T like Rachel McAdams. However, I do like Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Between the two of them, they turned a moderately-decent action flick into something a lot more fun. There's not really much connection between this and the classic Holmes - he's mostly the main character but there's so much running and shooting that it's difficult to distinguish it from a regular action flick. Not a bad movie, but RDJ and Jude Law's entertaining performances make it much more fun than it should be. 3.5 stars.

Death At A Funeral (2007)

Spoilers ahead. Although the plot points of this movie seem to be going way over the top (their father's gay midget lover accidentally takes hallucinogens and dies in the study? Really?), it somehow manages to work because the actors make it work. I have no idea how they do it, but somehow it works, and I believe everything they're going through. The characters' reactions to the situations are far funnier than any of the situations themselves. A few great laugh-out-loud moments and a lot of mildly funny reactions. 3.5 stars.

Anne B. Real (2003)

(Spoilers ahead.) This movie takes itself way too seriously and thinks it's being great and poignant. The overall idea isn't bad, but the execution kills it very, very dead. The dialogue is hokey and the acting is terrible. I cheered joyously when Anne's friend died, because the actress playing her was so absolutely terrifyingly awful. This movie COULD have been worse... but in the right hands, it also could have been a LOT better. And should have been. 1 star.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunshine (2007)

I am fascinated by dark movies about space (I'm pretty sure that's a category they keep giving me on Netflix) so I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy it. And I did, overall. I still don't buy Cillian Murphy as a good guy. He just looks too evil. This movie evoked a great sense of atmosphere and managed to have some very suspenseful moments, along with some absolutely beautiful ones. Sort of an odd mix of art movie and horror/thriller. But I enjoyed it quite a lot. 4 stars.

Music Within (2007)

Although I like all the actors involved, this movie somehow felt off-kilter. The climactic moments didn't happen on schedule. The story had a weird rhythm to it that kept throwing me off. The first 20 minutes are fantastic, with great characters, great dialogue, and a great set-up for the story. And then it all just... didn't really go anywhere. Still a decent movie, just disappointing. 3 stars.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Good Will Hunting (1997)

This is a beautifully crafted movie. Everything is perfect, from the dialogue to the acting to the overall story... It was a thoroughly satisfying movie. Oddly enough, it hasn't stuck with me nearly as much as I thought it would a week or two after seeing it. But I still think it's one of the better movies I've seen this year. 4 stars.

Braveheart (1995)

This is one of the most overrated movies I have ever seen. The final martyrdom scene was fairly moving, but the rest of it was just the story of someone out for vengeance, who then suddenly becomes a hero for no reason. Cue lots of fight scenes that don't really matter if I don't care about the cause, and they gave me no reason to. I'm STILL not convinced he wasn't just mad that his girlfriend was killed. 2 stars.

An Education (2009)

A very well-acted, charming coming-of-age story. Both Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan are marvelous in their roles, embodying their characters perfectly. I became a little uneasy with it halfway through, unsure where it was heading, but it was a thoroughly satisfying ending. Well done. 3.5 stars.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Alien (1979)

(Some spoilers ahead.) An extremely solid classic horror/thriller. I always put off watching it because I didn't know if it would be nearly as good as it was claimed to be. And although the sudden twist with the appearance of the robot was, I felt, a little bit silly, the parts with the alien were well crafted and pretty much terrifying. Now I have to decide whether or not I want to see any of the sequels. 4 stars.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Lost Weekend (1945)

This movie does NOT wear well with time. It's a good story overall, and Ray Milland gives an interesting performance, but it all seems very naive and unbelievable and unrealistic, especially given the amount of very good addiction movies that have been released since then. The ending is pleasant, but doesn't feel at all natural. Disappointing - Billy Wilder is certainly capable of helming excellent serious projects that can endure. 2.5 stars.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)

Rebecca De Mornay is the glue that holds this thriller together. It's a pretty good story and has some very nice moments, but it's her cold-blooded performance that makes the whole thing truly terrifying to watch. It's an intelligent movie as well - the characters aren't stupid, just overly trusting. As soon as they begin to get the idea that something is wrong, they act, and they act intelligently. Overall, I enjoyed this a lot - definitely would recommend it! 4 stars.

Downfall (Der Untergang) (2004)

Fascinating film. Bruno Ganz is excellent as Hitler, and Juliane Köhler was a scene-stealer as Eva Braun. The character of Traudl Junge was much less the center of the story than most synopses seem to make her (many of the most important scenes don't feature her at all) but hearing the real Traudl Junge speak about it in the opening and closing clips was very interesting. This movie also features the most terrifying, difficult-to-watch I've ever found on film, where Magda Goebbels slowly murders each of her six children. There are no words to describe how disturbing that scene is. The movie runs a little long, but if you're willing to sit through it, it's a fascinating watch. 3.5 stars.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)

I had such high hopes for this movie in the first 15 minutes. They weren't ALL dashed by the end, but a few of them certainly were. I quickly warmed to Robert Stephens as Holmes, and thoroughly enjoyed the opening scene where he scolds Watson for embellishing the facts so much in his stories. However, as it went on it became clear that this was going to be, more or less, another Irene Adler story and nothing really new to the Holmes universe. Still enjoyable, but disappointing given what I was expecting. 3 stars.

The City of Lost Children (1995)

Haunting, fascinating, and beautiful. The images in this movie are extremely dreamlike - elongated faces, giant mechanical eyes, a color scheme that alternates between very bright and very dark... The story is epic and feels very much like a dark folk tale. It's one of those movies I love, but can't quite figure out how to put it into words. Even sitting here trying to remember why I loved it so much, all I can pull together is this overwhelming sense of beauty and myth and... I don't even know what else. This is an incredibly lame review, but I may just have to leave it at that. 4.5 stars.

The Chocolate War (1988)

It's very disappointing that with such a good story and some decent actors, that the director went ABSOLUTELY INSANE. And whoever was in charge of picking music. The flashback/dream sequences were so badly done and so out of place in the middle of this movie that I started giggling every time it faded into one. It was like one person directed a solid drama and someone else came in and said, "Ya know what this film needs? MONTAGES SET TO RANDOM POP SONGS!" and threw a bunch in there for no reason. That's one flaw, but it was a MAJOR one, and it kept me from being able to enjoy the movie. Thus the low rating. 2 stars.

Monday, March 29, 2010

District 9 (2009)

A beautifully crafted movie that absolutely deserved its Best Picture nomination. I mean, I knew it wasn't going to win, but I'm glad it was nominated. Because this is one of the better sci-fi films. A lot of this is thanks to the main character - he is a likable person, but not an outright hero - he's prejudiced against the aliens and sees his own needs as more important than those of anyone around him. But he's a REAL person - and it's very easy to respond to that.

The format of the movie, filming it as a documentary (although lots of it doesn't really make sense for footage to exist of this) is for the most part very effective. The ending is beautiful in how it wraps things up (and not), and the final shot is one of the most touching things I've seen in film in quite awhile. Absolutely worth seeing. 4.5 stars.

Broadway Danny Rose (1984)

With only a dozen or so Woody Allen movies left to watch, I had recently run into a lot of the less interesting ones. I was beginning to worry that my favorite Woody Allen flicks were behind me. And then came Broadway Danny Rose. Woody Allen is at his best actingwise in this, playing a diplomatic, fast-talking theatrical manager. Mia Farrow plays an unusually strong character for an Allen film, but is also phenomenal. There are a few laugh-out-loud funny scenes, including an action sequence in a room full of parade floats leaking helium. As is typical with Allen's straightforward comedies, it has a happy ending that is thoroughly satisfying. This could easily rise to become one of my very favorite Allen films. 4.5 stars.

Zombieland (2009)

(Very mild spoiler.) A thoroughly enjoyable spoof on zombie flicks, every bit as entertaining as 2004's Shaun of the Dead. Jesse Eisenberg does indeed seem like a bit of a Michael Cera clone here, except with more personality so it's easier for me to root for him. I laughed out loud quite a few times throughout (Bill Murray's cameo was definitely one of the funniest things he's done in awhile). I'm not sure I'd ever watch it again - the gore to be just a bit too much for me at times - but it was thoroughly enjoyable one time through. 3.5 stars.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire (2009)

This movie is beautifully put together. Gabourey Sidibe is absolutely amazing as Precious, embodying the character perfectly. However, it never really caught my interest emotionally. I appreciate the fact that it can be heartwarming and inspirational without getting sappy or silly about it, but now, a week or two after having seen it, I realize it had no lasting impact on me. Perhaps if I had been closer to the character's situation or identified with her more strongly. As it was, I admired it but didn't connect with it. 3.5 stars.

The Basketball Diaries (1995)

This is one of the few based-on-a-true-story movies that actually FEELS like it's based on a true story. There's no overdramatization, no cute wrapping up loose ends... just the story of someone whose life falls apart. Even the ending feels completely unforced. Leonardo DiCaprio is particularly impressive in the scene where he begs his mother for money - it is completely unromanticized. It is pathetic and painful to watch. Beautifully, beautifully done. 4 stars.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Up in the Air (2009)

George Clooney is at his best in this fascinating drama about a man whose job is firing people. Anna Kendrick, a young actress I was impressed by in Camp (and disappointed to learn was in Twilight), is also very, very good. It's a very lovely drama, nicely filmed and intelligently told. The opening 5 minutes are especially stunning - they give a very solid sense of atmosphere. (Spoiler) It does end on a much darker note than I had predicted from the first hour and a half, but this isn't a bad thing - just unexpected. Overall, I really enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Other Sister (1999)

When screenwriters write films about children or the mentally challenged, the difficulty seems to be the same thing - the "aww" factor takes over. Both end up being mere entertainments for us. This completely dehumanizes them and makes them *characters*, not people. That is the trouble with this movie. The dialogue is too cutesy and saccharine to be taken seriously, and although the main character demands we treat her as a person, the movie fails to see that it isn't treating her like one, either.

I'm not sure whether it makes it better or worse that every character was written like this. They are all clearly there just to serve the script's purpose, not because they actually are characters in and of themselves. Even Diane Keaton, who is a very interesting actress, can't save this film. She's forced to play a character who, from the evidence, is quite possibly bipolar... or at the very least emotionally unstable. She switches emotions faster than [insert punchline here of whatever you want].

This movie is a collection of nonsensical sappy scenes and is at the very least mildly offensive in its refusal to explore Carla's actual personality. Instead it just shows us a bunch of cute "aww" moments that are ineffective if we don't care about the people we're watching. It might possibly rate half a star, but I've decided to be gracious and give it a whole one. 1 star.

The Apostle (1997)

A very slow-moving film that is well acted but spends most of its time wandering. The interesting thing here is not anything in the making of the film, it's the character. The movie presents us with a paradoxical main character and then teases us with him, always promising more information but never actually giving it to us. I'm glad I saw it with a group of people who put the time into talking it through afterwards, because if I had watched it on my own I would have just been frustrated and felt like the movie didn't give me enough. And so because of that odd dynamic, I'm not sure how to categorize this movie. I feel like it must be much better than I'm giving it credit for, but I just didn't get it. 3 stars.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fedora (1978)

Billy Wilder's earlier film Sunset Blvd is a much better story of aging actresses who once captivated the world. However, that inevitable comparison aside, this film is uneven. It spends too much of its time in unwieldy back story that should have found another way to be told. Instead it all felt very anticlimactic and poorly handled. Marthe Keller's performance is also very disappointing and never really seems to connect to the story. But perhaps that's the point - Fedora is never terribly connected to her surroundings. It's a nice attempt at a good story but overall it falls a bit flat. 2.5 stars.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Tim Burton's dark gloom always kind of an ethereal gothic beauty about him. In Alice, his world is mesmerizing to watch. He plays with our sense of proportion, our sense of color, our sense of movement... and it's dark and occasionally frightening but always fascinating. As long as I kept in mind that this was NOT going to be just a retread of the book or movie, but its own story in itself, I was able to sit back and enjoy it. The all-star cast here does NOT go to waste. Every one of them here is fantastic in their roles. I'm not sure this movie would be nearly as impressive on DVD, but in the theaters it was an impressive visual feat. That carries it further than the story does. 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Run, Fat Boy, Run (2008)

There aren't a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in this film, so fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz might be disappointed. I always find Simon Pegg charming in the role of "well-intentioned loser." He's an easy character to root for in this. And it's because of that that this movie is as entertaining as it is. We genuinely want him to get the girl in the end. And the ending was rather predictable... but *extremely* satisfying. It's just not the kind of movie you might expect if you came in looking for Shaun of the Dead, but it's a thoroughly pleasant romantic comedy. 3.5 stars.

The Crazies (2010)

As far as movies about zombie-like creatures goes, this one isn't bad on the scariness factor. There are some genuinely creepy moments, as well as a lot of run-of-the-mill spring-loaded cats. A few scenes are even fairly touching (although any touching moments in the film seem to be made pointless by the film's final sequence, but I won't get into that). For what it is, it's quite capable. Just don't expect more. 3 stars.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The High and the Mighty (1954)

This is a great concept for a movie - reminds me a tiny bit of a quieter character-based version of Lost. However, cheesy writing makes this movie nearly unwatchable. During moments that should have been interesting, I was suddenly jolted out of the movie by some terrible line of dialogue. I would love to see this movie remade, because it's such a sad example of a good idea gone terribly wrong. 2 stars.

Buddy Buddy (1981)

The weakest of the Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau movie pairings I've seen. It has one or two funny moments, but overall both actors are underutilized, the script is weak, the story is cliched except for it's far-too-abrupt ending, and the characters are *too* bizarre and caricatured for us to do much but just stare at them in confusion. Far from a great film. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

The first film to pair Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and their interaction is the best part of the film. Overall the film drags a bit, but there are some very funny moments that make it worth sitting through. The climactic moment where the secret is revealed is extremely entertaining. 3.5 stars.

The Misfits (1961)

There are some very odd moments in this movie. The dialogue seems stilted (Arthur Miller, what happened?) and Marilyn Monroe is not nearly as good as she was acclaimed to be in this. Clark Gable, however, is fabulous in what turned out to be his last role. The story picks up in the last 20 minutes, with a truly phenomenal series of scenes where the characters set out to capture some wild mustangs. There's depth and beauty to that entire sequence, something that seems to be missing from most of the rest of the movie. (One example of how disjointed this movie is in the first hour and a half - Thelma Ritter's established as an important side character, then abruptly disappears from the story and never reappears. Nothing is made of this. She's just suddenly unimportant.) The three stars I give this movie are solely for Clark Gable and the last 20-30 minutes. 3 stars.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Avanti! (1972)

I vaguely remember enjoying this movie as I watched it, but now, a few days after my first viewing, I have very little memory of it. Billy Wilder is seldom a BAD writer/director, but this is not one of his more memorable ones, although it does have a few good moments. 2.5 stars.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)


This is one of those movies that's praised in all critical circles as not just being a meaningful satire, but being a genuinely funny comedy. So I watched it expecting to enjoy it. I think I laughed MAYBE one time in this film, and smiled one or two more times. Mostly it seemed disjointed. And I just wasn't amused by Peter Sellers' cast of characters. (But then I am not a fan of one actor playing multiple characters in general - it becomes less about making them themselves and more about making them NOT like the others.)

I'm clearly missing something here, but I found very little to enjoy in this movie. Very disappointing. 1 star.

No Highway in the Sky (1951)

(Some mild spoilers.) The first half of this movie is absolutely fascinating, and seems to be set up as a Hitchcockian closed-room suspense... then that suspenseful moment ends and we're in the middle of a very different movie that's far less interesting than it was at first. Not to mention it ends on possible the least ending-like note ever. However, Jimmy Stewart is worth watching all the way through. He's completely charming as a geeky, socially awkward scientist. It's not a bad movie, it's just not what it could have been. 3 stars.

Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

This was panned when it came out, partly because a lot of people were really upset with how bawdy it was. It does not deserve its terrible reputation. It is not one of Wilder's best but the first 40 minutes are thoroughly entertaining in a zany screwball comedy kind of way. This is also hands-down the best thing Dean Martin has ever done. He is hilarious here as a very unsubtle, sleazy parody of himself. It goes in too many directions at the end, but overall not at all the terrible film it's purported to be. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 3.5 stars.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Con Air (1997)

An interesting plot becomes too much blowing stuff up and not enough plot to it. Now, I'm not a fan of action movies in general, but this one in particular felt like a huge waste. Most of the steps to GET to a plot point that involved explosions, seemed rushed and unimaginative. There are a lot of great actors here just reading lines and rolling on the ground away from fireballs... Not a lot of thought put into this. Disappointing. 1.5 stars.

Moon (2009)

A fascinating (and surprisingly touching) story with an ending I didn't actually expect to unfold. I don't want to say too much about it - it would be too easy to let something slip about the plot. Sam Rockwell is excellent as the man who has been living alone on the moon for the last three years. It's been drawing comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but this is much more... *human* a story than that was. This is one of the most well-made movies I've seen in a very long time. I highly recommend it. 4.5 stars.

Cloverfield (2008)

Although the movie's gimmick may be a bit much for some viewers, I found it extremely effective. It was a lot scarier than I expected it to be. It felt very real - both on the part of the everyday people caught in it, and the soldiers trying to find a solution. The creature itself is actually very scary, and the smaller creatures are completely terrifying. I felt the short length of the film also worked for it - it was able to pack more consistently scary moments into a smaller amount of time without going overboard. Overall, a very solid horror flick. 4 stars.

Wonder Boys (2000)

Some very good actors here... but not necessarily a good movie. The script is forced, awkward, and doesn't do these great actors justice. When you've got Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr and Frances McDormand in a movie, it should be pretty awesome. Instead, this one just feels uneven and Tobey Maguire (who is NOT a brilliant actor) becomes the only really interesting one out of the bunch. If that's the case, you know your movie has gone awry.

That being said, Tobey Maguire WAS interesting, and I got caught up in his story. And there were a few very good moments here and there. But it's still very uneven. 2.5 stars.

The Invention of Lying (2009)

I love Ricky Gervais. I would pay to see him in pretty much everything. So I love *him* in this movie... but was less than impressed with everyone around him. Apparently, in this film, if you are completely truthful, you are also completely shallow. Jennifer Garner in particular is very unlikeable. Ricky Gervais tells her at one point that she is the most caring person he's ever met, and I couldn't help but wonder if all those scenes had been cut out.

He also has a very long section that feels like satirical religious stand-up. I tend to shy away from movies that have a stand-up feel to them - if you're just going to tell me jokes, just tell me jokes, don't try to cram them into a movie. Besides, not a lot of it was terribly funny. I'm not opposed to religious-themed humor, but most of this seemed like observations I've already heard all the variations on.

Brilliant idea carried out poorly... but Ricky Gervais is still extremely watchable and has some very good comic timing (especially as he interacts with those around them - the scene where he tries to persuade his friends in the bar of his new power is hilarious). This just never all came together as a movie, although some individual moments are very, very good. 3 stars.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Love in the Afternoon (1957)

This is not one of Billy Wilder's best efforts. Although Audrey Hepburn is believably charming and innocent, Gary Cooper does not hold up his end of the bargain, and the plot is pretty much ridiculous. There's some good Wilder-like dialogue along the way, but not enough to make it work. 2.5 stars.

Irma la Douce (1963)

This feels like three or four short films about the same characters mushed together into one clunky one. There are some good sequences and Jack Lemmon is very entertaining as the hero of the story, but Shirley MacLaine is oddly bland and none of it feels consistent. It switches tone and feel constantly. Just when I'd gotten comfortable with a storyline, it turned around into something else. Very awkward. Worth seeing for fans of Lemmon's work, though - he puts his all into it and is in some pretty funny scenes. 2.5 stars.

Pushing Tin (1999)

There are two things that make this movie interesting. 1) Its excellent portrayal of air traffic controllers' hectic day on the job - made me tense just watching it. 2) The acting from both John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. Although the script has some rough patches, particularly the last 15 minutes or so, these two are just fascinating on screen interacting with each other. That kept me watching the entire way through. It's a solid drama until the very end, where it seems to be rushing to find an amenable-to-everyone ending, but it doesn't ruin the rest of the movie, so it's still worth watching. 4 stars.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Einstein and Eddington (2008)

Oh, goodness. Both of these actors are oodles better than the mess of a script this gives them. I know it's a TV movie, but really. It jumps all over the place emotionally. It forces its characters to go on preachy diatribes about science that don't sound like anything actually coming from anyone's mouths (try as I might, I couldn't help but think of Lost Skeleton of Cadavra: "If we find this meteor, it might mean actual scientific advances in the field of science"). David Tennant managed to make most of it at least sound plausibly human. Andy Serkis couldn't QUITE manage it. A good idea for a movie, and two capable actors to portray the roles, but a lousy screenwriter makes this very not-worth watching. 2 stars.

Sleepers (1996)

Despite the skewed morality this movie offers up as legitimate, this is actually a fascinating drama. Rather a star-studded cast but none of it is too distracting. The acting is good and the story compelling - not your typical vigilante story, although, essentially, that's what it is. Fairly well scripted and nicely atmospheric. Not sure it'll stick in my mind for a VERY long amount of time, but it was definitely one I thought about while I watched it. 3.5 stars.

L.A. Without a Map (1998)

This off-beat little romantic comedy is a little uneven in spots (the end reconciliation is abrupt and silly) but there are some very charming moments. David Tennant is occasionally hilarious as the hero - equal parts cheerful and inept. There are some genuinely laugh-out-loud funny moments, so it's worth watching as long as you never try to take it too seriously and just let the silly plot twists happen. Cute, sweet, but far from perfect. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mr. Brooks (2007)

This is a far more interesting movie than I suspected when I first looked at it. Almost certainly the best thing I've ever seen Kevin Costner in. It's a fairly stylish look at an old type of story. Serial killers are not a new theme in film, but this is an inventive way of portraying them. Dane Cook is also noteworthy as the overeager, adrenaline-seeking fan of the killer's work. Very well done, a fascinating story well told. 4 stars.

Zodiac (2007)

I keep forgetting how impressed I am with Jake Gyllenhaal, and then I watch him in something else. He's quite a good actor. In Zodiac he plays a young, socially inept puzzle enthusiast who determines he's going to solve the mystery of the Zodiac killer. The movie is fascinating, especially since it appears to be a very accurate representation of how the real Zodiac mysteries went. It's more police procedural than serial killer horror flick, but it has its tense moments just the same.

The other person worth mentioning in this is Mark Ruffalo, who I have never been impressed with, but he was extremely watchable here. He carried the weight of a much more seasoned actor than himself, and made a routine character much more likable.

Overall, good acting, good writing, solid script... a very enjoyable film, thought not a great one. 3.5 stars.

Bright Young Things (2003)

I love Stephen Fry, and I'm also a huge fan of the cast he's pulled together for this film, but it all felt a bit uneven to me. There are some very, very funny moments in here. He knows how to draw upon the pretentious airs of the overly stuffy and overly intellectual to create hilarious dialogue. There are also some very moving scenes, such as the one where our main character starts to tire of his whirlwind life. ("Oh, there are always so many parties!" he laments to his lover.) But all these never QUITE seem to come together in the story. It's a very close call, but in the end it falls just a little flat. 3 stars.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Lives of Others (2006)

A few friends recommended this to me, and I'm glad I saw it. It's a slow-moving but very compelling look at the way really getting to know somebody changes you. Ulrich Mühe is excellent as the German officer given the task of spying on a young writer and his girlfriend. As he watches their lives and learns their secrets, his perspective begins to change. The ending is quite satisfying. A very well-crafted movie, and a fairly accessible foreign film as well. 4 stars.

Friday, January 8, 2010

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

This is a sweet romantic comedy that turns things around a little bit. Although it's not as good, it brings to mind Annie Hall, proving that you don't *have* to have the main characters together at the end for it to be an uplifting romance. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are so charming as the leads, and the storytelling is original and fun. Good one. 4 stars.