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.