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.