Wednesday, December 28, 2011

They Were Expendable (1945)

I never quite know what to do with movies like this. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with it, but I didn't find myself interested in the story even once and find myself, just moments after finishing it, struggling to remember the main events of the movie. I have to work extra hard to be interested in war movies... and John Wayne... and this movie definitely didn't make it easy for me. I feel bad assigning a star rating to it because I have a feeling it's probably much better than I felt it was, but, man, did I fight to get into this. No "Best Part/Worst Part" here because I can honestly remember so little of it. A movie I forget immediately after it ends just doesn't work for me. 1 star?

FlickChart: #1504, below New In Town and above Hidalgo.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Withnail & I (1987)

I feel like I should have liked this movie. I like British movies as a rule and British comedies almost all the time. Somehow, however, I never connected with this. I felt like it was a bunch of jokes I couldn't get and a bunch of characters I couldn't understand doing things I couldn't get interested in. I might have to try and rewatch it someday, because I really don't want to believe that a movie I should have liked so much could have... bored me as much as it did. 2 stars.

Best Part: The scenes where the two of them were panicking about something were usually pretty entertaining.
Worst Part: The fact that as I try to remember a moment I particularly disliked about it, I can't actually remember most of the movie.
FlickChart: #774, below Throw Momma From the Train and above Fun With Dick and Jane. I wish this movie rhymed with them, too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

There are very few words to describe this movie that aren't things like "adorable." This movie is very clearly made for children, as it should be, and it is appealing to older audiences like myself mostly for nostalgic reasons. The characters are all there exactly as they should be, the plot is a combination of several of Milne's original stories (which are delightful), the songs are cute. Combining all the stories into one movie makes it feel a little bit unfinished, but this is a great choice for a kids' movie. So much better than most of the nonsense churned out for them these days. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I loved the characters interacting with the book, like in the original movies. So much nostalgia.
Worst Part: The scene where Pooh and Piglet try to get the beehive accidentally made Pooh seem a little like a bully, forcing his much smaller friend to do all the hard parts. I just felt bad for Piglet.
FlickChart: #620, below Zodiac and above Harry and the Hendersons.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beginners (2011)

Wow, the trailers for this movie lie. They make it seem like the central focus is Christopher Plummer's character coming out of the closet, when clearly this film's protagonist is Ewan McGregor's character Oliver. It's a gentler movie than the trailers imply, and a more thematically united film, and a much better one. The different stories are told in snapshots (both literally and figuratively). A moment here, a moment there, some moments repeated later in the film, yet none of it feels disjointed. It all feels connected and it is all somehow very beautiful.

I'm having trouble articulating my thoughts about this. Maybe someday I'll have pieced them together in my mind and can come back and add onto this review with coherent thoughts. For now, let's just give it 4 stars and leave it.

Best Part: I thoroughly enjoy how serious Oliver looks all the time, but then he makes very silly comments. I enjoy when people do that in real life, and I enjoy it in movies.
Worst Part: I don't know exactly where or how it happened, but there was a chunk in the middle where the film just quietly lost my interest. It came back at the end, but that's why this film hovered in the 400s of Flickchart instead of the 300s.
FlickChart: #406, below Rabbit Hole and above Guys and Dolls.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Slipper and the Rose (1976)

Overall, this is a cute little retelling of Cinderella, with likable songs by the Sherman Brothers and some fantastic dance numbers. However, it runs into the same problem many adaptations of Cinderella do: Cinderella herself is a boring character. She goes along with what she is told to do and seldom seems to have any thoughts not actually put into her head. Some adaptations make Cinderella an extremely kind character who is loyal and loving to her stepfamily because thinking ill of anyone is impossible. Some make her feisty and independent but set up a clear reason why she has to stay in her abusive home. Unfortunately, The Slipper and the Rose goes neither way, so Cinderella remains a bland character. I rooted for the Prince, but Cinderella barely even registered on my radar.

Now, all that to say... this isn't at all a bad movie. Like I said, the songs are fun, and all the characters except for Cinderella herself are interesting to watch (the Fairy Godmother especially has some fun new character aspects in this version). It's a cute story but doesn't delve far enough beyond fairy tale archetypes to flesh out the characters I wanted them to. 3 stars.

Best Part: I really enjoyed the unexpectedly cheerful song in the family crypt.
Worst Part: It really was what I said up there. Every time Cinderella showed up, it was tough to stay interested, although some of her songs were very pretty.
FlickChart: #605, above Who Framed Roger Rabbit and below Father of the Bride.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

This is a sweet, charming romantic comedy. At first I thought it would just be a feel good movie without any actual laughs, but as it kept going, I found myself chuckling a few times. There's nothing overly special about it, but the characters are entertaining, the jokes funny, and it just left me with an overall satisfied feeling at the end. I'm sure that as time goes by this movie will kind of fade away into obscurity, but for right now I can definitely say I enjoyed this flick. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: The phone conversation between Steve Carell and Julianne Moore when she's asking him for house help was absolutely adorable.
Worst Part: The whole movie does, unfortunately, send the "no never actually means no" message. The subplot of the kid and the babysitter disturbs me mostly because of that (and also I'm not entirely sure of the ages involved, which puts it in kind of an icky place).
FlickChart: #423, above Death to Smoochy and below The Terminal.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homicide (1991)

It takes me awhile to get into David Mamet. I've seen several of his films and always feel like I should like them and then somehow don't, with the exception of Glengarry Glen Ross (but that one I only liked after struggling through the play a couple times before it finally clicked). I felt like I came closer on this one than on many of his others, but something still didn't quite click for me. I kept almost liking it, but then the ending was far too abrupt for me - maybe that was part of the point, but it just didn't quite work for me. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Joe Mantegna's character was definitely interesting to watch. When I was drawn into the movie, it was because of him.
Worst Part: Mamet's dialogue can sound either incredibly natural or incredibly stilted... and there are far too many moments in here where it sounds stilted.
FlickChart: #1037, below Hans Christian Andersen and above Maurice, which is all goofed up, because it was way better than Maurice, so something's off.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Mel Brooks is very hit-or-miss for me. The Producers is one of my all-time favorite comedies, Spaceballs is one of my all-time most hated, and I was only okay with Young Frankenstein, so I didn't know how I'd feel about this one. However, it was pretty solid. The premise was interesting, the jokes worked for me most of the time, and even though I didn't laugh out loud often, I was definitely entertained. Is it my #6 comedy of all-time like the AFI thinks it should be? No, but it was a fun one. 4 stars.

Best Part: Although I'm about to say the ending's the worst part, I did dissolve into crazy giggles during the food fight when the Hitler actor is standing on the counter madly saluting.
Worst Part: The ending got very meta and self-aware, which rubs me the wrong way. It almost worked, but not quite, and I still found myself irritated.
FlickChart: #351, below Easy A and above Philadelphia.

Monday, December 12, 2011

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

I admit, it wasn't like I was a big G.I. Joe fan to begin with. It wasn't ever really part of my childhood. But there have been movies that I enjoyed even though I didn't know the franchise/series/characters. This is not one of them. These are the thinnest characters I have possibly ever seen in any movie ever, a pretty awkwardly strung together plot, and then just a lot of explosions, which doesn't really make up for the rest of it. With a large group of people, this could be a fun movie to mock as you watch it, but watching it on my own wasn't even remotely entertaining. 1 star.

Best Part: Hey, Christopher Eccleston! I do love him.
Worst Part: The redheaded chick solemnly intoning that she doesn't believe in attraction because it's just an emotion. I laughed out loud. Is she Sheldon Cooper's sister? Nobody says that kind of stuff.
FlickChart: #1231, right below Duane Hopwood (which should be higher up on the list) and right above Bitter Moon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beautiful Boy (2010)

Sometimes there's a movie that just punches me in the gut. It reaches in and twists me up on such a deeply emotional level that I have great difficulty communicating about it afterward. The Angels in America miniseries was the last thing that did that for me, although that was a much more positive ending and message. There's so much pain in this movie, so many heartwrenching moments, and there aren't any answers. There's no resolution. There can't be, for something like this. All our two main characters can do is desperately cling to whatever they can get a hold of and hope to make it through each passing moment (Michael Sheen and Maria Bello give amazing, amazing performances here).

My initial plan for the evening involved moving on to another movie after this, but it somehow seems... wrong to watch anything else immediately after this. 4.5 stars (possibly moving up to 5 after it settles in my mind).

Best Part: It's impossible for me to choose, so I'm going to go with that early scene with the police talking to the parents - that was the moment that sold me on the movie.
Worst Part: I can't think of one right now. I genuinely can't.
FlickChart: #93, below The Lives of Others and above Stand By Me.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scarface (1983)

This movie has some good moments. Tony Montana's a fairly interesting character, and there are a few really interesting images (the iconic one of him sitting behind the pile of cocaine on his desk is indeed a great one) but for the most part, it just didn't work for me. The overall story feels aimless, and the cheesy music, dramatic close-ups, and slow motion at heightened moments were just silly and took away all sense of actual emotional conflict. It kept yanking me out of any investment I had in the story. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Probably the famous final scene. I did like that.
Worst Part: The "oh, here comes a dramatic moment" gimmicks.
FlickChart: #921, above Holiday and below Paycheck.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

28 Days Later... (2002)

A very solid horror/thriller, whether you want to call it a zombie movie or not. Right from the opening, it does a great job of building an extremely creepy atmosphere, while moving the story along enough to keep it from feeling like just an atmosphere movie. There are so many great moments where I found myself holding my breath, just hoping the protagonists would make it out okay. Very, very nicely done. 4 stars. Maybe 4.5 after another viewing someday.

Best Part: The early scenes of Cillian Murphy wandering the empty streets are absolutely haunting and stunningly beautiful.
Worst Part: (Spoilers.) The very final fight in the bunker was difficult for me to visually follow. I had trouble setting all the different soldiers apart and figuring out who was who. It made the climactic ending somewhat frustrating for me.
FlickChart: #303, below The Gods Must Be Crazy and above An Education.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Paul (2011)

Whenever I watch movies like this, I come away thinking, "Man, I enjoy being part of the nerd community." It's a pretty entertaining story anyway, but for those of us who are the kind of people who would actually love to go to Comic-Con (some day I'll have the money and it'll happen), this movie is well worth the watch. It's filled with tributes to great sci-fi movies and is clearly made by people who love this kind of thing. So many movies about nerds are written about nerds rather than by nerds and come off as being a little condescending. Not Paul. It's not a fantastic movie - there are a few moments that just don't work - but it left me with a sort of warm fuzzy feeling. I suspect this is how I as a girl am supposed to feel after watching romantic comedies. :-) 4 stars.

Best Part: "Boring conversation anyway." Nod to one of my favorite Star Wars moments.
Worst Part: It took a lot longer than I'd have liked to adjust to stop hearing Seth Rogen in my head and start hearing the character. It eventually happened, but it was distracting for the first half of the movie or so.
FlickChart: #526, below Good Will Hunting and above I Heart Huckabees.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Soultaker (1990)

This movie is silly and cliched and the writer/lead actress can neither write nor act worth anything. However, that being said, there was a moment or two that could have worked if done by someone with talent. I'm kind of a sucker for stories about evil villains falling in love, and so I did kind of enjoy the plot point about the soultaker's sudden interest in the heroine, but every time I felt like it was maybe heading toward something potentially entertaining, it then hit a clunker of a line or an awkward acting moment and reminded me that, nope, this movie is sucky. 1 star.

Best Part: Like I said, as cliched as it is, I kind of enjoyed the evil-bad-guy-has-feelings-for-heroine subplot. Added a slight twist to the story. (Watching an MST3K version of the movie didn't hurt matters either, but I wanted to make sure and address the actual movie itself.)
Worst Part: Basically anything with that main girl in it.
FlickChart: #1432, below Stepsister From Planet Weird but above Flywheel. Pretty sure Flywheel is too high up on this list.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Small Time Crooks (2000)

This is not one of Woody Allen's shining moments, but it isn't one of his absolute clunkers either. (Although, as a biased superfan, there are only 2, maybe 3 movies I'd put in that category anyway.) I enjoyed the movie as I was watching it, but now as I think back on it, I have great difficulty actually remembering it. It's very pleasant, never stellar. Glad I saw it but wouldn't really recommend it to anyone unless they're already a fan of his. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: I laughed out loud at, "My husband, Otto, was dyslexic, and the only thing he could spell was his own name."
Worst Part: It was a little disconcerting to me when the part about them being criminals was abandoned 30 minutes in and not picked up again until the very end. Pretty meander-y there.
FlickChart: #677, below Over the Hedge and above The Witches of Eastwick.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)

I wish this movie made sense. It starts off kind of promising, with Hugh Grant playing his typical likable-but-fairly-inept good guy, and I smiled a lot in the first 15-20 minutes or so. But as soon as the girl's family enters the picture, the jokes get cliched and unfunny. If that wasn't bad enough, the story also unravels pretty quickly and by the end I was just left going, "Huh?" Definitely not worth the watch. 1 star.

Best Part: I thought "The La Trattoria" was pretty funny. Would've been funnier if they didn't have to explain it, but the idea of a restaurant named that just tickled me.
Worst Part: The final scene where he explains everything to his girlfriend is utter nonsense. It's as if the screenwriters suddenly remembered they'd forgotten to explain, ya know, any of that, and thought, "Crap, we only have a page left to do that... Well, uh, maybe if he just gives his lame excuse really fast? And she just believes him for no reason? Yeah, that'll work."
FlickChart: #1329, above Bus Stop and below Chicken Little.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Maurice (1987)

I've never read the novel but I can't say this movie inspired me to do so. It's long and meandering, I never got a very strong sense of any of the characters, and the ending just didn't work for me at all. There were one or two very moving moments (the last shot of Clive looking out the window especially struck me) but overall, nothing really connected with me. I just find myself struggling to remember it. 2 stars.

Best Part: Hey, that's li'l Rupert Graves (a.k.a. Lestrade from the new BBC Sherlock series) as Alec Scudder! I love when I see people from my favorite shows elsewhere.
Worst Part: Nothing stands out as being particularly bad, it was just uninteresting.
FlickChart: #1021, below Hans Christian Andersen and above Ocean's Twelve.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wild Strawberries (1957)

I saw Bergman's The Virgin Spring earlier this year and really, really liked it. Wild Strawberries was less powerful for me. Maybe it's too contemplative, maybe it's too full of symbolic images (not something I've ever been a fan of), maybe it's just a topic I'm not old enough to connect with emotionally. Although I enjoyed watching it and was impressed by it, in the end it left me a little cold. Impressive, but not one I ever "got into." 3 stars.

Best Part: I absolutely loved the flashback conversation between Marianne and Evald. I can't even say why. It just hit me in a way I didn't expect.
Worst Part: I never like mysterious symbolic dream sequences. That first one especially just did nothing for me.
FlickChart: #505, below High Noon and above The Dark Knight.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

A group of friends convinced me to go see this with them, and I figured for a series like this, it'd be all right even if I hadn't seen the first two movies. While it wasn't a completely terrible experience or anything, I have very little patience for horror movies low on plot and big on spring-loaded cats. There were only maybe two moments in this movie where I was scared, rather than just startled, and I want my horror movies to scare me. And the faux-documentary dialogue was extremely unrelatable - I hate when that stuff somehow manages not to sound real or scripted. 1.5 stars.

Best Part: The oscillating fan gimmick was actually fairly effective at building tension. The sheet scene they did with it was far scarier than any of the rest of the film. Also, the guy sitting behind us who screamed at one point, "THERE ARE NINE GRANDMAS IN THE CLOSET!" - he actually might have been my favorite part of this movie experience.
Worst Part: Whenever a cheap scare happened, especially the ones that made me think, "Well, that was a cheap scare." Then I'd just get annoyed with the writers.
FlickChart: #1326, below A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and above Zorba the Greek.

Mean Girls (2004)

I announced to a group of friends last night that I'd never seen Mean Girls, and they all let out shrieks of, "I love Mean Girls!" and insisted I watch it right then and there. While I didn't end up with that sort of adoration for it, I did enjoy it. Tina Fey wrote a smart comedic script, and the acting is pretty entertaining, especially Amanda Seyfried. There were plenty of moments when I laughed out loud, which is all I really ask for in a comedy. Good enough. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I was trying to remember which moment got the loudest laugh from me... I can't remember exactly, but one possibility is the moment when the person not from their school shares during apology time. "I just have a lot of feelings."
Worst Part: There weren't a lot of moments that fell flat, but toward the end there were moments that were either being cheesily hilarious or accidentally being cheesily serious, and the fact that I couldn't tell which it was going for was kind of annoying.
FlickChart: #391, below Ghost Town and above Crimson Tide. Far too high, but it'll drop.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Serious Man (2009)

(Spoilers ahead.) I was all set to love this movie, and I very nearly did. But then it hit the final scene, and all the investment I had in the story just kind of... fizzled. Despite it being a visually wonderful scene, I couldn't find its emotional connection to the rest of the movie, so I just felt unsatisfied. I feel like this is a movie that if I let it settle, and then a few years from now go back and rewatch, it might have a wholly different impact on me. Up until that ending, it was on its way to becoming one of my favorite Coen films. It was a great story told well. I'll have to revisit this in a few years after my opinions on it settle a bit. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: Michael Stuhlbarg was fantastic. I loved watching him react to everything that came his way. I think I particularly liked how he responded to the more minor frustration (in comparison to everything else) of the unwanted record club subscription. Such an easy character for me to connect with.
Worst Part: That ending... and, come to think of it, that beginning...
FlickChart: #515, below Back to the Future 3 and above You Can't Take It With You.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Boy A (2007)

Boy A took a little while to engage me, but what ultimately drew me in was Andrew Garfield's marvelous, marvelous performance. I didn't pay much attention to him in The Social Network but he is charming, vulnerable, and utterly believable as the lead in this film. The story circles around him and is best when it's showing him and his reactions to his new surroundings. There are a few moments where the movie seems to get a bit sidetracked, but overall very powerful. Very well-done. 4 stars.

Best Part: Andrew Garfield, all the way.
Worst Part: I didn't always buy into the drama between Terry and his son. Until the end I wasn't sure what it had to do with anything, and so it always felt like I was being pulled away from the story I actually cared about.
FlickChart: #363, above Spirited Away and below Source Code.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bitter Moon (1992)

Bitter Moon isn't the kind of movie I'd call enjoyable. It's very mean and dark and bitter and unpleasant. Not that I'm against bitter and dark movies... but most of it is also just boring. In the first hour and a half, nothing really happens, and then when something finally did happen I didn't care anymore. Neither the story on the cruise ship or the story in the past gripped my attention or seemed to be anything new until the final third of the movie, when it had long since lost my interest so didn't have the kind of impact I'm sure it was trying to make. Disappointing. 1.5 stars.

Best Part: The dinner date early in the movie had a very nice moment where the two played the sort of silly little game people do all the time - they start imitating each other, seeing how far the other one will go. I really enjoyed that moment.
Worst Part: Any of the cruise ship moments where wheelchair guy set up or commented on the story. "You haven't heard the ending yet." "She wants you to hear her side of the story." It all felt like very forced exposition.
FlickChart: #1209, above War of the Worlds (2005) and below A Time To Kill.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Beaver (2011)

I expected to be mildly entertained by this movie, but I never, ever expected to love it. But, turns out, I do. Mel Gibson turns in an incredible performance, as does Anton Yelchin, who plays his son. This movie is a very moving portrayal of extreme depression. I love how he said it in the movie - something like, "For some people there comes a time when, in order to go on, they have to wipe the slate clean." People who are very unhappy sometimes do crazy things in an attempt to restore themselves. The movie is a *tad* bit too tidy in its resolution, but not in a way that distracted from the overall quality of it. Really, really nicely done. 4.5 stars.

Best Part: I was very moved by the moments where Walter tried desperately to speak but couldn't, and had to resort to using the puppet.
Worst Part: The transitions between Walter's and Porter's stories were really choppy. Although it tied together at the end, for most of the movie I found myself thinking, "And this connects how?"
FlickChart: Landed at #206, right below Chaplin and right above Another Woman. I KNOW it will drop from there over the next few months, but right now that feels about right.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hop (2011)

(Spoilers.) James Marsden is a likable actor, but even he is hard to root for in this piece of nonsense. Aside from one or two brief moments, nothing in it really works, and CERTAINLY not the ridiculous ending, where everyone simply accepts without question the fact that Fred is now the Easter Bunny and is going to fly away in a ship piloted by chicks. The jokes are tired attempts at cliches, the overall plot makes little to no sense, and none of the characters are interesting. I saw this for free at a kids' matinee and virtually none of the occasional laughs I heard came from children, indicating that this isn't even something children will like much. 0.5 stars.

Best Part: James Marsden's initial awkward response when the rabbit starts singing "I Want Candy" and he has to pretend it's him is kind of entertaining. However, that's lost the moment he starts enjoying the song.
Worst Part: That ending. That ending. What were they thinking? "I'm proud of you, son."
FlickChart: Landed at #1477, directly below the 1951 Disney version of Alice in Wonderland and above The Phantom Menace.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Horrible Bosses (2011)

So much funnier than I expected it to be. There are moments that are undeniably crude (usually not something I like) but although it's crude, it doesn't feel juvenile - it's handled in a very intelligent way, and the rudest moments are some of the funniest. Jason Bateman plays the calmer and saner of the three leads, as he does best, and is hilarious in contrast to Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day. I saw Colin Farrell just a few weeks ago in the superbly campy Fright Night, and here he once again goes all out with a ridiculous villain role and milks it for all its worth (I have to keep an eye out for this guy - he's so much more interesting than I used to give him credit for). A solidly entertaining comedy, although nothing to write home about... and definitely not one to watch with the family. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: A lot of good moments, but I think Charlie Day's road chase attempt to talk dirty to Jennifer Aniston made me giggle the hardest.
Worst Part: ...I can't think of a moment I didn't like or a joke that fell really flat. That can't be right for a 3.5 star movie. I may have to come back to this section at a later date, after the "that was funnier than I thought!" glow has faded.
FlickChart: Landed at #616, right below The Majestic and right above Quitting. The crap? What's The Majestic doing up in the 600s? That's an 800s movie. Looks like it's time to re-rank...

Super 8 (2011)

(Lots of spoilers ahead.) Movies involving aliens are often very moving for me. There's just something about the idea of there being something out there in space... and there's... well, not to be punny, but something very universal about the fear of the unknown that could be out there. Those are big themes, but ones that ring very true for me and always affect me strongly when seen in movies.

That's the part of this movie that captivates me the most. When Joe's mother dies, he's forced into those bigger themes and is left a little isolated from the people around him. The movie never pushes this point (which I appreciated) but it's clear that he suddenly feels much more alone in the universe than he has been up to this point. The parallel between him and the scared lonely alien isn't belabored, but for me it was what made the movie fascinating and, in the end, very moving. As both are finally released from their captivity (whether physical or emotional) and manage to find their way back to security, I found myself tearing up a little bit. (It certainly helped that the visuals of that final scene are kind of gorgeous.)

Anyway. This is a much longer review than I usually write, but I had a lot to say. Heh. I feel like this is a movie that would be worth watching again. I felt the first 2/3 of the movie a little slow, but now that I found what I suppose I could refer to as "my theme" - the idea that connects the movie to me - I would love to be able to retrace it through the movie. 4 stars.

Best Part: That final scene. Beautiful both visually and emotionally.
Worst Part: I never did care for pyromaniac firecracker kid...
FlickChart: Landed at #357, right below Grave of the Fireflies and right above Garden State.

30 Minutes or Less (2011)

Spoilers ahead. Jesse Eisenberg is the best thing about this movie, which is far too often unnecessarily and unfunnily crude. The villains are over-the-top enough that any danger never feels like real danger (which means the ending is extremely abrupt and seems out of sync with the rest of the movie). Eisenberg brings a helpless victim quality which makes him a rather likable hero, but the only moment when the movie *really* comes together is during the actual bank robbery - a very funny scene as the two main characters play off each other in attempting to act tough and scary. 2 stars.

Best Part: Bank robbery scene - as stated above.
Worst Part: Just about every time Dwayne opens his mouth. If he had been a less central character, I would probably have enjoyed the movie a lot more.
FlickChart: Landed at #880, right below Le Samourai and above The Mummy (the 1930s version).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Idiot Brother (2011)

A pleasant little movie that comes alive only because of the actors involved. Not that they're great actors, but they do exactly what the movie asks of them. Each one of them embodies their character and makes them interesting. Paul Rudd's character actually ends up being one of the less interesting ones - he's always just a bit too mellow and eager to please, and when he does break it doesn't feel like it's for a plausible reason. I did laugh a few times throughout this movie, but I know it's not going to stick with me much longer than... well, probably tonight. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks are all very different actresses but somehow manage to have amazing chemistry as sisters. Just great to watch.
Worst Part: "We put him in there. All of us. And you too." A cheesy line that turned an acceptable ending into complete nonsense.
FlickChart Ranking: #841, below Unbreakable and above Primal Fear.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Silver Streak (1976)

Unfortunately for this movie, the action parts aren't very suspenseful and the comedy parts aren't very funny. It may have hurt this movie further that I only kind of like Gene Wilder and don't like Richard Pryor much at all, and this material didn't change my mind about either one of them. I simply didn't laugh. 2 stars.

Best Part: Hey, that's Fred Willard as the guy who answers the train station phone!
Worst Part: The final lines of the movie were pretty bad. "He's crazy." "He's got the right idea. Let's get out of here and go to a park." Wait, what?

Happythankyoumoreplease (2010)

Indie comedy dramas are tough to perfect these days. Most of them either slide toward pretension or sentimentality, and, sadly, Happythankyoumoreplease has moments of both. There are some really beautiful stories (Malin Akerman and Tony Hale's is fascinating and beautiful, although I'm *really* waiting for that story gender-switched...but that's never going to happen) and some very good moments. There are also a lot of moments where it was just trying too, too hard. Not a *bad* writing/directing debut for Josh Radnor... but a very mediocre one. Here's hoping he steps up his game in his next project, because the parts I liked, I *really* liked. 3 stars.

Best Part: Although I said I liked Akerman and Hale, I'm pretty sure my actual favorite moments were the couple times Josh Radnor's character was around the kid and said, "F***! ...Don't swear." It was just very nicely done - a little moment of an adult having to adjust his life to a child.
Worst Part: The resolution of the plotline between the two characters who were trying to decide where to live. Didn't ring true for me at all. That plotline was also where most of the movie's worst moments came from.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Brother From Another Planet (1984)

After I watched this movie, I looked it up online and was *shocked* to see it got a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, since my film major roommate and I were both very, very unimpressed with it. Everything about it said crappy movie, from the unfunny jokes to the bizarre jarring transitions (more than once we asked each other, "Wait - so what just happened there?"), sound effects that appeared to have nothing to do with what was actually happening, the three instances where women I didn't care about gave long monologues about guys they were involved with (that I also didn't care about)... Nothing in this movie made sense. I couldn't pull anything out of it to be impressed with. Knowing it was supposed to be some sort of comedy cult classic doesn't change my mind on this one, although it does make me wonder what everyone else is seeing that I clearly missed. 1 star.

Best Part: Well, my roommate and I sure had fun laughing at the ridiculous sound effects.
Worst Part: Every time they went back to the bar. Least interesting characters *ever*. It wasn't even amusingly bad, just boring.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Open Season (2006)

While not actively offensive (as some kids' movies can be), this movie is just uninteresting. There are no engaging characters, no original plot, nothing at all that recommends it. I can't even really remember any of the jokes from it, so I can't tell you if kids will find this funny. There's a lot of sudden destruction at the end of the movie, which seemed inappropriate for the age range they were reaching (really, they blew up ALL the hunters' trucks with giant fireballs? And that's okay?) and the villain is so over-the-top that it seems more like a tragic portrayal of an extremely delusional man rather than, say, an Elmer Fudd kind of obsessive character. Nothing very entertaining here. 1 star.

Best Part: When the porcupine finds out the bear can't protect her, she trudges back into the woods and says sadly, "No more me." The only laugh the movie got out of me.
Worst Part: Elliot's lullaby, which includes a gas joke AND a pee joke. Classy stuff.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Curious George (2006)

I expected this to be *terrible*. And, while it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, it's got one hugely huge flaw: it makes the Man in the Yellow Hat the main character instead of George himself. The parts where George is frolicking around cheerfully goofing things up are usually rather charming, and a few even made me laugh. George is a great character. The Will Ferrell-ized Man in the Yellow Hat, on the other hand, is not. He's a bumbling idiot who has no business taking care of a monkey. He's annoying for adults and uninteresting for kids. (Honestly, which one are kids going to care about more: someone who gets in trouble for painting on the walls or someone who spends the whole movie worrying his job is about to become obsolete?) This had the makings of a cute children's movie, but taking the focus off of George himself takes away the charm of the original books. 2 stars.

Mother (2009)

Impressive as this movie is, I never quite connected with it the way I'd hoped to. The opening and closing scenes are very striking, and there are a few other moments scattered throughout, but for the most part I found myself intellectually admiring and emotionally closed off. I always wonder whether I will return to these movies a few years from now and enjoy them more with a different perspective. Although I don't ever plan to have children, movies like this make me wonder how differently I would view it if I'd had different experiences. 3.5 stars.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Barnyard (2006)

Barnyard is a movie so bland and uninspired that, when I lost my place and had to find it again, it took me a full 15 minutes before realizing I'd already watched this whole part. The characters are unlikable, the plot is cliched, the only joke in the entire thing that works (or, really, even makes sense) is the delivery of the line, "My arm fell off." There's just nothing redeemable about this movie. Children's entertainment at its lowest. 0.5 stars.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fright Night (2011)

There's something great about watching a horror movie so silly that the actors *have* to choose between trying to play it realistic and turning the camp up to 11. Colin Farrell and David Tennant in particular are absolute joys to watch every time they show up on screen. Whether they're strutting around the room in leather pants or taking a moment out of their death threat to hiss at a sunbeam like a cat, they're hilarious, over-the-top, and bring the movie life. Anton Yelchin is OK, but he seems to be taking this all very calmly and never really reaches that point of making us love how crazy his decisions are. I couldn't call this a good movie, and I wouldn't watch it again, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first time - almost solely because of Farrell and Tennant. 3 stars.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Unknown (2011)

Mostly forgettable and very implausible, this movie nonetheless managed to be fairly entertaining while I was watching it. Liam Neeson makes for a good action star - he's tough but still seems vulnerable. On the lower end of the good movie spectrum but it's not awful. 2.5 stars.

Limitless (2011)

(Minor spoilers ahead.) Although now, even a few hours later, I'm struggling to remember my reaction to this movie (which indicates it's sure not a film that is going to stick with me very long) I did have an enjoyable time watching it. The ending was a tad bit disappointing, but overall it was a good popcorn flick. Bradley Cooper is a protagonist easy to root for, the premise was engaging, and at no point did I feel like the characters were acting stupidly (especially important for a movie that makes its characters super-smart). Not an enduring classic, but fine. 3 stars.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

(Spoilers ahead.) It wouldn't be quite right to say I "liked" this film - but I was fascinated by it. It's a chilling story of obsession. Some people might just think of it as a movie about "two girls killing one of their mothers" but that's really the least interesting part of the movie. Everything leading up to it is what makes that moment what it is. Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey are both amazing in their roles - not easy ones to pull off. Both horrifying and mesmerizing to watch. 3.5 stars.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride (1998)

A bland, soulless retread of the first movie's themes, The Lion King 2 is a packaged lesson about the importance of diversity and not being in feuds with people. And also maybe about fathers not being overprotective, but that subplot kind of disappeared about halfway through. This desperate attempt to be the first movie is best seen in the musical numbers - every one was a pale imitation of one from the original film. However, that failed miserably, as "He Lives In You" is no "Circle of Life," Zira's song is not nearly as threatening as "Be Prepared," and I can barely even remember the bland pop ballad trying to replace "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." On top of that, the whole thing just feels choppily put together - there's underscoring at weird moments, dialogue that cuts off awkwardly, jokes that don't make any sense, an entire series of shots where Kiara seems to be surprised and dismayed to learn she has a reflection... nothing really worth seeing here. 1 star.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Marvin's Room (1996)

There's some very good acting in this movie. Meryl Streep (an actress I sometimes love and sometimes hate) is the best of the cast, perfectly portraying the harsh mother. Leonardo DiCaprio is also excellent. His performance could have been over-the-top angry rebel, but he does an excellent job communicating everything we need to know about his character in a subtle manner, without overacting. However, some of the dialogue is awkward and stilted, and I never once connected to the character of Diane Keaton's character, Bessie, which meant the movie was always cold to me. Not necessarily a bad movie, but I never really warmed to it. 3 stars.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Majestic (2001)

(Some spoilers ahead.) This movie is so well-intentioned. I always find Jim Carrey a likable protagonist (his performance really carried me through the film) and it's got a nice little story and some very nice moments. However, it is very sappy and sentimental. If I hadn't been in the right mood when I watched this, I doubt I would have liked it at all. The final 30 minutes contain a completely nonsensical happy ending that nearly made me laugh out loud. If you don't mind cheesy and implausible in your movies, you'll probably like this. Or if you like Jim Carrey. If you're not in that camp, you should probably avoid it. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

I went into this movie ready to love it. I like controversial movies, I like unorthodox takes on Biblical stories, I like Scorsese. But this all just fell very flat for me. The last half hour felt too much like an "It's a Wonderful Life" story, which have never sat well with me (except for IAWL itself), and so the final dramatic moment just did not have his impact. On top of that, its hour-and-forty-minutes buildup moves along so slowly without really anything that jumped out at me. Disappointing, because I wanted to like it. 2 stars.

Source Code (2011)

(Slight spoilers ahead) This is neither as interesting nor as moving as Duncan Jones' previous project, Moon, but it's a very solid sci-fi action thriller. The premise is a great one, and I was fortunate enough to watch it with no idea of what it was actually about. It was really interesting to see it all play out. I was unimpressed by the ending and wish it had ended about 10 minutes earlier, but it didn't ruin the whole experience for me. Duncan Jones is definitely a director to keep an eye out for. 4 stars.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ponyo (2008)

I have really mixed feelings on this one. Ponyo is completely adorable, but it never feels like there's much substance there. I'm having trouble figuring out the age range for this movie - I feel like my 8-year-old brother would be bored by the fact that not much happens in it. I mostly enjoyed it while I was watching it, though, and there are a few good moments of humor (Ponyo's happy flip-out when she receives ham in her noodles made me smile). 3 stars.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Take the Money and Run (1969)

Several years after seeing my very first Woody Allen flick ever and eventually naming him my favorite director, I finally make my way around to his directorial debut, and it is FUNNY. A constant series of hilarious sight gags and zany jokes, many of which sent me into fits of giggles. I feel like this is one of those movies that might grow on me even more as I rewatch it, so it's definitely one to add to to my collection. 4 stars.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Brothers (2009)

(Some spoilers ahead.) Tighten up this movie a little bit and it would be very, very good. The second half of the movie is riveting, watching Tobey Maguire's character unravel under the pressure of what he's experienced. The acting is good (I was particularly impressed with Bailee Madison, playing one of the little girls struggling to deal with her father's new demeanor). The first half of the movie is a little disconnected from the second as far as tone, so the transition feels haphazard, but there is a definite story to be told here, and it's an interesting one. 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Gypsy (1993)

I'm always a little surprised by how lackluster a show Gypsy somehow ends up being. It's long and meandering and you really need someone with incredible charisma to carry the Mama Rose role. Bette Midler is passable, but nothing special. (Though neither was Rosalind Russell in the original.) She doesn't particularly shine in any of the musical numbers, and neither do any of her co-stars. Cynthia Gibb is probably the best of the cast, playing an awkward girl who suddenly discovers she has talent she never knew about. I enjoyed bits of the movie but not enough to make it worth recommending. 2.5 stars.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (2009)

This movie is ridiculous and silly and campy and over-the-top, and I loved every minute of it. It would never have worked at all without Jake Hoffman as the film's straight man, who reacts to everything with a cynical, apathetic detachment that somehow never gets too self-aware, even when the movie itself heads that direction. Some of the jokes ran a little long and the ending wasn't completely satisfying, but I found myself giggling several times and thoroughly enjoying the ride. Very entertaining. 4 stars.

...And Your Name Is Jonah (1979)

This movie was rather interesting when seen as a sort of time capsule, demonstrating how deafness might have been seen in the late seventies. I have several hard-of-hearing friends and was surprised at how much the perception and response toward them has changed since this movie was made.

However, that being said... This movie was pretty poorly made. Not a single one of the adult performances rang true, the story was melodramatic, the characters were over-the-top and constantly irrational. This could have been a pretty good, fairly powerful little movie, but it was made for TV and it shows. 2 stars.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kick-Ass (2010)

While this movie got a lot of acclaim, it also got its fair share of criticism for portraying young children inflicting a great deal of disturbing violence. I very much understand that viewpoint. The movie is certainly stylish and fun, but whenever the younger girl and her father showed up on screen, I got very uncomfortable. I'm not usually squeamish about that kind of thing, but it just bothered me that it was not just "something that had to be done" because the other guys were the bad guys, but that the killing itself was something to be gloried in and savored - an even more disturbing thing being portrayed by an 11-year-old.

Most of the film wisely focused on the high school student who genuinely wanted to make the world a better place. He was a likable character with a likable story. I liked the way their paths intersected toward the end of the movie, but if the entire thing had just been about him... I wouldn't have complained. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Best in Show (2000)

Christopher Guest's movies tend to fall into two categories: the wonderful and the lame. This is definitely one of the wonderful ones. The characters are rich and vivid without being too over the top. This is actually the last Guest one I hadn't seen yet, so it was fun to see all the familiar faces from the films combined in this one. While Guffman and Spinal Tap will always remain my favorites in this series, this is a very close third. 4 stars.

After the Fox (1966)

Apparently this film was a box office failure, but I *liked* it. I'm not a huge Peter Sellers fan, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this comedy. Its characters are full of humor and, while the story is zany, it's somehow all done in a rather quiet way - as if it really doesn't know that the story it's telling is funny. Victor Mature is wonderful as a former leading man who is unwilling to admit he's aging. Overall, I liked this movie a lot and genuinely laughed quite a few times. 4 stars.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

This was one of those rare movies where although I can't say I enjoyed it along the way (it felt intolerably slow for the first half) I feel like it will stick with me. Even now as I'm typing this up, I'm still mulling over the facts and the emotions of the film. The noir feel is absolutely perfect for the way the story needs to be told. Billy Bob Thornton is quietly chilling as Ed Crane. I have a tendency to dislike the popular Coen Brothers movies and like the unknown or unpopular ones - this once again falls into that pattern. 4 stars.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Lost Boys (1987)

This. Movie. Is. Ridiculous. I understand that all vampire movies and all 80s movies come pre-packaged with an extra bit of cheese, but for every cool shot there were two or three "What the?!" moments. Why did all the plumbing start shooting blood? Why did Michael deliberately open the window and go outside when he was floating, just to scream at Sam to help him back inside? How did a single stake from the pile manage to hit the head vampire hard enough to kill him, and in exactly the right spot? Why did nobody except for Sam actually USE the holy water pistols that were so effective? On top of all of this, there are cheesy performances, cheesy dialogue, and cheesy visuals that I think are supposed to be creepy. Certainly was not worth the hour and a half I just spent watching it. 1.5 stars.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Love and Death (1975)

This is undoubtedly one of Woody Allen's silliest films, but also one of the most fun. Allen isn't at all concerned with keeping the continuity of the place or time period intact, but cheerfully throws in zany jokes left and right, whether or not they make sense in the context of the movie. Some of the exchanges brought to mind Marx Brothers comedy - a few of the scenes between Diane Keaton and Napoleon sounded very much like Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont playing off each other. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Anything Else (2003)

While some have called this Woody Allen's all-time worst film, I have to disagree. It's certainly no masterpiece - it's largely bland and uninspired - but there is a sort of gentle inoffensive charm to it, especially Christina Ricci's cheerfully disorganized portrayal of Amanda. If anyone but Allen had made this movie it wouldn't have been that bad. It's only in comparison to his other works, many of which I would consider masterpieces, that this ranks pretty far down in the canon. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Opening Night (1977)

The acting in Opening Night is superb - easily the best part of the movie. Gena Rowlands is wonderful as an extremely troubled actress. The parts that are the most arresting are when we see Rowlands' character in her everyday life and how she is completely losing control. However, this is interspersed with long scenes showing us the play she's working on. They never quite show us the play as it's supposed to be so I had no frame of reference. Characters later would refer to its being wrong, which left me confused. Since I had nothing to measure the play against, I simply felt like each time I saw it it had been rewritten a bit and I didn't know when it was considered a success and when it wasn't. The entire last half hour of the movie was scenes from the play. Did she succeed? Did she change it? Did she completely rework it into a different play? People seemed to like it at the end, but I had no idea what I was supposed to take from it, or from the movie as a whole. 3 stars.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)

This series of vignettes about sex is a very uneven collection. Some are inventive (such as the final one looking at what's going on in the brain during sex), but others are just over-the-top and unfunny (like a choppy segment about a giant breast from a mad scientist's lab terrorizing the country). The good thing about movies like this, though, is that if you don't like a specific segment, you only have to wait about 10 minutes until there's a new one. It was a good idea for a film, but a pretty wimpy result. Not one of my favorite Allen films. 2.5 stars.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Birdcage (1996)

It's been awhile since I laughed this hard and this often at a movie. The Birdcage has a funny premise to begin with, but the dialogue and the acting really make it come to life. It's sharp and witty and funny and, while it is about flamboyant homosexuals, finds the humor through the characters more than it does through the stereotypes. (Hank Azaria as their Guatemalan maid was one of the highlights for me - just a very funny character.) Robin Williams is beautifully understated, which lets Nathan Lane do wonderfully in his over-the-top role. Overall, a very funny comedy that had me laughing out loud several times. 4 stars.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Sunshine Boys (1996)

While this is not quite as charming as the original 1975 version of the play, I really like aspects of this remake. While in the original Walter Matthau embodied his character much more than Peter Falk does, I really like Woody Allen's take on Al Lewis. George Burns was funny, but his overly subtle character always faded into the background next to Matthau's. Allen's over-the-top neuroticism makes his Lewis a great opponent for Willie Clark. Some of the updated lines don't quite work and Sarah Jessica Parker is really wooden as Clark's niece, but overall, pretty entertaining. 3.5 stars.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Although I liked the sci-fi portions of the movie, I found the romance a bit heavy-handed and, halfway through, I was yelling in my head at the characters. I have little patience for movies where people choose a specific loved one over an otherwise happy life. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are charming enough to watch, though, and there are a few entertaining chase scenes. Probably more suited to the sci-fi fans who aren't as cynically opposed to movie romances as I am. 3 stars.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rango (2011)

Perhaps it was a result of too much hype, but this was not as funny or as original as I expected. There were a few laughs, but overall it was just a straightforward western... just with cartoon animals. Westerns are a genre I always have to push myself to enjoy, so there was already at least one bias against it, but on top of that the hype gave me unrealistic expectations of it. Disappointing. 3 stars.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

The first 1/3 of this was very hit or miss for me. There were moments I found hilarious, and others that were just stupid and made me roll my eyes. As the story went on and I warmed to the silliness of the characters, the humor settled a bit better with me. If it were more consistent, this could end up as a favorite, but since there are a lot of jokes that fall very flat for me, I have to give it a medium rating. 3.5 stars.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

The metaphor is taken a bit far in this early anti-war film. There were moments I was really interested in this family's story, but found the transition between that and the "big picture" themes to be very jarring. While watching this, I realized I have not yet found a silent drama I truly like - I think the disconnect between acting styles is still something I haven't been able to get used to. 2.5 stars.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ran (1985)

There are some very haunting visuals in this movie - especially a few chilling shots of Lord Hidetora wandering mad through his land, and the final shot is breathtaking - and the story is solid, if extremely dark. However, as with its Shakespearean original, I never really connected with or cared about the political aspects of the story. The center of the story is the insane father. Whenever his story faded into the background, so did my interest. It's Kurosawa, so, of course, it was good enough to keep me interested most of the way anyway, but the story never grabbed me emotionally - just a few isolated images. 3.5 stars.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Creation (2009)

Although Paul Bettany does a great job as Charles Darwin, everything else in this movie is a bit lacking. It can't decide whether it wants to be about his personal struggles or his work. With neither topic getting much emphasis, they both end up fading away into the background. This could have been a very interesting and powerful biopic but never quite comes together. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)

This is a thoroughly charming little movie. I'd never heard of it and didn't know what it was at all going into it, but the characters really captured my attention, especially Anthony Quinn as Bombolini. The subplot with the Contessa and the soldier was uninteresting and unnecessary, but it took up only a tiny portion of the movie, and the rest of it told a great story. 3.5 stars.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Waterloo (1970)

It was interesting watching this right on the heels of Abel Gance's Napoleon. This, however, had what Gance's film lacked. I was very drawn into the minds of the two opposing leaders. Wellington was played beautifully by Christopher Plummer, who created a fascinating aristocratic soldier. Napoleon was clearly the supporting character of this story, but he was also significantly more interesting than in Gance's version. The characters of these two held up the movie for me when I lost interest in the battle logistics. Nicely done. 3 stars.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Napoleon (1927)

It takes someone with more resolve than I to sit through a four-hour silent French biopic in one sitting. Although I was really impressed with some of the film techniques used, particularly at the end, the movie itself seemed more a series of historical facts than any kind of interesting character development. I spent four hours with Gance's Napoleon and have absolutely zero idea what his personality was. This biopic is, sadly, a rather unengaging history lesson. 2 stars.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Quitting (2001)

Wonderfully inventive format for a documentary. It had the potential to turn into some sort of a sappy biopic, but the director doesn't force it and neither do the people involved. It's just the story it is. I don't really have any words for this right now... but I liked it. 3.5 stars.

Laserblast (1978)

While not as bad as some that MST3K have done, this movie didn't even really bother to fully set up its premise. It could have been a fun cheesy sci-fi movie if it had explained questions. For example: What WAS that hole in his chest? What did the aliens want? Why did the laser take over him? Why did it only take over him at nighttime until the end? It would also need to cut all the extraneous scenes of people just wandering around doing nothing. With good writing, it could have been ridiculous but fun. This way, it's ridiculous and boring. 1 star.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Closer (2004)

I read this play a few months ago and was very impressed by it. The script is no less impressive in the movie version. The dialogue is sharp and thoughtful. It's difficult to write characters who are this encompassed by deception. The four actors involved tackle their roles masterfully, creating a dark but fascinating look at sex, romance, and intimacy. Hardly a feel-good film, but very well done. 4 stars.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hustle & Flow (2005)

Well-told story that creates a very vivid atmosphere for a world I know nothing about. The characters started off hazy for me but transformed into a really interesting group. Not sure I could say I enjoyed it, but I was impressed. 3 stars.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

(Mild spoilers ahead.) This was a nice idea and everything, but I didn't buy any of it, not for a moment. Perhaps the slightly surreal quality of the story, the dialogue, and the acting was intentional, but it didn't work for me at all, with the exception of Martin Sheen's incredibly creepy portrayal of a pedophile. Every word Jodie Foster utters comes out as a halting, William Shatner type of expositional speech. The fake twist halfway through the movie seemed particularly silly, and the ending would have been nice and satisfying if it had in any way been an actual answer to the problem at hand. Strange, surreal, and not compelling enough to get away with it. 2 stars.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Marooned (1969)

There's a LOT of technobabble in this film. There are entire scenes consisting of people checking all the various equipment. Some of these scenes work, but others are painfully slow. This movie takes a long time to get going, but once it does, it's an entertaining space thriller. Gene Hackman is especially good as one of the marooned astronauts. The final 20 minutes or so are truly suspenseful (I kept yelling out loud at the screen) and are a mostly satisfying conclusion to the long build-up. 3 stars.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let the Right One In (2008)

I was thoroughly ready to love this movie, but overall, I was underwhelmed by it. I really like the premise and I love vampire lore, so I'm not sure what went wrong here. I never felt much connection to the characters, even though I clearly *should* have. Visually, however, the movie is stunning - the pool scene in particular stands out as an absolutely wonderful (if horrifying) moment in the movie.

It's possible that on a second viewing this film would connect with me a bit more deeply, but as it stands, I greatly admire it but don't enjoy it. 3 stars.

The Ant Bully (2006)

Well, there's just nothing special about this movie, is there? It mostly manages to avoid pop culture references, but the story is ridiculous and cliched (several moments meant to be treated seriously got loud bursts of laughter from me) and there's not a single character worth paying attention to. I know it's just a kids' movie, but Pixar (and most of the Disney oeuvre) have taught me that that's no excuse for making a boring movie. This is not worth checking out. 1.5 stars.

Another Woman (1988)

Aside from the lovely Midnight in Paris, all the Woody Allen movies I've seen recently seemed to be a bit flat. I'm not sure whether it was my response to them or that I was just down to the final not-so-good ones. But Another Woman was marvelous, and made me remember once again why I love him so much as a writer/director. The script was effortless, the characters vivid, and Gena Rowlands in particular deserves so much praise for her acting in this role. She creates a fascinating character who, even with voiceover narration, which I usually find clunky, is a joy to watch on the screen (though her lack of emotion throughout most of it makes "joy" an odd word to use). This is much more uplifting than a lot of Woody Allen's dramatic movies, and it left me feeling wonderful and satisfied. What a great movie. 4.5 stars.

The Omen (1976)

This movie wouldn't be so bad if it didn't work SO HARD at being... well, ominous. The premise itself is a good one, and the acting wasn't bad, but the camerawork and the music (oh boy, that music) went crazy trying to let us know every few minutes that we were supposed to be scared. The best moments were the few tense moments that weren't underscored by evil chanting, or that didn't have the camera slowly zooming in on someone's expression of terror. Whenever that music started, however, I was immediately yanked out of whatever tension I was in and just started laughing instead. This is NOT what is hoped for from a horror flick. 2 stars.

Peeping Tom (1960)

This is a wonderful thriller. Part of what makes it so interesting is the character of the killer. Mark Lewis is a fascinating person to watch (and actor Karlheinz Bohm does a wonderful job bringing him to life). As his story unfolded, I found myself wondering what his thought process was. What prompted him to do the things he did? Halfway through I was worried that the conclusion would have be unsatisfying for me, but it wrapped itself up very nicely. 4 stars.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm Not Scared (2003)

(Major spoilers ahead.) This is an astonishingly beautiful coming-of-age... what, thriller? There are certainly some thriller-like moments throughout, but it seems to me to be primarily a drama, especially in light of the final scene. It got a lot of comparisons to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, especially given the ending, although it's a bit ambiguous what Michele's fate is in this one. However, I hated Boy in the Striped Pajamas - I found the ending contrived and felt that it emotionally contradicted all they were trying to do with the story - and I loved this. Michele is a wonderful character and Giuseppe Cristiano plays him brilliantly. Really, really nicely done. 4 stars.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New York, New York (1977)

I love that Martin Scorsese decided to do a musical. And this is a pretty good one. The many musical numbers are all pretty good (aside from the disjointed and out-of-place Happy Endings sequence). The story itself is interesting, too. Both Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli do a good job portraying the ups and downs of this relationship. It's a little long and rambly to pull a solid narrative out of it, but it's a good ride and the characters are intriguing. 3 stars.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

I have the same problem with The Big Lebowski that I do with a lot of the modern indie comedies. The emphasis is on assembling a cast of quirky-for-no-particular-reason characters rather than on creating inherently funny situations or people. The character who I found most consistently funny was Philip Seymour Hoffman, especially in the first scene as he attempts to be cheerful and aboveboard and respectable. I can picture someone like that existing. I can see the awkward conflicts in his situation at the moment and every movement is an attempt to deal with that, and that is funny to me. Most of the characters didn't seem to have much motivation other than, "Be quirky now," and that's something that doesn't sit well with me.

That being said, I can see why it's a cult classic. It did have a few moments that made me smile, and it's not a *bad* movie, just happened to hit one of my pet peeves. Glad I've finally seen it and can cross it off my list. 3 stars.

Monday, June 20, 2011

War and Peace (1956)

Nothing very interesting or special about this movie. It jumps back and forth between following a specific group of civilians and showing the bigger picture of the war. The first is occasionally interesting (Audrey Hepburn in particular stands out) but the latter caused a great deal of emotional disconnect. The last third of the film focused almost entirely on the politics and military strategies, all but abandoning the original cast of characters. Too long a movie for not nearly enough payoff. 2 stars.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yojimbo (1961)

This is definitely my least favorite of the three Kurosawa films I've seen. It was the first time in these films that I had a great deal of difficulty actually following the story. With so many characters, I frequently got confused as to what was happening and why. However, Toshiro Mifune was wonderful as always, and the scene at the end where he approaches an entire group of people who want to kill him is pretty fantastic. 3 stars.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Oh, welcome back, Woody Allen. I have liked some of his less popular films these past several years, but this was marvelous. I'd very comfortably categorize it among his best work. I'd never have thought Owen Wilson would ever be an appropriate casting choice for the central Woody Allen character, but somehow it works, and I like Wilson more than I have in anything he's ever done. This is a charming story with a marvelous mixture of fantasy and reality (something found in most of my favorite Woody Allen films). I couldn't help but smile through the whole thing. Wonderfully done. 4.5 stars.

The Net (1995)

A silly little thriller that really doesn't do much of anything or go anywhere. There's nothing really very good about it - it's just quite bland, aside from the fact that Jeremy Northam makes rather an interesting villain. 1.5 stars.

Oldboy (2003)

HOLY CRAP. That may not be a very official-sounding way to start off this review, but it's honestly what I was thinking the entire time. This is a fascinating movie - extremely original in the way it tells its story. It populates its extreme darkness with surprising moments of comedy. The score... wow. The score is incredible. Elevates all the fight scenes and extremely violent moments to something greater than just a cool adrenaline rush. The final 20 minutes or so are heartbreaking and astounding and really, really well put together. My only real complaint is that in the middle of the movie, for about half an hour or so, it lagged, and my interest, so captured in the first 40 minutes, wandered. But as a whole, really, REALLY interesting movie. Beautifully done. 4 stars.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Quiz Show (1994)

A well-written, well-acted story that somehow is missing something. It was a good ride, but when it finished I felt unsatisfied. Not sure I can articulate what failed to work for me. It just all fell a little flat. 3 stars.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rashomon (1950)

This is the second film I've seen by Kurosawa - I *like* him! This is a less sprawling story than Seven Samurai, but much more convoluted. I loved how each retelling of the story brought new insight into the characters. Really nicely done. 4 stars.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Raging Bull (1980)

Well, this isn't going to be a popular response, but... I don't get the hype. I really don't. I frequently like Scorsese a lot - I recently saw Goodfellas and Taxi Driver for the first time and loved them both - but it took a lot longer than it should have to get through this movie. I just kept losing interest in it and wandering off to get a snack or something. There were moments when La Motta's character would shine through to me and I'd pay a bit more attention, but then it would all just kind of fade away. Disappointing - given how much I'd liked Scorsese in the past, I'd hoped to find a new favorite in this one as well. 2 stars.

The Third Man (1949)

(Spoilers ahead.) Let me start by saying I'm not a huge fan of noir. I find it largely predictable and uninteresting, and even the better ones are ones I like in spite of themselves. That being said, this was just all right for me. I liked the plot and thought Orson Welles' portrayal of Harry Lime was fascinating. However, he was only on screen for a few minutes of the movie, and most of the time I had to watch the highly unlikable Holly Martins' fickle jumping back and forth between every equally confident theory. Not sure if it was Cotten's portrayal or the character itself, but I never warmed to it. Welles is the best part of this movie... too bad most of it isn't him. 2.5 stars.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

I had a great time watching this movie but am not sure if I pulled anything very substantial out of it in the end. The chemistry between all these characters is phenomenal, the acting is wonderful, and the dialogue is lots of fun, but if it was trying to make a larger point it slipped past me. However, this is certainly a step up from my response to Pulp Fiction, so perhaps Tarantino has managed to grow on me a bit. 3.5 stars.

M (1931)

A very effective early serial killer movie (the first, says IMDb trivia). Although I usually like stories focusing on the psyche of the insane, I very much liked the focus this movie had on how it affected the town. The early scenes of paranoid citizens jumping to accuse every man who had an encounter with a child showed how much these murders had affected the town. I certainly liked this better than Night of the Hunter, which I've heard it compared to (I found that one unconvincing). Glad I finally watched it. 4 stars.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blue Valentine (2010)

I wanted to like this movie. It's the kind of movie I *should* have liked. I haven't seen Michelle Williams in much, but I like Ryan Gosling a lot. I love the idea of cross-cutting between the two time periods and there were a few great moments where it would pan from the past to the present and I'd have a startling "Wow, this is the same couple?" moment. Yet as a whole, the movie left me cold and I'm not entirely sure why.

Some guesses: I never felt like I got to know who the characters were, and so even when I was saddened at where their relationship had gone, it was entirely an abstract sadness. Between the two time periods we saw, the characters were so different that I never was able to figure out where to balance the two. Instead of seeing where their individual weaknesses had grown to be major obstacles in their relationship, I felt like I was watching four different individuals who had no connection with each other.

Very disappointing, all the more so because I can't pin down *exactly* why I didn't like it more - I have a feeling there are more things that didn't connect than I have listed but I can't figure out what they are. 2.5 stars.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Splice (2009)

(Some spoilers.) There were two possible movies in this premise. There was a horror monster movie, and there was a drama about the essence of humanity, that kind of thing. Splice could have been either successfully - but tries to do both, and far too abruptly. About 15 minutes from the end of the movie, it switches gears with no warning and no apparent reason. The rest of the film plays out like they thought we were watching a horror film from the very beginning. It's as if someone said, "We haven't had any scares in this movie yet. We promised people scares! Let's up the death count a bunch." I actually liked both of those genres individually done in the movie, but when mashed together like this, it simply didn't fit. Disappointing, because I was thoroughly enjoying it up until it abandoned its original genre. 2.5 stars.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)

(Some spoilers ahead, although the opening of the movie hints at its ending, so not *very* spoilery.) This movie HURT. I have younger siblings and can't imagine going through this kind of thing with them. I am not at all a fan of anime - it never feels like the characters are interacting with the real world - but that weird distance serves this movie well, as these two young children simply don't seem to belong in the existence they're suddenly flung into. The script is beautiful and simple. It's quite possible that after another viewing (or after time has past) this would get bumped up half a star, but right now I'm having great difficulty wrapping my mind around it, so I am just going to give it 4 stars and let it sit for awhile. 4 stars.

All That Jazz (1979)

Seeing how much I love musical theater, I'd hoped this would be a bit more personally gripping for me. While the final song and dance number is absolutely fantastic and very fitting for the character, the rest of it is capable but never resonated with me. Roy Scheider is wonderful as Joe Gideon, though - his performance shines throughout the entire movie, even when the story itself is not what I would have hoped. 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Buried (2010)

(Major spoilers ahead.)

All right. I don't know where to go with this movie, which is why it's currently getting a medium rating. If I were absolutely decided it would be either much higher (which is where I think it's going to go) or much lower.

Ryan Reynolds really pulls off this performance. He's one of those actors who is only interesting and charming when he's not trying to be. He's not a soldier, he's not a police officer, he's a truck driver, and he has never had to mentally prepare himself for being in this kind of situation. He rants and raves and panics, just as the average man would do if he found himself buried alive. Even when he realizes it may use his oxygen quicker, his sympathetic nervous system is kicking in hardcore and causing him to panic.

The movie *is* tense. Absolutely. Especially toward the end, as the sand begins to fill his box, I found myself hardly able to breathe along with him. This movie got compared a lot in the reviews to 127 Hours, which I loved. But there's one vital difference between this one and that: in that one, the hero makes it out alive. In Buried, they build up the tension and build it and build it and build it and then suddenly dash every single hope... and the credits roll. I was absolutely unprepared for this. You expect this to be a thriller, you expect, hold onto the belief that the hero is going to make it out of this situation. Of course he is. That's how these movies work.

My initial reaction was of feeling cheated and very angry. I had a similar reaction to Life is Beautiful, where I felt lied to about the direction the movie was going. A few weeks later, I was able to look back on it and give it a much higher rating because I appreciated the artistry of it. I have a suspicion something similar will happen with this, although, frankly, I don't think I could ever watch this movie again. 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Color Me Kubrick (2005)

Color Me Kubrick advertises itself as a comedy, but there are very few laughs to be found here. It's a wonderful premise and John Malkovich is fantastic in it, but the overall movie falls very flat. Oddly, the central plotline of trying to bring Conway down isn't enough to carry the movie and it ends up relying on the vignettes, which would be more interesting if it wasn't largely the same story over and over with not enough variation. Disappointing. 2.5 stars.

Caddyshack (1980)

A slightly uneven, but mostly entertaining comedy. Bill Murray and Chevy Chase particularly develop very funny characters, and although a little Rodney Dangerfield goes an extremely long way, he kind of fades out the second half of the movie and so becomes much less annoying. I kept changing my mind on whether I thought actually seeing the gopher worked or not, but Bill Murray's character more than made up for that weird part of the plotline. Nicely done. 4 stars.

Evil (2003)

A film that manages to be both brutal yet (oddly) inspiring. Erik is an extremely likeable main character, and watching his desperate attempt to fix things the right way is heartwrenching. The supporting cast members are all excellent, too, particularly Henrik Lundstrom as his roommate Pierre. Captivating. 4.5 stars.

Monday, May 30, 2011

In the Bedroom (2001)

A brilliantly acted, brilliantly written drama about loss. It reminds me somewhat of Mystic River, but holds together better. It is quiet and very contained but all fits together perfectly. 4.5 stars.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

White Nights (1985)

This movie has a fun really entertaining scenes (the duo dance scene was absolutely marvelous) but overall, it doesn't know what it wants to be - a thriller, a political drama, an inspirational dance movie... It jumps all over the place and doesn't ever really land anywhere for long. 2.5 stars.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

sex, lies, and videotape (1989)

A really interesting little drama. Very well-acted and well-scripted. I found myself intrigued as to where it was going to head next. It doesn't necessarily go the way I expected it to, but it was a fascinating watch. One of the few movies I've watched recently where I didn't find myself constantly watching how much time was left. 4 stars.

Lolita (1997)

I haven't read the original novel, but I have seen Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of the same story. Presented with both film versions, it's difficult for me to choose which one I preferred. Kubrick's was darkly comic, playing up Humbert's paranoia and the constant struggle of choosing a teen or pre-teen as a lover. Lyne's version strips away all the comedy and presents it instead as a tragedy - the scene where he cries and begs Lo to tell him who she is cheating on him with is such a sad, pathetic moment.

I think the melodrama wears thin in the middle of this one where Kubrick's didn't, although I prefer the ending of this one. All in all, a very good remake - certainly stands up to its predecessor. 4 stars.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)

Despite a whole lot of awkward dubbing, this manages to be a pretty entertaining homage to Hitchcock, both with overt references and quieter ones. I'm not very familiar with Argento's work, but I enjoyed this. A satisfying little thriller. 3 stars.

Morvern Callar (2002)

This drama wanders around and around and ends in a stunningly tragic final act, but takes far too long getting there. It lost my interest long before the payoff. I remain unimpressed with Samantha Morton. 1.5 stars.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Tourist (2010)

(Mild spoilers ahead.) I went into this film with very low expectations. I'd heard rather terrible things about it. Turns out, though, I had a ridiculously good time watching it. Yes, the final plot twist makes no sense. Yes, it moves at an unexpectedly leisurely pace for a thriller. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps it's actually because I *don't* like action movies that I was able to get into this one, but it's just a very fun ride, nonsensical or not. It is obviously nowhere near the quality of the director's previous film, The Lives of Others, but neither is The Tourist anything terrible. It's just fun and silly and thoroughly enjoyable. 3.5 stars.

Tangled (2010)

Although it has a few flaws (the moment where she realizes she's the lost princess is rather ridiculous, and there are some rather annoying cliches that never get fixed) it is overall a very worthy addition to the Disney Princess canon. Certainly more entertaining than the mediocre Princess and the Frog. Wonderful voice acting as well - Donna Murphy plays a wonderful villain, Zachary Levi is charming as Flynn, and Mandy Moore's dainty little girl sound works well for the character she's been given. Nicely done, Disney. 3.5 stars.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

A sufficiently creepy (if bizarre) horror movie from the 1960s. It's reminiscent of a dark art film rather than typical horror, especially toward the end. Disturbing without being tasteless - nicely done. 3.5 stars.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Blood Waters of Dr. Z (1971)

Some bad movies are entertaining... some are just unbelievably boring. This is one of the boring ones. Even the barrage of jokes from MST3K can't help this one. 0.5 stars.

Wilde (1997)

Stephen Fry is perfectly cast as Oscar Wilde (there really is no one else I could imagine playing this role so well) but aside from that, this biopic falls a bit flat. It focuses almost entirely on the playwright's sexuality, without ever really exploring, for example, how he felt about his art. As such, the character is only drawn in reference to his relationships with others, and is never fleshed out as his own person. Acceptable, but disappointing. 3 stars.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Detective (1954)

An enjoyable detective story that has an interesting character at the center of it. At first I wasn't impressed by Alec Guinness as Father Brown, but he grew on me and by the end of the film I thought he was very well-cast. I admit I haven't read Chesterton's original stories, and while this doesn't inspire me to read all of them, I'm mildly interested in checking one or two out to see how well the film fits. 3 stars.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987)

I appreciate the understated nature of this movie, but found it difficult to connect with for the first hour or so because of it. Once I got into the movie I liked it a lot, but it took a long time to get me there. The final scenes are wonderful - very moving in a quiet way. 3 stars.

Devil (2010)

There's nothing very special about this movie. I'm a big fan of Shyamalan's (I even enjoyed The Happening - probably the most unpopular movie opinion I've ever held) but this was set up as a generic horror movie and then failed to be scary, instead being an extremely heavy-handed message on forgiveness. Not worth it. 1.5 stars.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Megamind (2010)

A funny, original children's film with very few missteps. Certainly a better option than Despicable Me, the other animated supervillain movie of the summer. While Despicable Me was basically just the age-old "tough guy has his heart warmed by some kids, isn't that sweet" story with a supervillain in the tough guy role, Megamind tells its own story where the superhero/supervillain powers are essential to it. The voice acting is good, the dialogue is witty, the jokes are unexpected. Very solid. 4 stars.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Water for Elephants (2011)

A solid little movie drama based on a solid little book drama. The atmosphere is consistent and a very interesting one. Robert Pattinson is surprisingly good in a legitimate romantic lead role, and Christoph Waltz is splendid as the sleazy ringmaster. 3 stars.

Dear Frankie (2004)

I watched this with not very high expectations, waiting to hate this movie, and that never happened, which was a pleasant surprise. However, it never really took off either. Gerard Butler has zero charm or charisma, so it was a little weird to me to see their group instantly bonding with him over so short a time. Jack McElhone as Frankie was good - much less irritating than most child actors - and Emily Mortimer is nearly always a likeable actress. But it just never went anywhere after the first hour of build-up. 2.5 stars.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

'night, Mother (1986)

I was a fan of the original play and this is a marvelous film adaptation. Sissy Spacek and Anne Bancroft are both wonderful in their roles. The script follows the original pretty closely, so the dialogue is well-done. With a premise that toes the line between tragic and very darkly comic, it would be easy to lose the overarching story to either melodrama or unintentional humor. However, this film does neither. It's a moving, heartbreaking story. Very good adaptation of one of my favorite plays. 4 stars.

Beauty and the Beast (1946)

Although I like a lot of things about this adaptation, I found the relationship between the Beast and Belle herself to be extremely rushed, and I ended up not really being invested in it. The characters of the scheming brother and sisters were wonderful, though, and I loved seeing that back story. The set and effects and costuming were all beautiful, lending itself to a very fairy tale-like atmosphere. If you're looking for a generic fairy tale story without deep character development for the leads, this is one of those done gorgeously. If you're picky about characterization in stories like I am, you may be less enthralled. 3 stars.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Something's Gotta Give (2003)

There's a movie here somewhere, buried under piles and piles of awkward cliches, stilted dialogue, and surprisingly dreadful acting. (When your most charming, best-acted character is played by Keanu Reeves, you might want to rethink your movie.) It is neither funny, romantic, nor dramatic, the ending is abrupt and absolutely unsatisfying, and all the characters are unbelievably awkward. I hoped to like this movie in spite of itself, but that possibility was off in the distance about 30 minutes in, and getting further away every minute. 0.5 stars.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lord of the Flies (1963)

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this adaptation, but it's an extremely effective one. It's cold and ruthless and all the child actors hit exactly the right notes (something that's unbelievably difficult for young actors to do). The final scene could have been overwrought and melodramatic, but instead of opts for subtlety and is significantly stronger for it. An excellent movie version of an excellent book. 4 stars.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

I'm a Woody Allen fangirl, and as such I really *enjoy* all his films. However, more and more these days they're simply long meanderings through people's lives without any point to them. Don't get me wrong, I like meandering through Allen's character's minds. But it's not terribly substantial. 3 stars.

The Virgin Spring (1960)

An extremely moving, tragic story of a family's response to their daughter's death. Not at all what I expected it to be. It moves somewhat slowly but is completely mesmerizing. This is the first Ingmar Bergman film I've seen, and it certainly makes me want to find more. 4 stars.

Friday, May 13, 2011

No Country for Old Men (2007)

I found myself more drawn to the technical elements than the story than anything else, especially toward the end when the story apparently doesn't really matter anymore anyway. That being said, some of those tech elements are wonderful. In particular I loved the shot when Anton is sitting in the hotel and you see the blood slowly flowing toward his boots. That's just a really nice shot. I was also fascinated to realized that what made Anton's appearance so scary was not necessarily Javier Bardem's face - he usually just looks like your average tough/rugged guy - but it was his funky hair that somehow made him look like the creepiest person alive. For someone who's more into what a film looks like than I am and less into the story being told, this would probably be a much more entertaining movie. 2.5 stars.

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again (2009)

Not nearly as entertaining as the first one, but it still makes me laugh. Some wonderful callbacks to the original film ("Sounds in the jungle?") and all the same entertaining characters. If you like the original, definitely worth watching, but if you're choosing between the two, this one is the lesser. 3.5 stars.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Waiting... (2005)

This movie had a good moment or two throughout, but for the most part it was just too uncomfortable to enjoy. It certainly made me want to never go to a restaurant again, much less work in one. I find Ryan Reynolds unbelievably obnoxious when he plays these types of characters. Justin Long's character was the only really worth rooting for. Iffy at best. 2 stars.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Name of the Rose (1986)

This had been on my "to-watch" list for a long time, and currently I'm not entirely sure why I was so eager to see it. It was fine, but it functioned better as a murder mystery than as the mysterious, supernaturally surreal story it occasionally tried to tell. There's nothing at all special about this movie and I suspect I'll have forgotten much of it in the next month. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Inside Man (2006)

The opening moments of this movie are great, but then it becomes rather predictable, and in the end the only character I was invested in was Clive Owen. I'm not much for detective/crime movies anyway, and this one never took off and convinced me to keep watching. I have a feeling I was supposed to like it...but I didn't. 1.5 stars.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rabbit Hole (2010)

This is a capable, but not great, production of David Lindsay-Abaire's wonderful play. It's all a bit too melodramatic, but Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman, for the most part, hold onto their roles. Miles Teller especially stands out for me - he's the only member of the cast who doesn't once overdramatize what he does or says. 4 stars.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Snake Feed (1997)

This short film feels incomplete as a short. It might feel incomplete as a feature as well, and I'm sure it was deliberate, but it was vague on what the story was for the first 15 or so, then didn't really deal with it the last 10. The best short films either tell a taut story or create a vivid atmosphere, and this did neither. 1.5 stars.

Interview (2007)

This movie desperately wants to be a tightly-written two-person dramatic piece. It brings to mind Sleuth or Bug. However, playwrights Anthony Shaffer and Tracy Letts knew how to write tense, succinct, contained drama. This one is absolute nonsense. I found myself laughing at the dramatic moments and rolling my eyes at the comedic ones. There are moments where I caught a glimpse of what the original could have been. (Apparently it's a remake of a Dutch movie, which I will have to keep an eye out for.) It's a wonderful premise, but Miller and Buscemi play it like some sort of insane melodrama. I never had any idea who their characters actually were or what they wanted, and they spoke their lines and performed their blocking like it was exactly that: lines and blocking. Not since The Boy In the Striped Pajamas have I so desperately wanted to love a movie and ended up hating it so much. 1 star.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Easy A (2010)

A sharp, witty romantic comedy with entertaining characters. Nothing to complain about with this one. Easily one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen lately. 4 stars.

Twist of Faith (2004)

I really like that they made a documentary about this, because this is a topic that needs to be talked about. However, the documentary itself didn't really answer any of my questions, was put together in a somewhat disjointed matter, didn't tell any sort of coherent story or create a solid enough atmosphere, and the ending was an abrupt transition away from what they were trying to say at the beginning. Obviously with a documentary you can't craft an ending the way you can in fiction, but it felt like the entire thing was dropped but they pretended it wasn't. Disappointing, because I was fascinated by the subject material. 2 stars.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Angels in America (2003)

This is a beautiful, horrifying, painful, wonderful story. It was an epic play, and this is an epic adaptation of it. (I'm delighted it was done as a miniseries... trying to put it all together into a single movie would have been catastrophic.) It's so hard to put into words what I felt as I watched this... The writing is amazing - witty and tragic. The characters are sharp and sad and so rich - every one of these characters would be a phenomenal opportunity for an actor. I love the sprawling, fantastic feel of the entire thing, playing with the line between reality and dreams. I'm running out of adjectives, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get a nice coherent reasonable review until I've had some distance from the play. I may downgrade this sometime in the future, but right now I feel absolutely confident in giving it 5 stars.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Les Misérables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary (2010)

Aside from Nick Jonas, this is a very strong cast. Alfie Boe has easily become my favorite Valjean after this performance, Samantha Barks is a wonderful Eponine, Norm Lewis plays Javert in a whole new unique way than I've seen before, and Ramin Karimloo, while not in any way better than the gloriousness of Michael Maguire, is still a very good Enjolras. Matt Lucas is also one of the best Thenardiers I've seen - just the right mixture of comedy and repulsiveness.

Nick Jonas, however, is not a terribly good actor and, while he's not an awful singer, he certainly is out of place among these powerful voices. I was pleasantly surprised by his "Empty Chairs At Empty Tables," however - while he started off fairly wimpy, he managed to kick it up a notch halfway through and ended on a strong note. Good for him. Luckily, Marius is a fluffy enough character that it doesn't detract too much from the overall show. If you must choose between this and the Tenth Anniversary Cast, I would choose the latter, but both have their merits. Nicely done. 4 stars.

Solaris (1972)

This is one of the few situations where I actually liked the remake of this film better. Although I generally have no problem with long or slow-paced movies, this one was really difficult to sit through. (Anyone who features five minutes of a side character driving home in their movie needs to reconsider what scenes are helpful to the plot.) When the characters discussed what was clearly meant to be the "point" of the movie, it was preachy and unrealistic. It's a wonderful idea, but the pacing was so slow and the most important dialogue so heavy-handed... The remake chopped it down to the most compelling moments while still managing to maintain most of the beauty of the story. 1.5 stars.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

I was completely surprised by this movie. It's funny, it's original, and it's got a star-studded cast that didn't in the least take away from the movie itself. (In fact, I didn't recognize any of their voices - as the credits rolled, I kept saying, "What? THEY were in this too?") Definitely a well-done kids' movie! 4 stars.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

Natalie Portman is particularly good and Eric Bana is fine in this movie, but it's overly dramatic and Scarlett Johansson adds nothing whatsoever to her role. I found myself enjoying the movie as it unfolded, but I'm pretty sure it's nothing I would ever watch again. 3 stars.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vera Drake (2004)

Who'd have expected a film about such a controversial topic to be so dull? It reports the facts but never really gives us much insight into the character of Vera. She doesn't speak for herself, very few people speak about her... All we see is a woman who is broken by having to go to prison. I felt the strongest character was that of her son, who we actually got to see dealing with the issue. Everything else is solemn reporting. If a movie is going to try and use its grimness to move me, it must also use its characters, or else it's just an unpleasant news story. 2 stars.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Born Into Brothels (2004)

The true story of these children is indeed compelling and horrifying, and the movie certainly made me care about the cause. However, other than Avijit, I didn't feel an actual human connection to most of the children. In the end, I cared more about the cause than I did the individual, and while I certainly would be motivated to help do something to better the situation in real life, I had little interest in seeing what became of the children themselves. (The brief update at the end was the most jarring, seeing that so many of them were prevented from fulfilling the dreams they worked so hard to make possible.) 2.5 stars.

Apocalypto (2006)

I don't usually have a problem with gore, but this movie made me extremely uncomfortable several times, and not in a positive way. The film never felt like it was going anywhere, so the gore felt entirely gratuitous and unnecessary. I found myself less and less interested in the meandering story and, by the end, couldn't care less about any of the characters, especially since we'd established from the beginning that most of them were pretty unpleasant. 1 star.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Aliens (1986)

Not as good as the original Alien, which was far more about creating actual tension than blowing things up in showers of goo. The first hour attempts to build tension but just ends up being slow. Despite the dependence on firepower, though, the last hour and a half is pretty entertaining and even has a few good scares going for it. Decent, not great, sequel. 3 stars.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

An acceptably silly little film that doesn't have nearly as much charm as Mary Poppins (its obvious comparison). There are some good songs in here and some entertaining moments. Oddly enough, this movie made me nostalgic, and it wasn't even one I ever watched as a child. I guess it just made me nostalgic for this era of Disney movies in general? 3 stars.

Suez (1938)

Suez is a movie that never seems to go anywhere. It sets itself up as a romance and a historical drama and never really accomplishes either. The ending is abrupt, none of the characters are really established, and the story meanders. 1.5 stars.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The first hour and a half of this movie flew by and were absolutely fascinating. However, the last two hours had more about the actual fighting of the war and less about the creating of the characters, and I started losing interest, and by the end I was drained. This is the second 3 1/2 hour movie I've watched this week, and of the two, I definitely prefer The Seven Samurai. 3 stars.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Amazing Grace (2006)

A capable, if unspectacular, movie telling the story of someone fighting to change society. There's nothing particularly wrong with this movie but nothing really great about it either. There are some wonderful actors in here but none of them really do much with the roles they're given. Probably most worth watching if you enjoy inspirational true stories. 3 stars.

Soylent Green (1973)

It's the mark of a good movie that it can keep you interested in the story even if you go into it already knowing the twist ending. This is not a good movie. It's all built around the premise of revealing its shocking twist, and there's not enough solid material to keep the story going except for that. Edward G. Robinson carves out a decent character, but none of the rest of it is convincing, and it takes itself far too seriously for me to just let go and enjoy a silly sci-fi romp like, for example, Logan's Run. Disappointing. 2 stars.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

Satisfying little flick. Whenever I felt like it was going overboard on cartoon slapstick (never my favorite type of humor) it suddenly played up some more of the subtler noir parody. It stayed firmly in its time period and had some fantastic acting in it. (Christopher Lloyd was at first hilarious as Judge Doom and then FREAKING TERRIFYING near the end. I'm pretty sure that would have traumatized me as a child.) Seldom laughed out loud or anything, but I enjoyed the ride. Nicely done. 3.5 stars.