Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter's Bone (2010)

Very disappointing. I didn't connect with it at all when I watched it, and found myself just coldly watching without really caring what happened to anyone in the movie. I couldn't even tell exactly what the movie wanted to do. Was it a story? A character study? A atmospheric piece? A message? None of those levels worked for me. My least favorite of this year's Best Picture nominees. 2.5 stars.

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)

Not one of Woody Allen's masterpieces, but even his light comedies are enjoyable. This is also notable for being the first time he worked with Mia Farrow - which only happened because Diane Keaton was unavailable to play the part. There are some entertaining moments and some hilarious sight gags (the first time we see Allen himself made me laugh out loud). Don't go out of your way to hunt it down unless you're an Allen fan, but it's certainly watchable. 3 stars.

Pirate Radio (2009)

Richard Curtis nearly always manages to make fun, silly movies that I enjoy immensely. This is no different. It's charming, with a great ensemble cast, good writing, a compelling story, and lots of little moments that get me to care about the characters and the plot. Well done once again, Mr. Curtis. 4 stars.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Haunting (1963)

Has an effective scare or two (waiting in the rooms with the pounding outside is quietly terrifying), but the main character seems to go from mildly nervous to ABSOLUTELY CRAZY in the span of about 10 seconds, which just made me laugh more than anything else. It's hard to do a good scary movie. This one doesn't quite work. 2 stars.

127 Hours (2010)

Danny Boyle has taken what could have been a mediocre suspense flick and turned it into a beautifully artistic film. It's not only an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but a beautiful musing on what it's like to realize you are going to die. It's been awhile since a movie built up that much tension in me and let me truly release it at the end... I cried. Wonderfully done. 4.5 stars.

Black Swan (2010)

Darren Aronofsky is the absolute best director for any stories about obsession. He's able to get inside the minds of the obsessed and turn it inside out so we can see it. Black Swan is my favorite of his to date. It features an absolutely breathtaking performance by Natalie Portman and some of the most beautiful and terrifying imagery Aronofsky's ever produced. Amazing, stunning, horrifying... one of my favorites of the year. 4.5 stars.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Acceptable, but not compelling. I felt more interest and care for the kids than I did for any of the adults in this film. The movie wanders around aimlessly without really saying much of anything, and I had no idea how to respond to it by the end. 2.5 stars.

True Grit (2010)

I was not expecting to like this movie at all, as I don't like westerns and am iffy on the Coens, but it totally won me over. The acting is superb, and the little touches of humor along the way soften the dark overtones of the story. In my top half of Best Picture nominees this year. 4 stars.

The Fighter (2010)

Although I don't like boxing movies much, this one holds together, mostly because the acting is wonderful. Christian Bale completely steals the show from Mark Wahlberg. Melissa Leo is wonderful as the mother, and Amy Adams reminds me once again how very, very good she is as an actress. 3 stars.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Seldom laugh-out-loud funny, but very consistently entertaining. I appreciate the rare silly comedy that doesn't get all its humor out of gas, vomit, and sex jokes. Many kudos to them for that. I didn't know going into it that it was written by John Hughes, but it certainly has the feel of a Hughes movie - silly but very warm at the same time. Nicely done. 3 stars.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003)

It does a good job of portraying life in a culture *extremely* different from my own, but in its attempt to build up some of the drama of the camel rejecting her colt, it left everything feeling a little bit anticlimactic. It's a much better documentary than it is a story - which I suppose is fair. However, I'm giving it a low ranking based on how much I personally enjoyed it. 1.5 stars

Die Hard (1988)

I really don't like action movies, so 3 stars is really the equivalent of about 4 for non-action movies. It held my attention and, although it really didn't play with the characters much (which is what makes action movies stand out for me), Alan Rickman does make for a great villain. No desire to see any of the sequels, but at least now I can silence the "WHAT? You've never seen DIE HARD?" crowd. 3 stars.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Super Troopers (2001)

As I watched it, I kept wanting to like this movie, and there were so many moments where I ALMOST did. But in the end, thinking back on it, my emotional reaction is almost entirely negative. I now can't think of a single moment i found genuinely funny. All that comes to mind is the dozens of uninteresting vulgar jokes that overpower anything else entertaining the movie had to offer us. 1.5 stars.

Pretty in Pink (1986)

It's no Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller... but it's a satisfying flick. After reading about the varying endings, I'd have preferred the original (but then I'm always one to fight for the underdog) but it's to John Hughes' credit that this one worked almost as well. I could recommend this to people. 3 stars.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Educating Rita (1983)

There's nothing about this movie that's going to blow anyone away, but it's a very solid, very heartwarming little updated version of Pygmalion. Michael Caine and Julie Walters are both very good in this - deserving of the awards and nominations they got for their roles. 3.5 stars.

To Kill a King (2003)

A very slow, muddled movie. The performances are fairly disappointing, given the strength of the actors. The characters all blended into the background as the political conflict became central. Left me disinterested. 2 stars.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Rules of Attraction (2002)

The heck was the point of this movie? It's gimmicky, it's poorly written, the characters were strange stereotypes... I was done with this movie by about 15 minutes in, but decided to wait it out to see if it improved. It didn't. No point in watching this one. 0.5 stars.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bobby (2006)

I was all on board with this movie. I was enjoying the tiny snapshots of various people's lives. I was even enjoying the slightly heavy-handed bits. And then the ending happened, and I had to sit through a ten-minute sermon on violence that slowly stripped me of all the interest the movie had built up in me. It was a good try that just completely fell apart at the end. 3 stars.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Malcolm X (1992)

Like many biographical movies, my complaint with this is that it feels too sprawling. It shrouds Malcolm's personality enough that it doesn't feel like a character study (I still don't think I could come up with a single description of his character without just stating what he believed in), but too varied. 2 stars.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Notting Hill (1999)

Richard Curtis is the only person I will ever trust to write romantic comedies again. They have all the conventions and cliches of all other romcoms, but somehow his stand above with likable characters, entertaining dialogue, and a sweet optimism that manages to cut through even my cynical take on life. As far as romantic comedies go, his remain the absolute best. 4 stars.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dogtooth (2009)

(Mild spoilers.) This movie is deeply disturbing and uncomfortable to watch. This family is so dysfunctional, without ever acknowledging it is, and without ever any real resolve at the end. I wanted to be a part of this fictional world so I could pull them out of it. It's well done and well acted, but just made me squirm. I'm sure some of these images will stick with me. I'm just not sure what to do with a movie like this. So it gets 2.5 stars and we'll leave it at that.

American Gangster (2007)

A movie I just didn't get. I've seen gangster movies and police movies and this offered nothing new. Sure, Denzel and Russell put in some OK performances, but nothing I haven't already seen. No reason to watch this over... well, just about anything in the genre. 1 star.

Kinsey (2004)

Somehow this story falls a little short. It's far more about the actual science and procedure than it ever is about the person, at least as soon as he gets into the scientific process. By the end of the movie, I felt like a decent story had been told, but I didn't know who the characters were. It tried very hard to humanize the story, but never quite succeeded as far as I was concerned. 3 stars.