Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Meaning of Life (1983)

This film is a collection of short sketches, most of which, unfortunately don't actually work. I'm a huge Python fan, so I was very disappointed at this. The sketches were overly long and held onto one joke for the entire time. I did laugh a couple times, but those moments were few and far between. My favorite sketch: the one about marching up and down the square. 2.5 stars.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

This movie was very on-and-off for me. There were a few moments that were absolutely perfect (I loved the casual delivery of the line, "I can eat fifty eggs") but there was a lot of in between that didn't quite work for me. Paul Newman is good in this, but it's one of the classics that mostly just doesn't resonate with me. 3.5 stars.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chaplin (1992)

Robert Downey, Jr. is phenomenal as Charlie Chaplin. I'm always fascinated when they manage to make screen legends come to life in biopics, and this is one that really strikes me. The movie is never boring. The very opening scene showing him removing his makeup sets the tone for the movie - funny but bittersweet, like Chaplin's films. 4.5 stars.

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Grapes of Wrath is a haunting look at a displaced family. As I watched it, I kept thinking of those "As long as we're together, we're happy" films. This is not one of them. This family is acutely aware that even if they're all together, they may be in deep trouble. In fact, they may be even worse off because there are so many of them. The poverty, not only physical but spiritual, is almost palpable. The scene where Ma wants so desperately to share their food with the starving children particularly stood out to me. Nobody in this movie has much of anything, and what they do have they cannot afford to give away. I found myself completely caught up and intensely sympathetic to this world and these characters. Henry Fonda's character is especially interesting - more than any of the others, he doesn't *seem* like a character, just like a regular guy. 4 stars.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wayne's World (1992)

This movie took me by surprise. I thought it was going to be annoying or, at the very least, incomprehensible to someone who had no familiarity with the original sketches. Instead, I got a largely enjoyable comedy that hit, yes, a lot of predictable notes, but also a few hilariously unexpected ones as well. It's a lot smarter than I would have ever expected. It's not quite as good as its obvious predecessor Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (though I would put it above the lackluster Bogus Journey). I love when movies surprise me by being better than I expected. 4 stars.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clash of the Titans (1981)

This movie doesn't make an ounce of sense. I don't have a problem with iffy special effects because of datedness, but the effects in this movie center around a ridiculous plot with hilariously bad dialogue, and the only good acting is done by the side characters. The mythology itself is even funky - how are the Kraken or Medusa titans? Maybe they just mean it in the sense of "giants," but since this is a world in which titans EXIST, it's ludicrous to call them that. Silly, silly, silly. 1 star.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spinning Into Butter (2008)

I saw a reader's theater version of the play a year or two ago. The play itself already verges on preachy, but manages to sidestep it by making it about the characters. Sarah Jessica Parker was unbelievably miscast as the lead. She takes the dialogue and drags it over the preachy line as far as it can go. The rest of the cast does their best to bring it back, but since her role dominates the movie, there's not much they can do about it. 3 stars.

The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

The first half of this movie is a fun, compelling story about three women finding what they're looking for in a mysterious, slightly ominous stranger who comes to town and seduces them all. However, the latter half of the movie goes off the deep end. Sudden twists are thrown in that don't really connect to what we've seen in the first half, and the ending is one of the silliest things ever. Nice try, but it doesn't work. Too bad, because I was really caught up in that first half. 3 stars.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Borstal Boy (2000)

This is a moving drama that *just* manages to veer away from being too preachy at the end, although it was a close call. Shawn Hatosy turns in an impressively understated performance. 4 stars.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Catfish (2010)

I watched this movie not knowing anything about it, and that is definitely the best way to do it. It's a fascinating documentary (and I have no reason to doubt it - it is about a world that I am somewhat a part of and it all rings true to me). I didn't have a single moment where I was bored or impatient. With all the controversy surrounding it, some may not buy that it's true, but it's a good story nonetheless. 4 stars.

I'm Not Rappaport (1996)

This felt like it was based on a of the long, "meaningful" ones that are more about wandering around a character than telling a story. Those have never really appealed to me, and the narrative here isn't enough to keep the movie going. Walter Matthau is good, as he usually is, but every five minutes of this movie felt like an hour. Without the energy of live performance, there's nothing to keep this movie on its feet. 1.5 stars.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Code 46 (2003)

A sci-fi romantic drama that works much better as a sci-fi than as a romantic drama. I love the futuristic world created in this movie, with its meshed languages and viruses to enhance character traits. I could have seen a whole movie just exploring that. Instead, the movie chooses to focus on a less interesting story of forbidden love and, when the big twist is revealed, it's weirdly ignored for the rest of the movie. Disappointing. 3 stars.

Single White Female (1992)

A solid thriller that builds the tension slowly, but the characters (especially Hedy) are interesting enough that it's worth the wait. The final scene is nicely compact, without too many false escapes and villain resurrections. Nothing super special, but it's well put together. 3.5 stars.

Hamlet 2 (2008)

I'm studying theater education with the intention of teaching high school theater, so I was very ready to love this movie. However, laughs were few and far between. The best thing about it was the production at the end, which was entertainingly terrible, but that didn't make up for the hour and fifteen minutes they took getting there. 2 stars.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Interiors (1978)

Woody Allen's first very serious film. I personally like him most when he mixes comedy and drama, so this was a bit much for me. Good performances, but extremely bleak. 3 stars.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Talk Radio (1988)

Solid, well-paced, well-written, and well-acted. Wonderful character examination. 4 stars.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hamlet (2009)

A long production of a long play, but David Tennant is refreshingly *alive* as Hamlet. I've seen Shakespeare's lines droned, intoned, solemnly recited, or campy and over-the-top, but Tennant is wonderful in this role. The rest of the cast is adequate - Patrick Stewart is an acceptably treacherous Claudius, and Penny Downie is a wonderful Gertrude. Mariah Gale as Ophelia is by far the weakest of the actors, but she really has very little to do with the play, and it's well worth the watch to see Tennant's take on a very old character. Nicely done. 3 1/2 stars.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

As It Is In Heaven (2004)

Well, this movie is moderately fun in an inspirational uplifting sort of way, but in the end, it's pretty cheesy and cliched. We've seen this story before, many times, and all the most impressive emotionally moments throughout the movie yielded both an "awww" and an "uh... really?" 2 stars.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Taxi Driver (1976)

Martin Scorsese's always hit-or-miss for me. Some of his movies I really like and others I just can't connect with. This one was consistently interesting all the way through. De Niro is WONDERFUL as Travis Bickle - I've mostly seen him in gangster movies and his horrible later-in-life choices, so I loved seeing him play a new character and realizing, "wow, this guy can really act." I don't know if I could tell you what the movie was *about*, other than the character himself, but I enjoyed watching it. 4 stars.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Raid on Rommel (1971)

Admittedly, I come at this with a bias, since I can never get into war movies. These two hours I spent watching this were some of the longest of my life. I don't feel like it had anything meaningful to say or enough action to be interesting. The most interesting scenes were the ones with Rommel himself. 1 star.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Satisfying, but far more for the characters than for the mystery (although by the end I was caught up in that as well). Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace are both perfect in their roles - I can't imagine the American remake being a good idea. It runs a little long, but well worth the watch. 3 stars.

Quills (2000)

This movie was both fascinating and disturbing. It has some of the best acting I've seen in a movie in a long time (Geoffrey Rush was absolutely amazing) but there were a lot of moments that were extremely unpleasant to watch. That's not necessarily a strike against it... I just can't imagine ever wanting to see it again. 3.5 stars.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Wages of Fear (1953)

I just didn't get it. It's painfully slow until about the last 15 minutes and the characters all blended together. Maybe someday I'll try it again, but right now it just doesn't work for me. 1 star.

Bean (1997)

This is a spectacularly unfunny adaptation of the much cleverer Mr. Bean TV series. While in the TV show, Mr. Bean always seemed a bit slow but likeable, here he comes across as too dumb to even care about. The people he's surrounded with put up with him for unbelievably long amounts of time. I just wanted to yell at the gallery council member, who was bizarrely calm when faced with terrible situations. Even after the painting is ruined, he has an appropriate freak-out... followed by a lackluster response is to go out drinking. With the man who's caused him all this trouble.

In short, it wasn't funny enough, sane enough, or good enough. This is the first time Richard Curtis's writing has truly let me down. Not worth viewing, although the original show certainly is. 0.5 stars.