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.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Seven Samurai (1954)

I read a Twitter comment not long ago that cited this movie as a favorite, saying that even though it's 3 1/2 hours long, there's not a single dull moment. I remember thinking at the time that couldn't possibly be true for my experience with it - it's just not a genre I find interesting - but it was really, really close to being true. The characters in this movie shine through each as their own unique personality. This is definitely a movie that would benefit from multiple viewings. It feels like there are a lot of little moments I didn't catch my first time through it but would the second time around. My first Kurosawa film - well worth the watch. 4 stars.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Balloonatic (1923)

The Balloonatic is short and silly. There are a few very funny physical gags. It's not laugh-out-loud hilarious, but for fans of Keaton's or slapstick, it's absolutely worth watching. 3 stars.

Neighbors (1920)

This is not one of Buster Keaton's best shorts. There's far too long in between gags, and you can't really afford that when your movie's short to begin with. Add to that the fact that there weren't any spectacularly funny scenes, and what you have is something very disappointing. 1.5 stars.

Seven Chances (1925)

This Buster Keaton short is one of his more entertaining, since it has a very simple premise and just let Keaton do the wonderful physical comedy he does best. The image of dozens of women in bridal veils chasing him all over the city is very funny. Nicely done. 3.5 stars.