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.