Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Misérables (2012)

I'm sure I will write a full bloggy review of this later, what with my insane love of the original show, but this condensed version will just focus on a few things.

There are a few things this movie does brilliantly - it has *wonderful* visuals, particularly the breathtaking images during "Stars" and the gritty ugliness of the scenes with the poor. Anne Hathaway is superb in her role as Fantine, and Eddie Redmayne turns out to be one of the most gripping Mariuses (...Marii?) I have ever seen. Broadway pros Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit do a marvelous job, as expected.


This movie is sadly lacking in the good singing department. Aside from the abovementioned four and Hugh Jackman (although his version of "Bring Him Home" is almost painful to listen to at times), nobody else manages to shine, not even the chorus members, who certainly have no reason to be anything less than adequate. It's not like they had to cast non-singing big name stars like they did for, oh, let's say, JAVERT. Russell Crowe has now joined Gerard Butler in my chamber of Movie Musical Nemeses. He completely murdered one of my all-time favorite showtunes and somehow made one of my favorite theatrical characters boring.

On top of all this, the group numbers are weirdly lacking in energy. "One Day More" is the worst offender. It's one of the most powerful moments on stage and one of the most lackluster ones on screen, as the big screen necessarily separates the characters out into their physically different locations. Say what you will about musical theater, there's something incredible about a whole group of people standing on stage together singing the same song. It doesn't have nearly the same effect when you see a close-up of one person with a bunch of other people singing in the background.

While this movie does have some stunningly beautiful moments, it's actually a pretty mediocre adaptation of the musical. If you liked the story, pick up a copy of the tenth (or twenty-fifth) anniversary cast recording instead and enjoy the show as it was meant to be sung. 3 stars.

Flickchart: #679, below The Hunt For Red October and above Away From Her.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

I was completely astounded by how much I liked this movie. I watched it because that was what was playing at the time I went to the movie theater, and I found myself completely swept up in the story, despite the fact that every other "mythological characters are real" children's movie I could think of is horrific. This one manages to tell a very moving story and SOMEHOW even makes the "children have stopped believing!" trope seem less tired. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #395, below The Dictator and above Dark Shadows.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Anchors Aweigh (1945)

Hey, it's On the Town, except without that third guy nobody remembers! And, well, without Leonard Bernstein songs, so they're not as good. Despite that, the story is a lot of fun, if pretty conventional, and it does have a couple *fantastic* dance sequences. I'll take Gene Kelly any day over any other famous dancer. Even dances as gimmicky as his dance with Jerry are wonderful to watch, when I would be uninterested if anyone else did it. The movie's worth watching for his dancing alone. Skip any songs where dancing isn't happening. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1189, below What's Up, Tiger Lily? and above X-Men.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Army of Darkness (1992)

This movie goes even one step further than Evil Dead 2, which is a campy horror movie, and decides to be pretty much pure comedy. From the goofy premise to ridiculous one-liners to hilariously random plot twists to basic slapstick gags, this movie is just *silly*. There's virtually none of the gross-out factor like in the first movie. I would highly recommend this to people who like campy action flicks, because it just doesn't get campier than this one. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #441, below Spellbound and above The Hustler

Evil Dead II (1987)

OK, so I really hated the first Evil Dead movie. Although I am not *that* easy to squick out, most of the shocking gore moments in it were just too much for me (could not handle the creatures oozing milk... *shudder*). On top of that, it took itself far too seriously, and not even in a very entertainingly bad fashion. This one remedies both those issues in one go - cutting back on the over-the-top gore and going a little lighter on the story makes for something that is so much more fun than I thought it would be. It's a completely different movie from the first one, and a much, much better one. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #691, below Fantasia 2000 and above The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Independence Day (1996)

I have to admit, I only half-watched this... but this was a really easy movie to only half-watch. Nothing of true significance really happened in most of it, and whenever it did, it drew a whole lot of attention to it. Will Smith's character was fun (I especially liked the scene where he is crankily dragging the alien through the desert) but I could have happily done without Jeff Goldblum's conspiracy theory romance sideplot. In the end, there's really no reason I'd watch this again, but it was fine. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1413, below The Italian Job and above Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trainspotting (1996)

Note: The remaining November entries do not have "Best Part/Worst Part" sections because I was without a computer for a month and am just now catching up on all my reviews, and I knew if I tried to figure out anything beyond just the mini-review itself, I'd just never get anything written. :-)

Danny Boyle's directing continues to astound me. He tells this story with wonderful visual style, hitting just the right comedic moments and emphasizing all the right dramatic ones. The story itself kind of goes around and around in circles, and I think if most directors had made this it would have not set quite right with me. Overall, I continue to be impressed with Boyle in just about everything he's done. He's tackled quite a wide variety of topics and genres now... 4 stars.

Flickchart: #384, below Borat and above 12 Monkeys, which is still way too high on my list.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

21 Jump Street (2012)

This movie was so much funnier than I expected it to be. I expected it to be raunchier humor and significantly less clever, but it turned out to be extremely entertaining. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill look like they're having a blast in these roles, and the movie clearly is just out to have fun itself. If ever there was a clear "popcorn movie," this is it. Not brilliant, but a great ride and worth seeing. 3 stars.

Best Part: Original 21 Jump Street cast cameos!
Worst Part: The scene at the very end where the bad guy's penis literally gets shot off. Nope. Not funny.
Flickchart: #676, below The Secret of Santa Vittoria and above Rushmore.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

IMDb plot summary: British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
Directed by John Madden. Stars Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith.

A charming, well-written, brilliantly-acted ensemble drama about senior citizens looking to find themselves. Each one of these stories is interesting and moving, and I found myself caring about each of the characters very deeply. There's not a single uninteresting moment in this entire movie - although it moves slowly, the whole thing is such a joy to watch. Very well done. 4 stars.

Best Part: The character of Sonny was SO fun to watch. I loved his endless optimism about the hotel.
Worst Part: Never felt like the woman who was seeking someone got an ending to her story. Not that she needed a man... I just felt she needed an ending.
Flickchart: #431, below 50/50 and above Blazing Saddles.

Rock of Ages (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A small town girl and a city boy meet on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.
Directed by Adam Shankman. Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, and Tom Cruise.

This movie is complete nonsense as far as story goes, with a very cliched storyline, hammy acting, and an incredibly implausible ending. However, the music makes it all worth it. Overall, this is a very quality soundtrack, with editing that very nicely shows off the theatricality of the numbers. (Honestly, rock + Broadway is a great combination... some of the best rock songs are the most theatrical.) It's a longish movie, but it's 2/3 singing, so it's well worth it. It's not a great movie, but it's a very, very fun musical. 4 stars.

Best Part: Tom Cruise is incredible in this - most wonderfully charismatic singer in the entire thing. I totally bought his character as a rock star.
Worst Part: "Can't Fight This Feeling." Not silly enough to be funny, not serious enough to be moving, so it just sits in this horrible in-between place.
Flickchart: #383, below The Hunger Games and above 12 Monkeys.

In Time (2011)

IMDb plot summary: In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage - a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.
Directed by Andrew Niccol. Stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy.

As a thriller, this is a pretty generic, straightforward crime movie. But as a sci-fi movie that explores a world, this is fascinating. The movie hit just the right balance between explaining the world and letting us figure it out on our own, and I loved watching it. It manages to take a story that's not that interesting on its own and put an entirely new spin on it. Nicely done. 3 stars.

Best Part: The mechanics of how the time system worked. I was fascinated by the world.
Worst Part: I laughed out loud when the two went swimming together. Apparently I am completely over the midnight swim romance cliche.
Flickchart: #658, below Being John Malkovich and above Ace in the Hole.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Money Pit (1986)

IMDb plot summary: A young couple struggles to repair a hopelessly dilapidated house.
Directed by Richard Benjamin. Stars Tom Hanks and Shelley Long.

There's nothing very *wrong* with this movie, but it's not going to stick in my mind for much longer. It makes me smile, but never laugh. The characters are pleasant but uninteresting, and as I think back on it, there is not a single scene I can think of that I found particularly funny. In short, there's not all that much to write about this movie because it is instantly forgettable, although I know I had a fairly good time watching it. No best part/worst part here for this one, since I can't really remember any specifics. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1357, below Monkey Business and above No Reservations.

My Date with Drew (2004)

IMDb plot summary: Ever since the second grade when he first saw her in E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Brian Herzlinger has had a crush on Drew Barrymore. Now, 20 years later he's decided to try to fulfill his lifelong dream by asking her for a date.
Directed by Jon Gunn, Brian Herzlinger and Brett Winn. Starring Brian Herzlinger and Drew Barrymore.

This is a fun, quirky little documentary with one very clear goal: for its protagonist to get a date with Drew Barrymore. This movie wouldn't have worked if our protagonist wasn't such a fun personality. He admits his plan would be easily seen as stalkerish, but he's so pleasant and easy to like that we really want to see him succeed. I also really liked the scene where he is RIGHT near Drew at the premiere of Charlie's Angels 2 but is too scared to really talk to her. He's very easy to relate to, and I can certainly imagine acting that way around my celebrity crushes. The movie moves along quickly enough that the search never gets boring, and the final scene was thoroughly satisfying. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I loved following all the different, creative ways they used to try to get Drew's attention.
Worst Part: The scenes with him calling his ex-girlfriend felt weirdly out of place, tone-wise, with the rest of the movie.
Flickchart: #655, below Confessions of a Shopaholic and above Being John Malkovich.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Pirate Captain sets out on a mission to defeat his rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz for the Pirate of the year Award. The quest takes Captain and his crew from the shores of Blood Island to the foggy streets of Victorian London.
Directed by Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt. Starring Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, David Tennant and Imelda Staunton.

While not the best thing to come out of Aardman, this is still extremely entertaining. The story is ludicrous but in a very fun way, with an elaborate storyline involving Queen Victoria and Charles Darwin as villains. The jokes are silly and frequently over-the-top, but they hit just the right nerve for me in their silliness. Not as solid as I'd like it to be, but I had a great time watching it. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: "That's no scientist! That's a girl guide!"
Worst Part: There are definitely a few eye-rolling anachronisms, such as the pirate ship making a car-backing-up sound. Not a fan.
Flickchart: #534, below Mary and Max and above Lo.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

IMDb plot summary: The story of a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys and their lives over the years.
Directed by Ang Lee. Starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Yet another movie I didn't expect to be applying the term "boring" to... But this movie just did not grab me in any way. Maybe it's the cowboy theme, I don't know, but I kept waiting for a really excellent moment. I got a couple near the very end, but by then I had long since given up on enjoying or being interested in the movie. The problem, I think, is that we really hardly get to know our characters at all, and even their interactions together don't give us much information. It's hard to connect with a character over his forbidden love when the longest interaction you see between the two is a fight an hour and a half into the movie. I had no clear sense of the characters, much less about how they related to each other, and, therefore, didn't care about their story at all. 1.5 stars.

Best Part: The aforementioned fight scene was actually very moving. For the first time that movie I understood who the characters were in relationship to each other.
Worst Part: Seriously, did that first sex scene confuse anybody else as much as it did me? There was no build up whatsoever. It was just, "We're cowboys together. We don't talk to each other or know much about each other. TIME FOR SEX."
Flickchart: #1394, below Cars and above The Robe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

IMDb plot summary: A reporter pretends to be Jewish in order to cover a story on anti-Semitism, and personally discovers the true depths of bigotry and hatred.
Directed by Elia Kazan. Stars Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, John Garfield and Celeste Holm.

This is a really interesting, well-done movie about prejudice. A lot of the time, classic movies about social issues like this end up being extremely preachy and though this veers into that a little tiny bit at the end, primarily it just tells a very interesting story. I am very much in Gregory Peck's shoes at the beginning of this movie, in that I have never really been in a position to feel prejudiced against. I thought it was fascinating to see the little ways in which it impacted his life - nothing overt and explicit, but seeing people react to him differently, things that he took for granted before being suddenly unavailable to him. I found this film moving, interesting, and well worth the Oscar win that year. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I really liked the moment where the people at the elevator got all awkward around him and even though nothing was overtly *wrong* with it, you could tell that he knew exactly why they were uncomfortable, and he couldn't bring himself to leave with them.
Worst Part: Could not even tell you how little I cared about that romance. My inner cynic is alive and well.
Flickchart: #521, below Mister Roberts and above The Birds.

Submarine (2010)

IMDb plot summary: 15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.
Directed by Richard Ayoade. Stars Noah Taylor and Yasmin Paige.

I am almost certain I can say that it hasn't been since Charlie Barlett have I seen a coming-of-age movie I liked so much. I'm a huge fan of Richard Ayoade's acting work in British TV, and it's wonderful to see him produce something that is both this moving and this funny. It's quirky, but not at all in the American indie quirky manner - it never feels too cute for its own good. In its quirkiness, it feels genuinely like real life and the awkwardness of teenagerdom. The characters feel like the sort of uncomfortable, confusing people you encounter in real life. I think it's a sign of the Britishness of the movie that instead of the snappy one-liners American films are known for, the characters hem and haw and say awkward things, which, in all actuality, is what people usually do anyway. Both the humor and the dramatic moments ring very true. This is a delightful, fascinating movie about teenagers and I certainly hope Ayoade is encouraged to do more writing and directing work. 4.5 stars.

Best Part: I absolutely LOVED the character of the father. I feel like that's a character we don't see that often in movies.
Worst Part: I can't think of one at the moment. I'm sure there must be one, but that's how much I liked it.
Flickchart: #202, below Much Ado About Nothing and above Sita Sings the Blues.

One, Two, Three (1961)

IMDb plot summary: Comedy about Coca-Cola's man in West Berlin, who may be fired if he can't keep his American boss's daughter from marrying a Communist.
Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring James Cagney, Horst Buchholz, Pamela Tiffin, and Arlene Francis.

This is not Billy Wilder's best film. It's not as snappy or witty as some of his other movies. However, for me, even the less entertaining Wilder movies are still vastly more fun than many other comedies. I really enjoy Cagney in this role - the speech patterns most associated with fast-talking gangsters translates beautifully into Wilder's quick-paced dialogue. I am probably going to have trouble differentiating this from Wilder's other lesser work smovies in the coming years, but if I ever pick it up and watch it again, I know I'm going to have just as much fun watching it. 3 stars.

Best Part: The 20-minute segment toward the end where Cagney's running back and forth to prepare Otto is really fun. I love the fast pace.
Worst Part: I can't say exactly *what* it's lacking, but something about the plot structure is off.
Flickchart: #682, below The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and above The Dresser.

Cracks (2009)

IMDb plot summary: A look at the lives and relationships among girls at an elite British boarding school.
Directed by Jordan Scott. Stars Eva Green, Juno Temple and Maria Valverde.

When I started this, I had horrible flashbacks to last month's viewing of Loving Annabelle, which was a very similar set-up: clearly inappropriate relationships between a teacher and a new student at an all-female boarding school. However, this movie actually had a *story* to it, and it ends up going in a very disturbing, but interesting, direction. The character of the teacher becomes more and more fascinating as she is revealed, and I found myself getting caught up in the story. Although the ending left me a little hazy about who exactly I was supposed to view as the central character of the story, I thought it was a pretty entertaining little thriller. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: How much I thought I was going to hate it and then it turned into a much better movie than I thought.
Worst Part: Well, it is very overdramatic most of the time. It's not a GOOD movie, it's just much better than a bad movie.
Flickchart: #1247, below A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and above Galaxy Quest.

The Player (1992)

IMDb plot summary: A studio executive is being blackmailed by a writer whose script he rejected but which one? Loaded with Hollywood insider jokes.
Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Tim Robbins and Greta Scacchi.

This is, I believe, my fourth Altman film, and the second that I really liked. The story is interesting, the protagonist is fascinating, and the dialogue is well-written, treading just exactly the right line between realistic and stylized. I don't know that it's going to go down in my list as something I'm going to remember forever, but I very much enjoyed watching it. After this and Short Cuts, I really need to start hunting up some more of Robert Altman's movies. 3 stars.

Best Part: The ending. Although I usually don't like when movies explain what they're about at the end, I honestly wouldn't have been sure what to make of the movie without the explanation here.
Worst Part: Wasn't a huge fan of Iceland girl.
Flickchart: #678, below What the Deaf Man Heard and above Fantasia 2000.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Great Dictator (1940)

IMDb plot summary: Dictator Adenoid Hynkel has a doppelganger, a poor but kind Jewish barber living in the slums, who one day is mistaken for Hynkel.
Directed by Charles Chaplin. Stars Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and Reginald Gardiner.

I wasn't at all sure this was going to work. Chaplin is so renowned for his silent movies that I didn't know how I would feel about his transition to talkies. However, this is my favorite Chaplin of them all. So many of the same wonderful types of physical jokes are still in this movie, but along with it is a very, very funny script with marvelous dialogue and witty jokes. Despite the satirical nature of this story, it never loses its heart - something I have always loved about Chaplin's films. This one gets my vote for the most consistently funny of his, and is certainly the one I enjoyed the most. 4 stars.

Best Part: The dictator himself is hilarious. So many little moments are great, but the first one that really made me laugh out loud is the scene where he's jumping from room to room and stops in one room to have his portrait painted/sculpture sculpted for 3 seconds at a time, and then he leaves. That just made me giggle.
Worst Part: That female lead was sometimes marvelous but, man, did she get smug on occasion.
Flickchart: #521, below The Birds and above The Kite Runner.

Superbad (2007)

IMDb plot summary: Two co-dependent high school seniors are forced to deal with separation anxiety after their plan to stage a booze-soaked party goes awry.
Directed by Greg Mottola. Stars Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

This movie was very half-and-half for me. Although parts of it were absolutely hilarious (Christopher Mintz-Plasse consistently made me laugh, especially every time the word "McLovin" was mentioned), the raunch humor was, often, just raunch without humor in it at all. The characters were supposed to be funny because of being dirty, rather than creating *situations* in which a dirty or raunchy joke would have been funny. This is especially true in the first 30-40 minutes of the movie before the plot kicks into gear, and we have to watch half an hour of unfunny crass dialogue coming out of the mouths of unlikeable characters. At least after that point, something *happens* and the characters are busy reacting to events. I'm not prudish at all when it comes to movies, but this was, most of the time, just not entertaining. 2 stars.

Best Part: "I am McLovin." It's so ridiculous, but so funny.
Worst Part: I just didn't like Jonah Hill at all. I didn't care about his character except for NOT wanting him to wind up with Emma Stone because she seemed like a decent human being and he did not.
Flickchart: #1136, below Paycheck and above Scarface.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dracula (1931)

IMDb plot summary: The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
Directed by Tod Browning. Stars Bela Lugosi, Helen Chandler, David Manners, Dwight Frye and Edward Van Sloan.

I recently watched Nosferatu and read Dracula by Bram Stoker and, unfortunately, this measures up to neither one. It deviates in some interesting ways from the book - Dracula is an invited guest to their house at the beginning, for instance - but the vampire himself never manages to be very scary. I'd be more willing to be merciful toward it and say that early horror movies just won't be considered scary by today's standards, except for the fact that 1) Renfield is extremely creepy and 2) Nosferatu scared the crap out of me last week. So obviously horror doesn't *have* to be dated. In light of that, most of this movie just doesn't work for me. 1.5 stars.

Best Part: I did like Renfield. He was fascinating to watch whenever he was on-screen.
Worst Part: There seem to be many things left *unfinished* in this movie. Just as one example, at the very end, Jonathan and Mina leave the tomb, ask Van Helsing if he's heading back with them, he says, "Not presently," and they leave. And the the movie ends. Wait, what? I thought it was going to reveal that he was also a vampire or even that he just wanted them to have alone time. But, nope. Apparently that had nothing to do with anything. He's just staying in Dracula's tomb for completely innocent purposes. There are lots of "Huh?" moments like that in this movie.
Flickchart: #1342, above No Reservations and below On the Town.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nosferatu (1922)

IMDb plot summary: Vampire Count Orlok expresses interest in a new residence and real estate agent Hutter's wife. Silent classic based on the story "Dracula."
Directed by F.W. Murnau. Stars Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, and Greta Schröder.

Not in a million years did I expect this movie to scare me as much as it did. I've seen a couple other classic monster movies and have not been impressed. But Nosferatu is *terrifying*. The creature itself has a very unsettling, non-human way of moving, as well as a very creepy physical appearance. There are, of course, several moments that are awkwardly dated, but overall, this was a surprisingly effective scare, even today. 4 stars.

Best Part: I LOVED the way the vampire looked and moved. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like that before. The rigidity was somehow so much scarier than making a monster slinky and fluid.
Worst Part: I don't think I would have had a clue what was going on if I hadn't already read the book. There's a lot of plot that gets lost, and important characters show up out of nowhere.
Flickchart: #408, below Contagion and above The Exorcist.

Win Win (2011)

IMDb plot summary: A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.
Directed by Thomas McCarthy. Stars Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer.

Another one of many indie dramas about people feeling stuck in their lives until a new person enters it and changes everything around. It's not a bad movie or anything, it just doesn't offer anything we haven't seen before. It's not well-written or well-acted enough to really stand out on its own as one of the better entries. If that's the kind of drama you love anyway, feel free to check this one out, but there's nothing here to write home about. 2 stars.

Best Part: Leo was a great character. I loved whenever he showed up to interact. I kind of wanted a whole movie just about him.
Worst Part: How often I thought, "Yup, I've seen that before."
Flickchart: #1118, below Men in Black and above Spider-Man 3.

Bad Teacher (2011)

IMDb plot summary: A comedy centered around a foul-mouthed junior high teacher who, after being dumped by her sugar daddy, begins to woo a colleague -- a move that pits her against a well-loved teacher.
Directed by Jake Kasdan. Stars Cameron Diaz, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake.

This movie is not a good one... but I had a surprisingly good time watching it, in the same way I surprisingly enjoy myself watching horrible reality TV. I was kind of fascinated by what horrible thing Cameron Diaz would do next, and even though the ending made zero sense and I can just about guarantee I'm never going to watch this again, it was great fun to watch once. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Cameron Diaz approaches this part not at all afraid to get *campy* in her portrayal of this character. It made me smile.
Worst Part: The ending really was very abrupt and pretty unsatisfying. I remain unconvinced.
Flickchart: #877, below Anonymous and above Sherlock Holmes.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Anonymous (2011)

IMDb plot summary: The theory that it was in fact Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford, who penned Shakespeare's plays. Set against the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I and the Essex rebellion against her.
Directed by Roland Emmerich. Stars Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, and Sebastian Armesto.

This movie is far from a great movie. It's melodramatic and very confusing with its constant shifting back and forth in time without much notice (I was 30 minutes into the movie before I realized one of the people I was watching was a younger version of the main character). However, despite all that, it was pretty fun. I'd hoped it would be even more outlandish in its story, matching up the best-known Shakespearean works with a specific political message the author wanted to convey, but this worked pretty well. I always enjoy seeing theater-centered stories, and this one created an entertaining hypothesis and built a fun little story around it. 3 stars.

Best Part: Shakespeare himself was a very fun character. I loved watching him on screen.
Worst Part: The final 20 minutes or so that were all about the politics and not even a little bit about the plays. I'm a theater person, I want to know about the plays!
Flickchart: #876, below 10 Things I Hate About You and above Sherlock Holmes.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2011)

IMDb plot summary: Dispatched from his basement room on an errand for his mother, slacker Jeff might discover his destiny (finally) when he spends the day with his brother as he tracks his possibly adulterous wife.
Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. Starring Jason Segel, Ed Helms, and Susan Sarandon.

Watching this right after Young Adult was an interesting experience, because it's also a story about somebody who never really grew up, although in a different way. This movie, however, is quite a bit more conventional and, though it's very pleasant and very charming, it never really takes off. Jason Segel and Ed Helms never really work for me as brothers (maybe I'm just too familiar with them as other characters). I enjoyed watching it, but I wouldn't put it on a list of favorites. 3 stars.

Best Part: All the elements of "destiny" coming together.
Worst Part: Could not have been less interested in Susan Sarandon's secret admirer story.
Flickchart: #705, below Corrina, Corrina and above Walk the Line.

Young Adult (2011)

IMDb plot summary: Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now happily married and has a newborn daughter.
Directed by Jason Reitman. Stars Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, and Patrick Wilson.

In the first ten minutes of this movie, I told my friend who was watching it with me, "If this turns out to be a movie about how she has to go back to her small hometown and have a baby to be happy, I'm going to be annoyed." I could not have been more wrong. Young Adult takes all the romantic comedy tropes I hate most and turns them upside down, creating a much, much more interesting movie than I had expected. Charlize Theron does an excellent job playing the unbelievably self-centered, shallow popular girl and, even more fun, she never learns the error of her ways. She returns to her hometown just as shallow as ever, having learned only that people back home are jealous of her, and she is content with that knowledge to reform her life, now that she has confirmation that it is an awesome one. This movie is an excellent drama about a fascinating character, but it also made me laugh too - well done again, Jason Reitman! 4 stars.

Best Part: How every time I thought I knew where the story was going, something else happened.
Worst Part: You know, I'm sure there were moments, but nothing's really coming to mind right now. It all hangs together very nicely.
Flickchart: #220, below I'm Not Scared and above The Village.
Musical Theater Person Sighting: That, of course, is Patrick Wilson as Buddy.

The Woman in Black (2012)

(Very mild spoilers ahead.)

IMDb plot summary: A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.
Directed by James Watkins. Stars Daniel Radcliffe and Ciaran Hinds.

As a horror movie, this one is perfectly serviceable, with plenty of creepy atmosphere and acceptably scary moments. Daniel Radcliffe is not a terribly interesting protagonist, but he is at least believable, which is often surprisingly difficult to find in horror movies. The place where this movie really steps beyond generic is in its ending, which, out of nowhere, goes a completely different direction than I thought it would. At first I wasn't sure at all that I liked it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, even if it was a sudden transition, at least I'd *remember* this movie now. That ending moved this movie from a 2.5 to 3 stars.

Best Part: The ending.
Worst Part: How, out of nowhere, the main guy just knows what to do to reunite the mother and son. Are ghost reuniting rituals common knowledge in this time period?
Flickchart: #858, below Martian Child and above Single White Female.

Loving Annabelle (2006)

IMDb plot summary: Annabelle is the wise-beyond-her-years newcomer to an exclusive Catholic girls school. Having been expelled from her first two schools she's bound to stir some trouble. Sparks fly between her and her teacher, Simone Bradley. Annabelle pursues Simone relentlessly until Simone must make a choice between following her heart and doing what's right. 
Directed by Katherine Brooks. Stars Erin Kelly and Diane Gaidry.

I was pretty thoroughly unimpressed with this movie. I have no idea what it was trying to accomplish. Its plot reads like a thinly veiled excuse to show lots of lesbian sex, except there wasn't that much sex when it came right down to it. It could have been an attempt at a coming-of-age story, except the teenage character really never came of age or learned anything. It could have been a character study, except that characterization was never developed. It could have been a drama about forbidden/taboo love, except that the forbidenness of it is, oddly, never really discussed. It could have been a poignant LGBT movie, except for the fact that it painted all the lesbians in the story as sex-crazed and vaguely predatory for no particular reason. In short, it feels like a movie that was trying to go so many directions that it never made it to any of its goals. This script needed a bunch more rewrites. 1 star.

Best Part: Collins was an awesome character. Why did she pretty much never do anything?
Worst Part: How nobody seemed to ever address the fact that a teacher/high school student relationship is NOT OKAY. The fact that they are both female changes nothing.
Flickchart: #1442, below Johnny Tremain and above Mamma Mia!

Cape Fear (1991)

IMDb plot summary: A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.
Directed by Martin Scorsese. Stars Nick Nolte and Robert De Niro.

I'm a big fan of the original movie, and much as I generally enjoy Scorsese, this one pales in comparison. It's not as creepy, the characters aren't as interesting (especially the father - Nick Nolte is no Gregory Peck), and the movie is rather obnoxiously scored, with a tendency to play melodramatically ominous music over fairly innocuous scenes. It's like watching a movie with someone who keeps yelling, "ARE YOU SCARED YET? ARE YOU SCARED YET?" It's not a *bad* movie, but I was expecting so much more, especially with Scorsese at the wheel. Watch the original and skip this one. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: I liked De Niro pretty well. He wasn't nearly as good as Robert Mitchum in the original, but he was kind of interesting on his own.
Worst Part: The music.
Flickchart: #917, below Stepmom and above Interstate 60.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Seventh Seal (1957)

IMDB plot summary: A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.
Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Stars Max von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, and Nils Poppe.

This is my fourth Bergman film and ranks third out of all of them for me. It has moments that I absolutely love, and others that just don't set well with me, although I can't quite pinpoint what about them rubs me the wrong way. It probably says something that the two Bergman films I really, really liked were the ones most grounded in reality, without fantastical elements or dream sequences. Usually I respond very strongly to mixing fantasy with reality, but for some reason here it never quite works for me. It's a series of stories that I have trouble gelling together into one emotionally coherent whole, although I feel like a second viewing might help with that. 3 stars.

Best Part: I really liked the contrast in character between Jof and Jons, and the final two scenes highlighted that the best for me.
Worst Part: The scene with the smith and his wife was certainly entertaining, but it was one of the ones that felt really jarring in contrast with the rest of the movie.
Flickchart: Well, currently #889, but that's too low, mostly due to Cinema Paradiso being ranked too low. I'll have to do some rearranging.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

IMDb plot summary: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending USA ideals.
Directed by Joe Johnston. Stars Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Hayley Atwell.

I feel the same way about almost all superhero movies that I feel about this: I thoroughly enjoy them while I'm in the middle of them, and then I forget them pretty quickly afterward. I do remember enjoying this one a lot. Captain America is an amusingly flamboyant character, as he bursts into foreign enemy locations with a bright, not-at-all-conspicuous American flag shield, and it's easy to root for Chris Evans' earnest portrayal. Hugo Weaving makes a wonderfully over-the-top villain. This is no gritty reboot - it thoroughly embraces all the shininess and silliness of old-timey comic books, and it is a joy to watch. It's not going to stick in my head much longer beyond this week, but it's a great fluffy popcorn movie. 3 stars.

Best Part: I really liked how they handled the back story. It's a good story and explains a lot about the character.
Worst Part: There's a lot of action all in a row at the end and not enough dialogue. I'm fully aware that's a very personal preference, but there was one point where I just completely zoned out of all the explosions and suddenly discovered all the characters were in planes now and I had no idea how any of them got there.
Flickchart: #664, below Rushmore and above Brothers.

Meet Joe Black (1998)

***Major spoilers ahead in this review, as my main complaint is with the ending***

IMDb plot summary: A media mogul acts as a guide to Death, who takes the form of a young man to learn about life on Earth and in the process, fall in love with his guide's daughter.
Directed by Martin Brest. Stars Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Claire Forlani.

I read the play this story was based on a few years ago and fell completely in love with it, so decided to check out this movie. Overall, it was a disappointment. The story involved did not nearly justify the three hours I spent watching. My main complaints centered around the main female character and the plotlines involving her. She had absolutely no personality (at the end, I realized I wasn't entirely sure what her name was. I named her Julie). As the love plotline drew to a close, I was entirely dissatisfied with the ending they chose to go with - I can't remember how the original play ended, but I liked it, so it must have been better than this bizarre one, where a dead character is resurrected for her and somehow she knows that the original guy she fell in love with was actually Death. Or, well, maybe she knows this. At one point he seemed to be telepathically communicating it.

Either way, the character development and growth didn't really happen in the first 2 1/2 hours, and then it closed off in a completely nonsensical way, that left me going, "Wait - what? How does that work? WHY DOES THAT WORK? No! You can't do that! Movie, that is dumb!" However, Brad Pitt is ever so charming in this slightly offbeat role, and I found myself caring about his romantic plotline solely because he had won me over, even though I was unimpressed with his choice of woman or resolution. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: The scenes between Death and the dying woman are really interesting to watch.
Worst Part: The end. "Wait, does she know now? Wait, is that guy alive now? Wait, is nobody going to be suspicious that her father walked off into the woods with this stranger and then is found dead and he doesn't report it because he knows nothing about it? Wait, is he really going to have to be part of the family now that he knows ABSOLUTELY NOTHING of what's been going on the past day? Isn't that going to pose a problem for the business end of things? THIS IS A HORRIBLE ENDING!"
Flickchart: #813, below Hollywood Homicide and above Glory.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

IMDb plot summary: Kevin's mother struggles to love her strange child, despite the increasingly vicious things he says and does as he grows up. But Kevin is just getting started, and his final act will be beyond anything anyone imagined.
Directed by Lynne Ramsay. Stars Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, and Ezra Miller.

Though the choppy, dreamy editing between present and past makes it difficult to tell sometimes what is *actually happening*, this movie is fascinating once it gets going. I found myself fascinated by the character of Kevin, simultaneously terrified and intrigued, wanting to find out what was going on in his head. Of course the audience never really gets that satisfaction, but it's an incredible journey all the same. The dynamic of the relationship between Kevin and his mother is something that really sucked me into it, and I couldn't look away - very "train wreck." Movies like this really make me a little annoyed that 2012's Best Picture nominees were so humdrum. Even if I didn't love this movie, it trumps The Help and The Descendants any day. 4 stars.

Best Part: Kevin. And by best in this case, I mean "most chilling."
Worst Part: That editing, with sudden unexplained shots of random inanimate objects. I'm sure it was supposed to be emotional and evocative, but it didn't work for me in this case.
Flickchart: #520, below Hot Fuzz and above The Band Wagon. It is very different from either one of those.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

IMDb plot summary: Ron Burgundy is San Diego's top rated newsman in the male dominated broadcasting of the 1970's, but that's all about to change when a new female employee with ambition to burn arrives in his office.
Directed by Adam McKay. Stars Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, and David Koechner.

Oh, I resisted this movie. I resisted watching it at all because it was popular and everyone told me I had to see it, so I told myself I would never enjoy it or find it funny. Then I finally decided I should watch it, and it turned out to be one of the funniest movies I've seen in a LONG time. It hit exactly all the right spots for me, just the right balance between absurdity and story-based context. I can only imagine that large portions of this were heavily improvised - most of the lines just don't FEEL scripted, and they take me by surprise, producing a long series of unexpected giggles and guffaws. It's been awhile since I found something that meshed so *well* with my sense of humor, and it was wonderful to watch. Pure delight for me all the way through. I suspect this is going to become one of my favorites. 4.5 stars.

Best Part: Steve Carell. Almost every single thing he said or did made me laugh.
Worst Part: I was next-to-not-at-all interested in the romance, but Will Ferrell was always funny enough to override any boredom with the plot.
Flickchart: #125, below Sleepless in Seattle and above Catch Me If You Can.

Bernie (2012)

IMDb plot summary (which I have truncated because they give away a MAJOR PLOT POINT which you're clearly not supposed to know about until halfway through): In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow.
Directed by Richard Linklater. Stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConnaughey.

Richard Linklater, you've done it again. This is a wonderful, compelling drama that focuses on an unusual topic with a great deal of heart. A lot of this is due to Jack Black's wonderful performance. Let's add him to the list of actors I'd like to see do more serious work, or at the very least quieter comedies. This isn't an overly dramatic role, but when he just plays a normal person instead of a crazy comedy caricature, I think he's one of the most likeable actors ever. (The Holiday is also a great example of that - he was clearly the best part of the entire movie, and he was just kind of a normal, friendly person there.) The movie tells a story that's fascinating to watch and easy to care about. One of the more solid dramas I've seen lately. 4 stars.

Best Part: Jack Black and the incredible character he created.
Worst Part: I don't know. It was pretty solid.
Flickchart: #446, below Spirited Away and above Ordet.

The Dictator (2012)

IMDb plot summary: The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.
Directed by Larry Charles. Stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley and Jason Mantzoukas.

I'm on a Sacha Baron Cohen kick right now. I just watched Borat last week and then went out and found all of Da Ali G Show (the US version) on YouTube, so I've been watching that. When it comes down to it, I just think his characters are hilarious and his jokes often take me by surprise with how funny they are. The Dictator got several out-loud laughs out of me, while usually I just chuckle quietly during comedies. It is silly, ridiculous, often crude, but, for the most part, genuinely funny. I was worried he might not be funny on his own, without the fake reporter gimmick he's done for so long. I am glad I was wrong. 4 stars.

Best Part: "My name is... Max." "Max what?" "Imumoccupancyonehundredandtwenty." "Your name has a number in it? That is a made-up name."
Worst Part: The scene with the woman giving birth. Somehow every single joke in that entire segment fell flat for me.
Flickchart: #432, below Primer and above Bridesmaids.

Spellbound (1945)

***Major spoilers in this review***

IMDb plot summary: A female psychiatrist protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Stars Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.

While I loved the psychological aspect of this movie, I was thoroughly frustrated by Ingrid Bergman's character. I am not one to complain about weak female characters, but *really*? She was an interesting character up until she fell in love, and then she went completely stupid. There were moments in the middle where I thought it was going to go a sort of Bonnie and Clyde route, a devoted couple committing crimes together... but, no, it turns out in the end that she was right all along to assume that this man she just met and knows nothing about was completely innocent of his crime. This is not romantic or interesting to me, and is a thoroughly disappointing answer to the mystery. It certainly messed with my enjoyment of the movie overall, leaving me frustrated with her character most of the time. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Constance at the beginning.
Worst Part: Constance at the end.
Flickchart: #984, below The Wicker Man (the 1970s version) and above Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vanilla Sky (2001)

IMDb plot summary: A successful publisher finds his life taking a turn for the surreal after a car accident with a jaded lover.
Directed by Cameron Crowe. Stars Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, and a rather impressive ensemble.

After a day or two of watching pretty terrible movies, I then got... this. Sometimes a movie resonates with something deep, deep inside you and you can't quite figure out what exactly it's hitting or why, but it just... fills up your soul. It's very hard to explain the experience I had watching this film.

The film floats from one genre to another. I was never sure whether I was watching a serious relational drama, a sci-fi adventure, an experimental art piece, a murder mystery, a romance, a psychological thriller... and yet somehow it never feels disjointed. The story is fascinating, the dialogue beautifully written, and the visuals of this movie are mind-blowingly gorgeous.

I read an article once that said that the part of our brain which experiences the deepest pleasure is not really connected to the language center, which is why we have so much difficulty expressing the things that touch us the most. We find words that come close, we find words that suffice, but nothing really communicates it fully. And I'm going to use that excuse for why this review is so hard to write. It's the first movie since I saw Scott Pilgrim that I have no problem giving 5 stars to after a single viewing.

Best Part: The final scene. There are no words.
Worst Part: I got nothing.
Flickchart: When I wrote this review, the Flickchart website was down. When it returns, I'll come back and edit this section.

Saw (2004)

IMDb plot summary: With a dead body laying between them, two men wake up in the secure lair of a serial killer who's been nicknamed "Jigsaw". The men must follow various rules and objectives if they wish to survive and win the deadly game set for them.
Directed by James Wan. Starring Leigh Wannell, Cary Elwes and Danny Glover.

From what I'd heard about this movie, I knew there was a possibility I'd love it, as well as a possibility that it'd come too close to "torture porn" for me, but the one thing I never expected was that it would be BORING. It's a psychological thriller with no psychology, a puzzle movie with no real puzzles, a character study with undeveloped characters, and a horror movie with no real scares. The acting is abysmal, even from actors I normally enjoy. The movie tries to paint itself as a "smart" horror movie, but it talks wayyyyy down to its audience, even going so far as to have voice-overs reading aloud notes we can see ourselves and providing wholly unnecessary narration to flashbacks ("I was walking to my car..." Yes, we can see that). Not to mention the endless recaps. How dumb does this movie think their audience is? I PROMISE you I still remember what happened in the flashback like 30 minutes ago.

This could have been a fascinating two-person theatrical-style piece, and I think that's what it was aiming for in the scenes with just the two prisoners, but the characters are so dull that it fails miserably. The *potential* for this movie is what made the final product so disappointing.

When Cary Elwes was on screen, I played "find all the times he drops his American accent." (Answer: A LOT.) When he wasn't, I played FreeCell. 1 star.

Best Part: The very final minute was actually pretty creepy. Too bad there wasn't anything like that in the rest of the movie. Also, the premise really is great. I wish it lived up to it, even a little bit.
Worst Part: Every time the movie would treat me like I had the attention span of a 5-year-old. It recapped and restated so many times that I felt zero worry that I would miss important plot points by playing FreeCell along with it. It'd just re-explain it all for me later anyway.
Flickchart: #1434, below Mamma Mia! and above Kate and Leopold. Now there's a triple feature...

Bye Bye Birdie (1963)

IMDb plot summary: A rock singer travels to a small Ohio town to make his "farewell" television performance and kiss his biggest fan before he is drafted.
Directed by George Sidney. Stars Janet Leigh, Dick Van Dyke, and Ann-Margret.

This movie varies greatly from the play it was based on (the 1995 TV version is much closer). This version is sillier, more outlandish, and much less coherent. However, I wouldn't even have a problem with its idiotic plot (not even the moment where they drug the conductor of the Russian ballet on the Ed Sullivan show in the hopes of getting him to conduct REALLY FAST so the dancers dance REALLY FAST so there's enough time for Conrad Birdie to sing) if the musical numbers were fun and energetic. But despite this musical reprising some of its Broadway cast and being made during the heyday of musicals... the musical numbers in this kind of suck. The singing is off, the sound mixing is terrible, the choreography is bizarre, and most have zero energy. My two favorite songs, "Put On a Happy Face" and "A Lot of Livin' To Do," are great fun, but this version offers me the most lackluster versions of these two I have EVER seen. With a weak plot and weak songs, there's very little I can recommend about Bye Bye Birdie. Believe it or not, the TV version with Jason Alexander and Vanessa Williams is far superior. At least that one enjoyed its musical numbers. 1 star.

Best Part: "How Lovely To Be a Woman" is one of my least favorite songs in the show, but it was the highlight of this movie for me.
Worst Part: "Put on a Happy Face" made me sad. That's probably not what that song should do.
Flickchart: #1400, below Sleeper and above Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rushmore (1998)

IMDb plot summary: The king of Rushmore prep school is put on academic probation. [Wow. That's a terrible summary. But I'm not correcting it because I'm nearly out of Internet time and want to finish posting this review before I have to leave.]
Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Olivia Williams.

There's nothing really wrong with Rushmore. Watching it gives me a general sense of well-being and a desire to see the main characters succeed. But neither do I find it as funny as I like my comedies or as poignant as I like my dramas. It may be that Wes Anderson requires multiple viewings for me - it wasn't until a second viewing of The Royal Tenenbaums that I actually enjoyed that movie - but on first impression, this one gets tucked into the "pleasant and harmless" category. I did particularly like Jason Schwartzman in the role - Max Fisher is a very likeable character - but he wasn't quite enough to pull the movie up from "fine." 3 stars.

Best Part: Hmm. Nothing really sticks out. I'll go with Jason Schwartzman in general, then, since I did enjoy him.
Worst Part: I'm sure I was supposed to have SOME sort of response to Bill Murray's character. I didn't.
Flickchart: #658, below The Secret of Santa Vittoria and above Brothers.

Nell (1994)

IMDb plot summary: In a remote woodland cabin, a small town doctor discovers Nell - a beautiful young hermit woman with many secrets.
Directed by Michael Apted. Starring Jodie Foster, Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardsonn.

I am fascinated by stories about feral children (or, in this case, near-feral adults) but as soon as this movie hit the halfway mark, it headed downhill. What started off as an interesting psychologically-driven character study turned into a cliched story of how the young and innocent can teach us to be better people. And I have never liked those stories, much less when they feel as forced as this one. Mix that with a horrific "emotional person makes an emotional speech in a courtroom and wins for no apparent reason" ending, and you have something that started off interesting but soon fell completely apart. Disappointing. 1.5 stars.

Best Part: The moments when I'd suddenly realize I could understand what she was saying. As a linguiphile (I need to actually look up what word I want there...) I loved that.
Worst Part: The courtroom scene. Wowwww.
Flickchart: #1340, below Camp and above Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

IMDB plot summary: Kazakh TV talking head Borat is dispatched to the United States to report on the greatest country in the world. With a documentary crew in tow, Borat becomes more interested in locating and marrying Pamela Anderson.
Directed by Larry Charles. Stars Sacha Baron Cohen and Ken Davitian.

Let me preface this by saying I *love* Da Ali G Show. I think it is absolutely hilarious. However, of the three regular Sacha Baron Cohen characters, Borat was my least favorite, so I expected to be underwhelmed with the movie. To my surprise, I really liked it. I laughed out loud several times, and not at the parts I expected. I knew the premise of the show and its involvement of real people, so I expected to enjoy those parts and be rather bored with the scripted sections of him in his village and so on, but those turned out to be some of the funniest parts of the movie. Although the Borat characters pushes societal boundaries in a way that absolutely could be deemed offensive, I personally think it's occasionally a very, very revealing look at our country. (Of particular interest was the rodeo scene, where Borat's blessing on the war on terror gets increasingly more violent, while the crowd cheers him on.) Overall, much funnier than I anticipated - definitely a pleasant surprise. 4 stars.

Best Part: His conversation with the yard sale woman he thought was a gypsy. It was a tiny segment, but I laughed really hard through the whole thing.
Worst Part: The scene where he and his director fight naked in the hotel. I really did not need to have any of those images in my mind. And the scene went on WAY longer than it ever needed to.
Flickchart: #371, below The Hunger Games and above Dark Shadows. (Two movies I saw for the first time on the same day. WEIRD.) Also, this is a bit high, but that was because I have 12 Monkeys ranked way too high on my chart.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

IMDB plot summary: When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wonderous forest spirits who live nearby.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Stars (in the English version I saw) Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, and Tim Daly.

This is my fourth Miyazaki movie and, I think, my favorite. While Spirited Away had wild adventures and a sense of excitement all around it, this one was very moving. I was really drawn into the story of these two girls, and as we learn more about their family situation and their mother's health, I really, really wanted them to be OK. I'm always on the lookout for "best parts" in movies, and I kept changing my mind on this one. There were so many really wonderful moments. 4 stars.

Best Part: I think I've settled on Kanta as my favorite part. His clumsy attempts to show Satsuki he likes her while also kind of hoping she never finds out felt very true and realistic in a way that reminded me how awkward those pre-teen years really are.
Worst Part: Every once in awhile the high-pitched giggling would be... just too much for me.
Flickchart: #366, below Beetlejuice and above The Hunger Games.

The Exorcist (1973)

IMDb plot summary: When a girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.
Directed by William Friedkin. Stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller and Linda Blair.

That was an incredibly well-paced, believably-done horror movie. While I wouldn't say it *scared* me at almost any point, it did have plenty of tense moments and, above all, filled me with a sense of horror at how the demon tortured the little girl. While many films might overdo the "creepy child" effect, here it was so *very* clear that it wasn't Regan, but something possessing her. There were moments where all of a sudden you'd hear Regan's voice or see a glimpse of her and think, "Oh, my gosh, that poor girl is in there somewhere." That, to me, was the most interesting part of the whole movie. It wasn't just a Good vs. Evil fight - it was a fight over a person. It was a fight to make sure they didn't destroy Regan. And that was, for me, where it succeeded the most. 4 stars.

Best Part: The longer exorcism scene was wonderfully done. Very tense, while in a very small space with not a lot of *action* happening. Impressive.
Worst Part: I still am not sure what that opening scene had to do with anything. They never really went into that.
Flickchart: #398, below Contagion and above The Aviator.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

IMDb plot summary: Two men fortify a nondescript British apartment so it can serve as a prison, and then kidnap a woman and tie her to a bed. Before there's even time to react, we're plunged into a very nasty situation, but not a simple one.
Directed by J Blakeson. Starring Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan, and Gemma Arterton.

This movie kept taking me by surprise, bouncing back and forth between thriller and romance and character drama. It ended up as a pretty satisfying little movie, but in the early parts of it I found myself not sure whether I liked the shifts in tone. The most interesting part was watching the characters of the two kidnappers and how they interacted with each other and with their victim. As that began to develop more and more, I found myself getting drawn into the story. In the end, it's nothing special, but it's an interesting little movie that I enjoyed watching, for the most part. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Watching Danny's character develop.
Worst Part: Alice herself. I don't know what about her rubbed me the wrong way, but *something* did.
Flickchart: #923, below Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex..., and above In the Line of Fire.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

City Lights (1931)

IMDB plot summary: The Tramp struggles to help a blind flower girl he has fallen in love with.
Directed by Charles Chaplin. Starring Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, and Harry Myers.

While this didn't instantly grab my heart the way The Circus did or make me giggle a lot like Modern Times or The Gold Rush, this is still a good Chaplin, with some very entertaining scenes, and a surprisingly moving ending. The story meanders more than I expected it to, which was off-putting at first, although I ultimately warmed to it. The final scene was absolutely beautiful in a way I hadn't expected - I hadn't warmed to the character romance at all, so I didn't think I'd care about its resolution, but instead I found myself audibly saying, "Awww." That's the best part of Chaplin's films, for me - how even though there are plenty of great, very funny slapstick routines, it also has an incredible amount of warmth to it. These comedies have *heart*. 3 stars.

Best Part: The boxing match was my favorite. I laughed out loud several times.
Worst Part: I wasn't entertained by most of the billionaire scenes. And there were a lot of them.
Flickchart: #749, below The Scarlet and the Black and above Ponyo.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Short Cuts (1993)

Sorry for the long hiatus... I started a new job and really haven't been watching any movies. Hoping to get back into the swing of things soon.

IMDB plot summary: The everyday lives of a number of suburban Los Angeles residents are the subject of this loosely-knitted collection of short stories.
Directed by Robert Altman. Stars EVERYONE EVER - a few key players are Andie MacDowell, Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Penn, Robert Downey Jr., Lily Tomlin, etc. etc. 

A lot of ensemble films are terrible and uninteresting, but when they're done well, I absolutely love them. And this one is done VERY well. Each one of the stories is interesting in different ways, and the way they all intertwine is fascinating to watch. I also really liked just *how* quickly it jumped from one to the other - never gave me a chance to be bored with a plot. 4 stars.

Best Part: The Chris Penn/Jennifer Jason Leigh storyline was absolutely fascinating.
Worst Part: I never really felt like the Lily Tomlin/Tom Waits one went anywhere. It just kind of... stopped.
Flickchart: #365, below Beetlejuice and above The Hunger Games.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

IMDB plot summary: A 1960s hipster secret agent is brought out of cryofreeze to oppose his greatest enemy in the 1990s, where his social attitudes are glaringly out of place.
Directed by Jay Roach. Stars Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley.

I didn't know what I was going to think of this movie. I was hopeful I'd like it, but I'm not particularly a Mike Myers fan, and I knew it was the kind of comedy that might really rub me the wrong way. Well, that didn't really happen, but neither did it really grab me. There are a few very clever moments, including some that I didn't expect (for example, I didn't expect to be quite as amused as I was with the body part-censoring scene at the very end). But the jokes I actually laughed at were few and far between, and the silly characters and situations couldn't fill the gaps very well. This is also the kind of movie, however, that could grow on me over time, so maybe some day I'll watch it again and see if I enjoy it any more. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Honestly, I think the funniest scene was the bit during the credits where he's doing the photo shoot. Also, Seth Green is super entertaining. "We'll shoot 'em together! It'll be fun!"
Worst Part: Most of the jokes went on JUST longer than I like, and so there were a lot of eye-rolling moments where I was thinking, "Still? We're still on this?"
Flickchart: #908, below The Fortune Cookie and above No Country For Old Men.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall (2011)

IMDB plot summary: A disfigured musical genius, hidden away in the Paris Opera House, terrorizes the opera company for the unwitting benefit of a young protégée whom he trains and loves.
Directed by Nick Morris and Laurence Connor. Stars Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, and Hadley Fraser.

Now THAT, Gerard Butler, is how you play the Phantom.

I am a megafan of the original show who *hated* the movie. In particular, I hated Butler, for two major reasons. First of all, the man is not a TERRIBLE singer, but this is the worst possible musical for him. I had similar feelings seeing Nick Jonas in the concert cast of Les Miserables. His singing voice does not fit the character, the theatrical style, or the songs, and as such, he destroys everything he sings in the movie (including my second favorite showtune of all eternity). Secondly, Butler's Phantom is a very odd portrayal. The Phantom is equal parts menacing and pathetic, but Butler simply comes across as fairly cranky in every scene.

Ramin Karimloo fixes all those problems. I've seen three different live performances of Phantom, and he was easily on par with the best of those. His Phantom is fascinating to watch - at times, he is the most pitiful creature, and then he suddenly switches gears and is in a murderous rage. He has the voice to go with the character, too - it's easy to believe his talent has made him both Christine's vocal teacher and seductor.

Although at first I wasn't sure about Sierra Boggess, she ultimately brings a level of compassion to the role that I haven't seen in many other Christines. Her Christine is not drawn to the Phantom solely because of his voice and her lack of willpower - she is pulled back again and again because she *wants to help*. The final scene, where she bids the Phantom goodbye, was extremely moving - even as she gains her independence and takes it, you can see her wishing she could bring the Phantom some happiness. Not because she is in love with him, by any means, but because his sorrow touches her deeply.

This production's Raoul is the low point, however. Patrick Wilson was my favorite part of the 2004 version, and Hadley Fraser is... rather despicable. Instead of being the Phantom's antithesis, a sweet and reassuring character, he, too, treats Christine as if she were a child, singing every line with an oddly commanding tone. "All I Ask of You" was particularly bizarre - in the scene leading up to it, he responded to her (very legitimate) fears with annoyed facial expressions and deliveries that did not match his words. When he did begin the famous love song, he looked not at Christine, but directly out at the audience, giving the impression that he was saying what needed to be said to calm down his hysterical girlfriend, but that he'd really rather not be there. I kept thinking any minute he was going to roll his eyes as he sang words he clearly didn't believe. I usually dislike the character of Raoul, but for his spinelessness - and here I found him *missing* that spinelessness, because at least it had a touch of the sweet to it.

The show is shot fairly well, although there are moments I wish we saw more of the stage (I always love seeing Phantom from the last row of the theater, since so many scenes are SO BIG and SO BUSY). For technical reasons, the spectacular Act 1 finale chandelier crash couldn't happen, so instead the chandelier merely sparks and goes out - so much less impressive, but still fairly effective.

Overall, despite the bizarre acting choices of Raoul, I loved this. It's been far too long since I've seen this show on stage, and I forgot how transcendant this show can be for me. It was the first professional stage production I ever saw, and it remains one of my very favorites, and I'm delighted there is a movie version I can not-hate now. Definitely worth a watch for anyone who likes musicals. 4 stars.

Best Part: Christine leaving the Phantom at the end. Karimloo and Boggess make that scene WORK. Also, "Point of No Return" is stupendous.
Worst Part: "All I Ask of You" and its almost sarcastic delivery.
Flickchart: #338, below Broadway Danny Rose and above Megamind.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

(Spoilers ahead, although I've tried to keep them vague.)

Sadly, this movie falls very flat as a superhero movie for one very important reason: there's hardly any superhero even IN it. The movie is almost 2 1/2 hours long, and we get *maybe* an hour of Batman himself. Most of the movie focuses on the police investigation and Catwoman's "should I be a good guy or a bad guy" dilemma. On my Facebook, I referred to it as "Batman's Friends Slowly Solve Mysteries," because, really, if you take Batman completely out of the equation, you lose hardly anything of the story. There are very few ties to him, emotionally or plot-wise, so there's no reason he couldn't just be pulled out of this movie entirely and have his few actions done by a police officer or even a random bold citizen of Gotham. It's a good crime story and an entertaining action flick, but as a Batman movie, it fails miserably. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I did love the surprising reveal of the villain. Didn't see that one coming at *all*. I like when movies can take me by surprise.

Flickchart: #686, below Limitless and above Everyone Says I Love You.x

Brave (2012)

What Pixar does best is create situations and comedy that arise from very *real* characters. They stay firmly within the world they've created for themselves, whether that's an abandoned Earth, a world where toys can talk, or deep under the sea, proving that you DON'T need anachronistic jokes to make a movie funny. Brave... doesn't do this so well. The first half of the movie has no coherent emotional center, and, therefore, both the dramatic and comedic moments feel forced. It's not until the second half that the whole thing solidifies for me. However, that gets the ball rolling, and by the very end of the movie I was thoroughly enjoying myself. It's not a very *original* offering from Pixar, but kids will like it just fine, Merida is ultimately a great character (she's like Ariel but, you know, actually is sorry when she almost kills her parents), the movie *looks* gorgeous, and there are a few wonderful little touches. The movie didn't quite meet Pixar's standards - let's hope their next one gets this studio back on track. 3 stars.

Best Part: The bear fight at the end was excellently done - suspenseful and emotionally charged.
Worst Part: "If you'd like to inquire about a portrait or wedding cake toppers, pour vial one into the cauldron." REALLY? That's neither a clever joke nor a funny one. Pixar, I am disappoint.
Flickchart: #695, below Forgiving Dr. Mengele and above No Highway in the Sky.

Fish Tank (2009)

This movie took me much longer to watch than it should have. I kept losing interest and leaving to get a snack or something and not coming back. Then I'd come back, rewind some to get back into the swing of things, try watching again, lose interest again, and so on and so on. Although by the end I had objectively decided it was probably a pretty good movie, it wasn't one I could ever say I enjoyed watching. It took me *far* too long to care about the main character and invest in her story, and I know none of this is going to stick with me. So much less than I was hoping for. 2 stars.

Best Part: The scene where she dances with her mom before leaving. That was a really nice moment.
Worst Part: How little I cared throughout most of it.
Flickchart: #909, below Manhattan and above The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

2046 (2004)

IMDB plot summary: He was a writer. He thought he wrote about the future but it really was the past. In his novel, a mysterious train left for 2046 every once in a while. Everyone who went there had the same recapture their lost memories. It was said that in 2046, nothing ever changed. Nobody knew for sure if it was true, because nobody who went there had ever come back- except for one. He was there. He chose to leave. He wanted to change.
Directed by Kar Wai Wong. Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Li Gong and Faye Wong.

Man, this movie was hard to stay focused on. While usually I like movies that blur the line between fantasy and reality, this one just didn't work for me at all, mostly because the non-fantasy part was so uninteresting. The first 5 minutes were fascinating, and then it turned into a much less interesting, much more dramatic relationship movie. But even then, the relationships weren't interesting to watch, and then the movie would suddenly break for the story within the story, which was fascinating, and then it would go back to the real story and I'd sigh and wait patiently until the next break. Not nearly as interesting as I was hoping. 1.5 stars.

Best Part: First five minutes, when I thought it was going to be a cool sci-fi thing.
Worst Part: Realizing it wasn't a cool sci-fi thing.
Flickchart: #1256, below Doctor Zhivago and above Gone With the Wind, which I really feel should be next to each other...

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

IMDB plot summary: A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
Directed by Sergio Leone. Starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef.

I was not enthused about seeing this at the beginning. It was a western, and I generally hate westerns. And then I went to play it and discovered it was 3 hours long. But, you know what? An excellent movie is an excellent movie and can totally move past my genre biases enough for me to enjoy it. My previous movie viewing was The Hurt Locker, which was *not* good enough to conquer those biases. This one was. It reminded me of when I watched The Seven Samurai for the first time - equally long, equally bad genre for me, and while this one wasn't not *quite* as rewarding in the end, it was still good. It was great fun to watch this movie unfold, with all the unexpected twists and turns and completely expected double crossings. What a fun viewing experience. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: The ending. That was awesome. Also, the soundtrack was phenomenal.
Worst Part: It was *so* long, and while most of it was enjoyable, there were parts here and there where I just wanted it to get on with the story.
Flickchart: #656, which is a tad bit too low, because Fantasia 2000 is too low. So right now it's below Fantasia 2000 and above Million Dollar Baby.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Hurt Locker (2008)

IMDB plot summary: Forced to play a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in the chaos of war, an elite Army bomb squad unit must come together in a city where everyone is a potential enemy and every object could be a deadly bomb.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty.

The Hurt Locker has a few very, very good scenes, scenes I haven't seen before or that were done in an interesting, original way. But those were all in the final 45 minutes, and there were far more long, uninteresting combat scenes where I had to fight VERY hard to stay focused on the story. A large part of this is a genre prejudice, I admit, but war movies have overcome that before and been very touching for me (Saving Private Ryan being the most recent example). The Hurt Locker just doesn't offer enough, certainly not to justify it as a Best Picture winner. 2 stars.

Best Part: The scene with the suicide bomber was tense and tragic and very, very well done.
Worst Part: WHAT was that entire combat scene with Ralph Fiennes about? It went on forever and neither furthered the plot nor increased my knowledge of the characters, with the possible exception of the scene with the scared soldier at the end.
Flickchart: #1324, below Fantastic Voyage and above Mission: Impossible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ordet (1955)

IMDB plot summary: August 1925 on a Danish farm. Patriarch Borgen has three sons: Mikkel, a good-hearted agnostic whose wife Inger is pregnant, Johannes, who believes he is Jesus, and Anders, young, slight, in love with the tailor's daughter. The fundamentalist sect of the girl's father is anathema to Borgen's traditional Lutheranism; he opposes the marriage until the tailor forbids it, then Borgen's pride demands that it happen. Unexpectedly, Inger, who is the family's sweetness and light, has problems with her pregnancy. The rational doctor arrives, and a long night brings sharp focus to at least four views of faith.
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Starring Henrik Malberg, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Emil Hass Christensen, and Cay Kristiansen.

This movie deals with a *lot* of questions about religion and God in a very moving story. I loved the overall themes of the story and felt like they fit together very nicely. A lot of the time when a movie tries to tackle issues like this, it overlooks the personal stories, but the personal stories were clearly at the center the whole way through, which made the religious themes even more powerful. Excellently done, and very easy to watch. 4 stars.

(Mild spoilers in this section of the review.)
Best Part: Johannes was a captivating character.
Worst Part: I was not overly thrilled with the ending. It may grow on me, but at the time I felt like it was cheating.
Flickchart: #433, below Spirited Away and above State and Main.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Evil Dead (1981)

IMDB plot summary: Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.
Directed by Sam Raimi. Stars Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor, Betsy Baker and Theresa Tilly.

This one never, ever worked for me. It's not bad enough to be funny, either accidentally or deliberately (although I hear Evil Dead 2 IS deliberately bad enough, so I will probably go see that at some point). I'm not a fan of gore at ALL, and this is one of the most disturbingly gory movies I've ever seen. It's also ridiculous, but in an infuriating way, not a fun one. For the first hour, our hero does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. In one scene, a demon-possessed girl attacks his best friend while he calmly stands by HOLDING AN AXE. I spent a lot of the movie yelling at the screen for him to DO something. Not an interesting or entertaining viewing experience. 0.5 stars.

Best Part: Making fun of it while I watched it with my boyfriend. Seriously, the only reason I got through this movie was because of MST3King it.
Worst Part: How infuriating it was to watch our hero DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Flickchart: #1639, below Spy Kids and above Ella Enchanted.

Friday, July 13, 2012

De-Lovely (2004)

IMDb plot summary: Inspecting a magical biographical stage musical, composer Cole Porter reviews his life and career with his wife, Linda.
Directed by Irwin Winkler, stars Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd.

De-Lovely does something for Cole Porter's songs that very few of Porter's musicals actually do: it gives those songs context. I've occasionally blogged about this before, but for me, musicals are most effective when the songs are given context within the plot. While so many of the songs in this show are sung at moments when they wouldn't need to be contextual (singers at clubs, rehearsing shows, characters performing at parties), whoever chose the songs chose well, because each one of those songs shines with context. The songs become poignant because of the story. I am not a Cole Porter fan, but I found myself very drawn to many of the songs in this movie, songs that I never have liked before. I am usually quite bored by "So In Love," and here I found it unbelievably sad and beautiful and moving. While the most transcendent musical numbers happen much too late in the movie for me to rank it very high, it still managed to make me at least like most of the songs. And this is why I love musicals. The story by itself is not that special. The songs by themselves are not that special. But when you combine the two, you get something very touching. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: Those final two musical numbers ("Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and "In the Still of the Night") were beautiful in two very different ways. What a way to end the movie.
Worst Part: You CANNOT take a songwriter like Cole Porter, whose main draw is the clever lyrics, and then speak over his songs. This happened several times and I got mad and then simply ignored the talking and paid attention to the music. Excuse me, if you're making a musical, you let me hear the songs.
Musical Theater Person Sighting: I used to do this on my old reviews! And there are quite a few here.  That's Jonathan Pryce (I saw him on Broadway once) as Cole Porter's musical guide. And John Barrowman as the guy who can't sing "Night and Day" (I recognized his singing before I recognized his face). And that's apparently Teddy Kempner as the stage manager (!).
Flickchart: #596, below Sunday in the Park With George and above National Treasure.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

This movie is a quiet, creepy look at a serial killer, and it's very effective. There aren't a lot of big dramatic chase scenes. Henry is neither instantly, obviously menacing nor sociopathically charming. (Ignore the fact that "sociopathically" is almost certainly not a word.) When he kills, it's disturbing not because it's so clear that he's a monster now, but because he makes it seem like it's really not a big deal. The whole movie is oddly low-key, and I'm pretty sure that's what makes it as disturbing as it is. That being said, it's pretty clear that this was fairly low budget, as a lot of the actors are pretty awful. The main two are interesting to watch, but a few of the side characters are eye-rollingly bad. 3 stars.

Best Part: The opening montage where we see Henry going about his day interspersed with shots of his victims is terrifying.
Worst Part: The TV salesman stands out in particular as being a terrible actor.
Flickchart: #639, below Brothers and above Topsy-Turvy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

OK. I love Andrew Garfield. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE him. He's miles ahead of Tobey Maguire in terms of likeability and acting skills. However, this movie as a whole is not terribly interesting. Plot points are just kind of skipped over (how is he suddenly friends with the bully at the end there?), the writing is uninspired, the villain is not nearly as interesting as he should be, the main heroine is bland bland bland... If only I could take Andrew Garfield and plug him into the original 2002 movie, it would be stupendous. The movie's worth seeing solely for him, if nothing else. Thank goodness he's in almost every scene.

Flickchart: #940, below The Wicker Man and above Repo! The Genetic Opera.

The Hunger Games (2012)

I just recently read the books, and I am pretty impressed with this adaptation of them. There are a few necessary changes to make the story even *possible* to tell in movie format - so much of the book takes place inside Katniss' head, it wouldn't make any sense if it was done exactly like that. The movie manages to capture the spirit of the books perfectly, however, and some of the casting is inspired (Stanley Tucci in particular is PERFECT in his small role). Usually I am bored or annoyed by movie adaptations of books I have already read, but this made me interested in the story all over again. Nicely done. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #394, below Ghost Town and above Nick of Time.

Dark Shadows (2012)

No best/worst part for the next couple reviews, because I am supremely lazy in my writing today and it's either submit these reviews as is or WAIT FOREVER AND NEVER SUBMIT ANYTHING. I am not a very dedicated blogger sometimes.

Oh, how I love Tim Burton. He is just the perfect blend of dark and silly for me, and this one is no exception. This movie is fantastically campy and I enjoyed every minute of it. The atmosphere is perfect, hardly ever letting its "this is a very serious and dramatic story" tone drop. This movie is not going to be for everybody, but for fans of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, or campy vampire flicks, this is so much fun. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #545, below Nine to Five and above The Front Page.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thor (2011)

I did not expect to enjoy this movie, but it took me completely by surprise and I had a wonderful time... although I don't know if I took it the way I was supposed to. The scenes in Asgard are so over-the-top that they reach a delightful level of campiness, and I found myself enjoying the bizarre epic scope of those scenes combined with the decidedly non-epic scenes set on earth. It makes absolute sense that Kenneth Branagh directed this, because every line sounds "Shakespearean" - dignified and important. The movie also looks *great*, as I mention in the "best part" section below. Rather than make this story gritty or silly, it is made grandiose. It goes far enough to make a really entertaining movie instead of a really pretentious, boring one. 3 stars.

Best Part: I absolutely loved the look of that scene on the bridge at the end. Visually stunning. Most of the scenes in Asgard, actually, look gorgeous.
Worst Part: I have never been SO BORED by Natalie Portman. What is she even doing?
Flickchart: #685, below Forgiving Dr. Mengele and above Little Women from 1933.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mrs. Brown (1997)

It seems I am on a biopic kick. Not on purpose. It just happened. This is my favorite of the three I've seen this weekend. It's a very moving story. I found myself very pulled into it emotionally - I *cared* about what was going to happen to the Queen. The interactions between her and Brown were fascinating - they didn't feel oversentimentalized or contrived. Well scripted, well acted, well done all around. 4 stars.

Best Part: I've always been impressed by Judi Dench, but seldom moved by her - but her Victoria is fantastic.
Worst Part: Nothing comes to mind, really. I'm sure there were parts that could've been improved, but nothing was overtly bad.
Flickchart: #430, below Homeward Bound and above Lord of the Flies.

Nowhere Boy (2009)

Biopics are pretty hit or miss for me, but I really enjoyed this one. The characters were interesting to watch and, even though I'm only a casual Beatles fan, I loved seeing the story of Lennon's first foray into rock and roll. There aren't really any moments that jump out as being truly outstanding, but it's very solid. I feel like I could watch it again and have exactly the same reaction to it, no matter what. 4 stars.

Best Part: The acting was very natural. It was so easy for me to forget I was watching a movie at all and feel like I was just watching people live their lives.
Worst Part: The scene where Julia and Mimi and John all have their big confrontation was the one scene that didn't work for me - it had some awkward dialogue in it that kept pulling me out of the story.
Flickchart: #679, below Forgiving Dr. Mengele and above No Highway in the Sky.

Marie Antoinette (2006)

This is a period piece but feels extremely modern. Not just because of the use of modern day music to create the soundtrack, although that is the most obvous example. The dialogue feels modern, the characters feel modern, the acting feels modern. The story kept reminding me of one of those rags-to-riches stories about rock stars or actors suddenly achieving fame and then spiraling off the deep end due to not knowing how to handle their fame. Usually I dislike an anachronistic tone for something set in a specific time period, but it was oddly effective for me this time. However, the movie stays curiously distant from the actual emotions of any of the characters, and as the credits rolled, I couldn't tell you for a second what any of the characters were actually *like*, only the public face they presented. I'm not entirely sure yet whether this distance helps or hinders the movie. I tend to like strong characterization, stories that delve into characters' minds, but in spite of the movie giving me almost none of that, I found I enjoyed it pretty well overall. So, essentially, this movie did two things I hate in movies and managed to make me kinda like the movie anyway. Impressive. 3 stars.

Best Part: Jason Schwartzman is FASCINATING in this. I really wanted to hear more of his story.
Worst Part: ...Actually, it's connected to the above. I *do* wish we'd had a little bit more to play with in terms of who the characters were. While that's a personal preference - I think the movie works fine without it - I was left wanting to know who these people were and feeling like none of my questions had been answered.
Flickchart: #954, below Minority Report and above Wordplay.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bridesmaids (2011)

I am generally very bored by femalecentric movies, and almost ALWAYS by femalecentric comedies, so it was definitely a nice surprise when this turned out to be fairly entertaining. However... along with the surprise was the disappointment that it wasn't funnier. I had kind of expected it to be an all-or-nothing thing; I'd either be totally bored or think it was hilarious, and instead it just settled in a middle-of-the-road pleasant comedy place. It's got quite a few good moments, yes, but goes on too long and also includes several laughs that just don't work for me at all. Very much in the middle on this one. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: My biggest laugh was her sleazy boyfriend thinking he was such hot stuff: "Can George Glass do this for you?" "Probably."
Worst Part: As I said, it all went on a little too long. I was ready for it to end about 1 1/2 in, but there was still a good 40 minutes left. That last 40 minutes dragged on foreverrrrr.
Flickchart: #419, below Shall We Dance? and above Evita. That is much too high, but it's partly to do with the fact that I've got The Tree of Life and Evita ranked too high. I should fix that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Faces (1968)

Longest two hours of my LIFE. This movie is 70% awkward close-ups of people giggling, 20% awkward close-ups of previously giggling people suddenly yelling, and 10% I don't even KNOW what's going on because everything is out of focus or someone's arm/head/furniture is in the way. The final 15 minutes were almost an interesting story, but SO not worth the first painful hour and 50 minutes. Well, at least watching this broke up the streak of 3 1/2 star movies I was on. 1 star.

Best Part: Like I said, the last 15 minutes were kind of an interesting story. Chop everything else and make that a short film and I would almost enjoy it.
Worst Part: I just... couldn't follow the progression of the story. Either visually (I HATED that there were so many out-of-focus or obscured shots - it must have been a stylistic choice, but it was obnoxious) or emotionally.
Flickchart: #1634, below The Ultimate Gift and above Bean.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

There aren't a lot of differences between the original version and this American remake, but I found myself enjoying it a bit more this time around. Part of it was, I'm sure, was that the complicated and character-heavy plot was much easier to follow the second time around. Secondly, Lisbeth seemed much *younger* in this one. Noomi Rapace had a deep self-assurance about her that always made her seem like she was in control. While Rooney Mara taps into some of that too, you really do get the sense that she's, above all else, a young woman who has no idea what she'd doing with her life - but great instincts that she follows through on. She seems extremely vulnerable and extremely strong simultaneously and becomes a much more interesting character. Overall, stylish, well done, and worth seeing. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I *adore* the last few minutes of the movie, where Lisbeth goes to give Mikael his gift. Just beautifully done.
Worst Part: I just don't like Daniel Craig. I didn't like him as Bond, I don't like him in this. I am bored by him. While Michael Nyqvizt in the original was fascinating, Craig just never strikes me as anything more than a typical action star.
Flickchart: #643, below The Dresser and above Notes on a Scandal.