Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Artist (2011)

When I saw this, it played right before Midnight in Paris, which was a wonderful double feature - both movies about preferring the past to the future. The Artist is not quite as charming as Midnight in Paris, but it does come pretty close. It tells a very dynamic story in a silent medium. It looks and sounds beautiful, bringing the idea of silent films into a new era. (I don't remember who, but I heard someone muse that The Artist might regenerate the silent film in Hollywood, much the way Unforgiven did for westerns. We shall see. If they all are as well-done as this one, I'd be completely okay with that.) 4 stars.

Best Part: That wonderful scene in the dressing room where sound suddenly invades his life.
Worst Part: The long section around the 3/4 mark featuring George's depression lagged quite a bit for me. I loved the first half and the ending, but that section didn't work for me.
Flickchart: #350, below A Night at the Opera and above Super 8.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

Walking into this movie, I did NOT expect to respond to it the way I did. I didn't know much about it, but the little I knew made it sound like something I wouldn't particularly like. What makes it something special is the main character, Oskar, one of the most sympathetic child characters I have ever seen on screen. His journey is interesting because *he* is interesting. I have always identified with characters struggling with their fears, especially social fears, so Oskar was incredibly relatable for me, and made the movie what it was. 4 stars.

Best Part: The moment where Oskar tells the Renter his story. It's just... good.
Worst Part: It is rather a ludicrous plot. I would probably have rolled my eyes at the ending if I hadn't been so emotionally invested by that point.
Flickchart: #272, below The Fountain and above Sense and Sensibility.

The Help (2011)

This is a fine little movie. I enjoyed it while I was watching it, although it's really hard to shake the feeling that I'm watching something on Lifetime. It certainly wasn't anything that blew me away. Writing this review a week after watching it, I remember it as being acceptably entertaining, but nothing that grabbed my attention and held it beyond the closing credits.

(Incidentally, I think all the questions people have raised about the way it deals with racism are valid ones. I haven't ever been a victim of that kind of thinking so I'm not really allowed to make the call on whether or not this movie is offensive, but I think it's probably good that people are discussing that.) 2.5 stars.

Best Part: The acting was indeed really good. It was what made this movie enjoyable for me.
Worst Part: I'm still just bored by femalecentric films. I hardly ever relate to any of the characters, and that is certainly true here. Women like me just don't really exist in the movie world.
Flickchart: #596, below Million Dollar Baby and above The Dresser.

Hugo (2011)

(These next couple are predated. They've been written March 3, but I saw the movies in February, and I want them to be counted with the February films. So that's what's up.)

Hugo impressed me more as a technical masterpiece than as an emotional piece of filmmaking. There are a few very nice moments, but overall I never really connected with the story or the characters. However, it LOOKS gorgeous, and I'm always a sucker for beautiful-looking movies. It's unlikely to stick in my memory for very long, but if I think about it, I definitely enjoyed it while I was watching it. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: There are a lot of really nice scenes, but I think my very favorite was the first one where the Station Inspector is trying to approach the flower seller. It's a beautifully shot moment that captures without words that feeling of not being good enough for someone.
Worst Part: The whole 3D thing was used well here, but it made me pretty headachey during some of the quick-moving parts.
Flickchart: #474, below Closer and above Spider-Man 2.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Descendants (2011)

Last year's Best Picture nominees included The Kids Are All Right, a perfectly acceptable drama with good acting and good dialogue that I forgot within a week of leaving the theater. The Descendants fills that role this year. It's a solid little flick that never goes beyond that to be great. There's not much to be said about it - everything is pretty good, nothing is REALLY good. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: The overall story was a good one, and the Hawaiian setting made for a very interesting, strong sense of atmosphere.
Worst Part: That younger daughter was kind of an obnoxious character. I tired of her very quickly.
Flickchart: #803, below Being John Malkovich and above Sherlock Holmes.

The Tree of Life (2011)

Well, this is a difficult movie to rank. I *wanted* to love it, but it didn't captivate me the way I was hoping. There were a few absolutely breathtaking visual moments, but I didn't really connect to most of the themes. The switch back and forth between story and poetic visuals was a little jarring - I almost wish it had been all one or all the other. The Tree of Life is an incredibly ambitious film, and I admire it, but it misses the mark for me and never quite connects. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I loved the music. Loved it. Especially during the ending, and the creation of the world sequence. The music was what made it all beautiful.
Worst Part: Couldn't have cared less about Sean Penn's existence in the film. He mostly disappeared after the first 30 minutes anyway and didn't add much to the movie while he was there.
Flickchart: #468, below Flushed Away and above Dan in Real Life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Moneyball (2011)

There's nothing particularly *wrong* with Moneyball, but there's nothing that arresting about it either. It's a sports movie, with most of the usual sports movie stories. It does vary a little bit in being about the economics and the strategies behind *choosing* the teams, rather than focusing on the gameplay itself, so that has some interesting aspects to it. However, the overall atmosphere and story arc of the movie is very familiar. Fairly well done, but it's not going to stick in my mind. Whenever I try to name the Best Picture nominees this year, this is one of the ones I always, always forget. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Brad Pitt does a good job with this. His character is easily the most interesting part of the whole thing. Not sure it's good enough for an acting nom, but I haven't seen that many movies this year, and it is good, so maybe it's one of the best ones out there this year.
Worst Part: I kept thinking it was over, and then it wasn't. Ultimately I liked the ending, but in the meantime I kept getting frustrated because I felt like the story was done.
Flickchart: #841, below Hancock and above The Great Mouse Detective.

War Horse (2011)

War Horse is not a great movie. It has some nice moments, but overall it is very cheesy, the dialogue is silly, and it pulls every cheap emotional manipulation trick in the book. And... I'm extremely ashamed to admit it worked on me. Despite myself, I kept getting drawn into the emotion of the moment, even when it was surrounded by overdramatic music, cheesy dialogue, and rain during every single uber-emotional scene. EVERY SINGLE ONE. So. The more I think about this, I really shouldn't have enjoyed it at all. But somehow it worked, and I ended up having a pretty good time. So it ends up falling among my "extremely guilty pleasures" movies... the ones I enjoyed in spite of themselves. 3 stars.

(Spoilers in this section.)
Best Part: The scene between the British and German soldier as they tried to free Joey was fascinating.
Worst Part: The ending where Albert finds Joey again. He hears about the "miracle horse," decides it's his (for no reason except just a hunch), and tries calling him. Then, with no reason to think that the horse has even responded to his call, he wanders through the camp blindly looking for it. I really hope he's been doing this with all the horses he knows of during his entire time in the army. That would be the most hilarious thing ever. Anyway. What a silly, silly ending. I actually laughed out loud in the theater.
Flickchart: #690, above Marnie and below Easy Virtue.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Fifth Element (1997)

I do enjoy sci-fi, but the world this movie created for me made very little sense. It had a few interesting sci-fi elements to it, and one or two interesting plot moments, but it was all intermingled with these bizarrely campy characters and silly dialogue. Maybe I was supposed to let go and let it just *be* campy, but I never really got to that point so I didn't really enjoy it much at any point. 2 stars.

Best Part: I really loved the slow-moving aliens in the opening sequence. I don't know why. Most interesting creatures in the whole movie.
Worst Part: The sudden "humanity isn't worth saving" crisis at the very end that can only be cured with love. Sheesh.
Flickchart: #969, below The Mummy (1932) and above Tarzan.

The Ring (2002)

(Spoilers in the best/worst section of this review.)

I was pleasantly surprised by this flick. More mystery than horror, light on gore but heavy with atmosphere... this is much closer to the kind of scary movie I enjoy. Now, granted, it was also a ridiculous, contrived, gimmicky concept and I wasn't ever that *scared*, but I did find it fairly entertaining. Certainly better than I was anticipating. I'll have to check out the original Japanese version sometime. 3 stars.

Best Part: I actually really enjoyed the ending. I shouldn't have - that's the kind of thing I would normally hate - but the "first ending" was so anticlimactic. And if there's not going to be a satisfying triumphant ending, I'll settle for a suitably creepy bad ending.
Worst Part: The concept. Even after it was all "explained," I still found myself thinking, "Really?"
Flickchart: #700, below Death at a Funeral and above The Witches of Eastwick.

Happy Gilmore (1996)

This movie has an entertaining premise, some funny dialogue, some good gags... you know what would make it genuinely funny? If Adam Sandler wasn't completely detestable. I told someone awhile back that I hated Adam Sandler, but when I told them the movies of his I'd seen, they protested, "Oh, well, you haven't seen the GOOD ones, then," and told me to watch this one. So I decided to give it one more shot. But, nope, turns out I really do hate him and his characters. He's so difficult to root for. If ANYBODY else had played this role, I think I would have really enjoyed this, but as it is, I spent the whole time hoping the "bad guy" would win. 1.5 stars for the movie that could have been.

Best Part: It really does have some very funny lines. I particularly liked when they were yelling rhyming threats at each other in the bar.
Worst Part: Seeing Adam Sandler get angry isn't funny. It's annoying. And there's a lot of that in this movie.
Flickchart: #1104, below Joe Versus the Volcano and above It's Complicated.

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

So this is the third Bond movie I've seen, the third Bond actor I've seen, and the third I just haven't gotten into. (The other two are Goldfinger and Casino Royale, so I haven't just been watching all the mediocre ones.) But those were still above this one, which is mostly just lots of explosions and not any interesting spying moments. It's bland and forgettable. Fun story - it is SO bland and forgettable that when I took a break from watching it to hang out with someone, I couldn't remember what the name of it was. Clearly my brain decided it didn't need to retain that information, and it was pretty much right. 1 star.

Best Part: "Hold on, that's John Cleese!"
Worst Part: I just lost all interest during the action sequences. ALL interest. Meh.
Flickchart: #1402, below Start the Revolution Without Me and above Neighbors.