Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bowling For Columbine (2002)

I haven't ever seen any of Michael Moore's films, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. In the end, I thought it was an interesting film with a lot of interesting things to say, but several moments where I felt like it just kind of meandered around. I thought all the things he was pointing out about the fear-ridden culture of America is exactly correct, and that was a fascinating point... but then there were so many moments where I was clear on what facts he was trying to bring to light.

I appreciate the questions he was asking and I think he found some good possible answers, but the film jumps from theory to story to illustration of a previous theory to personal anecdote to clips of the other side acting crazy, without tying them together as much as I would have liked. It was a clash of tones - jumping from topic to topic made it *seem* like an exploratory documentary, but then he so clearly had an answer he already believed in, and so all the jumping around and asking, "What about this? What about this?" kind of just felt like quasi-ADD interjections, or an obligatory nod to other theories while really just wanting to share his own opinions. Some very interesting moments, but I have a feeling his other films won't sit with me much better. 3 stars.

Best Part: Like I said, I loved the whole section on our culture being very much motivated by fear. He had some really interesting moments showing that, and I thought it was put together well.
Worst Part: I get annoyed when I feel like filmmakers, especially documentary filmmakers, are so blatantly looking for one specific answer rather than truly exploring the topic, which is what I felt he was doing here.
Flickchart: #749, below Unbreakable and above Over the Hedge.

Deliverance (1972)

I knew it was unlikely that I would fall head over heels in love with this movie, but I certainly didn't expect to be bored to death with it. I didn't connect with the main characters at any point, and so when they ran into the trouble they did, it was hard for me to care about it at all. Add to this the fact that I already have trouble paying attention during nature-heavy, dialogue-light movies (although, admittedly, that's my own personal bias there), and I ended up with a movie that's considered a classic where I just don't get the appeal. 1 star.

Best Part: I liked the very last shot.
Worst Part: All the rest of it. Sitting through this movie was so very, very difficult for me.
Flickchart: #1442, below Cujo and above Just Like Heaven.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stage Door Canteen (1943)

Not any quality story going on in this movie, but it's fascinating as a sort of time capsule with some of the greatest performers of the time. A lot of the jokes and references were, I'm sure, lost on me as a 21st century viewer, but it was great fun whenever there was a celebrity I recognized. The problem here is the silly insistence on a contrived plot in between. It'd have been vastly more entertaining as an all-performance show. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Lots of great performances, but I think Ray Bolger's was probably my favorite.
Worst Part: All those extremely silly plotlines they tried to squeeze in. I wish there had been much less of that.
Flickchart: #1139, below The Swiss Family Robinson and above Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

This is clearly a very important movie, and a very well-made one, which makes it more difficult to admit I didn't like it. I never know what to do with these movies where there is nothing really wrong with them except for the fact that they never connected with me. I tend to be a very intuitive movie watcher - you can analyze whether or not a movie is technically good or not all you want, but for me it ultimately comes down to what I felt about it. Sometimes that analysis can help me connect, and other times it really can't. So this is one of those movies I admire but can't say I enjoy. 3 stars because I'm never sure what to give to these.

Best Part: I actually really liked the ending. Everything seems to be resolved and then, suddenly, you get a three-minute scene telling you the rest of the story.
Worst Part: I don't know. Because it really probably was the fact that I just wasn't that interested, but that's not the fault of the movie as much as it is just a disconnect between it and myself. Ah well.
Flickchart: #936, below Pretty in Pink and above The Three Musketeers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

50/50 (2011)

I am all for making comedies about horrible things. As someone who deals with chronic pain, I'm a big fan of finding the humor in it whenever you can. Although my disease is not particularly life-threatening, I imagine I would ultimately feel the same way about something that was. When there's so much crap going on, you have to laugh because sometimes the alternative is completely losing it.

That's why I really loved 50/50. The characters were (overall) likable and entertaining, the situations were funny, and there were some extremely moving moments, especially toward the end, which balanced out the feel of the film nicely. It all feels like a very *human* movie... and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4 stars.

(Spoilers in this section.)
Best Part: Actually, I really liked the moment when he finds the cancer book in his friend's bathroom. It was a little moment that isn't really touched on again (which I liked) but I found it very touching.
Worst Part: The romantic relationship between himself and Anna Kendrick was a little creepy... definitely rebound-y, if nothing else.
Flickchart: #374, below Up in the Air and above Blazing Saddles.

Drive (2011)

I wanted to love this movie, but in the end I only half-loved it. The opening sequence is fantastic, but the rest of the movie never quite matched up for me. As soon as the actual plot got going, I found myself losing interest, as much as I tried to stay focused. The visuals were not as interesting, the character not quite as intriguing to me... It regained a lot of it in the ending, but I just didn't get into the middle section, much as I tried. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: The opening. All the way up through the opening credits. It's oddly mesmerizing.
Worst Part: Honestly, the worst part for me was finding I was bored in the middle when I had loved the beginning so much.
Flickchart: #454, below Glengarry Glen Ross and above Secret Window, which is WAY too high up on the list. I will have to fix that.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Contagion (2011)

A very well-done disease outbreak movie. Admittedly, these usually work for me because I have a fairly healthy sense of paranoia already, so they can play into that easily. This one has a pretty impressive celebrity cast, some of which are only on screen for a few minutes before their story is over. I liked the ensemble drama feel of this, however - I liked getting the sense of how all these different people in slightly different areas were affected by the outbreak. And it was certainly a tense movie, as well - right from the very beginning, with all those scenes showing several clearly sick people. Meep. Well done. 4 stars.

Best Part: All the little quick shots of people on the subway, or touching their cups, or coughing... they built up an extremely effective atmosphere of paranoia.
Worst Part: I would have liked a little more resolution of some of those individual plotlines. I say that but it's quite possible that if that had happened,
Flickchart: #372, below Easy A and above Blazing Saddles.

Beetlejuice (1988)

(This review is a little longer, as it's being cross-posted over at my not-just-reviews blog. Some spoilers ahead.)

This was one of the movies on my Blind Spot list for 2012 - a list of 12 movies I knew I needed to see but had never actually gotten around to it. I added this one to the list for a few reasons: 1) I wanted to have a few popular favorites on the list, not just super-artsy ones, 2) I love Tim Burton, and 3) my boyfriend is a huge fan of this movie and kept telling me I should see it. So now we're in mid-March and this is the first Blind Spot 2012 movie I've gotten around to actually watching.

He was right. I loved it.

I went into this movie knowing very little about its plot. I knew it had something to do with ghosts, but I had no idea that it was a reverse haunted house movie about a pair of ghosts trying to chase humans out of their house. The moment where Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis find out they're dead took me completely by surprise. I don't get surprised by movies all that often, so that was great fun.

As the story unfolded, I loved the mix of silly and dark humor throughout the whole movie. I was somewhat expecting that - Tim Burton's movies always have this offbeat, morbid sense of humor - but I had forgotten how much I love good dark humor. Sometimes, depending on the movie, it's something that takes me a little while to get into, but not here. I loved that tone throughout.

Sometimes you sit down to watch a movie and just end up thoroughly enjoying yourself the whole way through. It doesn't impact you emotionally or connect you with the characters, but it's just solidly good fun. That's what Beetlejuice was for me. I'm definitely glad I saw it, and I'm sure I'll enjoy watching it again someday. 4 stars.

Best Part: I absolutely love the morbid sense of humor running throughout this movie. I don't know if I can pick a specific favorite moment.
Worst Part: I think in the wrong mood, I'd have been annoyed by Michael Keaton in this movie rather than amused by him... but that didn't apply this time around.
Flickchart: #366, below Enchanted and above Juno.