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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

I really, really hate war movies, so it's saying a *lot* that I found those movie mostly interesting and overall very touching. The fact that the story was so very personal probably had something to do with it - I really felt like it was about seeing the people deal with war, rather than a Movie About War. It's one of the few war flicks where I *have* felt it was a personal story, and I really appreciated that. It's not going to live in my top 100 of all time or anything, but it's a very solid effort, especially for a genre that I have to work hard to watch. Well done. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: Tom Hanks' monologue about who he was before the war was very moving. I especially liked his line that was something like, "Every time I kill a man, I feel further from home."
Worst Part: I felt like the bookend bits about grown-up Matt Damon were unnecessary. He's so clearly not the main character throughout, but throwing focus to him at the end made it feel like maybe he was *supposed* to be.
Flickchart: #766, below Death at a Funeral and above A Hard Day's Night.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Week With Marilyn (2011)

I have a fondness for showbiz movies and, even though I am no great Marilyn Monroe fan, I found this film both very interesting and very moving. Michelle Williams does a surprisingly good job (although weeks of watching Smash has made me accustomed to seeing Megan Hilty as Marilyn, so on first view, I thought, "That doesn't look right," but I quickly adjusted). It's a low-key little story, not nearly as flashy as I expected, and, while not often an *exciting* story, it's a compelling one. Even though it's unlikely to stand out in my memory as a great film, it's one I'm glad to have watched. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: The protagonist is a very easy person to root for. I genuinely liked him.
Worst Part: Nothing really stands out. (I suspect that is going to be the problem with this film long-term in my mind - it was fun but nothing *really* stands out, either positively or negatively.)
Flickchart: #536, below Zodiac and above Munich.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

(Warning: spoilers for both this and Take Shelter, which I compare it to.)

This movie reminds me very much of Take Shelter, which I watched not too long ago. Both are about characters who are worrying they're mixing reality with what's in their head, while their family members try to help them but mostly just have to watch them fall apart. Then, in both cases, the movie ends after abruptly confirming that someone else sees the reality our protagnoist sees. Both movies left me going, "But - but what happens now?" However, Take Shelter wins this round because while I *liked* this movie, it didn't grip me on the same emotional level. It's slower and quieter and tells a great story, but at no point was I on the edge of my seat wanting to know what would happen next to Martha. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: The actress playing Martha does do a very good job. I believed her even when I wasn't lured in by the movie as a whole.
Worst Part: I really did feel cheated by that ending, more than I did by Take Shelter's.

Flickchart: #351, below Driving Miss Daisy and above Interview With the Vampire.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

I'm have a fair amount of ambivalence toward this movie. I absolutely loved parts of it - it *looks* absolutely stunning, and is extremely creative and entertaining, very much a new, stylish take on claassic kung fu/samurai movies. My problem with it... Well, I'm not usually one to complain about violence, but for me, the violence has to add something to the story. In Kill Bill, that doesn't seem to be the case. For the most part its extreme violence is simply because it *looks* cool, not because it's adding anything to either the plot or the characters. That's not a use I feel comfortable with (or interested in - I zoned out partway through the giant fight at O-Ren's). It's disappointing, because whenever there *aren't* giant geysers of blood shooting out of people, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. And I do definitely want to see the second part - the story aspect of it is pretty fascinating. It's hard to know where to rank it, so let's give it... 3 stars.

Best Part: The colors in this movie are striking. That seems like an odd thing to choose as a best part, but it really is.
Worst Part: ...Well, I covered most of that up there. If I'm choosing a specific moment, I'm going with the fight scene I zoned out of.

Flickchart: #686, below House of Flying Daggers and above Broken Arrow.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

I don't consider myself a Tarantino fan. I was so bored by Pulp Fiction that I've had to push myself to watch both this and Reservoir Dogs, the only other one I've seen of his. However, it might *just* be Pulp Fiction I don't like, because I liked Reservoir Dogs and LOVED this. A thoroughly compelling 2 1/2 hours. It's outrageous and ridiculous and a complete rewrite of history, alternatively awful in its gruesomeness, unexpectedly hilarious, and breathtakingly creative. Most of the many various characters aren't focused on long enough to really be interested in them, but the few we do see are great fun - particularly the Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt characters. All in all, a wonderfully original film, and one that I'm glad I finally took the time to sit down and watch. 4.5 stars.

Best Part: I really think my favorite thing in the entire movie was Brad Pitt's Italian. Every time he said anything I cracked up.
Worst Part: I am not so much a fan of gore in my movies, and this one was definitely uncomfortable to watch sometimes. I cringed throughout the entire scene where Raine interrogates Bridget with his finger in her leg. It just HURT to watch.
Flickchart: #189, below Zombieland and above Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Score (2001)

A mediocre heist movie that I enjoyed more than I would have if I wasn't mostly in love with Edward Norton. The movie's major twists that it sets up are easy to see coming a mile away, and there's nothing unique about the heist itself or the story behind it. That being said, like all heist movies, it's kind of fun to watch it all come together in the end, and even if it's not anything new or original, there's something entertaining about the old familiar formula. Probably the same reason people like rom coms. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: As I said, I'm mostly in love with Edward Norton. I particularly love his switching of characters in this. He jumps back and forth several times between 3 different personas, and they're all fun.
Worst Part: The final moments of the movie are *so* overblown as a dramatic twist. I laughed out loud.

Flickchart: #926, below The Man in the Iron Mask and above Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Band Wagon (1953)

The Band Wagon is, for the most part, a very solid and enjoyable movie musical, but it loses its way 2/3 of the way through and never quite regains it. The song and dance numbers are great fun, but they stop having any bearing on the plot about an hour in - and, worse, barely even *interact* with the plot. The only songs or dances in the last 30 minutes or so are ones that are part of the musical-within-a-musical. It becomes just a series of performances with no context to them, so the emotional effect, whether sweet or fun or uplifting, is mostly lost. While I don't always object to that, it was especially disappointing since I was so enamored with the first 2/3 of the movie. The impromptu dance sequence in the park was one of the most beautiful dance numbers I have perhaps ever seen in a movie musical. But it mattered because it had *context*. Strip the movie numbers of their context, even contrived context, and the songs have to be a *whole* lot more entertaining than this to make it matter. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: The dance scene in the park. So beautiful.
Worst Part: The triplets song and dance scene. It made zero sense in the context of the show and was, frankly, extremely creepy, both in the lyrics and in the costumes. Adults dressing and singing as babies will never not be creepy.

Flickchart: #479, below Drive and above Pushing Tin.

The Duellists (1977)

I enjoyed this far more than I anticipated I would. It's neither a genre nor a time period that I am generally interested in, so I was pleasantly surprised by how fascinated I was by this story. Despite being one of those stories that spreads over several years, it doesn't sprawl - it tells each segment's story quickly and concisely, and moves on to the next. I can't even pinpoint exactly WHAT about this story captured me, as it doesn't delve into characterization all that much, and that's generally what I like in movies. So I'm just going to say I liked this movie and leave it at that, since this is not the most coherent of reviews. 3.5 stars.

Best Part: I found the ending extremely satisfying.
Worst Part: With all the genteel British and French accents around them, it was always jarring whenever Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel actually spoke.

Flickchart: #485, below The Wrath of Khan and above Caddyshack.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Yellow Handkerchief (2008)

A little indie road trip drama that is extremely contrived and completely unoriginal, but not wholly *unpleasant* - there's just nothing really to see here. Kristen Stewart's acting is as lifeless as I was led to believe (I'd never actually seen her in anything), the plot doesn't make much sense, and William Hurt's character is uninteresting to watch. Honestly, the only character I cared about was Eddie Redmayne as an extremely awkward teenage boy (much more excited about seeing him in Les Miserables now), but he was the fourth billed character and certainly the least important of the three we followed most of the time. Disappointing, because I would easily have watched an entire movie with him as the central figure. Instead, I just sat patiently and waited for it to go somewhere. 2 stars.

Best Part: I'm going to have to go with that teenage boy character. He was easily the most captivating part of the film.
Worst Part: With William Hurt's back story all hyped up the way it was, the final reveal was extremely anticlimactic, and even shots of the two teenagers crying as they listened to it weren't enough to convince me otherwise.

Flickchart: #1250, below Deceived and above The Proposal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ulysses (1967)

...What on earth did I just watch?

I have a relaxation thing I do when I'm trying to go to sleep: I listen to an audio dramatization of something or other. As I listen, I create mental pictures of the scenario being acted out, but make everything as ridiculously literal as possible. If one of the characters tells the other, "You're like a lion," I adjust my mental image to make that person a literal lion. This engages my brain just enough that I don't wander off and start obsessing about my day (which is what keeps me awake the most at night) but not enough that I stay focused on it, and I drift off to sleep.

Watching this movie was surreal, because that was what happened. Every metaphor was shown to us in literal form on the screen, especially once it hit the section with the hallucinations/dreams/whatever the heck those were. But what is a relaxing mental exercise in my mind is creepy and bizarre and awkward to follow visually in a movie. That point is when the movie lost me. I was mildly interested in the story up until that point, and then I got almost 30 minutes of rambling dream sequence. That finally ended, but the movie never really won back my trust or my interest. 1.5 stars.

Best Part: Everything up until 45 minutes in.
Worst Part: Everything after 45 minutes in.
Flickchart: #1346, below Soylent Green and above Robots.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Marathon Man (1976)

This thriller takes a little while to get going, but once it does, it's fascinating. The beginning feels disjointed and hops around all over the place without giving me a good sense of who or what I was supposed to be paying attention to most. However, about halfway through the movie, everything comes together and the story starts to pick up a little. There are still a lot of awkward moments and some flaws in the story, but overall it turns into a pretty entertaining suspenseful story. 2.5 stars.

Best Part: Dustin Hoffman's reactions seemed to me to be very realistic. Obviously I've never been in this situation, but he acted exactly like I have always thought most people would under these circumstances - more paranoid and panicky than most every-day-guy-thrown-into-a-tense-situation movie characters.
Worst Part: There were several moments where it felt like the tension was being ramped up in a way that felt false to me - the scene where two old people simultaneously recognize Szell was one of those scenes. It didn't really contribute much to the story or the plot, it was just there as a mood thing, and it didn't work for me.

Flickchart: #806, below Runaway Jury and above Miss Potter.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Take Shelter (2011)

I loved Michael Shannon in Bug, and I love him in this. As the story progresses and I saw him alternatively giving in to the compulsions he felt and trying to explain them away, I really came to care about that character. Jessica Chastain does an amazing job in her role as well - in fact, pretty much all the acting in this movie is fantastic. The ending is left a little more ambiguous than I'd have liked in the context of this particular story, but, you know what, it didn't really matter because everything else in the movie was so powerful, it would have taken a lot for the ending to ruin the rest of the movie for me. 4.5 stars.

Best Part: The scene where she's begging him to open the shelter door. So tense.
Worst Part: As I said, I'm not quite sure about the ending. It left me uneasy. But that's my only real complaint.

Flickchart: #286, below Sense and Sensibility and above Music & Lyrics. So, uh, sandwiched in between two Hugh Grant movies.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road (2002)

15 minutes into this movie, I was completely befuddled. What kind of movie were they trying to make? Its set up is reminiscent of a 1960s live action Disney movie, but it clearly wasn't made for children. It's awkward and cliched and cheesy and bizarre... and yet it has an inexplicable charm. Even as I was yelling, "WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? THAT PART DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE!" I was kind of rooting for it. Part of that has to do with the fact that James Marsden makes a great hero, even when he's surrounded by nonsense. I ended up kind of liking this movie in spite of itself. Would I recommend it? Oh, heck no. It's sometimes painfully awkward to watch. But am I glad I watched it? ...Kind of.

Best Part: I was kind of captivated by the story featuring the mother chasing her son into the drug city. It's bizarre and awful, but definitely something I will remember.
Worst Part: All the mysterious saging around (and that's "saging," as in a pretend verb form of "sage") Christopher Lloyd and Gary Oldman do got real old, real fast. The movie became much more interesting when they weren't in it.
Flickchart: #836, below Amazing Grace and above The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Never Let Me Go (2010)

I hesitate to say much about the plot here, because it's only revealed a little bit at a time, and it was a good 40 minutes in before I *really* realized the extent of what was going on, and I'd hate to alter that experience for anyone. So I will just say this is an incredible little story about humanity and love and life. The casting choices were interesting, as well... the three main characters were played by two actors who I find incredibly engaging in everything they do and one who I nearly always despise. But Keira Knightley's smug demeanor works *for* her in this movie, and the three of them work together to form an incredibly interesting group of characters. I'm not even sure where to go with this review right now, because while I have all these emotional reactions to the movie, they're hard to articulate. I'm afraid this is going to be one of my less coherent movie blogs. I will have to try and revisit this again sometime. 4 stars.

Best Part: Andrew Garfield plays the most wonderful awkward introvert characters of all time. Between this and Boy A, I'm more than a little in love with him.
Worst Part: While the beginning and end of the movie are beautiful and fascinating, the middle part is a little bit more difficult to be interested in.
Flickchart: #291, below After the Fox and above M. Butterfly.