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.