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.