Tuesday, December 31, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind's only hope for survival.
Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Martin Freeman.
Edgar Wright's movies always make me smile, and this is no exception. From the very start of the movie, I found myself really enjoying it. Simon Pegg does an awesome job playing the horribly juvenile main character, and the rest of the cast is excellent as well. Oddly, I did find myself enjoying the first half of the movie more than the second, once the plot actually kicks in, but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable watch all the way through. Like Wright's other movies, there are also some moments of very moving sincerity amidst the silliness and chaos. Definitely one of the most enjoyable movies of the year - if I hadn't fallen so far in love with Anchorman 2, it'd easily be my favorite thus far of 2013. 4 stars.
Flickchart: #272 out of 1976, below Vertigo and above The Royal Tenenbaums.
Monday, December 30, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Two salesmen whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital age find their way into a coveted internship at Google, where they must compete with a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses for a shot at employment.
Directed by Shawn Levy. Starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
This movie takes some patience and, even after that, isn't *really* worth the effort. It takes a good 30-45 minutes to get going and for the main characters to stop being obnoxiously incompetent. After that, there's an occasional laugh and I was at least rooting for the protagonists, but it's not quite enough to make up for the 2-hour running time. I had a similar reaction to Wedding Crashers, so if you really loved that one, you might enjoy this as well. Otherwise, you're not missing out on anything if you skip this. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1193 out of 1975, below Hustle & Flow and above Man Hunt.
IMDb plot summary: With the 70s behind him, San Diego's top rated newsman, Ron Burgundy, returns to take New York's first 24-hour news channel by storm.
Directed by Adam McKay. Starring Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and David Koechner.
I was surprised by how much I liked the original Anchorman movie, given that I truly hate most films connected to Apatow in any way. Then it turned out to be one of my favorite comedies of the 2000s. And then came the sequel... which turned out to be one of the VERY rare ones that I actually like better than the original. Everything I liked about the first one is ramped up to an even more fast-paced, more ridiculous level, and it's hilarious. Every scene has something to giggle at and quote, and there were very few jokes for me that didn't work on *some* level. I actually went back to see this one again a second time with my family and had just as much fun the second time around. I suspect that even after I've seen more 2013 flicks, this will top my list of favorites for the year. 4.5 stars.
Flickchart: #106 out of 1974, below The Philadelphia Story and above Psycho. This is possibly too high, but maybe not. I did laugh harder than I have in ages. It'll work itself out in my chart eventually.
Monday, December 23, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A younger and more reluctant Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out on an "unexpected journey" to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of Dwarves to reclaim their stolen mountain home from a dragon named Smaug.
Directed by Peter Jackson. Starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, and Ken Stott.
All right. For those who don't know my bias against this movie, here it is in a nutshell. I really like the book The Hobbit and really dislike The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is a fairly silly, light-hearted, fast-paced swashbuckling adventure. The Lord of the Rings is a dark, serious, character-heavy, grandiose sprawling epic. They may be set in the same universe, but the two stories are complete opposites in terms of tone.
The movie version of The Hobbit, as I knew it would, suffers GREATLY when its plot is stretched. There's so much wasted time in this movie, so much unnecessary back story, so much irrelevant subplot weighing down what should be... well, a straightforward "there and back again" tale. The first 15-20 minutes of the movie focus on an uninteresting Brief History of Some Wars of Middle Earth and then a COMPLETELY useless "flash forward" to Lord-of-the-Rings time (just in case, what, we forgot Bilbo was the guy from Lord of the Rings and Frodo was his relative?) before our actual story even starts.
When the movie keeps its pace up, it's entertaining and fun. Martin Freeman makes for a good Bilbo, cheerful and good-natured and willing to forge ahead bravely, no matter what. Scenes like the adventure with the rock giants are taut, adventurous, and fun. But it's bogged down with extra crap - long drawn-out flashbacks demonstrating mostly irrelevant plot points, scenes that seem to be there for no other reason than to foreshadow Lord of the Rings, and lengthy subplots that made me yell, "REMEMBER WHEN THIS STORY USED TO BE ABOUT BILBO GOING TO KILL A DRAGON?"
This movie is not Lord of the Rings. It wasn't supposed to be. And when it tries to be, it fails miserably. Not looking forward to the next two movies and what will have to be an equally plodding pace, except at least Benedict Cumberbatch will get to speak, and that will be a plus. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1357 out of 1973, below Mystic River and above The Fugitive.
Friday, December 20, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.
Directed by Andrew Niccol. Starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, and Gore Vidal.
I do enjoy slightly philosophical sci-fi quite a lot. Although parts of this movie felt a little rushed and underdeveloped (particularly the romance angle), I enjoyed the general premise and found myself really rooting for Ethan Hawke's character. The final few moments of the movie were a truly satisfying series of shots - and the soundtrack was truly superb, bringing out the emotion of the moment. I've been a fan of Andrew Niccol's writing for some time now in movies, and this is another solid effort from him. It may not blow me away like The Truman Show, but I did enjoy it. 3.5 stars.
Flickchart: #802 out of 1972, below School of Rock and above Clueless.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
IMDb plot summary: The story of the original US Mercury 7 astronauts and their macho, seat-of-the-pants approach to the space program.
Directed by Philip Kaufman. Starring Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, and Fred Ward.
This movie is three hours long and, boy, I felt just about every minute of it. With the exception of one or two of the flight scenes near the end, this movie plodded along. Most of it wasn't all that *uninteresting*, but I was ready for it to be over an hour and fifteen minutes earlier. It's one of those movies that is hard to review because while I can see the artistic merit of it, I just couldn't get into it and I *know* that six months from now, I'll struggle to remember I've seen it at all. So we'll just rank it relatively low on my Flickchart and let it settle amidst other movies that were similarly uninspiring for me. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1511 out of 1971, which is probably unfairly low, but that's where it landed for now.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Sydney Pollack.
(Warning: Major spoilers ahead for this one.)
Stanley Kubrick and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship. I really love two of his movies (Lolita and A Clockwork Orange), really hate a third (Barry Lyndon), and then all his others I love half of and hate half of. (Cut out the second half of Full Metal Jacket and you have an amazing movie.)
This one falls into that last category. Kubrick does an incredible job showing the dark path of jealousy and where it leads, and I found the first hour or so of the film incredibly compelling... and then there's this bizarre plot with a secret cultish orgy farm that may or may not have actually happened and may or may not be murdering people. For me, the deliberate ambiguity about how much of this is reality or not seriously hurt the underlying message of the story. Every time the subject of this weird orgy cult came up, I found myself rolling my eyes. It was so outlandish and yet set in such a realistic setting that I could accept it neither as an actual plot nor as pure fantastic symbolism.
Also, I have to mention how much I hated the soundtrack. Its repetitiveness and its melodramatic nature worked against it, and by the end of the film I got aggressively annoyed every time that stupid tune started playing.
What could have been a powerful psychological drama about human nature falls apart for me. 2.5 stars for what I loved about it, but overall, very disappointing.
Flickchart: #1401 out of 1970, below Rebecca and above Stuart Little.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
IMDb plot summary: When two escaping American World War II prisoners are killed, the German POW camp barracks black marketeer, J.J. Sefton, is suspected of being an informer.
Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring William Holden, Don Taylor, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck.
I've seen a lot of Billy Wilder movies, but somehow kept missing this one. It strikes a more deliberate balance between comedy and drama than a lot of his movies, but it works well. The ensemble cast is interesting and engrossing, though I did especially enjoy William Holden as the lead character. Overall, while it didn't wow me like some of Wilder's other flicks have done, it's extremely solid and well worth the watch. 3.5 stars.
Flickchart: #754 out of 1969, below Wreck-It Ralph and above The Wrath of Khan.
Monday, December 16, 2013
IMDb plot summary: After a botched robbery results in the brutal murder of a rural family, two drifters elude police, in the end coming to terms with their own mortality and the repercussions of their vile atrocity.
Directed by Richard Brooks. Starring Robert Blake and Scott Wilson.
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting from this movie, but I was hoping for... more. I'm fascinating by psychological stories of dark minds, but something in this never caught my attention. The story and the details plodded on, but at no point did I feel invested, either from the killer's point of view or their pursuers. I will mention, however, that I absolutely loved the soundtrack. There wasn't a lot of music, but when there was, it suddenly enhanced the atmosphere of whatever scene it was in. But all in all it was a disappointment. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1474 out of 1968, below Silver Streak and above The Cocoanuts.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Boisterous nightclub entertainer Buzzy Bellew was the witness to a murder committed by gangster Ten Grand Jackson. One night, two of Jackson's thugs kill Buzzy and dump his body in the lake at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Buzzy comes back as a ghost and summons his bookworm twin, Edwin Dingle, to Prospect Park so that he can help the police nail Jackson.
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone. Starring Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo and Vera-Ellen.
Well, this was one of the silliest movies I've seen in awhile. The gimmick is ridiculous, the plot is thin, and the characterization is all over the place. And yet there's something very likable and charming about it. Danny Kaye has some hilarious line deliveries as the timid bookworm Edwin - I especially liked the scene in the park, where he calmly converses with his dead brother with seemingly no idea that those around him think he's crazy. (I giggled multiple times during that.) It's hardly a *great* Kaye vehicle like The Court Jester, but very easy to watch and enjoy, once you take it for what it's supposed to be. 3 stars.
Flickchart: #776 out of 1967, below Cinderella and above 17 Again.
Friday, December 13, 2013
IMDb plot summary: This is a lengthy exposition of the social and political history of renaissance Florentine history, told through dramatised conversations between the main participants, particularly Cosimo de Medici and Brunelleschi.
Directed by Roberto Rossellini. Starring Marcello Di Falco, Virgilio Gazzolo, and Adriano Amidei Migliano.
I've started a not-at-all-focused-or-likely-to-get-far quest to watch through the Criterion Collection on Hulu alphabetically, so this was the first one I got. I enjoyed parts of this very much, in kind of an odd way. I am all about movies where people just philosophize about God and art and humanity, and there were big chunks of this that did exactly that. When it got into actual narratives, I was oddly disinterested and just wanted people to talk more about the connection between God and architecture. As a result, it's getting a middle-of-the-road rating from me. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1260 out of 1966, below On the Town and above The Spanish Prisoner.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
IMDb plot summary: When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature's deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorize the waterlogged populace.
Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante. Starring Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, John Heard and Cassie Scerbo.
The husband and I finally managed to catch this on Netflix, and I can definitely say it did not disappoint as far as completely off-the-wall insanity. I was worried it was going to be slow, but there was an abundance of terrible acting and ridiculous action sequences to keep me entertained throughout... and I haven't laughed that hard at a final scene in a movie in a long time. Best. Rescue. Ever. It's obviously not what could ever be called a *good* movie, but if you're looking for something bizarre and ridiculous and super fun to snark, this is a solid choice. 3 stars?
Flickchart: #1281 out of 1965, below The Rescuers Down Under and above The Battle of Algiers.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
(Spoilers ahead.) The only film I can think of which I really *would* suggest viewing it in 3D. The disorienting nature of 3D viewing fits beautifully with the story itself and the visuals, making for a truly immersive experience. (The scene where one astronaut is just spinning and spinning, with no sense of where she is, felt very much like I was there with her, instead of just watching.) Additionally, the story has a solid script and very good acting, building tension beautifully throughout. The final moment when she finally steps foot on Earth again was a perfect moment of release - such a satisfying conclusion. This may seem to be just a straightforward thriller with great visuals, but it's a really, really enjoyable one. 4 stars.
Flickchart: #426 out of 1964, below The Karate Kid (1984) and above Borat.
Friday, October 11, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Emotions are ignited amongst the complacent townsfolk when a handsome drifter arrives in a small Kansas community on the morning of the Labour Day picnic.
Directed by Joshua Logan. Starring William Holden and Kim Novak.
I was in this play in college and didn't know if it would be weird to go back and watch this adaptation after being so close to it for awhile. It was, but not for the reasons I anticipated. It ended up being weird because I had to come to the conclusion that I do not like this play. I hadn't really allowed myself to admit it when I was in it, because I was trying so hard to immerse myself in it, but watching another adaptation years later, I find I dislike all the characters, I'm impatient with the melodrama, and nothing happens that I care about at all. Even quality actors like Rosalind Russell and William Holden don't elevate this story up to something I can enjoy. 1.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1577 out of 1963, below Sweet Revenge and above 27 Dresses.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Charu lives a lonely and idle life in 1870s India. Although her husband Bhupati devotes more time to his newspaper than to their marriage, he sees her loneliness and asks his brother-in-law,Umapada to keep her company. At the same time Bhupati's own brother, Amal, a would-be writer comes home finishing his college education. However, after several months, Charu and Amal's feelings for each other move beyond literary friendship.
Directed by Satyajit Ray. Starring Madhabi Mukherjee, Soumitra Chatterjee, and Shailen Mukherjee.
I feel like this was one of those movies where not being familiar with the culture was a major setback. It dealt with issues of gender, art, and politics, all which can come with very loaded agendas, and not knowing what these things meant to the characters at this time in this movie left me feeling confused. I was never sure what the movie's primary conflict even *was*, and the final few scenes were completely baffling to me in terms of what was being resolved, or left unresolved. I've clearly missed something. I just had such trouble following it, emotionally. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1537 out of 1962, below Annie (1999) and above Color Me Kubrick.
Monday, September 30, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Film told in flashbacks of an older man's obsession for a woman who can belong to no-one but can frustrate everyone.
Directed by Josef von Sternberg. Starring Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill, and Edward Everett Horton.
If I never have to see Marlene Dietrich roll her eyes and sigh dramatically to manipulate someone into doing what she wants, I shall be quite content. I hate everyone in this movie, from the obnoxiously coy and manipulative Dietrich to the men who apparently decided they owned her and could do whatever they wanted with her. I'm sure I was supposed to side with one and support their attempts to undercut the other's ruining their life, but I just hated everyone all round. It's a melodramatic mess of a story with unlikable characters and a long winding plot that doesn't really go anywhere. Not a fan. 1 star.
Flickchart: #1739 out of 1961, below Dumbo and above Band of Outsiders.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Leslie Howard plays Sir Percy Blakeney, an 18th century English aristocrat who leads a double life. He appears to be merely the effete aristocrat, but in reality is part of an underground effort to free French nobles from Robespierre's Reign of Terror.
Directed by Harold Young. Starring Leslie Howard, Merle Oberon, and Raymond Massey.
Ever since I read the book, I have been strangely drawn to the Scarlet Pimpernel story. Whether it's the love story (oh gosh, that story just HOOKS me with the unrequited love angle and that delicious "he's loved me all the time" reveal) or the adventurous, almost swashbuckling actions of the Pimpernel, I find myself truly enjoy every incarnation of it. Leslie Howard here is perfect at playing both the Pimpernel and Sir Percy, jumping easily back and forth between being a competent, resourceful leader and a ridiculous prettyboy. I also really like Merle Oberon as Marguerite in this version - she is clearly conflicted and sad, but she makes smart, strong choices that flesh her out as a real person, far from the swooning dainty woman I expected her to be. In short, this is an excellent movie adaptation, and well worth the watch. 4 stars.
Flickchart: #478 out of 1960, below New York Stories and above You Can't Take It With You.
IMDb plot summary: British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
Directed by Fritz Lang. Starring Walt Pidgeon, Joan Bennett, and George Sanders.
While the premise of this movie is fascinating and the final 20 minutes or so are really captivating, the entire middle section with the romance was thoroughly uninteresting to me. I found the girl alternately bland and irritating, and I got impatient with their relationship. I admire the theme and overall arc of the movie, but the actual execution of it was not my favorite. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1180 out of 1959, below Hustle & Flow and above Lincoln.
Monday, September 23, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski. Starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough.
While this movie looks gorgeous, with some truly incredible visuals, there's not a lot of substance here. It's a lot of tired sci-fi tropes combined in a way that doesn't really hold up once you start thinking through the plot. In addition, it's a very *dark* movie, emotionally, and I found it fairly depressing, without any of the things that makes a depressing movie actually worth the watch. Disappointing. Now I want to wipe it from my mind by watching Vanilla Sky, a much better (and even more visually stunning) psychological sci-fi starring Tom Cruise. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1233 out of 1958, below The Devil Wears Prada and above Marie Antoinette.
Friday, August 30, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A modern retelling of Shakespeare's classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.
Directed by Joss Whedon. Starring Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, and Fran Kranz.
FINALLY. Oh, it had been such a long time since I'd seen a new movie I really liked, and this one hit the spot. The cast here is just perfect. Seeing all these Joss Whedon people felt like seeing old friends, but they also did a spectacular job tackling the language and the motivation. I especially want to mention Fran Kranz, who made Claudio much more likable than in any other version I've seen; Amy Acker, whose speech demanding revenge was chilling and incredible; Nathan Fillion and Tom Lenk, who only had a couple of lines but made me laugh with almost every single one; and, of course, Alexis Denisof, who captured the pompousness and self-absorbedness of Benedick in a way that made his character both likable and laughable.
The movie looks great, sounds great (loved the music!), and made me laugh. Well worth the watch. I can only hope Whedon doesn't get too busy going all blockbuster on us and is willing to tackle more Shakespeare in the future. 4.5 stars.
Flickchart: #276 out of 1957, below Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and above Beginners.
Monday, August 12, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A Princeton admissions officer who is up for a major promotion takes a professional risk after she meets a college-bound alternative school kid who just might be the son she gave up years ago in a secret adoption.
Directed by Paul Weitz. Starring Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, and Nat Wolff.
Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are two actors who I just always find likable. No matter what movie they're in, I root for their characters and hope their lives end well and want them to win. So why did I want so badly to punch them in the face during this movie?
The movie starts off with two fairly unlikable characters to begin with, has them make worse and worse choices, doesn't for one second show them actually acknowledging the badness of those choices, has a brief throwaway line indicating ONE of them MIGHT be changing their ways for a second, and calls that good. There's no character growth, and character growth was desperately needed here. The premise is a fun one - we don't see a lot of stories told from inside the university admissions office - but the characters were thoroughly unlikable from beginning to end. 1 star.
Flickchart: #1677 out of 1956, below Thoroughly Modern Millie and above Thr3e.
IMDb plot summary: Frank Bartlett has been tortured, embarrassed, and humiliated by his brother Bruce -- usually on film -- his entire life. Now that Bruce is finally off drugs and has turned his life around, things should be different. They are not.
Directed by Jordan Roberts. Starring Charlie Hunnam, Chris O'Dowd, and Lizzy Caplan.
First of all, it is crazy weird to see Chris O'Dowd doing an American accent. Secondly, this movie doesn't quite work. It's got an interesting plot, but it all smacks a bit too heavily of "ooh, look at us being quirky" indie drama-ism. None of the characters really have any depth to them, and the resolution is very unsatisfactory. A nice concept, but falls apart because of overly cutesy execution. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #916, below The Fourth Kind and above Casino.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A detective must adopt the dog of a dead man to help him find the murderer.
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Starring Tom Hanks and Mare Winningham.
Tom Hanks really does make a very likable leading man, and he is what makes this movie worth watching. I am far from an animal lover and am bored by animal films at best and annoyed by them at worst, so I was largely unamused by the dog's antics. What worked was Tom Hanks' response to all of it. He made it watchable, and if I didn't dislike animal movies so much, I feel like I might have even enjoyed it. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1563 out of 1954, below The Money Pit and above Nell.
IMDb plot summary: After helping a cat, a young girl finds herself involuntarily engaged to a cat prince in a magical world where her only hope of freedom lies with a dapper cat statuette come to life.
Directed by Hiroyuki Morita. Starring Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, and Tim Curry in the American dub.
This Studio Ghibli film is an extremely short one, but it is ever so charming and likeable. I actually really like how short it was - it meant the pace could stay brisk without feeling too frenetic. The characters are fun, the plot silly but entertaining, and while it doesn't attain the same emotional depth as other Ghibli efforts like My Neighbor Totoro or Spirited Away, it's really a delightful movie. 4 stars.
Flickchart: #484 out of 1953, below The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and above Argo.
IMDb plot summary: Mild-mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Miami to confront the deceptively harmless-looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy's identity.
Directed by Seth Gordon. Starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy.
My husband and I rented this knowing it would probably not be good, but I love Jason Bateman so much I hoped it would make up for it. "And besides," I said, "if it sucks we can just make fun of it the whole way."
Well, turns out it was so miserably bad we couldn't even do that. I had been looking at credits like Jason Bateman and Seth Gordon (who directed Horrible Bosses, one of my favorite comedies of 2011) when I SHOULD have been paying attention to the screenwriter. Craig Mazin was involved with writing Scary Movie 3 and 4, The Hangover 2 and 3, and RocketMan, the only movie I have EVER found so awful that I refused to finish it. This isn't quite that bad, I think I genuinely smiled once or twice, but the jokes are terrible, Jason Bateman is woefully underused, the dramatic tension makes no sense, and the plot is ludicrous. Not worth it at all. Half a star.
Flickchart: #1865 out of 1952, below The Ultimate Gift and above Bean.
IMDb plot summary: At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents.
Directed by Dustin Hoffman. Starring Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins.
Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut is a lovely, satisfying movie. It may not cover new ground or do anything really unique or original, but the cast is lovable, the music aspect is fun, and the script is solid. Its gentle warmness is sweet without being saccharine. It will no doubt invite lots of comparison to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Quartet is sweeter and lighter, but I did like Hotel a bit more for its slightly more realistic tone. 4 stars.
Flickchart: #438 out of 1951, below Inherit the Wind and above Reservoir Dogs.
IMDb plot summary: When a veteran 911 operator takes a life-altering call from a teenage girl who has just been abducted, she realizes that she must confront a killer from her past in order to save the girl's life.
Directed by Brad Anderson. Starring Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin.
(Lots of spoilers ahead.)
This is the fourth movie in a row where I started off enjoying a movie and ended up disappointed. 2/3 of the way through, I was all set to LOVE this movie. I loved the pacing and the set-up and I loved Halle Berry's character and I loved watching all the steps they took to find her. It was gripping and thrilling and tense. Then... oh, man. Then everything went awful.
Halle Berry sets off on her own to find the killer, magically does so, it turns out he's a psycho serial killer who, of course, does weird creepy stuff with his victims because of his incestuous relationship with his dead sister. Every serial killer cliche in the book is pulled out, every terrible thriller exploitation trick is thrown at us, and the ending is completely and thoroughly unsatisfying.
What could have been a smart and intelligent thriller *completely* wasted its final act. Kudos to Michael Eklund for his portrayal of the bad guy, and kudos to the opening 2/3 for not feeling like we had to have all the answers (and they didn't have to be sensational) to create a tense story. If that philosophy and that brilliant natural tension had continued through to the end, I could easily have given this 4 1/2 stars. As it is, it gets a disappointed 3.
How it entered my Flickchart:
The Call > Destry Rides Again
The Call < Seven Up!
The Call > The Devil's Backbone
The Call > The Red Shoes
The Call < The Tree of Life
The Call < Lo
The Call < Pushing Tin
The Call < Once Upon a Mattress
The Call < The Kite Runner
The Call > The Majestic
The Call < Hot Fuzz
Final spot: #607 out of 1950, below Hot Fuzz and above The Majestic.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A young woman's world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Channing Tatum.
(Major plot twisting spoilers ahead.)
Well, this movie was just all over the place. I was intrigued by the first half of it or so. I felt like it perfectly captured the despair and the emptiness of depression, and I was fascinated by the heroine's story. Then everything went downhill. As soon as Jude Law began finding uncovering the truth (and he turned out to be right), I found myself rolling my eyes at every dramatic reveal. What was a fascinating psychological study of a woman and her possibly incompetent physician turned into a bizarre, sleazy, needlessly complicated cat-and-mouse who-will-win who-can-manipulate-more thriller. It lost its subtlety and its depth, and it lost my interest. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1246 out of 1949, below Django Unchained and above On the Town.
Monday, July 29, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A snobbish investor and a wily street con artist find their positions reversed as part of a bet by two callous millionaires.
Directed by John Landis. Starring Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, and Jamie Lee Curtis.
I forget sometimes how truly funny Eddie Murphy used to be. His delivery in this movie is pitch perfect on nearly every line. Dan Aykroyd's character gets less of an opportunity to be funny, for some reason. His breakdowns are too dramatically motivated. What could have been very funny meltdown scenes seemed tragic and awful. Neverthelesss, I found enough to like about this movie until the climactic revenge scene, starting with the bizarre nationality switches on the train. From that point out, the movie doesn't make any sense and isn't nearly funny enough to make up for the fact that it's getting more and more ludicrous by the moment. A much simpler ending would have been greatly appreciated. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1097 out of 1948, below What's Up, Tiger Lily? and above Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
IMDb plot summary (truncated from original): The unscrupulous boss of Bottleneck has Sheriff Keogh killed when he asks one too many questions. The mayor appoints the town drunk as the new sheriff assuming that he'll be easy to control. But what the mayor doesn't know is that he is able to call upon the formidable Tom Destry Jr to be his deputy.
Directed by George Marshall. Starring James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich, and Charles Winninger.
Apparently James Stewart is the only actor I can tolerate in westerns, as I really liked him in both this and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. However, this one was not nearly as interesting. It starts off good, but then takes several bizarre turns before ending on a surprisingly dark note. All the websites I found for this movie listed it as a comedy, so, um... clearly I missed something, because it felt pretty much like straight western drama all the way through. I had high hopes for it in the first half, but then everything kind of... fizzled. The pay off was not nearly interesting or satisfying enough to work. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #975 out of 1947, below Minority Report and above The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009).
Thursday, July 18, 2013
IMDb plot summary: The Civil War divides friends and destroys families, but that's nothing compared to the anarchy in the black-ruled South after the war.
Directed by D.W. Griffith. Starring Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, and Henry B. Walthall.
I can enjoy silent comedies, but when it comes to my dramas, I really have a very difficult time giving a crap about any of it unless it's got either plenty of dialogue or realism-based acting. Silent dramas have neither, and as such, I find Birth of a Nation to be a long, horrifically boring drama about a family of people I care nothing about. Dialogue and acting subtlety are so important to me when it comes to dramatic scenes that I just can't get past this movie having none of either. 0.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1792 out of 1946, below A Man Called Peter and above Pierrot le fou.
Monday, June 17, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Wren's Halloween plans go awry when she's made to babysit her brother, who disappears into a sea of trick-or-treaters. With her best friend and two nerds at her side, she needs to find her brother before her mom finds out he's missing.
Directed by Josh Schwartz. Starring Victoria Justice, Jackson Nicoll, and Chelsea Handler.
(Mild spoiler ahead.)
For a movie about a girl and her brother, her brother is in it very little, which turns out to be great, because he is the least interesting part of the movie (especially when it turns out at the end that the one thing that made him interesting isn't even true). Get rid of the whole "my brother annoys me" plotline and you've got a pretty decent, if typical, teen story about not giving into the pull of popularity. It's hardly a good movie, but it does have a moment or two. I particularly like when the mom breaks down at the party - it has a very truthful ring to it. Totally acceptable for young teens, not worth watching for adults.
As a complete side note, I find it eye-rollingly ridiculous that the characters mock the name "Keevin" when other characters in this movie (including one who was doing the mocking) are named Wren, Roosevelt, and, uh, Fuzzy. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1075 out of 1945, below Biloxi Blues and above The Toy That Saved Christmas.
IMDb plot summary: A look at the annual journey of Emperor penguins as they march -- single file -- to their traditional breeding ground.
Directed by Luc Jacquet. Starring Morgan Freeman.
I understand people really like penguins. I get that. But even with animals as cute as these, I can only watch them for about 10 minutes before I get bored and wish there were some people in this movie. It's well-made, I suppose, so I'll give it a couple stars for that, but I don't have a great grasp on what makes a well-made animal documentary different from a poorly-made one, as they all end up boring me. If you like penguins, you should definitely see it, but I was glad when it was over. 2 stars.
Flickchart: #1827 out of 1944, below Anne B. Real and above Hop. I feel bad rating it this low, but it really did nothing for me.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A young man recounts the way he blackmailed his fellow classmates into contributing to his literary magazine.
Directed by Brian Dannelly. Starring Chris Colfer, Rebel Wilson, and Allison Janney.
Chris Colfer is quite a talented young writer. While I don't think the ending of this movie quite works (it seems a little tacked on rather than thematically uniting the movie), he managed to avoid nearly all of the pitfalls he could have encountered during this film. It doesn't feel too cutesy or quirky, and it nicely blends serious issues with lightheartedness, all done without too much self-awareness or precociousness. Overall, it's well worth the watch, as Chris Colfer and Rebel Wilson's characters are delightful and easy to root for, and Colfer does an incredible job of playing a very likeable hero. I enjoyed this. It's not incredible, but I liked it. 3.5 stars.
Flickchart: #733 out of 1943, below The Devil's Backbone and above Hitchcock.
Friday, June 14, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A race of space vampires arrive in London and infect the populace.
Directed by Tobe Hooper. Starring Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, and Frank Finlay.
All right. I have a fondness for cheesy sci-fi, but let me just come right out and say that THIS MOVIE IS RIDICULOUS. Heh. "Vampires in space" is a silly premise but one that could totally work if done right, and this movie just went crazy with it, with ridiculous plot device after ridiculous plot device, plenty of B-movie-level writing, and bizarre acting that kept making me giggle. I still kind of enjoyed it, but no way could I ever say that it was a good movie at all. Fun, but ludicrous, and it has enough moments that made me go, "Wait, what? Really?" that it gets bumped down just slightly from the 3 stars I was going to rate it. 2.5 stars.
Flickchart: #938 out of 1938, below Meet Joe Black and above Spy Game.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
IMDb plot summary: When her brother decides to ditch for a couple weeks in London, Viola heads over to his elite boarding school, disguises herself as him, and proceeds to fall for one of her soccer teammates. Little does she realize she's not the only one with romantic troubles, as she, as he, gets in the middle of a series of intermingled love affairs.
Directed by Andy Fickman. Starring Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, and Laura Ramsey.
This movie is loosely based on Twelfth Night, my favorite Shakespearean comedy. Though both stories have a pretty far-fetched premise, Twelfth Night is clever and entertaining throughout, while She's the Man is a series of dumb jokes, lame romantic gestures, and flat characters. It has nowhere near the charm or the wit of the original play, and, as always, Amanda Bynes comes very *close* to being funny, but keeps ruining it by overplaying it with an air of, "Yeah, I know this is funny stuff." Doesn't work for me at all, and I'll be happy when it disappears from my mind, forgotten, in a couple weeks. 1 star.
Flickchart: #1764 out of 1937, below Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and above Clash of the Titans (1981).
Friday, June 7, 2013
IMDb plot summary: After R (a highly unusual zombie) saves Julie from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion a sequence of events that might transform the entire lifeless world.
Directed by Jonathan Levine. Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton and Rob Corddry.
(Spoilers ahead, because the ending of this movie was ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS.)
This has the potential to be SO GOOD. The first ten minutes were SO GOOD. Creative, funny, self-aware... looked like we were heading in an awesome direction.
And then began the spiral into stupid.
It started with zombies who had barely been able to manage the word "Hungry" at the beginning of the movie suddenly speaking in sentences. Caveman-esque sentences, sure, but sentences. For no reason. And then groups of zombies that believed in love. For no reason. And then dead hearts that started beating. FOR NO REASON. And then all the zombies are talking in full sentences and have memories. FOR NO REASON.
Oh, and the secret ingredient to their cure? Apparently it was... being accepted and appreciated by humans. Which is horrifically stupid on its own, but even more so because IT DOESN'T MAKE ANY SENSE IN THE PLOT. Nobody was accepted and loved at the beginning. They all just started being cured magically. No acceptable explanations. Nothing that makes sense. It's one of the most frustrating uses of the "Love cures everything!" trope in recent years.
Even that could be accepted if the movie had kept its snarky tone from the first half, but instead the narrator goes almost entirely silent and the movie plays it completely straight. It could have been *hilarious* if the movie parodied the ridiculousness of the trope. But, nope. It was like the first half was written by a smart, snarky adult and the second half was written by a 13-year-old girl who read too much Twilight.
The first 40 minutes of this movie were easily like 4 stars for me, but it went so far downhill so fast that it gets ONE STAR for being the MOST disappointing movie I have seen in a while. grumblegrumblegrumble
Flickchart: #1726 out of 1936, below Meet Me In St. Louis and above Jules et Jim.
IMDb plot summary: A young doctor goes to unconscionable extremes in order to remain in the service of a female patient with a kidney disorder.
Directed by Lance Daly. Starring Orlando Bloom, Riley Keough, Taraji P. Henson, and Rob Morrow.
OK. This could have been a really interesting movie, but it really missed the mark. The casting of Orlando Bloom didn't work at all. I was hoping he'd impress me with acting chops when given the opportunity, but... no. As with all his work, he's just very wooden. He doesn't convey any actual human emotion until a very strange scene near the end where suddenly he overacts like crazy.
The story's a good one, but it's frustratingly executed, because it shows us things entirely from this doctor's perspective but never bothers to actually give us a look inside his head. There's no one to sympathize with, no one to care about. I had great difficulty discerning the motive behind his actions, due to vague writing and Orlando Bloom's non-acting, so whenever he did something awful I found myself yelling at the screen, "WHAT? WHY?"
Given all that, it's just the nail in the coffin that the final 3 minutes or so are complete nonsense, and it ends at the least coherent spot possible. In the end, it's a sloppy and disappointing flick. 1.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1322 out of 1935, below Pulp Fiction and above The Fifth Element.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A thriller involving an ongoing unsolved mystery in Alaska, where one town has seen an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances during the past 40 years and there are accusations of a federal cover up.
Directed by Olatunde Osunsami. Starring Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, and Will Patton.
(Some spoilers ahead.)
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Not nearly as cheesy as I expected, though the middle got pretty hokey. The movie did some of the better "based on a true story" gimmicks I've seen, splicing reenactments with "actual footage" to make it look more believable as an actual story. It did a good job of setting up an atmosphere, and they made a very smart move to never actually show the aliens. Still a pretty straightforward "true story" horror flick, but they did what they wanted to do pretty well. 3 stars.
Flickchart: #909 out of 1934, below Ponyo and above Casino.
Monday, June 3, 2013
IMDb plot summary: Three unemployed actors accept an invitation to a Mexican village to replay their bandit fighter roles, unaware that it is the real thing.
Directed by John Landis. Starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short.
While I highly doubt I'll remember this movie a year from now, it was certainly fun viewing. Some great comedy actors during their best years, an entertainingly ridiculous plot, and enough laughs to make it worth the watch. I really have very little else to say about it - it's an unmemorable but fun enough little comedy. 3 stars.
Flickchart: #705 out of 1933, below Seeking a Friend For the End of the World and above Nanny McPhee.
Friday, May 31, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A police detective is in charge of the investigation of a brutal murder, in which a beautiful and seductive woman could be involved.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone.
Back when I was like 13 and hadn't really seen many movies, I used to get this movie mixed up with Single White Female and Fatal Attraction. But while those two are pretty solid thrillers, this is a dumb, sleazy movie with bizarre acting and ridiculous dialogue. I kept feeling like this was a student film - it had a distinctly amateur feel about it, especially when it came to the writing. Lame story, lame execution, so unless you're watching this for the sex scenes (as I suspect many do), there's not a lot of point to it. 1 star.
Flickchart: #1681 out of 1932, below VeggieTales: Gideon, Tuba Warrior and above The Littlest Rebel.
IMDb plot summary: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.
Directed by Joss Whedon. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston.
I liked almost all the original movies with these characters. I loved Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. I was pretty iffy about both The Incredible Hulk, but that wasn't Ruffalo's Bruce Banner so I'm not sure if that counts or not. But, in the end, I didn't end up liking The Avengers as much as any of those.
The reason for that is simple: It felt like it was telling five or six separate stories.
Part of the reason team superhero movies and comics are fun is that it lets them all work together. It's a group of individuals acting as a team, and the main character is the team rather than any one person. Sure, it may switch the focus to a person here and a person there, but overall, the team itself is the central character.
Not here. I understand that it's an origin story, but 90% of the time, the Avengers weren't even in the same room as each other. We spend most of our time following individual members of the team off doing their own thing, and it's only in the last scene that we get any sense of oneness.
As a result, it's scattered. The big action scenes are split between like five different things that are all happening at once. The movie keeps trying to reestablish different things as the central storyline, but in the end, it's just five, possibly six different superhero movies that kind of sort of connect and then mush into one movie at the end. Fairly satisfying ending, and none of these five or six stories are *bad* ones, but because of its scatteredness, I just can't love it. Disappointing, because I really hoped I would. 3 stars.
Flickchart: #872 out of 1931, below Gypsy and above Videodrome.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
IMDb plot summary: An outcast donkey in Roman era Judea with overlong ears finds his destiny on the way to Bethlehem.
Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. Starring Roger Miller and Brenda Vaccaro.
This is the conversation my fiance and I had at the end of the movie:
Me: So this is pretty much exactly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Him: But with more awful death.
Me: And completely unexplained resolution.
It's rather weird how *wrong* this whole movie is. Its story itself isn't bad - a donkey with freakishly long ears turns out to be the one chosen to carry Mary and the as-yet-unborn baby Jesus to Bethlehem - but everything about the execution was just wrong. Nestor's story is far more awful and cruel at the beginning than fits in a children's movie (for example, his mother freezes to death while lying on top of him to keep him warm), and then it gets ridiculously cheerful for no reason. A cherub shows up, they go skipping through ponds for awhile, he carries baby Jesus with the help of his magically long ears, and then he returns to the stable he came from and... everybody is celebrating him now. Even though they would have no way of knowing that he had done anything special. At all. It's all very weird and very false and certainly not one of the better Rankin & Bass Christmas specials. 1.5 stars.
Flickchart: #1626 out of 1930, below New in Town and above My Friend Irma.
IMDb plot summary: Mrs. Claus tells us about the time Santa had a bad cold and decided to take a vacation from Christmas.
Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. Starring Shirley Booth and Mickey Rooney.
This is cute and charming enough, and I suspect if I had grown up watching it I'd love it a bit more. The Snow Miser and Heat Miser characters are great fun, Santa is likable (if a bit emo), and even if it gets a bit heavy-handed with the "YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SANTA FOR CHRISTMAS TO WORK" message (gosh, I hate that one) it's pretty fun. 3 stars.
Flickchart: #889 out of 1929, below Remember the Titans and above How to Rob a Bank.
IMDb plot summary: As Johnny Blaze hides out in Eastern Europe, he is called upon to stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.
Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. Starring Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido, and Ciaran Hinds.
This whole movie is pretty ridiculous. Nicolas Cage is so over-the-top it is impossible not to laugh at him, and the scenes where he is the Ghost Rider are some of the least ominous, least suspenseful moments I've ever seen in an action movie. Thank goodness I watched it with Jacob and was able to make fun of it the whole way through, because I would not have enjoyed it at all otherwise. Granted, I haven't seen the first one, but this doesn't strike me as a series where much continuity is really needed. 1 star.
Flickchart: #1792 out of 1928, below Angels in the Outfield and above Mr. Baseball.
Monday, May 20, 2013
IMDb plot summary: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
This is a worthy addition to the Star Trek movie series. It's fun, light-hearted, has plenty of nods to the original series (both movies and TV) and, best of all, my very favorite actor Benedict Cumberbatch is the villain. It's always hard for me to see the Star Trek movies as a movie series and not just long episodes of a TV show, so it's not going to stick with me for a terribly long time, but it was definitely a fun viewing. 3.5 stars.
Flickchart: #724 out of 1927, below 12 Angry Men (1997) and above Lolita (1997).
Thursday, May 16, 2013
IMDb plot summary: An unsuspecting, disenchanted man finds himself working as a spy in the dangerous, high-stakes world of corporate espionage. Quickly getting way over-his-head, he teams up with a mysterious femme fatale.
Directed by Vincenzo Natali. Starring Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu, Nigel Bennett and Timothy Webber.
Oh, this movie was so ridiculous, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think part of that was due to the fact that Jeremy Northam is very likable in it. I was rooting for him the whole way through. The plot gets very silly very quickly, but I can overlook silly in sci fi a lot more easily than I can anything else. If you have a fondness for goofy conspiracy theory sci fi, you'll probably enjoy this too. 3.5 stars.
Flickchart: #847 out of 1926, below Cry-Baby and above Dark City.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
IMDb plot summary: A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?
Directed by Dan Coscarelli. Starring Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, and Paul Giamatti.
I'm not entirely sure what I just watched.
I really, REALLY loved the first half of it. A lot. Its quirky humor brought to mind Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (which I also loved). But then, as the story went on, it got less and less funny and more and more confusing. And it wasn't unfunny BECAUSE it was confusing - I was all prepared for that. The jokes just stopped happening. The quirkiness faded away. And now it was suddenly taking itself weirdly seriously, and it just wasn't funny anymore.
It felt like the writers ran out of ideas halfway through, tossed in a bizarre half-hearted way to wrap it up, didn't both writing any jokes for the second half, and then said, "I guess we're done." I really want to read the book now and see if that gives me the same feel.
This could very possibly be a movie that would grow on me. Like I said, I LOVED the first half of it. If the second half had been as good as the first, I'd have easily given the movie 4 1/2 stars. Unfortunately, though, it ended up being quite a disappointment. 3 stars.
Flickchart: #745 out of 1925, below To Rome With Love and above The Other Boleyn Girl.
Monday, May 13, 2013
IMDb plot summary: After Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at an ominous boy's orphanage he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Fernando Tielve, Íñigo Garcés, Federico Luppi, and Eduardo Noriega.
(A mild spoiler ahead in this review.)
If you loved Pan's Labyrinth but haven't seen this, you're missing out. It's got very much the same feel - the combination of gritty, dark realism and fantasy horror is fascinating. It ends up being a very real ghost story that has one of the most horrifying villains I've seen on film in awhile - and it's not the ghost. A really satisfying watch, and one that I'd highly recommend. 4 stars.
Flickchart: #730 out of 1924, below Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and above Hitchcock.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
IMDb plot summary: An executive of a shoe company becomes a victim of extortion when his chauffeur's son is kidnapped and held for ransom.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa. Starring Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, and Kyôko Kagawa.
A very mellow crime thriller by today's standards, but an engrossing one. The story moves along at what feels like a realistic pace. I thought it was fascinating that the most gripping scene (for me, anyway) was a scene where everyone working in this case just simply reports on what they've found. I felt like I was truly following the ins and outs of what it was like to work on this case. Along with the mystery/crime/thriller aspect, it's also a very human story, especially the opening and closing scenes. I didn't *love* it, but I was impressed by it and would certainly recommend it. 3.5 stars.
Flickchart: #690 out of 1923, below The Secret of Santa Vittoria and above Au Revoir Les Enfants.