Thursday, February 28, 2013

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)

And here I break my streak of 3.5 star movies over the last 2 days. Sometimes I enjoy Apatow, and sometimes his stuff is just too much and I just can't take it. This one is much closer to the latter. The first 30 minutes or so were raunchy enough that it made me uncomfortable (which doesn't happen often) and even though it got a little better after that, it was never really that *funny*. Steve Carell plays a likable main character and I found myself rooting for him and hating everyone around him, all of which seemed like they were *trying* to make him unhappy and uncomfortable. There are some good moments here and there and a satisfying ending to the story, but overall not worth the watch. 1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1117 out of 1872, below A Shot in the Dark and above The Lost Boys.

La jetée (1962)

I didn't remember the connection to 12 Monkeys until about halfway through this flick, but, truth be told, I think I like this version better, much as I enjoy Terry Gilliam (and Brad Pitt when he's acting crazy). La jetée is short, concise, and I LOVE the use of still photos. I'm usually not a fan of avant garde films or short films, but this one has a clear narrative - always a good thing for me - and its filming style enhances the story rather than obscures it. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #691 out of 1871, below Double Indemnity and above Laura.

Ugetsu (1953)

Spoilers ahead.

This movie is slow to get going, and I got pretty impatient at the beginning, but as it continues, I was drawn into the story and in the end, I found it an extremely haunting story (no pun intended). Watching these two men abandon their women to pursue their own dreams and happiness is tragic and heartwrenching, and their reunions are equally tragic. A very well done movie. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #661 out of 1870, below 21 and above Peggy Sue Got Married.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ninotchka (1939)

I was under the completely wrong impression when I watched this movie. I thought it was a dark drama, probably with a sad ending. That was all easily flipped upside down in the first few minutes, which made me smile several times. Although the movie does get bogged down with overly emotional romantic drama at the end, overall this movie is delightful, cheerfully accepting the most ridiculous aspects of stories about falling in love. Charming. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #636 out of 1869, below Elf and above The Reader.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Giant (1956)

Like most 3-hour movies encompassing several years of someone's life, this sprawls a bit too much for my taste, touching on topics like greed, unrealistic expectations, broken relationships, family pride, chauvinism, before finally being about racism for the last 45 minutes or so. I suppose the thing tying it all together is Rock Hudson's character, who is at the center of nearly all of these themes, but the movie frames Elizabeth Taylor as the one we're supposed to sympathize with, so it wasn't even until the final half hour that I realized Rock Hudson was probably the central character.

The final third of the movie is the most interesting, as it seems the most unified and consistent a narrative, and it's where it finally ties the rest of the movie together. The other thing I enjoyed most about this movie was Elizabeth Taylor's character. She was the rare "feisty female" who had interesting and likeable characteristics beyond just being feisty.

Overall, an okay movie. Nothing to get too excited about, and not nearly good enough for me to feel good about watching three hours of it. 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1300 out of 1868, below The Perfect Score and above Never Been Kissed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Three Colors: Red (1994)

Spoilers ahead.

I haven't seen either of the other two in the Three Colors trilogy, but I'd been told it was safe to watch them all separately, so when this came up in my romance movie challenge, I decided to watch it.

Overall, I enjoyed it a lot. The dynamic between Valentine and the old judge was fascinating, and whenever the movie focused on them, I loved it. However, the side plot with Auguste was completely confusing. He didn't show up enough for me to even remember who he was half the time (I kept trying to remember anything he'd done before) and then I started wondering if he was the judge from the past, as they seemed to have the exact same life history and I couldn't remember if we'd ever seen them together. In the end, I had to use Wikipedia to figure out what was actually going on, and I'm still not sure he was at all necessary except to perhaps hint at a future romance between him and Valentine. Take him out of the equation and I really enjoyed the movie. Add him back in and it gets a little iffier. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #614 out of 1867, below Witness for the Prosecution and above Taxi Driver.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pierrot le Fou (1965)

This is my second Godard film I've seen and it didn't fare any better than the other (Band of Outsiders). The almost-narrative is covered with bizarre scenes and moments that kept making me say, "What does THAT mean?" out loud. People die and I don't know why. People quote things and none of it connects. Small Asian men with guns are suddenly in people's houses reading typewriter printouts and I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON. I can' t make any sense of what's going on, but neither can I let go of the linear narrative and try to construct an emotional response, because every time I tried to do that, it returned to the narrative and pretended that it was a straightforward story again for a little bit. This might have all sorts of important meaning, but I wasn't able to follow this on either a cognitive or instinctive level, and that just made for an infuriating movie viewing experience. 0.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1702 out of 1866, below Dumbo and above Watership Down.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Better Off Dead… (1985)

I can't remember the last time I laughed so many times at a movie, unless it was the similarly 4-and-a-half-star-rated Seven Psychopaths earlier this month. (February is my month for movies, I guess.)

What I loved about this movie is that in some ways, it's a very generic coming-of-age story. I could totally see this same very basic plot being in any of the John Hughes films of the 80s: girl dumps guy, guy determines to win her back through daring feat, guy completes the daring feat but realizes he really loves another girl. It's a really traditional formula, and it could have been just cute and sweet.

Instead, we get this, a bizarre, surreal journey into a world where psychotic paper boys chase down teenagers, mothers cook live octopuses for dinner, and there's an extended animated sequence featuring singing hamburgers. It's hilarious, it's ridiculous, and I loved every single second of it. 4.5 stars.

Flickchart: #228 out of 1865, below Invasion of the Body Snatchers and above The Boys Next Door.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

At first I wasn't terribly impressed with this movie. Then it hit the halfway mark and suddenly the story got very interesting. Sean Penn's character is front and center, but he was just filler for what was, in my opinion, the much more interesting characters: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Judge Reinhold. They both had interesting arcs without being overly dramatic. Leigh's story drove the rest of the movie and Reinhold's closed it out solidly. Not the best high school coming-of-age movie by far, but it had some good moments. 3 stars.

Flickchart: #694 out of 1864, below Holiday Inn and above Must Love Dogs.

From Here to Eternity (1953)

This won Best Picture? Aside from the Frank Sinatra subplot, absolutely nothing in this movie drew me in. I was unimpressed and bored by the romances, and everything seemed very scattered, with too many stories wandering around. I think the final few scenes were probably supposed to tie everything together, but it was too little, too late for me. This was just one of those movies that did nothing for me. Disappointing. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1418 out of 1863, below Four Weddings and a Funeral and above Apocalypto.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In a Lonely Place (1950)

Once more, I am reminded that it's not film noir I don't like... it's film noir about detectives. Focus on another character and tell a noir kind of story, and I am all ears, as I was with this story of a writer who falls in love after being accused of murder. As I watched it, I kept thinking of Spellbound, a movie that in some ways has a very similar theme but takes a very different path through it. This one was far more satisfying, and I found myself completely wrapped up in the story. The ending scene is wonderful - suspenseful and then wraps up the story in a way that is very interesting and poignant. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I suspect that with a few more viewings under my belt in the next couple years, it could end up a favorite. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #414 out of 1862, below Looper and above Rise of the Guardians.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

La strada (1954)

My very first Fellini film and what a terribly, terribly sad one it is. Giulietta Masina is completely heartbreaking... something about those big innocent eyes. While I was ranking this on Flickchart, one of the match-up comments had it paired against Breaking the Waves, and I absolutely see the connection. Both are about women who keep choosing to stay in very psychologically abusive relationships. Although La Strada didn't break me as much as Breaking the Waves did, I still felt very connected to the story. I'm still processing it, and I feel I will be for some time, so I'm sure this review is a little rambly. Let it be said that I really enjoyed La Strada and will have to check out more Fellini after this. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #517 out of 1861, below The Lady Vanishes and above Dark Shadows.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

This is one of those movies where I just don't know how to rate it or what to do with it, really. There's nothing very wrong with it, but I wasn't interested or invested in it at any point along the way. I find epic biopics (even if they are of pretend people) to be meandering and uninteresting, and warcentric biopics even more so. I did enjoy the subplot where he befriended the German soldier, but overall I found myself admiring it but patiently waiting for the end. Disappointing, given that I really enjoyed the other two movies I've seen by these directors (both as part of this romance movie challenge). 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1041 out of 1860 movies, below Davy Crockett and the River Pirates and above The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Definite spoilers ahead. This movie is best if you watch it knowing nothing about it.

I really, really enjoyed this flick. It took all my biggest pet peeves about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope and turned them upside down, creating a thoroughly compelling story. In many ways, it felt like a Woody Allen flick - not quite so much uber intellectual discussion, but the overall message and the blend of fantasy and reality felt very much like his style. I'm not entirely pleased about the ending (I don't think he deserves his dream girl just for doing one single unselfish thing in his life), but I suppose the romance fans have to be appeased a bit, and I liked the rest of it so much I'm willing to mostly let that slide. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #380 out of 1859, below Melancholia and above Super 8.

ParaNorman (2012)

I'm not sure who the target demographic *was* for this movie. It is far, far too dark and scary for me to comfortably recommend to children, and it treads very familiar ground for anyone who watches any horror movies at all. Person with special powers has to stop a curse by appeasing a dead spirit, yadda yadda. No real surprises, except for some really beautiful animated visuals in, of all scenes, the one where the witch is furiously destroying everything around Norman. That is stunning to watch and would have been even more stunning on the big screen. The movie's not bad, it's just a very run-of-the-mill horror movie that happens to be animated (and a little bit preachier than normal). 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1035 out of 1858, below Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and above No Country for Old Men.

Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012)

Although I had a sinking feeling as I watched this movie that I wouldn't remember it in 2 years, I hope that feeling was wrong and I *will* remember it, because I found this to be a very moving and very easy-to-connect-to story of love and romance and friendship and breaking up. The characters are likable and fun, but the movie doesn't shy away from being painful and realistic. Andy Samberg and Rashida Jones haven't done a lot of serious stuff that I've seen, and they both do a great job here. Nicely done. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #683 out of 1857, below National Treasure and above Bolt.

Chungking Express (1994)

While it's certainly my favorite of the three Wong Kar-Wai films I've seen, I still found its plot confusing and had difficulty following what was going on. Switching the narrator halfway through with a narrator with the EXACT SAME BACK STORY left me extremely confused, and I spent most of the second half trying to figure out if this was supposed to be the same guy as the first half, even though they didn't look the same at all.

That annoyance aside, however, there are some very interesting moments in the film and some very relatable characters (I absolutely love the guy in the first half). I didn't dislike the movie as much as I was just confused by it. I'll have to rewatch it someday now that I know how it's set up. 3 stars.

Flickchart: #1161 out of 1856, below Pretty in Pink and above Waltz with Bashir.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bully (2011)

As someone hoping to work in education, this film is chilling. I was homeschooled and so I seldom ran into this kind of treatment when I was in school. I find myself thinking of kids I worked with in the schools I briefly taught classes in and wondering how many of the more awkward or secluded ones went through this kind of treatment. It's a difficult situation because although I am optimistic enough to believe there are answers to the problem, I also believe that bullies will be bullies wherever you go and will find some way to exert their authority and power, and it's difficult to curb that because teachers *can't* be everywhere and see everything. What we can do is try to motivate other children and teenagers to do the right thing, to view bullying as absolutely unacceptable, and to be willing to stand up with someone who is being bullied and fight on their side. It can be a terrifying thing to do, but movies like this film are helpful in showing just how vital it is. I can only hope that films like this and projects like the ones they discussed *are* making students everywhere realize that they can do something to help fight this.

The documentary did exactly what it was supposed to do - make me passionate about and interested in efforts to stop bullying. Well done. Hopefully it will strike that same chord in others as well. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #671 out of 1855, below All That Jazz and above The Magnificent Ambersons.

The Paperboy (2012)

This movie feels like one of those meandering true-life stories (it isn't) - more about characters and an era than about anything to do with actual plot. Unfortunately, while some movies can get away with that, this one can't. The plot gets overly melodramatic and then ends abruptly and awkwardly. What is worth seeing in this movie, however, is some of the acting. Despite an awkward script, Nicole Kidman is amazing as the object of Zac Efron's affections, and John Cusack is unbelievably slimy as the possible killer who is the target of the journalists' story. When they were on screen, they demanded my attention. I wish I could say the same about Zac Efron as our main character. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #939 out of 1854, below Scrooge and above Alfie (2004).

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

A mild spoiler.

I haven't had this much fun watching a movie in a long time. Sam Rockwell in particular is brilliant in his role, the perfect mixture of hilarious and terrifying. Right from the beginning, I knew it was going to be fun, with some wonderfully snappy dialogue that reminded me how very much I loved In Bruges and told me I was in for quite a treat this time too. Every once in awhile it runs the risk of being overly meta, but it always manages to pull back at just the right moment. Very, very funny and very nicely done. 4.5 stars.

Flickchart: #363 out of 1853, below Horrible Bosses and above Bambi.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From Russia With Love (1964)

I'm pretty indifferent to Bond films, but I did find myself enjoying this one more than I enjoyed any of the three I'd seen previously. It was light and fluffy and easy to watch. Am I going to remember it next year? No. Am I going to continue to mix up this title with the titles of Bond films I have not seen and wonder if I have seen this one? I sure am. For the moment, though, it gets an exact-middle rating because it was fun. 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #975 out of 1852, below Air Force One and above A Time to Kill.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

I'm not a huge Wes Anderson fan. This is the fourth movie of his I've seen but only the second one I've enjoyed (the other being The Royal Tenenbaums). I always feel like he's trying to make a deep point but drowns in his own quirkiness trying to get there. In Tenenbaums, I enjoyed the quirkiness enough that I didn't mind that his point never really made it. In Moonrise Kingdom, however, I didn't feel the attempt at preaching come through at all. It was just a charming, enjoyable story about two young runaways and the community surrounding them. I enjoyed it a lot, particularly the relationship dynamic between the two kids. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #471 out of 1841, below Forgiving Dr. Mengele and above The Great Mouse Detective.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Jules and Jim (1962)

My first Truffaut film... and not an experience I enjoyed, I can tell you that. I am all for character-centered dramas, but I have to be connected to the character in some way for that to work. I felt absolutely nothing for these people. I couldn't figure out who they were, I couldn't figure out what they really wanted... so no matter what happened to them, I didn't care. Because of that disinterest, the movie dragged on and on. At one point, I thought, "Surely we've got to be near the end now, I've been watching for like two and a half hours," and I checked the time and I had really only been watching for about 20 minutes. That's something that happens in sitcoms, but it happened to me in real life. This movie was so uninteresting that a cliche became reality. That's got to say something. 1 star.

Flickchart: #1371 out of 1850, between The Perfect Score and Apocalypse Now.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

This movie is rather bizarre, but also rather delightful. The premise is a clever one, and the two heroes, if rather forced into each other's arms, are certainly lovely people. The sequences in the afterlife, especially on the giant staircase, look absolutely gorgeous. If you're looking for something a little bit off the beaten path as far as old romances, this is an excellent choice. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #724 out of 1849, between Topsy-Turvy and Strictly Ballroom.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Barry Lyndon may be the least pleasant character I have ever seen on film that wasn't played by Adam Sandler. The first half of the film is just boring, with Barry wandering around not really doing anything, and then he turns into the most horrible person in the world and ruins everything he touches just because. I was bored the first half and repulsed the second half. The only Kubrick movie I have ever really hated. 0.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1680 out of 1848, between Dumbo and The Lorax.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Laura (1944)

Now here's a detective-based noir that *did* make its way past my bias. I enjoyed it pretty well. I think what I liked most about it is that instead of feeling just gritty and dark, there's a lovely melodramatic flair to it. It has something to do with the idealizing of Laura herself - how she's slightly too good to be true, how everyone she meets falls madly in love with her. It all becomes a sort of pseudo fantasy, making the ending all the more interesting. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #873, below 12 Angry Men (1997) and above 12 Monkeys.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

This is a cute romance almost as much as it is a mystery, and it's completely delightful. The main characters are likable and even when the thriller part of it gets going, there's a strong sense that most of the characters aren't in any real danger. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy figuring the mystery out with them. A much lighter tone than a lot of later Hitchcocks, but thoroughly enjoyable. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #511, below Night of the Living Dead and above Dark Shadows.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

I was all ready to be uninterested in this movie. Yesterday's was a noir that didn't climb its way past my biases, and today was a western. However, this one turned out to be amazing. The story is thoroughly compelling, making me pay close attention the whole way through. The characters are charming and well-written. It framed the story of this western town in a way that really looked at some interesting questions about character, and I loved it. I think this is one of James Stewart's very best roles, and John Wayne doesn't do too bad a job either. This goes onto that rare list of westerns that I enjoyed. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #291, below The Neverending Story and above In the Bedroom.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Out of the Past (1947)

Detective story noir is always a struggle to sit through for me, and this was no exception. I was uninterested in the characters, found the story highly predictable, and just overall not something I'm going to ever want to watch again. One of these days I'd like to get over this bias, but today is clearly not that day. 1 star.

Flickchart: #1631, below A Walk to Remember and above I Am Sam.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Days of Heaven (1978)

I am clearly missing something with Malick, because this is his third movie I've seen and I just don't get him. I'm usually very connected to visual... anything in movies, and for some reason this one is just not connecting with me on any level at all. I was bored stiff by the movie and even now, as I write this review, I'm having trouble remembering exactly what happened in it. Highly disappointing. 1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1254, below Show Boat and above Bewitched.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

I am usually uninterested in silent dramas - I find the early film acting styles to be completely off-putting when trying to create a legitimate dramatic situation - but this one is extremely sweet. It's an unusual love story, in that it starts off as being not really a love story at all, and then becomes a very moving tale of a husband and wife rediscovering their love. Really very, very nice. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #502 out of 1842.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Badlands (1973)

I don't get Terrence Malick's style of visuals at all. I know the world regards him as a "visual poet," but while I am usually very struck by visuals, I am left pretty cold by him, both in this and in Tree of Life. The story itself is fairly interesting, but it's Martin Sheen as Kit that is the best, most fascinating part of the movie. He doesn't play him like your average psychopath. The character is fascinating and I find myself wanting to figure him out just as much as Holly does. His performance is what makes this movie worth a watch. 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #666, below I Heart Huckabees and above An Affair to Remember.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Red Shoes (1948)

This is the first movie in my 28 Days of Romance movie challenge, where through the month of February, I will be watching the top 28 unseen-by-me romance movies on Flickchart. As of this writing, The Red Shoes is at #96 on the global Flickchart rankings.

IMDb plot summary: A young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina.
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Starring Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook and Marius Goring.

The story in this movie is all right, the romance is sweet but pretty forced... the one thing that elevates this film into something lovely is the beautiful dancing. It integrates the dancing into the story marvelously, letting the two influence and validate each other. Take out the extended ballet sequences and there's nothing that special about this movie, but with it, it becomes something very unique and interesting and sad. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #580, below sex, lies, and videotape and above Hard Candy.