Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Devil Inside (2012)

IMDb plot summary: In Italy, a woman becomes involved in a series of unauthorized exorcisms during her mission to discover what happened to her mother, who allegedly murdered three people during her own exorcism.
Directed by William Brent Bell. Starring Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman, and Evan Helmuth.

The movie starts off well and ends well, but the whole middle is a mess. It jumps from topic to topic to topic, never really tying anything together (except for the fact that demonic possession is apparently contagious). What exactly is the main premise of this movie? Most of the time I thought it was about a girl exploring her mother's possible demonic possession, but then that gets abandoned an hour in and we never return to it. It's just sloppy movie. Too bad it was so muddled, because it had a fantastically atmospheric beginning and a fantastically creepy ending. 1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1290 out of 1898, below The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and above I'm Not Rappaport.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chasing Amy (1997)

IMDb plot summary: Holden and Banky are comic book artists. Everything's going good for them until they meet Alyssa, also a comic book artist. Holden falls for her, but his hopes are crushed when he finds out she's a lesbian.
Directed by Kevin Smith. Starring Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and Joey Lauren Adams.

The only other Kevin Smith movie I've seen was Mallrats, which I hated. And I mean HATED. It's the very lowest-ranked movie on my Flickchart, below awful flicks like The Pacifier and The Santa Clause 3 and even the Star Wars Holiday Special.

So I was a little surprised that I didn't mind this one.

Now, it wasn't all smooth. The movie meanders from topic to topic, and I loathe Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob) with every fiber of my being. But he's only in the movie for about 5 minutes, and the rest of the time it focuses on mostly-decent human beings dealing with things in a confused, but trying-to-be-a-grown-up-about-it kind of way. I found Ben Affleck to be a much more interesting character here than he usually is, and the scene where he confesses his love for Alyssa is great - very moving. It's not a great movie, but it's pretty okay, and that was more than I was expecting.

Flickchart: #923 out of 1897, below Punch-Drunk Love and above Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Monday, March 25, 2013

One For the Money (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Unemployed and newly-divorced Stephanie Plum lands a job at her cousin's bail-bond business, where her first assignment puts her on the trail of a wanted local cop from her romantic past.
Directed by Julie Anne Robinson. Starring Katherine Heigl, Jason O'Mara, Daniel Sunjata and John Leguizamo.


I will admit that my dislike for Katherine Heigl made this movie much less entertaining to watch than it could have been, but I also just didn't like it very much. It was trying to be a fun action comedy romance, but instead of blending those genres together, it just kind of awkwardly jumped between them all to the point where I couldn't tell *what* it was trying to do. None of the characters were particularly memorable or interesting, the plot was thin, the "twist" was something I saw coming a mile away... overall, a completely forgettable movie. And I mean forgettable while in the middle of watching it. 1 star.

Flickchart: #1651 out of 1895, below 101 Dalmatians (1996) and above Open Season.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Mask (1994)

IMDb plot summary: Bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss is transformed into a manic super-hero when he wears a mysterious mask.
Directed by Chuck Russell. Starring Jim Carrey, Cameron Diaz, Peter Greene and Peter Riegert.

My sister was sitting in the room with me while I watched this movie. She can attest to the fact that I found it infuriatingly bad. (I kept screaming, "WHAT? WHY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA?")

The thing is, it didn't *have* to be a bad movie. There are so many directions you could go with the premise. Apparently it was based on a series of comics where whoever put the mask on became a psychopathic version of themselves, and the stories were dark horror. That could work. Or it could be a superhero-esque story, with a special talisman that has bizarre side effects. That could work. Or it could be more overtly comedy, a tribute to classic cartoons with - and here's the important part - APPROPRIATE RESPONSES FROM THE SIDE CHARACTERS.

Here's the thing. You can't say "this is a cartoon character in the real world" and then try to create a quasirealistic group of underground thugs. Those aren't the kind of villains that show up in cartoons. If you *do* decide, no, you absolutely HAVE to have modern gritty action thriller villains in the middle of your cartoon, and they're going to be dark and scary and genuinely hurt people, then you have to have them respond appropriately to the fact that THEY JUST SAW A GUY SPIN GLEEFULLY THROUGH A WALL LIKE THE TASMANIAN DEVIL.

You can't have it both ways. You have to either make your other characters cartoony enough that they fit a cartoon world, or confused by magic enough that they fit the real world. Putting them both together makes the most frustrating movie of all time. I couldn't enjoy the cartoon homage because apparently NOBODY BUT JIM CARREY WAS IN A CARTOON. Everybody else was doing a straightforward crime thriller. Not a very interesting one, but certainly something that's full of characters that should react with surprise when THEY SHOOT AT SOMEONE WHO INSTANTLY TRANSFORMS INTO A MATADOR.

The experience of watching this was so annoying that I can't even remember anything positive about it. I just kept screaming at the TV. This is not a movie I care to ever think about again. 0.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1843 out of 1894, below Cinderella II and above The Christmas Shoes.

There's Something About Mary (1998)

IMDb plot summary: A man gets a chance to meet up with his dream girl from high school, even though his date with her back then was a complete disaster.
Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Starring Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller,and Matt Dillon.

Aside from Ben Stiller being a very likable lead, there's not really much to enjoy about this movie for me. It's not even the gross-out comedy here, which most people would object to. It's how ridiculously over-the-top it all is. As an example: every single scene with the dog. Every single joke they made about the dog, whether it was sedated and accidentally set on fire or hyped up and attacking visitors, was so drawn out and ridiculous that it just made me roll my eyes and think, "Really?" And that's pretty much how most of the movie made me feel. There were one or two good moments, and I appreciated the heart behind the movie, but the Farrelly brothers and I are on pretty different pages when it comes to comedy, it seems. 1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1269 out of 1893, below Get Smart and above Eagle Eye.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Smashed (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.
Directed by James Ponsoldt. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer and Nick Offerman.

Reminiscent of the excellent Days of Wine and Roses, this is a tragic story about an alcoholic couple whose marriage dissolves after one of them decides to go sober. The writing is pretty solid, but it's the acting here that really makes the difference, specifically Mary Elizabeth Winstead's. Her performance is incredible. This is an excellent little drama that's well worth seeing. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #478 out of 1892, below Philadelphia and above The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

Top Gun (1986)

IMDb plot summary: As students at the Navy's elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young flyer learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom.
Directed by Tony Scott. Starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, and Val Kilmer.

Well, I am very much not the target audience for this movie. I feel like this is the plane equivalent of The Fast and the Furious. Lots of flying and pretty thin plot. The flying looks cool sometimes, but it's not enough to keep me interested. Tom Cruise doesn't really do much but smile and look smug, playing a character I do not particularly like. Definitely not something I'd ever bother to watch again. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1408 out of 1891, below The Omen and above Mulan.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Quick blog note: Sorry for the many posts today and yesterday. I neglected this blog all throughout February and March, and I wanted to get my most recent reviews available on here. Everything should be up to speed now. On to your regularly scheduled movie blog.

IMDb plot summary: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 in May 2011.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Starring Jessica Chastain. And some other people, but pretty much just her.

Jessica Chastain was the most interesting part of this movie. Had she not infused the story with the energy and the passion she did, I suspect I would have been really bored. As it was, I felt connected because her character was connected... until the end, when for some reason all the emotional connection was completely severed. The scene raiding the mansion, the identifying of bin Laden's body, the aftermath... it all felt very cold to me. I'm not sure if this is me personally distancing myself from the event or what.

As a result, I'm not sure exactly what to think of this movie. It's fine, I guess. Well-crafted and well-acted. Maybe the real event is just something that's too recent in my personal history for me to get into a story retelling of it. I don't know. Maybe I should revisit this again in like 10 years. 3 stars.

Flickchart: #928 out of 1890, below Con Air and above The Crazies.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Argo (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.
Directed by Ben Affleck. Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman.

This is a really solid movie. I wouldn't have chosen it for Best Picture over some of the other ones I've seen from the past year, but nor am I upset by its nomination and win. It's a fun, fascinating thriller. Ben Affleck is a much more interesting director than he ever was an actor, although his acting isn't bad in this flick either. Definitely worth a watch. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #440 out of 1889, below And Now For Something Completely Different and above The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rust and Bone (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Put in charge of his young son, Alain leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Alain's bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.
Directed by Jacques Audiard. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts and Marion Cotillard.

I'm never sure how to rate or review movies like this. There's nothing really wrong with this movie, and it has one or two very good scenes, but overall it just never captured me. I kept waiting for something to happen that I could care about. It's hard for me to analyze why this is the case since I'm not even sure where the disconnect happens (though I'm much more likely to chalk it up to fault on my end than a the filmmaker's). It was fine. It was uninteresting to me. I'm going to forget it very soon. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1186 out of 1888, below Hello, Dolly! and above Chocolat.

A Few Good Men (1992)

IMDb plot summary: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.
Directed by Rob Reiner. Starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore.

This is one high-quality movie. The writing is great, the directing is great, the acting is great, the music is great. It may not have touched any deep emotional reserves inside of me, but it was a very solid movie and a very exciting courtroom drama. Sorkin's dialogue is at its best here, and I'm delighted that he adapted it himself for the screen. I enjoyed this one quite a lot. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #506 out of 1887, below Down With Love and above Say Anything...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
Directed by Rich Moore. Starring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and Alan Tudyk.

Oh, this was fine. The concept is creative, the animation looks great, the nods to all the different video games were fun and not annoying. The main problem with this movie is that it took me until the very end to give a crap about any of the characters. For most of the movie, I was impatient for it to be over. I found Ralph boring and Vanellope annoying at best and none of their jokes were terribly funny. I really just wanted the movie to follow Felix and Calhoun around the entire time - now THEY were interesting.

The story does end well. The twist is good, the fight scene is good, and by the very, very end, it is kind of touching how everything works out. The movie just shouldn't have taken me an hour and 15 minutes out of an hour and a half to get to that point. 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #833 out of 1886, below Josh and the Big Wall and above The Core.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, and Jake Johnson.

Major spoilers ahead, as my main complaint was the ending.

This is one of those that I can almost guarantee will slide its way significantly down my Flickchart over time, because I'm going to forget Mark Duplass' weird charm and Aubrey Plaza's entertaining character which made it worth watching, and I'll be left with just the dissatisfaction I felt with the rest of it. The romance didn't really work at all - the two characters were great individually, but I never like they worked *together*. The sideplots with other characters were bland and unnecessary.

My main beef, however: the ending wasn't satisfying at all. It's ambiguous, but not the sort of ambiguous that says, "Oh, either it's a slightly happier or slightly sadder ending." Depending on what happened there at the end, the movie *drastically* changes genre. It's either a charming sci-fi romance... or it's a completely tragic story about someone who decided to follow a maniac she was temporarily obsessed with and then they both disintegrated and died. The movie tries to aim us toward the first ending, but without any real answers (including answers like "what the heck was going on with his girlfriend?"), there's still the nagging sense that it could be a completely horrific story and I'm never going to be really sure. That bad taste in my mouth is, I suspect, the taste that will remain six months from now. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #805 out of 1885, below No Highway in the Sky and above Batman.

Flight (2012)

IMDb plot summary: An airline pilot saves almost all his passengers on his malfunctioning airliner which eventually crashed, but an investigation into the accident reveals something troubling.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, and Don Cheadle.

When this movie first came out, I didn't pay much attention to it, as it looked like another generic action flick by Denzel. Boy, was I wrong. I'm so glad I picked this up. It's an incredible drama with some of the best acting Denzel's done in a long time (he certainly deserved his Oscar nomination). After the climactic moment, the ending is a little too cheesy and obvious for me, but everything right up until that moment is really, really excellent. Extremely compelling. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #428 out of 1884, below Big and above Date Night.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Liberal Arts (2012)

IMDb plot summary: When 30-something Jesse returns to his alma mater for a professor's retirement party, he falls for Zibby, a college student, and is faced with a powerful attraction that springs up between them.
Directed by Josh Radnor. Starring Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen and Richard Jenkins.

I mildly enjoyed Josh Radnor's debut, Happythankyoumoreplease, but this movies is more cohesive, more focused, and has less obviously "quirky indie" dialogue, with the exception of Zac Efron's weird cameo character. (I enjoyed it, I just thought it didn't fit in at all with the rest of the movie.) It's a satisfying ride, although I don't think I'm going to remember much about it in 6 months. I hope Josh Radnor continues to write and direct, because if his next effort is to this as this is to Happythankyoumoreplease, he could end up with something I really, really love. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #676 out of 1883, below Charlie St. Clou dand above The Man Who Wasn't There.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

IMDb plot summary: As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
Directed by Lorene Scafaria. Starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley.

Oh, man, I am so torn on this movie. I was always THIS close to loving it, but I just can't get past Keira Knightley. The girl rubs me the wrong way in just about everything she's in. Put any other actress in this movie and I would have completely loved it, but every scene she was in just made me annoyed with her... except for that very final scene, where my adoring love for Steve Carell's character and horrific end-of-the-world moments finally won out. 4.5 stars for everything but Keira Knightley, but since she's in the movie a whole lot, it brings it down like a star and a half. Sigh. So close. 3 stars.

Flickchart: #683 out of 1882, below Nine Lives and above Nanny McPhee.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Sessions (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity contacts a professional sex surrogate with the help of his therapist and priest.
Directed by Ben Lewin. Starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

This movie took me completely by surprise. I picked it up casually at Redbox along with three other movies I really *wanted* to see, and found a fascinating and moving story about a likable character working toward a goal he never thought he could achieve.

What I liked about this movie was how neatly it avoided all the pitfalls that could have made me hate it. It's not an American Pie-style sex comedy, with ridiculous scenarios and awkward, bawdy innuendos, nor does it dissolve into mushy sentimental nonsense. It's a straightforward drama exploring these issues seriously and tastefully, and that ended up creating a gorgeous story. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #401 out of 1881, below Solaris and above To Catch a Thief.

The Master (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future - until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Amy Adams.

This movie is not about cults or about scientology or about religion. It's about two characters making an odd connection with each other and how that connection informs who they are and what they do. The acting here is incredible, with Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman turning in amazing performances - and Amy Adams does a great job too. This is an emotionally cold movie, much as I felt Anderson's There Will Be Blood was, except here I could understand the characters and was intrigued by what happened to them, even if I didn't connect with them. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #686 out of 1880, below Bully and above Interview With the Vampire.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Singles (1992)

IMDb plot summary: A group of twenty-something friends, most of whom live in the same apartment complex, search for love and success in grunge-era Seattle.
Directed by Cameron Crowe. Starring Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Sheila Kelley, Jim True-Frost and Matt Dillon.

This ensemble rom com has a bit more depth than a lot of others in the same genre, but it's also not as *fun*. I didn't really care about most of the couples, even when I thought the themes were interesting. It was fine, but I'm not going to remember it a year from now. 2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1033 out of 1879, below Is It College Yet? and above Dogtooth.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Red River (1948)

IMDb plot summary: Dunson is driving his cattle to Red River when his adopted son, Matthew, turns against him.
Directed by Howard Hawks and Arthur Rosson. Starring John Wayne and Montgomery Clift.

Spoilers ahead.

Well, this movie thoroughly confused me. The first half hour I was just struggling to get into it as a western (probably my least favorite movie genre). Then, halfway through, the movie took an interesting turn when the characters split up... and then proceeded to follow the least interesting character. Then, at the end, it comes down to a showdown between the two, and we get an extremely, extremely abrupt ending. It felt inconsistent at best and thoroughly ridiculous at worst.

One thing I will say about it, though. It had a few moments throughout where I was struck for the first time by John Wayne's acting. Usually I find him extremely one-dimensional, but he had a few moments here and there where I thought, "That was an excellent way to portray that." If only the script hadn't been 3/4 boring and 1/4 confusing. 1 star.

Flickchart: #1480 out of 1878, below On the Town and above Dracula.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Black Narcissus (1947)

IMDb plot summary: After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension - both with the natives and also within their own group - as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Starring Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, and Kathleen Byron.

Spoilers ahead.

Well, that was nothing like I was expecting. The opening makes it look like one of those cheerful inspirational nun movies like Come to the Stable or The Bells of St. Mary's, and then things just got darker and darker until they went completely off the deep end. Though I do think it got somewhat overly melodramatic at times, overall I really enjoyed watching the progression. It ended up being almost horror-esque in tone, but not necessarily in content, which was an interesting combination. Definitely an interesting watch. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #708 out of 1876, below Sister Act and above The Dark Knight.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

White Heat (1949)

IMDb plot summary: A psychopathic criminal with a mother complex makes a daring break from prison and leads his old gang in a chemical plant payroll heist. Shortly after the plan takes place, events take a crazy turn.
Directed by Raoul Walsh. Starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo and Edmond O'Brien.

One of the most consistently engaging crime movies I have maybe ever seen. Not a lot of complicated crime syndicate politics, just an interesting story. James Cagney plays a chilling bad guy, with his calm approach to violence. The final scene is fantastic, leading to one of the most notable quotes in film history (according to the AFI, anyway). Fascinating to watch. I really liked it. 4 stars.

Flickchart: #512 out of 1875, below Mary and Max and above Notes on a Scandal.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Key Largo (1948)

IMDb plot summary: A man visits his old friend's hotel and finds a gangster running things. As a hurricane approaches, the two end up confronting each other.
Directed by John Huston. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, and Lauren Bacall.

As a theater nerd, I'm a sucker for stories set mostly in one location. Even though this movie branched out at the end, it still retained the feel of a good one-room drama: interesting characters and interesting dialogue driving the story. Humphrey Bogart's journey to being the hero of the film was a particularly interesting one to watch. I didn't find the ending as satisfying as I had hoped, but it was overall still a good movie and I'm glad I finally saw it. 3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #527 out of 1874, below Hannah and Her Sisters and above Drive.

Children of Paradise (1945)

IMDb summary: This tragic tale centers around the ill-fated love between Baptiste, a theater mime, and Claire Reine, an actress and otherwise woman-about-town who calls herself Garance. 
Directed by Marcel CarnĂ©. Stars Arletty and Jean-Louis Barrault.

Children of Paradise is split into two distinct halves and, sadly, they are not equally good. The first half is fascinating, charming, and original, while the second half devolves into a very traditional story of tragic and lost love that undoes everything good set up by the first half. I found myself strongly disliking my favorite characters more and more as I watched the second act. Extremely disappointing after I enjoyed the first half so much. 2 stars.

Flickchart: #1062 out of 1873, below Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex... and above Three Days of the Condor.