Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Turner & Hooch (1989)

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.

The Cat Returns (2002)

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.

Identity Thief (2013)

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.

Quartet (2012)

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.

The Call (2013)

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

Side Effects (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

Trading Places (1983)

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.

Destry Rides Again (1939)

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

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

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.