Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The World's End (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

The Internship (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.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

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

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

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

Gattaca (1997)

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

The Right Stuff (1983)

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

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

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

Stalag 17 (1953)

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

In Cold Blood (1967)

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

Wonder Man (1945)

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

The Age of the Medici (1972)

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.