Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Wars (2009)

IMDb plot summary: A student tries to fix a problem he accidentally caused in OZ, a digital world, while pretending to be the fiancé of his friend in her grandmother's 90th birthday.
Directed by Mamoru Hosoda. Starring Ry√Ľnosuke Kamiki, Nanami Sakuraba, Mitsuki Tanimura, and Takahiro Yokokawa.

(Major spoilers ahead for the ending of the movie.)

Well, this is certainly not what I expected this movie to be, but I liked it a lot. Like a lot of anime, the characters are a little awkward to connect to sometimes because the reactions are so different from what I would do in real life. ("Granddaughter lies about having a boyfriend" is outrageous and insane, while "We have to play a card game to keep a crazed A.I. from crashing a satellite into a nuclear reactor" is accepted as inevitable news.)

That aside, though, I found this to be an engaging and interesting flick. The score is incredible -- if it's for sale anywhere, I definitely want it. The story is also a very interesting one, with a satisfying conclusion. Pretty fun!

4 stars.

Flickchart: #652 out of 2187, below The Mummy (1932) and above It's Kind of a Funny Story.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Snatch. (2000)

IMDb plot summary: Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond.
Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Jason Statham, Brad Pitt, Dennis Farina, Alan Ford, and Robbie Gee.

I don't quite know what to do with this movie. It's one of those flicks where I can definitely see why people like it. It's smart, it's fun, it's got an interesting plot to follow along with (even if I kept forgetting who characters were if I didn't recognize the actor)... but it just didn't connect with me at all. I'm not sure I can pinpoint anything in particular that didn't work for me, I just... didn't get into it.

I always feel a little frustrated with myself when I have to write about movies like this, because I don't really have useful or helpful observations to offer about it. But then again, that's why I'm not a professional movie critic.

2 stars.

Flickchart: #1520 out of 2186, below Madagascar 3 and above In Cold Blood.

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

IMDb plot summary: A discovery made by a kung fu obsessed American teen sends him on an adventure to China, where he joins up with a band of martial arts warriors in order to free the imprisoned Monkey King.
Directed by Rob Minkoff. Starring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Michael Angarano, and Yifei Liu.

This is moderately entertaining. I'm not a huge fan of martial arts movies, but there were some good fight scene here, likable characters, and a nice straightforward plot. The visuals were also gorgeous -- the scenery surrounding the fight scenes was often really beautiful. I'm not sure this movie is going to stick with me, but it was a fun afternoon watch, and anyone who enjoys fantasy martial arts movies should definitely check this one out.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #908 out of 2185, below City Lights and above V/H/S/2.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple. Their journey takes them through Europe where they find the perfect cover: a traveling circus, which they reinvent - Madagascar style.
Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon. Starring Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

(Spoilers about the overall story arc.)

I watched this without having seen the middle one and having seen the first one a LONG time ago, and so I was a little disoriented at the beginning. While the plot is very straightforward, the movie doesn't spend much time recapping its characters (probably fair, assuming its core audience is families who have seen the first two multiple times) and having to keep track of the MANY characters involved left me a bit lost. Took me 2/3 of the movie to realize the hippo and the giraffe are romantically involved.

That little hiccup aside, I felt really... neutral about this movie. It wasn't annoying like some of DreamWorks' movies have been (Shark Tale UGGGH) but nor did it really strive for anything new or interesting. It invokes the tired trope of "main character lies to people, makes friends with them, and then everybody is all hurt and betrayed when they find out he lied to them," which seems to be one of the most common kids' movie plots, and, frankly, I'm just sick of it.

There are no surprises in this movie whatsoever, the jokes don't really work for me (although, again, I wasn't bothered by them). I will say the circus performance scenes were really visually engaging -- very captivating animation there.

As a whole, though, I feel about this one the same way I did about the first. There's nothing that really hits me about this movie, and I'm sure I'll have forgotten it in a year, just like I forgot the first one.

2 stars.

Flickchart: #1518 out of 2184, below The Hiding Place and above In Cold Blood.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

IMDb plot summary: An oddball journalist and his psychopathic lawyer travel to Las Vegas for a series of psychedelic escapades.
Directed by Terry Gilliam. Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro.

There's a quote about a third of the way through the movie that says: "What was I doing here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was I just roaming around in a drug frenzy of some kind? Or had I really come out here to Las Vegas to work on a story?"

And I'm tempted to just leave the quote there as the entire review, because that's pretty much how I felt about the movie. I've never been much for, like... trippy stoner movies, and I felt like this was always JUST on the verge of having an actual story and an actual point, only to then... not have one. The characters are pretty loathsome and icky, and the trippiness is clearly the *point* of the movie, rather than the means to something else.

I LOVE some of Terry Gilliam's stuff (The Fisher King in particular), but admittedly, the more surreal he gets, the less I like him. I'm glad I finally saw this -- it's been on my "list of shame" for quite awhile -- but I was definitely not a fan.

1 star.

Flickchart: #1784 out of 2183, below Life With Father and above The Waiting Game.

Willow (1988)

IMDb plot summary: A reluctant dwarf must play a critical role in protecting a special baby from an evil queen.
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, Jean Marsh, and Joanne Whalley.

Well, this was silly. But it was kind of enjoyable. It's hard for me to judge fantasy movies, because as a whole I feel like they're depressingly (and weirdly) unimaginative, falling back on the same tropes and mythical creatures over and over again. (If you have an opportunity to make up a world all your own, why wouldn't you take advantage of that more?) And this does have a lot of that. The characters are familiar, the plot is familiar, and while there are one or two new creatures, a lot of them are pretty standard.

That being said, though, the execution is pretty fun. The characters may be stereotypes, but they're fairly likable stereotypes, and there's a tongue-in-cheek meta-awareness to the whole thing that is fun to watch. It's like a romantic comedy that has attractive actors but not an original thought in its entire film. I don't really know what to do with it. So... I didn't hate this, but I didn't love it either. Fans of fantasy movies will probably enjoy it a lot, so I have no problem recommending it.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1156 out of 2182, below Swing Kids and above Cropsey.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Her (2013)

IMDb plot summary: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need.
Directed by Spike Jonze. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, and Rooney Mara.

Right from the opening scene, I knew I was going to fall in love with this movie. It sets up a compelling sci-fi near future, a sympathetic cast of characters, and a quirky but fascinating love story. It's one of those movies that I have a lot of trouble talking about because I liked it so much on a very instinctive level. There were several moments where I found myself tearing up because I connected so deeply to the characters and the things they were struggling with. This is definitely my favorite of the 2013 Best Picture nominees thus far (though I have yet to see Dallas Buyers Club), and I'm glad I finally sat down and watched it.

4.5 stars.

Flickchart: #269 out of 2181, below The Wizard of Oz and above Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

They Live (1988)

IMDb plot summary: A drifter discovers a pair of sunglasses that allow him to wake up to the fact that aliens have taken over the Earth.
Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Roddy Piper, Keith Ddavid, and Meg Foster.

(Spoilers about the ending.)

This movie is a ridiculous amount of fun. It's a cross between mostly-serious sci-fi horror and really cheesy 1980s action flicks. (I described it to one friend as "half Invasion of the Body Snatchers and half Logan's Run.") I was definitely more drawn to the horror scenes -- LOVED the scene where he explores the world after putting the glasses on -- but I also got a kick out of the cheesy fight scenes. I also really enjoyed the ending -- an unexpected tone to end on, but it totally works. I liked this one a lot.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #496 out of 2180, below The Pirates! Band of Misfits and above Goodfellas.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blue Velvet (1986)

IMDB plot summary: The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of criminals who have kidnapped her child.
Directed by David Lynch. Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern.

This is the first David Lynch movie I've seen, and... I don't get it. Now, granted, I knew that was a risk watching Lynch, but it's not because the plot is too symbolic or convoluted. It's actually pretty straightforward. But I just don't quite understand the point of it all.

I went and looked up a bunch of reviews about it afterward to see what I was missing, and I think the most enlightening were Roger Ebert's review (he was NOT a fan) and a few that referred to it as a "neo-noir." The main message of most noir films is usually along the lines of "everyone is corrupt/broken/screwed up," and I feel like that's definitely the central idea here too. Thinking of it as a noir made a lot of sense for me, because I had the same emotional response to this as I do to most of those: "OK. So... that's it?"

Ebert's primary complaint was that the very serious violence/sex scenes were surrounded by campy, cheesy, almost comedic scenes, and he felt that the lighthearted scenes made the serious ones seem like a joke too. The more I think about it, the more I think that was part of my problem as well. I did think that the most interesting and compelling scenes *were* the most disturbing ones, but putting it within the framework of "there's a mystery to be solved!", especially by a college-aged kid, really cut down on my emotional reaction to the darker aspects and made them seem a bit cheap.

This is a complicated film, and as you can tell, I'm still muddling through my thoughts on it. There were a few very striking moments, but overall I'm left with a feeling of "I don't get it. What's the big deal?"

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1190 out of 2179, below Runaway Bride and above Lilo & Stitch, which would be two of the weirdest movies ever to watch alongside this one.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

IMDb plot summary: An adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's story, where Max, a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world - a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures who crown Max as their ruler.
Directed by Spike Jonze. Starring Max Records, James Gandolfini, Paul Dano, and Lauren Ambrose.

(Spoilers about the ending.)

Let me start off by saying that I have never read the book, so I have no prior opinions coming into this movie. All right. Now on to the review.

I like what this movie is *trying* to do. It has some very emotionally powerful moments and tackles some huge questions. It's definitely not a children's movie -- it is extremely existentially depressing all the way through. I found Max an instantly likable and relatable character, and I really rooted for him all the way through.

That being said... the movie never quite resolves. At least not in a satisfactory way. When the movie has spent a substantial amount of time discussing the terrifying discovery that someday the world will end, that is NOT solved by calmly saying, "Well, it's about time for me to go home to my mom now." I felt cheated by the ending after all that intriguing and interesting setup, and then ended just feeling depressed and dead inside. That is slight hyperbole, but it really did make me very sad and then refuse to give me a hopeful ending. Too bad, because I really did like where it was going.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1044 out of 2178, below Cypher and above Videodrome.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mannequin (1987)

IMDb plot summary: A young artist, searching for his vocation, makes a mannequin so perfect he falls in love with it. Finding the mannequin in a store window, he gets a job there and his creation comes to life.
Directed by Michael Gottlieb. Starring Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, Estelle Getty, and James Spader.

Well, this movie is just... weird. It's got a ridiculous premise to begin with, but they never really explain how it works (though they do throw in an opening back story scene that does absolutely nothing to explain what happens later). Add a lot of campy overacting by everyone involved, and you have a very, very strange movie. I did really enjoy James Spader as the almost cartoony villain, but the rest of it just didn't work for me at all. I couldn't even quite get into it as a camp parody, though Spader certainly helped. Oh, as did that random dance montage where they change costumes every 30 seconds. But I couldn't quite find the tone, so it didn't work for me.

1 star.

Flickchart: #1648 out of 2177, below Blow and above The Omen (1976).

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Cutting Edge (1992)

IMDb plot summary: The movie follows Kate, a tempermental but talented figure skater, through many partners until finally her coach resorts to recruiting a hockey player. Through the difficult training of 15 hours of skating a day they finally prepare for Nationals and the Olympics. A romance is budding and their final show could bend or break them as they try to achieve their dreams of an Olympic Gold medal.
Directed by Paul Michael Glaser. Starring D.B. Sweeney, Moira Kelly, Roy Dotrice, and Terry O'Quinn.

Well, this is fairly charming. Both the characters are interesting and somewhat likable, and their chemistry really works. It didn't blow me away, but I got invested in the story very quickly and enjoyed watching it play out. Probably worth a shot, especially if you typically like romances or movies about figure skating.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #880 out of 2176, below School of Rock and above Holiday Inn.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Drive Me Crazy (1999)

IMDb plot summary: A high school girl must find a substitute date to escort her to the prom.
Directed by John Schultz. Starring Melissa Joan Hart, Adrian Grenier, Susan May Pratt and Ali Larter.

(Spoilers ahead, technically, but they really aren't spoilers if you are at all familiar with the genre.)

This movie has absolutely zero substance. It's not *unpleasant* to watch, but there's just nothing to remember. The characters are flat, the plot is generic, the "oh my, I actually like this guy now" plot twist is abrupt and awkward... It just doesn't do anything to rise above the bare minimum required for romantic comedies.

2 stars.

Flickchart: #1498 out of 2175, below JFK and above Albert Nobbs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

IMDb plot summary: Searching for a cure to Alzheimer's disease a group of scientists on an isolated research facility become the bait as a trio of intelligent sharks fight back.
Directed by Renny Harlin. Starring Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jacqueline McKenzie.

(Some spoilers ahead.)

I don't think I was supposed to laugh at this movie nearly as much as I did, but really, how am I supposed to take it seriously? The instant the sharks attacked, it went into slow-mo with someone across the room yelling, "Noooooooooooooooo!" That really only happens in action movie parodies these days. The occasional sudden crew deaths really came out of NOWHERE, so instead of being shocking and terrifying, it just made me crack up laughing. I do find sharks and the ocean genuinely scary, so I was hoping for some good scares, but instead I got an unintentionally hilarious movie. Then again, maybe I just can't take shark movies seriously anymore after having seen Sharknado and Mega Shark...

1 star.

Flickchart: #1769 out of 2174, below Cold Mountain and above Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Center Stage (2000)

IMDb plot summary: A group of 12 teenagers from various backgrounds enroll at the American Ballet Academy in New York to make it as ballet dancers and each one deals with the problems and stress of training and getting ahead in the world of dance.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Starring Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Ethan Stiefel, and Susan May Pratt.

This is like... a legit ballet movie. I wasn't expecting that. I was expecting more of a High School Musical/Glee thing where everybody's pretty amateur and it's fun but not great. But the dance sequences in this are REALLY good. (IMDb confirms that most of the main dancers were indeed either professional ballet dancers or had had ballet training. Including Zoe Saldana, which I didn't know.)

While the many many things going on are a bit overwhelming -- I really only managed to remember maybe a third of the characters -- I HAVE to respect a movie that spends almost 30 of its final 40 minutes doing actual ballet. Even if some of that ballet dancing is done to the music of Michael Jackson. (Actually, I LOVED that dance. So awesome.) The final 40 minutes totally made up for any awkwardness of the first hour. This is well worth the watch for people who like dance movies.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #432 out of 2173, below Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and above Hoodwinked.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

IMDb plot summary: An officer finds himself caught in a time loop in a war with an alien race. His skills increase as he faces the same brutal combat scenarios, and his union with a Special Forces warrior gets him closer and closer to defeating the enemy.
Directed by Doug Liman. Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, and Bill Paxton.

(Spoilers about the basic premise, which is in a lot of the trailers and promo material but isn't really revealed until about 20-30 minutes in.)

The trailers for this made it look pretty generic, so I was surprised and delighted to find that this is actually a solid and fun sci-fi movie. Its Groundhog Day-esque premise is executed perfectly, conveying the constant retries without getting boring or too repetitive. That's hard to do. The characters are likable and fun, the aliens are interesting, and the movie doesn't waste its gimmick. Definitely worth a watch.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #604 out of 2172, below Throne of Blood and above White Heat.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

IMDb plot summary: Elvis and JFK, both alive and in nursing homes, fight for the souls of their fellow residents as they battle an ancient Egyptian Mummy.
Directed by Don Coscarelli. Starring Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Ella Joyce, and Heidi Marnhout.

Oh, this was ridiculous and so much fun. A film about two elderly people fighting an undead mummy would be fun anyway, but when one of those people is Elvis and the other is a black man who's convinced he's JFK, it just gets more fun. It's silly and preposterous and great fun. I thought this one would be pretty high on my list, and I'm happy that it was.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #504 out of 2171, below Big and above Zodiac.

Pom Poko (1994)

IMDb plot summary: A community of magical shapeshifting raccoons desperately struggle to prevent their forest home from being destroyed by urban development.
Directd by Isao Takahata. Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Clancy Brown, Maurice LaMarche, and Andre Stojka (in the English version).

(Mild spoilers about the tone of the ending.)

I REALLY liked this one. When it started, I was not so enthused because I don't tend to like movies about animals, but this movie painted such a vivid picture of the raccoons' story that it was impossible not to get wrapped up in it. I found the ending very moving and darkly beautiful. This is definitely one of my favorite Studio Ghibli flicks.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #434 out of 2170, below The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and above The Pirates of Penzance.

The Wedding Singer (1998)

IMDb plot summary: Robbie, the singer and Julia, the waitress are both engaged to be married but to the wrong people. Fortune intervenes to help them discover each other.
Directed by Frank Coraci. Starring Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Christine Taylor, and Allen Covert.

I had the same reaction to this that I had to Happy Gilmore: that it was a good movie ruined by Adam Sandler and his stupid face. If there WAS ever going to be a movie that should make me not hate Adam Sandler, it would probably be this one. He's painted as a genuinely nice person, and if I didn't just instinctively hate him SO MUCH as an actor, I would probably have REALLY enjoyed this. It's a good story, a fun soundtrack, and I like Drew Barrymore much more in this than I have in anything else. So I think I'll stick with the musical, which keeps the story but will always have a leading man I find more likeable than Adam Sandler, because that is everyone in the world. It gets a medium ranking but would probably have gotten much higher with alternate casting.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #844 out of 2169, below Memoirs of a Geisha and above Downfall.

Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)

IMDb plot summary: A young boy whose dreams transcend reality is sucked into his own fantasy, which is everything he has dreamed of until he unleashes a century old secret that may not only destroy this perfect dream world but reality itself.
Directed by Masami Hata and William T. Hurtz. Starring Gabriel Damon, Mickey Rooney, Rene Auberjonois, and Laura Mooney (in the English version).

Well, this is... simultaneously cute and terrifying. It's definitely not something I had much connection with. The story is simple and straightforward, with nothing really making it stand out. I'm not sure who I would recommend this to. It's too dark for me to feel comfortable letting young kids watching it, but older kids and adults will probably be unimpressed with the story. So I didn't really care for this one.

1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1503 out of 2168, below Winter's Bone and above In Cold Blood.

Highlander (1986)

IMDb plot summary: An immortal Scottish swordsman must confront the last of his immortal opponent, a murderously brutal barbarian who lusts for the fabled "Prize".
Directed by Russell Mulcahy. Starring Christopher Lambert, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown, and Sean Connery.

I enjoy campy movies, so I was pretty hopeful for this one. I really like the premise and I had tons of fun with the over-the-top fight scenes, but the movie gets bogged down in lengthy exposition and uninteresting mystery solving. It makes the movie feel longer than it is, and I spent a lot of it just waiting impatiently for something to happen.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1105 out of 2167, below The Fourth Kind and above X-Men.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

V/H/S/2 (2013)

IMDb plot summary: Searching for a missing student, two private investigators break into his house and find collection of VHS tapes. Viewing the horrific contents of each cassette, they realize there may be dark motives behind the student's disappearance.

This is a VAST improvement over the first one. The individual shorts are much more creative (and much scarier), and the gimmick tying them all together is about ten times more interesting. I still prefer a full-length horror flick to these shorter ones and slow-building tension to jump scares, but this is pretty decent.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #900 out of 2166, below City Lights and above Paris, je t'aime.

V/H/S (2012)

IMDb plot summary: When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.

Meh. This is a pretty mediocre collection of shorts, and the found footage format makes most of it unintentionally confusing. I had to actually go and look up the plot on Wikipedia after I finished because I was so confused about what was happening. The individual stories are pretty generic and uninteresting (though I did enjoy parts of the video chat-based one, even though the ending was completely ridiculous), and together they seem thematically redundant and awkward. I was not impressed with this one.

1 star.

Flickchart: #1708 out of 2165, below Stardust Memories and above Miracle on 34th Street (1994).

Cropsey (2009)

IMDb plot summary: Realizing the urban legend of their youth has actually come true; two filmmakers delve into the mystery surrounding five missing children and the real-life boogeyman linked to their disappearances.
Directed by Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman.

Documentaries are always difficult for me to review. This was definitely an interesting story, but part of the difficulty with narrative-based documentaries is that it's hard to have interesting or satisfying resolution. That is absolutely the case here, where the basics of the story are explained in the first few minutes and then re-explained in greater detail through the rest of the movie, ending exactly where it started. Theories are tossed around, people share opinions, but when the answer to everything is basically "nobody really knows what's going on," you end with essentially just the same information you had in the first 10-15 minutes.

I don't know enough about the documentary format to analyze the movie objectively and authoritatively, but I can say what I felt about it: I found it repetitive and surprisingly boring by about half an hour in. Disappointing.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1144 out of 2164, below Swing Kids and above Our Idiot Brother.

Star Wars Uncut: Director's Cut (2012)

IMDb plot summary: In 2009, Casey Pugh asked thousands of Internet users to remake "Star Wars: A New Hope" into a fan film, 15 seconds at a time. Contributors were allowed to recreate scenes from Star Wars however they wanted. Within just a few months SWU grew into a wild success. The creativity that poured into the project was unimaginable.
Directed by Casey Pugh.

This movie was... much more work to watch than I expected. While some of the segments were creative and fun, a lot more of them were just uninteresting recreations of the scene with no props or costumes. Fortunately, each segment only lasted a few seconds, so on lame segments it was easy to wait until the next one and hope I'd like it better.

Where the movie did finally succeed, though, was in the recreation of the attack on the Death Star. Something about watching so many Star Wars fans working together to fight the same cinematic battle felt... fun and exciting, kind of like being at a fan convention. By the time it finally finished, I was enjoying myself, but I feel no need to ever go back and rewatch it when I can just watch A New Hope instead.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1168 out of 2163, below The Deer Hunter and above The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.

Lucky Number Slevin (2006)

IMDb plot summary: A case of mistaken identity lands Slevin into the middle of a war being plotted by two of the city's most rival crime bosses: The Rabbi and The Boss. Slevin is under constant surveillance by relentless Detective Brikowski as well as the infamous assassin Goodkat and finds himself having to hatch his own ingenious plot to get them before they get him.
Directed by Paul McGuigan. Starring Josh Hartnet, Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, and Morgan Freeman.

(Some spoilers ahead.)

I was really surprised by this. Crime movies usually don't do anything for me, but this was a funny, entertaining story with a great cast -- Josh Hartnett especially brought a lot of charm to the role. The twist genuinely surprised me, which doesn't happen very often, and I found the ending very satisfying. This is another example of a movie I'd never have watched on my own but really ended up enjoying.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #660 out of 2162, below Panic Room and above Le samourai.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Swing Kids (1993)

IMDb plot summary: The story of a close-knit group of young kids in Nazi Germany who listen to banned swing music from the US. Soon dancing and fun leads to more difficult choices as the Nazis begin tightening the grip on Germany. Each member of the group is forced to face some tough choices about right, wrong, and survival.
Directed by Thomas Carter. Starring Robert Sean Leonard, Christian Bale, Frank Whaley, and Barbara Hershey.

(Mild spoilers about the ending.)

This is a nice idea, and I'm never going to complain about dance numbers in the middle of my movies, but this movie is... lacking something. Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale are both interesting characters, but somehow I'm not sold on their story. I'm still not sure I can point to exactly what didn't work for me (aside from the ending, which was melodramatic and unbelievable in how it played out). I just know that it's not sticking in my mind at all even just a few days after having seen it.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1142 out of 2161, below The Princess Diaries and above Our Idiot Brother.

Adam (2009)

IMDb plot summary: Adam, a lonely man with Asperger's Syndrome, develops a relationship with his upstairs neighbor, Beth.
Directed by Max Mayer. Starring Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, and Amy Irving.

(Mild spoilers ahead about the ending.)

I was hesitant through most of this movie. I have a LOT of good friends with varying levels of Asperger's Syndrome or social disorders, and I worried this movie would either 1) paint them as incapable of having relationships at all, OR 2) play the "love makes every relationship super easy, even magically fixing mental and physical problems" card. Fortunately, it veered away from that and ended on a very satisfying note. Adam is a great character -- very easy to root for -- and most of Beth's interactions with him rang very true. It's no Mozart and the Whale, but it's a pretty solid story, and I enjoyed it.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #814 out of 2160, below I'm a Cyborg But That's OK and above The Man Who Wasn't There.

Away We Go (2009)

IMDb plot summary: A couple who is expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way, they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover "home" on their own terms for the first time.
Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph.

I'm not sure I entirely *got* this movie, but I think I liked it. Each set of characters was interesting in a different way, just as a road trip movie should be. The movie's sense of humor was just perfect -- subtle but very real. Where I felt like it fell down a little was in crafting our main characters. Despite giving the minor characters interesting and complex characterization, I struggle to understand the main two for the majority of the flick. This is one that may deserve a rewatch someday, though, because I feel like a second viewing really might clear things up. Conclusion: Liked it, didn't love it.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #627 out of 2159, below Shaolin Soccer and above Guys and Dolls.