Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)

IMDb plot summary: In 1900, a young widow finds her seaside cottage is haunted...and forms a unique relationship with the ghost.
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Starring Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders and Edna Best.

(Major spoilers for the final 10-15 minutes of movie.)

This is really a very lovely movie. Mrs. Muir is a great character -- strong and independent without being harsh or unkind -- and her relationship with the ghost in her house is fascinating to watch unfold. It also ultimately went in a very different direction than I was expecting, following the character all the way through her life and only resolving the quasi-love story after she dies, making it a sweet story of her whole life instead of the romance-centered melodrama I was expecting. The cinematography is also so, so gorgeous (it was nominated for an Oscar). I'm glad I managed to catch this one before it disappeared off Netflix Instant.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #517 out of 2264, below They Live and above Goodfellas.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Black Camel (1931)

IMDb plot summary: The unsolved murder of a Hollywood actor several years earlier and an enigmatic psychic are the keys to help Charlie solve the Honolulu stabbing death of a beautiful actress.
Directed by Hamilton MacFadden. Starring Warner Oland, Sally Eilers, Bela Lugosi, and Dorothy Revier.

I have... almost no opinion of this movie. Despite being only a little over an hour, it was still very slow, and there were so many characters who weren't really fleshed out that when they actually announced who the murderer was, I had no memory of that character being in the movie at all up until that point. It's just not a very interesting story or movie.

1 star.

Flickchart: #2008 out of 2263, below The Passion of Joan of Arc and above The Rules of the Game. That is unfairly low, as I didn't HATE it, it was just boring.

22 Jump Street (2014)

IMDb plot summary: After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt and Jenko when they go deep undercover at a local college.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Peter Stormare, and Wyatt Russell.

I typically am not a fan of sequels, but I liked the first movie a lot and kept hearing that the sequel was even better. That was definitely correct. The first one is fun, but this one was frequently laugh-out-loud funny. The two leads once again have great chemistry and a wonderful sense of comic delivery. The script, however, is where this movie really shines. With its frequent self-aware meta jokes about parodies (my favorite line: "Next year, we'll probably be back across the street but right next door"), it works almost as a parody of the first one, as well as making fun of audience-pandering franchises that never seem to end. For the most part, the jokes are beautifully smart and subtle for a dumb comedy, and the visual jokes come across great. The movie chugs along at a nice pace, and the action sequences have enough laughs that I even enjoyed them. The ending credits are hilarious as well. I'm glad I watched this one -- I can totally get behind a sequel that makes fun of its sequelness.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #465 out of 2262, below Megamind and above Solaris (2002).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

King of the Zombies (1941)

IMDb plot summary: On a spooky island, three stranded travelers find an evil doctor working with foreign spies and in control of zombies.
Directed by Jean Yarbrough. Starring Dick Purcell, Joan Woodbury, Mantan Moreland, and Henry Victor.

This movie is absolutely a silly B-movie, but it's only an hour long and it's decently entertaining. The butler provides some good silly comedic moments while everybody else is wandering around seriously trying to solve the mystery. The mystery itself is pretty boring, with an ending that doesn't make any sense, but it moves along quickly enough and with enough fun in-between bits that it doesn't drag too badly. Just don't expect anything important or brilliant out of this.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1462 out of 2261, below The Secret of My Success and above Arlington Road.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sex Tape (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A married couple wake up to discover that the sex tape they made the evening before has gone missing, leading to a frantic search for its whereabouts.
Directed by Jake Kasdan. Starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, and Ellie Kemper.

I still think Jason Segel is one of the most likable actors out there. He just always seems so friendly and charismatic. On the flip side, I think Cameron Diaz is a very UNlikable actress, so their chemistry here is a little weird for me, even when their characters are written as sweet and committed and very in love. That being said, this is a moderately funny little movie. The jokes land on the absurd and farcical more often than they land on gross and awkward, which is nice, and the supporting cast is a lot of fun. So it was moderately enjoyable for a one-time viewing, but I wouldn't rewatch it or necessarily recommend it to each other.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1047 out of 2260, below The Color Purple and above Office Space.

Obvious Child (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A twenty-something comedienne's unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront the realities of independent womanhood for the first time.
Directed by Gillian Robespierre. Starring Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann, and Gabe Liedman.

I find Jenny Slate somewhat grating, and that's true here as well, but it's an interesting premise for a movie, and there are some beautiful moments that feel really genuine. I don't know how to feel about the movie as a whole, because I am mostly pro-life, so although I understand and care about her story, there's also a sadness I feel about it that is at odds with the tone of the movie. I'm sure that was a deliberate tone choice, but because of that and because I don't connect with Jenny Slate, it didn't quite work for me, though I really wanted it to.

2 stars.

Flickchart: #1297 out of 2259, below New York, New York and above Hush.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Neighbors (2014)

IMDb plot summary: After they are forced to live next to a fraternity house, a couple with a newborn baby do whatever they can to take them down.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller. Starring Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, and Dave Franco.

This was pretty much exactly what I expected from this movie: a fairly likable cast, dumb but sometimes funny shenanigans, and the occasional serious musing on growing up. Rose Byrne is far more interesting in this than in just about anything else I've seen her in, and Seth Rogen and Zac Efron play their silly characters with a decent amount of heart underneath. The fight scene at the end is the highlight, with plenty of good sight gags and silly jokes to make it worth it. Overall, it's interesting and funny enough. Worth a shot, especially if you're a fan of any of the actors.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #728 out of 2258, below The Country Girl and above Forbidden Planet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Beach Party (1963)

IMDb plot summary (truncated because IT WAS SO LONG): The first of the five official American-International "Beach Party" movies. An anthropology professor and his secretary are studying the sex habits of teenagers. The surfing teens don't have much sex but they sing, battle a motorcycle gang, and dance.
Directed by William Asher. Starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Robert Cummings, and Dorothy Malone.

Well, this is about as silly as they come... but it's surprisingly fun (surprising to me, at least). There are a lot of plots going on here, but by far the most entertaining one is the story of the sociology professor trying to figure out surfer teens. Less interesting are the typical teenage romance and the awkward biker gang subplot. Granted, all three plots intertwine, but the parts that focus solely on the last two bored me. In the end, if all you want is a very silly movie, this should definitely do it. It's not uproariously funny, but it's certainly pleasant enough to watch.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1020 out of 2257, below The Thin Man and above Matchstick Men.

Le Week-End (2013)

IMDb plot summary: A British couple return to Paris many years after their honeymoon there in an attempt to rejuvenate their marriage.
Directed by Roger Mitchell. Starring Lindsay Duncan, Jim Broadbent, and Jeff Goldblum.

There's... something to this movie. It's simultaneously charming and heartbreaking, funny and sad, awkward and completely natural. The acting is stupendous, particularly from Jim Broadbent, and the final climax is, if a little abrupt, very moving. I feel like this is a movie that just a mention of will always fill my heart with the sort of wistful sadness I felt while watching it.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #707 out of 2256, below Days of Wine and Roses and above Beyond the Sea.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Big Hero 6 (2014)

IMDb plot summary: The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.
Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. Starring Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, and T.J. Miller.

This movie has more than a few similarities to The Iron Giant, but, hey, I loved that movie, and I loved this one too. The characters are likable and interesting, and there are some surprising layers to the story beyond just a typical superhero/supervillain dynamic. I find it's slipping some from my mind even just a couple days after watching it -- much more than I would have expected something like this to do -- so it may not be as memorable as I anticipated, but it's definitely a satisfying flick, and it's well worth a watch.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #428 out of 2255, which may be slightly too high. It's below The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall and above Kiss Me, Stupid!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Two teens, both who have different cancer conditions, fall in love after meeting at a cancer support group.
Directed by Josh Boone. Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, and Laura Dern.

All right, this is definitely a teen tragic romance movie, so if those kinds of movies aren't your thing, you might want to steer clear. That being said, though, this is probably the best one I've ever seen in the genre, as well as one of the most well-written tragic romances, period. This is no Nicholas Sparks story. The characters are interesting and likable and even though it does get a LITTLE cute-indie-quirky at times with the dialogue, I was really surprised by how deeply I got into the story. I bawled at the end, and I didn't expect that at all. If you like coming-of-age stories or sad stories, this is absolutely one to check out.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #407 out of 2254, below He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not and above Om Shanti Om.

Ali (2001)

IMDb plot summary: A biography of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, from his early days to his days in the ring.
Directed by Michael Mann. Starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight, and Mario Van Peebles.

Well, this movie started off with a very confusing 12-minute montage of events, people, and places we didn't know yet and that it didn't set up very helpfully. And it did not get better from there. I like Will Smith and typically find him charming and interesting no matter what he's in, but this movie does him no favors. The story is scattered, confusing, and disappointingly boring. Occasionally Smith's charisma managed to shine through and be a momentary highlight, but overall this not a well-put-together movie.

1 star.

Flickchart: #1847 out of 2253, below Mamma Mia! and above Transcendence.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stand Up and Cheer! (1934)

IMDb plot summary: President Franklin Roosevelt appoints a theatrical producer as the new Secretary of Amusement in order to cheer up an American public still suffering through the Depression. The new secretary soon runs afoul of political lobbyists out to destroy his department.
Directed by Hamilton MacFadden. Starring Warner Baxter, Madge Evans, James Dunn, and Shirley Temple.

Well, this was... strange. I wondered at first if this was Shirley Temple's first movie, because it clearly wasn't meant as a vehicle for her -- she's in it for a grand total of MAYBE five minutes -- but it looks like she was in other things before this, so hadonno. Good things first: the final number is really entertaining, very hopeful and optimistic, the love ballad is very pretty and gorgeously sung, and when Shirley is in the movie, she doesn't have any terrible or uber precocious dialogue, so she's a pretty cute little kid. However, the rest of this move is CRAZY. The plot is really scattered and abrupt, and it's interrupted by what I must assume are joke routines I just don't get, but they're just STRANGE -- one scene features a bird who is apparently supposed to be Jimmy Durante, and another features two men calmly discussing politics while back flipping all over the room. It's also more than a little uncomfortable to watch its portrayal of the primary African American character in this movie. So the film does have a few good moments, but they're few and far between, and the rest of it is just... very, very weird.

1 star.

Flickchart: #1877 out of 2252, below The Love Bug and Apocalypto. This is too low, because apparently I have a whole bunch of boring-but-not-awful movies down in the 1800s, when they should be higher.

Girl Shy (1924)

IMDB plot summary: A shy, young man, who is completely incapable of talking to women, decides to write a book that details to other bachelors how to find a girlfriend.
Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor. Starring Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Richard Daniels, and Carlton Griffin.

For the first hour or so of this, I thought, "Eh, this is all right." It was likable, but not terribly funny. The final 20-30 minutes, however, consist of a wild race to a wedding, with the main character hopping between a ridiculous amount of vehicles to get there. Each moment of that is really entertaining. The story is overall very sweet, our protagonist is sympathetic, and the last third of the movie was laugh-out-loud funny. I may have to hunt up some more Harold Lloyd in the near future.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #615 out of 2251, below Eve's Bayou and above Primer.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Draft Day (2014)

IMDb plot summary: At the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must decide what he's willing to sacrifice on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with NFL dreams.
Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner, and Denis Leary.

So it turns out that between this and Moneyball, I at least somewhat enjoy sports movies where the premise is picking the players. Probably primarily because there's not a lot of actual sports playing involved. This movie is a bit messy, trying to do too much with Costner's character's life in one day, but the parts about choosing the players are actually really engaging, and easy to follow even if you're not a football person. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #726 out of 2250, below Rabbit Hole and above Divided We Fall.

Divergent (2014)

IMDb plot summary: In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late.
Directed by Neil Burger. Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, and Kate Winslet.

I enjoy dystopian futures, and although this is a pretty typical one, I enjoyed it nonetheless. I really felt like this was one part of a series, not a standalone story that got sequels tacked on, so that's always a plus. It's also nice to see a blockbuster movie that features a lot of at least somewhat interesting women as characters, especially in the sci-fi/action genres. It's unlikely to sway anyone who doesn't like stories about Special Chosen Ones or typical dystopias -- it's CERTAINLY no Hunger Games -- but it's not a bad movie overall. Just uninspired. Makes me wonder if the books were stronger.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #752 out of 2249, below The Incredibles and above Charlie St. Cloud.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Women (1939)

IMDb plot summary: A study of the lives and romantic entanglements of various interconnected women.
Directed by George Cukor. Starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, and Mary Boland.

(Some spoilers about the plot and ending.)

There's a lot to like about this movie, but there's also a fair amount that rub me the wrong way. Our main character is unbelievably sympathetic and likable, and the scenes where she has to deal with her marriage falling apart were incredibly moving. Her story, at the heart of this movie, is well worth watching, and seeing her get some happiness at the end is satisfying for her sake, even if I'm uncertain that it'll last.

Where this movie doesn't work for me at all, however, is in many of the other women. Rosalind Russell's character in particular is just... everything I dislike in a character, man or woman. There's a lot of petty squabbling that doesn't make me laugh so much as it makes go, "Ugh. People are terrible." Because the movie includes a lot of these little scenes, it ends up dragging, especially in the second half when I *really* just wanted to get back to Mary's story. And I'm not sure I at all understood the technicolor fashion show that hijacked the film for a bit. What was that about? (I wonder if people who don't like musicals feel the same "Why would they put this here?" bewilderment when a movie has a single dance number out of nowhere...)

I didn't really pick up on the humor of this movie, as most of it came from the cattiness of the characters. What I liked was almost entirely the dramatic part of the plot, and that was tremendously satisfying. Other good things: having an all-woman cast was wonderful (I loved the creative ways they told the story through only the women), and the credits were imaginative and set the scene appropriately. I wish, however, that it included fewer subplots and was a little shorter.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #970 out of 2248, below Code 46 and above Runaway Jury. This is probably a bit too low.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Killing (1956)

IMDb plot summary: Crooks plan and execute a daring race-track robbery.
Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Sterling Hayden, Ted de Corsia, Marie Windsor, and Elisha Cook Jr.

This was pretty good. I have a tough time with noir, but I recently discovered it's detective-based noir I dislike most. Noir-style stories that aren't centered around detectives, such as Sunset Blvd., Double Indemnity, and In a Lonely Place, fare much better with me. I wasn't struck by this the way I was any of those, and I was fully aware throughout that this was someone TRYING to make a noir film -- a lot of the dialogue seemed almost like a parody of the genre. That being said, though, it's a good story, a thoroughly satisfying ending, and I particularly liked its short length. Maybe I'm just especially appreciative of these old shorter films because I'm getting tired of all the new releases that are like 2 1/2 hours long, but I admire a movie that stops when its story is done. So, not blown away, but this was solid.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #855 out of 2247, below Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium and above Rachel Getting Married.

The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

IMDb plot summary omitted because it gives away a fairly important plot detail.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Starring Irène Jacob, Jerzy Gudejko, Halina Gryglaszewska, and Philippe Volter.

I have not had great luck with French films thus far, so my friend Jandy recommended this one to me in the hopes I would dig it. It didn't quite work... but it almost did! I was really enjoying the first half, but in the second half I felt like I didn't know Veronique at all. It wasn't character-centered enough for me to enjoy it as that, but it didn't solve the "mystery" enough for me to enjoy that aspect either. It's directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski, who I've only seen a bit of before and really WANT to like him, but I haven't yet. I think he has amazing ideas that just never quite gel for me in the execution. Maybe I'm just missing something, and one day his movies will just click into place for me, and if that happens, I will definitely come back and rewatch this. As it was... I found it disappointing.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1233 out of 2246, below The Deer Hunter and above Star Wars Uncut.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Nights of Cabiria (1957)

IMDB plot summary: A waifish prostitute wanders the streets of Rome looking for true love but finds only heartbreak.
Directed by Federico Fellini. Starring Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi, and Dorian Gray.

(Spoilers ahead for this, as well as some spoilers for La Strada and Jean de Florette.)

This was recommended to me based on my love for La Strada, which I watched for the first time a year or two ago. While this one isn't *quite* as heartbreaking as that one, it's pretty darn close. The final 15 minutes or so was so tough to watch, because I just knew how it was all inevitably going to end. (In fact, at one point in those 15 minutes I paused the movie to get a drink of water, and when I came back, I wandered all over the Internet because I didn't want to have to watch the ending.) I wasn't quite as engaged throughout the whole movie as I was with La Strada, but Giulietta Masina is unbelievably charming and likeable as Cabiria. As I write this review, it occurs to me that I had a very similar reaction to watching Jean de Florette earlier this year -- both have a character I desperately cheered for and whose downfall left me a little broken.

Overall, this is one of those movies that I'm definitely glad I watched but would probably not watch again any time soon, though I am curious to see how the emotional impact of the ending would go if I knew right from the beginning where it was headed.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #496 out of 2245, below Four Lions and above Widow's Peak.