Thursday, December 31, 2015

Into the Wild (2007)

IMDb plot summary: After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.
Directed by Sean Penn. Starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Jena Malone.

(ALL the spoilers.)

There is no way for me to discuss this movie without getting into spoilers, so if you don't know the ending of this movie or the real-life story it was based on, just pass this one by. This is also going to be a *very* personal review -- I don't have much to say about the technical or aesthetic specifics, but I have a LOT to say about how I felt about it.

I didn't know anything about this movie going into it (not even that it was based on a true story), but I had... quite an array of responses to it. The first third or so, I found myself kind of intrigued by this young character and his drive to get away into isolation. This intrigue faded pretty quickly, though, and then I spent an hour and a half being mostly bored by this young man's personal journey and just wanted him to come to his senses and go home or find something to do with his life besides wandering alone forever.

And then... the ending happened. And I was *angry*. I was angry that the movie wanted me to be following the saga of some kind of hero or brave soul or someone with revolutionary ideas when all I could see was an angry college student who thought he was better than the whole world and got himself killed because of it. I was angry that his sister didn't hear from him for months and then, bam, finds out he's starved to death in the woods. I was angry that the old man who was so kind to him might never even know what happened to him at all. I was angry that his bitterness toward society took him all the way to death and never gave him a chance to make things right for the people he hurt with his carelessness. And I did *not* want to let the movie give him a meaningful or a fulfilling death, because that isn't what it was.

I feel uncomfortable saying these things knowing that the was a real Christopher McCandless, but really, I don't know anything about the real guy. I did a tiny bit of research before writing this review, but it's not the facts of the story I have a problem with as much as the little artistic details the movie provides. Those are what that try to give us a satisfying "Aw, he lived a good life" ending when that just doesn't work with what I saw. And I'm annoyed that I had to sit through 2 1/2 hours of hiking footage to get to that ending.

That being said... I'm not sure how to rank it. It's probably better for the movie to make me angry at the end than to make me bored. And the reaction was so strong and so surprising that I'm not even sure I'm categorizing it correctly. It might eventually settle into something more positive. I remember Grave of the Fireflies making me angry but then after I got some distance, I loved it. Then again, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas made me angry and I still hate it. So... I'll loosely rank it for now, but I'm pretty sure I won't know what I actually feel about it for a couple months.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Into the Wild < Alice Adams
Into the Wild > X2
Into the Wild < Mickey's Christmas Carol
Into the Wild > Swingers
Into the Wild < The Quiet Man
Into the Wild > Hotel Transylvania
Into the Wild > Thoroughly Modern Millie
Into the Wild < The Muppet Christmas Carol
Into the Wild > Pretty in Pink
Into the Wild < Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Into the Wild < Burlesque
Final spot: #1592 out of 2406.

Flickchart guesses I'd give this 1.5 stars based on my ranking, so we'll take its lead on that.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Big Short (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.
Directed by Adam McKay. Starring Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.

Well, sheesh. If you've ever wanted to see a movie that came away feeling like there was absolutely no hope for humanity left in America, here's one. It's an unusual departure for Adam McKay as mostly a fast-talking drama (with some comedic elements, but still all centered around a serious situation). I mean, who would expect the director of Anchorman to do a biopic explaining the 2008 economic crisis? It is absolutely engaging, however, and to someone like me who knows very, very little about financial or economic matters, it was able to tell its story in a way that kept me continually in the loop, even making fun of how deliberately complicated some of this stuff is. I walked out of this feeling... well, maybe not entertained (it's hard to be entertained by greed when it's had an impact on your life and the lives of those around you), but definitely with a stronger grasp of the facts of the matter.

The acting here is fantastic -- one of Steve Carell's best roles, and Christian Bale is a little over-the-top as always but definitely creates a compelling character. The script is also stupendous -- funny and clever and interesting all the way through. My biggest aesthetic grip comes down to the bizarre editing, specifically the tendency to insert into the narrative shots of random houses or flowers or groups of people. These shots lasts so briefly that I barely even had time to try and parse how they connected to anything being said. I'm sure McKay had a directorial reason for this, but it took me out of the story every single time and just seemed... awkward.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Big Short > The Fortune Cookie
The Big Short < Eat Pray Love
The Big Short > A Separation
The Big Short < The Green Mile
The Big Short > The Thin Man
The Big Short < How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
The Big Short > The Return of the Living Dead
The Big Short > 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Big Short > Going My Way
The Big Short > Batman
Final spot: #790 out of 2405.

Ghostbusters II (1989)

IMDb plot summary: The discovery of a massive river of ectoplasm and a resurgence of spectral activity allows the staff of Ghostbusters to revive the business.
Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykyord, Sigourney Weaver, and Harold Ramis.

I was pretty lukewarm on the first Ghostbusters movie, although I probably owe it a rewatch someday -- I expect it'll grow on me, especially since I kind of liked this. I didn't laugh super hard or want to class it as one of the all-time best comedies, but it was easily like a 2 1/2-star enjoyable flick. Peter MacNicol as Janosz was a side character that stole the show for me (I'd rather have watched his awkward antics than 3/4 of the Ghostbusters themselves). So... decent, especially as a sequel to a movie I didn't really love the first time around.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Ghostbusters II > The Fortune Cookie
Ghostbusters II < Pretty Woman
Ghostbusters II < Strictly Ballroom
Ghostbusters II < Die Hard
Ghostbusters II > Walk the Line
Ghostbusters II < 2012
Ghostbusters II > Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Ghostbusters II > The Lion in Winter (2003)
Ghostbusters II > Rushmore
Ghostbusters II > In Time
Final spot: #1090 out of 2404.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
Directed by J.J. Abrams. Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and Harrison Ford.

(Definite major spoilers.)

This movie is essentially retelling A New Hope, but, goodness, it does it so well. It's an extremely satisfying continuation of the franchise, establishing interesting new characters and giving us great scenes with old favorites. It returns to the lightheartedness that was so missing from the prequels. While the movie isn't perfect (Han's death was handled sometimes awkwardly, and the absurdly abrupt completion of the map made me actually laugh out loud), its mildly derivative nature actually works very much in its favor, returning to not only the flavor of the original but even the original story, winning back the fans' hearts after the prequels disappointed us so badly. It's a loving tribute to the original trilogy, and an excellent way to kick things off. I just hope that the story retelling ends here now that they've reestablished trust and that we can now go off into more unexplored territory. And this one may very well climb up in my rankings as it sits with me or I eventually rewatch it.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens > The Circus
Star Wars: The Force Awakens > Eat Pray Love
Star Wars: The Force Awakens < The Holiday
Star Wars: The Force Awakens > Kiss Me, Stupid!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens < Changing Lanes
Star Wars: The Force Awakens < Grave of the Fireflies
Star Wars: The Force Awakens < Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
Star Wars: The Force Awakens > The Talented Mr. Ripley
Star Wars: The Force Awakens > The Peanuts Movie
Star Wars: The Force Awakens > Trainspotting
Star Wars: The Force Awakens > The Graduate

Final spot: #432 out of 2403.

Creed (2015)

IMDb plot summary: The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, and Phylicia Rashad.

(Spoilers ahead.)

I admit, the only other Rocky movie I've seen is the original one, but I liked it a lot and liked this one a lot too. It manages to do what sports movies often try to do but frequently fail: It centers the sport in the characters. The original did the same thing, and so even though boxing itself isn't interesting to me, I was strongly cheering for the characters. Adonis is a great character, and his interactions with Rocky are funny and moving. The cancer subplot, which in a less well-written movie would schmaltz the story to death, is dealt with intelligently and in a way that is consistent with the characters we've been given. The big boxing match at the end is truly exciting, even for people like me who typically could not care less about sporting events of any kind. The movie intelligently takes its time fleshing out its characters and fleshing them out well, so when the focus finally shifts to The Big Fight, we're already invested. Well done.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Creed > The Circus
Creed < Eat Pray Love
Creed > Laura
Creed > The Green Mile
Creed < Bend It Like Beckham
Creed < The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Creed > The Happening
Creed > Lord of the Flies
Creed > Ikiru
Creed > You Can Count on Me
Creed > Rabbit Hole
Final spot: #713 out of 2402.

Sisters (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Two sisters decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home.
Directed by Jason Moore. Starring Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, and Ike Barinholtz.

When this movie succeeds, it succeeds on the strength of its two lead actresses. The script is pretty weak, but there is a reality and a believability to their performances that makes their funny moments funnier and their dramatic moments more touching. They're helped by an enormous cast of usually funny folks, though some of them are misused here (Maya Rudolph's Brinda feels like a constant "character" in a way that most of the rest don't). Ike Barinholtz is especially good as a charming and down-to-earth love interest, and the scenes where he and Poehler interact are perhaps my favorite in the entire movie.

This is basically one big party movie, and that goes on a little long -- one only really wants to watch Bobby Moynihan running around screaming and using his ink-covered body part to draw crude symbols on the walls for a limited amount of time, and I reached my limit about 45 minutes before the filmmakers did. But there are some funny moments, and Fey and Poehler ground the film as a whole in genuinely likable and genuinely funny characters.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sisters < The Circus
Sisters > Dinner for Schmucks
Sisters > Mystic Pizza
Sisters > Milk
Sisters > The Whistleblower
Sisters > Hysteria
Sisters > The Lady from Shanghai
Sisters < Biloxi Blues
Sisters > Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Sisters < Last Holiday
Sisters < Yankee Doodle Dandy
Final spot: #1214 out of 2401.

Liz & Dick (2012)

IMDb plot summary: The torrid relationship between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Directed by Lloyd Kramer. Starring Lindsay Lohan, Grant Bowler, Theresa Russell, and David Hunt.

Let me make this clear right up front: This is not a very *good* movie. Its structure is lopsided, its acting erratic, its script is uneven. But there's something kind of weirdly fascinating about it. Maybe it's because it's so frequently wobbling on the edge of being a total mess (mirroring the lives of its characters) and it taps into the same vein as terrible reality TV shows where we can't quite look away. Maybe it's simply that the story is actually an interesting one, at least enough to keep its viewers paying attention for the short runtime. Lindsay Lohan is a mostly-adequate Elizabeth Taylor and Grant Bowler is pretty good at impersonating Burton. Of course, that doesn't mean that the acting itself is good, but the impressions are decent enough that I seldom found myself thinking, "There's Lindsay Lohan made up to look like Elizabeth Taylor."

So... not a great piece of art, but I was drawn in for reasons I can't quite articulate. I just wish it had been better executed.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Liz & Dick < Melinda and Melinda
Liz & Dick > Dinner for Schmucks
Liz & Dick > Mystic Pizza
Liz & Dick < The Man With One Red Shoe
Liz & Dick < The Perfect Score
Liz & Dick < 10 Things I Hate About You
Liz & Dick < Dear Frankie
Liz & Dick < Love's Labour's Lost
Liz & Dick > Deja Vu
Liz & Dick > Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
Liz & Dick > A Christmas Carol (2004)
Final spot: #1491 out of 2399.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

IMDb plot summary: A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge.
Directed by Sergio Leone. Starring Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volontè, and Wolfgang Lukschy.

This was the second critically-acclaimed movie this week that I had high hopes for based on other movies I'd seen and enjoyed from the director... only to be seriously let down. Oddly, A Fistful of Dollars feels significantly longer than The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, despite being about half its length and actually a pretty short film. But while TGTB&TU had some great character development and interactions to pull me into the story, this one is all surface. None of the characters are interesting to watch and it all seems so run-of-the-mill -- though maybe none of these characters or scenarios were tropes just yet. Comparing it to not only TGTB&TU but also to this film's source material Yojimbo, and it's clear that this movie just doesn't have the personal element that helps it hold up to those two. I had trouble even staying awake through this film's short run.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
A Fistful of Dollars < The Fortune Cookie
A Fistful of Dollars < Chinatown
A Fistful of Dollars > The Long Goodbye
A Fistful of Dollars < Road to Morocco
A Fistful of Dollars < Roberta
A Fistful of Dollars < The Chocolate War
A Fistful of Dollars < Easter Parade
A Fistful of Dollars > Aquamarine
A Fistful of Dollars > Out of the Past
A Fistful of Dollars < Men of Honor
A Fistful of Dollars > Dragon Lee vs. Five Brothers
Final spot: #2083 out of 2398.

La Dolce Vita (1960)

IMDb plot summary: A series of stories following a week in the life of a philandering paparazzo journalist living in Rome.
Directed by Federico Fellini. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimee, and Yvonne Furneaux.

I've liked the other Fellini flicks that I've seen, but wow, this one did nothing for me at all. There were glimpses of really interesting moments, but there was a LOT of nothing in between. I'm assuming the length and meaninglessness of most of it was about showing the vacuity of the character's life, but I tired of it long before the three hours were up and it never really came back to me. Marcello is also not a terribly interesting character to follow around -- until the final 15 minutes or so of the movie, he does and shows us very little. Overall, this does not make me terribly hopeful for 8 1/2, which I know I have to watch at some point, but is another 3-hour Fellini flick about a male character (as opposed to La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, two shorter films centered around women that I absolutely loved).

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
La Dolce Vita < The Fortune Cookie
La Dolce Vita > Chinatown
La Dolce Vita > Mystic Pizza
La Dolce Vita < Swing Kids
La Dolce Vita < The Score
La Dolce Vita > I, Robot
La Dolce Vita < The Room
La Dolce Vita < Over the Hedge
La Dolce Vita < The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
La Dolce Vita < Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
La Dolce Vita > Play Misty for Me
Final spot: #1458 out of 2397.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Peanuts Movie (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Snoopy embarks upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home.
Directed by Steve Martino. Starring Noah Schnapp, Bill Melendez, Alexander Garfin, and Mariel Sheets.

(Spoilers ahead.)

I was so worried when I heard this movie was going to exist, but it turns out all that worry was for nothing. This is a really solid movie and a worthwhile continuation of the Charlie Brown movie saga. Or perhaps I shouldn't say "continuation" so much as "reboot," as part of the reason the movie stays so faithful is that, like its most well-liked predecessors, it takes good chunks of its dialogue and its action directly from the comic strip. There is an original narrative in here too, but it's stitched together with familiar lines and situations. Even the new bits, however, manage to stick to the spirit of the classic Peanuts gang, so on the whole it's a very nicely done flick.

My one complaint, however, is a small one but not a particularly minor one for me. The ending of the film doesn't work for me at all. One of the reasons I (and so many others) connect with Charlie Brown is precisely his inability to win -- at least on the full spectrum he does here. He *is* a good person, and people *do* like him (sometimes), but nobody except for maybe Linus would tell him that to his face. The final scenes where the Little Red Haired Girl practically gives a whole speech affirming the Charlie Browns of the world was sweet, and all the kids swarming him with love and affection was heartwarming, but it all felt *off* to me. The Peanuts comics and older cartoons all played heavily on Charlie Brown's attempt to stay compassionate and stable even when no one around him was affirming him as doing the right thing, his determination to keep trying even when he knew, deep down, he was probably going to fail. Seeing him succeed wildly in the eyes of his peers was just never going to happen -- nor should it. Charlie Brown's successes come mostly when he is happy with himself or when he is *allowed* into the inner circle, if not invited with open arms.

As that bit of lengthy rambling, I was unconvinced by the ending of the film, but that didn't meant that everything before it wasn't pretty darn delightful. It's absolutely worth a watch, even if it slips up in its final moments.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Peanuts Movie > The Fortune Cookie
The Peanuts Movie > Pretty Woman
The Peanuts Movie < Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
The Peanuts Movie > Kiss Me, Stupid!
The Peanuts Movie < Fail-Safe
The Peanuts Movie < Beetlejuice
The Peanuts Movie < M. Butterfly
The Peanuts Movie > The Talented Mr. Ripley
The Peanuts Movie < Philadelphia
The Peanuts Movie > Man on the Moon
Final spot: #436 out of 2396, which is possibly a bit too high.

The Girl King (2015)

IMDB plot summary: THE GIRL KING paints a portrait of the brilliant, extravagant Kristina of Sweden, queen from age six, who fights the conservative forces that are against her ideas to modernize Sweden and who have no tolerance for her awakening sexuality.
Directed by Mika Kaurismäki. Starring Malina Buska, Sarah Gadon, Michael Nyqvist, and Lucas Bryant.

This odd little movie was playing at an independent theater in my area, and I had to say, it did make me want to learn about the historical character being portrayed here -- but mostly because the movie itself gave a very confusing portrayal of her rather than because it did her justice. The movie is awkwardly edited, woodenly acted, and bafflingly scripted almost to the point where it becomes kind of charmingly bizarre... but not quite. It's a shame, because I knew very little about Queen Kristina, and she seems to have been a fascinating character, despite the uncomfortable hodgepodge we're given here in this film.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Girl King < Melinda and Melinda
The Girl King < Chinatown
The Girl King > Hollywoodland
The Girl King < Road to Morocco
The Girl King < Roberta
The Girl King > The Chocolate War
The Girl King > Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
The Girl King > Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
The Girl King < Gunga Din
The Girl King > The Little Princess (1939)
Final spot: #2031 out of 2400.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Mad Max (1979)

IMDb plot summary: In a self-destructing world, a vengeful Australian policeman sets out to stop a violent motorcycle gang.
Directed by George Miller. Starring Mel Gibson, Joanne Samuel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, and Steve Bisley.

One of the things I found so fascinating about Fury Road when I saw it this summer was how little it explained about the world we were in. No quick recap of what the situation was like, no expository dialogue on who most of these characters were and how they got to be there. You were left just kind of watching and taking everything as it came.

That is even truer of Mad Max. All we know about it is that it is set a few years in the future, but there's really hardly any hint of post-apocalyptic future in this movie. For all I know, it could be just about 1979 Australia... except for these little hints that something's a little off. Granted, I would have liked *more* of those hints to keep it feeling more futuristic and less vigilante action flick, but I've got to give it kudos for its restrained vision of the story.

The movie is pretty slow-moving, though. The titular Max is not mad at all until the last 20 minutes or so, while the rest of it slooooowly builds up. Lots and lots of shots of people just driving across the wasteland, and that gets pretty tiring. Nevertheless, now that I've seen the first and the last, I definitely want to see the in-between ones. From what I've heard, they may be a bit more up my alley than this.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Mad Max > Melinda and Melinda
Mad Max < Pretty Woman
Mad Max < A Separation
Mad Max > Broken Arrow
Mad Max > Clueless
Mad Max < Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
Mad Max < The Man Who Wasn't There
Mad Max > John Dies at the End
Mad Max < Marooned
Mad Max > Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Final spot: #960 out of 2395.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

IMDb plot summary: A mad, disfigured composer seeks love with a lovely young opera singer.
Directed by Rupert Julian. Starring Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, and Arthur Edmund Carewe.

I watched this as part of the Letterboxd Season Challenge because it really seemed ridiculous that as big of a phan as I am, that I never saw this version. It's definitely that stylized type of acting that I find difficult to take seriously in dramatic pieces, so there were plenty of moments where I found myself distanced from the characters I know and love by how unusual their movements were. There is at least one beautifully effective moment, however -- where Christine realizes onstage that the Phantom is there and just continues singing. This works best in a silent film, I suspect, because getting the right tone for that singing moment would be almost impossible, but there's something very chilling about seeing her continue on, business as usual, while her eyes are showing us how terrified she is. Even if I didn't love this movie, I'm glad I finally saw it.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Phantom of the Opera < The Fortune Cookie
The Phantom of the Opera > Dinner for Schmucks
The Phantom of the Opera > Total Recall
The Phantom of the Opera < Swing Kids
The Phantom of the Opera < The Score
The Phantom of the Opera > 10 Things I Hate About You
The Phantom of the Opera > Rango
The Phantom of the Opera > Hush
The Phantom of the Opera < The Aristocats
The Phantom of the Opera < Cracks
The Phantom of the Opera > Alfie (2004)
Final spot: #1428 out of 2394.

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

IMDb plot summary: An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend.
Directed by Peter Sohn. Starring Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, and Steve Zahn.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Let me get this out of the way first: This movie looks gorgeous. It's incredible animation. The scenery is stunning, and the characters themselves always look so great against it. There are so many beautiful shots in this movie, so if you like animation or visuals, it's probably worth seeing just because of that.

That being said though... this is lower-tier Pixar. Still pretty good, but it's not a very original story, and it was incredibly easy to pinpoint major plot points early on. (At the opening shot of Arlo's parents waiting for the eggs to hatch, my husband leaned over and whispered to me, "Well, now we know that one of them is going to die." It took another 15 minutes for that to happen, but it got there.)

On top of that, though, the tone of this movie is... odd. It gets unusually dark and surreal for Pixar. Everything just feels a little unsettling, from the cult pterodactyls to the dinosaur stashing birds on his head to the 10-second drug trip. It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, where we see elements of things we recognize but everything is just a little... off. The vibe is different than it is with most Pixar flicks, and I couldn't shake the sense of "wrong"ness I felt from it.

The best parts of this movie are those without words. Pixar really excels in creating emotional scenes with barely any dialogue, and those are the moments that stand out here. The scene where Arlo teaches Spot the concept of family is one of the most hauntingly beautiful scenes Pixar's ever done, and returning Spot to his new family at the end was equally moving. If there had been more of those moments and less bizarre cattle rustling and eerie pterodactyl fleeing, this movie would have been a lot higher on my list.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Good Dinosaur > Melinda and Melinda
The Good Dinosaur < Pretty Woman
The Good Dinosaur > A Separation
The Good Dinosaur < The Green Mile
The Good Dinosaur < Duck Soup
The Good Dinosaur < Grosse Pointe Blank
The Good Dinosaur > The Time Traveler's Wife
The Good Dinosaur < Men in Black III
The Good Dinosaur > Identity
The Good Dinosaur < A Bug's Life
Final spot: #873 out of 2393.

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.
Directed by Anton Corbijn. Starring Grigoriy Dobyrgin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, and Willem Dafoe.

While I had a much easier time with this than with other John Le Carre film adaptations, this still leaves me a bit cold. The performances are all good, the script is good, the story is good, but it highlights a problem I have with intrigue stories: so many of the characters are so deliberately cold and calculated that I simply don't care about them. This one clearly was trying to make a point, and I appreciate it, but in the end the genre itself got in the way for me. It's probably about as good a serious spy movie as I'm likely to see, but I still won't be able to rate it very highly, and almost certainly not as highly as it deserves.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
A Most Wanted Man < The Fortune Cookie
A Most Wanted Man > Dinner for Schmucks
A Most Wanted Man > Total Recall (1990)
A Most Wanted Man > The Man With One Red Shoe
A Most Wanted Man < Hotel Rwanda
A Most Wanted Man > Ted
A Most Wanted Man < Fast Times at Ridgemont High
A Most Wanted Man < The Three Musketeers
A Most Wanted Man < The Fourth Kind
A Most Wanted Man > Highlander
A Most Wanted Man < Waterloo
Final spot: #1304 out of 2392.

Nick Nolte: No Exit (2008)

IMDb plot summary: A frank and unconventional view of the life and work of actor Nick Nolte.
Directed by Tom Thurman.

The gimmick of this documentary on Nick Nolte is simple: Nick Nolte is interviewing himself, interspersed with clips of other actors and directors talking about him. This would have been a cool gimmick if Nolte was at all cooperating with himself. Instead, he ignores actual questions posed to him, instead going off on unrelated tangents. In response to a question about his family life, he tells a story about making out with his first girlfriend. When asked if his character in "Life Lessons" resembles his own creative process, he talks about Rosanna Arquette's insistence that he wanted to sleep with her. This kind of thing happens a lot. It's even more frustrating because the questions being asked are sometimes very interesting and I wanted to know the answers. Nolte crafted these questions, recorded himself asking them... and then decided he didn't want to share the answers. If all he wanted to do was ramble about whatever he wanted to for an hour and a half, why bother filming questions he was never going to respond to? It's an infuriating waste of a gimmick, of a chance to ask himself the kinds of questions he wanted to be asked, and it drags the whole movie down.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Nick Nolte: No Exit < The Fortune Cookie
Nick Nolte: No Exit > Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
Nick Nolte: No Exit < Total Recall (1990)
Nick Nolte: No Exit < Paint Your Wagon
Nick Nolte: No Exit < In the Company of Men
Nick Nolte: No Exit > The Rescuers
Nick Nolte: No Exit > Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Nick Nolte: No Exit < Quigley Down Under
Nick Nolte: No Exit < Seasons of the Heart
Nick Nolte: No Exit < A Farewell to Fools
Nick Nolte: No Exit < Sarah, Plain and Tall
Nick Nolte: No Exit < The Hiding Place

Final spot: #1738 out of 2391.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)

IMDb plot summary: A profile of the noted and extraordinarily cheerful veteran New York City fashion photographer.
Directed by Richard Press.

I don't watch a lot of documentaries, but this was a particularly engaging one. The topic of fashion and the elitism of the field was far less interesting to me, however, than the personality of Bill Cunningham himself. The filmmakers follow him around on his bike as he takes picture both on the streets and at swanky charity events, interview previous collaborators and models, and look back on his career and where it all began. Throughout it all Cunningham is an unbelievably cheerful and open about his obsession for fashion, an obsession that makes absolutely everything else in his life not worth pursuing. Even with this tiny glimpse into the fashion world, it's clear that his optimism and integrity set him apart from just about everyone else there, and it's fascinating to hear him talk about how this seemingly insubstantial interest has not only given him joy throughout his life but influenced and been influenced by his moral values as well. As documentaries go, this is a compelling one.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bill Cunningham New York > The Fortune Cookie
Bill Cunningham New York < Rurouni Kenshin
Bill Cunningham New York > A Separation
Bill Cunningham New York < Hamlet (2009)
Bill Cunningham New York < The Thin Man
Bill Cunningham New York > Grosse Pointe Blank
Bill Cunningham New York > Don Jon
Bill Cunningham New York > Divergent (why is that so high up?)
Bill Cunningham New York > The Birds
Bill Cunningham New York > Rosemary's Baby
Bill Cunningham New York < Duck Soup
Final spot: #823 out of 2390.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

C.H.U.D. (1984)

IMDb plot summary: A bizarre series of murders in New York City seems to point toward the existence of a race of mutant cannibals living under the streets.
Directed by Douglas Cheek. Starring John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, and Kim Greist.

I get why this has a cult following, because it certainly has a delightfully preposterous premise. Unfortunately, it never really works as a cheesy horror flick, largely because it can't decide whether it wants to be a monster movie or a government conspiracy movie. This leads to a bizarre turn of events at the end where the evil government figure is killed, and the credits roll for what's supposedly a happy ending... except for the fact that the monsters are still fine and wandering around. Nothing's been done. What a wildly unsatisfying finale.

On top of that, none of these characters are pleasant or likable or heroic. They spend most of their time being negative and sarcastic or unnecessarily combative. Even 88 minutes was too long to spend with them.

Not a success as a good movie, not a success as a bad movie.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
C.H.U.D. < The Fortune Cookie
C.H.U.D. < Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
C.H.U.D. < Basic Instinct
C.H.U.D. > Boys Town
C.H.U.D. > Black Sheep
C.H.U.D. < Monster House
C.H.U.D. < National Velvet
C.H.U.D. < Dumbo
C.H.U.D. > Hart's War
C.H.U.D. > Stepsister From Planet Weird
C.H.U.D. > Tuck Everlasting
Final spot: #2156 out of 2389.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Husbands and Wives (1992)

IMDb plot summary: When their best friends announce that they're separating, a professor and his wife discover the faults in their own marriage.
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Sydney Pollack, and Judy Davis.

I am very nearly done with Woody Allen's entire filmography (so far) and there's just something so captivating and almost comforting about his movies to me, even ones without happy endings or those making shaky moral claims. This isn't quite either one of those, but it certainly tackles a lot of darker aspects of relationships, and seeing the interactions between the two couples is great to watch.

That being said, there weren't really any "wow" moments for me in this one. It's interesting, as I find most Allen movies to be, and it's certainly in his upper tier in terms of quality, but it didn't stand out to me the way I expected it to be. I was reminded of Deconstructing Harry, the other Woody Allen film I've seen this year that also left me similarly unmoved. Certainly not a bad flick, just nothing that's going to stick in my mind in the same way as The Purple Rose of Cairo or Annie Hall.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Husbands and Wives > Melinda and Melinda
Husbands and Wives < The Red Violin
Husbands and Wives > The Hudsucker Proxy
Husbands and Wives > The Call
Husbands and Wives < Bend It Like Beckham
Husbands and Wives > You Can Count on Me
Husbands and Wives < Ordet
Husbands and Wives > Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey
Husbands and Wives < School of Rock
Husbands and Wives > Say Anything...
Final spot: #695 out of 2388.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Battle Royale (2000)

IMDb plot summary: In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary "Battle Royale" act.
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku. Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto, and Takeshi Kitano.

(Spoilers ahead for the premise of the movie.)

Watched this with Jacob as part of the Letterboxd season challenge, and whoo! This was a tough one. This is no Hunger Games YA adventure. This is brutal and dark and these kids seem every bit as young as they're supposed to be. The comparisons to Tarantino's work is interesting, because it's a very different tone. While Tarantino feels light and over-the-top in his violence, this is dark and gritty and too realistic to be funny. It doesn't all quite tie together at the end (the final 10 minutes aren't entirely worth the horror of the first 90), but it's a fascinating ride, as we slowly learn the personalities and back stories of some of these 40+ students, as well as the teacher who's keeping them captive. It's not an easy watch, but it's one that will certainly sit with you.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Battle Royale > The Circus
Battle Royale < The Red Violin
Battle Royale > Extraordinary Measures
Battle Royale > Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Battle Royale > sex, lies, and videotape
Battle Royale < The Boondock Saints
Battle Royale > The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Battle Royale < Porco Rosso
Battle Royale > The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Battle Royale > Were the World Mine
Battle Royale < Zoolander
Final spot: #645 out of 2387.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)

IMDb plot summary: A goofy detective specializing in animals goes in search of a missing dolphin mascot of a football team.
Directed by Tom Shadyac. Starring Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young, and Tone Loc.

I knew going into this movie I wasn't going to love it or find it especially funny. And, nope, I didn't. Jim Carrey, however, has a decently likable quality where even when he's being over-the-top and playing an obnoxious character, he seems less obnoxious than just... stupid. And that's what this movie is: stupid. Better than obnoxious, but not by a lot. The stupidity and immaturity are such an integral part of his character that the romance between him and Courteney Cox actually made me uncomfortable because it felt like a grown woman was romancing a 13-year-old boy. The second half of the movie made me even more uncomfortable due to its transphobia, homophobia, and mocking of mental illness. There were, I think, two jokes that made me laugh, but those were not enough to make up for the stupid, stupid remainder of the movie.

I knew going into this movie I wasn't going to love it or find it especially funny. And, nope, I didn't. Jim Carrey, however, has a moderately likable quality where even when he's being over-the-top and playing an obnoxious character, he seems less obnoxious than just... stupid. And that's what this movie is: stupid. Better than obnoxious, I suppose, but NOT by a lot. The stupidity and immaturity are such an integral part of his character that the romance between him and Courteney Cox actually made me uncomfortable because it felt like a grown woman was romancing a 13-year-old boy. The second half of the movie made me even more uncomfortable due to its transphobia, homophobia, and mocking of mental illness. There were, I think, two jokes that made me laugh, but those were not enough to make up for the stupid, stupid remainder of the movie.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective < The Fortune Cookie
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective < Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective < Hollywoodland
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective < Courageous
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective > Laserblast
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective > The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective > Horse Sense
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective > The Story of the Weeping Camel
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective > On Our Own
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective > Friends With Money
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective < Boys Town
Final spot: #2239 out of 2386.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mansion of Blood (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Millionaire Mason Murphy renovates the haunted Mayhew mansion. He plans a tremendous lunar eclipse viewing party to celebrate his return to his hometown of River Ridge Iowa. At the party, magic runs out of control and the party guests are murdered one by one.
Directed by Mike Donahue. Starring Gary Busey, Robert Picardo, Ray Quiroga, and Tom Tangen.

Well, this is one of the most hilariously ridiculous movies I've ever seen. I kept questioning whether it was meant to be deliberately bad a la Sharknado, but there were so few failed attempts at comic relief. The editing is horrendous, the writing is laughable, the acting is so very bad, back stories don't make sense, characters pop up out of nowhere and then disappear without ever making it clear who they are or why they matter in this film. By the end of it, though, I found myself almost sucked into the goofy awfulness of it all. And the theme song is pretty awesome. So it's definitely terrible but probably worth a so-bad-it's-good watch (and an extra half-star) because I laughed a lot.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Mansion of Blood < The Fortune Cookie
Mansion of Blood < Dinner for Schmucks
Mansion of Blood > Hollywoodland
Mansion of Blood > The Talk of the Town
Mansion of Blood > Man of Steel
Mansion of Blood < The Forgotten
Mansion of Blood < Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Mansion of Blood < The Balloonatic
Mansion of Blood < The Best Years of Our Lives
Mansion of Blood < Willow
Mansion of Blood < The Lone Ranger
Mansion of Blood > Metal Tornado
Final spot: #1862 out of 2385.

Three Colors: White (1994)

IMDb plot summary: Second of a trilogy of films dealing with contemporary French society shows a Polish immigrant who wants to get even with his former wife.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Starring Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, and Jerzy Stuhr.

Now I've finally seen the entire Three Colors trilogy. This one might be my favorite. I empathized so strongly with our central character, and as his story went on and he changed his life circumstances, I was with him rooting for him all the way. The visuals are subtle but lovely, as with his other two films; the chosen color is all throughout the movie, in the snow and the sky and the clothing choices. I was also extremely struck by the movie's ending, which went in a somewhat unexpected direction but was very fitting for how the rest of it had been playing out. A really solid movie, and I'm glad I got around to seeing it finally.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Three Colors: White > The Fortune Cookie
Three Colors: White < Murder by Death
Three Colors: White > Winnie the Pooh
Three Colors: White > Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Three Colors: White > sex, lies, and videotape
Three Colors: White > An Education
Three Colors: White < Idiocracy
Three Colors: White > Oldboy
Three Colors: White > The Return of Captain Invincible
Three Colors: White < Lethal Weapon
Three Colors: White < They Came Together
Final spot: #619 out of 2384.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)

IMDb plot summary: Julie, an American on vacation in Mexico, spots a giant, one-eyed amoeba rising from the ocean, but when she tries to tell the authorities, no one believes her. She finally teams up with a marine biologist in an attempt to destroy it.
Directed by Wyott Ordung. Starring Anne Kimball, Stuart Wade, Dick Pinner, and Jonathan Haze.

Got a chance to watch this weird little B-movie, and it's definitely cheesy. It's also got plenty of 1950s sexism. Despite the fact that the female lead is going out of her way to hunt down this monster on her own and being generally awesome, the amount of times people tell her to essentially not worry her pretty little head about it was frustrating to me, even though there was a quasi-apology for it at the end.

The story itself is coherent, if not compelling, and I have to say that the appearance of the monster was not nearly as goofy as I thought it would be in a movie like this. By blurring the monster underwater and focusing solely on the glowing eye, it actually achieves a pretty ominous feel, even if the final rescue scene doesn't really work.

Overall, not a terrible movie for what it is, though certainly not great cinema or anything I'd watch again.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Monster from the Ocean Floor < The Fortune Cookie
Monster from the Ocean Floor > Redline
Monster from the Ocean Floor < Mystic Pizza
Monster from the Ocean Floor < Paint Your Wagon
Monster from the Ocean Floor < In the Company of Men
Monster from the Ocean Floor < The Rescuers
Monster from the Ocean Floor > The Professional
Monster from the Ocean Floor > Top Gun
Monster from the Ocean Floor < Sahara
Monster from the Ocean Floor < Howl's Moving Castle
Monster from the Ocean Floor < The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Monster from the Ocean Floor > The Watcher in the Woods

Final spot: #1758 out of 2383.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Captain Blood (1935)

IMDb plot summary: An enslaved doctor and his comrades in chains escape and become pirates of the Caribbean.
Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, and Basil Rathbone.

Swashbuckling Errol Flynn is completely delightful in this movie, as is the rest of the cast, and it ends up being a really entertaining adventure flick. I appreciate that it takes its time getting to what might be termed the premise of the whole movie -- there's a good 45 minutes to an hour of set up before he ever gets to be a captain. That gives us enough time to learn about him as a character, and as the movie continues on and he continues to succeed we're wholly on his side. Overall, a really solid classic adventure, and one that I'm glad I finally got around to watching!

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Captain Blood > Melinda and Melinda
Captain Blood > Rurouni Kenshin
Captain Blood < Whiplash
Captain Blood > Schindler's List
Captain Blood > A Single Man
Captain Blood < Inside Out
Captain Blood < Knights of Badassdom
Captain Blood > Agora
Captain Blood < Clue
Captain Blood < Evil
Captain Blood < Juno
Captain Blood < Pitch Perfect
Final spot: #361 out of 2382.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Brooklyn (2015)

IMDb plot summary: In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Eilis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.
Directed by John Crowley. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domnhall Gleeson, Michael Zegen, and Emory Cohen.

I got a chance to see this at the Mill Valley Film Festival this past weekend with a co-worker. I was first interested in it because it was written by Nick Hornby, whose writing always draws me in, but this movie is worth seeing in and of itself. It begins as a very ordinary story that's been told many times, but lovely writing, gorgeous cinematography, and charismatic performances from all the actors elevate this up to something much more special than it could have been. Eilis is a tremendously likable protagonist with a lot of depth to her story (always delightful in a female-centered, male-written story) and the final 15 minutes or so are a perfect conclusion to the narrative. Definitely worth a watch.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Brooklyn > The Circus
Brooklyn < Rurouni Kenshin
Brooklyn > The Absent-Minded Professor
Brooklyn > We Need to Talk About Kevin
Brooklyn > Eve's Bayou
Brooklyn > Don't Drink the Water (1994)
Brooklyn < Lethal Weapon
Brooklyn > Kick-Ass
Brooklyn < 21 Jump Street
Brooklyn < Atonement
Brooklyn > Oldboy
Final spot: #620 out of 2381.

Dr. No (1962)

IMDb plot summary: A resourceful British government agent seeks answers in a case involving the disappearance of a colleague and the disruption of the American space program.
Directed by Terence Young. Starring Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, and Jack Lord.

Jacob and I watched this for the 1960s blockbuster week of the 2015/16 Letterboxd Season Challenge. I've seen a few other Connery Bond films, and this one is... just OK. It's definitely not as entertainingly over-the-top as From Russia With Love. Of course, it was just starting out the series so it's not like I can complain it was deviating from Bond format or anything like that, but it certainly isn't one that grabbed my attention. I think it's about on par with Goldfinger, which also had a few interesting scenes scattered throughout to spruce up an otherwise uninteresting spy story. But I'm glad I've finally been able to cross it off my list.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Dr. No < Melinda and Melinda
Dr. No > Unknown
Dr. No < Total Recall
Dr. No > The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Dr. No > Bus Stop
Dr. No > Persona
Dr. No < The High and the Mighty
Dr. No > Davy Crockett and the River Pirates
Dr. No < Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins
Dr. No < The Prince and the Pauper (2000)
Dr. No > Brother Bear

Final spot: #1512 out of 2380.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sanjuro (1962)

IMDb plot summary: A crafty samurai helps a young man and his fellow clansmen save his uncle, who has been framed and imprisoned by a corrupt superintendent.
Directed by Akira Kurosawa. Starring Toshirô Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Keiju Kobayashi, and Yûzô Kayama.

Watched this as part of the Letterboxd Season Challenge, and it's definitely on par with its predecessor Yojimbo. Toshiro Mifune is wonderful as always, his leisurely character a delightful contrast to the high-energy ones around him. I've been paying closer attention to Kurosawa's framing and composition choices with each one of his movies I've seen, and there were some stunning shots here. With so many characters present in nearly every scene, it would have been easy to make it seem crowded or unruly. But there is beautiful elegance in how the nine samurai especially are arranged around various characters. The movie didn't wow me as a whole like Seven Samurai or Rashomon or Throne of Blood, but I liked it and would recommend it.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sanjuro > Melinda and Melinda
Sanjuro < The Red Violin
Sanjuro > Nothing in Common
Sanjuro > We Need to Talk About Kevin
Sanjuro > Eve's Bayou
Sanjuro < You Can't Take It With You
Sanjuro < Seven Up!
Sanjuro > Before Sunset
Sanjuro > My Date With Drew
Sanjuro < The Great Mouse Detective
Sanjuro < I Heart Huckabees
Final spot: #655 out of 2380.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Knight's Tale (2001)

IMDb plot summary: After his master dies, a peasant squire, fueled by his desire for food and glory, creates a new identity for himself as a knight.
Directed by Brian Helgeland. Starring Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon, and Paul Bettany.

I was 15 when this came out, and a LOT of my peers saw it and really loved it, but somehow I missed that train and never actually sat down to watch it until today. And... eh. It's fine. It's a cute little story, but it's definitely a little long for the amount of substance it has, and the romantic plot is not even a little bit interesting. By far the most interesting/entertaining part of this whole movie is Paul Bettany as Chaucer. His charismatic character far overpowers everyone else, with the possible exception of Rufus Sewell as an almost hilariously villainous villain. I would watch those two in their own movies. Overall, it's not a *bad* movie, just an unimpressive one.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
A Knight's Tale < No Highway in the Sky
A Knight's Tale > How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
A Knight's Tale > Side Effects
A Knight's Tale > Milk
A Knight's Tale > A Dangerous Method
A Knight's Tale > House of Flying Daggers
A Knight's Tale < Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
A Knight's Tale < North by Northwest
A Knight's Tale > Deceiver
A Knight's Tale > Where the Wild Things Are
A Knight's Tale > Apocalypto
Final spot: #1217 out of 2378.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Swing Time (1936)

IMDb plot summary: A performer and gambler travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer.
Directed by George Stevens. Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, and Helen Broderick.


I watched this for week 2 of the Letterboxd season challenge, for 30s musicals week. Overall, this movie was pretty entertaining, though, as with all Astaire/Rogers pics (and most musicals from this time period), the story winds up being pretty thin and really only serves to provide great dancing scenes -- which are lovely and really spectacularly done. And, really, the first 2/3 of the film has a pretty decent script too, with some very funny moments and clever set-ups for dances. But the motivations of Astaire's character are REALLY unclear until the final moments. Has he fallen for Rogers? Is he just playing with her? Does he realize how much she cares? Does he intend to leave his previous fiancee? We really have no idea until he casually announces it toward the end of the third act, at which point, the movie pretty much falls apart anyway. With both Astaire and Rogers engaged to the wrong people, the movie frantically tries to finagle them back together, but the pacing is weird and we get about 10 minutes of characters giggling madly at nothing in particular before cheerfully announcing new relationship statuses. It's strange and abrupt and unsatisfying given the previous buildup. Most of this movie would earn 4 stars from me, but the incredibly odd ending would get a 2, given how sloppy it feels. So let's land it in the middle.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Swing Time > The Sunshine Boys (1996)
Swing Time < Rurouni Kenshin
Swing Time < Nothing in Common
Swing Time > To Rome With Love
Swing Time > Splash
Swing Time < Suspicion
Swing Time > Nine Lives
Swing Time < Seven Chances
Swing Time > Adam
Swing Time > A Separation
Swing Time < Lyle, the Kindly Viking
Final spot: #939 out of 2377.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Westworld (1973)

IMDb plot summary: A robot malfunction creates havoc and terror for unsuspecting vacationers at a futuristic, adult-themed amusement park.
Directed by Michael Crichton. Starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, and Alan Oppenheimer.

I do have a pretty strong fondness for cheesy sci-fi, and this fits that perfectly. It's a pretty short film that spends a LOT of time on build-up before getting to a place where anything happens, but the world of realistic robots is interesting enough that I didn't mind exploring it for awhile. The menacing character of the Gunslinger is cited on IMDb as being an inspiration for both Michael Myers and the Terminator, and you can definitely see that. There's no real reason that he's hunting the protagonist down, even in the early stages of the film, and that makes his unending determination to get to him all the more unsettling. This film definitely looks and sounds pretty dated, and there's not really any character development to speak of, but the story is still a fun one, and it certainly doesn't overstay its welcome.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Westworld > The Sunshine Boys (1996)
Westworld < Planet of the Apes
Westworld > Hugo
Westworld > Synecdoche, New York
Westworld < Girl Shy
Westworld > Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997)
Westworld > A Chorus Line
Westworld > Happy Feet
Westworld > Evita
Westworld > Bridesmaids
Westworld < Primer
Final spot: #670 out of 2376.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

IMDb plot summary: A distant poor relative of the Duke of D'Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession.
Directed by Robert Hamer. Starring Dennis Price, Valerie Hobson, Joan Greenwood, and Alec Guinness.

I didn't even realize when I began watching it that it's based on the same story as the musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, along with the same gimmick that every member of the rich family is played by a single actor. Overall, this is a really entertaining movie. The juxtaposition of the dry, understated British humor with the morbid and absurd murders is frequently hilarious, and the protagonist is delightfully void of ethics. It does move a little slowly, and because the character is a bit too much of a sociopath for me to care about how he does, the more dramatic moments are lost on me and go on a little long. But overall this was an enjoyable watch, and I'm glad we picked this for the first movie of the Letterboxd season challenge.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Monsters University
Kind Hearts and Coronets < Rurouni Kenshin
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Kind Hearts and Coronets < Synecdoche, New York
Kind Hearts and Coronets < The Devil's Backbone
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Dan in Real Life
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Secret Window
Kind Hearts and Coronets < The Minus Man
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Don Jon
Kind Hearts and Coronets < The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
Kind Hearts and Coronets > Stage Fright (2014)
Final spot: #828 out of 2375.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Oliver Twist (1948)

IMDb plot summary: Based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist is about an orphan boy who runs away from a workhouse and meets a pickpocket on the streets of London.
Directed by David Lean. Starring Robert Newton, Alec Guinness, Kay Walsh, and John Howard Davies.

This is an extremely straightforward adaptation of the story with pretty good acting and scripting, but where it really stands out is the cinematography. The movie looks gorgeous, playing with shadow and light and composition in a way that really brings out both the beauty and the darkness of the world. Unfortunately, the one person's acting that stood out to me is Kay Walsh's, which I didn't like much -- she plays Nancy as an uncomfortably shrill character, and her big emotional moments didn't work for me at all. The rest of the cast is solid, though, with enough depth to really sell them. It's not going to top the musical for me, but if you're looking for just a simple book-to-film version of Oliver Twist, this is a pretty good one.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Oliver Twist > Monsters University
Oliver Twist < Rurouni Kenshin
Oliver Twist < Hugo
Oliver Twist > The Nanny Diaries
Oliver Twist < Splash
Oliver Twist > Star Trek Into Darkness
Oliver Twist < The Hangover
Oliver Twist > In & Out
Oliver Twist > Badlands
Oliver Twist > Fanboys
Final spot: #984 out of 2374.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has them struggling with the mundane - like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.
Directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Starring Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonny Brugh, and Cori Gonzalez-Macuer.

Mockumentaries are pretty tough to do well, but this is one of the most creative ones I've seen, playing beautifully on the conventions of the genre. The characters are interesting to watch, the dialogue is funny, and the movie as a whole does new and different things in both the mockumentary AND the vampire film genres. There's very little wasted time in this comedy -- every scene is funny -- and I anticipate will just keep getting better with each rewatch, so it's definitely one to add to my collection at some point.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
What We Do in the Shadows > As It Is in Heaven
What We Do in the Shadows > Pretty Woman
What We Do in the Shadows < Heathers
What We Do in the Shadows < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
What We Do in the Shadows > Roxanne
What We Do in the Shadows > Take This Waltz
What We Do in the Shadows > Robot and Frank
What We Do in the Shadows > The Bicycle Thief
What We Do in the Shadows > Nightcrawler
What We Do in the Shadows > Schindler's List
What We Do in the Shadows > Nativity!
Final spot: #445 out of 2373.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

IMDb plot summary: In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.
Directed by George Miller. Starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Hugh Keays-Byrne.

This is a pretty phenomenal summer blockbuster. It stands out from a lot of the other action movies, thanks to its abundance of awesome female characters (seriously, this is Furiosa's story, Max is just kinda there) and its really gorgeous visual aesthetic. This movie makes everything LOOK good, and I'm glad I got to see it in theaters instead of waiting for it to come out as a rental.

The Mad Max saga is brand new to me -- I've never seen any of the originals, despite my love for dystopian stories -- so one thing I particularly liked about this movie was that it showed off the world without endless exposition and long details about why things are the way they are, or how these people have the power they do, or any of that. It kept a good deal of it mysterious, where we see that's how it is but don't have a sense as to why. It puts us as audience members in a similar place as most of the characters in this movie, who have only a vague knowledge of what the world was like "before," since they're primarily too busy trying to survive now.

Overall, really interesting and well-made movie.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Mad Max: Fury Road > As It Is In Heaven
Mad Max: Fury Road > Pretty Woman
Mad Max: Fury Road < Heathers
Mad Max: Fury Road < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
Mad Max: Fury Road < Roxanne
Mad Max: Fury Road > Quartet
Mad Max: Fury Road > The Karate Kid
Mad Max: Fury Road < Waking Ned Devine
Mad Max: Fury Road < Leap of Faith
Mad Max: Fury Road > Crossing Delancey
Mad Max: Fury Road > Notting Hill
Final spot: #532 out of 2372.

Inside Out (2015)

IMDb plot summary: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.
Directed by Pete Docter. Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, and Bill Hader.

Pixar has done it again. It's no surprise really, since Pete Docter's previous two Pixar films are in my top three of their filmography. As someone who has a fair amount of melancholy in her personality, I found it really refreshing to see a movie that touched on the positive uses of sadness -- not just sadness as a necessary evil to be overcome on the road to happiness, but that sadness itself can yield good things. I love how they showed sadness as a companion to compassion for hurting people, and how they showed that sharing sadness together can strengthen relationships to be even stronger than just sharing happiness together. I think this is a really important message that all too often gets lost in today's society. It was an important message for *me*, something I needed to hear right now, and I may or may not have cried throughout the entire last half hour because I cared so much about what was being said.

Oh, also the movie was creative and funny and the voice acting was perfect and I loved seeing a kids' movie with two very different female leads. That all is true too.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Inside Out > Safety Not Guaranteed
Inside Out > Eat Pray Love
Inside Out < Heathers
Inside Out > Nativity!
Inside Out > The Shawshank Redemption
Inside Out < Toy Story 3
Inside Out > Knights of Badassdom
Inside Out > Enchanted
Inside Out > Anatomy of a Murder
Inside Out > King George and the Ducky
Inside Out > A Christmas Story
Final spot: #334 out of 2371.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Imposter (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A documentary centered on a young man in Spain who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years.
Directed by Bart Layton.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Well, this was fascinating. Also, it was nice to watch a movie, period, as I pretty much haven't been doing that these past two months. But that's not relevant. While I find many documentaries have to work very hard to make a real-life story as interesting as a fabricated one, this movie is intriguing all the way through, and the fact that there are some questions we just don't get answers to adds an extra layer of intrigue. I was so wrapped up in the story that the final shot of the private investigator digging in the backyard sent a chill down my spine. Definitely one of the more interesting documentaries I've seen.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Imposter > Safety Not Guaranteed
The Imposter < Eat Pray Love
The Imposter > Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
The Imposter > My Week With Marilyn
The Imposter > Mister Roberts
The Imposter > Top Secret!
The Imposter > The Return of Captain Invincible
The Imposter > Spanglish
The Imposter < Children of Men
The Imposter < A Clockwork Orange
The Imposter < Gone Baby Gone
The Imposter > Sleeping Beauty
Final spot: #600 out of 2370.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

IMDb plot summary: An FBI agent takes on a plane full of deadly and poisonous snakes, deliberately released to kill a witness being flown from Honolulu to Los Angeles to testify against a mob boss.
Directed by David R. Ellis. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, and Rachel Blanchard.

I really enjoy what this movie was trying to do. The campy, over-the-top action scenes are really a lot of fun to watch as snakes attack people in some truly hilarious and bizarre ways. The moments of uber-simplified exposition are effective and mercifully short so we can get right back to crazy snake attacks. The movie does exactly the right thing in not giving any of the characters important or significant personalities, because they are incredibly disposable. Where this movie falls flat is in going on just a little too long. An hour and twenty minutes of snakes on a plane sounds awesome. An hour and forty-five minutes is long enough that I'm a bit bored by the end. It's no Sharknado, but if you like that kind of silliness, it's probably worth checking out.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Snakes on a Plane > Talk Radio
Snakes on a Plane < Argo
Snakes on a Plane < Spider-Man 2
Snakes on a Plane < Killing Season
Snakes on a Plane > Monster
Snakes on a Plane < The Return of the Living Dead
Snakes on a Plane < George of the Jungle
Snakes on a Plane > The Age of the Medici
Snakes on a Plane > My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Snakes on a Plane > Win Win
Snakes on a Plane > The Wrestler
Final spot: #1092 out of 2369.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Nightcrawler (2014)

IMDb plot summary: When Louis Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.
Directed by Dan Gilroy. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, and Bill Paxton.

Finally got around to seeing this one, and, wow, this was quite a watch. The writing is excellent, but it's really Gyllenhaal's show here, and he shines, completely inhabiting his character in a way I haven't seen him do since Donnie Darko. He's always been a good actor, but he completely disappears into Louis Bloom, and watching him interact with others throughout the movie is truly captivating. This is an artistically excellent film, with nearly every note hitting just right, and it's definitely in the top tier of 2014. Absolutely worth all the hype I'd been hearing about it.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Nightcrawler > The Man in the Iron Mask
Nightcrawler > Eat Pray Love
Nightcrawler < Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Nightcrawler < Schindler's List
Nightcrawler > Billy Elliot the Musical Live
Nightcrawler > The Basketball Diaries
Nightcrawler > Hawking
Nightcrawler > Repulsion
Nightcrawler > E.T.
Nightcrawler < Punchline
Nightcrawler > Bernie
Final spot: #447 out of 2368.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Holy Ghost People (2013)

IMDb plot summary: On the trail of her missing sister, Charlotte enlists the help of Wayne, an ex-Marine and alcoholic, to infiltrate the Church of One Accord - a community of snake-handlers who risk their lives seeking salvation in the Holy Ghost.
Directed by Mitchell Altieri. Starring Emma Greenwell, Joe Egender, Brendan McCarthy, and Cameron Richardson.

This is for sure an interesting premise -- I am always kind of drawn to stories about warped, twisted faith. But it falls apart a little bit in the execution. All the characters are awkwardly written and poorly acted, nothing more than lame caricatures or sloppy archetypes. The plot meanders a lot as well -- there's no real answers to be found here, and while I'm a big fan of ambiguity, this just reads as lazy rather than profound. There have been much better films about cults, from Martha Marcy May Marlene to The Master to even silly horror flicks like The Wicker Man (which is at least entertaining) or comedies like Leap of Faith. This movie wants to make a deeper statement than it can with the quality it's given us.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Holy Ghost People < The Man in the Iron Mask
Holy Ghost People < SpaceCamp
Holy Ghost People > Glory Road
Holy Ghost People > The Santa Clause
Holy Ghost People < The Verdict
Holy Ghost People > The Night of the Hunter
Holy Ghost People > The Lodger
Holy Ghost People > Cujo
Holy Ghost People > Giant
Holy Ghost People > Show Boat (1951)
Holy Ghost People > 27 Dresses
Final spot: #1851 out of 2367.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor's interest, which backfires horribly.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Ty Simpkins.

I went into this movie with very low expectations, and honestly, I think that worked in its favor, because I ended up having a lot of fun. Oh, don't get me wrong, the script is terrible. It's awkward and strange and there are a lot of laugh-out-loud awful lines. The characters are flat and their motivations are weird. But the last 30 minutes or so are all just pure dinosaur fight insanity, and that is TOTALLY WORTH IT. This is not a particularly *good* movie, because if you look at it closely it falls apart really fast, but it's a really enjoyable dumb blockbuster.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Jurassic World > The Man In the Iron Mask
Jurassic World < Eat Pray Love
Jurassic World < Avengers: Age of Ultron
Jurassic World > The Forbidden Kingdom
Jurassic World > The Switch
Jurassic World < The Ring
Jurassic World < The Blind Side
Jurassic World > Bee Movie
Jurassic World > Selma
Jurassic World < John Dies at the End
Jurassic World > The Last Unicorn
Final spot: #945 out of 2366.

28 Up (1984)

IMDb plot summary: Director Michael Apted revisits the same group of British-born adults after a 7 year wait. The subjects are interviewed as to the changes that have occurred in their lives during the last seven years.
Directed by Michael Apted.

This is easily my favorite of the bunch so far, partly because it's the last one that I suspect will be a truly dramatic shift in character or circumstances for many of these people. At 28, a lot of them have settled into *something*, whether it's a happy life where they can be content and feel fulfilled or a life of deliberately vague wandering to avoid suburbia. While I'm sure there will be twists and turns and developments in future films, they are likely to be less surprising and sudden than several of these were.

It's also interesting to me as I am now 28 myself, so I can't help but compare myself and where I am in my life to where all of these people are and how they view life. Some of them seem so beaten down at 28, while others seem like they're just beginning their journey, and I'm fascinated by the range of possibilities.

Parts of this movie are lovely and inspiring. Others are incredibly depressing. But they're all fascinating, especially when compared against the children, teenagers, and young adults that they were.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
28 Up > Last Holiday
28 Up < Eat Pray Love
28 Up > Spider-Man 2
28 Up > The Descendants
28 Up < Mister Roberts
28 Up > A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
28 Up > White Heat
28 Up < Ordet
28 Up > Say Anything...
28 Up > A Few Good Men
28 Up > Gentleman's Agreement
Final spot: #675 out of 2365.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

IMDb plot summary: Suffering from writer's block and eagerly awaiting his writing award, Harry Block remembers events from his past and scenes from his best-selling books as characters, real and fictional, come back to haunt him.
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen, Elisabeth Shue, Hazelle Goodman, and Bob Balaban.

Wow, Harry is really one of Woody Allen's most detestable characters, and there is a coldness to this movie because of it. This is one of the last few Allen movies I have yet to see, and I'm... still not entirely sure what I think of it yet, so this review may be a little scattered. The creative use of editing was fascinating here, making Harry's reality fragmented and jumpy while his stories were (as far as I can recall) smooth and straightforward. Unraveling his life through both his work and his real life encounters, we get glimpses of Harry both as who he is and who he wishes to be/thinks he is.

I think this is almost certainly not a flick I can grasp the first time through, so it'd be worth a second viewing at some point. As it is right now, it'll sit in the high middle of my chart as I feel there's something of substance there but nothing that really grabbed me this time around.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Deconstructing Harry > Holiday
Deconstructing Harry < Eat Pray Love
Deconstructing Harry < Barton Fink
Deconstructing Harry > Julie & Julia
Deconstructing Harry < Bye Bye Birdie (1995)
Deconstructing Harry > Titanic
Deconstructing Harry < Manhattan Murder Mystery
Deconstructing Harry > Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam
Deconstructing Harry > Cabaret
Deconstructing Harry > Star Trek: Generations
Final spot: #980 out of 2364.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

IMDb plot summary: A drama based on a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects.
Directed by Mike Nichols. Starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams.

Where this movie is trying to go is interesting, but it just never seems to get there. I've seen much better performances from all the actors involved, and the film never quite figures out how to land, as it just sorts of... runs out of steam and sputters out toward the end. As a result, it never really makes clear what it's trying to say. It seems like it's trying to leave you with a message, but any message that's there is muddled. I'd hoped for something much more interesting, given the great cast, director, and screenwriter. As it is, it just kind of... sits.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Charlie Wilson's War < A Star Is Born (1954)
Charlie Wilson's War > The Number 23
Charlie Wilson's War < Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Charlie Wilson's War > Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
Charlie Wilson's War < Last of the Red Hot Lovers
Charlie Wilson's War > Anything Else
Charlie Wilson's War < The Trouble With Angels
Charlie Wilson's War < Hulk
Charlie Wilson's War < Cars
Charlie Wilson's War < Man on Fire
Charlie Wilson's War > The Internship
Final spot: #1586 out of 2363.