Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tekkonkinkreet (2006)

IMDb plot summary: In Treasure Town, life can be both peaceful and violent. This is never truer than for our heroes, Black and White - two street kids who claim to traverse the urban city as if it were their own. But in this town, an undercurrent of evil exists and has its sights set on the pair of brothers, forcing them to engage in battle with an array of old-world Yakuza as well as dangerous assassins vying to rule the decaying metropolis, Treasure Town.
Directed by Michael Arias. Starring Kazunari Ninomiya, Yû Aoi, Yûsuke Iseya, and Kankurô Kudô.

(Some vague spoilers about the changing tone of the movie.)

This movie is... not what I expected it to be. The first 20 minutes or so feel like a lighthearted adventure with some crime elements sprinkled in, but as the story goes on it gets darker and darker, and I got more and more sucked into the story. I'm still not sure I can at any point tell you exactly what *happens* in the story, but I can tell you that it *felt* heartbreaking and meaningful and intense and lovely. The relationship between the two young boys ends up being the heart of the movie, and everything else around them comes back to that. It's an odd movie, but I liked it, and it was a really nice way to finally close out my ridiculously ambitious movie challenge this year. I MADE IT, GUYS.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Tekkonkinkreet > The Madness of King George
Tekkonkinkreet > A Clockwork Orange
Tekkonkinkreet < Into the Woods (2014)
Tekkonkinkreet < Nativity!
Tekkonkinkreet < Four Lions
Tekkonkinkreet < Key Largo
Tekkonkinkreet < A Raisin in the Sun
Tekkonkinkreet > Murder by Death
Tekkonkinkreet > The Sting
Tekkonkinkreet > Sherlock Jr.
Tekkonkinkreet < A Doll's House (1973)
Final spot: #560 out of 2310.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Last Airbender (2010)

IMDb plot summary: The story follows the adventures of Aang, a young successor to a long line of Avatars, who must put his childhood ways aside and stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Starring Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, and Jackson Rathbone.

Much like the Dragonball movie which I watched last week, I went into this with not a LOT of knowledge of Avatar. I've tried to watch it a couple times but couldn't get into it at all. 90% of my awareness of it comes from when my siblings or Jacob watched it and I caught glimpses of it or heard them talk about it. So I can't really speak to how this compares to the series.

That being said, this was mostly just dull. Most of it is bad actors explaining the story to each other, with one or two mildly cool-looking fight scenes that are then slowed way down and stretched out far too long. Also, it made me a little crazy that there was no consensus on how to pronounce the word "avatar." Like, more than anything else that was wrong with this movie, that was ridiculous.

I've heard people complain that the story is too rushed, which, uh, is what happens when you try to cram a whole bunch of TV episodes into one movie, but as someone who doesn't know the story at all, I thought the plot was actually pretty coherent and decently-paced. It was just told in the most boring manner possible.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Last Airbender < The Madness of King George
The Last Airbender < The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
The Last Airbender < Man of the Year
The Last Airbender > A Cinderella Story
The Last Airbender > Yours, Mine & Ours (2005)
The Last Airbender > The Rules of the Game
The Last Airbender < Monster House
The Last Airbender > Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
The Last Airbender < The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
The Last Airbender > Loving Annabelle
Final spot: #2045 out of 2309.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

IMDb plot summary (truncated from original): In 1868, after the end of the Bakumatsu war, the former assassin Kenshin Himura promises to defend those in need without killing. When Kenshin helps the idealistic Kaoru Kamiya from the gangsters of the powerful opium drug lord Kanryuu Takeda that wants her school for his production of opium, Kaoru invites Kenshin to stay in the school.
Directed by Keishi Ohtomo. Starring Takeru Satô, Emi Takei, Yû Aoi, and Teruyuki Kagawa.

This was a pleasant surprise. What starts off looking like a typical samurai film ends up being a really lovely movie, filmed beautifully and dealing thoughtfully with how a desire to avoid killing can mesh with someone who also wants to be a protector. The fight scenes are really well-done, but most importantly, they actually mean something because the characters are worth caring about. Interesting and thoughtful and definitely different.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Rurouni Kenshin > Robin Hood (1973)
Rurouni Kenshin > Sleeping Beauty
Rurouni Kenshin < Into the Woods (2014)
Rurouni Kenshin < Nativity!
Rurouni Kenshin < Four Lions
Rurouni Kenshin < Key Largo
Rurouni Kenshin < A Doll's House
Rurouni Kenshin < The Goodbye Girl (2004)
Rurouni Kenshin > Argo
Rurouni Kenshin > Pretty Woman
Rurouni Kenshin < The Red Violin
Final spot: #570 out of 2307.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Peter Pan Live! (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A live telecast of the beloved J. M. Barrie story.
Directed by Rob Ashford and Glenn Weiss. Starring Allison Williams, Christopher Walken, Taylor Louderman, and Christian Borle.

I grew up on the Mary Martin version of this, and like most show productions, there are things I like more than that version and things I like less. Let's start with the positive: the group dance scenes in this are great. These are some of the most fun choreographed numbers I've seen in recent years, really solidifying the story's blend of both energetic adventure and goofy fantasy. Broadway vets Christian Borle, Kelli O'Hara, and Taylor Louderman are also all delightful. The changes to the score are good choices -- "Oh My Mysterious Lady" and Liza's ballet were not at all missed, and most of the new songs were great fun.

The main issue with this production, however, is the casting of the leads. Allison Williams is all right as Peter Pan, but she constantly sounds out of breath in her songs, and not for a second could I imagine her as anything other than an adult woman. There's a reason Mary Martin won an Oscar for her portrayal of Peter -- she managed to tap into the cadence and body language of a young boy in a way Williams never gets. This is not a particularly easy role to play, and I understand that, but I was not terribly impressed with the final decision.

But while Williams was simply unmemorable, Christopher Walken is a huge disappointment. Hook has some of the most entertaining lines and songs and the role does demand a certain amount of camp to play it -- at the very least a deliciously intimidating quality. Walken *can* have both of these, but here he just looks SO uncomfortable, stiffly shuffling and mumbling and never looking exactly at anything or anybody. There are hints in the dance numbers of the over-the-top character he could have played, but those fade away quickly, and we're left with the least interesting Hook of all time. Any one of the side pirates would be more engaging as a character.

It's worth seeing for the ensemble numbers, but this version is missing the lead actors it needs to make the production pop. Let's hope NBC chooses more wisely next time.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Peter Pan Live! > The Madness of King George
Peter Pan Live! < Children of Men
Peter Pan Live! > Kiss the Girls
Peter Pan Live! < Father Goose
Peter Pan Live! < Secret Window
Peter Pan Live! > Tangled
Peter Pan Live! < Dan in Real Life
Peter Pan Live! < The Time Traveler's Wife
Peter Pan Live! < Elf
Peter Pan Live! < Connie and Carla
Peter Pan Live! < Being John Malkovich
Peter Pan Live! < Chronicle
Final spot: #829 out of 2308.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dragonball: Evolution (2009)

IMDb plot summary: The young warrior Son Goku sets out on a quest, racing against time and the vengeful King Piccolo, to collect a set of seven magical orbs that will grant their wielder unlimited power.
Directed by James Wong. Starring Justin Chatwin, Yun-Fat Chow, Emmy Rossum, and Jamie Chung.

OK, let me start off by saying I have never seen or read any Dragonball anything before. Most of the seething hatred comes from Dragonball fans, so it appears to be a really bad adaptation, but I had no idea who any of these characters were or how the story goes down in the series, so I'm going to be commenting purely from a newbie's viewpoint.

And... well, it's not good. It's not as awful as I expected it to be -- there are a couple fun moments, and hey, that's James Marsters as the bad guy, and he's pretty cool. But the characters really fall apart. There are a lot of them, they have no development, they come to obvious realizations WAYYYYY too late, and they're given some pretty stupid things to say. With some more enjoyable characters, this could have been a silly but entertaining fantasy adventure story, but they apparently didn't bother with that.

So it's definitely sloppy, but I didn't loathe it. I would much rather watch this than the last movie I saw with James Marsters in it (P.S. I Love You).

1 star.

Flickchart: #1836 out of 2306, below Enough and above Detour.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Redline (2009)

IMDb plot summary: An action drama centered on a deadly racing tournament held every five years and the reckless dare-devil driver who wants to win it.
Directed by Takeshi Koike. Starring Takuya Kimura, Yû Aoi, and Tadanobu Asano.

My brother and I have had plenty of discussions over the years about my difficulty with anime, so he knew this one was going to be a hard sell. And... yeah, it was. For some reason I have trouble processing the visuals for anime, and these visuals are flashy and fast. My eyes *felt* tired when I finished this movie. I'm sure there were chunks of the movie that I just missed in one form or another because I could not read the subtitles and visually decipher the images at the same time. A lot of reviews for this movie praise its visual style, but to me it's like praising a song for its lyrics when you can't actually hear them. They may be great, but I feel frustrated that I can't decipher them enough to tell.

On top of that, it's not a terribly compelling story for me. A lot of the anime have the big stakes as some sort of competition, but it's just presented as the big stakes for no particular reason. This happens in sports movies too, but the ones that work for me are ones that give me a reason to care that the protagonists win aside from just "winning is nice." The characters here don't have a lot of that, and as such this was a tough watch.

I will say the sci-fi future is fun to watch unfold. The different creatures populating this world are interesting, although since I'm so turned off by the visual style, they're more interesting to me in theory than they are in execution.

Overall, this is not the movie to win me over to the "yay anime" side.

1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1696 out of 2305, below Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus and above Unknown.

Monday, January 19, 2015

S1m0ne (2002)

IMDb plot summary: A producer's film is endangered when his star walks off, so he decides to digitally create an actress to substitute for the star, becoming an overnight sensation that everyone thinks is a real person.
Directed by Andrew Niccol. Starring Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Evan Rachel Wood, and Rachel Roberts.


All right. So about an hour and a half into the movie, it was clearly ridiculous and unbelievable (and Al Pacino is way miscast) but also fun, and I was having a great time following the crazy antics Victor had to pull preserving Simone's secret identity. I was ready to put this alongside Cypher and Lifeforce as sci-fi flicks that were nonsensical but a lot of fun to watch.

And then... that last half hour happened.


A whole third act is introduced (badly), played out (badly and hurriedly), and resolved (badly and abruptly). Did you know that taking an antique floppy disc that has a virus on it out of a computer will not only remove the virus from the computer but will completely restore all the corrupted files? That is just one of the nonsensical resolutions that happen here. Granted, suspension of disbelief is very necessary for this film, but this just went way too far.

The worst part is that none of that awful ending is necessary. It could EASILY have been wrapped up almost any other way and made way more sense. It felt like there was last-minute pressure to do something "more" with it, so Niccol sat down and spent maybe 10 minutes writing this mess of a conclusion.

A lame-but-fun movie turned into a lame-and-awful one. So disappointing.

1.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1659 out of 2304, below Cassandra's Dream and above Creation.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stage Fright (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A snobby musical theater camp is terrorized by a blood-thirsty killer who hates musical theater.
Directed by Jerome Sable. Starring Allie MacDonald, Meat Loaf, Douglas Smith, and Minnie Driver.

This one was a little spotty for me. There were some parts I just happily, unabashedly loved -- the cheesiness of the killer, the song about needing to go on with the show in the face of a terrifying death, the many Phantom of the Opera references, the moment where the stage manager realized he loved being on stage... but there was also some that just went a little over-the-top for me. The "welcome to camp" song comes especially to mind, which went on far too long and got progressively less interesting as it did. The female singers were all... kind of uncomfortable to listen to as well, with their thin, shrill voices. They're no Sierra Boggess as Christine, that's for sure. They're not even Sarah Brightman.

However, overall, I liked it. The goofiness of the story won out over the occasional not-greatness of it, and I had fun watching it.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #785 out of 2303, below The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and above Don Jon.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles (2011)

IMDb plot summary: An urban mystery unfurls as one man pieces together the surreal meaning of hundreds of cryptic tiled messages that have been appearing in city streets across the U.S. and South America.
Directed by Jon Foy.


As this movie got going, I was prepared to be disappointed by the ending. A documentary that sets out to solve an unsolved mystery could rarely be as satisfying as a fictional mystery, because life just isn't that tidy. To my surprise, the film's resolution is not only satisfying but also fairly moving. When the almost-definite tiler is discovered and is clearly not interested in revealing himself, the filmmakers and the amateur detective back away and let go, instead of pushing for an interview. That, in my opinion, was not only the kind and decent thing to do, but also the most interesting in terms of storytelling. The main question may have been mostly cleared up, but leaving a little mystery intact works out really well.

There are a few moments in here that don't really work for me, such as the two times when the film suddenly decides to delve into the protagonist's life. These sections feel extremely out of place, especially when the rest of the movie is pretty tightly focused, and they're never referred to again. That being said, overall, I was definitely intrigued by this and enjoyed watching it. The mystery is fascinating to watch unfold, and I was delighted that there was a plausible answer to it all.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #699 out of 2301, below Godzilla and above The Intouchables.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Like Crazy (2011)

IMDb plot summary: A British college student falls for an American student, only to be separated from him when she's banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa.
Directed by Drake Doremus. Starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, and Charlie Bewley.

(Spoilers about the movie's resolution.)

I'm... so torn on this. On one hand, I didn't find either of the main characters particularly likable, but maybe that's because I saw the impossibility of their relationship early on and found myself distressed at how they kept, as one of them said, "stopping and starting." Their indecision and inability to move forward with their lives was... frustrating for me.

On the other hand, though, I was so satisfied with how the film portrayed the final scenes. The silent, non-ecstatic ending reminded me so much of an extended version of The Graduate's final few seconds -- after the ecstasy of getting what you thought you wanted, you realize that maybe all that effort wasn't actually what you really wanted. I was so worried that it was going to end with some sort of fairy tale happy ending, when it seemed clear to me that moving on would be the healthiest thing for them both.

I think it is a good movie, but not necessarily an enjoyable one for me. So we'll see where it gets ranked.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #960 out of 2300, below Must Love Dogs and above The Avengers.

Billy Elliot the Musical Live (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A talented young dancer has to learn to fight for his dream despite social and parental disapproval.
Directed by Brett Sullivan. Starring Elliott Hanna, Ruthie Henshall, Deka Walmsley, and Ann Emery.

(Mild spoilers.)

The original movie is one of my favorites, and though this ends up having a very different focus than the movie did, I liked this quite a lot as well.

While the film version focuses most heavily on Billy himself and on his journey out of his town to pursue his dreams, the musical spends a LOT more time with the residents of the town. This does a nice job fleshing out the atmosphere and the story, but the end result is... very sad. As Billy leaves, the show's final image is his best friend Michael, staring after him as he walks off. This makes the show seem almost like it wasn't about Billy at all, but instead about this town where very few are able to escape the poverty and the slow death of their village. Billy's the lucky one, the one who's just talented enough to be able to make something of himself elsewhere... but in this version, he is not celebrated so much as his family and friends are mourned. It becomes a big, sad group story. And although this shift was unexpected... I like it. Not maybe as much as the original, but there's something very moving here. I can see why this won all the awards it did.

Interestingly enough, in this musical review, I don't have much to say about the music. The songs are fine. Some are more interesting than others. I've been a fan of "Electricity" ever since I heard the original cast recording, and it is definitely a standout moment here. Also notable are "Shine" and "Grandma's Song." The dancing is great to watch as well. But it's the script and the overall story that wins here.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #509 out of 2302, below Bicentennial Man and above Heavenly Creatures.

Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005)

IMDb plot summary: Soldiers from both sides of the Korean divide live among villagers who know nothing of the war.
Directed by Kwang-Hyun Park. Starring Jae-yeong Jeong, Ha-kyun Shin, Hye-jeong Kang, and Ha-ryong Lim.

(Spoilers about the tone of the ending.)

Oh, this is beautiful. This is another example of a genre that tends to get very distant with its characters, but here, it's so easy to get pulled into the drama, and the characters are vivid and fascinating and delightful. The visuals are absolutely gorgeous as well -- some of the most beautiful are actually in the final dark, violent scene. It's one of those movies that builds slowly but is captivating every moment. I'm really glad this was assigned to me for my movie challenge, because I'm not sure I would have watched it otherwise, and I would be missing out.

4.5 stars.

Flickchart: #246 out of 2299, below Reefer Madness (2005) and above Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

True Romance (1993)

IMDb plot summary: Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.
Directed by Tony Scott. Starring Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, and Val Kilmer.

(Very very mild spoilers that would be spoiled by reading the summary anyway.)

The Bonnie-and-Clyde-style relationship between Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette is the most interesting thing for me in this film, and it's what keeps it from becoming a boring drug crime action movie (a genre that never intrigues me much). Instead, the action really does revolve around their relationship, which is insanely optimistic, so even in the midst of torture scenes and deadly shoot-outs, there's an unusually lighthearted tone.

Of course, the score has a lot to do with this. I couldn't decide at first whether I loved or hated the score, which had a cheerful little tune playing in the background of some scenes I thought would be treated more dramatically. In the end, I think it managed to sustain an enjoyable mood on through some very dark sequences, so I think it worked.

I wouldn't say I loved this, but I liked it enough.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #1102 out of 2298, below A Little Night Music and above The Slipper and the Rose.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nashville (1975)

IMDb plot summary: Over the course of a few hectic days, numerous interrelated people prepare for a political convention as secrets and lies are surfaced and revealed.
Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Henry Gibson, Michael Murphy, Lily Tomlin, and a lot of other people.

Robert Altman and I have had a bit of a tricky relationship. I've seen five of his -- I really liked two and really disliked the other three. This one falls somewhere in the middle. It's unfair to complain about the abundance of country music in this one, that'd be like those people who complain about the amount of singing in Into the Woods, but as I'm not even a little bit interested in country music, I did find myself really uninterested in large parts of the movie. Altman clearly enjoys showcasing the music, and I'm sure I'd love that if it wasn't a genre I already feel very distanced from.

The second problem is the bigger one. With so many characters and so much music, I don't feel like we really got a chance to learn who any of them are. In a movie that's nearly three hours long, I'd expect to get some pretty solid character development, but all that we get are tiny snapshots spread out so far apart that I forget what's been going on with that character previously by the time we get back around to them. The few characters that are intriguing enough to follow, I got frustrated that they only got like 10 minutes of plot over the course of two hours and 40 minutes. I know this is Altman's thing, big ensemble casts, and I really liked it in Short Cuts... but it didn't work for me at all here.

2.5 stars.

Flickchart: #1217 out of 2297, below Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and above Wedding Crashers.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Christmas (2014)

IMDb plot summary: After a break up, Jenny moves in with writer Kelly, her filmmaker husband, and their child. Despite a rocky start, Jenny's influence helps Kelly realize that an evolution in her life, career and relationship is necessary for her happiness.
Directed by Joe Swanberg. Starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, and Lena Dunham.

(Mild spoilers about the ending.)

This movie wants to be much deeper and more meaningful than it is. That doesn't mean it's bad, though -- it's a good film looking at a week or two in the lives of some likable and interesting characters. Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey really shine here, but then this is no surprise, since they're always good. What doesn't work is the ending, where the "resolution" feels like the director simply ran out of story. It doesn't feel deliberately open-ended or ambiguous, just... unfinished. It's worth watching for the lead actresses, but it's not that great in and of itself.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #956 out of 2296, below Hitch and above True Grit (1969).

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Intouchables (2011)

IMDb plot summary: After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caregiver.
Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Starring François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, and Audrey Fleurot.

Much of the time, inspirational movies based on true stories are really NOT my favorite, but this is a surprisingly engaging film. The characters are what drive it home for me -- they are vivid and likable and feel like real people. The interactions between the two leads are especially entertaining, with a pervading sense of humor that makes the whole movie feel friendly and light. Even when dramatic things happen, they're not particularly worrisome. It's not a particularly weighty screenplay, especially given what I expected, and it's great fun to watch.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #697 out of 2295, below Godzilla and above Signs.

Laurence Anyways (2012)

IMDb plot summary: A drama that charts ten years in the relationship of a male-to-female transsexual's relationship with her lover.
Directed by Xavier Dolan. Starring Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clément, Nathalie Baye, and Monia Chokri.

(Some mild spoilers about the ending.)

There's obviously something very special about this movie. Some of the scenes are hauntingly beautiful and by the end I found myself captivated by the story. As it ends the movie showing how Laurence and Fred first met, it was such a lovely, perfect ending that it took my breath away a little.

That being said, it was a bit of a rocky journey to get there. This movie is nearly 3 hours long (and it feels it), and there were bits of surrealism scattered throughout that were very jarring. They were infrequent enough that they felt out-of-place and just... wrong.

There were probably fewer great moments overall, but the ones that were there saved the movie. So while it's not perfect, there was enough to redeem it for me. I suspect most people will either like it a lot more or a lot less than I did.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #686 out of 2294, below Ninotchka and above Celeste and Jesse Forever.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

IMDb plot summary: A disfigured composer sells his soul for the woman he loves so that she will perform his music. However, an evil record tycoon betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise.
Directed by Brian De Palma. Starring William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper, and Gerrit Graham.

I think I like the idea of this movie more than sitting through the actual movie. This *should* work much better than it does -- a campy horror musical loosely based on Phantom of the Opera? How would I NOT like that? I'm not entirely sure why it doesn't quite gel for me, but something's missing. Maybe I need to rewatch it in a few years when I know what to expect but have enough distance that I'm not holding onto my current perception. Anyway, the humorous elements didn't quite mesh for me, and while the music was fun, it wasn't great. I didn't *dislike* it, but it was just kind of... meh.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #860 out of 2293, below Jonah and above The Recruit.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

You Can Count on Me (2000)

IMDb plot summary: A single mother's life is thrown into turmoil after her struggling, rarely-seen younger brother returns to town.
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan. Starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, and Rory Culkin.

This is a good movie, no doubt about that, but it's one of those movies that is solid throughout and doesn't leave much of an impression on me afterward, so I'm not sure how much I'll remember about this in a year. That being said, though, it *is* well-done. It's the only time I've thought Mark Ruffalo could maybe act, for one thing. He really embodies the character in a way that makes him very interesting to watch. I'm with the crew who is a little surprised he didn't get an Oscar nod for this. Laura Linney did, and she is, of course, also very good, but then she always is. This is also the first time Matthew Broderick has impressed me in a LONG time. The interactions between the characters are fascinating to watch, thanks to their acting and a good script. I'm not sure there are any standout moments for me, but it's definitely worth watching and I'm glad I saw it.

3.5 stars.

Flickchart: #663 out of 2292, below The Thief of Bagdad and above La jetee.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Nativity! (2009)

IMDb plot summary: An improvised comedy based around a school nativity play.
Directed by Debbie Isitt. Starring Martin Freeman, Marc Wootton, Jason Watkins, and Ashley Jensen.

Well, this movie was ever so silly but charming and adorable. About ten minutes in, I was pretty sure I was going to love it, and I just kept liking it all the way through. I'm not sure it would have worked quite as well if someone other than Martin Freeman were in the lead role, as he plays a terrifically likable and relatable main character, as well as offering some of the most entertaining lines throughout. Jason Watkins as the antagonistic director of the rival school's nativity play is also really funny. The supporting cast is less amazing, but it all comes together as a very sweet, very silly holiday musical for families. Apparently there's a sequel with David Tennant, who I love even more than Martin Freeman, so I'm mildly interested to see that one as well, because if it's anywhere near as fun as this one, I'll definitely enjoy it. (There's also a third, but no one I really care about is in it, so that one gets a pass.) This was a delightful surprise and a great way to kick off Joseph's movie week.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #430 out of 2291, below The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall and above Big Hero 6.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The 'Burbs (1989)

IMDb plot summary: An overstressed suburbanite and his paramilitaric neighbor struggle to prove their paranoid theory that the new family in town is a front for a cannibalistic cult.
Directed by Joe Dante. Starring Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, and Rick Ducommun.

This is another one of those movies that is not great or terrible, it just... sits somewhere in the middle. I feel like I should like it more than I do, but there just aren't a lot of big laughs for me, and the horror subplot wasn't as much as I'd hoped. Sometimes comedies hit just to the left or the right of where my sense of humor is, and this is one of them. Fine, but forgettable.

3 stars.

Flickchart: #1042 out of 2290, below Koyaanisqatsi and above Monster.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Punchline (1988)

IMDb plot summary (truncated): Steven Gold is a stand-up comedian who is flat broke and has recently dropped out of medical school. Lilah Krytsick is housewife with an ambition to be a stand-up comedian, however she doesnt seem to have the talent. Steven takes her under his wings and teaches her the art of comedy and humour.
Directed by David Seltzer. Starring Sally Field, Tom Hanks, John Goodman, and Mark Rydell.

Dang. This is a great movie.

Granted, there are a few more scenes than I'd care for of everyone actually doing their acts, given that I hardly ever find stand-up funny in the first place, but the heart of this story is the characters, not the jokes. Sally Field is very likable as a housewife who wants to be a comedienne against her husband's wishes, and Tom Hanks' charming-but-immature college dropout is also a great character. The most memorable scenes in the film are when he is emotionally falling apart (I'm thinking especially of his father's appearance at his gig and his Singin' in the Rain routine).

The interactions between Field and Hanks, as well as Field and her husband (John Goodman), are real and fascinating to watch. The characters are all so easy to root for, and I found myself getting *really* sucked into the story. The ending is beautifully done and very moving. Overall, it's just a really great flick, and one that I'd definitely like to watch again someday.

4 stars.

Flickchart: #438 out of 2289, below Repulsion and above The Great Race.