Monday, April 27, 2015

Annie (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in.
Directed by Will Gluck. Starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, and Cameron Diaz.

OK. Let me start by saying I really like the ideas they had for modernizing it. The original Annie had a lot of fairly subtle political messages in it that got somewhat lost in today's culture, and trying to shake things up to get some of those messages through and not just, "Aw, a billionaire adopted an orphan" was a really good idea. Quvenzhane Wallis does just fine and is pretty likable, as is Jamie Foxx. (On the flip side, Cameron Diaz is... NOT good, and Rose Byrne is unbelievably bland, so there's that.)

Where this movie REALLY falls down, though, is in the music. They didn't just add a beat and autotune to the music -- they rewrote entire songs, and NOT for the better. I didn't even start off liking these songs at all, but this movie makes every one of them worse. As I said in a review elsewhere, they all reek of the bare minimum of effort. "Little Girls" is one prominent example -- they use two lines of the original song, add in a verse and chorus about wanting to be a star, and then they repeat the entire song again, because they'd already written a whole minute of song and apparently didn't feel like shooting for anything more. Really? REALLY? You have a two-minute song and the best you can do is to repeat your one-minute verse/chorus twice? This isn't a meaningful ballad where you can kinda get away with that. You're not writing "Will I" from Rent.

All the music just feels lazy -- lazily written, lazily performed, lazily choreographed. I can't even tell if any of these people can actually sing, they're so ridiculously autotuned. I found myself dreading the songs because the rest of the movie is not great but it's kinda fun, and then the songs would just drag it down ALL THE WAY. There was so much potential here. I wouldn't at all have minded new arrangements of the old songs. But rewriting them into stupider versions and then having them performed by digital voices seems like a really lame plan from someone who doesn't quite understand what people like about musicals in the first place.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Annie < Minority Report
Annie > The Good Doctor
Annie < Water for Elephants
Annie < Doc Hollywood
Annie > Courage Under Fire
Annie < In the Heat of the Night
Annie > The Misfits
Annie < Run Lola Run
Annie < In the Company of Men
Annie < Blue Valentine
Annie < High Society
Annie < House of Games
Final spot: #1670 out of 2350.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Marathon (2005)

IMDb plot summary: This hit inspirational movie follows an autistic young man, who finds solace only in running. Even though both Mother and son suffer from family and financial issues, they manage to find a former marathon champion -- now a lethargic old man - to serve as his coach for an upcoming marathon.
Directed by Yool-Chul Chung. Starring Seung-woo Cho, Mi-suk Kim, Gi-yeong Lee, and Seong-hyeon Baek.

This is a nice little movie that worked better as individual scenes than as a full film. For one thing, it's a bit long, and that leaves it feeling a bit stretched. But there are some truly lovely moments in here, especially in the second half of the film, if maybe a tad bit sentimentalized. Those moments are great and help to cement the whole thing. I only wish all of it had grabbed me the way those few moments did. Worth a watch, but I'm not sure I'll feel as strongly about it six months from now.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Marathon > Videodrome
Marathon < Argo
Marathon < Munich
Marathon > Tarzan
Marathon > Flypaper
Marathon < Ramona and Beezus
Marathon > Sunday in the Park with George
Marathon < John Dies at the End
Marathon > Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Marathon > Selma
Marathon < The Last Unicorn
Final spot: #928 out of 2349.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Albatross (2011)

IMDb plot summary: Beth, a bookish teenager, befriends Emilia, an aspiring novelist who has just arrived in town. Emilia soon begins an affair with Beth's father that threatens to have devastating consequences.
Directed by Niall MacCormick. Starring Jessica Brown Findlay, Felicity Jones, Sebastian Koch, and Julia Ormond.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is a movie that isn't *bad*, but nor does it really do anything for me. The characters and tropes are very familiar to coming-of-age stories -- a Manic Pixie Dream Friend who helps the shy one out of their shell, a forbidden relationship with a married man, worrying about decisions to go or not go to college. This doesn't add much to it aside from the individual characters or actors, and none of them are particularly noteworthy. (I really don't understand the love for Felicity Jones, I've found her bland or annoying in everything she's been in.) It's a really nice try, but it doesn't offer anything new and I can't connect to the characters, so knowing where everything was going to land made for an uneventful ride.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Albatross < Where the Wild Things Are
Albatross > The Good Doctor
Albatross < Water for Elephants
Albatross > Doc Hollywood
Albatross > Birdman of Alcatraz
Albatross < Fargo
Albatross > Fantastic Mr. Fox
Albatross < The Life of David Gale
Albatross > The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Albatross > Compulsion
Albatross > Beverly Hills Cop
Final spot: #1513 out of 2348.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Broken Blossoms (1919)

IMDb plot summary: A frail waif, abused by her brutal boxer father in London's seedy Limehouse District, is befriended by a sensitive Chinese immigrant with tragic consequences.
Directed by D.W. Griffith. Starring Lillian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Donald Crisp, and Arthur Howard.

Silent dramas are a hard sell for me, and this one takes quite a little while to get going. When it does, it's 100% Lillian Gish's show. Well, maybe 90% Lillian Gish and 10% Donald Crisp, who is terrifying enough to make Gish's response believable. Whether she's desperately trying to smile so her adoptive father will leave her alone, or hiding in a closet panicking that there's no way out, she's captivating, and the final scenes with her are mesmerizing. Richard Barthelmess is not given much to do in this script besides look sad and plaintive, but that's OK, because despite how the film opens, this is definitely not his story. I liked it overall, but it's entirely due to Gish's performance. The story itself is kind of lackluster and wouldn't have mattered to me at all with a less impressive actress.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Broken Blossoms > The Family Man
Broken Blossoms < Eat Pray Love
Broken Blossoms > Crazy Heart
Broken Blossoms > The Great Gatsby (1974)
Broken Blossoms < Watchmen
Broken Blossoms < A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
Broken Blossoms > Away We Go
Broken Blossoms < The Happening
Broken Blossoms < Collateral
Broken Blossoms > Frances Ha
Broken Blossoms < Liberal Arts
Final spot: #710 out of 2346.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Farewell to Fools (2013)

IMDb plot summary: Once upon a time, during WWII, somewhere in Nazi occupied Romania, a night of comic misadventures ensues when a boy discovers a dead soldier.
Directed by Bogdan Dreyer. Starring Gérard Depardieu, Harvey Keital, Laura Morante, and Bogdan Iancu.

It's been a little while since I saw a movie with such great promise and such flawed execution. The idea behind this movie could have yielded something so amazing, and we get glimpses of that, but ultimately, the movie never manages to find the balance between the farce and the drama, making comedic moments uncomfortable and dramatic moments laughable. The acting is odd and over-the-top with Laura Morante in a particularly unbelievable role with several bizarrely overacted monologues that I think we're supposed to take seriously, but it's hard to tell in this movie. The score is also spectacularly bad in its emotional tone, though perhaps suited to the movie's own tonal uncertainty. Overall, this valiant attempt falls very, very flat. So disappointed!

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
A Farewell to Fools < The Family Man
A Farewell to Fools > Inkheart
A Farewell to Fools < Water for Elephants
A Farewell to Fools < Doc Hollywood
A Farewell to Fools > Tombstone
A Farewell to Fools < In the Heat of the Night
A Farewell to Fools < The Misfits
A Farewell to Fools < Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
A Farewell to Fools > Snatch.
A Farewell to Fools > Madagascar
A Farewell to Fools > Apocalypse Now
Final spot: #1678 out of 2347.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thoughtcrimes (2003)

IMDb plot summary: Freya McAllister suddenly starts hearing voices in her head. She is diagnosed as a violent schizophrenic and committed to a mental hospital. One night Dr Michael Welles arrives telling Freya that her voices are the thoughts of everyone around her. He teaches her to turn her telepathic powers into a powerful gift.
Directed by Breck Eisner. Starring Navi Rawat, Joe Flanigan, Peter Horton, and Joe Morton.

While I was looking around for info on this movie, I found something that said that it was originally made as a TV pilot but then the network passed on it so they decided to air it as a movie. That makes total sense, because I just kept thinking, "This is a really fun TV movie." It's not a great film by any means -- it's silly and overacted -- but it's an interesting premise, and Freya is a great character, even if her transformation to where she is at the end is a little unbelievable. I really enjoy stories that look at superhero-type powers and think about what that would really be like, and this movie explores that in some interesting ways. It's definitely more enjoyable than it is good.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Thoughtcrimes > Two for the Money
Thoughtcrimes < Eat Pray Love
Thoughtcrimes < Crazy Heart
Thoughtcrimes < Aliens
Thoughtcrimes > Checking Out
Thoughtcrimes < Inland Empire
Thoughtcrimes < Cypher
Thoughtcrimes > Outbreak
Thoughtcrimes < Captains Courageous
Thoughtcrimes > When Strangers Click
Final spot: #1086 out of 2345.