Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.
Directed by André Øvredal. Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, and Michael McElhatton.


For the first 2/3 of this movie, it's an interesting one-location horror flick that starts casual and builds to more and more ominous moments, and it works for the most part. The movie is smart about what it shows us and what it leaves up to the audience to interpret through their imagination, and I found myself genuinely unsettled. Sadly, this falls apart in the last third of the film, where the answer makes zero sense. Was she innocent or was she not? Was her revenge sated or was it not? It's especially unfortunate given how interesting everything before it was. A promising beginning and a disappointing finish.

2.5 stars.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe > Wedding Crashers
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Kill Bill Vol. 1
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Thor
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Batman Forever
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < The Secret of NIMH
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > Two Weeks Notice
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > The 'Burbs
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Million Dollar Baby
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < City Lights
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Killing Season
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > The Forbidden Kingdom

Final spot: #1167 out of 2555.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Terminator Genisys (2015)

IMDb plot summary: When John Connor, leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline.
Directed by Alan Taylor. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, and Jai Courtney.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is the kind of sequel I hate most, the kind that depends upon retconning everything from the original prior films. Sometimes that happens through reinterpretation of earlier events, here it's because of time travel. It doesn't matter if it was brilliantly plotted (it's not), exquisitely shot (it's not), and charismatically acted (it's not). It's a slap in the face to the entire original Terminator story, asking us to canonically erase it entirely from our memory and accept instead this poor excuse for a substitute. There are some interesting visual effects, and the *concept* of an aging Terminator is a good one, but overall this movie is highly disappointing and an excellent example of why sequels are so frequently frustrating for me.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Terminator Genisys < Life of Pi
Terminator Genisys < Sahara
Terminator Genisys > Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
Terminator Genisys < The Godfather
Terminator Genisys > 8 1/2
Terminator Genisys > Homicide
Terminator Genisys > 1941
Terminator Genisys < Bulworth
Terminator Genisys > The Collective
Terminator Genisys > Tears of the Sun
Terminator Genisys > Hostage

Final spot: #2086 out of 2554.

Fences (2016)

IMDb plot summary: An African-American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life.
Directed by Denzel Washington. Starring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, and Jovan Adepo.

I was familiar with some of August Wilson's plays, but this was one that had slipped by me. This film version is quite good, though. It doesn't do much innovating in transferring it from stage to film, keeping pretty solidly to its one location and simply focusing on watching the characters talk, but you soon forget that, thanks to the powerful acting. I hope both Denzel and Viola pick up some Oscar nods for their acting here. It's a story and a movie that I think will sit with me for a while.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Fences > Quills
Fences > Finder's Fee
Fences < Kramer vs. Kramer
Fences < Repulsion
Fences > Billy Elliot the Musical Live
Fences > Cold Comfort Farm
Fences < Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unforunate Events
Fences < Pom Poko
Fences > The Basketball Diaries
Fences > Take This Waltz
Fences < The Adventures of Robin Hood

Final spot: #511 out of 2553.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fruitvale Station (2013)

IMDb plot summary: The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, and Kevin Durand.

(Very minor spoilers ahead.)

This movie is heartbreaking. It does a great job of showing us this character and his attempts to get his life back together and his increasing frustration that nothing seems to be helping. It's a movie that I'm actually having a tough time writing about because while I thought it was great, it's apparently one I don't have a lot of articulate thoughts about. The acting and writing were both excellent (especially Michael B. Jordan's performance), without any moments that stuck out as being unnatural, which is refreshing for me from a drama. Well worth a watch.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Fruitvale Station > Quills
Fruitvale Station > Finder's Fee
Fruitvale Station < Kramer vs. Kramer
Fruitvale Station < Repulsion
Fruitvale Station < Billy Elliot the Musical Live
Fruitvale Station > Inherit the Wind
Fruitvale Station < Shall We Dance? (1996)
Fruitvale Station < The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Fruitvale Station < Tickled
Fruitvale Station < Night Must Fall
Fruitvale Station > Sleeping with Other People

Final spot: #596 out of 2552.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)

IMDb plot summary: As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.
Directed by Lee Daniels. Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

I had heard so-so things about this movie going in, but I found it affected me much more than I anticipated. It's sort of an overarching broad look at the civil rights movement through the 20th century, but I really liked how they showed it both through the eyes of the father (with his quiet proximity to the white men with the power) and his son (with his fierce determination to fight for his rights). It did a really excellent job of building the narrative of one man seeing how his country changed from what it was in his childhood all the way through the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The movie is a tad bit long and sometimes tries to tackle too many things, leaving it spread thin in some spots, but overall it's a lovely movie, and I liked it.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Butler > Definitely, Maybe
The Butler > Murder by Death
The Butler < Kramer vs. Kramer
The Butler < Repulsion
The Butler < Billy Elliot the Musical Live
The Butler < Inherit the Wind
The Butler < The Impossible
The Butler > A Christmas Carol (1951)
The Butler > Australia
The Butler > Gone in 60 Seconds
The Butler > The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Final spot: #619 out of 2551.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rogue One (2016)

IMDb plot summary: The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, and Donnie Yen.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Franchise movies are incredibly hard for me to assess separately, as I typically feel incapable of judging a film if it's part of an overarching narrative rather than a standalone entity. Unless it really stands out (as The Force Awakens did for me), I have trouble sussing out in detail how I felt about it. That is mostly the case here. It's a good movie, a solid movie. Its use of original trilogy plotlines and characters is nicely orchestrated. It ends on an unexpectedly hopeful note given the grim endings for everyone involved. It's a good movie, but it didn't wow me, and so it's going to fade into the myriad of other Star Wars films that will come along and be capable but only OK. I may even forget I saw it at all. That doesn't mean it was bad -- just that it didn't meet the high bar it needed to meet to stand out in a franchise soon to be almost as flooded with titles as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Rogue One > Definitely, Maybe
Rogue One < Murder by Death
Rogue One > Hook
Rogue One > Shaolin Soccer
Rogue One > My Date with Drew
Rogue One < The Scarlet Pimpernel
Rogue One > Battle Royale
Rogue One > You Can't Take It With You
Rogue One < Loins of Punjab Presents
Rogue One > The Boondock Saints
Rogue One > Monsoon Wedding

Final spot: #682 out of 2550.

Armageddon (1998)

IMDb plot summary: After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is going to impact Earth in less than a month, N.A.S.A. recruits a misfit team of deep core drillers to save the planet.
Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler.

This is just... a mess of a movie, and I say that as a moderate fan of disaster porn movie. But Armageddon fails on virtually every level, from the characters being loathsome to the acting being stilted to the story arc being bent all of out shape to the disaster moments being just loud and ugly rather than anything that feels truly menacing to the fact that I swear there are at LEAST 20 instances of the cliched phrase, "It's gonna blow!" to the question of WHY IS IT SO LONG.

I enjoy disaster movies. I have a fondness for 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. But those movies had a clear forward story, and the disaster moments contributed to that story rather than interrupting it for no apparent reason other than, "Hey, I bet THIS thing can blow up, too! Let's do something with that!" Those movies also felt actually cinematic. As cheesy as they may be, the moments when the weather goes all awry in TDAT or watching the waters rise in 2012 evoke a grandiose sense of true global catastrophe. That's never there in Armageddon. Things blow up, meteors fall, but with as much cinematic intent as a cheap video game. Add to that mix that everyone on earth appears to be that winning combination of selfish and stupid, and I was rooting for the asteroid.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Armageddon < Definitely, Maybe
Armageddon < The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Armageddon < Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
Armageddon < The World Is Not Enough
Armageddon > Ella Enchanted
Armageddon > Soultaker
Armageddon > The Prince & Me
Armageddon < The Westing Game
Armageddon < Gridiron Gang
Armageddon < A Cinderella Story
Armageddon < Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With a Circus
Armageddon < Herbie: Fully Loaded

Final spot: #2410 out of 2549.

Friday, December 16, 2016

High Strung (1991)

IMDb plot summary: Thane Furrows, an extremely cynical but unintentionally hilarious children's book writer, wakes up one morning, and, since pretty much everyone and everything annoys him, begins another day of complaining to himself. However, the day proves to be much different than normal when Thane begins to receive strange phone calls, letters, and voices in his head, all indicating that something will happen at 8 o'clock.
Directed by Roger Nygard. Starring Steve Oedekerk, Thomas F. Wilson, Denise Crosby, and Jim Carrey.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

This movie is really unique, and I appreciate that a lot. I always love when movies break typical conventions to do something just a little offbeat, and this fit that. My one beef with it is simply that the main character's negativity frequently didn't work for me. I know his whining is supposed to be funny, but I have known those people and they are exhausting and soul-sucking to be around, and I felt moments of that throughout this. As the movie went on and I got more into the groove of the constant stream of negativity and sarcasm, I was able to enjoy it more, but there were still plenty of moments that just made me sigh and say, "Ugh, can you please like SOMETHING?"

The final 10 minutes, however, are awesome and tie the whole weird rambling story together in a very entertaining way. Without giving too much away, Jim Carrey's tiny role at the end is absolutely hilarious. ("You're only allowed to say it 18,000 times and then they call me in" made me literally laugh out loud.)

This is a really bizarre but kind of fascinating movie, and it's one that I could definitely see myself returning to in the future. Even now as I rank it, I find it going much further up the chart than I at first expected, largely on the strength of that ending. It's certainly going to stick with me. This is one of those movies that this challenge is MADE for, because it's one I never would have sought out on my own.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
High Strung > Definitely, Maybe
High Strung > Murder by Death
High Strung < Kramer vs. Kramer
High Strung < Seven Samurai
High Strung < The Secret Garden (1987)
High Strung < 9
High Strung > The Impossible
High Strung > Catfish
High Strung < Bubba Ho-tep
High Strung < The Departed
High Strung < Christmas in Connecticut
High Strung < Chariots of Fire

Final spot: #607 out of 2548.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Another Earth (2011)

IMDb plot summary: On the night of the discovery of a duplicate Earth in the Solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.
Directed by Mike Cahill. Starring William Mapother and Brit Marling.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

The movie this most brought to mind was Melancholia, another vaguely sci-fi movie that was really about dealing with personal demons that had moments of almost unbearable bleakness. I loved Melancholia and loved this slightly less, but that's primarily because I was aching for more Earth 2 information. While the human drama was interesting enough, it, frankly, *wasn't* as compelling a story to me as the weird duplicate Earth perpetually lurking in the background, and I often found myself a little impatient during what was clearly meant to be the meat of the story.

That being said, though, I liked the ending. (Or, rather, the ending before the final shot, which felt so ambiguous as to be meaningless to me.) The mental comparisons to Melancholia and the flow of the story made it seem almost impossible for there to be anything even vaguely resembling a happy ending, and I may have actually breathed a little sigh of relief seeing an actual resolution. I found it very satisfying.

Overall, it's a movie I admired more than I enjoyed, so it's going to land a little low on my chart. I do feel like it's one that I will like more the longer I let it sit with me.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Another Earth > Oblivion
Another Earth < Murder by Death
Another Earth < The Exorcist
Another Earth > No eres tu, soy yo
Another Earth > Ghost World
Another Earth > Ender's Game
Another Earth > The Village
Another Earth > Connie and Carla
Another Earth < Full Metal Jacket
Another Earth < Elf
Another Earth < The Shallows
Another Earth < Adama

Final spot: #965 out of 2547.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Upside Down (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Adam and Eden fell in love as teens despite the fact that they live on twinned worlds with gravities that pull in opposite directions. Ten years after a forced separation, Adam sets out on a dangerous quest to reconnect with his love.
Directed by Juan Solanas. Starring Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, and Blu Mankuma.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This movie reminded me of Moulin Rouge!, one of my very favorite movies, but one that shares a very specific aspect with this movie: They're both films that look absolutely spectacular and have ridiculously stupid plots.

The plot for Upside Down doesn't work AT ALL -- right from the beginning, it sets itself up as something far more fantasy than sci fi. Its "rules of gravity" set up at the beginning are clearly rules of magic, not scientific principles. And the movie just gets sillier, with a culminating, "Well, uh, I guess all our problems are solved now?" in the last five minutes. But oh my gosh. It looks AMAZING. This is a movie made to show off stunning, beautiful visuals.

The story may be ridiculous, but it lends itself to such lovely images that it's almost something I can wholly forgive. Almost. If it had songs in it, Moulin Rouge! style, this could have landed very high on my chart. As it is, I think it WANTS to have a more coherent plot than it does (which Moulin Rouge! does not) and can't quite reach that goal, so it suffers a little in my ratings. A little less plot and a little bit more time spent loving the cinematography would have served this movie better. A smart recommendation for me, but the film's flaws hold it down below the line of "YESSSS THIS IS GREAT."

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Upside Down > Oblivion
Upside Down > Pretty Woman
Upside Down < Smashed
Upside Down < Seven Samurai
Upside Down < Collateral
Upside Down > 9
Upside Down > Sling Blade
Upside Down > Heavenly Creatures
Upside Down < Four Lions
Upside Down < Widow's Peak
Upside Down < Waking Ned Devine
Upside Down > Boyhood

Final spot: #565 out of 2546.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hairspray Live! (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A teenage girl living in Baltimore in the early 1960s dreams of appearing on a popular TV dance show.
Directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski. Starring Maddie Baillio, Harvey Fierstein, Garrett Clayton, and Jennifer Hudson.

Of all the shows NBC has chosen to do in their live musicals series, this is the first one that is a show I actually like. Hairspray is an incredibly musical that manages to somehow be both political and infectiously cheerful (not a very typical combination). It's an amazing show with great songs and never fails to make me happier after having seen it. The star-studded 2007 film version is surprisingly excellent, with the exception of John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, so the live performance had some big shoes to fill going up against a movie in my top 20.

On the whole, it was pretty good. It's a big show with a lot of characters, and most of those characters were played well. The exceptions are Garrett Clayton (whose Link is almost unbearably bland), Ariana Grande (whose Penny seems so stupid I genuinely feel uncomfortable by Seaweed's attention to her, like she's being taken advantage of), and Ephraim Sykes (who ruined "Run and Tell That" by lagging consistently behind the very clear beat). But the great thing about Hairspray is that those side characters don't define the play. Sure, a great Link/Penny/Seaweed can add a lot to the show, but bad ones just mean more attention is paid to Tracy and Edna -- and both Maddie Baillio and Harvey Fierstein (of course) hit it out of the park here. Throw in a really solid Amber, Velma, Wilbur, Corny Collins, and Motormouth Maybelle (though one who clearly cannot call herself "big" in any way, shape or form), and you've got yourself a show.

The sets looked good, too, aside from the fact that Baltimore appears to be in the midst of a weeks-long solar eclipse. Watching Tracy sing "Good Morning Baltimore" when clearly the sun hasn't risen yet is weird, as is the fact that the kids leave school to go to Motormouth Maybelle's and get there in apparently the middle of the night. This small detail is weird and distracting and wreaks havoc with the play's timeline.

Overall, though, a much stronger effort than the one NBC live show I have seen (Peter Pan), and I'm hoping this upward trend continues.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Hairspray Live! > The Whistleblower
Hairspray Live! > Eat Pray Love
Hairspray Live! < Kramer vs. Kramer
Hairspray Live! < Seven Samurai
Hairspray Live! > The Secret Garden (1987)
Hairspray Live! > Cold Comfort Farm
Hairspray Live! < Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Hairspray Live! > The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Hairspray Live! > Center Stage
Hairspray Live! > Network

Final spot: #499 out of 2545.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Miracles from Heaven (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A young girl suffering from a rare digestive disorder finds herself miraculously cured after surviving a terrible accident.
Directed by Patricia Riggen. Starring Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, and Brighton Sharbino.

(Spoilers, I guess. Though I'd never recommend anyone see this and it DOES tell you right in the title that there's going to be a miracle, so I'm not sure how spoilery I'm actually being...)

Okay. So. For anyone who's not aware of this about me, I am a Christian, I do believe in miracles, and I hate nearly every Christian movie I see. Too often in an effort to cram in accurate theology, the story takes a backseat and it basically just becomes propaganda, which has its purposes but very seldom makes for enjoyable art. Also, the more I see Jennifer Garner in, the more I'm convinced the woman just can't act. So this was always going to be a tough sell.

Yeah, this movie didn't work for me on any level. You know your movie's off to a bad start when the first five minutes alone are so bland I spend my time wondering which daughter is going to almost die and need a miracle. The story feels rushed, there's next to no character development, the dialogue is awkward and seldom age-appropriate when the kids speak, and that ending speech. In fact, that ending speech deserves a paragraph of its own.

OH MY GOSH THAT ENDING SPEECH. Garner's kid gets an actual miraculous healing, and what she chooses to say to her congregation and the TV people is a series of vague platitudes about how, "Uh... kindness is a miracle too?" NOT LIKE YOU JUST HAD, IT'S NOT. It's like somebody winning the lottery and subsequently talking about how basically everybody is rich because they have friends. It's a complete undoing of the movie's message (which is presumably "God does miracles") and then leads to an even more awkward here, which, if I may, I shall summarize in script form.

Jennifer Garner: God healed our daughter. Also, kindness is a miracle. Also, forgiveness is a miracle.
Random Woman: Well, maybe your daughter wasn't that sick. We are skeptical! Convince us!
Random Dude: Soooo none of you know who I am or have any reason to be convinced by me, but their daughter was sick! I know this because I saw her in the hospital and, while I'm not a doctor in any way, shape or form, she sure looked sick to me! But the biggest miracle of all was that she was kind to my sick daughter!
All the Congregation, Apparently: We believe now!

Guys. It's so messy. I should've tweet snarked this because I kept having to say snarky things out loud to the dog instead. The *one* thing I did appreciate was the tiny tiny scene where the daughter understandably lapses into some serious depression and tells her mom she just wants to die so the pain will stop. I was so glad that for one scene in the movie, the daughter wasn't some brave, patient, all-knowing sage, but just a regular 9-year-old girl who feels miserable and wants it to be done. The movie doesn't go anywhere with it, but that scene is nice.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Miracles from Heaven < Oblivion
Miracles from Heaven < Top Gun
Miracles from Heaven < The Wonderful World of Autotainment
Miracles from Heaven > They Were Expendable
Miracles from Heaven > Thr3e
Miracles from Heaven < The Little Drummer Boy
Miracles from Heaven < Made of Honor
Miracles from Heaven < Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Miracles from Heaven < Capote
Miracles from Heaven > Holy Motors
Miracles from Heaven < National Velvet

Final spot: #2302 out of 2544.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lady on a Train (1945)

IMDb plot summary: While waiting at a train station, Nikki Collins witnesses a murder from a nearby building. When she brings the police to the scene of the crime, they think she's crazy since there's no body. She then enlists a popular mystery writer to help with her sleuthing.
Directed by Charles David. Starring Deanna Durbin, Ralph Bellamy, Edward Everett Horton, and David Bruce.

The movie was nothing at all like I expected from the title and opening. I assumed it was going to be a noir thiller of some sort, but instead it's a silly crime comedy that is adorable and delightful. I'm not sure I've ever seen Deanna Durbin in anything, but she's great here and is responsible for most of the tone of the movie -- casual and lighthearted and reveling in the danger of it all. My only real complaint is the three musical numbers, because while you know I love my musical numbers, these really do halt the story and throw off the tone of the film. Overall, though, it's a great movie, and one that I was particularly happy to be introduced to as a new holiday favorite.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Lady on a Train > The Whistleblower
Lady on a Train > Eat Pray Love
Lady on a Train > A Man for All Seasons
Lady on a Train < Equus
Lady on a Train < The Fisher King
Lady on a Train < The Boys Next Door
Lady on a Train < Jean de Florette
Lady on a Train < Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Lady on a Train > Benny & Joon
Lady on a Train > In the Bedroom
Lady on a Train > The Holiday

Final spot: #309 out of 2543.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Road (2009)

IMDb plot summary: In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea.
Directed by John Hillcoat. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, and Charlize Theron.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

Whoo, this was a tough movie to get through. It's just unrelentingly bleak, even down to the color choice of constant oppressive gray. Don't get me wrong, the visuals did a great job of enhancing the story's atmosphere, but it was not a pleasant ride. Sometimes a bleak story will hit me on a deep emotional level, but this one was pretty unrelenting and just kind of left me numb.

The moments that made the most impact on me were the ones where the kid tries to fit the world they're in into his worldview and sense of morality, trying to goad his dad into being one of "the good guys" even in this world where anyone could be out to get them. I would have loved to see that make its way into the finale more clearly, because as it was, it felt too hopeful without a reason for it. I think it's a good movie, but it's not easy on its audiences and I don't particularly want to ever watch it again.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Road > Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Road < Eat Pray Love
The Road < Full Metal Jacket
The Road > Internet Famous
The Road < Ramona and Beezus
The Road > Memoirs of a Geisha
The Road > Three Amigos
The Road < Monsters
The Road > Interstellar
The Road < Jurassic World

Final spot: #1047 out of 2542.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

IMDb plot summary: A brother and sister driving home through isolated countryside for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature which is on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree.
Directed by Victor Salva. Starring Gina Philips, Justin Long, Patricia Belcher, and Brandon Smith.

(Very mild spoilers ahead.)

I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before going into it, other than that it was a horror flick. It has a pretty strong start to it before seriously devolving. I appreciate how, despite it being a very typical horror movie in so many ways, it doesn't go for the cheap scares. Its scary scenes are slow and creeping and well-earned for the most part, and the first reveal that Something Is Wrong At the Old Church is very effective.

There are, however, two things that seriously drag the movie down in its second half. For one, the design of the creature. Once we actually see it, and not just faintly or for a moment, but once we start spending a LOT of time watching it in close-up, it's hard not to just dismiss it as a guy in makeup. The look is a bit intimidating but not particularly creepy, so much as... maybe a fantasy movie orc.

Secondly, while the characters make a snide comment early on the film about horror movie characters being stupid, these kids really are. They spend SO much time stopping and fighting and staring at things when they clearly just need to run, and I found myself growling, "Just GO ALREADY!" at the screen on several occasions. That wears very thin very quickly for me, and it's a shame, because the two have a very natural brother-sister chemistry in the first half.

So... a promising beginning that goes way downhill in the second half. It ends on one last tiny high note -- the last few seconds are wonderfully creepy.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Jeepers Creepers < Following
Jeepers Creepers > The Ghost and the Darkness
Jeepers Creepers > What's Up, Tiger Lily?
Jeepers Creepers < Stand and Deliver
Jeepers Creepers < Frequency
Jeepers Creepers > The King and I
Jeepers Creepers > The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Jeepers Creepers > Less Than Zero
Jeepers Creepers > Luther
Jeepers Creepers < Good Night, and Good Luck.
Final spot: #1513 out of 2541.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Shallows (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Blake Lively.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is exactly what I wanted it to be: a tight, interesting shark thriller. I've never thought of Blake Lively as much of an actress, but she does a decent job holding this movie together, and, even more importantly, her character is written to be smart. She tries everything she can to improve her situation, and I really like how she is the one who defeats the shark at the end, rather than someone swinging in to rescue her at the last minute. The moments that are most interesting here are the ones told off screen. I found the deaths of everyone who she enlisted as a helper pretty terrifying, and the movie made a smart choice to not go too overboard with the shark. Because they had been pretty chill with the shark earlier, I was able to get on board with the big dramatic "SHARK EATS A BUOY!" ending which felt, yes, a little silly, but it worked to resolve that tension. This movie is a pretty solid one-person-one-location, even if it doesn't quite sit on the same plane as something like, say, 127 Hours.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Shallows > Following
The Shallows < Pretty Woman
The Shallows < Elf
The Shallows > Hitchcock
The Shallows > Nine Lives
The Shallows > The Prestige
The Shallows > Strictly Ballroom
The Shallows > Men in Black
The Shallows > Yellowbeard
The Shallows > The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
The Shallows > Adama

Final spot: #953 out of 2540.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bulworth (1998)

IMDb plot summary: A suicidally disillusioned liberal politician puts a contract out on himself and takes the opportunity to be bluntly honest with his voters by affecting the rhythms and speech of hip-hop music and culture.
Directed by Warren Beatty. Starring Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, and Don Cheadle.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

This movie is... incredibly strange. It's got kind of a silly premise to begin with, and then it goes about it in such an uncomfortable way. Just one example: It feels like 15% of what Warren Beatty says is done in the form of uncomfortable "rapping," which could have been done once or twice as an odd bit, but they keep pushing and pushing it. The rest of the movie is equally squirmy.

All that being said, I could have at least understood its appeal if it had stuck to that awkward satirical tone all the way through, but, no, suddenly in the last few seconds, we get a big dramatic ending that I assume is supposed to elicit some kind of emotional reaction from us. What it really made me do was comment incredulously, "They think THAT'S the kind of movie this is?" It's a weird mess of a film.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bulworth < Dark City
Bulworth < The Ghost and the Darkness
Bulworth > Men of Honor
Bulworth < Doctor Zhivago
Bulworth > To Kill a King
Bulworth > Yes Man
Bulworth > VeggieTales: The Star of Christmas
Bulworth > Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Bulworth > Tears of the Sun
Bulworth < The Thirteenth Floor
Bulworth > Hostage
Final spot: #2066 out of 2539.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Night Must Fall (1937)

IMDb plot summary: When a rich but cantankerous dowager on an isolated estates hires an engaging handyman, her niece/companion becomes suspicious of his motives.
Directed by Richard Thorpe. Starring Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell, Dame May Whitty, and Merle Tottenham.

I hadn't heard anything about this movie before I saw it, but apparently it's based on a play. That makes sense; it's an extremely dialogue-driven mystery thriller. I wasn't ever sold on Rosalind Russell's character -- I couldn't quite get into her back-and-forth between fear and attraction. That's a tough line to walk as an actress, and I didn't buy it from her. But oh my goodness. I now want to go watch everything Robert Montgomery has ever done. His was a much-deserved Oscar-nominated performance. The few moments when I *did* buy into Russell's performance, it was actually on the strength of his acting, not hers. The scene in the kitchen where he calls her out on her deliberate flirtation with danger was my favorite moment of the movie, wonderfully capitalizing on the building tension, both sexual and non-sexual. It's a great role, and it's a great script to showcase that role, and I just wish Russell's character was a little smarter or more capable or even just more self-aware to serve as an adequate foil to that role.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Night Must Fall > Dark City
Night Must Fall > Argo
Night Must Fall < A Man for All Seasons
Night Must Fall < Repulsion
Night Must Fall < Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Night Must Fall > Reservoir Dogs
Night Must Fall < Southside with You
Night Must Fall < Thermae Romae
Night Must Fall > Sleeping with Other People
Night Must Fall < Tickled

Final spot: #589 out of 2538.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Batman Forever (1995)

IMDb plot summary: Batman must battle Two-Face and The Riddler with help from an amorous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.
Directed by Joel Schumacher. Starring Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, and Nicole Kidman.

I know this movie had a reputation as being one of the terrible Batman movies. It is absolutely ridiculous but... I actually had a pretty good time watching. I've always thought Batman's villains were significantly more interesting than Batman himself, and that's absolutely true here. Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones turn the ham up to 11 here and while their performances ride RIGHT on the fence of being annoying, they end up making a really welcome respite from an extremely boring everything regarding Batman. Val Kilmer is 100% the weakest link here, both his villains and his sidekicks outshine him while he just kind of sits around and looks conflicted and confused. Hurray for a delightfully silly supporting cast willing to get goofy all around him. It's not a good movie, but I had a good time. (On a rare technical note, I do wish the lighting in this movie didn't constantly undo the wonderful garishness of the bright costumes. You can't dress your characters in neon green, brilliant purple, and stop sign red and then forever keep them in the shadow. Come on.)

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Batman Forever > Goldfinger
Batman Forever < Argo
Batman Forever < The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
Batman Forever > Happy Christmas
Batman Forever < Marooned
Batman Forever < The Kid
Batman Forever < The Dresser
Batman Forever > No eres tu, soy yo
Batman Forever > Star Trek Into Darkness
Batman Forever < Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam

Final spot: #1095 out of 2537.

SK1 (2014)

IMDb plot summary: An investigation by a young inspector who quickly becomes obsessed with stopping a monster.
Directed by Frédéric Tellier. Starring Raphaël Personnaz, Nathalie Baye, Olivier Gourmet, and Michel Vuillermoz.

(Mild spoilers.)

The format of this movie is different from most movies of this ilk, jumping back and forth between the hunt for the serial killer and the accused man's trial. I especially loved how the movie jumped ahead to the most relevant points of its story, creating a narrative that spanned years and felt epic in its scope, rather than limiting itself to a narrower location and time as many other similar movies have done. The problem is that over its two-hour run time, it builds up to a finale that... never happens. The big question is resolved in an unsatisfying manner in the last few minutes of the movie. A very disappointing way of closing out what was otherwise a very interesting movie.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Serial Killer 1 > Goldfinger
Serial Killer 1 < Eat Pray Love
Serial Killer 1 < The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
Serial Killer 1 > Happy Christmas
Serial Killer 1 < The Tourist
Serial Killer 1 < The Magnificent Ambersons
Serial Killer 1 > The Dresser
Serial Killer 1 < Badlands
Serial Killer 1 < Bride & Prejudice
Serial Killer 1 < Star Trek: Generations
Serial Killer 1 > High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Final spot: #1087 out of 2536.

Arrival (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Forest Whitaker.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

Wow. This is a really beautiful movie. It takes quite the unexpected journey, moving from an alien invasion thriller to a drama about language and communication to... whatever you'd call the last 20 minutes of the movie. I expected it to be a movie that would make me think and muse, not one that would make me cry. It unravels itself in such a way that you don't even realize you've been given pieces of the puzzle until they suddenly all come together at the end. The visuals are also incredible. The movie takes place in just a few locations, but those locations are so vivid and the design of the alien spacecraft and the aliens themselves are both so well done that it fully immersed me in the story.

Overall, although I'm finding things to rave about, it's actually pretty difficult to articulate my love for the movie. It's one of those films that just digs down into my soul and sits there. I think to really analyze this flick, it'll take another watch or two and a lot more digestion time.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Arrival > Spy Game
Arrival > Argo
Arrival > The Beaver
Arrival > 'Night, Mother
Arrival < Arsenic and Old Lace
Arrival < Psycho
Arrival < Sleuth (1972)
Arrival < The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)
Arrival > Take the Money and Run
Arrival > Catch Me If You Can
Arrival > Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Final spot: #149 out of 2535.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

IMDb plot summary: High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.
Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig. Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, and Kyra Sedgwick.

Coming-of-age movies are extremely common and also very difficult to pull off convincingly. This movie does it all right. These kids feel like me and people I would have known in high school. Hailee Steinfeld in particular does a phenomenal job portraying one of the most relatable angry teens I think I've ever seen on film. The movie's resolution never feels forced or cheesy, the characterization is spot on, and every small plot reveal is a delight to watch. There's so much to love about this movie, and I have a feeling that if I rewatched this in the future, I'd find more things to love about it and it'd climb further up  my chart. Really well done.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Edge of Seventeen > Spy Game
The Edge of Seventeen > The Artist
The Edge of Seventeen < The Beaver
The Edge of Seventeen > The Goodbye Girl (2004)
The Edge of Seventeen > Paul
The Edge of Seventeen < Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie
The Edge of Seventeen < The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Edge of Seventeen > The Bumblebee Flies Anyway
The Edge of Seventeen < The Shawshank Redemption
The Edge of Seventeen < Fail-Safe
The Edge of Seventeen < Changing Lanes
The Edge of Seventeen < Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Final spot: #385 out of 2534.

Monday, November 21, 2016

My Favorite Year (1982)

IMDb plot summary: A dissolute matinee idol is slated to appear on a live TV variety show.
Directed by Richard Benjamin. Starring Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, and Joseph Bologna.

I was already somewhat familiar with the story because I was familiar with at least the cast recording for the musical based on the film (Tim Curry played the Peter O'Toole part and had some great songs). I sometimes find when I'm watching a movie that I already kiiiiind of know the story to, that it's difficult for me to really immerse myself in it as much as I want to. This is one of many reasons why I don't watch trailers if I can help it and it's why rewatches are often unsatisfying.

That happened a little bit with this movie, and as a whole I found myself mostly just indifferent to it, though objectively I thought it was good. Fortunately, it was able to win me over by the end. Peter O'Toole really is great here, and the last 10 minutes are extremely moving after all the set up to get us there. Halfway through, I'd have said I wasn't going to remember this movie much, but that ending really worked, and that's what's going to stick with me the most.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
My Favorite Year > Blow Out
My Favorite Year < The Artist
My Favorite Year > Peter Pan Live!
My Favorite Year > Away We Go
My Favorite Year < The Glass Menagerie (1973)
My Favorite Year < The Theory of Everything
My Favorite Year > Lord of the Flies
My Favorite Year < The Big Short
My Favorite Year < Ikiru
My Favorite Year > Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997)
My Favorite Year > Victor/Victoria (1982)

Final spot: #767 out of 2533.

Doctor Strange (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.
Directed by Scott Derrickson. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, and Benedict Wong.

Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favorite actors, so I'd been looking forward to this movie for awhile, despite knowing very little about Dr. Strange or his origins. Like most of the Marvel standalone movies, this is pretty solid. Strange is an interesting hero, and Cumberbatch plays him well. The muddling of magic and science gets a little silly at times, but the movie isn't afraid to treat it as such, and so it's easy to go along for the ride.

Where the movie really shines, however, is in its creative visuals. It draws comparisons to something like Inception, where entire cities are folding and being destroyed and being rebuilt around the major action sequences. I saw it in 2D, and that was impressive enough, but I can definitely seeing this being the kind of movie that would be incredible in 3D as well. The story, the dialogue, and the acting all makes for a fun autumn blockbuster, but it's the visuals that elevate it further. Nicely done.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Doctor Strange > Blow Out
Doctor Strange > The Artist
Doctor Strange < The Beaver
Doctor Strange < The Goodbye Girl (2004)
Doctor Strange > Widow's Peak
Doctor Strange < Solaris (2002)
Doctor Strange > Face/Off
Doctor Strange > Contagion
Doctor Strange < The Karate Kid (1984)
Doctor Strange > The Producers (2005)
Doctor Strange > Date Night
Final spot: #519 out of 2532.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cinderella (2015)

IMDb plot summary: When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her scheming step-sisters. Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, and Richard Madden.

It's been awhile since I saw the animated Disney version of this story, but I typically name it as one of my least favorites. Like most early Disney princesses, Cinderella always felt less noble and kind to me than passive and devoid of personality. This version at least tries to expand that a little bit, but it still hard to think of any qualities you could attach to the protagonist other than "nice." The prince and the stepmother fare better, with some much-needed character development. As a whole, the movie is largely forgettable, and its attempts at comic relief do NOT work, but it does have a sweet, traditional romantic feel to it that is very similar to the tone of the original, so it should satisfy those who are already fans. For everyone else, eh, it's all right, I guess.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Cinderella < Air Force One
Cinderella > Midnight Cowboy
Cinderella < Fun Size
Cinderella > There's Something About Mary
Cinderella > Albatross
Cinderella > The Butterfly Effect
Cinderella > Mystic Pizza
Cinderella < A Christmas Carol (2004)
Cinderella > Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
Cinderella > Stardust Memories

Final spot: #1594 out of 2531.

Friday, November 18, 2016

EDtv (1999)

A video store clerk agrees to have his life filmed by a camera crew for a television show.
Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Matthew McConnaughey, Jenna Elfman, Ellen DeGeneres, and Woody Harrelson.

I'd heard this movie compared a lot to The Truman Show, which is one of my top 10 movies of all time. This is not nearly as good, but it's cute, and it's sweet, and it works for the most part. It's definitely fascinating to see it 17 years after it was made, now that reality TV has really kicked into gear. This is a good role for McConnaughey, who I'm usually bored by, and it's definitely the most charmed I've ever been by his charming southern folksy thing. Nothing wows me here, but it was an entertaining watch, and it was one that was sitting on top of my "I bet that's fun" pile for quite some time.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
EDtv > Air Force One
EDtv < The Artist
EDtv > Peter Pan Live! (way too high on my chart, needs a rerank)
EDtv > Away We Go
EDtv < The Kite Runner
EDtv < White Heat
EDtv < A Midsummer Night's Dream
EDtv > Celeste and Jesse Forever
EDtv < Dark Shadows
EDtv < Ninotchka
EDtv > The Happening
Final spot: #778 out of 2530.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Commitments (1991)

IMDb plot summary: When Jimmy Rabbitte wants to start a band, he has open auditions at his house.
Directed by Alan Parker. Starring Robert Arkins, Johnny Murphy, Andrew Strong, and Glen Hansard.

This is a tough movie to write about because while it has lots of good things about it, none of them really touched me emotionally. I love the idea of these kids tapping into soul as the music of the downtrodden, but that idea gets thrown out the window pretty quickly and it much more closely resembles a biopic of a tough-to-please rock band, with all its ups and downs. Once the whole band is together, it somehow loses its appeal for me, and, oddly, even a musical fan like me got a little tired of the songs (though that "Try a Little Tenderness" was pretty fantastic). I like that the movie ends on an unexpected note, I like the first third of the movie, and I like the premise behind the movie, but the things I liked about it at the beginning fizzled out quickly.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Commitments > The Dark Knight Rises, which is way too high on my chart
The Commitments < The Artist
The Commitments > Tangled
The Commitments < Away We Go
The Commitments < Demetri Martin. Person.
The Commitments < Secret Window
The Commitments < Kung Fu Hustle
The Commitments < The Time Traveler's Wife
The Commitments < The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
The Commitments < Being John Malkovich
The Commitments < Yellowbeard
The Commitments > Peter Pan Live!

Final spot: #947 out of 2529.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Boys from Brazil (1978)

IMDb plot summary: A Nazi hunter in Paraguay discovers a sinister and bizarre plot to rekindle the Third Reich.
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner. Starring Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier, James Mason, and Lilli Palmer.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

This movie is so bizarre. It sets itself up as a serious dramatic thriller about an attempted resurgence of the Nazis in the 80s, starring all these esteemed classic actors, and then it takes an abruptly silly sci-fi turn and all I could think was, "What are these people doing in this movie?" The fact that it plays it so serious the first half of the movie makes the second half seem insensitive and out of place, and Gregory Peck seems to be aware of it, as he reaches Nicolas Cage levels of bizarre acting in the final scenes with his character. Not a very good movie, but kind of intriguing in a head-scratching way.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Boys From Brazil < National Treasure: Book of Secrets
The Boys From Brazil > The Spy Next Door
The Boys From Brazil < Fun Size
The Boys From Brazil < Bedtime Story
The Boys From Brazil > Don't Look Now
The Boys From Brazil < Gone with the Wind
The Boys From Brazil > Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Boys From Brazil > The Detective
The Boys From Brazil < A Scanner Darkly
The Boys From Brazil > Metropolis
The Boys From Brazil > The Spanish Prisoner

Final spot: #1783 out of 2528.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Always (1989)

IMDb plot summary: A romantic adventure about a legendary pilot's passion for dare-devil firefighting and his girl.
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, Brad Johnson, and John Goodman.

When the credits rolled and I saw this was directed by Spielberg, I may have actually yelped out loud, "What were you DOING with this?" It's an amateurish script where none of the interactions ring true. Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter try to save it by imbuing their characters with excessive playfulness, but it just makes it all the more jarring when they abruptly turn serious. Several dramatic themes are explored and then dropped with no warning, leaving me constantly asking, "But what about...what happened to...why isn't he...?"

It's not all bad. The firefighting scenes are spectacularly done and are easily the highlight of the film. The script doesn't do an adequate job of almost anything else, but it does give us a good quick overview of the technical aspects of these characters' jobs, and the action sequences help to highlight that. It's not very often that I think a movie should have been more action and less drama, but that does happen to be the case here.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Always < My Best Friend's Wedding
Always < The Professional
Always > Out of the Past
Always > Never Been Kissed
Always < Mulan
Always > I Accuse My Parents
Always < Saw
Always < How to Marry a Millionaire (why is that so low on my chart?)
Always < Silverado
Always < 27 Dresses
Always < The Verdict

Final spot: #2007 out of 2527.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

True Lies (1994)

IMDb plot summary: A fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent has his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used car salesman.
Directed by James Cameron. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, and Art Malik.

I knew very little about this movie before watching it. I knew James Cameron did it, it was an action movie, that people loved it, and that it starred Schwarzenegger. I figured I'd be mildly appreciative of it at best, as Cameron's action movies often don't capture my imagination. This movie, however, is an exception. What keeps this fresh is that it's only about 2/3 action, and the other third is about Schwarzenegger's marriage to Jamie Lee Curtis, and the two together make for a really great movie.

Cameron does a much better job pacing the story here than I've thought he did in previous movies, especially his longer ones. The movie is still about 20 minutes too long, but even a two-hour action movie is tough to keep interesting. Cameron not only keeps the action scenes rolling by loading them up with zaniness but he also widely varies the *type* of action happening. Even in the midst of a giant gun battle, he pauses frequently to switch to flamethrowers or hand-to-hand combat or a chase to keep you on your toes. That's impressive.

I did find myself a little skeeved out by the "revenge on the cheating wife" section of the movie, but fortunately A) it doesn't last long, B) it's played with Schwarzenegger being in the wrong, and C) the movie works hard after this moment to give her enough to do that it doesn't feel like her existence in the movie relies on her functioning as a wayward woman to be punished.

Overall, it's a great ride, and certainly my favorite thing either Cameron or Schwarzenegger's done outside of the Terminator series.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
True Lies > Interiors
True Lies > A Clockwork Orange
True Lies < A Man for All Seasons
True Lies > I've Loved You So Long
True Lies < Flight
True Lies < Super
True Lies > Jaws
True Lies > Anomalisa
True Lies < Regarding Henry
True Lies < M. Butterfly
True Lies < Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
True Lies < Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Final spot: #443 out of 2526.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Life as a Dog (1985)

IMDb plot summary: A boy and his brother don't get along well. In order to let their ill mother rest, they're separated and sent each one with their relatives.
Directed by Lasse Hallström. Starring Anton Glanzelius, Tomas von Brömssen, Anki Lidén, and Melinda Kinnaman.

I'm a little ashamed how few Criterion films I've seen as a film buff, so it's always great to add another to the "seen" list. This is a very lovely movie that falls a little short of being a movie I *love*, but, man, there are some great moments in here. Ingemar is such a compelling character, right from the opening where he comforts himself by comparing himself to others who had more miserable lives (and deaths). Like a lot of coming-of-age movies, it has a tendency to feel rambly, but I enjoyed most of the rambling, so I didn't mind too much.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
My Life as a Dog > Everyone Says I Love You
My Life as a Dog > Gone Baby Gone
My Life as a Dog < A Man for All Seasons
My Life as a Dog < I've Loved You So Long
My Life as a Dog < Heavenly Creatures
My Life as a Dog > Chariots of Fire
My Life as a Dog < The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
My Life as a Dog < 9
My Life as a Dog < Bubba Ho-tep
My Life as a Dog > Key Largo
My Life as a Dog < Zodiac

Final spot: #588 out of 2525.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Teacher of the Year (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Surrounded by the eccentric faculty of Truman High School, Mitch Carter wins the California Teacher of the Year award and immediately receives a tempting offer that may force him to leave his job.
Directed by Jason Strouse. Starring Matt Letscher, Keegan-Michael Key, Sunny Mabrey, and Larry Joe Campbell.

This is an... odd movie in terms of tone. It sets itself up as a silly mockumentary about teachers, but there's not as much out-and-out comedy as I would expect. A few side characters are entertainingly over-the-top, but our central character is very much grounded, and his entire arc is something more out of a heartwarming teacher movie than something by Christopher Guest. The two tones don't mesh terribly well. The principal and the robotics teacher are too ridiculous to fit into the primary narrative, and that narrative is too sincere to fit a genre with the word "mock" in it. I'm inclined to like it more as a serious story about a teacher trying to figure things out in an occasionally-quirky school. The primary character is likable and interesting, and his story went in an unexpected direction that I appreciated. So... an awkward movie that can't figure out what it is, but not a terrible one.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Teacher of the Year < Interiors
Teacher of the Year > The Last Temptation of Christ
Teacher of the Year > Marathon Man
Teacher of the Year < Quitting
Teacher of the Year > Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Teacher of the Year < Kagemusha
Teacher of the Year < Blue Velvet
Teacher of the Year < Frequency
Teacher of the Year > Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Teacher of the Year > Luther
Teacher of the Year < Hide and Seek

Final spot: #1491 out of 2524.

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

IMDb plot summary: The story of the battle of Iwo Jima between the United States and Imperial Japan during World War II, as told from the perspective of the Japanese who fought it.
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, and Ryô Kase.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This falls in that category of movies I respect and admire without feeling much connection to. Part of that is because, like in many war movies where everyone's wearing the same thing, I am so bad with faces that I could not keep the different characters and their stories straight. Lots of individual moments I appreciated, but because I couldn't identify individual characters very well, I couldn't follow their narrative arcs through to the end. That's a flaw on my end, obviously, not the movie's, but it does help to explain the emotional disconnect as a whole.

What I thought the movie did do very well was convey the sense of the Japanese soldiers' expectations of honor and loyalty and how that matched or didn't match with what they encountered. The scene that affected me in the most was where the soldiers are ordered to retreat but choose to commit suicide instead, and as soldier after soldier puts gun to their head or grenade to their stomach and ends their life, you see the internal struggle of the one who ultimately does make it out from that scene alive.

I wish I could say I liked this movie more, but I do think it's a good one, and very well-made.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Letters from Iwo Jima > Everyone Says I Love You
Letters from Iwo Jima < A Clockwork Orange
Letters from Iwo Jima < The Pursuit of Happyness
Letters from Iwo Jima > The Dark Knight
Letters from Iwo Jima < October Sky
Letters from Iwo Jima > National Lampoon's Vacation
Letters from Iwo Jima > The Switch
Letters from Iwo Jima < Bee Movie
Letters from Iwo Jima < The Matador
Letters from Iwo Jima > Splash
Letters from Iwo Jima < Now You See Me

Final spot: #1041 out of 2523.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Queen of Katwe (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
Directed by Mira Nair. Starring Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o, and Martin Kabanza.

If you know anything at all about this movie, you know pretty much all of it. It follows the expected path of most underdog competition movies -- the rise, the fall, the rise, the personal problems, the triumphant ending. Disney does this formula better than many others, and it definitely works here, largely thanks to the incredibly likable actors at the center of the story. There are no surprises, but the trusted formula is used well, and it's a sweet movie. The highlight is seeing the actors meet their characters' real-life counterparts in the ending credits sequence.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Queen of Katwe > Everyone Says I Love You
Queen of Katwe < A Clockwork Orange
Queen of Katwe > The Pursuit of Happyness
Queen of Katwe > The Intouchables
Queen of Katwe > Me and Orson Welles
Queen of Katwe < Don't Drink the Water
Queen of Katwe > The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
Queen of Katwe < Battle Royale
Queen of Katwe > The Band Wagon
Queen of Katwe > The Cat Returns

Final spot: #681 out of 2522.

Internet Famous (2016)

IMDB plot summary: The Internet has given them fame. A talent contest could make one of them a superstar. If only they had any talent.
Directed by Michael J. Gallagher. Starring Shane Dawson, Steve Greene, Wendy McColm, and Amanda Cerny.

This silly little movie does a great job of capturing all the various aspects of Internet fame, from those who never wanted to be famous to those who are famous for nefarious reasons to those who are famous for reasons other than what they think. It's definitely a very narrow film in the sense that it has a limited timespan and a limited audience. This is a movie for YouTube followers right now, and I don't know that it'll have much appeal to almost anyone else. The characters aren't developed enough to have the longer reach of, say, Christopher Guest's best mockumentaries. All that being said, however, I enjoyed it for what it was and had a good time watching it.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Internet Famous > Music Within
Internet Famous < A Clockwork Orange
Internet Famous < The Pursuit of Happyness
Internet Famous > Let the Right One In
Internet Famous < October Sky
Internet Famous < National Lampoon's Vacation
Internet Famous < National Treasure
Internet Famous > Hitch
Internet Famous < Titanic
Internet Famous < The Avengers
Internet Famous > Ghost Ship

Final spot: #1091 out of 2521.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Body Snatcher (1945)

IMDb plot summary: A ruthless doctor and his young prize student find themselves continually harassed by their murderous supplier of illegal cadavers.
Directed by Robert Wise. Starring Henry Daniell, Boris Karloff, Russell Wade, and Bela Lugosi.

From the very beginning of this movie, I was drawn into the mystery of the story. Boris Karloff is great as the ominous cabman Gray, whose frequent smiles and laughter somehow seethe with undertones of something much more sinister. The movie is short, but not a moment of it is wasted, and every new development in the story drew me in further. The final sequence was somewhat expected for me but really stunning in how it plays out. I hadn't even heard of this movie before it was assigned to me, but it was a definite hit.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Body Snatcher > Scrooge
The Body Snatcher > A Clockwork Orange
The Body Snatcher < Kramer vs. Kramer
The Body Snatcher < I've Loved You So Long
The Body Snatcher < Heavenly Creatures
The Body Snatcher > Catfish
The Body Snatcher > GoodFellas
The Body Snatcher > Borat
The Body Snatcher > Crossing Delancey
The Body Snatcher < Mad Max: Fury Road
The Body Snatcher < Amelie

Final spot: #556 out of 2520.

The Overnight (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Alex, Emily, and their son, RJ, are new to Los Angeles. A chance meeting at the park introduces them to the mysterious Kurt, Charlotte, and Max. A family "playdate" becomes increasingly interesting as the night goes on.
Directed by Patrick Brice. Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godrèche.

This movie is... odd. It presents itself at first as a fairly straightforward comedy about two very different groups of couples meeting and becoming friends almost too quickly, and then it segues into a relationship drama about insecurity and dissatisfaction, and then it awkwardly bounces back between the two for the remainder of the time. Honestly, I'm just not sure what to make of it. It ends with a sort of "Well, that was an educational experience" feeling, but I'm not convinced our main characters took much away from it at all. I just came away from it feeling like it was on the verge of being something really interesting and then it just... wasn't.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Overnight < Scrooge
The Overnight < Gangs of New York
The Overnight > Band of Outsiders
The Overnight > Dragonball Evolution
The Overnight > Maggie's Plan
The Overnight < Inkheart
The Overnight > Outsourced
The Overnight > Hangman's Curse
The Overnight < The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Overnight > Whisper of the Heart
Final spot: #1935 out of 2519.

Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed (2005)

IMDb plot summary: After saving herself for marriage, a forty year old Christian woman finally meets her soul mate. But her hopes sour once she finds out this candidate carries extra baggage.
Directed by Larry Flash Jenkins. Starring Ce Ce Peniston, Randy Brooks, Anica Barbosa, and Larry Flash Jenkins.

Oh, this is awful, both as a movie and as a Christian movie. Our main character is whiny and pessimistic. When one of her sidekicks tells her, "The Pamela I know is a fighter," I almost laughed out loud because that was so contrary to the character we'd been shown. On top of that, the movie has a very odd point of view on marriage and divorce for what is otherwise a typical Christian movie. The technical aspects are incredibly amateurish, with the dialogue barely audible over the cheesy R&B soundtrack and many shots cutting off the top of actors' heads. This is just a mess all round.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Music Within
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < The Last Temptation of Christ
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < The Art of War
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Captain January
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < The Matrix Revolutions
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed > The Game Plan
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Prince of Space
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed > The Mask
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed > Mr. Deeds
Don't Touch If You Ain't Prayed < Bee Season

Final spot: #2464 out of 2518.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Cat's Eye (1985)

IMDb plot summary: A stray cat is the linking element of three tales of suspense and horror.
Directed by Lewis Teague. Starring Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Robert Hays, and Alan King.

This movie is tremendously weird. I really knew nothing about it going in, not even that it was by Stephen King, but it certainly *felt* like Stephen King -- ideas that made me laugh out loud with how ridiculous they were and enjoy the silly tenseness of it. This movie fully lands on the "delightfully campy" side of King, which is where I tend to like him best. This is the kind of movie where of COURSE there's a weird little goblin in someone's wall and of COURSE people are throwing severed heads at each other.

My favorite of the three stories in this anthology is by far the first one, which was also the only one I felt to really have an element of plausible tension to it. It was bizarre but it felt consistent. Just because other two weren't tense didn't mean they weren't enjoyable, however. Such an odd but fun little film, and a fitting one for the month of October.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Cat's Eye > Music Within
Cat's Eye < Children of Men
Cat's Eye < The Village
Cat's Eye > Revolutionary Road
Cat's Eye > October Sky
Cat's Eye < Knight and Day
Cat's Eye > Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Cat's Eye < Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
Cat's Eye < Smiles of a Summer Night
Cat's Eye < The Ring
Cat's Eye < V for Vendetta
Cat's Eye < The Miracle Worker
Final spot: #1001 out of 2516.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shock Treatment (1981)

IMDb plot summary: Janet and Brad become contestants on a game show... but wind up as captives instead.
Directed by Jim Sharman. Starring Jessica Harper, Cliff De Young, Richrad O'Brien, and Patricia Quinn.

Let me start off by saying I was never much of a fan of Rocky Horror, Richard O'Brien's previous cult musical movie. I thought the first 20 minutes or so were a hilarious parody of classic B-movies, but then it devolved into bizarre nonsense that was not enjoyable enough to make it worthwhile.

This movie is like everything after the first 20 minutes of Rocky Horror with less talented performers and less interesting songs. I can't decide whether it feels more like a movie written on all the drugs or a painstakingly faithful adaptation of someone's dreams. Either way, it's incoherent and, while I never thought I'd say this about a musical, there are too many songs, making the already vague plot even more vague as the characters take a break to sing about something that is in no way connected to what's been going on. On top of that, not sure whether it was my copy of the movie or the movie itself or a combination of the two, but the visuals were dreary and sloppy and looked distractingly low-budget, but I think even if it had had a clearer picture it wouldn't have made them look prettier.

Unfortunately for whoever suggested this to me, this is a definite miss, though it's probably one I needed to see eventually given my (typical) love for musicals.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Shock Treatment < Scrooge
Shock Treatment < Anchors Aweigh
Shock Treatment > The Art of War
Shock Treatment < Enough
Shock Treatment < Love in the Afternoon
Shock Treatment < Hamlet 2
Shock Treatment > All Dogs Go to Heaven
Shock Treatment < The Great Train Robbery
Shock Treatment < Big Business
Shock Treatment < Clash by Night
Shock Treatment > Distant Drums

Final spot: #2179 out of 2515.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Real Life (1979)

IMDb plot summary: A pushy, narcissistic filmmaker persuades a Phoenix family to let him and his crew film their everyday lives, in the manner of the ground-breaking PBS series "An American Family".
Directed by Albert Brooks. Starring Albert Brooks, Charles Grodin, Frances Lee McCain, and J.A. Preston.

This is, I believe, my fourth Albert Brooks film and it is by far my favorite. I typically find him too understated to really be clearly comedic. This one, however, pushed that line just far enough for it to really, really work for me, and now I'm much more interested in watching his other films. Here the understated, everyday nature of the movie is very much the point, only to be constantly disrupted by Brooks (playing himself as director of the film) on his self-seeking quest. Everything works here, and the final scene is a hilarious and fantastic finale. I knew almost nothing about this movie before I started streaming in on Netflix, but I'm glad I watched it.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Real Life > O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Real Life < Children of Men, though I deliberated over this one for awhile
Real Life > The Pursuit of Happyness
Real Life > Nerve
Real Life < Bend It Like Beckham
Real Life > The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Real Life > 28 Up
Real Life < An American Tail
Real Life > Source Code
Real Life > His Girl Friday

Final spot: #719 out of 2515.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Nerve (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of "watchers."
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Starring Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, and Miles Heizer.

This is one of the most exhilarating movies I've seen in awhile. It really captures the adrenaline rush of the characters completing dares and competing against each other. That immersion aspect alone makes it worth seeing. I will note that aside from that adrenaline rush, I'm not sure there's much substance to the movie. Part of the fun of it is wondering, "What will they do next?" which would probably be lost on a second viewing, and the ending gets into some awkward preachy monologuing that wouldn't hold up either. But if you're only going to watch it one time, it's a great ride that does exactly what it sets out to do very well.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Nerve < O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Nerve < A Clockwork Orange
Nerve > Five Graves to Cairo
Nerve < Signs
Nerve > At First Sight
Nerve > Snowpiercer
Nerve > The Mummy (1932)
Nerve > My Week With Marilyn (which is wayyyy too high on my chart)
Nerve > Captain Phillips
Nerve > The Green Mile
Nerve > Hamlet (2009)

Final spot: #786 out of 2514.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Me Before You (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she's taking care of.
Directed by Thea Sharrock. Starring Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, and Stephen Peacocke.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This movie started out so promising and fell so far. Let's put aside the politics of the movie to begin with (though I have fairly strong feelings about that and will probably get to those later). The characters of Will and Lou are so clear and interesting in the first half hour, and it was delightful watching them interact. But then the mood shifts. The melodrama begins to pile on, pound after pound after pound. The interactions no longer make characterization sense and are just serving to push the plot forward.

I think the problem here is that the scriptwriter (also the author of the novel, apparently) had no idea how to write believable change, so when the characters break out of their previously established molds, it feels forced and awkward, and they just continue to change and break out, and so nothing feels right ever again, all the way to the ending sequence which is one more abrupt emotional shift away from the scene before it. It's awkwardly put together, and I really wish a better writer had gotten a chance to tackle it.

As to the movie's message, I have issues with that as well. While I sympathize with characters who have lost their will to live, I can never see their deliberate deaths as anything other than a horrifying tragedy. It can never be heroic or condoned to me. I can never get behind a movie that implies that an injury like this means someone's quality of life is gone. I feel like that is already a dangerous and unkind stereotype, and this film does nothing to combat that, nor does it ever dig far enough into the issue to even make a compelling case on its behalf. It's a failure on both a moral and an artistic standpoint, as far as I'm concerned.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Me Before You < O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Me Before You < Anchors Aweigh
Me Before You > Band of Outsiders, I guess. On the principle that I loathe Godard.
Me Before You < Enough
Me Before You > Cold Mountain
Me Before You < The Robe
Me Before You > David Copperfield (1935)
Me Before You < The Searchers
Me Before You < First Blood
Me Before You < Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Me Before You < Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Me Before You < Fame (2009)

Final spot: #2100 out of 2513.