Saturday, January 23, 2016

Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)

IMDb plot summary: A widowed doctor of both Chinese and European descent falls in love with a married American correspondent in Hong Kong during China's Communist revolution.
Directed by Henry King. Starring William Holden, Jennifer Jones, Torin Thatcher, and Isobel Elsom.

(Mild spoilers.)

I am so torn on this movie. On the good side, I absolutely love the female lead. She's smart, interesting, kind, and even when she's making decisions that made me go, "You JUST MET this guy and now he's your whole world?" she staunchly defends her agency and her ability to make those decisions. That being said, though, William Holden doesn't hold up his end of the bargain. He has no personality other than to be vaguely charming, and while I feel like we get to know Suyin very well, it's hard to buy that she's been swept off her feet when I certainly haven't as an audience member. The ending is also much more melodramatic than the rest of the movie had been, even the love scenes, and it feels out of place and unresolved. Make our leading man more interesting and tweak some of the cheesy sentimentality, and I'd have been fully on board.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing > Camp Rock
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing < Eat Pray Love
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing < Strictly Ballroom
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing < Imitation of Life
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing > The Age of the Medici
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing < Lord of War
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing > The Illusionist
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing > Bonnie and Clyde
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing < Moneyball
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing > Rushmore
Final spot: #1102 out of 2420.

The Forest (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A woman goes into Japan's Suicide Forest to find her twin sister, and confronts supernatural terror.
Directed by Jason Zada. Starring Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, and Rina Takasaki.

This movie was torn between two types of movies: a movie about ghosts with scary faces attacking people in the woods, and a psychological horror flick about ghosts slowly driving people to paranoia and insanity. The latter is MUCH more interesting than the former and allows the movie to build an actual creepy atmosphere rather than just relying on cop-out jump scares (or, worse, the many *completely* pointless scares in the first half hour that barely tie in to the plot, let alone the atmosphere). The movie does a better job of finding its way toward the end of the movie, but it takes too long to get there and spends too much time focusing on random creepy images when there are much scarier and more interesting possibilities just below the surface.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Forest < Camp Rock
The Forest > Born Into Brothels
The Forest < Mickey's Christmas Carol
The Forest > Treasures of the Snow
The Forest < The Quiet Man
The Forest > The 39 Steps
The Forest > Rust and Bone
The Forest > The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Forest > Bus Stop
The Forest < A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Forest > Cruel Intentions
Final spot: #1590 out of 2419.

Ghost World (2001)

IMDb plot summary: With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.
Directed by Terry Zwigoff. Starring Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, and Brad Renfro.

I am... not entirely sold on the greatness of this movie. It all seems to ride on the strength of Enid's character -- and don't get me wrong, she's an amazing character, but the movie mostly leaves us in the same "What now?" limbo as she herself is. And it just left me feeling empty, like I'd spent all this time with her and rooting for her and then just... nothing. It's definitely a movie that could grow on me, but for now it leaves me a little cold.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Ghost World > Camp Rock
Ghost World < Eat Pray Love
Ghost World < A Matter of Life and Death
Ghost World > Imitation of Life
Ghost World > Three Amigos
Ghost World < Wallace & Gromit in A Close Shave
Ghost World > Adam
Ghost World < The Ring
Ghost World < Rachel Getting Married
Ghost World < Lyle, the Kindly Viking
Ghost World > Swing Time

Final spot: #960 out of 2418.

Sleeping with Other People (2015)

IMDb plot summary: A good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater form a platonic relationship that helps reform them in ways, while a mutual attraction sets in.
Directed by Leslye Headland. Starring Alison Brie, Jason Sudeikis, Adam Scott, and Amanda Peet.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is a really lovely romance movie with very likable stars and one of the most beautiful "love revealed" moments I think I've ever seen on screen. It does exactly what it is supposed to do and is by turns funny and touching. I don't pay attention to a lot of romantic comedies, but somebody somewhere had mentioned that this was a surprisingly good entry in the genre, and I have to agree. My only complaint would be that I wasn't sure the happy ending was actually necessary - I would have been almost as happy with the two forever off doing their own thing but better people because of their love and friendship for the other. That is a very minor complaint, though, and I'm certainly not going to deny it was incredibly satisfying to see the two leads actually end up together at the end. Overall, nicely done.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sleeping With Other People > Punch-Drunk Love
Sleeping With Other People > Argo
Sleeping With Other People < The Holiday
Sleeping With Other People < Kiss Me, Stupid!
Sleeping With Other People < The Secret Garden (1987)
Sleeping With Other People > Reservoir Dogs
Sleeping With Other People < Shall We Dance? (1996)
Sleeping With Other People < The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Sleeping With Other People < Double Indemnity
Sleeping With Other People > 9
Sleeping With Other People < Moonrise Kingdom

Final spot: #563 out of 2417, which seems high, but I had no qualms with the match-ups, so I guess it's accurate.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Carol (2015)

IMDb plot summary: An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman.
Directed by Todd Haynes. Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, and Jake Lacy.

While I think this could be an interesting story, I was unenthused by the execution. It all just seems... drab, from the color palette to the muted acting to the unsatisfactory ending. Even Cate Blanchett, who is an excellent actress, seriously underwhelmed me and I was left caring not at all about either her or Rooney Mara. Disappointing, considering the source material and the creative cast behind it.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Carol < Camp Rock
Carol > Born Into Brothels
Carol < Extremities
Carol < Treasures of the Snow
Carol > JFK
Carol > Spinning Into Butter (Another movie I wanted to be better.)
Carol > Camelot
Carol > Repo! The Genetic Opera
Carol > The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Carol < The Three Faces of Eve
Carol > Superman Returns
Final spot: #1664 out of 2416.

Lovelace (2013)

IMDb plot summary: The story of Linda Lovelace, who is used and abused by the porn industry at the behest of her coercive husband, before taking control of her life.
Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, and Robert Patrick.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

While the pacing of this story gets a bit odd at the end, it is a fascinating tale, and Amanda Seyfried is especially good as the titular character. As her story unravels, she becomes someone we desperately want to root for. The story is also told well, divided into two parts -- the first an unusual fairy tale, the second a much darker reality. The juxtaposition of the two, and especially of Linda herself, is what makes this story interesting. It could have been handled less awkwardly, but the meat of the story is still good.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Lovelace > Punch-Drunk Love
Lovelace < Eat Pray Love (Is this only going to get matched up against movies with "love" in the title?)
Lovelace < Strictly Ballroom (There we go.)
Lovelace < Die Hard
Lovelace > American Hustle (Which is too high up on my chart.)
Lovelace < 2012
Lovelace > Hoosiers (Though that one's due a rewatch.)
Lovelace < Bonnie and Clyde
Lovelace < Glory
Lovelace > Primal Fear
Lovelace < Ran

Final spot: #1110 out of 2415.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

IMDb plot summary: Warrior/pacifist Princess Nausicaä desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring (in the English dub) Alison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, Edward James Olmos, and Uma Thurman.

One of the bigger Studio Ghibli movies I hadn't seen yet, this is a fascinating post-apocalyptic story. Nausicaa is a great character, a bold and compassionate young woman who is easy to root for. The animation in this is fantastic, especially the intriguing creature design and the stunning flight sequences. It's one of Miyazaki's best stories as well, interesting and creative and very moving, especially in the final scene. Overall, one of the most likable Ghibli films I've seen.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > Punch-Drunk Love
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > Eat Pray Love
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < The Holiday
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > Kiss Me, Stupid!
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > Changing Lanes
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind > The Virgin Spring
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < The Fountain
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind < Great Performances: Cats
Final spot: #391 out of 2414.

Flesh for the Inferno (2015)

IMDb plot summary: At a local Catholic school, a priest bricks the nuns into the walls of the school's basement. Decades later, a neighborhood youth group has volunteered their afternoon to come clean up the school. However, the nuns return and hells follows.
Directed by Richard Griffin. Starring Anna Rizzo, Jamie Lyn Bagley, Monica Saviolakis, and Sean Leser.

Well, this is completely terrible. Not only is it a pretty unoriginal premise told badly, but somehow every single line manages to be said *wrong*, in a way that makes the entire movie unintentionally hilarious more than anything else. The movie does try to go for a few moments of dark humor, but these are also, of course, performed badly, and it doesn't end up doing the flick any favors in the long run.

1/2 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Flesh for the Inferno < Punch-Drunk Love
Flesh for the Inferno < Born Into Brothels
Flesh for the Inferno < Susannah of the Mounties
Flesh for the Inferno < Dinner at Eight
Flesh for the Inferno < Identity Thief
Flesh for the Inferno > The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?
Flesh for the Inferno < Scooby-Doo
Flesh for the Inferno > The Christmas Shoes
Flesh for the Inferno < The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure
Flesh for the Inferno < Monster-in-Law
Flesh for the Inferno < Cinderella II: Dreams Come True
Flesh for the Inferno < The Mask

Final spot: #2366 out of 2413.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

IMDb plot summary: A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus.
Directed by Sidney Lumet. Starring Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, and James Broderick.

(Very mild spoilers.)

This is a tight film, and a good one. Al Pacino especially is amazing as Sonny, carrying the nervous energy of the entire movie on his shoulders. Watching the dynamic of all the people involved was extremely interesting; even if we didn't really get to know most of them like we did Sonny, we still got the sense of how they all related to the situation and played off each other. My one complaint would be that I found the ending unsatisfying. Now, maybe it would *have* be unsatisfying, because I think no matter what happened at the end of the movie, it would feel anticlimactic after the 2 hours before it, so I certainly don't have any solutions, but the ending seemed so predictable that it was a bit of a letdown for me. Most crime movies feel the same to me, and up until the ending this one felt different and unique. I only wish that I'd felt the same way of the film's final moments. That won't keep me from rating it pretty highly, however.

3.5 stars.

How it entered Flickchart:
Dog Day Afternoon > Punch-Drunk Love
Dog Day Afternoon < Eat Pray Love
Dog Day Afternoon > Strictly Ballroom
Dog Day Afternoon > The Green Mile
Dog Day Afternoon > sex, lies, and videotape
Dog Day Afternoon > Don't Drink the Water
Dog Day Afternoon < They Came Together
Dog Day Afternoon < Watchmen
Dog Day Afternoon < The Scarlet Pimpernel
Dog Day Afternoon > Monsoon Wedding
Dog Day Afternoon > Au Revoir Les Enfants
Final spot: #636 out of 2412.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Revenant (2015)

IMDb plot summary: A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, and Will Poulter.

(Very very mild spoilers about the tone of the ending.)

Whoo, this is a rough watch. It's dark and horrific and there is lots of blood and I think it was a good move to not get popcorn during it. And I'm not entirely sure that the ending was a big enough payoff for the 2 1/2 hours before that. It was ramping up to a REALLY big ending, and then it all seemed a bit... anticlimactic. The cinematography, however, is stunning, DiCaprio and Hardy are both splendid in their roles, and there are some really breathtaking scenes. If the ending had sat better with me, it could have scored a lot higher.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Revenant > Alice Adams
The Revenant < Eat Pray Love
The Revenant < Strictly Ballroom
The Revenant > Short Circuit
The Revenant > Nanny McPhee
The Revenant < A League of Their Own
The Revenant < The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
The Revenant < The Blind Side
The Revenant > Marathon
The Revenant > Jurassic World
The Revenant > October Sky

Final spot: #970 out of 2411.

Grace of Monaco (2014)

IMDb plot summary: The story of former Hollywood star Grace Kelly's crisis of marriage and identity, during a political dispute between Monaco's Prince Rainier III and France's Charles De Gaulle, and a looming French invasion of Monaco in the early 1960s.
Directed by Olivier Dahan. Starring Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, and Paz Vega.

This is such a fascinating subject to me that I'm disappointed it was tackled with such a lackluster touch. Nicole Kidman is bland as could be playing Grace Kelly, and the usually mesmerizing Tim Roth is equally dull. Frank Langella has a little more life in him as Grace Kelly's confidant, but even he can't make the movie interesting. The script is overly saccharine some times and mind-numbingly boring other times. What a letdown.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Grace of Monaco < Punch-Drunk Love
Grace of Monaco < Born Into Brothels
Grace of Monaco > Susannah of the Mounties
Grace of Monaco < Love Me Tonight
Grace of Monaco > Life with Father
Grace of Monaco < Frankenstein
Grace of Monaco > All the King's Men (2006)
Grace of Monaco < Come to the Stable
Grace of Monaco > Start the Revolution Without Me
Grace of Monaco < Sleeper
Final spot: #2009 out of 2410.

Ant-Man (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Corey Stoll.

It's easy to see this movie and imagine if Edgar Wright had stayed at the helm, and it would have been tighter and funnier, but Peyton Reed is a passable replacement. It's an enjoyable enough movie, more in the line of Guardians of the Galaxy than Captain America: The Winter Soldier in tone. The final battle scene is the highlight of the film, blending action and comedy beautifully to show a fight that we *know* is high stakes but that just looks ridiculous from an outsiders' perspective. Overall, it's one of those movies that is great fun while you're watching, but not one that particularly wowed me.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Ant-Man > Alice Adams
Ant-Man < Eat Pray Love
Ant-Man > Strictly Ballroom
Ant-Man > The Green Mile
Ant-Man < Bend It Like Beckham
Ant-Man < The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Ant-Man > Ninotchka
Ant-Man > Limitless
Ant-Man > Mrs. Brown
Ant-Man < Rabbit Hole
Ant-Man > You Can Count on Me
Final spot: #717 out of 2409.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ex Machina (2015)

IMDb plot summary: A young programmer is selected to participate in a groundbreaking experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.
Directed by Alex Garland. Starring Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, and Sonoya Mizuno.

(Definite spoilers ahead.)

Oh, this was an excellent movie. A smart, interesting thriller with some great acting from Oscar Isaac in particular. On top of that, it's a kind of story that very easily could have been exploitative and heavily objectifying of its women, but instead it tells their story with compassion and grants them tremendous agency to shape their own lives. (Reading the credits at the end, I was particularly happy to see the tiny detail that all the discarded AIs had names. Such a little thing, but I loved that they all got to be named and not just described as "naked AI #1" or something like that.)

The ending surprised me, but it was also very satisfying. Watching Ava claim her humanity and just... leave was somehow exactly what the story needed. Plus, the final 10 minutes or so of the movie have such a gorgeous artfulness to them, with haunting visuals and a beautiful score to create a very moving finale. This is easily one of my favorites of 2015.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Ex Machina > Alice Adams
Ex Machina > Eat Pray Love
Ex Machina > The Holiday
Ex Machina < This Is Spinal Tap
Ex Machina < Equilibrium
Ex Machina < Mighty Aphrodite
Ex Machina < A Little Princess (1995)
Ex Machina < Guardians of the Galaxy
Ex Machina > Amerian Splendor
Ex Machina > Another Woman
Ex Machina < Jean de Florette
Final spot: #294 out of 2408.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Trainwreck (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy.
Directed by Judd Apatow. Starring Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, and Tilda Swinton.

I didn't actually realize this was directed by Apatow until the end credits, but it makes sense, because it definitely feels like an Apatow movie. For the first 2/3 of the movie, it's pretty good. It's funny, and Amy Schumer has an odd charm about her despite playing a terrible character, and Bill Hader serves as a good foil for her, and there's some good dialogue and some interesting plot development. The third act is where things fall apart somewhat, as the plot suddenly goes from light to sentimentally serious. It's an abrupt shift in tone, and the laughs in the last third of the movie are few and far between, while the dramatic dialogue would be right at home in a cheesy TV movie. The final couple minutes brings it (mostly) back home, but there's a long stretch in there where it feels like an entirely different movie has been shoehorned in, and it's not a good fit. It's too bad that such a large part of this movie is handled so awkwardly, because the rest of it was very enjoyable.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Trainwreck > The Fortune Cookie
Trainwreck < Eat Pray Love
Trainwreck < A Separation
Trainwreck < Short Circuit
Trainwreck > Walk the Line
Trainwreck < Ghostbusters II
Trainwreck < Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Trainwreck > Win Win
Trainwreck < 12 Monkeys
Trainwreck < George of the Jungle
Trainwreck > Snakes on a Plane
Final spot: #1116 out of 2407.