Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ballet Shoes (2007)

IMDb plot summary: The story of three orphan girls (Pauline, Petrova, and Posy), adopted by an eccentric explorer, Great Uncle Matthew, and his niece Sylvia, in 1930s London.
Directed by Sandra Goldbacher. Starring Emilia Fox, Emma Watson, Yasmin Paige, and Lucy Boynton.

Oh, goodness, when I was a child I read ALL the Shoes books, but I'd nearly forgotten about them until it all came back to me watching this movie. The film is as cute and sweet as the books were, even if the episodic nature doesn't allow a lot of true conflict to be created. There's nothing really exciting about these stories, but I remember being captivated by them as a child. It's more useful as a bit of nostalgia, though, than as an objectively good movie. The characters don't have any depth beyond one or two descriptive adjectives, the stakes aren't believably high, and everything works out just a bit too neatly in the end, but for a children's story, it's just fine.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Ballet Shoes > Dreamgirls
Ballet Shoes < Eat Pray Love
Ballet Shoes < A Matter of Life and Death
Ballet Shoes < Foolproof
Ballet Shoes > Mrs. Doubtfire
Ballet Shoes < The Secret of NIMH
Ballet Shoes > Anonymous
Ballet Shoes > Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
Ballet Shoes > 2012
Ballet Shoes > Kiki's Delivery Service
Ballet Shoes > Labor Day
Final spot: #1108 out of 2444.

The Collective (2008)

IMDb plot summary: Tyler Clarke received a cryptic voice-mail from her sister Jessica asking for help, but now Jessica is nowhere to be found. In order to find out what has happened, Tyler must delve into a world of darkness and lies.
Directed by Judson Pearce Morgan and Kelly Overton. Starring Kelly Overton, Laura Allen, Shane McRae, and Donnie Keshawarz.

Having just seen The Forest earlier this year, it's impossible not to compare the two. Both are about women traveling to an unfamiliar place to find and rescue their estranged sisters, but The Forest, though flawed, did a much better job of creating a dark atmosphere and even explaining what was going on. There's so much contradictory exposition in The Collective, and it's not mysterious or intriguing, it's just confusing. Characters know things about each other and show up at each other's houses when it makes no sense to do so and explain things without ever explaining them. It's sloppy, strange, and a waste of a semi-interesting idea.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Collective < Dreamgirls
The Collective < Rebel Without a Cause
The Collective > Rich and Strange
The Collective > Nell
The Collective < The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Collective < The Lodger
The Collective < An American in Paris
The Collective > Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
The Collective < War and Peace
The Collective > Never Been Kissed
Final spot: #1972 out of 2443.

I Became a Criminal (1947)

IMDb plot summary: In this gritty film noir, cynical ex-RAF flyer Morgan joins a break-in gang. On his first job, he is framed as the driver and sent to jail. Seeking revenge, he escapes and heads for London.
Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti. Starring Trevor Howard, Sally Gray, Griffith Jones, and Rene Ray.

(Mild spoilers.)

I've never been much for noir, and the noir styling in this is very, very strong, but the script is interesting and clever, which goes a long way toward keeping my interest. I also really enjoyed the way it ended -- of course, like all noir, it has to end poorly, but it did so in a way I didn't see coming. There's not a lot of depth of character in this story, it's mostly about sharp one-liners darting back and forth, but it kept me interested, which was a pleasant surprise.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
They Made Me a Fugitive > Dreamgirls
They Made Me a Fugitive < Eat Pray Love
They Made Me a Fugitive < Children of Paradise
They Made Me a Fugitive < Chaos Theory
They Made Me a Fugitive > Mrs. Doubtfire
They Made Me a Fugitive < Serendipity
They Made Me a Fugitive > Anonymous
They Made Me a Fugitive < Moneyball
They Made Me a Fugitive < Is It College Yet?
They Made Me a Fugitive > Bonnie and Clyde
They Made Me a Fugitive > Wonder Boys
Final spot: #1121 out of 2442.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

IMDb plot summary: After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg. Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher Jr.

(Mild spoilers.)

Tying this story, even just in name, to the original Cloverfield movie, helped it in marketing but doesn't do much to enhance the movie itself. That being said, it's a *really* solid one-room suspense/thriller/horror/whatever movie. John Goodman is particularly excellent in it, but all three of the primary cast do a great job bringing this unique situation to claustrophobic light. The movie abruptly shifts gears in the last 10 minutes, and while it might strike some as too over-the-top compared to the first 90% of the movie, I thought it worked as a satisfying finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Definitely worth a watch, and I might even end up preferring it to Cloverfield itself.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
10 Cloverfield Lane > A Little Night Music
10 Cloverfield Lane > Argo
10 Cloverfield Lane < In the Bedroom
10 Cloverfield Lane > Punchline
10 Cloverfield Lane < Barefoot in the Park
10 Cloverfield Lane > The Impostors
10 Cloverfield Lane < Philomena
10 Cloverfield Lane > Take Shelter
10 Cloverfield Lane < Birdman
10 Cloverfield Lane > Rise of the Guardians
Final spot: #406 out of 2441.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Invisible Man (1933)

IMDb plot summary: A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.
Directed by James Whale. Starring Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, and Henry Travers.

The original versions of Dracula and Frankenstein left me pretty cold, but this is a delightful picture. Claude Rains is deliciously campy as the experimental scientist who has lost his sanity along with his visibility, and the movie moves along at a wonderfully brisk pace without too many slow expository scenes, just as a movie like this should be. There are some wonderfully striking cinematic moments. The Invisible Man's first appearance in the inn is an instant attention-grabber, as is the scene where he first takes off the bandages and goggles to reveal that he is invisible -- the effects are really impressive for such an early film. And how can you not love his snarky remarks as he joyously runs naked through the town wreaking havoc for no reason whatsoever? The movie is everything I hoped it would be and is easily my favorite Universal Monsters picture.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Invisible Man > A Little Night Music
The Invisible Man > Argo
The Invisible Man < In the Bedroom
The Invisible Man < Punchline
The Invisible Man > Good Will Hunting
The Invisible Man > Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The Invisible Man < Ghost Town
The Invisible Man > Hoodwinked!
The Invisible Man > Network
The Invisible Man > Hard Candy
The Invisible Man < Road to Perdition
Final spot: #478 out of 2440.

Trumbo (2015)

IMDb plot summary: In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood's top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.
Directed by Jay Roach. Starring Bryan Cranston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Diane Lane, and Helen Mirren.

Bryan Cranston is fantastic in this movie, and it tackles a portion of Hollywood history that I know very little about overall - though I'm learning more, thanks to this season of the stellar podcast "You Must Remember This." However, it doesn't quite hang together for me as a whole. Like so many biopics, in its effort to cover the whole life and/or career of someone, the narrative structure suffers a little bit. There's a part about an hour and 20 minutes into the movie when I thought for sure it was over because, aesthetically, it was a great place to end it. But then the movie kept going and lost its steam a little. Disappointing, because it could have been much stronger.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Trumbo > True Romance
Trumbo < Argo
Trumbo < Strictly Ballroom
Trumbo < Foolproof
Trumbo > My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Trumbo > Labor Day
Trumbo < Away From Her
Trumbo < Tarzan
Trumbo > Twin Sisters
Trumbo < Shall We Dance?
Final spot: #1100 out of 2439.

An Act of War (2015)

IMDb plot summary: A veteran tries to put his life back together, but is drawn to deeds that may be more dangerous than his tour of duty.
Directed by Ryan M. Kennedy. Starring Russ Russo, Natasha Alam, Doug E. Doug, and Joseph R. Gannascoli.

Spoilers ahead.

This movie is a mess. It wants so badly to be taken seriously, but it's written awkwardly, acted poorly, and is boring for most of the way before becoming incoherent at the end. The only scene that kind of works is the main character's death scene, and that's just because the situation is such as sad one that it's impossible not to feel a *little* bit moved by the young man's difficulties rejoining life. That all goes out the window, though, with the ridiculous twist ending added on to the end. It all plays like a student film. Definitely not worth a watch.

1 star.

This movie is not on Flickchart yet. I will update this review when it's added to the database.

Zootopia (2016)

IMDb plot summary: In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
Directed by Brian Howard and Rich Moore. Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, and Jenny Slate.

(Some mild spoilers.)

Disney's been seriously upping their game lately, achieving Pixar levels of entertaining movies that also have surprisingly important messages for young kids. With Zootopia, charming and likable characters come together to deliver a poignant message about hidden racism. The most powerful moment here is after Judy gives her press conference and returns to her fox friends, oblivious to the fact that she's just slighted him and every other predator, because she doesn't think of him as "one of them" anymore. Judy is a kind person who wants to like everyone, but even she doesn't realize the way she's internalized some of these "us vs. them" messages and how that comes across in her speech. That's a level of depth most "accept others" movies never get to, and Zootopia did something that few animated kids' movies manage outside of Pixar: it made me think.

On top of that, it's a genuinely enjoyable movie. Judy and Nick play wonderfully against each other, and the world is a creative one. Aside from a couple one-note gags that run too long (note that the sloths scene from the commercial is not one of them), this is a really solid flick and well worth a watch.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Zootopia > True Romance
Zootopia > The Artist
Zootopia < In the Bedroom
Zootopia < Kiss Me, Stupid!
Zootopia < Billy Elliot the Musical Live
Zootopia < Reservoir Dogs
Zootopia > Australia
Zootopia > Hannah Arendt
Zootopia < Christmas in Connecticut
Zootopia < Chariots of Fire
Zootopia < Catfish
Zootopia < Cloud Atlas
Final spot: #580 out of 2438.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)

IMDb plot summary: Based on the diary of a teenage girl in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.
Directed by Jon Jones. Starring Ellie Kendrick, Iain Glen, Tamsin Greig, and Geoff Breton.

(Spoilers, I suppose, though if you know the story at all you know how it ends.)

This is a good, solid adaptation of the book. There's a fine line to walk with playing the character of Anne -- she's a flighty and vain young girl but she shouldn't be an unpleasant character. Ellie Kendrick is excellent and makes her a likable character while still showing that she is still a fairly immature young teen. That's partly what makes her story so relatable, that in the midst of this dark, dark time, she spends so much time worrying about her inexperience with boys and how annoying she finds her mother. The rest of the cast is good as well, but Kendrick is the highlight here, seeing as how she pretty much carries the film.

I was particularly moved by how the ending was filmed. Seeing a short description of each character's fate as we watch them descend the stairs is somehow even more chilling than if a more graphic ending had been chosen. Something about the calm display of names and death dates really lets it sink in to the viewers that all these people whose lives we've been watching were caught just too early, and if they'd managed to stay hidden just another couple of months, they would have been all right.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Diary of Anne Frank > The Slipper and the Rose
The Diary of Anne Frank < The Artist
The Diary of Anne Frank > A Separation
The Diary of Anne Frank < Hamlet (2009)
The Diary of Anne Frank < One, Two, Three
The Diary of Anne Frank < The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes
The Diary of Anne Frank < Last Year at Marienbad
The Diary of Anne Frank > Men in Black
The Diary of Anne Frank > Connie and Carla
The Diary of Anne Frank < Full Metal Jacket
Final spot: #899 out of 2437.