Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Genius (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A chronicle of Max Perkins's time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.
Directed by Michael Grandage. Starring Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Guy Pearce.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

This movie trickles in and out in terms of interestingness. Approaching the story of the tortured genius from the perspective of the editor-writer relationship is a refreshing angle, and the most interesting scenes are those which follow that process. Where the movie flops a bit is in its determination to bring in a message about what it means to really live and finishes it in such an overly sentimental way that it made me roll my eyes. I'm not sure how much of this story is based in reality, but it certainly felt like it had been molded to fit the necessary dramatic arc, and not for the better. There's a really interesting narrative in here, but it unravels a bit as the movie becomes desperate to get its message across.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Genius > Harry and the Hendersons
Genius < Argo
Genius < A Matter of Life and Death
Genius > Foolproof
Genius < Selma
Genius < Deconstructing Harry
Genius < The Avengers
Genius > Let the Right One In
Genius < Must Love Dogs
Genius > Lost in America
Genius > Like Crazy

Final spot: #1067 out of 2471.

Tickled (2016)

IMDb plot summary: Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn't stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction.
Directed by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve.

I saw a preview for this movie just a few weeks ago and instantly thought, "I have to see that." It delivers in every way what I'd hoped. It's a thoroughly bizarre documentary, told very much through the lens of one set of journalists following the ever-more-surreal rabbit hole of one particular company promoting "Competetive Endurance Tickling." Every time I think the story couldn't get more bizarre, it does. It's a very engrossing piece of storytelling told in a very interesting way, and it delivers on all of its off-the-wall promises.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Tickled > Harry and the Hendersons
Tickled > The Artist
Tickled < The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tickled < E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Tickled < Four Lions
Tickled > Key Largo
Tickled < Fright Night (2011)
Tickled < Double Indemnity
Tickled > The Front
Tickled > 9
Tickled > Moonrise Kingdom

Final spot: #569 out of 2470.

Anna Karenina (2012)

IMDb plot summary: In late-19th-century Russian high society, St. Petersburg aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the dashing Count Alexei Vronsky.
Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Matthew Macfadyen.

This is certainly a unique movie. It reminded me a lot of Moulin Rouge! in the way it took such visual liberties in telling the story to create a sense of it all being extremely grandiose. For the most part it works here, although, like in Moulin Rouge!, that grandiose, over-the-top visual portrayal of infatuation looks beautiful but leads to a fairly cold attitude toward its characters. Anna's husband is perhaps the most human character in the whole thing, primarily because his side of the saga is seldom romanticized, and his struggles are shown exactly as they are. It makes for an interesting take on the story, though I'm not sure it actually serves the story's purpose well. That being said, it is an engaging narrative, and it is beautiful to look at, so anyone who is a fan of unique visuals will enjoy watching this film.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Anna Karenina > The Fall
Anna Karenina > American Outlaws
Anna Karenina < The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Anna Karenina < E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Anna Karenina < Four Lions
Anna Karenina < Key Largo
Anna Karenina > The Reader
Anna Karenina > Kolya
Anna Karenina < Cloud Atlas
Anna Karenina > Panic Room

Final spot: #584 out of 2469.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trans-Europ-Express (1966)

IMDb plot summary: A film director, Jean, his producer, Marc, and his assistant, Lucette, board the Trans-Europ-Express in Paris bound for Antwerp. Once in their compartment it occurs to them that the drama of life aboard the train presents possibilities for a film, and they begin to write a script about dope smuggling.
Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Marie-France Pisier, Christian Barbier, and Raoul Guylad.

(Spoilers ahead, kind of, I guess.)

...What did I just watch? I never really settled into exactly what the point of this movie was. It's a weird experimentalish flick that goes nowhere, and I just don't have a lot of patience for that if there's not SOMETHING gripping me -- there certainly wasn't here. (In the last few minutes of the movie, I turned to Jacob and said, "I have now spent like five minutes watching a naked woman wrapped in chains slowly rotating on a turntable. WHY?" French New Wave, I will never understand you. Ever.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Trans-Europ-Express < Harry and the Hendersons
Trans-Europ-Express < Mickey Blue Eyes
Trans-Europ-Express < The Good German
Trans-Europ-Express < 42nd Street
Trans-Europ-Express > The Ultimate Gift... I guess.
Trans-Europ-Express < XXX
Trans-Europ-Express < March of the Penguins
Trans-Europ-Express > At Land
Trans-Europ-Express > The Truth About Charlie
Trans-Europ-Express < Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Final spot: #2376 out of 2468.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dark Passage (1947)

IMDb plot summary: A man convicted of murdering his wife escapes from prison and works with a woman to try and prove his innocence.
Directed by Delmer Daves. Starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Tom D'Andrea, and Agnes Moorehead.

(Spoilers ahead.)

The first two-thirds of this are by far the most interesting. I loved the gimmick for the first third or so where most of it was told from the protagonist's camera viewpoint, never letting us see his face (though it became obvious later why that happened). I also liked that after only hearing his voice for the first act, he wasn't able to speak at all in the second act before getting both face and voice back at the end. The end, though, was where the movie faltered for me. After a really interesting opening and middle, it lost me around the time it tried to make it an actual mystery to solve. Frankly, I didn't really care who had murdered people, I just wanted to see him trying to escape. The ending didn't really work for me either -- not quite enough buildup for me to buy that she'd fly off to live in Peru with a convicted murderer -- but the first two-thirds of the movie were entertaining enough to make up for the disappointing finale.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Dark Passage > The Fall
Dark Passage < The Artist
Dark Passage > Strictly Ballroom
Dark Passage < The Green Mile
Dark Passage < The Thin Man
Dark Passage > Grosse Pointe Blank
Dark Passage > Stage Fright (2014)
Dark Passage > Divergent
Dark Passage < Once Upon a Mattress
Dark Passage < The Birds
Dark Passage < The Majestic
Dark Passage < The Incredibles

Final spot: #858 out of 2467, or 65%.

Amen. (2002)

IMDb plot summary: During WWII SS officer Kurt Gerstein tries to inform Pope Pius XII about Jews being sent to extermination camps. Young Jesuit priest Riccardo Fontana helps him in the difficult mission to inform the world.
Directed by Costa-Gavras. Starring Ulrich Tukur, Mathieu Kassovitz, Ulrich Muhe, and Michel Duchaussoy.

I found this a fascinating take on a period of history revisited *often* in cinema. The film puts forth some interesting thoughts about what a Christian's duty is while living in a country that is committing atrocities. My problem with the movie, however, is that it seems to land on that theme and then never move it forward in any way. Perhaps that mimics the frustrating arc of history, but it makes for a repetitive and equally frustrating movie as the same problem is seen from the exact same angle over and over again. It's a disappointingly circular narrative for what could have been a really captivating movie.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Amen. > The Fall
Amen. < The Artist
Amen. < A Matter of Life and Death
Amen. < Foolproof
Amen. > Win Win
Amen. > The Secret of NIMH
Amen. > Julie & Julia
Amen. < Stardust
Amen. > The Forbidden Kingdom
Amen. > City Lights
Final spot: #1090 out of 2466.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Carrie (1976)

IMDb plot summary: Carrie White, a shy and outcast 17 year-old girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
Directed by Brian De Palma. Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, and William Katt.


Halfway through this movie, I was rolling my eyes and telling my husband, "This movie is SO BAD." But, oh, goodness gracious, that ending. I knew what happened -- most people probably do, even if they've never read the book or seen the movie -- but something about actually seeing it play out was horrifying and heartwrenching. Sissy Spacek's completely still body posture and wide blue eyes portray her not as a furious, vengeful teenager, but as someone in shock at how badly things went once she let her guard down. Watching her move through the school and out the door, in complete shock, covered in blood, is one of the most hauntingly sad images I may have ever seen. For someone who empathizes with outcast characters, this movie may be almost physically painful to watch. Knowing everything was going to end poorly for her made me tense during the entire second half of the movie. I've KNOWN those kids, the ones who were so sheltered they barely knew how to interact with people around them, and while most of them have, thankfully, gone on to do just fine in the real world, I couldn't help thinking of them and hurting for them as I watched this movie. I'm not sure I could say I LIKED Carrie, but it definitely stuck with me enough that I have to give it some significant props. It made a full 180 for me from being one of the worst things I'd seen this year to being a pretty stunning movie.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Carrie > Dreamgirls
Carrie < The Artist
Carrie > Strictly Ballroom
Carrie > The Green Mile
Carrie > Princess Mononoke
Carrie < Don't Drink the Water
Carrie < Seven Up!
Carrie < A Goofy Movie
Carrie < Mary and Max
Carrie > Me and Orson Welles
Carrie > Crimson Tide
Final spot: #689 out of 2465.

Mr. Pip (2012)

IMDb plot summary: As a war rages on in the province of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, a young girl becomes transfixed by the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations, which is being read at school by the only white man in the village.
Directed by Andrew Adamson. Starring Hugh Laurie, Xzannjah Matsi, Healesville Joel, and Eka Darville.


This was such a mixed bag. On one hand, I really loved Matilda's story. She was a great character, and the connection she made with the Great Expectations story was fantastic. I could have happily watched more of her story. What fell flat for me, however, was the emphasis on Hugh Laurie's character. His character was never really fleshed out, so the reveal of some of his personal life at the end seemed random more than anything else. The story is clearly not meant to be about his character and Matilda's relationship, it's meant to be about Matilda's relationship with the book characters, even if he helped bring that about. I think the movie doesn't ever quite hit its mark, though I appreciate the story it's trying to tell.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Mr. Pip < The Fall
Mr. Pip > Rebel Without a Cause
Mr. Pip > A Christmas Carol (2004)
Mr. Pip < L.A. Confidential
Mr. Pip < Blade Runner
Mr. Pip > The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
Mr. Pip > Cinderella (1965)
Mr. Pip < The Aristocats
Mr. Pip > Alfie (2004)
Mr. Pip > Cracks
Final spot: #1475 out of 2464.

The Nice Guys (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.
Directed by Shane Black. Starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, and Matt Bomer.

This is definitely very much in the style of Shane Black's earlier movie Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a darkly funny comedy about two men who find themselves in over their heads trying to solve a crime. The humor here isn't quite as meta as it was there (or, IMHO, as funny), but Black's distinctly snarky dialogue is still evident. Although this plays more like a straight drama for the majority of the movie, when the laughs happen, they happen big. The general repartee between Crowe's and Gosling's characters is fun to watch, and I loved the character of Gosling's daughter, who is smart and adventurous without being too precocious. Definitely an enjoyable watch, even if it didn't wow me.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Nice Guys > Dreamgirls
The Nice Guys < Argo
The Nice Guys > A Separation
The Nice Guys < The Green Mile
The Nice Guys > Duck Soup
The Nice Guys < The Big Short
The Nice Guys > The Return of the Living Dead
The Nice Guys < 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Nice Guys > De-Lovely
The Nice Guys < Rocky
Final spot: #822 out of 2463.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

All the Wilderness (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A restless teenager explores the wilderness of his city while struggling with the absence of his father.
Directed by Michael Johnson. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Virginia Madsen, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Danny DeVito.

Goodness gracious, who'd have thought an hour and 16 minutes could tick by SO SLOWLY? This is a dreary coming-of-age movie, the kind that features lots of montages of random nature images set to indie dance music where the characters have conversations about nothing and everything gets resolved in a dreamy voiceover monologue that only vaguely connects to the rest of the movie. All the actors seem to be sleepwalking their way through this, so I couldn't care less about any of their characters. It's a slog to sit through this one.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
All the Wilderness < The Fall
All the Wilderness < Rebel Without a Cause
All the Wilderness > Evan Almighty
All the Wilderness < Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You?
All the Wilderness < Fast Food Nation
All the Wilderness > In the Mood for Love
All the Wilderness > Baby Take a Bow
All the Wilderness < Home Alone
All the Wilderness < The Girl King
All the Wilderness < The Love Bug
All the Wilderness < Bang the Drum Slowly
All the Wilderness > Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Final spot: #2096 out of 2462.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Front (1976)

IMDb plot summary: A cashier poses as a writer for blacklisted talents to submit their work through, but the injustice around him pushes him to take a stand.
Directed by Martin Ritt. Starring Woody Allen, Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, and Andrea Marcovicci.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This movie walks an interesting line between comedy and drama. The subject, of course, is deadly serious, and there are a few extremely dark moments in the film, but overall it seems to be taking a more lighthearted, satirical look at this. It works most of the time, as the comedy is there but pretty understated, and that makes the more dramatic moments pop. I especially like seeing, as the credits rolled, how the film's director, writer, and several of its actors were all blacklisted themselves. It made the triumphant ending feel even more triumphant, and Woody Allen's tiny speech at the end was clearly what each one of them would have wanted to say to the committee. A smart, interesting movie.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Front > Dreamgirls
The Front > The Artist
The Front < Benny & Joon
The Front < Back to the Future Part III
The Front < Forgetting Sarah Marshall
The Front > Zodiac
The Front < Flushed Away
The Front < Thermae Romae
The Front < 9
The Front > Quartet
The Front < Inherit the Wind

Final spot: #573 out of 2461.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Five Graves to Cairo (1943)

IMDb plot summary: During World War 2, an undercover British soldier tries get word to the Allies that the Germans have tons of supplies buried in 5 excavations across Egypt.
Directed by Billy Wilder. Starring Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff, and Erich von Stroheim.

This early Billy Wilder flick has a great premise, full of potential for intrigue and suspense (or, in other circumstances, a dark comedy). It never *quite* lives up to that potential. The main characters don't have much personality, and it swings abruptly from exciting war adventure to dark war drama and back a few times. The best acting performance here is from Erich von Stroheim, who is commanding and chilling as Field Marshall Rommel. Everything else is a little disappointingly flat for what could have been such an interesting movie. Still a decent watch with a unique plot, but it's nowhere near being a Wilder classic or even one of his underrated gems.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Five Graves to Cairo > Dreamgirls
Five Graves to Cairo < Argo
Five Graves to Cairo > A Separation
Five Graves to Cairo < The Green Mile
Five Graves to Cairo < The Thin Man
Five Graves to Cairo < Grosse Pointe Blank
Five Graves to Cairo < The Time Traveler's Wife
Five Graves to Cairo < Men in Black
Five Graves to Cairo > The Pianist
Five Graves to Cairo < The Village
Final spot: #917 out of 2460.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Shakespeare Behind Bars (2005)

IMDb plot summary: Twenty male inmates in a Kentucky prison form an unlikely Shakespearean acting troupe.
Directed by Hank Rogerson.

As someone who believes strongly in the transformative power of the arts, I found this documentary extremely compelling. Hearing the inmates talk about their own views on the crimes that got them in there, their attitude toward rehabilitation, and how the theatre program has helped them channel themselves, is really fascinating. From a technical standpoint, the documentary is well-done also. It's quick and goes back and forth between rehearsals, character studies, and interviews with the various men involved, and the 90 minutes of film just seem to fly by. Definitely worth a watch, especially for anyone even remotely interested in theatre.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Shakespeare Behind Bars > A Little Night Music
Shakespeare Behind Bars > The Artist
Shakespeare Behind Bars < Benny & Joon
Shakespeare Behind Bars < Back to the Future Part III
Shakespeare Behind Bars > Four Lions
Shakespeare Behind Bars > Cheaper by the Dozen
Shakespeare Behind Bars < Hard Candy
Shakespeare Behind Bars > The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Shakespeare Behind Bars < Center Stage
Shakespeare Behind Bars > We're Not Married!
Final spot: #486 out of 2459.

Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)

IMDb plot summary: A retired master car thief must come back to the industry and steal 50 cars with his crew in one night to save his brother's life.
Directed by Dominic Sena. Starring Nicolas Cage, Giovanni Ribisi, Angelina Jolie, and Robert Duvall.

Well, this is goofy and ridiculous and also very fun. This seems to be RIGHT before Nicolas Cage went completely 100% crazy with his roles, but you can see elements of it here. Sometimes he's playing the serious dramatic part of someone trying to escape a life of crime... and then he has that "Low Rider" scene. Overall, this is a delightfully campy action flick. As I watched it, I kept thinking, "They're not going to actually do that, are they?" and then laughing out loud when they did. The few attempts at actual humor are pretty lame, and, really, it didn't need to be there, because a deadpan car chase where one person is driving backwards the whole time is entertaining enough. Christopher Eccleston is a great over-the-top villain, Nicolas Cage is an great far-too-serious good guy, and it's all a lot of fun.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gone in Sixty Seconds > A Little Night Music
Gone in Sixty Seconds > American Outlaws
Gone in Sixty Seconds < Breakfast at Tiffany's
Gone in Sixty Seconds < Bernie
Gone in Sixty Seconds < Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Gone in Sixty Seconds < Zodiac
Gone in Sixty Seconds > The Reader
Gone in Sixty Seconds < All's Faire in Love
Gone in Sixty Seconds < Ugetsu
Gone in Sixty Seconds > The Abyss
Gone in Sixty Seconds < The Impossible

Final spot: #591 out of 2458.

Something to Sing About (1937)

IMDb plot summary: A New York bandleader journeys to Hollywood when he is offered a contract with a studio, but he is determined to do things his way and not theirs.
Directed by Victor Schertzinger. Starring James Cagney, Evelyn Daw, William Frawley, and Mona Barrie.

This is a delightfully silly little romantic comedy with a few moments that elevate it to something pretty special. In particular, I love the far-too-brief subplot of the Japanese manservant who puts on a stereotypical Japanese accent but in reality came to Hollywood to be an actor, only to find they had no interest in using him in anything. I want an entire movie about that guy! The movie itself is charming as well, with James Cagney playing a believably out-of-place Hollywood leading man. The romance is pleasant and sweet, the jokes mostly work, and the few musical numbers in the movie are enjoyable. A more self-aware comedy than I expected, and more enjoyable.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Something to Sing About > True Romance
Something to Sing About < American Outlaws
Something to Sing About > Three Colors: Red
Something to Sing About < The Call
Something to Sing About > Bill Cunningham New York
Something to Sing About > Batman
Something to Sing About < Summer Wars
Something to Sing About < Malcolm X
Something to Sing About > Monsters Vs. Aliens
Something to Sing About > Le Week-End
Something to Sing About < The Chorus

Final spot: #798 out of 2457.