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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate - an International rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson.

What really makes this movie enjoyable is that, unlike most action movies, it isn't building up to one giant action sequence. Instead, we get mini-heist after mini-heist after mini-heist. There's a constant rise and fall in the action, so the downtime never feels dragged out because you know something else big is right around the corner. It's also ridiculous in all the right ways. At least once, possibly more often, I laughed out loud at a particularly ludicrous plot twist. This movie is what I always want James Bond movies to be - slick, silly, and fun from beginning to end.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > A Clockwork Orange
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < Smashed
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < It Follows
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > Heavenly Creatures
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > M
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > Little Children
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < The Producers (2005)
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation < The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation > Contagion

Final spot: #517 out of 2512.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Big Man Japan (2007)

IMDb plot summary: An eccentric man living alone in a decrepit house in Tokyo periodically transforms into a 100-foot tall giant in order to defend Japan against similarly sized monsters.
Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto. Starring Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, and Tomoji Hasegawa.

(Minor spoilers ahead.)

This movie is off-the-wall crazy and I love it a lot. I went into it not knowing a single thing about it, so when it made an abrupt shift from slice-of-life documentary to Japanese monster/superhero movie, I was completely taken aback. It becomes a very funny (and sometimes, simultaneously, very sad) movie about celebrity and saving the world. And I have to say, I 100% adore those monster designs. They are strange and sometimes unsettling and silly and original and every time they announced a new monster I got all excited for the fight, which is... not at all what I would have expected. I'm still mentally figuring out whether there's a meaning to the end of the film or whether it's just silly for silliness' sake. Both are enjoyable, but I'm hoping for the former because the movie got me to genuinely care about its unfortunate lead character and I'd like to have some sort of resolution on his behalf, even if it's a sad one. Overall though, really enjoyable movie, and one I'd probably never have found on my own.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Big Man Japan > O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Big Man Japan > Gone Baby Gone
Big Man Japan < Kramer vs. Kramer
Big Man Japan < The Goodbye Girl (2004)
Big Man Japan > Heavenly Creatures
Big Man Japan > Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Big Man Japan < Shakespeare Behind Bars
Big Man Japan < Witness for the Prosecution
Big Man Japan > Cold Comfort Farm
Big Man Japan < Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Final spot: #504 out of 2510.

Loins of Punjab Presents (2007)

IMDb plot summary: Enter a roller-coaster world of seven strangers whose lives collide during a singing contest in a small New Jersey town.
Directed by Manish Acharya. Starring Shabana Azmi, Ajay Naidu, Ayesha Darker, and Michael Raimondi.

I had no idea what to expect with this movie. I'd never heard of it, but Netflix thought I'd like it a lot, and sometimes their rankings are pretty close. This ended up being a really enjoyable mockumentary that takes some unusual turns. It starts off with a typical satirical setup and conflicts but by the end of the movie, you really end up caring about these characters, no matter how laughable they were at the beginning. It's still funny and satirical at the end, but there's a note of heart that I wouldn't have expected from the setup. There aren't any laugh-out-loud moments throughout, but the jokes nearly all hit the mark, and the characters are creative and fun to watch.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Loins of Punjab Presents > The Crazies
Loins of Punjab Presents < Gone Baby Gone
Loins of Punjab Presents > The Gold Rush
Loins of Punjab Presents > The Green Mile
Loins of Punjab Presents > Princess Mononoke
Loins of Punjab Presents > Radio Days
Loins of Punjab Presents < Atonement
Loins of Punjab Presents < Dog Day Afternoon
Loins of Punjab Presents > Mr. Holmes
Loins of Punjab Presents > Monsoon Wedding
Loins of Punjab Presents < Au Revoir Les Enfants

Final spot: #659 out of 2509.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Adama (2015)

12-year­old Adama lives in a remote village in West Africa, sheltered by the Cliffs. When Samba, his elder brother, suddenly vanishes from the village, Adama decides to set off in search of him.
Directed by Simon Rouby. Starring Azize Diabaté Abdoulaye, Pascal N'Zonzi, Oxmo Puccino, and Jack Mba.

Wow, this movie looks gorgeous. Some of those shots were just stunning; I'm thinking in particular of the one where he's walking and in the background are shadows of passersby. It's the kind of story that should affect me more than it does, but in the end, I don't know that I connected much with the main character. Earlier this year I watched Beasts of No Nation, and that was a much more compelling movie about young boys in the midst of war, partly because of the strength of the main character, who was a vibrant and interesting child. Adama can't help but seem a little bland in comparison. Worth watching for the animation, but doesn't deliver as I hoped when it comes to the story.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Adama > The Crazies (2010)
Adama < A Clockwork Orange
Adama > The Gold Rush
Adama < The Green Mile
Adama < Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India
Adama < Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Adama < Splice
Adama > Peter Pan Live!
Adama < Elf
Adama > Connie and Carla
Adama > The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)

Final spot: #926 out of 2508.

Closer to the Moon (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A Romanian police officer teams up with a small crew of old friends from the World War II Jewish Resistance to pull off a heist by convincing everyone at the scene of the crime that they are only filming a movie.
Directed by Nae Caranfil. Starring Vera Farmiga, Mark Strong, Harry Lloyd, and Anton Lesser.

This is such a great concept for a movie, but something about the execution didn't work. The tone was off, setting us up for a lighthearted satirical comedy about politics and film, and ending in a sappy melodrama where none of the characters from the first half seemed to be comfortable. There's no real discernible character arc -- things happen to our central character, but they don't affect him or change him in any way -- and the ending seems like an afterthought more than anything. Disappointingly awkward.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Closer to the Moon > Rebecca
Closer to the Moon < A Clockwork Orange
Closer to the Moon < The Gold Rush
Closer to the Moon < Hancock
Closer to the Moon < George of the Jungle
Closer to the Moon < The 5th Wave
Closer to the Moon > Life of Pi
Closer to the Moon < Company (2011)
Closer to the Moon > Sex Tape
Closer to the Moon < Cafe Society

Final spot: #1228 out of 2507.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

IMDb plot summary: The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.
Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, and Rebecca Ferguson.

I went into this expecting a warm-hearted comedy, and, indeed, that's what it is for the first two-thirds of the film, until it begins to slowly shift toward a romantic drama. The final 20 minutes or so of the movie are heartbreaking and touching all at once, and because it gets into that darker side, we really grow to love and care about Florence instead of just laughing at her. The acting in this is superb, and between Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg (easily the best acting I've ever seen from him), it's difficult to say who most steals the show. Not quite the movie I was expecting, but well worth seeing.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Florence Foster Jenkins > Rebecca
Florence Foster Jenkins < A Clockwork Orange
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Gold Rush
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Green Mile
Florence Foster Jenkins > sex, lies, and videotape
Florence Foster Jenkins < Crimes and Misdemeanors
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Great Mouse Detective
Florence Foster Jenkins > The Cat Returns
Florence Foster Jenkins < Army of Darkness
Florence Foster Jenkins > Porco Rosso

Final spot: #671 out of 2506.

Café Society (2016)

IMDb plot summary: In the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood, where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York, he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carell, Kristen Stewart, and Corey Stoll.

Woody Allen's output hasn't decreased in terms of quantity, but its quality over recent years has been subject to debate. Aside from the unqualifiedly great Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine, the last 20 years or so have been movies that didn't make much of an impact one way or the other. This is another one of those. It's one of the few films where I feel like Woody's dialogue is actually stilted, but I can't tell if that's entirely the dialogue's fault or because its actors do a poor job with it. Jesse Eisenberg is fine (his persona easily encompasses the smug-yet-self-deprecating bon mots that Allen gives most of his characters), but Steve Carell and Kristen Stewart both seem uncomfortable with their lines and never settle into their characters. By far the most entertaining scene is early on, between Eisenberg and Anna Camp as a nervous prostitute. When the film finally winds to an end, it falls flat. A stronger ending or stronger actors might have saved it, but as it is, this is lower-tier Allen.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Cafe Society > Days of Heaven
Cafe Society < A Clockwork Orange
Cafe Society < The Gold Rush
Cafe Society < Hancock
Cafe Society < George of the Jungle
Cafe Society < The 5th Wave
Cafe Society > Quills
Cafe Society < Company (2011)
Cafe Society > Office Space
Cafe Society > The Giver
Cafe Society < The Color Purple

Final spot: #1226 out of 2505.

Morgan (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A corporate risk-management consultant must decide whether or not to terminate an artificially created humanoid being.
Directed by Luke Scott. Starring Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, and Michael Yare.

There's something very compelling about this movie, albeit in a weird way. It is split into two fairly distinct halves -- a psychological sci-fi drama and an intense action movie -- and although the two halves bleed into each other from time to time, they for the most part seem very focused, and both halves work equally well. I don't feel like this movie is going to get a lot of traction, but that's a shame, because it's a creatively-told story.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Morgan > Days of Heaven
Morgan < Children of Men
Morgan > Children of Paradise
Morgan > The Call
Morgan > Princess Mononoke
Morgan > Radio Days
Morgan < 21 Jump Street
Morgan < The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)
Morgan > Mr. Holmes
Morgan > Monsoon Wedding
Morgan < Dog Day Afternoon

Final spot: #658 out of 2504.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time (2007)

IMDb plot summary: Lady Tremaine gets her hands on the Fairy Godmother's wand, then turns back time to the day Cinderella tried on the glass slipper.
Directed by Frank Nissen. Starring Jennifer Hale, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Susanne Blakeslee, and Tress MacNeille.

I... don't know what to say about this movie. It is pretty much exactly what I expected -- a ridiculous direct-to-video sequel that makes zero sense. I'm like 80% sure this movie was suggested to me for my movie challenge somewhat ironically, though the reviews I read on the site where I watched it indicated that there are at least a few people who sincerely like this. Aside from the ridiculousness of the plot, however, it was just... kind of obnoxious and exhausting. Every other scene was a loud, busy slapstick routine. The original movie certainly isn't a favorite of mine, but at least its humor was tempered by an understanding of what was actually at stake. This one undermined the stakes at every turn with wacky cartoon goofiness, like the designers thought the problem with the original was that it had been too subtle and if only everything was 50% louder, faster, brighter, and sillier, it would have REALLY taken off among kids. Really a pretty bad movie. But I got through it thanks to snarking it on my Twitter -- you can read all that here:

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Cinderella III < Days of Heaven
Cinderella III < Bad Moms
Cinderella III > Faces
Cinderella III < Dragonball Evolution
Cinderella III < Deep Blue Sea
Cinderella III < The Princess and the Goblin
Cinderella III < Red River
Cinderella III > The Wonderful World of Autotainment
Cinderella III < Dracula
Cinderella III < The Butter Battle Book
Cinderella III < Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Cinderella III < Turner and Hooch

Final spot: #2181 out of 2503.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Short Circuit 2 (1988)

IMDb plot summary: Robot Johnny Five comes to the city and gets manipulated by criminals who want him for their own purposes.
Directed by Kenneth Johnson. Starring Fisher Stevens, Michael McKean, Cynthia Gibb, and Jack Weston.

I don't remember much about the first Short Circuit, though I'm pretty sure they were battling the government there rather than evil diamond thieves. And wasn't there a dramatic almost-death scene then too? Anyway, this movie is so ridiculous it's tough to really dislike, but it's tough to love, too. Cute robot movies are almost identical to most cute kid movies, which are very unlikely to win me over. It's also hard to actually empathize with a character who speaks mostly in dated catch phrases. I didn't roll my eyes at it nearly as much as I thought I would, but I didn't feel any kind of connection to the characters or care about the story or laugh at the jokes. It's inoffensive and uninspired.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Short Circuit 2 < Rebecca
Short Circuit 2 < Mickey Blue Eyes
Short Circuit 2 > Faces
Short Circuit 2 > Dragonball Evolution
Short Circuit 2 > 10 Items or Less
Short Circuit 2 > Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Short Circuit 2 > Treasure Planet
Short Circuit 2 < Chinatown
Short Circuit 2 > Unknown
Short Circuit 2 > Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Final spot: #1889 out of 2502.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)

IMDb plot summary: The Disciples of James Dean meet up on the anniversary of his death and mull over their lives in the present and in flashback, revealing the truth behind their complicated lives.
Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black, and Sudie Bond.

I loved this one a lot. You can tell it was a play -- one location, minimal characters, lots of talking -- but Robert Altman definitely makes it cinematic, particularly when dealing with the flashback scenes or intrusions of the past into the present. Each character here is interesting, and even though the end feels like they're rushing to get a Big Emotional Moment for every character, I actually didn't mind at all because I *wanted* that Big Emotional Moment for every character. A great script, really lovely direction, and phenomenal acting from all the ladies (but especially Sandy Dennis -- what a part!).

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
CDTT5&DJDJD > Days of Heaven
CDTT5&DJDJD > A Clockwork Orange
CDTT5&DJDJD > Kramer vs. Kramer
CDTT5&DJDJD < Amahl and the Night Visitors
CDTT5&DJDJD > Pirate Radio
CDTT5&DJDJD < The Nightmare Before Christmas
CDTT5&DJDJD < It's a Wonderful Life
CDTT5&DJDJD > Dead Again
CDTT5&DJDJD > Hot Fuzz
CDTT5&DJDJD < Jurassic Park

Final spot: #227 out of 2501.