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.