Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A father and son, both coroners, are pulled into a complex mystery while attempting to identify the body of a young woman, who was apparently harboring dark secrets.
Directed by André Øvredal. Starring Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Ophelia Lovibond, and Michael McElhatton.


For the first 2/3 of this movie, it's an interesting one-location horror flick that starts casual and builds to more and more ominous moments, and it works for the most part. The movie is smart about what it shows us and what it leaves up to the audience to interpret through their imagination, and I found myself genuinely unsettled. Sadly, this falls apart in the last third of the film, where the answer makes zero sense. Was she innocent or was she not? Was her revenge sated or was it not? It's especially unfortunate given how interesting everything before it was. A promising beginning and a disappointing finish.

2.5 stars.

The Autopsy of Jane Doe > Wedding Crashers
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Kill Bill Vol. 1
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Thor
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Batman Forever
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < The Secret of NIMH
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > Two Weeks Notice
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > The 'Burbs
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Million Dollar Baby
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < City Lights
The Autopsy of Jane Doe < Killing Season
The Autopsy of Jane Doe > The Forbidden Kingdom

Final spot: #1167 out of 2555.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Terminator Genisys (2015)

IMDb plot summary: When John Connor, leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline.
Directed by Alan Taylor. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, and Jai Courtney.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is the kind of sequel I hate most, the kind that depends upon retconning everything from the original prior films. Sometimes that happens through reinterpretation of earlier events, here it's because of time travel. It doesn't matter if it was brilliantly plotted (it's not), exquisitely shot (it's not), and charismatically acted (it's not). It's a slap in the face to the entire original Terminator story, asking us to canonically erase it entirely from our memory and accept instead this poor excuse for a substitute. There are some interesting visual effects, and the *concept* of an aging Terminator is a good one, but overall this movie is highly disappointing and an excellent example of why sequels are so frequently frustrating for me.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Terminator Genisys < Life of Pi
Terminator Genisys < Sahara
Terminator Genisys > Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
Terminator Genisys < The Godfather
Terminator Genisys > 8 1/2
Terminator Genisys > Homicide
Terminator Genisys > 1941
Terminator Genisys < Bulworth
Terminator Genisys > The Collective
Terminator Genisys > Tears of the Sun
Terminator Genisys > Hostage

Final spot: #2086 out of 2554.

Fences (2016)

IMDb plot summary: An African-American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life.
Directed by Denzel Washington. Starring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, and Jovan Adepo.

I was familiar with some of August Wilson's plays, but this was one that had slipped by me. This film version is quite good, though. It doesn't do much innovating in transferring it from stage to film, keeping pretty solidly to its one location and simply focusing on watching the characters talk, but you soon forget that, thanks to the powerful acting. I hope both Denzel and Viola pick up some Oscar nods for their acting here. It's a story and a movie that I think will sit with me for a while.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Fences > Quills
Fences > Finder's Fee
Fences < Kramer vs. Kramer
Fences < Repulsion
Fences > Billy Elliot the Musical Live
Fences > Cold Comfort Farm
Fences < Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unforunate Events
Fences < Pom Poko
Fences > The Basketball Diaries
Fences > Take This Waltz
Fences < The Adventures of Robin Hood

Final spot: #511 out of 2553.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fruitvale Station (2013)

IMDb plot summary: The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, and Kevin Durand.

(Very minor spoilers ahead.)

This movie is heartbreaking. It does a great job of showing us this character and his attempts to get his life back together and his increasing frustration that nothing seems to be helping. It's a movie that I'm actually having a tough time writing about because while I thought it was great, it's apparently one I don't have a lot of articulate thoughts about. The acting and writing were both excellent (especially Michael B. Jordan's performance), without any moments that stuck out as being unnatural, which is refreshing for me from a drama. Well worth a watch.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Fruitvale Station > Quills
Fruitvale Station > Finder's Fee
Fruitvale Station < Kramer vs. Kramer
Fruitvale Station < Repulsion
Fruitvale Station < Billy Elliot the Musical Live
Fruitvale Station > Inherit the Wind
Fruitvale Station < Shall We Dance? (1996)
Fruitvale Station < The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Fruitvale Station < Tickled
Fruitvale Station < Night Must Fall
Fruitvale Station > Sleeping with Other People

Final spot: #596 out of 2552.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)

IMDb plot summary: As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man's life, family, and American society.
Directed by Lee Daniels. Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

I had heard so-so things about this movie going in, but I found it affected me much more than I anticipated. It's sort of an overarching broad look at the civil rights movement through the 20th century, but I really liked how they showed it both through the eyes of the father (with his quiet proximity to the white men with the power) and his son (with his fierce determination to fight for his rights). It did a really excellent job of building the narrative of one man seeing how his country changed from what it was in his childhood all the way through the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The movie is a tad bit long and sometimes tries to tackle too many things, leaving it spread thin in some spots, but overall it's a lovely movie, and I liked it.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Butler > Definitely, Maybe
The Butler > Murder by Death
The Butler < Kramer vs. Kramer
The Butler < Repulsion
The Butler < Billy Elliot the Musical Live
The Butler < Inherit the Wind
The Butler < The Impossible
The Butler > A Christmas Carol (1951)
The Butler > Australia
The Butler > Gone in 60 Seconds
The Butler > The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Final spot: #619 out of 2551.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rogue One (2016)

IMDb plot summary: The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.
Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, and Donnie Yen.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Franchise movies are incredibly hard for me to assess separately, as I typically feel incapable of judging a film if it's part of an overarching narrative rather than a standalone entity. Unless it really stands out (as The Force Awakens did for me), I have trouble sussing out in detail how I felt about it. That is mostly the case here. It's a good movie, a solid movie. Its use of original trilogy plotlines and characters is nicely orchestrated. It ends on an unexpectedly hopeful note given the grim endings for everyone involved. It's a good movie, but it didn't wow me, and so it's going to fade into the myriad of other Star Wars films that will come along and be capable but only OK. I may even forget I saw it at all. That doesn't mean it was bad -- just that it didn't meet the high bar it needed to meet to stand out in a franchise soon to be almost as flooded with titles as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Rogue One > Definitely, Maybe
Rogue One < Murder by Death
Rogue One > Hook
Rogue One > Shaolin Soccer
Rogue One > My Date with Drew
Rogue One < The Scarlet Pimpernel
Rogue One > Battle Royale
Rogue One > You Can't Take It With You
Rogue One < Loins of Punjab Presents
Rogue One > The Boondock Saints
Rogue One > Monsoon Wedding

Final spot: #682 out of 2550.

Armageddon (1998)

IMDb plot summary: After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is going to impact Earth in less than a month, N.A.S.A. recruits a misfit team of deep core drillers to save the planet.
Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler.

This is just... a mess of a movie, and I say that as a moderate fan of disaster porn movie. But Armageddon fails on virtually every level, from the characters being loathsome to the acting being stilted to the story arc being bent all of out shape to the disaster moments being just loud and ugly rather than anything that feels truly menacing to the fact that I swear there are at LEAST 20 instances of the cliched phrase, "It's gonna blow!" to the question of WHY IS IT SO LONG.

I enjoy disaster movies. I have a fondness for 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. But those movies had a clear forward story, and the disaster moments contributed to that story rather than interrupting it for no apparent reason other than, "Hey, I bet THIS thing can blow up, too! Let's do something with that!" Those movies also felt actually cinematic. As cheesy as they may be, the moments when the weather goes all awry in TDAT or watching the waters rise in 2012 evoke a grandiose sense of true global catastrophe. That's never there in Armageddon. Things blow up, meteors fall, but with as much cinematic intent as a cheap video game. Add to that mix that everyone on earth appears to be that winning combination of selfish and stupid, and I was rooting for the asteroid.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Armageddon < Definitely, Maybe
Armageddon < The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Armageddon < Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
Armageddon < The World Is Not Enough
Armageddon > Ella Enchanted
Armageddon > Soultaker
Armageddon > The Prince & Me
Armageddon < The Westing Game
Armageddon < Gridiron Gang
Armageddon < A Cinderella Story
Armageddon < Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks With a Circus
Armageddon < Herbie: Fully Loaded

Final spot: #2410 out of 2549.

Friday, December 16, 2016

High Strung (1991)

IMDb plot summary: Thane Furrows, an extremely cynical but unintentionally hilarious children's book writer, wakes up one morning, and, since pretty much everyone and everything annoys him, begins another day of complaining to himself. However, the day proves to be much different than normal when Thane begins to receive strange phone calls, letters, and voices in his head, all indicating that something will happen at 8 o'clock.
Directed by Roger Nygard. Starring Steve Oedekerk, Thomas F. Wilson, Denise Crosby, and Jim Carrey.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

This movie is really unique, and I appreciate that a lot. I always love when movies break typical conventions to do something just a little offbeat, and this fit that. My one beef with it is simply that the main character's negativity frequently didn't work for me. I know his whining is supposed to be funny, but I have known those people and they are exhausting and soul-sucking to be around, and I felt moments of that throughout this. As the movie went on and I got more into the groove of the constant stream of negativity and sarcasm, I was able to enjoy it more, but there were still plenty of moments that just made me sigh and say, "Ugh, can you please like SOMETHING?"

The final 10 minutes, however, are awesome and tie the whole weird rambling story together in a very entertaining way. Without giving too much away, Jim Carrey's tiny role at the end is absolutely hilarious. ("You're only allowed to say it 18,000 times and then they call me in" made me literally laugh out loud.)

This is a really bizarre but kind of fascinating movie, and it's one that I could definitely see myself returning to in the future. Even now as I rank it, I find it going much further up the chart than I at first expected, largely on the strength of that ending. It's certainly going to stick with me. This is one of those movies that this challenge is MADE for, because it's one I never would have sought out on my own.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
High Strung > Definitely, Maybe
High Strung > Murder by Death
High Strung < Kramer vs. Kramer
High Strung < Seven Samurai
High Strung < The Secret Garden (1987)
High Strung < 9
High Strung > The Impossible
High Strung > Catfish
High Strung < Bubba Ho-tep
High Strung < The Departed
High Strung < Christmas in Connecticut
High Strung < Chariots of Fire

Final spot: #607 out of 2548.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Another Earth (2011)

IMDb plot summary: On the night of the discovery of a duplicate Earth in the Solar system, an ambitious young student and an accomplished composer cross paths in a tragic accident.
Directed by Mike Cahill. Starring William Mapother and Brit Marling.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

The movie this most brought to mind was Melancholia, another vaguely sci-fi movie that was really about dealing with personal demons that had moments of almost unbearable bleakness. I loved Melancholia and loved this slightly less, but that's primarily because I was aching for more Earth 2 information. While the human drama was interesting enough, it, frankly, *wasn't* as compelling a story to me as the weird duplicate Earth perpetually lurking in the background, and I often found myself a little impatient during what was clearly meant to be the meat of the story.

That being said, though, I liked the ending. (Or, rather, the ending before the final shot, which felt so ambiguous as to be meaningless to me.) The mental comparisons to Melancholia and the flow of the story made it seem almost impossible for there to be anything even vaguely resembling a happy ending, and I may have actually breathed a little sigh of relief seeing an actual resolution. I found it very satisfying.

Overall, it's a movie I admired more than I enjoyed, so it's going to land a little low on my chart. I do feel like it's one that I will like more the longer I let it sit with me.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Another Earth > Oblivion
Another Earth < Murder by Death
Another Earth < The Exorcist
Another Earth > No eres tu, soy yo
Another Earth > Ghost World
Another Earth > Ender's Game
Another Earth > The Village
Another Earth > Connie and Carla
Another Earth < Full Metal Jacket
Another Earth < Elf
Another Earth < The Shallows
Another Earth < Adama

Final spot: #965 out of 2547.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Upside Down (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Adam and Eden fell in love as teens despite the fact that they live on twinned worlds with gravities that pull in opposite directions. Ten years after a forced separation, Adam sets out on a dangerous quest to reconnect with his love.
Directed by Juan Solanas. Starring Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, and Blu Mankuma.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This movie reminded me of Moulin Rouge!, one of my very favorite movies, but one that shares a very specific aspect with this movie: They're both films that look absolutely spectacular and have ridiculously stupid plots.

The plot for Upside Down doesn't work AT ALL -- right from the beginning, it sets itself up as something far more fantasy than sci fi. Its "rules of gravity" set up at the beginning are clearly rules of magic, not scientific principles. And the movie just gets sillier, with a culminating, "Well, uh, I guess all our problems are solved now?" in the last five minutes. But oh my gosh. It looks AMAZING. This is a movie made to show off stunning, beautiful visuals.

The story may be ridiculous, but it lends itself to such lovely images that it's almost something I can wholly forgive. Almost. If it had songs in it, Moulin Rouge! style, this could have landed very high on my chart. As it is, I think it WANTS to have a more coherent plot than it does (which Moulin Rouge! does not) and can't quite reach that goal, so it suffers a little in my ratings. A little less plot and a little bit more time spent loving the cinematography would have served this movie better. A smart recommendation for me, but the film's flaws hold it down below the line of "YESSSS THIS IS GREAT."

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Upside Down > Oblivion
Upside Down > Pretty Woman
Upside Down < Smashed
Upside Down < Seven Samurai
Upside Down < Collateral
Upside Down > 9
Upside Down > Sling Blade
Upside Down > Heavenly Creatures
Upside Down < Four Lions
Upside Down < Widow's Peak
Upside Down < Waking Ned Devine
Upside Down > Boyhood

Final spot: #565 out of 2546.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hairspray Live! (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A teenage girl living in Baltimore in the early 1960s dreams of appearing on a popular TV dance show.
Directed by Kenny Leon and Alex Rudzinski. Starring Maddie Baillio, Harvey Fierstein, Garrett Clayton, and Jennifer Hudson.

Of all the shows NBC has chosen to do in their live musicals series, this is the first one that is a show I actually like. Hairspray is an incredibly musical that manages to somehow be both political and infectiously cheerful (not a very typical combination). It's an amazing show with great songs and never fails to make me happier after having seen it. The star-studded 2007 film version is surprisingly excellent, with the exception of John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, so the live performance had some big shoes to fill going up against a movie in my top 20.

On the whole, it was pretty good. It's a big show with a lot of characters, and most of those characters were played well. The exceptions are Garrett Clayton (whose Link is almost unbearably bland), Ariana Grande (whose Penny seems so stupid I genuinely feel uncomfortable by Seaweed's attention to her, like she's being taken advantage of), and Ephraim Sykes (who ruined "Run and Tell That" by lagging consistently behind the very clear beat). But the great thing about Hairspray is that those side characters don't define the play. Sure, a great Link/Penny/Seaweed can add a lot to the show, but bad ones just mean more attention is paid to Tracy and Edna -- and both Maddie Baillio and Harvey Fierstein (of course) hit it out of the park here. Throw in a really solid Amber, Velma, Wilbur, Corny Collins, and Motormouth Maybelle (though one who clearly cannot call herself "big" in any way, shape or form), and you've got yourself a show.

The sets looked good, too, aside from the fact that Baltimore appears to be in the midst of a weeks-long solar eclipse. Watching Tracy sing "Good Morning Baltimore" when clearly the sun hasn't risen yet is weird, as is the fact that the kids leave school to go to Motormouth Maybelle's and get there in apparently the middle of the night. This small detail is weird and distracting and wreaks havoc with the play's timeline.

Overall, though, a much stronger effort than the one NBC live show I have seen (Peter Pan), and I'm hoping this upward trend continues.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Hairspray Live! > The Whistleblower
Hairspray Live! > Eat Pray Love
Hairspray Live! < Kramer vs. Kramer
Hairspray Live! < Seven Samurai
Hairspray Live! > The Secret Garden (1987)
Hairspray Live! > Cold Comfort Farm
Hairspray Live! < Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Hairspray Live! > The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Hairspray Live! > Center Stage
Hairspray Live! > Network

Final spot: #499 out of 2545.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Miracles from Heaven (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A young girl suffering from a rare digestive disorder finds herself miraculously cured after surviving a terrible accident.
Directed by Patricia Riggen. Starring Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers, Martin Henderson, and Brighton Sharbino.

(Spoilers, I guess. Though I'd never recommend anyone see this and it DOES tell you right in the title that there's going to be a miracle, so I'm not sure how spoilery I'm actually being...)

Okay. So. For anyone who's not aware of this about me, I am a Christian, I do believe in miracles, and I hate nearly every Christian movie I see. Too often in an effort to cram in accurate theology, the story takes a backseat and it basically just becomes propaganda, which has its purposes but very seldom makes for enjoyable art. Also, the more I see Jennifer Garner in, the more I'm convinced the woman just can't act. So this was always going to be a tough sell.

Yeah, this movie didn't work for me on any level. You know your movie's off to a bad start when the first five minutes alone are so bland I spend my time wondering which daughter is going to almost die and need a miracle. The story feels rushed, there's next to no character development, the dialogue is awkward and seldom age-appropriate when the kids speak, and that ending speech. In fact, that ending speech deserves a paragraph of its own.

OH MY GOSH THAT ENDING SPEECH. Garner's kid gets an actual miraculous healing, and what she chooses to say to her congregation and the TV people is a series of vague platitudes about how, "Uh... kindness is a miracle too?" NOT LIKE YOU JUST HAD, IT'S NOT. It's like somebody winning the lottery and subsequently talking about how basically everybody is rich because they have friends. It's a complete undoing of the movie's message (which is presumably "God does miracles") and then leads to an even more awkward here, which, if I may, I shall summarize in script form.

Jennifer Garner: God healed our daughter. Also, kindness is a miracle. Also, forgiveness is a miracle.
Random Woman: Well, maybe your daughter wasn't that sick. We are skeptical! Convince us!
Random Dude: Soooo none of you know who I am or have any reason to be convinced by me, but their daughter was sick! I know this because I saw her in the hospital and, while I'm not a doctor in any way, shape or form, she sure looked sick to me! But the biggest miracle of all was that she was kind to my sick daughter!
All the Congregation, Apparently: We believe now!

Guys. It's so messy. I should've tweet snarked this because I kept having to say snarky things out loud to the dog instead. The *one* thing I did appreciate was the tiny tiny scene where the daughter understandably lapses into some serious depression and tells her mom she just wants to die so the pain will stop. I was so glad that for one scene in the movie, the daughter wasn't some brave, patient, all-knowing sage, but just a regular 9-year-old girl who feels miserable and wants it to be done. The movie doesn't go anywhere with it, but that scene is nice.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Miracles from Heaven < Oblivion
Miracles from Heaven < Top Gun
Miracles from Heaven < The Wonderful World of Autotainment
Miracles from Heaven > They Were Expendable
Miracles from Heaven > Thr3e
Miracles from Heaven < The Little Drummer Boy
Miracles from Heaven < Made of Honor
Miracles from Heaven < Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Miracles from Heaven < Capote
Miracles from Heaven > Holy Motors
Miracles from Heaven < National Velvet

Final spot: #2302 out of 2544.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Lady on a Train (1945)

IMDb plot summary: While waiting at a train station, Nikki Collins witnesses a murder from a nearby building. When she brings the police to the scene of the crime, they think she's crazy since there's no body. She then enlists a popular mystery writer to help with her sleuthing.
Directed by Charles David. Starring Deanna Durbin, Ralph Bellamy, Edward Everett Horton, and David Bruce.

The movie was nothing at all like I expected from the title and opening. I assumed it was going to be a noir thiller of some sort, but instead it's a silly crime comedy that is adorable and delightful. I'm not sure I've ever seen Deanna Durbin in anything, but she's great here and is responsible for most of the tone of the movie -- casual and lighthearted and reveling in the danger of it all. My only real complaint is the three musical numbers, because while you know I love my musical numbers, these really do halt the story and throw off the tone of the film. Overall, though, it's a great movie, and one that I was particularly happy to be introduced to as a new holiday favorite.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Lady on a Train > The Whistleblower
Lady on a Train > Eat Pray Love
Lady on a Train > A Man for All Seasons
Lady on a Train < Equus
Lady on a Train < The Fisher King
Lady on a Train < The Boys Next Door
Lady on a Train < Jean de Florette
Lady on a Train < Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Lady on a Train > Benny & Joon
Lady on a Train > In the Bedroom
Lady on a Train > The Holiday

Final spot: #309 out of 2543.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Road (2009)

IMDb plot summary: In a dangerous post-apocalyptic world, an ailing father defends his son as they slowly travel to the sea.
Directed by John Hillcoat. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, and Charlize Theron.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

Whoo, this was a tough movie to get through. It's just unrelentingly bleak, even down to the color choice of constant oppressive gray. Don't get me wrong, the visuals did a great job of enhancing the story's atmosphere, but it was not a pleasant ride. Sometimes a bleak story will hit me on a deep emotional level, but this one was pretty unrelenting and just kind of left me numb.

The moments that made the most impact on me were the ones where the kid tries to fit the world they're in into his worldview and sense of morality, trying to goad his dad into being one of "the good guys" even in this world where anyone could be out to get them. I would have loved to see that make its way into the finale more clearly, because as it was, it felt too hopeful without a reason for it. I think it's a good movie, but it's not easy on its audiences and I don't particularly want to ever watch it again.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Road > Captain America: The Winter Soldier
The Road < Eat Pray Love
The Road < Full Metal Jacket
The Road > Internet Famous
The Road < Ramona and Beezus
The Road > Memoirs of a Geisha
The Road > Three Amigos
The Road < Monsters
The Road > Interstellar
The Road < Jurassic World

Final spot: #1047 out of 2542.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

IMDb plot summary: A brother and sister driving home through isolated countryside for spring break encounter a flesh-eating creature which is on the last day of its ritualistic eating spree.
Directed by Victor Salva. Starring Gina Philips, Justin Long, Patricia Belcher, and Brandon Smith.

(Very mild spoilers ahead.)

I knew absolutely nothing about this movie before going into it, other than that it was a horror flick. It has a pretty strong start to it before seriously devolving. I appreciate how, despite it being a very typical horror movie in so many ways, it doesn't go for the cheap scares. Its scary scenes are slow and creeping and well-earned for the most part, and the first reveal that Something Is Wrong At the Old Church is very effective.

There are, however, two things that seriously drag the movie down in its second half. For one, the design of the creature. Once we actually see it, and not just faintly or for a moment, but once we start spending a LOT of time watching it in close-up, it's hard not to just dismiss it as a guy in makeup. The look is a bit intimidating but not particularly creepy, so much as... maybe a fantasy movie orc.

Secondly, while the characters make a snide comment early on the film about horror movie characters being stupid, these kids really are. They spend SO much time stopping and fighting and staring at things when they clearly just need to run, and I found myself growling, "Just GO ALREADY!" at the screen on several occasions. That wears very thin very quickly for me, and it's a shame, because the two have a very natural brother-sister chemistry in the first half.

So... a promising beginning that goes way downhill in the second half. It ends on one last tiny high note -- the last few seconds are wonderfully creepy.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Jeepers Creepers < Following
Jeepers Creepers > The Ghost and the Darkness
Jeepers Creepers > What's Up, Tiger Lily?
Jeepers Creepers < Stand and Deliver
Jeepers Creepers < Frequency
Jeepers Creepers > The King and I
Jeepers Creepers > The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Jeepers Creepers > Less Than Zero
Jeepers Creepers > Luther
Jeepers Creepers < Good Night, and Good Luck.
Final spot: #1513 out of 2541.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Shallows (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A mere 200 yards from shore, surfer Nancy is attacked by a great white shark, with her short journey to safety becoming the ultimate contest of wills.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Blake Lively.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is exactly what I wanted it to be: a tight, interesting shark thriller. I've never thought of Blake Lively as much of an actress, but she does a decent job holding this movie together, and, even more importantly, her character is written to be smart. She tries everything she can to improve her situation, and I really like how she is the one who defeats the shark at the end, rather than someone swinging in to rescue her at the last minute. The moments that are most interesting here are the ones told off screen. I found the deaths of everyone who she enlisted as a helper pretty terrifying, and the movie made a smart choice to not go too overboard with the shark. Because they had been pretty chill with the shark earlier, I was able to get on board with the big dramatic "SHARK EATS A BUOY!" ending which felt, yes, a little silly, but it worked to resolve that tension. This movie is a pretty solid one-person-one-location, even if it doesn't quite sit on the same plane as something like, say, 127 Hours.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Shallows > Following
The Shallows < Pretty Woman
The Shallows < Elf
The Shallows > Hitchcock
The Shallows > Nine Lives
The Shallows > The Prestige
The Shallows > Strictly Ballroom
The Shallows > Men in Black
The Shallows > Yellowbeard
The Shallows > The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
The Shallows > Adama

Final spot: #953 out of 2540.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Bulworth (1998)

IMDb plot summary: A suicidally disillusioned liberal politician puts a contract out on himself and takes the opportunity to be bluntly honest with his voters by affecting the rhythms and speech of hip-hop music and culture.
Directed by Warren Beatty. Starring Warren Beatty, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, and Don Cheadle.

(Mild spoilers ahead.)

This movie is... incredibly strange. It's got kind of a silly premise to begin with, and then it goes about it in such an uncomfortable way. Just one example: It feels like 15% of what Warren Beatty says is done in the form of uncomfortable "rapping," which could have been done once or twice as an odd bit, but they keep pushing and pushing it. The rest of the movie is equally squirmy.

All that being said, I could have at least understood its appeal if it had stuck to that awkward satirical tone all the way through, but, no, suddenly in the last few seconds, we get a big dramatic ending that I assume is supposed to elicit some kind of emotional reaction from us. What it really made me do was comment incredulously, "They think THAT'S the kind of movie this is?" It's a weird mess of a film.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bulworth < Dark City
Bulworth < The Ghost and the Darkness
Bulworth > Men of Honor
Bulworth < Doctor Zhivago
Bulworth > To Kill a King
Bulworth > Yes Man
Bulworth > VeggieTales: The Star of Christmas
Bulworth > Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Bulworth > Tears of the Sun
Bulworth < The Thirteenth Floor
Bulworth > Hostage
Final spot: #2066 out of 2539.