Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Fly (1958)

IMDb plot summary: A scientist has a horrific accident when he tries to use his newly invented teleportation device.
Directed by Kurt Neumann. Starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, and Herbert Marshall.

This was nothing like I expected. For one thing, did you know Vincent Price isn't the Fly? I didn't. This is a dramatic tragedy more than a horror movie, going very slowly, building its characters and its tension bit by bit. I was expecting a lot more creepy imagery of man/bug hybrids, though I have a feeling the Cronenberg remake would deliver on that front. My overwhelming reaction to this was not horror or disgust (in the good way I expected) but such sadness. Both the scene where he writes his farewell love letter to his wife and the scene where they finally find the fly made me want to cry at this awful, tragic experiment gone wrong. It makes me think, in an odd way, of the Blair Witch Project, a similarly slow movie that obviously depends more on scares than this does, but both of them just made me profoundly sad at how badly awry these characters' lives had gone, and how easily all that awfullness could have been erased if they had just changed one thing about the way they did things in the past. I liked this a lot, and I feel like it's one that will really hold up to later rewatches.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Fly > Beach Party
The Fly > Kolya
The Fly > Benny & Joon
The Fly < Zombieland
The Fly < Blue Jasmine
The Fly > Trust
The Fly < Welcome to Dongmakgol
The Fly < Babe
The Fly > Sabrina (1954)
The Fly < Mighty Aphrodite

Final spot: #281 out of 2630.

Frank (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Jon, a young wanna-be musician, discovers he's bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank.
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson. Starring Domnhall Gleeson, Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Scoot McNairy.

There are some films that I watch, and I particularly find this true of films about mental illness, that don't necessarily work for me if I try to analyze them on an intellectual level, nor does it overwhelming me with emotion, but I am left with some sort of emotional piece of it just... sitting inside me. Melancholia hit me this way and has ended up being one of my favorites because the emotional piece that resonated just kept getting stronger the longer I sat with it, and now it permeates the entire thing for me. I don't know yet if Frank will do quite the same thing -- I need to let it sit a bit longer before I can really solidify it -- but at this moment I can say that the final performance of the band just keeps sitting in the pit of my stomach and bringing the sounds and the images of that moment back to me.

The movie definitely takes a twist when it comes to its tone, playing itself first as a funny, maybe too-quirky band comedy, and then suddenly taking a depressingly dark turn (at least for me) in the last 30 minutes or so. I think it still works, I think I still like it a lot, but it's hard to really figure out why or how. At least for now.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Frank > The Family Man
Frank > Kolya
Frank < All's Faire in Love
Frank > Don Jon
Frank < Misery
Frank < The Mummy (1932)
Frank > Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Frank > The Kid (2000)
Frank < Freaky Friday (2003)
Frank > Days of Wine and Roses
Frank > The Master
Frank > Thor

Final spot: #914 out of 2629. Freaky Friday is too low.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sahara (2017)

IMDb plot summary: Two clans of snakes cohabit in the desert. Here is the story of Ajar, a young venomous serpent, laughed at by his peers because he still has not done his first molt and that of Eva, rebellious princess of the oasis who wants to escape an arranged marriage.
Directed by Pierre Coré. Starring Omar Sy, Louane Emera, Franck Gastambide, and Vincent Lacoste.

This is an incredibly odd little film that vacillates between being too run-of-the-mill to interest anyone and then, abruptly, completely bizarre. The bizarre moments are definitely my favorite (I really want to make a ringtone of that creepy "welcoming song" the bugs sing) but the rest of the movie is mostly just dull. Aside from one great scene in a sandstorm toward the end, the animation looks ugly, both in design and in movement. Most of the side characters are extremely irritating and add very little to the primarily plot. It's a pretty unimpressive addition from Netflix to the animated film genre.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sahara < Beach Party
Sahara < Kindergarten Cop
Sahara < Father of the Bride (1950)
Sahara < Captain January
Sahara > Ella Enchanted
Sahara > The Matrix Revolutions
Sahara > She's the Man
Sahara > On Our Own
Sahara < Boys Town
Sahara > Friends With Money
Sahara > Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Final spot: #2470 out of 2628. This is a bit unfairly low.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

IMDb plot summary: When eccentric man-child Pee-Wee Herman gets his beloved bike stolen in broad daylight, he sets out across the U.S. on the adventure of his life.
Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Paul Reubens, Elizabeth Daily, Mark Holton, and Diane Salinger.

Oh boy. I tried to give this one a fair shot, guys, I really did. But eight minutes in I turned to Jacob and said, "I hate this so much already." Pee-Wee is one of the most obnoxious, irritating characters I've seen on screen since, I can only assume, the last time someone successfully made me watch an Adam Sandler movie. Everything about him bugs me, from his incessant giggling at absolutely nothing to the fact that when he's not giggling he's spewing out a chaotic array of cartoon noises to his cutesy gait to the fact that his voice sounds like a kazoo. The only times when I was able to not hate him were when I could convince myself this was a genuinely mentally disabled adult and I shouldn't be so vehemently against him, but then I just felt meaner than ever watching a movie that was clearly laughing at his mishaps, so I stopped that and just went back to hating him.

I can see the Tim Burton-y elements in the film and they are kind of engaging, particularly in the dream sequences, but since Pee-Wee dominates every scene, I get no respite at all from him and can't even begin to decipher whether I'd like the rest of the movie were it centered around some other, less irritating quirky character. There's no comedic or narrative center to this movie at all other than the fact that, teehee, Pee-Wee's quirky and everybody acts like he's not, and since that doesn't work for me at all, nothing works for me.

0.5 stars.

How it ended up in my Flickchart:
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure < Beach Party
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure < Kindergarten Cop
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure < Red River
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure < They Were Expendable
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure < American Gangster
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure > Left Behind II: Tribulation Force
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure > Barnyard
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure > Radio
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure < Bean
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure > The Incredible Mr. Limpet
Pee-Wee's Big Adventure < Laserblast

Final spot: #2552 out of 2627.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Wild (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A chronicle of one woman's 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy.
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. Starring Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, and Keene McRae.

I can see where Wild is trying to go. There's an Eat Pray Love vibe to it -- an inspirational movie based on a memoir about a woman leaving everyone behind to do *something* that she hopes will help her find her footing. The problem with Wild is that it's not as well-structured as Eat Pray Love, nor is our character very well fleshed out. We see scattered glimpses of her past life and a narrative of her current journey, but those two halves are not nearly as connected as they want to be. They don't even seem to have happened to the same person. Those flashbacks are delivered in a very wonky order, putting the emotional peaks in strange places. This is something that could definitely have improved with a stronger script, because there are some moments that work well, particularly those moments showing Cheryl's vulnerability out on the trail, either from the elements or from losing supplies or from sketchy people she encounters. But it's just unfocused enough to miss its mark, emotionally -- at least for me.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Wild < Dead Man Walking
Wild > Kindergarten Cop
Wild < The King and I
Wild > Throw Momma from the Train
Wild > Almost Famous
Wild > Les Miserables (1935)
Wild > Gilda
Wild > The Seventh Seal
Wild > La Dolce Vita
Wild > Burning Annie

Final spot: #1644 out of 2626.

Cambio de ruta (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Nicte is the best guide for tourists of the Riviera Maya. Suddenly the local company for which she works is bought and Nicte is forced to start from zero and form her own company.
Directed by Christopher Hool. Starring Sandra Echeverría, Osvaldo de León, Héctor Jiménez, and Carolina Bang.

This is basically a by-the-book romantic comedy/drama with no surprises or originality. The leads are pretty to look at but don't come with much personality, especially our male lead. Even the villains aren't as interesting as I hoped they would be. Honestly, the most engaging "character" throughout is the Riviera Maya itself. I cared more about whether the area itself would be destroyed by the corporate tourism center than I did about any of the personal outcomes of the characters. It's harmless and it goes by fast, but there's nothing here to really recommend.

2 stars.

This movie is not on Flickchart yet. I am submitting it to the database and will update when it's been added.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

IMDb plot summary: A girl group find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy to deliver subliminal messages through popular music in this send up of the music industry and pop culture.
Directed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan. Starring Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson, Tara Reid, and Gabriel Mann.

The late 90s and early 2000s saw a huge rush of live-action adaptations of classic cartoons. While this film may have been more directly related to the comics than the cartoon (I don't know, I'm not familiar with either iteration), it certainly feels very much in the same vein as movie adaptations like George of the Jungle or The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. All these movies feel overtly cartoonish, full of fourth-wall winking, wildly hammy acting, and a sense of slapstick zaniness. Josie and the Pussycats may be a slightly -- SLIGHTLY -- tamer version of that, but the comparison is inevitable.

I happen to like that style. I have a fondness for these silly cartoon movies, even if I have no connection to the original, and for the most part I like this. It's a thoroughly enjoyable popcorn flick that doesn't take itself seriously enough for me to ever get bugged with it. I mean, it also doesn't take itself seriously enough to stand out, but it's good fun.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Josie and the Pussycats > Cypher
Josie and the Pussycats < Kolya
Josie and the Pussycats > Smiles of a Summer Night
Josie and the Pussycats < Misery
Josie and the Pussycats > Now You See Me
Josie and the Pussycats > A Serious Man
Josie and the Pussycats < Young Frankenstein
Josie and the Pussycats < Shaolin Soccer
Josie and the Pussycats > Broken Blossoms or the Yellow Man and the Girl
Josie and the Pussycats < Hail, Caesar!

Final spot: #855 out of 2625.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

IMDb plot summary: The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage.
Directed by James Gunn. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Bradley Cooper.

I have no idea how to rank or review Marvel sequels anymore. They can be engaging and funny and delightful and maybe even as good as the first but because they're a sequel I just can't make my brain think it matters. That's where I am on this. There's no denying this is a good movie. I laughed and I cried and I cared about the characters for the duration of the movie, but once it was over I immediately forgot about it. I don't think that's because it was forgettable, because it isn't. It's me and my sequel thing. This isn't even me just being against it on principle, it's simply that since it's a sequel, I can't make myself care that much.

...But it's a fun movie and I had a good time and you should probably see it if you liked the first one.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 < Cypher
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 < All's Faire in Love
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 > The Red Shoes
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 < Misery
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 > The Duellists
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 < A Serious Man
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 > Snowpiercer
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 > The Intouchables
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 < Guys and Dolls
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 < Dredd
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 > Godzilla (2014)

Final spot: #869 out of 2624.

Red Cliff (2008)

IMDb plot summary: The first chapter of a two-part story centered on a battle fought in China's Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.).
Directed by John Woo. Starring Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Fengyi Zhang, and Chen Chang.

It's hard to really know how to rank this. Its main premise is not engaging for me, and there are so many battle scenes which are not interesting to watch, but there are a few moments that really stand out and suddenly draw my attention. The ploy to get more arrows is delightful. The interplay between the wife and the evil general is compelling. These moments make me want to rank it higher than I do, since they hint at a much more unique movie than I thought the movie was. However, I can't imagine wanting to watch it again just for those, so overall I'm going to have to give this a lower score.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Red Cliff < Cypher
Red Cliff > Rambo
Red Cliff < The King and I
Red Cliff < Buddy Buddy
Red Cliff > A Scanner Darkly
Red Cliff > Gone with the Wind
Red Cliff > The Money Pit
Red Cliff < Hulk
Red Cliff > Palo Alto
Red Cliff < Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical

Final spot: #1819 out of 2623.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Walking and Talking (1996)

IMDb plot summary: Things have been tough lately for Amelia. Her best friend moved out of the apartment, her cat got cancer, and now her best friend, Laura, is getting married. She copes with things, from the help of Andrew, Frank, Laura, and a brief romance.
Directed by Nicole Holofcener. Starring Catherine Keener, Anne Heche, Liev Schreiber, Todd Field, and Kevin Corrigan.

I'm not sure I'm sold on the full narrative arc, but, my gosh, is Catherine Keener an engaging character in this movie. If I hadn't known going in already that this was written and directed by a woman, I probably would have guessed it solely by watching that character, who is so genuine and real and unglamorized and I instantly felt a connection to her even though we're very different people because she seemed like someone I could actually know in real life. Watching her interactions with Anne Heche's character is magic, as the two of them play off each other so very naturally. The script as a whole is a little bit more meandery than I would like, and I can't find much justification for the character growth that happens, but I'd happily watch another full movie of just Keener and Heche's characters hanging out together.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Walking and Talking > Cypher
Walking and Talking > Kolya
Walking and Talking < Breakfast at Tiffany's
Walking and Talking < Godspell
Walking and Talking > The Dictator
Walking and Talking < We're Not Married!
Walking and Talking > Cold Comfort Farm
Walking and Talking < The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Walking and Talking < Super 8
Walking and Talking > Sneakers
Walking and Talking < Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Final spot: #549 out of 2622.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memphis Belle (1990)

IMDb plot summary: In 1943, the crew of a B-17 based in UK prepares for its 25th and last bombing mission over Germany before returning home to the USA.
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones. Starring Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Tate Donovan, and D.B. Sweeney.

While the language in this obviously makes it not a kid-friendly movie, there's a cheery optimistic wholesomeness to it that makes it somehow feel like a Disney true story. Usually that'd grate on me, but I found myself kind of responding to it this time with an, "Aww." At no point were the stakes ever raised high enough for me to believe these boys were in danger, but I'm not sure I ever was supposed to, I was just supposed to root for them and their (mostly) inevitable win. If this movie ran any longer than it does, that'd be a problem, because you'd better justify a 2-hour movie with more compelling stuff than this, but as it is, it is exactly what it's trying to be: a feel-good movie about war heroes. Nothing deep, nothing surprising... so nothing outstanding, but if you're in the right frame of mind going into it, it'll do just fine.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Memphis Belle > Monster
Memphis Belle < Kolya
Memphis Belle < The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Memphis Belle < Bye Bye Birdie (1995)
Memphis Belle > The Nanny Diaries
Memphis Belle > One, Two, Three
Memphis Belle < North by Northwest
Memphis Belle > Serial Killer 1
Memphis Belle < Deconstructing Harry
Memphis Belle < Anna and the King
Memphis Belle > The Wailing

Final spot: #1175 out of 2621.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bridge to Terabithia (2007)

IMDb plot summary: A preteen's life turns upside down when he befriends the new girl in school and they imagine a whole new fantasy world to escape reality.
Directed by Gabor Csupo. Starring Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb, Zooey Deschanel, and Robert Patrick.

I somehow missed out on reading this book growing up, but if the movie's an accurate representation, I don't feel like I missed out on much of anything. It's a really generic "imagination is good" story with one of the most obvious Mary Sues I've seen in a long time, and it doesn't do much to flesh out characters or themes beyond that. The most interesting part to me was these characters' real lives, and those never actually got dealt with in any meaningful way, but nor do they explore their imaginary world in a meaningful way either. Basically there's no substance on either side. I'm trying to think if this would have been more interesting to me if I had seen it or read it as a kid, but I'm not sure it would have.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bridge to Terabithia < Koyaanisqatsi
Bridge to Terabithia > The Bone Collector
Bridge to Terabithia > Persona
Bridge to Terabithia < Magic in the Moonlight
Bridge to Terabithia < Our Idiot Brother
Bridge to Terabithia < Frequency
Bridge to Terabithia < Cassandra's Dream
Bridge to Terabithia < The Hidden Fortress
Bridge to Terabithia > Hush (1998)
Bridge to Terabithia > Alfie (2004)
Bridge to Terabithia < The Spanish Apartment

Final spot: #1629 out of 2620.

Monday, May 15, 2017

L'auberge espagnole (2002)

IMDb plot summary: A strait-laced French student moves into an apartment in Barcelona with a cast of six other characters from all over Europe. Together, they speak the international language of love and friendship.
Directed by Cédric Klapisch. Starring Romain Duris, Judith Godrèche, Audrey Tautou, and Cécile De France.

What started off as a very interesting, creatively-edited movie that looked promising kind of devolved as it went on into a typical rambly "finding yourself" film that didn't pull together the way I wanted it to. The more I saw these friends wandering around and testing things out and cheating on each other and getting away with being either terrible people or flat characters, the less I liked them and the less convinced I was that someone could learn how to live from them, but that's exactly the route the story took at the end. This film needed a much tighter narrative script that could paint our protagonist's life lesson in more cohesive strokes. Really disappointing, because I loved how it started off.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
L'auberge espagnole < Koyaanisqatsi
L'auberge espagnole > 27 Dresses
L'auberge espagnole > La Dolce Vita
L'auberge espagnole < Magic in the Moonlight
L'auberge espagnole < Our Idiot Brother
L'auberge espagnole < Frequency
L'auberge espagnole < Cassandra's Dream
L'auberge espagnole < The Hidden Fortress
L'auberge espagnole > Horton Hears a Who
L'auberge espagnole > The Imitation Game
L'auberge espagnole > The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Final spot: #1627 out of 2619.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Whisky Galore (1949)

IMDb plot summary: Scottish islanders try to plunder 50,000 cases of whisky from a stranded ship.
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick. Starring Basil Radford, Catherine Lacey, Bruce Seton, and Joan Greenwood.

Based on plot alone, this movie could be billed as a crime comedy, but it's so light-handed with both the crime and the comedy that it puts me more in mind of something like The Secret of Santa Vittoria, another movie about a village coming together for the sake of their alcohol in times of war. It's not quite as charming as Santa Vittoria, but it has its moments, and there are a few moments where the comedy breaks through the filter of folksy charm and makes me laugh out loud. (The voiceover epilogue is unexpectedly hilarious.) Definitely not a movie I would have sought out on my own, but it's fun.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Whisky Galore! > Koyaanisqatsi
Whisky Galore! < All's Faire in Love
Whisky Galore! < The Red Shoes
Whisky Galore! > Bully
Whisky Galore! > Struck by Lightning
Whisky Galore! > I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK
Whisky Galore! > Runaway Bride
Whisky Galore! < Brothers
Whisky Galore! > Wide Awake
Whisky Galore! > Cloak and Dagger
Whisky Galore! > Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie

Final spot: #992 out of 2618.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Last Castle (2001)

IMDb plot summary: A court-martialed general rallies together 1200 inmates to rise against the corrupt system that put him away.
Directed by Rod Lurie. Starring Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Burton.

I don't watch a lot of prison movies or military movies, but I had to admit a lot of this felt extremely familiar. Even without a lot of familiarity with the genre, the many tropes are obvious. Frankly, if I *had* been better versed in the genre, I think I would have found it distractingly unoriginal, but as it was, it worked for me. It helped me instantly connect with the characters and the stakes and everything I needed to. In the end, it took me down all the right emotional paths and I ultimately enjoyed it more than I think is warranted by the actual quality of the film. I had a good time with it, but I'm not sure who I would recommend it to.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Last Castle > Monster
The Last Castle < All's Faire in Love
The Last Castle < The Red Shoes
The Last Castle > Bye Bye Birdie (1995)
The Last Castle > Muppet Treasure Island
The Last Castle > The Diary of Anne Frank (2009)
The Last Castle < Runaway Bride
The Last Castle > The Good Dinosaur
The Last Castle < Thor
The Last Castle < A Bug's Life
The Last Castle < Hook
The Last Castle < The Shallows
Final spot: #1011 out of 2617.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Shane (1953)

IMDb plot summary: A weary gunfighter attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act.
Directed by George Stevens. Starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, and Brandon De Wilde.

Westerns are typically a tough sell for me, but as far as westerns go, this one isn't too bad. It's an overly simplistic story but the core of it works for me, especially the moments seen through the eye of the young child -- not because I found myself giving into the sentimentalism of these scenes (in fact, the kid himself was pretty annoying), but because it adds a different perspective to the story. Actingwise, only Jean Arthur stands out, but she does a great job here, playing the worried wife and mother in a very believable fashion that heightens the tension without falling into hysteria. The farmers are not that distinct individually, but as an ensemble they add a lot to the story, and I frequently found myself paying closer attention when they were all gathered. Shane himself, on the other hand, is not particularly interesting, and the film's big showdown is so short it's a bit of a disappointment, but there are some good moments here.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Shane > Monster
Shane < Gone in 60 Seconds
Shane < The Red Shoes
Shane < Bully
Shane > The Nanny Diaries
Shane < National Treasure
Shane < The Dark Knight
Shane < Die Hard (why is this so low?)
Shane > Short Circuit
Shane > Water for Elephants
Shane < Cast Away

Final spot: #1218 out of 2616.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Maine Pyar Kiya (1989)

IMDb plot summary: Karan decides to travel overseas and leave his daughter with his friend and his family, but his friend's son falls in love with his daughter.
Directed by Sooraj R. Barjatya. Starring Salman Khan, Bhagyashree, Alok Nath, and Rajeev Verma.

I'm not super well-versed in Bollywood musicals, but of the ones I've seen, this one lands a bit further down toward the middle of my chart. While I still find the grandiose emotions and abrupt group dance numbers charming, Maine Pyar Kiya is pretty shallow underneath all of that. The central characters don't really have much chemistry or personality, especially compared to much more charismatic side characters like Suman's father. The songs are also not terribly interesting, either musically or visually. There's enough fun in the campy acting to keep it from falling to the bottom of my list, but I wouldn't ever seek it out to watch it again.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Maine Pyar Kiya > Frankie Go Boom
Maine Pyar Kiya < Gone In 60 Seconds
Maine Pyar Kiya < The Red Shoes
Maine Pyar Kiya < Bully
Maine Pyar Kiya < The Nanny Diaries
Maine Pyar Kiya < Is It College Yet?
Maine Pyar Kiya > Trainwreck
Maine Pyar Kiya < Primal Fear
Maine Pyar Kiya < Inland Empire
Maine Pyar Kiya > The Core
Maine Pyar Kiya < Fantasia 2000
Final spot: #1283 out of 2613.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sleight (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A young street magician is left to care for his little sister after their parents passing, and turns to illegal activities to keep a roof over their heads. 
Directed by J.D. Dillard. Starring Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Dule Hill, and Storm Reid.

(Spoilers ahead.)

This is an intriguing movie. The trailers made it look like a very different movie than it seemed to be for the first hour and a half. Let me get into spoiler territory here -- I fully expected this to be much more superhero than it was, because the trailers amped up that aspect. Now I wonder if that was a marketing mistake, because the movie itself does *not* zero in on the superhero aspect until a good hour in, possibly longer. But then I wonder if it had been marketed solely as a crime movie, would I have felt the abrupt addition of superpowers was a copout, an unsatisfactory genre switch? I think the best way to tackle this would have been to tease us earlier and more often with the idea that Bo had Tony Stark-style superpowers, and to make it clearer. No cover-ups, no hints that maybe he's just really good at misdirection. By the time the actual superpowers rolled around, I'd basically decided they didn't exist, but then their reveal wasn't a twist so much as a "FINALLY!" eye roll.

That being said, it's actually a pretty fun movie, if very messy. Our hero is likable, Dule Hill is an excellent villain, and I like the way it does become an unconventional superhero flick. I wish there had been a little bit more polish to the script to make things a more satisfying ride, but it's a fresh new take on these stories, and I appreciate that even if it's a bit muddled in the execution.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sleight > Thoughtcrimes
Sleight < Gone in 60 Seconds
Sleight > The Red Shoes
Sleight < Two Weeks Notice
Sleight > The Duellists
Sleight > Draft Day
Sleight < The Lady Vanishes
Sleight < Shaolin Soccer
Sleight < The Terminal
Sleight > The Tree of Life
Sleight > Frances Ha

Final spot: #852 out of 2612.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Descendants (2015)

IMDb plot summary: A present-day idyllic kingdom where the benevolent teenage son of King Adam and Queen Belle offers a chance of redemption for the trouble making offspring of Disney's classic villains.
Directed by Kenny Ortega. Starring Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Booboo Stewart, and Sofia Carson.

This is actually a pretty good suggestion for me. I have a suspicion whoever gave this to me knew how much I enjoyed the High School Musical saga. This doesn't rise to nearly that level, largely because the songs are uninspired and so ridiculously overproduced that it's silly to even vaguely pretend that they're singing it, they're all just clearly dancing to somebody else's pop song. But I really enjoyed seeing the fun way they interpreted the different characters, even if a few didn't get the screen time they needed. (I think Jay and Evie both needed a more solid subplot. Their characters had definite potential. Maybe in the sequel?) This, weirdly, would have been a better movie without the songs -- and I don't say that often -- with the except of Maleficent's song because, well, singing Kristin Chenoweth never made anything worse. Overall, it's exactly as advertised. Entertaining, but in a very shallow way, and the music is pretty subpar.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Descendants > When Strangers Click
Descendants < Gone in 60 Seconds
Descendants < The Red Shoes
Descendants > Interview with the Vampire
Descendants < Struck by Lightning
Descendants > Swing Time
Descendants < Wayne's World
Descendants < The Thing
Descendants > Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Descendants > Prometheus
Descendants < The Ring

Final spot: #1093 out of 2611.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fanny and Alexander (1982)

IMDb plot summary: Two young Swedish children experience the many comedies and tragedies of their family, the Ekdahls.
Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Starring Bertil Guve, Ewa Fröling, Börje Ahlstedt, and Pernilla Allwin.

For some reason I thought this was by Francois Truffaut, a filmmaker I have not particularly enjoyed, and I groaned at the thought of spending three hours with it. Turns out, however, I was very much mistaken and this is actually Ingmar Bergman, a filmmaker I've liked very much on the whole. While I still think this film is longer than it needs to be (I'm not sure if all the many familial subplots help the overarching story), it has a lot to recommend it. The movie definitely gets a boost when it's clear there *is* a primary continuing plotline rather than just a series of episodes, and as that plotline unfolds, I was particularly struck by how much I enjoyed the supernatural elements woven throughout. Some of the best scenes in here are not terribly pleasant to watch -- I was captivated in horror throughout the scene where the bishop interrogates Alexander and punishes him for his lies. This review is a bit scattered (my apologies) because my thoughts on this are still a bit scattered, but I bet this is one that would improve on a rewatch when I am better able to connect the movie's many dots.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Fanny and Alexander > Kung Fu Panda
Fanny and Alexander < Gone In 60 Seconds
Fanny and Alexander > The Red Shoes
Fanny and Alexander > Two Weeks Notice
Fanny and Alexander > You Can't Take It With You
Fanny and Alexander < A Clockwork Orange
Fanny and Alexander < Three Colors: White
Fanny and Alexander > New York Stories
Fanny and Alexander < Watchmen
Fanny and Alexander > The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Fanny and Alexander < Oscar
Final spot: #719 out of 2610.

Gomorrah (2008)

IMDb plot summary: An inside look at Italy's modern crime families.
Directed by Matteo Garrone. Starring Salvatore Abbruzzese, Simone Sacchettino, Salvatore Ruocco, and Vincenzo Fabricino.

Ugh, why are crime films so dull? I try to give it my best shot and work to stay invested in the film, but there's just so little human emotion to get attached to most of the time, which seems weird, given the subject of the story. I felt largely the same here. There were so many characters in here that it was tough for me to keep track of them all, and frequently ones I HAD noticed to would just fade out without much of a mention. The two violent young men were the only ones I ended up being interested in, and their plot is solid, but the rest of the movie is a slog.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gomorrah < The Day After Tomorrow
Gomorrah < Courage Under Fire
Gomorrah < Susannah of the Mounties
Gomorrah > The World Is Not Enough
Gomorrah > Capote
Gomorrah > Dangerous
Gomorrah > The Art of War
Gomorrah > Men of Honor
Gomorrah < The Butter Battle Book
Gomorrah > Cinderella III: A Twist in Time
Gomorrah > Turner and Hooch

Final spot: #2289 out of 2609.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Gifted (2017)

IMDb plot summary: Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.
Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, and Jenny Slate.

This is one of those movies that is pleasant enough to watch but when you're done it just glides right on out of your memory, leaving basically no imprint whatsoever. Everybody's pretty competent in this, even the little girl who, despite being a child genius, is shown as having actually pretty realistic 7-year-old emotions (thanks to competent screenwriter and actress). Lindsay Duncan as the grandmother is the only one whose performance rises above "basic competence," thanks to a single scene where she makes me want to follow her character, and only her character, for the rest of the movie. It's sweet, it's fine, but it hits every predictable beat (and one or two ridiculous ones) and as a result, it doesn't actually make a mark.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gifted > The Day After Tomorrow
Gifted < Gone in 60 Seconds
Gifted < The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Gifted < Silent Hill
Gifted < Hide and Seek
Gifted > Four Weddings and a Funeral
Gifted < Twin Sisters
Gifted < Ghostbusters II
Gifted < The Lost Weekend
Gifted > They Made Me a Fugitive
Gifted < Is It College Yet?

Final spot: #1260 out of 2608.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A Night to Remember (1958)

IMDb plot summary: An account of the ill-fated maiden voyage of RMS Titanic in 1912.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker. Starring Kenneth More, Ronald Allen, Robert Ayres, and Honor Blackman.

In my last movie challenge someone gave me Titanic, which I enjoyed pretty well. This time around, I got another film portrayal of the Titanic disaster, though I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, either from a spectacle standpoint (though obviously I wasn't really expecting that) or from an emotional. The film spreads itself so thin among so many characters that you don't ever actually get attached to any of them, so every scene is like watching it played out with strangers. That can sometimes be powerful, but it also means there isn't a lot of opportunity for personal investment in the story, at least early on. The final scenes bring that a bit closer to home not because we've gotten to know the characters but because the circumstances they're in are so extreme it's easy to sympathize with any of them even if we don't know who they are. Overall the movie plays more like an educational film than a narrative, so it's all a little drier, a little more distanced, and a little bit more focused on the historical implications of the tragedy (an ending title card even informs us how regulations adapted in response to the ship sinking). A good watch but nothing spectacular.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
A Night to Remember > Outbreak
A Night to Remember < Gone in 60 Seconds
A Night to Remember < The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
A Night to Remember > The Wedding Singer
A Night to Remember < Fish Story
A Night to Remember < Nine Lives
A Night to Remember > Bee Movie
A Night to Remember > The Last Unicorn
A Night to Remember > The Revenant
A Night to Remember < Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Final spot: #1105 out of 2607.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Pontypool (2008)

IMDb plot summary: A psychological thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Ontario town.
Directed by Bruce McDonald. Starring Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, and Hrant Alianak.

This was a terrifying and exhilarating ride. It's one of the most creative horror films I've seen in recent years. I'm not sure it all hangs together logically, but you know what? I don't actually care because it does such a good job of staying true to the creepy atmosphere and bringing the audience along emotionally. Even if you have to stretch your suspension of disbelief pretty far, the movie really helps to pull you along, so it works out. Right from the opening few scenes, the film builds a sense of claustrophobic tension, and as the story slowly reveals itself, that tension gets pulled tighter and tighter. I love seeing horror movies that depend on psychological tension rather than jump scares, and I like talky one-room thrillers, and this hit on both levels to become one of my favorites of the challenge thus far.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Pontypool > Outbreak
Pontypool > All's Faire in Love
Pontypool > The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Pontypool < Equus
Pontypool > United 93
Pontypool < Shaun of the Dead
Pontypool < Frozen
Pontypool > Kick-Ass
Pontypool < 50/50
Pontypool > Searching for Bobby Fischer
Pontypool > Shattered Glass

Final spot: #228 out of 2606.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Muppets (2011)

IMDb plot summary: A Muppet fanatic with some help from his two human compatriots must regroup the Muppet gang to stop an avaricious oil mogul from taking down one of their precious life-longing treasures.
Directed by James Bobin. Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and Rashida Jones.

This movie is definitely meant for those who grew up on the Muppets, which is... not me. I watched my first Muppet movie ever as part of my 2014 movie challenge, and I never saw the show. So the huge sense of nostalgia it's drawing on is lost on me. However, what it does deliver to newcomers is mostly enough. It's smart and funny and makes character dynamics clear and has entertaining cameos and good songs (aside from the completely forgettable "Party of One" number). It does resolve somewhat abruptly, only actually wrapping up the main plot conflict in the credit sequence, but overall it's a solid little movie, and I bet it would offer even more to those who are fans of the Muppets to begin with.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Muppets > Death at a Funeral
The Muppets > Kolya
The Muppets < The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
The Muppets < Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
The Muppets > Little Children
The Muppets > Hidden Figures
The Muppets < A Streetcar Named Desire
The Muppets < The Invisible Man
The Muppets > Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
The Muppets > Father of the Bride (1991)
The Muppets > Hard Candy

Final spot: #519 out of 2605, which may be slightly too high.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

IMDb plot summary: Small town band hits it big, but they must battle a nefarious plot in the music industry.
Directed by Michael Schultz. Starring Peter Frampton, Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, and Maurice Gibb.

Oh, this movie is so weird. Going into it, I didn't know it didn't actually feature the Beatles, just their music (though if I had noticed it was made in '78, I would have known, I guess) so at first it was a bit of a shock when Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees were wandering around singing their songs. The most obvious comparison here is Across the Universe, another movie relying on Beatles cover songs with barely any plot. While this isn't nearly as visually striking as Across the Universe and the songs don't have the same emotional impact (AtU at least attempts to craft a story around the songs), there's something sort of charmingly haphazard about it, particularly the fact that there's almost no spoken dialogue at all. The movie jumps from song to song with no pretense whatsoever that it's making any sense, and every moment is so deliberately just an excuse to sing another song. I have to kind of admire the absurdity of that, even if I'm struggling to think of anybody I know I'd ever be able to recommend this to. I'm not going to complain that I watched an hour and 50 minutes of decent covers of great songs. I had a good time, even if the movie is mostly nonsense.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Death at a Funeral (2007)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Secondhand Lions
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Nacho Libre
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Monsters University
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Blow Out
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Harry and the Hendersons
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Punch-Drunk Love
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band > Melinda and Melinda
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band < Alice Adams

Final spot: #1375 out of 2604.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

IMDb plot summary: A surreal, virtually plotless series of dreams centered around six middle-class people and their consistently interrupted attempts to have a meal together.
Directed by Luis Buñuel. Starring Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, and Bulle Ogier.

Meh. I don't know, I can't muster up the will to care about this movie. It's not bizarre enough to be interesting from a surrealist perspective. It's mostly just long, dull stretches of rich people doing nothing and going to dinner parties and not going to dinner parties. Experimental films are always going to be tough to sell me on, as I'm first and foremost a lover of narrative, but even beyond my personal biases, it's a movie that I can't imagine anyone loving. It's not visually exciting or thematically powerful. Maybe it's politically significant? I would love to sit down with someone who actually likes this movie and find out why, because I can't find anything particularly good in it. It just sits there. Oh, except for the scene where the priest gives the dying guy last rites. That's actually a really interesting scene before we go back to yawning at our protagonists.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie < The Man in the Iron Mask
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie < Secondhand Lions
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie < Dracula
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie < They Were Expendable
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie > Ella Enchanted
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie < The Incredible Hulk
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie > Ladies in Lavender
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie > Employee of the Month (2006)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie > The Other Sister
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie > xXx
Final spot: #2484 out of 2603.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Journey to the West (2013)

IMDb plot summary: Tang Sanzang, an aspiring Buddhist hero tries to protect a village from three demons. He develops complex feelings for Miss Duan, the demon hunter who repeatedly helps him, and finally quests to meet the legendary Monkey King.
Directed by Steven Chow and Chi-kin Kwok. Starring Qi Shu, Zhang Wen, Bo Huang, and Show Lo.

(Spoilers ahead.)

Tonally, this is such a confusing movie. It seems to be mostly an over-the-top slapstick farcical adventure, but then there are these genuinely heartwrenching death scenes, as well as an equally heartwrenching scene where the hero laments his inability to save them (this moment is bizarrely played for laughs). It is even more confusing when we get to the end and discover that everything we've seen so far is just... the buildup to a sequel. Like, really. It's not that one story ends and another one begins, it's that the entire *point* of this one is to be generic back story for our main character. That's a frustrating way to structure your movie, and I didn't appreciate it. There are a lot of really great individual parts, and I laughed out loud several times, but as a whole the movie is disappointing.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Journey to the West < Death at a Funeral (2007)
Journey to the West > Secondhand Lions
Journey to the West > Over the Hedge
Journey to the West < Nacho Libre
Journey to the West < Near Dark
Journey to the West > Casino Royale
Journey to the West > Ocean's Twelve
Journey to the West > Einstein and Eddington
Journey to the West < Mission: Impossible
Journey to the West < The Deer Hunter
Journey to the West < Star Wars Uncut
Journey to the West > Little Lord Fauntleroy

Final spot: #1553 out of 2602.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bridge of Spies (2015)

IMDb plot summary: During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.
Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda.

I'd been putting this one off for a long time even while I watched all the other Best Picture nominees this year because I worried it was going to be a gritty spy story along the lines of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which I found mindnumbingly boring). I probably should have trusted Spielberg a bit more to make an emotionally gripping film. He does just that here, bringing out the humanity of the characters throughout. The narrative follows mostly expected paths, but Tom Hanks gives an especially compelling performance as the film's lead, and even when the story plays out as expected, it's still done well to enhance the drama. I was also struck by how beautifully the film is shot. More than a few times I would pause the movie to get a drink or check a text and marvel at how the results resembled deliberately-chosen screenshots rather than random pauses. It's not the kind of movie that's going to significantly stick with me, but it was a much better watch than I thought it might be. A pleasant surprise.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bridge of Spies > The Man in the Iron Mask
Bridge of Spies < Kolya
Bridge of Spies > Brick
Bridge of Spies < You Can Count on Me
Bridge of Spies > The Master
Bridge of Spies > Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Bridge of Spies < Ninotchka
Bridge of Spies > Frances Ha
Bridge of Spies < Shaolin Soccer
Bridge of Spies > Liberal Arts
Bridge of Spies > Hail, Caesar!

Final spot: #838 out of 2601.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lazer Team (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Four losers are thrust into the position of saving the world when they stumble upon a UFO crash site and become genetically equipped to the battle suit on board.
Directed by Matt Hullum. Starring Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, and Colton Dunn.

Well, this is silly and ridiculous. Most of the time it's in a fun way, like watching a bunch of friends that goof off together, but it never works much beyond that. A lot of the jokes are pretty juvenile and I enjoy it because everyone involved seems to be having a blast, but I think there's a much stronger film that could be made out of this one. The attempts at character development were pretty awkward and didn't really do much (though I super sympathized with what's-his-face who was supposed to be the actual hero -- I kinda wish the entire movie had JUST been his story).

I also found myself hugely missing a female presence in this movie. There are a grand total of two women here, and both of them are primarily used as the center of uncomfortable "teehee, they're hot" jokes (one is literally credited as "Beautiful Scientist"). I'm so used to male-led action movies that I typically just roll my eyes and move on at this, but this time it grated on me a little. Bringing a bit more gender diversity to the character line-up would definitely have been a smart move that would have made for a more well-rounded movie.

Overall, I'm very back and forth on this one. Parts of it worked, parts of it didn't. It had a lot of potential but didn't quite live up to it.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Lazer Team < Death at a Funeral (2007)
Lazer Team > Secondhand Lions
Lazer Team > Over the Hedge
Lazer Team > Joe Versus the Volcano
Lazer Team < The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
Lazer Team > Hysteria
Lazer Team < The Room
Lazer Team > Bunraku
Lazer Team > Rigoletto
Lazer Team > The Big Sleep
Lazer Team < A Star Is Born (1954)
Final spot: #1404 out of 2600.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gone Girl (2014)

IMDb plot summary: With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
Directed by David Fincher. Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry.

(Some spoilers ahead.)

When I first read the book Gone Girl, I felt astonished and riveted. It hit the halfway mark and I couldn't put it down. I felt a similar sense of intrigue watching Fincher's adaptation, even though I already knew the plot points to come, and the final few minutes hit me here much harder than they did in the book, where it felt slightly anticlimactic. I think the film does a surprisingly good job of bringing us into the mindset of two extremely cryptic and unlikable characters. Ben Affleck is typically not an actor I am impressed by, but this is a great role for him, and he nails it. Rosamund Pike is equally good. Overall, a well-done adaptation, though I wonder whether I'd be raving more about it if I'd seen this version before reading the book, which really did blow my mind.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gone Girl > About Last Night...
Gone Girl > Tropic Thunder
Gone Girl < The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Gone Girl < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
Gone Girl > Young Adult
Gone Girl < Hidden Figures
Gone Girl > Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)
Gone Girl > Fences
Gone Girl > The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
Gone Girl > Hoodwinked!

Final spot: #529 out of 2598.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Jack Goes Boating (2010)

IMDb plot summary: A limo driver's blind date sparks a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples.
Directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, and Daphne Rubin-Vega.

(Very minor spoilers ahead.)

This movie builds very, very slowly, so slowly I didn't even realize how invested I was until the end of the movie rolled around and I found myself almost crying at how satisfying I found the final few shots. I didn't realize this was directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it makes sense, because it embodies so many of the things I always loved about his performances, bringing out the humanity of characters that might easily be overlooked in most Hollywood films. Both Hoffman and Amy Ryan are really excellent here. (The more I see of Ryan as a dramatic actress after only knowing her from The Office, the more I like her.) It reminded me in an odd way of the musical Company, a man trying to figure out what relationships should look like partly by looking at his friends' messed-up relationships and ultimately deciding it's worth it anyway. I feel like this is one that could grow on me and become, eventually, even a comfort movie.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Jack Goes Boating > The 5th Wave
Jack Goes Boating > The Impossible
Jack Goes Boating < The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Jack Goes Boating < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
Jack Goes Boating > The Grapes of Wrath
Jack Goes Boating > The Cranes Are Flying
Jack Goes Boating < A Streetcar Named Desire
Jack Goes Boating > Hard Candy
Jack Goes Boating > Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Jack Goes Boating > Robot and Frank
Jack Goes Boating < Persepolis

Final spot: #509 out of 2597.

Upstream Color (2013)

IMDb plot summary: A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.
Directed by Shane Carruth. Starring Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig, and Thiago Martins.

I thought Shane Carruth's previous film, Primer, was fun and interesting but needlessly difficult to figure out. Maybe not needlessly -- those who loved it more than I did seemed to get special enjoyment out of rewatching it again and again to figure out what exactly was going on. They might like this one even more, because this reaches Donnie Darko levels of "What? How on EARTH were we supposed to figure out that was the answer?" But in Donnie Darko, the characters are arresting and the interactions are fun to watch even if you haven't the faintest idea what's happening. Here, we have no special attachment to the characters, since right from the beginning we distrust their experiences and everything they go through is potentially meaningless. I kind of get what he was trying to do with the tone of the movie, but I think the funky mythology he created would have been far more interesting if we'd actually learned about it and not just had it silently hinted at us in a way we couldn't possibly be expected to follow. Not everything is improved if you turn it into a puzzle.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Upstream Color < The 5th Wave
Upstream Color < Top Gun
Upstream Color > Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
Upstream Color > Winter Passing
Upstream Color < The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
Upstream Color > The Lone Ranger (2013)
Upstream Color > The People vs. Larry Flynt
Upstream Color > The Devil Inside
Upstream Color < Antichrist
Upstream Color > The Forgotten
Upstream Color > Flightplan

Final spot: #2034 out of 2595.

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

IMDb plot summary: An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, and Josh Gad.

I have thought more about Beauty and the Beast than anyone I know. I have deeply analyzed these characters I love so much, dissected how the various themes play out, and vehemently defended it to people who don't realize that it's so clearly the best Disney movie out there. So it had a lot to live up to, and it only halfway measured up.

The musical numbers are what holds this adaptation together. Aside from several meaningless 30-second songs and anything where Emma Watson sings, the songs look and sound great. "Be Our Guest" and "The Mob Song" are two especially great sequences that really make the whole movie look better in comparison. Where the movie fails is in embracing the understated nature of the original story. It attempts to shoehorn in several more dramatic subplots and overplay everything that's already there. This is exhausting and ultimately undercuts the actual themes because we're never given the time they need to breathe. A stronger script more confident in its relational drama would have been a huge asset to this film. Not a bad movie, but it pales in comparison to the near-perfect original.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Beauty and the Beast > The 5th Wave
Beauty and the Beast > The Impossible
Beauty and the Beast < The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Beauty and the Beast < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
Beauty and the Beast < The Grapes of Wrath
Beauty and the Beast > Borat
Beauty and the Beast < Four Lions
Beauty and the Beast < Mad Max: Fury Road
Beauty and the Beast > Marty
Beauty and the Beast > Band of Robbers
Beauty and the Beast > Notting Hill

Final spot: #598 out of 2596.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ghost (1990)

IMDb plot summary: After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.
Directed by Jerry Zucker. Starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tony Goldwyn.

Somehow this weird little supernatural romance drama has slipped by me all these years. Now that I've seen it, I'm mostly just "meh" on it. By far Whoopi Goldberg's character is the most compelling of the leads, and the scenes where she has to deal with being able to hear Sam's ghost are great, second only to the angry subway ghost. Patrick Swayze is NOT good in this, though he's not helped by several extreme close-ups lingering on his face when contorted in extreme "emotion." You can almost see him thinking, "Look sad. Now LOOK SADDER." Because the romantic leads are never truly fleshed out, it's hard to connect to their turmoil when they're ripped apart from each other, making it all kind of underwhelming, even when it does work as a concept. Frankly, I wish we'd had a lot more interaction with the other ghosts and less going back to the eternally bland Swayze and Moore.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Ghost < About Last Night...
Ghost > Top Gun
Ghost > Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Ghost > How to Rob a Bank
Ghost < The Pajama Game
Ghost > Drive
Ghost > How to Deal
Ghost > Where the Red Fern Grows
Ghost < Yankee Doodle Dandy
Ghost > Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Ghost < Sisters

Final spot: #1385 out of 2594.

Band of Robbers (2015)

IMDb plot summary: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are grown men, still searching for the hidden treasure that has eluded them since childhood.
Directed by Aaron Nee and Adam Nee. Starring Kyle Gallner, Adam Nee, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Melissa Benoist.

This is a variation on the Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn story I've never seen before, and it's strangely charming. There's an almost cartoonish quality to the adventure, with Huck acting as a more grounded dose of reality. His and Becky's are the only actions that seem truly logical, and while that could be a flaw, it really helps to build the tone of this movie. The actors really help to sell the goofiness, and, as a whole, it works. It bears very little resemblance to most other adaptations of these stories, but it's entertaining.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Band of Robbers > Candy
Band of Robbers > The Impossible
Band of Robbers < Benny & Joon
Band of Robbers < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
Band of Robbers > Borat
Band of Robbers < Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Band of Robbers < Mad Max: Fury Road
Band of Robbers > World War Z
Band of Robbers > Crossing Delancey
Band of Robbers < Notting Hill

Final spot: #600 out of 2592.

God's Not Dead 2 (2016)

IMDb plot summary: When a high school teacher is asked a question in class about Jesus, her response lands her in deep trouble.
Directed by Harold Cronk. Starring Melissa Joan Hart, Jesse Metcalfe, David A.R. White, and Hayley Orrantinia.

Well, yeah, this was about what I thought it would be. It borrows some of its awfulness from the first film. I do mean this literally, as there are multiple subplots that are almost identical to those of the original. I also mean this thematically, however, as both of these movies follow a specific, very distressing, pattern: Paint the enemy in the most ridiculous, hyperbolic, cartoonishly evil light, and then anything the Christian says will be reasonable and self-evident in comparison. But this is a terrible, and, I'd argue, anti-Christian, way to frame a story like this. It means this movie is not to convert the unsaved (who could possibly see themselves in the non-Christians in these movies?!), nor is it to give Christians a road map on how to deal with those who oppose their religion (it's highly unlikely a Christian will EVER run into such clear-cut villains). All it does is hype up the sense of paranoia and victimization that I already think is negatively affecting American Christianity. It allows the Christian viewer to feel smug about how reasonable their own point of view is. Well, yes, it is reasonable here, but not because their point of view is objectively correct, but because the other side is overtly malicious in every way.

Just like the first film, this makes me actively angry. Poorly-written, badly-acted, super-awkward Christian films with a good heart (talking to you, Kendrick brothers) I can tolerate. Poorly-written, badly-acted, super-awkward Christian films that encourage us to think the worst of our non-Christian neighbors I cannot. This is a narrative that I believe is damaging to our faith and antithetical to the way Scripture commands us to think of others. It fails to tell a competent story AND it fails to uphold the faith. There's nothing good to be found here.

Oh, I guess I should say some more about the movie itself besides the awful message it sends out. It's simultaneously more boring and more haphazard than the first movie. The evil lawyer is the most interesting character because he has a little personality. Every subplot stolen from the first film has no purpose (probably because they were actually solved already and brought back this time for no reason). The attempts at Christian apologetics make zero sense in the context of the story and are therefore even more cringey than in the original, as it's more clearly a lecture for the audience. So, back to my original point: Nothing good to be found here.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
God's Not Dead 2 < Candy
God's Not Dead 2 < The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
God's Not Dead 2 < Dracula (1931)
God's Not Dead 2 < The World is Not Enough (1999)
God's Not Dead 2 < American Gangster
God's Not Dead 2 < The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things
God's Not Dead 2 < Alvin and the Chipmunks
God's Not Dead 2 < Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde
God's Not Dead 2 < The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
God's Not Dead 2 < The Pacifier
God's Not Dead 2 > Mallrats
Final spot: #2592 out of 2593.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

IMDb plot summary: Veronica plans a rendezvous with her lover, Boris, at the bank of river, only for him to be drafted into World War II shortly thereafter.
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. Starring Tatyana Samoylova, Aleksey Batalov, Vasiliy Merkurev, and Aleksandr Shvorin.

I hadn't even heard of this film before the Flickcharters Facebook group chose it as a group movie watch for the month. It's really a lovely movie, though. It takes a very human story and tells it in a simple but captivating way. I was most struck by the *look* of the film. More than a few times I just found myself thinking, "That is a really beautiful shot." The almost dreamy cinematography brings home the tragedy and the sadness of a relationship torn apart by war, and it does it well. I don't have much else to say about it other than that it touched me and I'm glad I saw it.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Cranes Are Flying > The 5th Wave
The Cranes Are Flying > The Butler
The Cranes Are Flying < Benny & Joon
The Cranes Are Flying < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
The Cranes Are Flying > What's Eating Gilbert Grape
The Cranes Are Flying > Hoodwinked!
The Cranes Are Flying < A Streetcar Named Desire
The Cranes Are Flying < Hard Candy
The Cranes Are Flying < Hairspray Live!
The Cranes Are Flying < Center Stage
The Cranes Are Flying < Shakespeare Behind Bars
The Cranes Are Flying < We're Not Married!

Final spot: #527 out of 2591.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Table 19 (2017)

IMDb plot summary: Ex-maid of honor Eloise, having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text, decides to attend the wedding anyway only to find herself seated with 5 "random" guests at the dreaded Table 19.
Directed by Jeffrey Blitz. Starring Anna Kendrick, June Squibb, Craig Robinson, and Lisa Kudrow.

The more poorly-scripted movies like this I see, the more I'm impressed by movies like The Breakfast Club that do this kind of thing well. In the first five minutes, you can see exactly the kind of film this is trying to be -- a group of outcasts come together, learn about themselves, learn about each other, and end up better people. The problem is that this is poorly written. A good drama like this will have dialogue and performances so perfect that each turns feels like a completely natural progression. In contrast, each turn here feels off and unlikely and uncomfortable. Characters are awkward and stiff with no reason to be, or they suddenly befriend someone next to them with no justification, or they reveal something about themselves when there's zero indication that makes sense for who they are as a character. In the film's second half it seems at least a tad more realistic when half of the characters are a little stoned, but overall it's a disappointingly written little piece. It was probably never going to be great, but it definitely didn't accomplish what it set out to do.

Edit: OK, I just found out this was written by the Duplasses. WHAT. They are usually significantly better than this, right? I remember liking Jeff Who Lives at Home. What happened here?

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Table 19 < Silent Hill
Table 19 > Top Gun
Table 19 < Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Table 19 < Spider-Man 3
Table 19 > Blow
Table 19 < The Three Faces of Eve
Table 19 < Mud
Table 19 > A Scanner Darkly
Table 19 > Doc Hollywood
Table 19 < The Ladykillers (1955)

Final spot: #1846 out of 2590.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Red Carpet (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Adult movie director Jung-Woo dreams of working as a regular commercial film director. Eun-Soo is a commercial film actress, who began her career when she was a child. After Jung-Woo meets Eun-Soo he faces enormous changes in his life.
Directed by Park Bum-Soo. Starring Kye Sang Yoon, Koh Joon-Hee, Jeong-se Oh, and Dal-hwan Jo.

This is the cutest, sweetest movie I could imagine being made about the porn industry. The central characters are all so likable and so easy to root for, and the tangled web of rom com coincidences that keep them apart are contrived enough to be silly but grounded enough in the character that we buy it. I especially liked how, while the tone overall stayed just light and sweet, we got occasional moments of much bigger, broader comedy that really worked. I really want to check out more of Kye Sang Yoon's work especially now; he plays a quintessential leading man for a rom com, hitting all the right notes as a lovelorn director who can't get his non-porn filmmaking career off the ground. A really lovely movie that I'm glad I unearthed.

4 stars.

This movie is not on Flickchart yet. I have submitted it and will update when I have an opportunity to rank it.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Tokyo Story (1953)

IMDb plot summary: An old couple visit their children and grandchildren in the city; but the children have little time for them.
Directed by Yasujirô Ozu. Starring Chishû Ryû, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, and Haruko Sugimura.

This was my first Ozu movie, though I had watched a video about his filmmaking style only a month or two ago. His usage of camera is certainly distinct, though it had an odd connotation for me, as watching people speak directly into the camera at me primarily reminded me of computer games like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective and Oregon Trail 2 where you interview characters along the way. Unique camera placement aside, I thought this was a pleasant story. The characters were distinct and interesting to watch interacting with each other. It was a bit *too* quiet for me to love, although I appreciate what it's doing. I didn't feel any sense of resolution at the end, it just kind of finished. That's not a huge knock against it or anything, but it's probably going to land among other movies that I thought were good but couldn't conjure up any really fond feeling toward.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Tokyo Story > Paper Moon
Tokyo Story < The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
Tokyo Story < Hamlet (1990)
Tokyo Story > The Hangover
Tokyo Story < V for Vendetta
Tokyo Story < October Sky
Tokyo Story > Splash
Tokyo Story < Memoirs of a Geisha
Tokyo Story < Clueless
Tokyo Story < Sunday in the Park with George
Tokyo Story < The Matador
Tokyo Story < Letters from Iwo Jima

Final spot: #1112 out of 2589.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Before I Fall (2017)

IMDb plot summary: February 12 is just another day in Sam's charmed life until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over one inexplicable week, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she's in danger of losing.
Directed by Ry Russo-Young. Starring Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, and Kian Lawley.

I can almost promise you this movie is going to be out of my mind entirely by next week. It's a nice premise, but it ultimately ends up being a sloppily-executed sentimental teen version of Groundhog Day. While Groundhog Day was funny enough that you didn't mind too much that the main character was a jerk, it is very difficult to find a bright spot in the first 30 minutes of this movie, when our main characters are almost (but not) comically horrible. Then the main idea of this movie kicks in and the cheesy moral lessons kick in. There are one or two moments in this movie that are kind of interesting to watch, but overall it gets bogged down in nonsense. It does make me want to read the book, though, which I sense could be significantly better. But so far 2017 is 0 for 2 on good YA sci-fi movies.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Before I Fall < The Fifth Wave
Before I Fall > Top Gun
Before I Fall < The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Before I Fall < Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
Before I Fall > Spider-Man 3
Before I Fall < The Chalk Garden
Before I Fall < Are You My Neighbor?
Before I Fall < Thoroughly Modern Millie
Before I Fall < The Whole Nine Yards
Before I Fall > Swingers
Before I Fall < Buddy Buddy

Final spot: #1773 out of 2588.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Get Out (2017)

IMDb plot summary: A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend's mysterious family estate.
Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, and Bradley Whitford.

(Very minor spoilers ahead.)

I saw the trailer for this back in December but knew nothing about it before then. I remember thinking, "That looks amazing. I have to make sure and see it." It lived up to its expectations -- a smart, scary horror movie. It does a wonderful job of building a creepy atmosphere long before anything overtly scary happens, which means when the pay off *does* kick in, it's well-earned. One of the things I've always thought was fascinating about horror movies was how so many of them tap into cultural fears, and this does that perfectly, especially in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. While this is, admittedly, an over-the-top look at the dangers of being black in today's America, it makes this an interesting and thoughtful flick that is also extremely entertaining. Way to go, Jordan Peele. Make more movies.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Get Out > Paper Moon
Get Out > The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
Get Out < Benny & Joon
Get Out < Nativity!
Get Out > What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Get Out > Hoodwinked!
Get Out > Mr. Brooks
Get Out < The Goodbye Girl (2004)
Get Out > Dark Passage
Get Out < Collateral

Final spot: #500 out of 2587.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hidden Figures (2016)

IMDb plot summary: The story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the US space program.
Directed by Theodore Melfi. Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and Kevin Costner.

This is a very solid, well-put-together movie that somehow doesn't have any staying power for me. I think part of it is that the story is so clearly Katherine's even as it's pitched as being all of theirs. I think part of it is that every single moment of the script and the performances are formulaic, even if it's all in ways that are consistent. It just means there aren't any surprises along the way. It plays out and looks and feels exactly the way you expect, and while I'm happy to go along on the ride, at the end of the day I don't connect to it the way I expected to, and that's a shame, because it's a great and important story. Still definitely worth a watch (from an educational standpoint at the very least), and it's a good time even if it doesn't thrill.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Hidden Figures > Paper Moon
Hidden Figures > La jetee
Hidden Figures < Breakfast at Tiffany's
Hidden Figures < What We Do in the Shadows
Hidden Figures > What's Eating Gilbert Grape
Hidden Figures > Hoodwinked!
Hidden Figures < Persepolis
Hidden Figures < Hard Candy
Hidden Figures < Hairspray Live!
Hidden Figures < Match Point
Hidden Figures < Center Stage
Hidden Figures < Shakespeare Behind Bars

Final spot: #525 out of 2586, which is too high because Hoodwinked! is too high. Ah well.