Monday, August 14, 2017

The Gift (2000)

IMDb plot summary: A woman with extrasensory perception is asked to help find a young woman who has disappeared.
Directed by Sam Raimi. Starring Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Keanu Reeves, and Greg Kinnear.

This is kind of an unusual movie. Cate Blanchett is much more downplayed than usual, playing a psychic who almost seems to wish nobody knew about her gift and that she could just get along under everyone's radar. There are a bunch of other big-name actors that have varying role sizes, but she's the most interesting, partly because she's the only one written with any even implied depth and partly because Blanchett could take on any role under the sun and make it interesting.

The mystery itself unfolds somewhat predictably, but the addition of the supernatural adds a fun little twist into it. I do get the sense the movie wanted to be more shocking and more beautiful than it actually turned out to be, but it was interesting enough to keep pulling me along. I'm not sure I could confidently say it was a good movie, but Blanchett and the slightly more original twist on the genre made it a fun one to watch.

Wait. I FORGOT THIS WAS DIRECTED BY SAM RAIMI. Well, that makes all the sense.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Gift > Beach Party
The Gift < Kolya
The Gift > Stage Fright (2014)
The Gift < Out of Sight
The Gift > Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
The Gift < Notorious
The Gift < Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
The Gift < The Ring
The Gift > Prometheus
The Gift < Descendants

Final spot: #1112 out of 2645.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jack Strong (2014)

IMDb plot summary: The most spectacular Polish spy of the Cold War era, Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, informs Americans about the Communist Bloc's top secrets in the face of the upcoming martial law.
Directe by Wladyslaw Pasikowski. Starring Marcin Dorocinski, Maja Ostaszewska, Patrick Wilson, and Dimitri Bilov.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Jack Strong > Beach Party
Jack Strong < Kolya
Jack Strong < Interstellar
Jack Strong < The Matador
Jack Strong < Water for Elephants
Jack Strong < Lord of War
Jack Strong > Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Jack Strong < The Lion in Winter (2003)
Jack Strong < Ran
Jack Strong < Single White Female
Jack Strong > House of Flying Daggers
Final spot: #1299 out of 2644.

CBGB (2013)

IMDb plot summary: A look at the New York City punk-rock scene and the venerable nightclub, CBGB.
Directed by Randall Miller. Starring Alan Rickman, Ashley Greene, Richard de Klerk, and Freddy Rodriguez.

I knew absolutely nothing about this movie or the club and people that inspired it, so I went in completely blind. Right away my attention was captured by the creative packaging of the story in comic book form, dealing with exposition through text bubbles and captions, a device that I thought worked well and captured the spirit of the story. I was also particularly taken with the pacing of the film, which is unusual for a biopic. It jumps from moment to moment, only showing the most interesting or most important parts, and then skipping the rest or covering it in sketch or montage, but somehow I never felt like we were skipping along too fast.

Alan Rickman is not the first person I would have chosen to play Jewish guy from New Jersey, and his casting was occasionally distracting, but he faded nicely into the role as the movie went on. Overall, I had a good time with this movie and am happy it was assigned to me for this challenge. Nicely done!

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
CBGB > The Family Man
CBGB > The Englishman Who Went up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
CBGB < The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
CBGB < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
CBGB > Little Children
CBGB > Hoodwinked!
CBGB < Jack Goes Boating
CBGB < Mary and Max
CBGB > Match Point
CBGB < Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Final spot: #530 out of 2643.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)

IMDb plot summary: Paul McCartney's recording of his new album is complicated by the fact that the master tapes of his recordings are missing.
Directed by Peter Webb. Starring Paul McCartney, Bryan Brown, Ringo Starr, and Barbara Bach.

Back when my movie challenge began, a friend assigned me Michael Jackson's Moonwalker with the caveat, "I hope you're a Michael Jackson fan, because you kind of have to be to like this." That's pretty much how I feel about this movie and Paul McCartney. There's no narrative structure to this film, really, it's just a series of McCartney music videos. Problem is, while I liked Moonwalker all right for what it was, Michael Jackson is a much more dynamic entertainer to watch perform. The performances here are very understated on McCartney's part, even if occasionally accompanied by wacky psychedelic visuals. None of it does much to actually elevate the music, and I found myself, as a result, zoning out through much of it. If I were a bigger McCartney fan, I could see myself enjoying this movie as an odd little conglomeration of concert segments, but if you're only so-so on his work, there's really very little to get out of this.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Give My Regards to Broad Street < Beach Party
Give My Regards to Broad Street > Raging Bull
Give My Regards to Broad Street < The King and I
Give My Regards to Broad Street > The Whole Nine Yards
Give My Regards to Broad Street > Barry
Give My Regards to Broad Street < Eddie the Eagle
Give My Regards to Broad Street > Spaceballs
Give My Regards to Broad Street < The Secret War of Harry Frigg
Give My Regards to Broad Street < Sullivan's Travels
Give My Regards to Broad Street > The TV Set
Give My Regards to Broad Street > Stardust Memories
Final spot: #1708 out of 2642.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pepito y la lámpara maravillosa (1972)

Plot summary: A young boy finds a lamp that produces a magical genie.
Directed by Alejandro Galindo. Starring Martín Ramos Arévalo, Javier López, Guillermo Orea, and María Duval.

This is so weird but it's kind of charming for the strange, strange 1970s clown story it is. A lot of that is helped by the main kid, who seems to be a pretty realistic kid (in an extremely unrealistic situation) and is not nearly as annoying are children so often are in movies. The ranking ended up a little low because it is weird and awkward, but I boosted its star rating because I didn't dislike it the way 1.5 stars would imply.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa < Beach Party
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa > Raging Bull
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa < Cinderella (1965)
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa < The Whole Nine Yards
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa > Baby Boom
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa > 17 Miracles
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa > Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa > Mother
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa < A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa > Swingers
Pepito y la lampara maravillosa < Before I Fall
Final spot: #1823 out of 2641.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bronson (2008)

IMDb plot summary: A young man who was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbing a post office ends up spending three decades in solitary confinement. During this time, his own personality is supplanted by his alter-ego, Charles Bronson.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Starring Tom Hardy, Kelly Adams, Matt King, and Jonny Phillips.

Artfully directed, but I didn't feel like there was much of a point to telling this story. What was I supposed to come away with?

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Bronson > Beach Party
Bronson < Kolya
Bronson < Interstellar
Bronson < The Matador
Bronson > Water for Elephants
Bronson < Sleepers
Bronson < Must Love Dogs
Bronson > Son of Rambow
Bronson > Lost in America
Bronson > Genius
Bronson > Captain Fantastic
Final spot: #1217 out of 2640.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)

IMDb plot summary: The story of matinee idol Tab Hunter from teenage stable boy to closeted Hollywood star of the 1950s.
Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz.

The primary problem with this documentary is its choice of subject. Hunter himself does not seem particularly inclined to give information about his past or his life, couching everything he says in pleasantly vague language that gives us very little sense of who he really is as a person. The best documentaries are still narratively compelling in some way, and this really isn't. There's no arc. It just all meanders from subject to subject and none of it is particularly interesting.

1 star.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Tab Hunter Confidential < Beach Party
Tab Hunter Confidential < Raging Bull
Tab Hunter Confidential < Father of the Bride (1950)
Tab Hunter Confidential > They Were Expendable
Tab Hunter Confidential > Five Children and It
Tab Hunter Confidential < Three Guys Named Mike
Tab Hunter Confidential > Bitter Moon
Tab Hunter Confidential > The Odd Life of Timothy Green
Tab Hunter Confidential > Dangerous
Tab Hunter Confidential < Glory Road
Final spot: #2356 out of 2639.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sin City (2005)

IMDb plot summary: A film that explores the dark and miserable town, Basin City, and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in violent corruption.
Directed by Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Starring Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, and Rosario Dawson.

A stunning-looking movie. Apparently I watched the recut version, where "That Yellow Bastard" was all one piece at the beginning. It was by far my favorite of the stories -- I was tired of the relentless cynicism by the time the next two rolled around -- and if I was just ranking that, it might end up much higher on my chart. As it is, I loved looking at it but don't think there's much to recommend it beyond those visuals. It's an emotionally exhausting watch.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Sin City > Beach Party
Sin City < Kolya
Sin City > Interstellar
Sin City < Misery
Sin City > Summer Wars
Sin City > The Tree of Life
Sin City > Young Frankenstein
Sin City > My Favorite Year
Sin City < The Big Short
Sin City > Mrs. Brown
Sin City > You Can Count on Me
Final spot: #830 out of 2638.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

In Search of a Midnight Kiss (2007)

IMDb plot summary: Broke and alone on New Year's Eve, Wilson just wants to spend the rest of a very bad year in bed. But, when his best friend convinces him to post a personal ad, he meets a woman bent on finding the right guy to be with at midnight.
Directed by Alex Holdridge. Starring Scoot McNairy, Sara Simmons, Brian McGuire, and Kathleen Luong.

This movie is kind of an odd beast. I definitely like its ambitions. It's got a Before Sunrise kind of vibe. Problem is, it's not nearly as compelling as Before Sunrise. While the characters do grow on me over the course of the movie, I found them wholly unlikable for the first half and wasn't fully sold on their new selves for the second half. It very much feels like a newbie writer-director project with big goals that are much harder to actually bring to fruition, and there are a lot of cheesy self-conscious moments of dialogue that take me out of the movie entirely. However, there are some really lovely moments scattered throughout, hints of what this film could have been, and I'd be interested in keeping an eye on this filmmaker.

How it entered my Flickchart:
In Search of a Midnight Kiss < Beach Party
In Search of a Midnight Kiss > Raging Bull
In Search of a Midnight Kiss > The King and I
In Search of a Midnight Kiss < Revengers Tragedy
In Search of a Midnight Kiss > Cropsey
In Search of a Midnight Kiss > The Woman in Black
In Search of a Midnight Kiss > *batteries not included
In Search of a Midnight Kiss > A Dangerous Method
In Search of a Midnight Kiss < L.A. Confidential
In Search of a Midnight Kiss < So I Married an Axe Murderer
In Search of a Midnight Kiss > Hotel Rwanda

Final spot: #1491 out of 2637.

2 stars.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Meet John Doe (1941)

IMDb plot summary: A man needing money agrees to impersonate a nonexistent person who said he'd be committing suicide as a protest, and a political movement begins.
Directed by Frank Capra. Starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, and Walter Brennan.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Meet John Doe > Beach Party
Meet John Doe < All's Faire in Love
Meet John Doe > Interstellar
Meet John Doe < Misery
Meet John Doe < The Mummy (1932)
Meet John Doe > The Illusionist (2006)
Meet John Doe < Monsters Vs. Aliens
Meet John Doe < Starship Troopers
Meet John Doe > City Lights
Meet John Doe > The Other Side of Sunday
Meet John Doe > After the Wedding
Final spot: #936 out of 2636.

Barry (2016)

IMDb plot summary: A look into the early life of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Directed by Vikram Gandhi. Starring Devon Terrell, Anya Taylor-Joy, Jason Mitchell, and Ellar Coltrane.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Barry < Beach Party
Barry > In Cold Blood
Barry < The King and I
Barry > When I Walk
Barry > MASH
Barry < Eddie the Eagle
Barry < Spaceballs
Barry < Albert Nobbs
Barry < Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Barry < I Remember Mama
Barry < Robin and the 7 Hoods
Barry < The Invention of Lying
Final spot: #1730 out of 2635.

To any faithful readers of my blog: If you're thinking, "There's no review!" you are correct. I'm going to cut back on actual review writing because life's gotten busy and I've been finding myself not watching movies because I don't want to bother writing it up afterward. I'd rather do more movie watching even if that means less movie writing. If I have something I have to say about a movie, I will, and I'll always make a brief post showing where the movie fell in my Flickchart, but you'll most likely see quite a few review-less posts from me in the coming months.

Witness (1985)

IMDb plot summary: A young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder; policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.
Directed by Peter Weir. Starring Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Josef Sommer, and Lukas Haas.

Witness is kind of a weird movie, in the sense that I remember being thoroughly engaged while watching it and yet now, just a few days later, I struggle to remember individual things I enjoyed. I do find 1980s Harrison Ford to be quite charming, and he is here as well, carrying a role that doesn't have *all* that much depth to it once you get past the fish-out-of-water trope. I was much more interested in our leading lady, but sadly we get barely a glimpse at all into her life and thoughts. The movie is most interesting when it looks at the contrast (and conflict) between the Amish philosophy of peace and nonviolence in comparison to the more aggressive instincts in Ford's character. They never quite dig deep enough to make this as compelling as I wanted; I really wanted an apology from him for the damage he wreaks on their farm in the final moments of the film. There are glimpses of a really fascinating action movie here, but it doesn't gel as much as I wish it would.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Witness > Beach Party
Witness < All's Faire in Love
Witness < Gone in 60 Seconds
Witness < Kind Hearts and Coronets
Witness > The Matador
Witness > Miracle on 34th Street (1943)
Witness < The Time Travelers' Wife
Witness > The Pursuit of Happyness
Witness > Laura
Witness > Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Witness > The Gold Rush
Witness < Five Graves to Cairo
Final spot: #1051 out of 2633.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

C Me Dance (2009)

IMDb plot summary: A drama centered on a teenage girl who has trained her entire life to dance for the Pittsburgh Ballet.
Directed by Greg Robbins. Starring Christina DeMarco, Greg Robbins, Laura Romeo, and Hugh McLean.

Oh my goodness, this was terrible. Besides being extremely poorly written, awkwardly filmed and clunkily acted, it also has a major issue with its message, and that's what I'm mostly going to deal with in this review, because it's what sets it apart from other equally crappily-made religious movies.

About halfway through the film, it becomes clear that the main character has some sort of bizarre power that compels everyone she looks at and/or touches to become a Christian. She brings this to her pastor, who instantly starts setting up situations where she can look at large groups of people, first in his church, then at a battle of the bands, and finally on TV. At no point does anyone question or become concerned by the fact that she seems to be be able to override their free will -- in an especially skeazy scene, we get a montage of her using her Jesus touch to finagle those TV spots for free.

This does not work as a comforting or inspirational evangelism narrative. These scenes of masses coming forward to the altar crying out to God take on a horrifying light when you remember they have no choice in this -- she looked at them and miraculously changed their minds. It's not a willing surrender to God, it's mass mind control. A better movie version of this would be a horror movie about this young girl's unexplained power to make everybody think and believe the way she wants them to.

Oh, yeah, and it's pretty incompetently made too.

0.5 stars.

This movie isn't on Flickchart yet. I have submitted it so I can eventually rank it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Coherence (2013)

IMDb plot summary: Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.
Directed by James Ward Byrkit. Starring Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, and Lorene Scafaria.

I'm going to try to talk about this without being spoilery, because I suspect this would be the most fun going into it pretty blind like I did. This is a really enjoyably weird little movie. Like many thrillers set in one location, it occasionally gets a little cheesy in its explanations and a little tedious in its character interactions, but the premise is so engaging that I found it easy to overlook that and just go along for the ride. The best part, by far, though, was the ending. The last 10-15 minutes were so fascinating. This is the kind of hidden gem I get so excited about encountering in these movie challenges, because I almost certainly wouldn't have known to pick this up on my own.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Coherence > Beach Party
Coherence > All's Faire in Love
Coherence < Breakfast at Tiffany's
Coherence < Godspell
Coherence > Waitress
Coherence < Hidden Figures
Coherence > The Awful Truth
Coherence < Fences
Coherence < Super 8
Coherence < Walking and Talking
Coherence < Sneakers
Coherence < Big Man Japan

Final spot: #554 out of 2632.

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.