Friday, October 20, 2017

The Florida Project (2017)

IMDb plot summary: Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.
Directed by Sean Baker. Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Prince, Valerie Cotto, and Bria Vinaite.

Mild spoilers ahead.

This is kind of an amazing movie. So much of that has to go to the character of the young child Moonee and the *amazing* actress that plays her. This is some of the best child acting I've ever seen. (That final scene with her and Jancey... Wow.) She's surrounded by equally great adult actors, but since most of the story centers around her viewpoint, she could have easily tanked the whole thing if she hadn't been perfect. Fortunately, that's not the case.

At first I wasn't sold on the ending. It reminded me of what I dislike most about the Coens -- their tendency to end their movies in the middle of a scene, and not even a scene that feels climactic. I had to do a little digging and read other reviewers' takes on the film's final few shots before I could get on board. Now, though, I think it works, and it left me feeling simultaneously hopeful and sad for the characters I'd grown to empathize with, though I couldn't say I'd grown to love them (they are so aggressive and combative I always felt myself bristling a bit as they interacted with others). I have a feeling this one will climb higher the longer I sit with it.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Florida Project > Trainwreck
The Florida Project > Cloud Atlas
The Florida Project < Benny & Joon
The Florida Project < The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall
The Florida Project > The Producers (2005)
The Florida Project > We're Not Married!
The Florida Project > Jack Goes Boating
The Florida Project < The Goodbye Girl (2004)
The Florida Project > The Great Race
The Florida Project < Get Out
Final spot: #514 out of 2666.

The Monkey King (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A monkey born from heavenly stone acquires supernatural powers and must battle the armies of both gods and demons to find his place in the heavens.
Directed by Pou-Soi Cheang. Starring Donnie Yen, Yun-Fat Chow, Aaron Kwok, and Yitian Hai.

Like so many Chinese fantasy films I've seen, this looks stunning. Lots of fairy tale elements to the images that really bring it home, and the scene where the titular character laments his murdered tribe is beautifully done. That being said, the movie as a whole doesn't really work for me despite liking so many individual elements and it's hard to say why.

2.5 stars.

The Monkey King < Trainwreck
The Monkey King > Seasons of the Heart
The Monkey King < A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Monkey King > The Secret of My Success
The Monkey King < Cellular
The Monkey King > Running With Scissors
The Monkey King > Dr. No
The Monkey King < I Remember Mama
The Monkey King > MASH
The Monkey King < Dr. Strangelove

Final spot: #1764 out of 2665.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

IMDb plot summary: The Griswold family's plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.
Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. Starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Juliette Lewis, and Johnny Galecki.

I can see why people love this. Even when the jokes didn't land for me (frequently), I think it's an extraordinarily well-crafted comedy, building the chaos really well so that it never felt too zany too quickly. It's not at all my comedy style, but I can appreciate it for what it is. (As a side note, Clark would have been a much more likable character if we had not had that extended scene toward the beginning where he lied about being married so he could flirt with the checkout girl. Every interaction he had with his wife after that just made me feel sad for her.)

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation < To Be or Not to Be (1942)
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation > Seasons of the Heart
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation > The Day of the Triffids
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation > Everyone Says I Love You
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation < Dear Frankie
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation > Oblivion
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation < Battle of the Sexes
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation > Wedding Crashers
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation < Martian Child

Final spot: #1388 out of 2664.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Enemy of the State (1998)

IMDb plot summary: A lawyer becomes a target by a corrupt politician and his NSA goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a serious politically motivated crime.
Directed by Tony Scott. Starring Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, and Lisa Bonet.

A fluffy, forgettable paranoid thriller. Will Smith, as always, is an effortlessly charming action star.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Enemy of the State < To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Enemy of the State > Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland
Enemy of the State < The Day of the Triffids
Enemy of the State > Cinderella (1950)
Enemy of the State > Saturday Night Fever
Enemy of the State > Blackadder Back & Forth
Enemy of the State < Bowling for Columbine
Enemy of the State > Kiss Me Kate
Enemy of the State < My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Enemy of the State < Mulholland Dr.
Enemy of the State > Over the Hedge

Final spot: #1693 out of 2663.

mother! (2017)

IMDb plot summary: A couple's relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

It's hard to put into words how I feel about this one, but it's not like I could leave it NOT reviewed. The film feels like an emotional punch in the gut and is at times very difficult to watch, largely thanks to a heartwrenching performance from Jennifer Lawrence and a near-constant sense of stomach-churning nightmare surrealism. The images are so striking that it's almost disappointing to then resign yourself to the fact that this film has a definite *meaning*, particularly if, like me, you find Darren Aronofsky's official answer deeply unsatisfying. It's certainly a film that will sit with me but I don't connect with it the way I have many of Aronosky's previous work, since as a surrealist allegory it's limited on things like characterization.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
mother! > To Be or Not to Be (1942)
mother! < Zootopia
mother! < A Matter of Life and Death
mother! > Marathon
mother! < Laura
mother! < Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken
mother! > Adam
mother! < Who Framed Roger Rabbit
mother! < Seven Chances
mother! > Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
mother! > Ghost World
mother! < Modern Times

Final spot: #1139 out of 2662.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Battle of the Sexes (2017)

IMDb plot summary: The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Starring Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, and Natalie Morales.

Fun, but the pacing is weird and ultimately it's going to be forgettable. I also somehow can't tell if Stone and Carell are really good in this or really not good.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Battle of the Sexes < To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Battle of the Sexes > Passion
Battle of the Sexes > Mr. Pip
Battle of the Sexes > Rack, Shack & Benny
Battle of the Sexes > Music Within
Battle of the Sexes < Dear Frankie
Battle of the Sexes > The Whistleblower
Battle of the Sexes > Office Space
Battle of the Sexes < Cafe Society
Final spot: #1383 out of 2661.

Monday, October 2, 2017

What Lies Beneath (2000)

IMDb plot summary: The wife of a university research scientist believes that her lakeside Vermont home is haunted by a ghost - or that she is losing her mind.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford, Diana Scarwid, and Miranda Otto.

I was hopeful for this one. I like Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford, I like Robert Zemeckis, I like psychological thriller/horrors. This, however, was better in theory than in execution. The dialogue is pretty clunky, the acting is very over-the-top, and the final chase scene was pretty clearly supposed to carry the rest of the movie but went on for far, far too long and required way too much suspension of disbelief. The movie would have been significantly stronger if it had ended about 15 minutes earlier. Still not a strong movie, but stronger. It's a bummer it didn't work for me, because I do like the premise, and the mystery unfolds in an interesting way, but it is regrettably sloppy.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
What Lies Beneath < Trainwreck
What Lies Beneath > Passion
What Lies Beneath < The Day of the Triffids
What Lies Beneath > Cinderella (1950)
What Lies Beneath > Saturday Night Fever
What Lies Beneath < Alice in Wonderland (1999)
What Lies Beneath > Marathon Man
What Lies Beneath < Legend
What Lies Beneath < Defending Your Life
What Lies Beneath < Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
What Lies Beneath > The Toy That Saved Christmas

Final spot: #1722 out of 2660.

Batman Returns (1992)

IMDb plot summary: When a corrupt businessman and the grotesque Penguin plot to take control of Gotham City, only Batman can stop them, while the Catwoman has her own agenda.
Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Christopher Walken.

Like most franchise movies, it's fairly difficult for me to evaluate this on its own as a partial story, much less to distinguish it from other movies in the series, but I think this is a pretty good one. It's definitely got a fun and distinct Tim Burton vibe to it, and the Danny Elfman score is great. Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman is my favorite part of the movie, though. She's got this amazing tragic arc that made me care about her in a way I didn't care about anyone else, and it made me far, far more interested in Catwoman as a character than I'd ever been before. Good flick, still going to confuse it with other Batman movies.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Batman Returns > Snakes on a Plane
Batman Returns < Zootopia
Batman Returns < A Matter of Life and Death
Batman Returns > Marathon
Batman Returns > Laura
Batman Returns > Inside Llewyn Davis
Batman Returns > Journey to the Center of the Earth
Batman Returns < Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Batman Returns > Stage Fright (2014)
Batman Returns < Star Trek: Generations
Final spot: #1012 out of 2659.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Man on Wire (2008)

IMDb plot summary: A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century".
Directed by James Marsh.

Documentaries are always kind of difficult to rank because on some level I have to trick myself into thinking they're "normal" movies so I can think of them in the same camp. My favorite documentaries are the ones that help me trick myself most. This one falls somewhere in the middle. There's no doubt it's a fascinating story, and the final 15-20 minutes are captivating to mostly sell me on the full film, but I appreciate it more than I enjoy it simply because the documentary format distances me. It does help that our central character is very charismatic and fun to watch. He clearly is so delighted by what he has done that it's easy for him to pull the audience in as well.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Man on Wire > Snakes on a Plane
Man on Wire > Hannah Arendt
Man on Wire < Benny & Joon
Man on Wire < Nativity!
Man on Wire < Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Man on Wire > Crossing Delancey
Man on Wire < Anne of Green Gables
Man on Wire < Widow's Peak
Man on Wire < Leap of Faith
Man on Wire > Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Man on Wire < Mad Max: Fury Road

Final spot: #619 out of 2658.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Black Stallion (1979)

IMDb plot summary: While traveling with his father, young Alec becomes fascinated by a mysterious Arabian stallion who is brought on board and stabled in the ship he is sailing on. When it tragically sinks both he and the horse survive only to be stranded on a desert island. He befriends it, so when finally rescued, both return to his home where they soon meet Henry Dailey, a once-successful trainer. Together they begin training the stallion to race against the fastest horses in the world.
Directed by Carroll Ballard. Starring Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr, and Clarence Muse.

While I have to give this movie some credit for its creative choice to seriously limit the dialogue and make an almost-silent movie, horse movies are never going to rank highly on my chart.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Black Stallion < Snakes on a Plane
The Black Stallion > To Have and Have Not
The Black Stallion < The Day of the Triffids
The Black Stallion > Arlington Road
The Black Stallion > Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Black Stallion < Blackadder Back & Forth
The Black Stallion < The Secret War of Harry Frigg
The Black Stallion > Spaceballs
The Black Stallion < Sullivan's Travels
The Black Stallion > Stardust Memories
The Black Stallion < Give My Regards to Broad Street

Final spot: #1730 out of 2657.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

IMDb plot summary: The Borg travel back in time intent on preventing Earth's first contact with an alien species. Captain Picard and his crew pursue them to ensure that Zefram Cochrane makes his maiden flight reaching warp speed.
Directed by Jonathan Frakes. Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and LeVar Burton.

I had a good time with this. When it comes to Star Trek I'm more a TOS fan than TNG (I can't even say I've seen all TNG episodes) so I went in with a little less character buy-in than would be ideal, but this was a fun saga. None of the individual storylines wowed me, but all together they combined to make an entertaining movie. It's difficult to write this review without simply using the word "fun" all the time, because a stronger adjective oversells my experience and a weaker adjective doesn't do it justice. It was... simply fun. No more, no less.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Star Trek: First Contact > Snakes on a Plane
Star Trek: First Contact < Zootopia
Star Trek: First Contact < A Matter of Life and Death
Star Trek: First Contact > Quills
Star Trek: First Contact > Let the Right One In
Star Trek: First Contact > Dan in Real Life
Star Trek: First Contact < Flight of the Navigator
Star Trek: First Contact > Finding Dory
Star Trek: First Contact < The Stepford Wives (1975)
Star Trek: First Contact > Hamlet (1990)
Star Trek: First Contact > Logan's Run

Final spot: #1022 out of 2656.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars (2010)

IMDb plot summary: Young spy Harriet Welsch crosses paths with popular student Marion Hawthorne as the two girls vie to become the official blogger of their high school class.
Directed by Ron Oliver. Starring Jennifer Stone, Kristin Booth, Wesley Morgan, and Doug Murray.

I ... don't really know why this exists. I'm not a mega fan of the original but it's a much better version of this story. This adaptation adds nothing to the characters or themes. Harriet the Spy does *not* need to be updated to include weirdly secret-not-secret blogs and Disney channel musical star parodies. Nor does the story really work when you age your character up to like 15 but still make her act like she's 11. All the "modernized" changes don't really work and shove out any room the movie had for actual character development. It's just a sloppy modern remake with an incredibly awkward ending, bad acting, and a juvenile plot. I guess the good news is I can't take it seriously enough to *really* hate it.

0.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars < Snakes on a Plane
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars < The Hiding Place
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars < Big Business
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars > Super Troopers
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars > Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars < Basic Instinct
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars < The Painted Veil
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars > VeggieTales: An Easter Carol
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars < Mission to Mars
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars < Son of Flubber
Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars > Revenge of the Sith
Final spot: #2394 out of 2655.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

IMDb plot summary: High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.
Directed by Alfonzo Gomez-Rejon. Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, and Nick Offerman.

The inevitable comparison here is to The Fault in Our Stars (which I liked quite a bit). Me and Earl goes for the comedy much more often and it almost always works for me. While both movies have characters that can easily fall into the pretentious "old soul" category (they like old foreign movies! And poetry! And jazz!), this movie handles it better and I was less aware of its tropey-ness. It's also shot creatively, in a way that made me sit up and pay attention.

However, there's one glaring flaw in this movie, and that is how little personality Rachel gets throughout. She doesn't get a name in the title and basically all we know about her throughout the movie is that she a) has cancer, b) doesn't like everybody talking to her about it -- but who would? -- and c) makes cool little book sculptures, though we don't find that out until the very end of the movie. Even Rachel's mother has a more distinct character arc. TFiOS may have been full of Mary Sueish characters, but at least they had distinct, creative personalities. Here, it's hard to see Rachel as anything more than a plot device for the central character himself. Fortunately, I *like* that central character and I hink he's fleshed out beautifully, but it definitely rubs me the wrong way to see the titular "dying girl" used the way she is. The more I think about it, the more it bothers me, and the more it overshadows my more positive feelings about the rest of the film.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl > Snakes on a Plane
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl < Zootopia
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl > A Matter of Life and Death
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl > Draft Day (why is this so high on my chart?)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl > Porco Rosso
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl < The Artist
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl > Three Colors: White
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl < Mean Girls
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl < Star Trek (2009)
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl > Lethal Weapon
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl < Idiocracy

Final spot: #722 out of 2654.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Gremlins (1984)

IMDb plot summary: A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town.
Directed by Joe Dante. Starring Hoyt Axton, Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Corey Feldman.

This movie is very weird. It's a bizarre blend of comedy, horror, fantasy, holiday movie, and animal adventure, and somehow it all kind of works. There are genuine laughs and genuine scares and a genuinely cute creature. I would have liked to see a little bit more development of the human characters -- that's handled pretty halfheartedly -- but there's a lot to like about this.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gremlins > Ghost
Gremlins > The Englishman Who Went up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
Gremlins < I've Loved You So Long
Gremlins < Nativity!
Gremlins > The Dictator
Gremlins > Hoodwinked!
Gremlins < Robot and Frank
Gremlins < Father of the Bride (1991)
Gremlins > Match Point
Gremlins < Hairspray Live!

Final spot: #532 out of 2653.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

IMDb plot summary: A family is haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family.
Directed by Jee-woon Kim. Starring Kap-su Kim, Jung-ah Yum, Soo-jung Lim, and Geun-young Moon.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
A Tale of Two Sisters > Ghost
A Tale of Two Sisters < Kolya
A Tale of Two Sisters < Charlie St. Cloud
A Tale of Two Sisters > Three Amigos
A Tale of Two Sisters < Extraordinary Measures
A Tale of Two Sisters < The Ring
A Tale of Two Sisters > Nine Lives
A Tale of Two Sisters > Ghost World
A Tale of Two Sisters < Cat's Eye
A Tale of Two Sisters > Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
A Tale of Two Sisters < Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Final spot: #1125 out of 2652.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Kanal (1957)

IMDb plot summary: In 1944, during the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis, Polish Lieutenant Zadra and his resistance fighters use Warsaw's sewer system to escape the German encirclement.
Directed by Andrzej Wajda. Starring Teresa Izewska, Tadeusz Janczar, Wienczyslaw Glinski, and Tadeusz Gwiazdowski.

Holy moley, this was depressing. But good. I think. It's definitely a movie that will stick with me.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Kanal > Alice (1990)
Kanal < Kolya
Kanal > Premium Rush
Kanal > Two Weeks Notice
Kanal > Radio Days
Kanal > Sleeping Beauty
Kanal > A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit
Kanal < Chronicle
Kanal > The Reader
Kanal > Atonement
Kanal > The Abyss

Final spot: #674 out of 2651.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Harakiri (1962)

IMDb plot summary: An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi. Starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Ishihama, Shima Iwashita, and Tetsurô Tanba.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Harakiri > American Hustle
Harakiri < The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
Harakiri < The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
Harakiri > Away From Her
Harakiri < Judgment at Nuremberg
Harakiri > Prometheus
Harakiri > The Elephant Man
Harakiri > The Prestige
Harakiri > Ender's Game
Harakiri < Out of Sight

Final spot: #1081 out of 2650.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

IMDb plot summary: A newly wed man who believes he's just gotten hitched to the perfect woman encounters another lady on his honeymoon.
Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Starring Ben Stiller, Malin Akerman, Michelle Monaghan, and Jerry Stiller.

A Farrelly brothers remake of what had been a Neil Simon screenplay... couldn't figure out whether I'd love or hate it. Well, I'll tell you, it's pretty easy to identify the Farrelly parts, and I hated those, but I could see where it could have been a much better movie. Malin Akerman especially has some funny moments with the little tiny things that drive her new husband up the wall. Overall I'd much rather go back and watch the original movie without random gross-out body humor added in to a story in which it Does Not Fit.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Heartbreak Kid < Company (2011)
The Heartbreak Kid > Nick Nolte: No Exit
The Heartbreak Kid > Cinderella (1965)
The Heartbreak Kid < Patriots Day
The Heartbreak Kid > Cropsey
The Heartbreak Kid > The Woman in Black
The Heartbreak Kid > Quiz Show
The Heartbreak Kid > The Ides of March
The Heartbreak Kid < L.A. Confidential
The Heartbreak Kid > So I Married an Axe Murderer
The Heartbreak Kid < The Hurt Locker

Final spot: #1496 out of 2648.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Fury (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A grizzled tank commander makes tough decisions as he and his crew fight their way across Germany in April, 1945.
Directed by David Ayer. Starring Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, and Michael Peña.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Fury > Beach Party
Fury < The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
Fury > Don Jon
Fury < The Thief of Bagdad (1924)
Fury > The Duellists
Fury < A Serious Man
Fury < Snowpiercer
Fury > Dave and the Giant Pickle
Fury > My Week With Marilyn
Fury < Synecdoche, New York
Final spot: #894 out of 2647.

Transformers (2007)

IMDb plot summary: An ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, comes to Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a teenager.
Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese Gibson.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Transformers < Company (2011)
Transformers > Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Transformers < Cinderella (1965)
Transformers > Snatch.
Transformers < Dr. Strangelove
Transformers < The Life of David Gale
Transformers < Burlesque
Transformers < Paint Your Wagon
Transformers > Arlington Road
Transformers > Cinderella (1950)
Transformers < Thoroughly Modern Millie
Final spot: #1811 out of 2646.

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.