Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Killer Inside Me (2010)

The Killer Inside Me got a lot of press for its gruesome beating scenes. And yes, they were gruesome. And I'd imagine in a brilliant film, those scenes would be enough to turn people off. The problem is, this is not a brilliant film. It's not really even a good film. Our protagonist, the serial killer, is under-characterized and pretty much without motive. He kills because he's crazy. And he's crazy because his mom was sort of crazy. And he's not good at covering things up and the authorities are on him from the beginning. And he doesn't really seem to care much whether he's caught and neither do we. It's just a blah of a movie with two incredibly realistic beating scenes.

I like Casey Affleck a lot. I think he's a terrific actor. But this movie is dull and the shocking bits are nothing except shocking. I'm guessing playing a crazy serial killer would appeal to a lot of actors. It's just too bad a better story wasn't written around the character. (I've not read the novel. I hear it has some dark humor it. I wonder...)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

24 Hour Party People (2002)

If I'm being honest, I paid very little attention to 24 Hour Party People. I'm a big Joy Division fan but once Ian Curtis was swinging, my interest fizzled fast. Unfortunately, that was about forty-five minutes in. Maybe one day I'll try again. Maybe not.

"This is a film about the music. And the people who made the music."

Sorry Steve Coogan, it didn't quite feel that way...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

Oh, there's so much I didn't properly absorb the first time.

Bill. He's there for half a minute, we don't really get his whole attacked by a werewolf story NOR do we get to see much of his wedding. But he looks like a Weasley. He looks a lot like the twins. I enjoyed his moment. Charlie really got the shaft, huh?

The entire sequence where the trio infiltrates the ministry - those three actors deserve a lot of credit. They're funny. I don't really see the motivation behind why they all walk funny - but it's amusing. So i'll let it go.

I still don't understand why they become seven Harry Potters rather than fourteen Hagrids. But whatever. It's in the book. I also appreciate the change they made with Hedwig. Her death is much more meaningful in the movie, and that makes me happy.

Just listing the scenes I like doesn't make for much of a post. I liked pretty much all of them. So I'll stop now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

127 Hours (2010)

I have mixed feelings about 127 Hours. James Franco is incredibly charming and this movie definitely used that charm to the max. But the direction (from Danny Boyle who I ADORE. 28 Days Later is pretty much my favorite movie) was incredibly hyper and quick. Screens split three ways, lots of motion, lots of color and light. Very ADD. I suspect this style was implemented to contrast to the slow, I'm-trapped-in-a-cavern pace but I found it distracting.

Also, I had an issue with the arc that is imposed upon Aron Ralston.  It felt heavy handed. Like a beacon every so often flashing in my face saying "He didn't connect with people!" only to return to the present where he's epiphinizing (SO not a word) about how he should have connected with people. It wasn't necessary. Being trapped like that would change a person - I think the audience can be trusted to realize that - without the arc being so forced.

And the whole thing was incredibly short. The rainy escape dream sequence was unnecessary and an obvious time filler.

This was in no way a perfect film. I think the fact that it's a true story is elevating it beyond its merits. It's no Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, or Slumdog. But James Franco is a charming actor and watching him is always fun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Social Network (2010)

Best Screenplay of the year. By a long shot.

I've gushed once about how great The Social Network is. But a friend of mine wasn't interested in seeing "The Facebook Movie" so it became priority one for me to prove her wrong.

We saw it in a near empty theatre and the print was scratched. MAN is that annoying. But she enjoyed the film and I felt vindicated.

Since seeing it the first time, I've become well acquainted with the score and I enjoyed listening to it as accompaniment to the film. My friend and I also realized that the little kid from Jurassic Park is in The Social Network - all grown up and nerdish. My friend was like, "Who IS that?" and I was like, "I feel like maybe he used to be a kid..." and then we got it. Weird how people tend to grow up...

I love so much about that movie. How hacking is made to look exciting, how funny the twins are, how awesome it is when Eduardo finally loses his temper. Andrew Garfield is terrific.

This is one movie I whole-heartedly recommend to everyone. I can't wait to own it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Home Alone (1990)

Christmas requires multiple viewings of Home Alone. Review one is here. I'm sure they'll be at least one more.

This time around, let's contemplate the slapstick nature of the stunts. By my estimation, several of Kevin's little traps would have offed the poor Wet Bandits. Perhaps the most lethal: the various falls down icy stairs and the long swing into a brick wall. Heads slamming into concrete can be messy.

The paint cans to the face could also have been lethal - and if they survived the cans themselves, the subsequent fall down the stairs may have crushed a vertebrae or two. An iron to the face would probably cause at least a concussion and maybe a broken nose. And man, that nail in the foot, while perhaps the least lethal trap would definitely hurt. And bleed. As would the glass christmas ornaments. Die Hard anyone?

Imagine if Home Alone had treated these moments with complete realism rather than cartoon humor. Joe Pesci lies unconscious and bleeding from his skull in the McCallister's front yard when mom gets home the next morning. Daniel Stern leaves bloody footprints all over the house before breaking his back falling down the stairs. Kevin, in shock, doesn't speak for years.

Yeah - that would have been a different movie.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Black Swan (2010)


Black Swan is intense.

It stays incredibly close with the protagonist, Nina, fantastically portrayed by Natalie Portman. She deserves all the buzz she's getting. We're with her - tight - the whole time. What she sees (whether it's real or not) we see. What makes her squirm or makes her jump makes us squirm or jump. If she's confused, we're probably confused. It's quite a feat of filmmaking - visually unique and incredibly creepy.

However, while I completely acknowledge the craftsmanship, I was incredibly on edge in an uncomfortable way from beginning to end. I realize that the viewer is supposed to be uncomfortable this way, constantly braced for what's to come, but truthfully, I find it exhausting and not so enjoyable to be so wound up.

I think I might appreciate it more a second time through when the jumpiness is neutralized. I think without the constant fear of surprise, I might better take in the obviously stellar visuals and superb performances.

It's a movie to be seen, for sure. I'm just not so sure it's a movie to be enjoyed by everyone.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Home Alone (1990)

Okay. Here we go. Home Alone - the original of course - is great. Quotable for eternity (Look what you did, you little jerk. / This is my house, I have to defend it. / You guys give up? Or you thirsty for more? / I wouldn't let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ass. / I'm over here you big horse's ass / Is this toothbrush approved by the American Dental Association?) and well crafted in its complexities, Home Alone is a modern masterpiece.

So you know the storm the night before they leave for France? It's everything. The perfect setup. Fate. It knocks out the power - making them late. Screws up the phone lines - making it impossible to call Kevin. The kid who is miscounted for Kevin (Mitch Murphy is his name) - he's crazy funny (How fast does this thing go? Does it have automatic transmission? Does it have four wheel drive?) His amusing nature makes his slightly contrived existence more than forgivable.  Kevin's fear of the neighbor prevents him from opening the door to the police. The McCallister's calling the neighbor for help (who isn't home because rich people are never home for Christmas) alerts The Wet Bandits to the McCallisters' still being in France. It's just all so perfectly built and logical. Je'adore.

On top of all that stuff - Macaulay Culkin really is fantastic. He was ten (probably actually nine when they filmed) and he carries the entire film. His precociousness, the degree to which he actually understands where the humor, it's very impressive. As his father says near the end, "What a funny guy!"

I think I've made my love of Home Alone pretty clear. It also has a fantastic Christmas soundtrack and, much like It's A Wonderful Life, it makes snow look gorgeous.  If you haven't seen it lately, check it out.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York pales in comparison to the original. It's not as funny, it's not as sweet, the parents seem twice as awful, and the few things that it does do well are the things it lifted directly from the original.

Plus, plausibility goes straight out the window with this one. The Wet (now Sticky) Bandits escaped from jail (right...) and then happen to run into Kevin. Not ONLY do they find each other in the most crowded city on the planet - but the fact that they're all in New York to begin with is a crazy coincidence.

The hotel staff cares way more about what's going on with this kid than any reasonable hotel staff would, and his homeless lady friend lives in  - what - the attic? of Carnegie Hall? Where no one EVER goes.

Luckily for us, Kevin has a random family member who has left behind a big empty house in the city. So now Kevin can copy his stunts from the last movie. Except this time just for fun because the bandits aren't trying to rob this house. And it makes total sense considering how small and cramped NYC is, that Kevin couldn't possibly just hide randomly. Like in a Borders.  And apparently he has some unexplained aversion to police involvement.

Whatever. I adore the original. Not only do I get warm and fuzzy feelings from it, but I feel like John Hughes covered all his bases the first time around. He actually wrote sensical stuff. Stuff that, even if it's somewhat unlikely, could happen. Major fail with the sequel.

Okay...Tim Curry is a little bit funny.

P.S. That pic came from this post where the writer is comparing the homeless lady to Susan Boyle. And to the bowing lady at the end of Sound of Music. Made me giggle :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

We decided to watch It's A Wonderful Life after Thanksgiving dinner because one of the roommates hadn't seen it before.

What can you say about this movie? It's sweet, it's well made, and it conjures nostalgic feelings of Christmas. I think this movie makes snow look better than almost any other movie. There's a kid named Zuzu, a guy who says HeHaw and talking stars.

It's funny - if you said to someone "Tell me what It's A Wonderful Life is about," I bet they'd say it's about a guy who gets to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. But the never been born bit is only the final act of the film. It may just be the film with the most setup on the planet.

Anywho, it's great. And if you don't at least get a knot in your throat, I judge you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

Opening night. A theatre full of Potter fans. Second to last time we get to do this dance. I'm going to miss it.

I very much enjoyed the movie. It's slow and mournful, beautifully shot and lovely to watch. It is incredibly focused on the three main characters. It was bold to focus so tightly on the trio. But they carried it off wonderfully. And the animation - how gorgeous was that?

Hermione is perfect in this film. I normally don't think she's quite right, but in Deathly Hallows 1, she's spot on. I adored the dance scene. And the Christmas graveyard scene. And poor Dobby. Man. How often to CGI characters make you cry?

I'll have a better grasp of my thoughts upon a second viewing. Check back later!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

I think Tom Felton pretty much steals this movie. And, since I haven't given him a ton of credit thus far, Daniel Radcliffe is pretty good in Half Blood Prince as well.

Despite its ending, it's the funniest of the potter films. Between Ron's lovesickness and Harry's drunken ways on Felix Felicis, its got a lot of charm.

I'll also mention that it's the Potter film I've seen the fewest times. So I don't have a TON to say.

Thank God, right?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Order of the Phoenix is my least favorite of the novels. Lots of people love Harry's angsty teenage ways, but I find this character shift forced. I don't believe Harry, the Harry we've known for four "years" now, would behave the way he does is Order. There's no impetus for such a drastic turn into douchehood.

However, Helena Bonham Carter is brilliant as Bellatrix. She's definitely my favorite villain. And I do think the movie improves on the ministry sequence at the end. They cut out the weirder elements (baby heads? flesh sucking brains?) and make it look pretty damn cool.

I'll also mention that The Weasley Twins are my favorite characters and I'm glad their exit is well represented. The score of this film is also one of my favorites.

I wish there had been more Tonks and more flashbacks, but as I keep being reminded, we can't have everything we wish for. That's what the novels are for.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Goblet of Fire is my favorite. Favorite movie. Favorite book. I want my wedding to look like The Yule Ball. I love almost everything about it. The twins are at the height of their wit, Hermione actually seems to like Harry and Ron again, the champions are all well cast, and the challenge sequences are fun and exciting.

The plot does have the one tiny hiccup of irrelevance. Barty Crouch Jr. could have just shown up as MadEye, thrown Harry a smelly old shoe portkey, and bob's your uncle. No need for the whole Tri-Wizard Tournament thing. Details!

I also love the Quiddich World Cup, the tiff between Harry and Ron, Moaning Myrtle and Neville, Draco as a ferret, and of course the grave yard scene where we get to see Voldemort - full force - for the first time. Harry's parents' appearance at the end gets me every time. And Cedric asking to have his body brought back - sigh.

I could gush forever about Goblet. I have nothing bad to say about it. It's magical.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Prisoner of Azkaban takes the top spot on lots HP lists for both the film and the book. However, I have one major issue with it.

The time travel is wrong. I am a stickler for time travel rules. There's a way in which to do it, and a way in which human's have no choice and paradoxical world ending implications are prevalent. You cant have the things that happen after the characters go back in time happen the first time 'round. That's just wrong. What if they didn't do it the second time? What would happen then? It has to be that when you go back in time, you rewrite the subsequent future. Not just live it from a different perspective.

Whatever. This is a point I've made many times to many people and, for the most part, they don't care. But it's my biggest problem with Prisoner. That, and I think they upped Hermione's snob quotient so high, she's completely unlikeable and nothing like Hermione. "RONALD!"

Sirius is fantastic though - and Gary Oldman is fantastic at making him fantastic. Lupin too. And David Thewlis too. Neither of them get enough play in the later films.

It also has the best ending. And it's the last one that isn't terribly depressing. It's one of the better Harry Potter "films" but it's not one of my personal faves.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Chamber of Secrets. Well, when it came out, I thought it was considerably more exciting than the first. These days, I can take it or leave it.

I enjoy Kenneth Branagh. It's a funny role for a guy who has made a career being pretty much as pretentious as possible. And in retrospect, with an eye toward Horcrux lore, it lays some interesting groundwork. I also like Christian Coulson as Tom Riddle. I wish they would have used him in Half Blood Prince. But my general feelings toward Chamber of Secrets are quite lukewarm.

In fact, I think in the Harry Potter film franchise, this one is weakest. It's a long, winding story and the trio runs into a lot of dead ends. Aragog is a dead end. The Polyjuice Potion is a dead end. Dobby randomly tries to kill or maim Harry a few times but to no real end.

Three is a big step up. Can't wait to talk about that one!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

I remember how crazily excited I was when Sorcerer's Stone was first coming out. I was sixteen, I guess. I went with my best friend and her entire family. And, if I remember correctly, I was a bit disappointed. Something about the film seemed slow to me. For such a quick read, the movie lagged.

Now, after six years of education related to film production and screenwriting, I can say it was the expositional nature of the film that bothered sixteen year old me.

These days, I enjoy the film. As a matter of fact, I enjoy it a great deal. I think it's mostly a nostalgia thing. I would never argue it's the best made Harry Potter film, or the most exciting. But the kids are so young, the story is so soft and magical, and Richard Harris is there.

I can probably thank ABC Family for this, but the first two movies feel like Halloween to me. The third and fourth feel like Christmas. And five and six are decisively summer. I look forward to attaching seasonal significance to seven when it arrives.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

You Can Count On Me (2000)

You Can Count of Me is one of my favorite movies. It also contains my hands down favorite Mark Ruffalo performance.

It's a story about a brother and sister who have grown into very different people from the same tragic upbringing. The Oscar nominated screenplay is by playwright Kenneth Lonergan. His writing meshes seamlessly with the performances delivered by Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linney. The characters are incredibly well defined and real. There are amazing contrasts drawn between them, but the similarities are there too. Beyond all their clashes and irritations with one another, their love, their sense of family is nearly palpable.

The story is simple and straight forward. The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo and Laura Linny is fantastic. This also happens to be Rory Caulkin's first real role and his scenes with Mark Ruffalo are pitch perfect and touching.

I really can't say enough great things about You Can Count On Me. I highly recommend it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

13 Going on 30 (2004)

I have a soft spot in my heart for 13 Going on 30. Romantic Comedy is probably my least favorite genre. Very rarely am I charmed by the things that others find charming in Rom Coms. For example, I do not enjoy When Harry Met Sally. I feel like a more fitting title would be "Billy Crystal Does Stand Up Routines for a Cute Blonde."

But 13 Going on 30 is just so damn sweet. And Mark Ruffalo is one of my favorites. It has a clever little plot and plays the kid-in-adult-body scenario differently than Big. It's actually a fast forward rather than a kid transforming into an adult. I also find Jennifer Garner completely charming. The scene where she hits on a twelve year old makes me laugh every time. As does the scene where her hockey player boyfriend does his little strip-tease. Judy Greer is great in her old familiar role as the BFF. And I can't help but be amused by Mark Ruffalo's attempts at the Thriller dance.

The one thing I really don't like is how silly her magazine redesign is. She redesigns what's supposed to be a Cosmo type magazine into Teen. No one would be pleased. Alas.

It's not a ground breaking movie. It's not a cinematic masterpiece. But personally, I find it entertaining and adorable. And it's one of only three rom-coms that I own.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kick Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass was kick ass. I bet I'm the first one to make that little quip.

Hit-Girl, seen above, might be the most awesome character ever created. Who wouldn't want to watch an eleven year old girl kick major ass? 

Aaron Johnson, who is just the sort of fellow I adore, has pretty much the best hair on the planet. It's Groffien.  I mean, yes, they amped up the nerd effect for authenticity, but focus on the tresses. 

I know, this is a pic heavy post. But Kick-Ass is very visual, so I think it's fitting. This is not a kids movie. It's not really even a comic book movie (which is sort of what I was expecting). It's a dark comedy of sorts with lots of killing and gore. Occasionally, the realism is brought into sharp focus. Occasionally, realism is thrown out the window. It's an interesting movie, and undeniably unique. I've watched a few of the hit-girl scenes over and over, they're that entertaining. If you're an adult, check this out. Unless you've read the graphic novel, I can almost guarantee, the flick is not what you think. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Let the Right One In (2008)

Let the Right One In is fantastic. If you haven't seen it - see it. Seriously. You won't be disappointed. But let me warn you - it's slowish and Swedish, two things most people don't typically love in movies. Nonetheless, it's a great story and Lina Leandersson is so fantastic, I went back and forth from IMDb so I could spell her name right for you. That's how good she is.

I've heard the American remake, Let Me In, is almost identical. I haven't seen it. I have seen the trailers and they make it look like a horror film. I would not call Let the Right One In a horror film. There's no slasher element, no copious amounts of gore. Don't get me wrong, there are some moments of horror and some moments of blood, but if you wanted me to place this in a genre, I would say it's a coming of age tale. Coming of age tales are my fave. And this one is brilliant.

From a plot perspective, it's subtle and seductive. It doesn't explain anything - it makes us watch - and I adore that about this film. It has the most creative ways of revealing the rules of being a vampire that I've ever come across. And it stands up to multiple viewings; always engaging, always entertaining.

I recommend this movie most ardently. It's foreign - don't forget that. It has its foreign sensibilities. But it's worth the languid pace, I promise.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Aaron Sorkin wrote Charlie Wilson's War and, as far as I'm concerned, Aaron Sorkin can do no wrong. Having said that, this was not my favorite Aaron Sorkin work.

Normally, screenwriters treat their audience as though they are dumb. They explain everything in great detail, often times, more than once. They make sure even the dimmest amongst us will not get lost so everyone can pay their money and enjoy the movie. Aaron Sorkin does not, and never has, written this way. From Sports Night to The Social Network, he treats his audience as intelligent individuals. And I greatly admire and appreciate that.

However. Charlie Wilson's War is about what's going on in the middle east during The Cold War. Guess what I know about what happened in the middle east during The Cold War. Zilch.

It's not that the movie was difficult to follow - as a story, all the parts were there. But as someone who is bringing nothing to the table in terms of previous knowledge, I felt uninvested and disconnected. Tom Hanks was just as perfect as he always is and Phillip Seymour Hoffman was brilliant as well. But the far reaching ramifications of what's going on - or even what the world was really like while it was going on in the first place - did not hit home with me.

There is one moment during the end of the film when Tom Hanks loses a fight to get schools built in Afghanistan. It is a glimmer of why Afghanistan becomes the hostile place we see on the nightly news today. Of why, after having defeated the Russians, things do not improve. That moment spoke to a citizen of 2010. I wish more moments had.

This was in no way a bad movie. Nothing Aaron Sorkin writes will ever be bad. I have such high expectations going into a story with Aaron Sorkin attached, if I'm not blown out of the water, I am disappointed. Usually, I am blown out of the water. This one time, I was not.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scream (1996)

Scream is brilliant. Scream 2, Scream 3, and I'm guessing Scream 4 take the meta to heights that are a little ridiculous, but the first one hits the nail on the head. It's funny, it's light, and there is much slashing.

Kevin Williamson of Dawson's Creek fame knows how to make teenagers sound witty and smart and unlike any teenagers actually sound. It's part of his charm. Scream moves at zip-bam speed and if you aren't really listening, you'll miss all the clever quips and horror movie jokes. My fave, of course, is director Wes Craven dressed up as Freddy Kruger (and named Fred the Janitor) as he swabs the floors. My secret belief is that it was really the disgruntled janitor that offed Fonzie.

Back in the day, Scream was also unique in it's early slashing of its biggest star, Drew Barrymore and it's delightfully twisty and humorous reveal that there are two killers. The last ten minutes of Scream are still my favorite and I have to admit, I prefer my serial killers sexy as opposed to grotesque or masked.

Scream is one big meta mocky slasher film of fun and it's very smart. I'll watch it again and again.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

My god, was this movie dumb. I love a good zombie movie as much as the next guy, but the key word there is good. This movie is not not not not not good. First off, there are way too many characters. Any respectable horror movie watcher knows from the time the second wave of people show up, they're only there to die gruesome bloody deaths. Deaths we won't care about. Yes - the chain saw bit is gross. I'll give them gross points. But throwing chainsaws and blood at people isn't impressive.

Second, there are no bad humans. Not really, anyway. Bad not-zombies is important. A movie where ALL the bad guys are just creatures is never going to be as good as human vs. human. Dawn of the Dead remake, take a hint from 28 Days Later.

I've never seen the original Dawn of the Dead and perhaps I need to. According to Ebert, there's all sorts of consumerism humor due to their shopping mall environment. And bad not-zombies.

I think I've made my opinion pretty clear with this one. Dumb. End of story.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

It had been quite a while (like, high school?) since I'd seen Rocky Horror. I'm not a mega-fan. I'm not really even a fan. I'm an appreciator. I like that it exists. I like that it's weird and crazy and all about sex. And some of the music is quite catchy. But I don't find it so entertaining that I'll watch it over and over. I don't feel like the characters are my friends. Or that I'm even meant to really care about any of them. It's spinning wheels and bright lights. It's camp. And all that's cool. But spectacle alone isn't enough for me to be in love with something. And while the themes and ideas are appealing, I don't need to watch the movie to believe in or tout them.

Rocky Horror isn't a good movie. I don't think anyone really thinks that it is. It's what's behind the movie that inspires and enthralls people. It's the fringe society aspect, it's the sexual liberation goings-ons, the flaunting of things that make your mother uncomfortable. Rebellion. Rock On! (I've almost convinced myself that Rocky Horror is genius...) I wish it actually had a good story. Or...any story. But it is what it is and my mild critique isn't going to stop bazillions of people from thinking Rocky Horror is the shiz.

I think, in a large way, it's the people that love Rocky Horror that make Rocky Horror so loveable. It's the guys who freeze their asses off to dress as Magenta or Rocky for Halloween. The people who sing along with reckless abandon during midnight screenings. It's the rebellious. I love rebellion. And for cultivating that spirit, Rocky Horror gets top marks.

Plus, some of the music is catchy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dead Man Walking (1995)

I had very mixed feelings about Dead Man Walking. Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn were both phenomenal. Had it been the Susan Sarandon/Sean Penn show, I would have been far more into it. As it is, there are too many scenes, mostly early on, that play like a debate.

All films, by their very nature, are manipulative. But when you can feel that manipulation, something is wrong. It's what I hate about Nicholas Sparks stories. I could feel it in Dead Man Walking. I could feel a screenwriter concocting the most polarizing circumstances upon which to put the death penalty up for debate. It felt like an issue movie and that is bad bad bad. When you have such a specific issue being parsed in a film, you've got to almost subvert it. Hide it under the stories of real people.

When it was just Sean Penn and Susan Sarandan, talking, arcing, being, they felt like real people. It felt like reality. But scenes with the parents of the victims, with prison guards, with lawyers and politicians - all that felt like fat. And the score was terribly over the top and dramatic.

I will say - that screen cap up there? That was a neat effect - being able to see her reactions in the reflection of the glass. Pat on the back, Tim Robbins.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm Here (2010)

Okay, first off, click here and go watch I'm Here. It's 30 minutes long and I don't think you'll be disappointed. Go ahead... I'll wait.

You back? Great. What did you think? I feel like maybe Spike Jonze sat down and thought, "Hmm. I wonder if I could make two robots feel more human than most humans feel." Isn't it a lovely little film? I feel like it could be analyzed into oblivion. One could discuss: Discrimination against robots. True love. If machines can be programed to love better than humans can. If you can train a machine to be more selfless than a human would. What truly differentiates humans from machines. Maybe machines will take over the world because they learn to love, not because they'll learn to kill us. 

But I like to just smile and think, aww. How sweet.

Plus, who'd ever think Andrew Garfield and Sienna Guillory could act through all that robot-ness. It's mostly voice acting and it's done very well. It's all pretty awesome. And aren't their mouths cool? What a neato effect. Anyway...

It reminded me of The Giving Tree. Ya'll remember that book? It's where the mommy tree gives everything she has to the boy? I'm Here is sweeter than The Giving Tree because the boy in The Giving Tree is a dick. But the similarity is there.

I've always believed the key to a great short is an incredibly simple story told well. A story that makes you smack your forehead and say "Why didn't I think of that?" This is such a story. It's got a beginning, middle, and end and there's a mini-journey along the way. I'm Here is a true delight.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Never Let Me Go (2010)

Never Let Me Go was lovely. I don't want to spoil it - more for those who plan to read the novel. The novel keeps you in the dark longer than the film and that mystery is half the fun of the book.

I enjoyed the novel a great deal, and narratively, the movie stayed fairly close to the source material. Thematically, it strayed quite a bit. The film decided to focus entirely on the love triangle between its three central characters. This was a wise decision. Everyone understands the desire to have time with the person you love. It's in the novel but it IS the film and it changes the characters in subtle ways that allows them to be better understood by the audience. 

Keira Knightly and Andrew Garfield were unbelievably good. Carey Mulligan was also quite good, but hers was an understated performance that did not scream to be noticed the way the others did. The visual style was perfect. The subtlety throughout fantastic. I hate to talk in cryptics, but lots of people have an issue with this film. They don't understand why the characters do not run away. I think it is a valid point considering the movie as a stand alone film. This issue is addressed in the novel, and with an eye toward the answer, you can feel it in the film. But I suspect it's only there for the novel readers. Nonetheless, It's a lovely looking film with fantastic performances. I would recommend reading it first, but I believe it's a film worth seeing either way.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ondine (2010)

I have mixed feelings about Ondine. I had pretty high expectations going in and I think they led to my being disappointed. The story is about a fisherman, played by Colin Farrell, who catches a woman in his fishing net. His daughter Annie, brilliantly played by adorable Alison Barry, comes to believe this woman is a Selkie (essentially a fancy mermaid). The story plays off this mystery from beginning to end, mostly providing evidence to support the theories of Annie. It has some very mild twists and turns, but ultimately, the filmmakers relied too heavily on their theme and let plot fall by the wayside. 

It's a lovely looking movie - the cinematography is perfect for the sort of magical realism feel it's going for. And all the performances are strong. The DVD didn't have English subtitles which I would have turned on given the choice. 

Overall, the film was worth seeing. With such a fun concept, I do wish they had done a bit more with the plot, but it's got a very sweet message about belief and hope. In fact, I found myself comparing it to Miracle on 34th Street at times. And, personally, I greatly enjoy Colin Farrell when he turns his acting ability on. Let me take this moment to recommend In Bruges - now there's a great Colin Farrell performance. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Zombieland (2009)

Zombieland was fun. A lot of fun. I don't have much experience with the horror comedy genre, but I do tend to enjoy the hijinks of regular horror movies more than the depressing, people are actually dying aspect. And since I recently learned that Jesse Eisenberg doesn't suck, I found this movie charming, silly, and, like I said, fun.

Zombieland is a road movie of sorts as the characters try to make their way to Pacific Playland - a fictitious amusement park outside of Los Angeles. The two most important things about road movies 1) avoid making them feel episodic and 2) make the characters who are on the road together fun as an ensemble. Zombieland achieved both of those and managed to give each of the characters a fairly focused and coherent arc in the process. Plus, it was funny.

The chemistry amongst all four players was a delight to watch. Snappy dialogue and surreal situations abound and all Woody Harrelson wants is a damn twinkie.  IMDb tells me that Zombieland 2 is tentatively scheduled to hit theaters in 2011 and as a new fan of Zombieland 1, I can't wait.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Son's Room (2001)

A happy tale The Son's Room was not. An Italian language film about a family that loses one of its members, this story is about guilt and acceptance. It's extremely simple in its structure and moves at a languid pace. The real knife cuts happen when the father imagines all the things he could have done differently the day his son died to prevent the accident. His wife is right when she says going down that path can only lead to madness. 

The story is mostly told from the father's perspective. And I suppose, to a degree, we wonder if his marriage will stick together. But the movie makes such an attempt at realism, we know from the beginning there will be no conclusions. This is a story that does not end, and this family, while changed forever, will continue on.

It's not the most unique film, nor the most exciting. I'm not sure exactly what about it earned it the Palm d'Or other than tragedy and sadness abound. I don't think I'm being harsh when I say it was just okay. It was exactly what you'd expect when you sit down to watch a story about a family that loses a son. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network (2010)

The Social Network was brilliant. Perfect writing, mesmerizing acting, great humor, smart, fast, enjoyable, and above all, entertaining. This was the best film I've seen in the theatre in a long long time. Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg were spot-on. The score was enthralling. See it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Town (2010)

The Town (or as I like to call it, Good Will Hunting 2: The Chuckie Story) is getting far better reviews than it deserves. FAR better. It's okay - Jeremy Renner is electric and the three (slightly long) heist scenes are fast and fun. And the film definitely sparkles most when it's being funny. But the plot takes some stupid and unrealistic turns and chunks of the dialogue are insanely bad. Take, for example, the Good Will Hunting ripoff scene where Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall (the pretty British lady slummin' with the boy from the wrong side of the tracks) are sitting outside at a cafe. She looks around at the lovely sunny day and out of nowhere says "My brother died on a day like this."

There's also the little problem of Rebecca Hall's character being the dumbest chick on the planet. Their first date together, Ben Affleck drills her about what she knows and what she told the FBI about their robbery. She doesn't, for a second, question where this random bad-ass rough-edge guy game from? She's dense and I hate her.

Also, there are probably fifteen scenes where characters are talking about what happened to poor Ben Affleck before the movie began (including poor Ben Affleck). It is exposition city up in there and it's heavy handed and eye roll inducing.

Blake Lively was fine, Jon Hamm's accent was in and out. The nun costume might be my pick for Halloween this year.

The thing is - it's not a bad movie. But it's not the brilliant cops and robbers drama RottenTomatoes would have you believe (94% REALLY?). And the ending is a weird amalgamation of Nicholas Sparks and The Shawshank Redemption. If you like action movies - go see it. If you're expecting something loftier that may rise to your indie drama tastes, you'll be sorely disappointed.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dead Man (1995)

At the risk of damaging my film school cred, I'm going to be honest about this one. It took a few weeks of Dead Man sitting on my t.v. stand before I finally popped it into the DVD player. Jim Jarmusch is known for his independent, art house ways and as much as I like to play at film snob, these movies aren't exactly fun to watch. They take concentration, thought, attention, and you can't be anywhere near the realm of tired. I just haven't been in the mood.

I'll admit, Johnny Depp helps. But only a little. It was a smart, lyrical film with plenty to think about and plenty of vagueness. It swiftly moved to the shelf of my brain labeled "Glad I saw it. Won't watch it again." Johnny Depp's performance is fantastic. The black and white cinematography looked amazing. Lots of funny (not as in haha but as in odd) cameos were speckled throughout - Billy Bob Thornton, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne (who I think was the only character it was easy to emotionally connect with) and Crispin Glover (who just can't seem to get away from creepy these days).

I'm sure there were themes and motifs that went woosh over my head (because I was a little too close to the realm of tired - I'll admit) but I'm pleased I can now stick it in my outgoing mail pile and send it flying back to Netflix.