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.