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Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010: A Movie Odyssey

Sorry - I couldn't resist!


This is where I'll review movies - New, old, old but new to me...I'll leave it here at the top, so PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR MOST RECENT POSTS.


The year so far: Up in the Air; Leap Year; Rear Window; The Book of Eli; A Single Man; Team America: World Police; Clash of the Titans (2010); The Savages; Death at a Funeral (2010); The Losers; Iron Man 2; Robin Hood (2010); The A-Team; The Twilight Saga: Eclipse; Despicable Me; Inception; Salt; Moon; A Perfect Getaway; Legion; Beauty and the Beast (Sing-a-long); Let Me In; The Social Network; Red; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1; Burlesque; True Grit; Going the Distance


PS - The reviews may very well be spoilery. I will not usually put a warning on individual ones.
FYI, my 5* movie rating system has 6 levels:


5 *s = "WOW!"
4 *s = "Good"
3 *s = "Decent, or at least not bad enough to get 2 *s"
2 *s = "Bad, but not awful, or enjoyable despite its awfulness"
1 * = "The best part was the end, because then it was over."
no *s = "*Deep, pain-filled sigh*...I will never get that [insert running time here] of my life back."




JANUARY
Up in the Air****1/2
First movie of the year! You can see most of what's coming in this movie from 5 minutes in, but that doesn't stop it from being a pleasure to watch - smartly written, well acted, touching and funny. Vera Farmiga and George Clooney have great chemistry, and Anna Kendrick is a real scene stealer (I already knew that from the Twilight movies, in which she is perfect at Jessica Stanley, so I'm glad to see her getting recognized for something more reputable!). Bonus points for the brief appearance of J.K. Simmons, who has become one of my favorite "That Guys."




Leap Year**
SPOILERIFIC

Plotwise, Leap Year is one of the better romantic comedies I've seen lately (faint praise, I know). Matthew Goode is attractive and perfectly capable of charming, and Amy Adams' hair looks fabulous. All of this makes it even more unfortunate that the movie so clearly hates women. That's a strong statement, I know. And, I doubt that the filmmakers realize that they hate women. But here's what I consider the strongest example. Anna gets humiliated repeatedly, culminating in the alarm scene (a nice touch, to be honest). In the end, she goes back to Ireland, gives a speech that makes it clear that, in her eyes, the solution is to be someone totally different than she has been, and proposes to Declan in his now-crowded gastro-pub. And he, without saying a word, turns and walks away. Yes, we know he's going to get the ring, which is sweet. But, he also humiliates her in front of a room full of people. More than that, he is completely unapologetic about it. That's neither romantic nor comedic.


Leap Year is not the worst romantic comedy I've seen lately (that would be The Ugly Truth), but it may be the most insidiously misogynistic, and the fact that it passes for a romantic comedy is troubling. This is not to say that there are no sweet or funny moments in the movie. There are, but they are, in my opinion, not enough to balance the rest of it.




Rear Window*****
Rear Window somehow manages to be a little risque, but not, and gruesome without being graphic - there's a deceptively light feel to the mystery (Thelma Ritter's Stella captures it perfectly with a well timed, "WHAT?! It's what we're all thinking!"), but Hitchcock knew how to bring the suspense. What's great about this movie is the way it makes you second-guess yourself - I vacillated between feeling like I knew exactly what had happened and wondering if maybe, just maybe, I was being had. Then suspecting the suspicion of being had...


Glad I finally saw this one.




The Book of Eli**1/2
First and foremost, if the fallback option for creating narrative tension is rape, attempted rape, or a woman getting yanked around by her hair, there's a problem with your script. I understand that an unspecified apocalyptic event would magnify all of our baser instincts, and I understand that this would mean a lot of violence towards women. But it would mean other things too, wouldn't it? And maybe some of those would be good ways to ratchet up the anxiety level for a scene or two? Just a thought.


OK, with that said, the movie is actually...no, it's still pretty lame. Kind of like watching a clumsy, literalistic movie version of The Road. Gary Oldman chews the scenery something fierce, and not in a particularly compelling way. Denzel recites bible passages with his weird Denzel cadence, and exactly what you think is going to happen happens. Along the way, there are some nice touches - surprisingly, some of the best moments are the comedic ones - but it's mostly several moments of brutality (when no one is getting raped, Denzel is probably cutting someone with a big knife) strung together with a weak and uncompelling plot.


The main question the movie left me with was, "You couldn't save a better translation?"




A Single Man***1/2
Well acted - Colin Firth does a great job and Julianne Moore's brief appearance is perfect - but heavy-handed with its imagery, with far too much telegraphing of the plot. Beautifully shot, which is not surprising, given Tom Ford's day job. I look forward to seeing what he does next.




MARCH
Team America: World Police***
I had been avoiding seeing this one for quite a while, but was talked into it by a friend. It was, as I expected, pretty funny, except for the parts that went too far. I've definitely lost my ability to enjoy a certain level of grotesque...ery, which I think is a good thing. This means that there are entire sequences of the film that I refused to watch, and a couple that I wish I could unsee. But it was also often amusing, and funny in a smartly done way. And the songs are just genius.




APRIL
Clash of the Titans (2010)**
Mostly empty Gladiator-lite, without any of the charm of the original (no, I don't think the original is a good movie, but I love it anyway). Here are a few high/lowlights.


(NOTE: highlights are highly idiosyncratic and should not be taken as a recommendation to see the film.)


First things first: the title is still completely wrong. THERE ARE NO TITANS CLASHING! There are, in fact, no Titans in the whole movie, except for the voiceover at the beginning. In which we're told that the Titans have already been dispatched. Gorgons and Kraken are not Titans. Hell, Kraken aren't even Greek (they're Norse seas monsters). Also, the mythology of the plot is ALL WRONG - Acrisius is Danae's *father*, not her husband (EW!), and there's golden rain involved, and Io got turned to a cow, not made ageless, and why are there jinn and guys who look like Hindu ascetics?! *sigh* Nevermind. /ubernerd


I mostly don't care about Perseus. This was true in the original as well, but when I was young, it didn't bother me that I liked the rest of the movie more than I liked the main character. And Harry Hamlin was kind of cute, with curly hair (which  liked). Now I'm an adult, and it's a problem for me that Sam Worthington may as well have been stock footage of grim determination. Totally uninteresting, both as written and as acted.


Mads Mikkelsen, on the other hand, is a pimp, and deserves a better movie. I'd watch it.


Hades is not quite right. In addition to being poorly written (and totally unlike his mythological self), Ralph Fiennes looked like he wasn't quite into it.  Liam Neeson's lightening suit looks pretty cool, and I wish he'd been given more scenery to chew. Not a single argument with Hera? COME ON!


We don't get Hera or Thetis plotting against Perseus in this one, but there are some ladies. Io, who should have just had a different name, since she is not at all Io, is an interesting addition - I'm glad she got to show some self-sufficiency and skills (and knock Perseus around a little bit) before finally becoming a trophy. Andromeda is given the movie shorthand version of pluck and a social conscience (better handled in other places, including Dragonslayer, which is probably an insult). I was not at all sad to lose the weird, out of body enslavement from the original and, complete massacre of the mythology aside, I'm sort of glad she neither ends up with Perseus, nor is really his motivation for the quest. (His quest, like almost all generic action-adventure quests these days, is motivated by revenge.)


I still enjoyed the battle with Medusa, but was singularly unimpressed by The Kraken, which looks too much like too many other monsters/aliens. Maybe it's just hard to make an impressive beasty now that fairly-impressive CGI beasties are so easy to make?


Pegasus is still kind of neat, though less impressive to me now, despite the fact that the special effect are WAY better (perhaps because I no longer want a flying horse - or unicorn! - of my very own?). The scorpions are well done, but go on too long. Zeus' throne room is kind of awesome, because of the world-floor.


Not the biggest waste of time, and I'm sure there's a teenager out there who will enjoy it a lot more than I did. I think it's too bad, though, that it will be the teenagers who enjoy every other bland, pseudo-epic action-adventure movie, and not the ones who might have enjoyed some Greek mythology with better special effects. Certainly not the ones who might have liked a more compelling story to go with their monster-killing. The whole movie suffers, in my opinion, from the fact that, while it is technologically superior to the old one, it has no heart - why bother remaking it if you're only going to make it prettier, not better?




The Savages****
Laura Linney (Wendy Savage) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Jon Savage) as seriously damaged, sad sack siblings caring for their estranged (and rapidly declining) father. Linney's nomination was well-deserved, and what a great group to be nominated in, looking back at the list that year. Wendy and Jon are cliche, but they are well written and skillfully acted. The film walks a thin line: it could have come across as exactly the sort of white, middle class, self indulgent, self-centered whining Wendy worries her play might be. It is, instead, emotionally engaging and surprisingly optimistic.




Death at a Funeral (2010)***
I had high hopes for the original version of this (2007) and was disappointed. I've mostly forgotten it, but I remember that I mostly was not amused. I remember that Matthew Macfadyen (the reason I went to see it, as it coincided with a Pride and Prejudice [2005]/Spooks-related crush on him) was near-comatose, and not in an amusing way. Alan Tudyk was hilarious, Peter Dinklage was great (as has been the case whenever I've seen him) at a shitty part (which has been the case most of the time that I've seen him), and the rest of the film was completely forgettable, except for the most disgusting thing in it (which I continue to wish I could un-see). Given all of that, I had absolutely no intention of watching the remake, which looked, from the trailer, like a bad comedy repackaged as a bad black comedy. Then, something shocking happened -- Dustin Rowles, over at Pajiba, gave it a decent review. Not stellar, but decent. Now, I'm not lead by reviews - I tend to want to see what I want to see and am most likely to really pay attention to reviews when I'm on the fence, or when they confirm what I already thought (hey, I'm nothing if not honest). But I tend to agree with Rowles' reviews (including his review of the original), and decided that it was worth a prepaid pass to take in a matinee of this.


Well, that's not completely true. My original response was, "Yeah...I still don't care. Maybe on DVD." But, I was fiending for a trip to the movies and couldn't go to see my first choice (a movie I *know* will be terrible, but want to see anyway) because the friend I'm going to see it with has been ill, so I went to see this instead (see above, prepaid pass and matinee). And, I'll be damned if Rowles wasn't right again. As he put it:
It’s still not a great comedy, but it is a marked improvement over the British version in the sense that at least the American remake is a comedy instead of a dour endeavor sparked only by Tudyk’s manic performance.
 Here's my take. Peter Dinklage reprises his role, which makes me feel bad for him. He is awesome, and deserves better. James Marsden, in the Alan Tudyk role, continues to pleasantly surprise me. It probably shouldn't be surprising at this point. When he was allowed to act in the X-Men movies, he was good, he's fabulous in Enchanted, and totally charming (in an assholish way) in 27 Dresses. In Death at a Funeral, he nails the part of Oscar, who spends the whole time "high as a kite." With those two in place, the best parts of the original are also the best parts of the remake. (The worst part, unfortunately, is still there, still unnecessary, and still disgusting.)


The funny missing from the original is here in the form of Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and Tracy Morgan. C.R. is about as subdued as I can imagine him being. T.M. brings the full-on buffoonery, but it works. M.L. is also fairly tamed, somewhere in between the other two on the Wacky Comedic Persona Spectrum. The 3 of them provide a good core for the rest of the ensemble, which is filled out nicely by a cast of familiar faces. Danny Glover does a great curmudgeon and Loretta Divine, Ron Glass, and Keith David are as stable as ever. Zoe Saldana does a fine, if not particularly notable job, and Luke Wilson does not detract.


So, still not a great comedy, but an amusing enough matinee flick, with moments of absolute hilarity (mostly courtesy of Marsden).




The Losers***
I've never read the comic, so cannot compare the two. In movie terms, nothing revolutionary here: pretty standard action/revenge flick. There are a couple of twists, neither of which is particularly shocking, and the bad guy and Big Scary Weapon are both pretty lame (though Jason Patric does get a couple of amusing lines). There are some good fight scenes, some amusing lines, and most of the main cast is hot. Mostly, it made me want The A-Team to be out RIGHT NOW.




MAY
Iron Man 2***1/2
I went into Iron Man 2 expecting it to be really disappointing. I say this because it may have a lot to do with why I enjoyed it so much. I went in expecting a totally crappy sequel, one that skipped all the wit of the 1st movie for bigger explosions, but Iron Man 2 is more X-Men 2 than X-Men 3.


It's louder than the 1st one, but not by so much, I don't think. The bad guys are still sort of lame, but handled better than in the first. (But what the hell has MR done to his face?!) In my opinion, the chemistry between Stark and Rhodey is not there, but that very well might have been the writing. There's not as much chemistry between Stark and Pepper, but that's definitely the writing - they just don't interact as much. When they do, it's still snappy. Which sort of highlights what a black hole Scarlett Johansson is. Honestly, I'm not really sure why she's in the movie.


Samuel Jackson doesn't need a reason. Sam Rockwell does well with a caricature of a part (sort of reminded me of Jason Patric's character from The Losers, but lighter, maybe?); Mickey Rourke's role is, for the most part, a thankless one, but he gets the job done.


Most of all, it's still The Tony Stark Show, and that's really the reason to see it.


And, yes, there's the teaser for Thor. We see the hammer, but no Thor. Which is too bad, because Thor looks like this:






Work it out, Kirk's dad!


Trailer park:
  • I want to see inception, I think.
  • It's too bad that Eclipse won't be as good as that one scene with the vamp army walking out of the water looks. I mean, it can't be - there's not that much adaptation in the world.
  • I'm totally going to see Robin Hood. I have to.
  • But no length of trailer will induce me to see Prince of Persia.


Robin Hood (2010)***
I was surprised to enjoy Robin Hood - the couple of reviews I'd seen made it sound dreadful. But I liked both Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett's performances, and I think the story was enjoyable. It's historically inaccurate, but Robin Hood is always historically inaccurate. My biggest beef is probably that it does drag - it could have lost at least 20 minutes. This is definitely a slow, talky Robin Hood, not a lighthearted romp or a wall to wall action movie. Not the movie to see if you want tights and shenanigans.




JUNE
The A-Team**1/2
Enjoyable trash. If you liked that part in the trailer where Face parachutes in a tank, you should see it. If you're expecting realism or solid plot, you shouldn't. I went in with low expectations, and really just wanted to see the team crack wise and blow things up. Mission accomplished, though perhaps not as well as it could have been.

The movie is poorly paced, dragging near the end, largely due to some strange and poorly executed "drama." A few of the action sequences are also strangely downplayed, which seems like the wrong choice for this sort of movie. Neeson wasn't bad, but was surprisingly flat - I remember Peppard's Hannibal's having a mischievous glint that Neeson only briefly captures - and Jackson's otherwise entertaining turn as BA was hampered by the an unfortunate narrative choice (the aforementioned "drama." Patrick Wilson does a fine job playing a variation on the same bad guy I've seen in a few movies recently (The Losers, Iron Man), spewing highly self conscious bad guy rhetoric while bumbling a bit. Biel's character is largely superfluous, but her exasperation/disbelief/admiration for the team is well played.

All of that said, I had a good time, which is all of ask of The A-Team. Cooper and Copley were both perfect, things blew up, wisecracks were made. And there was tank-parachuting.





The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ***
Definitely the best of the 3 so far (yes, I know that's not hard), though not actually the most enjoyable. I also think that the 3rd book is the strongest, so perhaps the improvement (however slight) in the source material carried through to the films.

Bella annoyed me less in this one than I'd previously thought possible. This was due to a not-so-subtle shift made to movie-Bella by Melissa Rosenberg, who is responsible for the screenplays. The most obvious sign of this personality tweak in this movie was a scene (not present in the book, to the best of my recollection) that tried to tone down some of the "OMG, Edward, I am NOTHING, and you are SO AMAZING!" It would sound empowering, if not for everything that Bella ever actually does. Too little, too late, but a nice effort anyway. 



Also, I'm not sure if Kristen Stewart closed her mouth more this go-round, or if I just didn't notice her mouth breathing as much, but that seemed to have improved. Unlike Robert Pattinson's acting, which is still terrible. He makes the same pained expression throughout, and delivers all of his lines like he's exhausted. Taylor Lautner is a little better. Or maybe he just looks better with his shirt off.

A side note: I'd forgotten that this movie/book includes what I consider the quintessential Edward moment, when he takes the engine out of her truck so that she can't go see Jacob. That scene is also toned down a bit, with Bella asking if Edward did something to her truck, which will not start. The audience is not shown what, exactly, he's done. No matter. I remember that he is, in fact, a controlling jerk, just as I remember that Bella is a codependent mess.

As for the supporting players: 

Bryce Dallas Howard is, not surprisingly, fine as Victoria. I do think the switch was too bad, though, as I liked the look of the original one more (she looked a little rougher, wilder, more substantial). But BDH got the job done in the few scenes she was in. 


Despite Jasper's background being sadly truncated (so much storytelling potential there), Jackson Rathbone did a fine job. He is more compelling when allowed to speak (rather than making hungry vampire face the whole time), though his accent sounds terrible. Which is strange, because he grew up in Texas. Nikki Reed still channels A-level bitchface as Rosalee, and her background was relatively well handled (less was definitely more in that case).  


The kid playing Seth is adorable, it's too bad there wasn't more Anna Kendrick (she is always a treat as Jessica Stanley), and Charlie is still a rock star.


Not actually good, but not bad. Mostly. Enjoy it while it lasts, fanpires. I, for one, cannot wait for the magnificent train wreck that's going to be Breaking Dawn. Man/wolf pain, pillow biting, man/vampire pain, and everything about Renesemee (whom I will now think of as "weird little teeth-baby," whatever that means, thanks to Kristen Stewart), including, but not limited to: knocked-up Bella and her sippy cup of blood, that grisly birth scene, and - OMG - The Imprinting, aka "child brides are totally ok if you don't think about them 'that way' until 7 years from now, when they reach 17 in accelerated growth/maturity years and SHUT UP, THAT IS TOTALLY NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT MORMONESQUE!" Oh, and then there's The United Colors of Benetton the gathering of international vamps... 


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, The Batshit-Crazy Concludes (part 1) cannot come soon enough!




JULY
Despicable Me****
I really enjoyed this. It's funny, sometimes clever, and cute, but not too cute. OK, I'm sure it's too cute for some, but I liked it a lot. The end is no surprise, but it's fun getting there.




Inception****
I won't say much about details in this review, because I really think it's worth watching, and I think it would be a shame to have it spoiled (thus my avoidance of large segments of the interwebs in the days between its release and my watching it).


Inception is, at it's core, a heist movie. Or whatever you'd call it if the point were not to steal something, but to plant something. In that sense, it follows a familiar pattern, with the earlier part of the movie being mostly a setup - who are we, what are we after, and what is our plan? Of course, the pattern may be familiar, but the objective is not: rather than breaking into a bank or a hotel safe, our gang of criminals, led by Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), the Extractor) is scheming their way into someone's mind.


I don't think it's giving anything away to say that all does not go exactly according to plan. It's fun to watch, both because of the visuals, and because of the stressful "ohmygodgofasteryou'rerunningoutoftime" aspect. But it's a good movie, not a great one, and it wasn't the totally trippy mindbender that I'd been led to expect by the few things I allowed myself to read before seeing it. There is, first of all, a pronounced cheesiness at the core of Cobb's story. I can't say more than that, for non-spoiler reasons. In narrative terms, there are things left unresolved or simply unaddressed that feel more like loose ends than like plot twists or cleverly ambiguous bits of storytelling. And, there are really interesting things that get brought up by the plot (both directly and indirectly), only to be dropped completely. Perhaps most importantly, the performances are all fine, few of them are more than that. Ellen Page (as Ariadne, the architect) does isn't really given much to do. Marion Cotillard (as Cobb's wife, Mal) is good at what she's given, but, again, is not given much. Ken Watanabe is largely wasted as Saito, and Tom Hardy's Eames is a charming sidenote. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the real standout: despite the fact that his Arthur remains mostly mysterious, he manages to make him riveting, and I found myself wishing he was more the focus.


Perhaps the real problem is that I simply do not "get" Leonardo DiCaprio. He wasn't bad, but he was just...OK. And I find his diction strange and uncompelling. And he is, at least in this film, the exact opposite of riveting. And there were two scenes that made me think of Titanic, which I haven't seen since 1997. That's probably not a good thing.


As for the mindbending, I really just didn't feel that the movie was that...well, mindbending. This may mean that I've missed something. It's a good enough movie that I will watch it again someday, and maybe I'll see then a level of complexity that I've missed now. But, for now, I think it's a smart idea that actually doesn't get carried through well enough to deserve the genius and visionary labels I've heard bandied about. Now, that's not to say that the movie was totally transparent to me - I just wasn't as blown away by it as some seem to have been. It's not even that I'm sure I have it all figured out. It's just that I'm less inclined than I'd have expected to continue thinking about it. And, coming from me, that's a pretty huge statement.


For my money, Memento is a better film - better acted, more tightly told, more original, and more challenging. But, I happen to think that Memento is an excellent film. Inception falls short of excellence, but it's a good movie, and I enjoyed watching it.




Salt***1/2
I liked Salt - it wasn't surprising, but it was satisfying. And, even though I mostly figured out what was going on long before it was revealed, I enjoyed watching it happen. It made an interesting contrast to Inception (I saw them just a few days apart). Salt is less ambitious. Where Inception starts with a grand concept, Salt is a more straightforward action-thriller movie. Salt is not as intellectually substantial as Inception, but it has its clever moments. Perhaps most importantly, I found the emotional component of Salt more compelling. Evelyn Salt's relationship with her husband is, in some ways, as important as Dom Cobb's with his wife. It is important, but it isn't foregrounded in the same way. I think the difference is that, while it was more shallow, it was also more convincingly portrayed. Given the way the movie was weighted (the ratio of adrenaline to emotion), that was enough to make it a nice icing on the Angelina-kicks-ass cake.


So, while Salt is not as complex as Inception (nor is it completely unproblematic), I found it more compelling (until the very end). It seemed to come closer to meeting the goals it had set for itself, Angelina Jolie was fun to watch, and Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor are on my list of actors who make things better just by being there. (As is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, after Inception.) It may not be as smart as Inception, but it's not dumb. Hopefully, Hollywood will take note. Fun, escapist, summertime fare does not have to be completely mindless.




SEPTEMBER
Moon****
The director conceived of the idea while in graduate school, so it shouldn't be surprising that the movie is mostly about loneliness, identity, and a longing to be elsewhere. Sam Rockwell stars as Sam Bell, an astronaut 2 weeks from the end of a 3 year stint alone on the moon. As one might expect, Bell's time on the moon is getting to him - he's homesick, he's distracted, and he seems to be hallucinating. This leads to an accident during a routine equipment check, after which...well, there's not much else I can say without spoiling it, except that it's good, and not nearly as depressing as grad school.




A Perfect Getaway***
Solidly OK, which was a pleasant surprise. The movie is entertaining, but the beginning is more interesting than the end, which quickly becomes predictable. Viewers with a talent for anticipating the plot twist may find that the film tips its hand too early.




OCTOBER
Legion**
I was expecting Legion to be wall-to-wall terrible, but perhaps in a fun way. Angel defends last hope of mankind with automatic weapons? Yes - craptastic action movie with quasi-religious so-called-plot! Then, a couple of minutes in, there's a clever moment where Paul Bettany (the archangel Michael, which we don't know yet) cuts off his wings, and a metal collar/shackle falls to the ground. I thought, from that scene, that Legion might surprised me, that there might be some thoughtfulness to the movie (however badly executed), but the collar is never addressed, and the rest is pretty much what I expected, though further towards the horror end of the spectrum than I thought it would be (I was thinking more straight-up action). Totally formulaic and unsurprising in terms of both plot and theology. And I was really confused about why that one actor was faking that awful accent -- why would someone who grew up in the desert in New Mexico (I think) have that accent? Except that it's actually just his real accent. Wow.


And also, why does Tyrese's character need to be sort of a thug but not really? And why does that one guy have one hand? And why call it Legion (which is a demon reference) and make the vessels (possessed people) demon-y (spidery with shark teeth) if you're going to insist that they're possessed not by demons, but by angels? So many questions...


Yet, somehow, it was oddly compelling. Almost. OK, OK, fine - Paul Bettany was oddly compelling, and the rest of the movie was total crap. Except for the one angel-fight (Michael vs. Gabriel), which was a little bit awesome. But only a little bit. It's too bad most of the action scenes were just people vs. angel-vessels (why on earth would *that* be the form angels took to exterminate the human race?), rather than the actual angels with wings, because the weapon-wings were pretty neat. In fact, if I were making a better more awesome version of this movie, there would be at least one angel fighting extravaganza -- more angels with weapon-wings, more maces, and more swords, at least one of which would be on fire! Legion really missed an opportunity by not having a fiery sword.


Take note, Paradise Lost movie-makers: flaming swords.




Beauty and the Beast (Sing-a-long)*****
My favorite Disney movie, on the big screen, with permission to sing along? Excellent! Except that most of the audience did not sing along. Best comment came from a little girl I talked to on the way out, who said:
Some people were probaly [sic] feeling shy, but usually you have to shush in the movies, so I hope they were at least singing quietly. I was singing loudly, because Belle is my favorite princess of all of them.




Let Me In **1/2
Meh. I definitely prefer the original. This one added a lot of really explicit talk about eee-vil and took a lot of the interesting ambiguities out. I also felt like the herky jerky special effects and voice alteration were overdone. Hm - the American version was more concrete, less ambiguous, lacking in subtlety...yep, sounds about right.






NOVEMBER/DECEMBER (record keeping got a little shoddy)
The Social Network****
I hadn't really been sold on seeing this, but a friend wanted to see it and I wanted to hang out, so I want. It was surprisingly compelling, though problematic in all the ways I'd heard (fails the Bechdel test, for example). Also problematic, in my opinion, because it seems to have left me with what I consider an unhealthy interest in Andrew Garfield. I'm still not going to see whatever Spiderman movie he's eventually in, though. That scene where Willem Dafoe talked to the Green Goblin mask and it talked back killed those for me.




Red***
A lot more fun that the reviews I'd read had led me to believe. Perhaps because it was so much fun to watch Helen Mirren shoot people.




Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1***1/2
The movies pale in comparison to the books, and are not telling quite the same story, but this was was pretty good. It felt like a lead in to the next, but it was a well done lead in, aside from a couple of large plot holes (like neglecting to explain why Harry suddenly started saying "You Know Who," which also explains why they got caught, and a character who is inexplicably still alive). And, as always, beautiful to look at. I look forward to one more chance to see this world on the big screen.




Burlesque**1/2
I'm not sure if I was pleasantly surprised, disappointed, or a little of each. Burlesque is certainly not a good movie, but it's not the toweringly awful movie I was expecting. Christina Aguilera is a powerhouse singer; she is not an actress. Cam Gigandet wears a lot of guyliner and Cher has done some terrible things to her face. Stanley Tucci has somehow become the go-to gay best friend, there's some laughable dialogue, and it is truly baffling why Peter Gallagher looks like he's been on a 3 day bender, but it's mostly just mediocre. 


I still think it'll make for a good drinking game, though.




True Grit****1/2
Beautifully shot, bleak, but with surprising moments of humor. Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and even Brolin and Barry in their brief time onscreen are excellent. Damon is good, but disappears less into his role. I haven't seen the original, so can't compare, but the new one was well done.




Going the Distance***1/2
Leap Year, which I reviewed back in January, was such a terrible, unfunny, misogynistic waste of time that it mostly put me off new romantic comedies. I didn't realize this until I sat down to review Going the Distance," and realized that it's the first I've reviewed since Leap Year. It's not, I don't think, the first I've watched. I've rewatched old ones - movies I knew already that I enjoyed - and I did watch When in Rome, though I can't remember when (it was solidly mediocre, probably a 3 star outing). Anyway, I'd read in a couple of places that I should give this one a chance, because it would surprise me, and I had a credit at amazon.com, so I decided to try it out. Glad I did - it's the best romantic comedy I've seen in a while. A little heavy on the crude for my taste, but also very funny, relatively light on the horribly sexist rom-com clich├ęs about women, and smart enough to downplay San Francisco when not using it for distance drama.

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