Sunday, June 28, 2009

June 28, 2009

America's Sweethearts (2001)
I think insider movies are really fun. Hollywood is much better at making fun of itself than most major industries and does so with gusto. Swimming with Sharks, Tropic Thunder, and Singin' In The Rain all use the act of making movies to make a really good movie. This one's no different, telling the story of two off-balance actors, a frustrated assistant, a desperate publicist, a nervous studio head, and a crazy director at a press junket deep in the desert. In an era where we as a society are obsessed with Brad and Angelina, Rob and Kristen, and Jon and Kate, this movie rings more true than ever. Look for a cameo from The Office's Rainn Wilson.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

*Special Note*
Tomorrow I'll be leaving for a cruise and won't have access to the internet. I'm going to still be watching movies, but the blog entries won't be coming until after July 4th. See you all then! ~ Karla

June 27, 2009

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
#81 on my Top 100 List
Like Sorcerer's Stone, I saw this movie before I read the book. However, after this, I read all of the rest of the books, breaking my own rule for the first time. (The second time is with Twilight, where I watched the first movie, then read all four books.) I really love this movie installment, though the book is not one of my favorites. Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart stole the movie for me - I adore him in everything he does, but his portrayal of Lockhart is just genius. This story is much more alive for me than the first one. It also marks Sean Biggerstaff's last appearance as Oliver Wood, though maybe we can hope for number seven???
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

June 26, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)
There is absolutely nothing feel-good about this movie. At all. I understand that some stories are heavy and dramatic and to lighten them with some sort of comic relief would cheapen the mood, but come on. You can't have horrible thing after horrible thing happen with no end in sight. It's called comic relief for a reason.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Friday, June 26, 2009

June 25, 2009

I Confess (1953)
Hitchcock has always been good at portraying the gray areas and this movie brings that to light in a big way. A priest hears confession that a man who works in the rectory has killed a man, only to find himself the prime suspect in the crime. He can't clear his name without breaking his vow and what follows is an example of how innocent people have their names dragged through the mud in the pursuit of justice. Hitch had two very distinct kinds of films: chilling suspense that was almost horror (like Psycho and Rebecca) and more mellow suspense that was plot and character driven (like this or The Wrong Man). Though I tend to like the horror ones better - who am I kidding? I love them all.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

June 24, 2009

Ghost Town (2008)
Ricky Gervais might not be the obvious choice to play a romantic lead, but I think it worked quite well. This movie is cute - funny at times and sad at others - and the two leads actually have some chemistry. The whole notion of ghosts who need help from the living to resolve their past issues is certainly not new (and I like it best in Robert Downey Jr.'s Heart and Souls) but it doesn't feel tired in this movie.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

June 23, 2009

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
The beginning of a story is always a touchy process - you have to introduce characters, establish the tone, set up the world, and suck your audience in. The first Harry Potter story is my least favorite, but that by no means means that I don't like it. I think that JK Rowling created a very comprehensive magical golden world in the first book that Chris Columbus takes and turns into a beautiful lavish movie. I know that some people criticize the first two movies for being too happy, bright, or rich, but that's how you have to start a series like this. You have to let the characters be kids first. Sure, the evil Voldemort is out there, but Harry is seeing all of this for the first time in this movie, just like the audience. It should be the best and most beautiful thing he's ever seen. The casting is near perfect, with some notable exceptions in later films which I'll discuss when we get there, and most of the kids, even at this young age, are pretty good actors.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 22, 2009

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Just like Independence Day, except instead of aliens, the bad guy Post-apocalyptic movies are fun, aren't they? The premise is totally ridiculous and the tense scenes (like Jake Gyllenhaal trying to outrun the supercold deadly air) are too unbelievable sometimes to be scary, but it's still sort of a fun movie to watch. The special effects and production design are two things that stand out to me, though, because the entire city of New York turning into a museum of human artifacts that have been frozen solid was pretty cool to see. Seeing tornadoes destroy the Hollywood sign, however, was not cool. It's been criticized for being heavily inaccurate, but come on - it's about another ice age that freezes half the globe in 10 days. Does anyone actually believe that?
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, June 22, 2009

June 21, 2009

Yes Man (2008)
Jim Carrey is awfully fond of high-concept drama, isn't he? From Ace Ventura to Liar Liar, he took ideas and ran with them. Then there was that period of time when he was making serious films and the few funny ones he did weren't actually that funny. However, with this one, he blends a high-concept comedy with the formula of a romantic comedy and the outcome is...not all that bad. It's pretty amusing in some parts. It's also totally unrealistic in others, but you can hardly expect anything less.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Saturday, June 20, 2009

June 20, 2009

The Love Guru (2008)
This movie is stupid. Once upon a time, Mike Myers was funny, but if he keeps going with movies like this, it will be hard to even watch his old movies without thinking about how far he's fallen. I don't know what Jessica Alba was thinking when she agreed to do this. I've been watching quite a few Indian movies lately (Slumdog Millionaire, Monsoon Wedding, Kama Sutra) and have greatly enjoyed the colorful and lavish filmmaking. This movie is a terrible insult to Indian culture.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Friday, June 19, 2009

June 19, 2009

The Proposal (2009)
Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock have absolutely adorable chemistry! In fact, this whole movie was adorable. The concept of faking an engagement for one reason or another certainly isn't new, but it manages to be enjoyable enough in this movie so as not to feel tired. The locations used for Alaska (I'm not sure if it actually was Alaska or not) are absolutely beautiful.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

June 18, 2009

The American President (1995)
It's strange to see Martin Sheen in an Aaron Sorkin political drama and not playing the President. He's so amazing as President Bartlett on The West Wing that it's hard to see him as anything else. That being said, Michael Douglass as President Shepherd is also a pretty great president. Sorkin writes political drama better than anyone else and this movie certainly does not disappoint. It's been so long since America has had a President who was single that the story seems like a fairy tale, but when it's actually examined, it's probably a pretty realistic portrayal. A President probably would lose popularity for having a girlfriend and the extreme right certainly would attack him if he had said girlfriend spend the night. Well done, Aaron Sorkin!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

June 17, 2009

27 Dresses (2008)
Whoever was the costume designer on this film certainly had fun. Some of the bridesmaid's dresses that Katherine Heigl parades around are hideous and fantastic at the same time. Though I'm not a fan of Izzie on Grey's Anatomy, I do think that Heigl is a good actress - she takes on this role well. Also, James Marsden is adorable. I watched this on Blu-ray (my first viewing of that format) and I have to tell you - it looks pretty strange. It does this weird 3-dimensional thing that makes the characters stand out from the background - very distracting. I was not impressed (though the huge TV I was watching it on was pretty amazing!).
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June 16, 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Oh, the Ninja they defined my childhood. Not only did I watch the cartoon, but I also played with the action figures (before they gave way to GI Joe or X-Men or something) with my brother. The movie version is great in that nostalgic way that makes you remember how much fun it was to see it for the first time. The puppet work is not spectacular, but in the context of 1990, it wasn't bad. The lines are sort of cheesy and the characters aren't hugely dimensional, but it's a movie that makes you laugh and reminds you of great times. Also, creator Kevin Eastman went to my high school.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

June 15, 2009

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
#22 on my Top 100 List
I own all three Lord of the Rings films in both their original theatrical versions and their extended editions. I love both versions and it depends on my mood which one I watch. This time, I went with the extended. Normally I spread the extended editions out over a couple of days because they're so long, but it was cold, rainy day, so a 4-hour Tolkien extravaganza seemed in order. I think that this one gets forgotten sometimes and it does suffer from the middle-of-a-trilogy syndrome where there is no clear beginning or end, but this is the installment where everyone sort of grows up. Merry and Pippin begin to mature and sober up to the fact that their world really is in danger, Aragorn starts to embrace his Kingly side, and Frodo finally begins to see how dangerous and big his quest really is. Faramir, who is introduced in this volume, even undergoes his own transformation from jackass to noble warrior. Plus, there is Gandalf's rebirth as Gandalf the White. The nighttime, rainy battle of Helm's Deep is amazing to watch (and the added scene where the trees eat the surviving orcs is pretty spectacular) and the visualization of Gollum revolutionized the way CGI is used.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 14, 2009

Rope (1948)
I adore Hitchcock. You should be prepared for there to be several more of his films in the future. This one is almost experimental in that it's a story told in real time (an hour of screen time equals an hour in the characters' lives) and is shot in a series of continuous shots to make the audience feel as though they were in the room with the characters. As such, we get a lot of mundane action, like characters eating appetizers, that isn't normally shown. When the film needed to be changed in the camera, the shot focuses on the blackness of the back of a character's jacket in order to incorporate the blackout into the long shot. There are a couple of straight cuts, but according to Wikipedia, this is where the reel would have had to be changed in a 1940s era movie theater. This story of the "perfect murder" is full of subtext, most often recognized for the implication that the two murderers, Brandon and Phillip, are also lovers.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Sunday, June 14, 2009

June 13, 2009

Mission: Impossible (1996)
Remember when Tom Cruise was in good movies and wasn't always splashing across the tabloids? This movie is really confusing - it's taken me multiple viewings to figure out exactly who's a bad guy and who's being set up - but it's a fun spy thriller. Plus, it includes that totally-unrealistic-but-tense-anyway scene of Tom Cruise trying to steal a super-secret list from CIA headquarters by hanging from the ceiling.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

June 12, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Spencer Tracey, marry me! Anyone who can play the part of the reluctantly bigoted jerk and then give a closing speech like that is just amazing. Not all of the issues examined in this movie are relevant to the present, but if you can imagine the world in 1967, it's a very sensitive subject matter. I just learned from Wikipedia that Spencer Tracey died less than a month after filming, which I think makes his final speech even more touching. It was a tight Best Picture race that year, with this and a handful of other great films ultimately losing to In the Heat of the Night.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Friday, June 12, 2009

June 11, 2009

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996)
This is, at heart, a classic story of love, rivalry, power, and revenge, but it's told through the vibrant color and culture of 16th century India. The costuming especially is gorgeous and appropriate for the various characters. It's relatively explicit, but much like South From Granada, the sexual content and nudity are important to the story. It is called Kama Sutra, after all, though that book only figures into the plot a little. And although it's unintentional, the movie does sort of give elephants a bad name.
I've listed it as Foreign, even though it's in English, since IMDB lists the official country of origin as India.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, June 11, 2009

June 10, 2009

Taxi To The Dark Side (2007)
This film uses the story of an Afghani taxi driver who was detained wrongfully and killed while in prison to look at issues of torture and interrogation in the present war on terror. It holds very little back in both discussion content and imagery, making it horrifying, disturbing, and morbidly interesting. It's clear which side of the argument the filmmakers are on, but that opinion is not overpowering.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 9, 2009

The Hangover (2009)
As far as low-brow comedy goes, this movie is pretty damn funny. I always enjoy watching Bradley Cooper (though I never really remember that until I'm actually watching him) and the supporting cast members more than hold their own. And come on - how can a story that involves Vegas, a tiger, a midnight wedding chapel, and a baby in sunglasses not be funny?
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

June 8, 2009

Batman Forever (1995)
Tim Burton's first two Batman films are amazing and this third addition to the series is a solid film. Joel Schumacher directed, but Tim Burton was the producer, which I think is what makes it good, as opposed to the laughably wretched Batman and Robin. There are problems, especially with some clunky dialogue, but at the same time, we get wonderful gems such as "The batsignal is not a beeper." Hee! Replacing Michael Keaton with Val Kilmer was a terrible idea, since Kilmer's portrayal of Bruce Wayne is closer to a 2X4 then a real person, but Jim Carrey's Riddler and Tommy Lee Jones's Two-Face more than make up for it. Both of them can be added to that list of actors great at playing villains that I've mentioned (which so far includes Anthony Hopkins, Brian Cox, and Ralph Fiennes). I'll leave you with one question: why do all the buildings in this imagining of Gotham seem to be at least 100 stories tall?
My Netflix rating:
4 stars

Monday, June 8, 2009

June 7, 2009

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Alright, Anna, you win - Jonathan Rhys Meyers isn't always creepy. He's fun in this movie, playing an Irish soccer coach (with his real accent!) to Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra in London. The story really follows Nagra's character Jess - a girl from a traditional Indian family whose desire to play soccer clashes with her parents' beliefs. It's a little bit fairy-taleish in that everything works out perfectly in the end, but it's an enjoyable movie, so I can forgive that.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Saturday, June 6, 2009

June 6, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day (2008)
Amy Adams is such a great actress. I'm always impressed with a performer can play such a wide range of characters - and Adams has played an innocent nun, a Disney princess, and here a naive starlet in WWII London. Ciaran Hinds, Lee Pace, Frances McDormand, and Shirley Henderson make up a very solid supporting cast.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

June 5, 2009

Up (2009)
I would say that it's the sign of a good movie if I'm invested enough in the characters to be crying in the first ten minutes. This is one of the most touching and heart-wrenching movies that I've ever seen and I have to say that it's nice to see Disney returning to the idea of having a true villain in the story. Before Disney switched almost exclusively to CG animation, the stories were more about a message than fighting a bad guy. Also, the short before the film, Partly Cloudy, is amazing, as was the trailer for The Princess and the Frog. Thank God that Disney is returning to hand-drawn animation!!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Friday, June 5, 2009

June 4, 2009

Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002)
This one's more fun than the first Spy Kids movie, including a better villain and a more interesting location. It's still definitely a kid's movie at heart, though, and includes little for adults (unlike Disney movies that intentionally have inside jokes and moments for the adults watching along with their kids). Even so, it's a solid fun kid's adventure.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, June 4, 2009

June 3, 2009

Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Normally I am against the whole "surprise! It was all a dream!" convention, but in this movie it works. Dreams are not supposed to make sense - stories like The Wizard of Oz make sense and don't work as dreams. Alice's dream is nonsense, just like she said her version of Wonderland would be. Also, scary. The Queen of Hearts is one of Disney's creepiest villains, I think. I'm not putting the Family label on this because, as well as Fantasia, I really don't believe this one was made for kids.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 2, 2009

Shakespeare in Love (1998)
This is one of the handful of Best Picture winners from the past couple decades to be highly disputed. A lot of people say that it cheated Saving Private Ryan out of the win. But they're two such incredibly different films that I'm not sure how people can compare. This is a beautiful and entertaining story about where one of our most beloved plays came from (two actually, if you count Viola's inspiration of Twelfth Night at the end). Also, it includes the best acting of Ben Affleck's career. I love Saving Private Ryan and even though I picked this to win that year, I'm still not sure which one I think deserved it.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

June 1, 2009

On the Waterfront (1954)
#26 on my Top 100 List
In 1952, director Elia Kazan testified in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee and named other members of the entertainment industry as Communists. Two years later, he made this film about a longshoreman who does the right thing in testifying in from the Waterfront Crimes Commission and stands up to the mob boss who runs the docks. Rationalizing propaganda for his own actions or honest portrayal of an oppressed blue-color community? I'll let you decide. Either way, it's a powerful film.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Monday, June 1, 2009

May 31, 2009

Midnight Cowboy (1969)
I'm not sure what I expected this movie to be, but it was certainly different than I thought. I had read that it was graphic and I suppose for the time, it was. It was X-rated in 1969 (and as such, is the only X-rated movie ever to win Best Picture) and most of what I had read condemned it as vulgar. Much like South From Granada, it is not nearly as bad as everything said. It's tough to watch, sure, but not for any kind of graphic content - it's tough to watch because it's an absolutely heartbreaking story about people who are naive, desperate, and down-and-out.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars