Monday, August 31, 2009

August 30, 2009

I Love You, Man (2009)
This is funny in spots, stupid in spots, and actually really sad in spots. Anytime either Peter or Sydney is sitting at home alone due to the crushing reality that they have no friends, I felt legitimately bad for them. The rest of the movie is a typical buddy film (sort of blended with romantic comedy) - definitely worth renting for a good laugh, but it's not much more than that. Although the fact that it features Lou Ferrigno playing himself is pretty awesome.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 29, 2009

Gladiator (2000)
#97 on my Top 100 List
I forget how much I like this movie until I'm actually watching it. To me, the performances are what make it so good. Russell Crowe won Best Actor that year for his role as the general turned slave turned gladiator, but Joaquin Phoenix was robbed when he didn't win Best Supporting Actor for his role as the jealous and vengeful Emperor Commodus (who, in real life, did fight in the gladiator arena, but wasn't quite the villain that the movie portrays him to be). Richard Harris (who is sorely missed) and Djimon Hounsou also stand out as the dying Emperor and a fellow gladiator. There's a heavy ick factor in the amount of gore in the film, as well as with Commodus's lust for his sister Lucilla (Octavia/Octavian anyone?) but if you can stomach those, it's definitely a film worth watching. A lot of people claimed that it shouldn't have won Best Picture that year, but none of them could tell me what they thought should have won in its place. I definitely think it was deserving of the prize.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

August 28, 2009

Psycho (1960)
#9 on my Top 100 List
"A boy's best friend is his mother." If someone ever tells you this in the stuffed-bird filled parlor of his creepy backwoods motel, RUN. No good can come of it! I could fill term papers with stuff about this movie (actually, I have), but I'll try to keep it short for here. The things that Hitchcock did in this film were unprecedented - you don't kill off your heroine half-way through the movie! - and the way that he did them is still unmatched. The shower scene alone comprises roughly 70 different shots in a minute and a half. His choice to make the film in black and white heightens the suspense, from Marion Crane's approach in the dark and the rain to the old Bates Motel itself to the dark gray blood swirling calmly down the shower drain. The first half of the film is mostly about Marion's paranoia about her crime, with a low tense score and imagined conversations of those who discover the theft, then after her untimely demise, the focus switches to Norman Bates and his twisted world. The scene where he dutifully cleans up the bathroom and disposes of the body is actually kind of sad and the final monologue with the skull superimposed over the shot (see if you can catch it!) is suitably terrifying. Poor Anthony Perkins had been being groomed to be the studio's newest heartthrob, but after this, he had no chance.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

August 27, 2009

Stuck (2007)
This movie was actually really well done and surprisingly scary. Of course, the concept of being hit by a car and left to die slowly while stuck halfway through someone's windshield is actually a frightening concept, so that might have something to do with it. Mena Suvari hasn't been around much since American Beauty and American Pie 10 years ago, so it's nice to see her in something again and Stephen Rea is always good. It's a very unsettling film, but one that is worth watching.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 26, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You (2009)
Well, I've got to say that I learned an important lesson from this movie. If a woman in her 20s or 30s is single, she really should just crawl under a rock and die, because clearly no one will ever be "into" her. In conjunction with that, all women of said age are desperate, pathetic, and completely clueless when a man is uninterested. Please. It's sad too, because the cast of this movie had tons of potential. But besides Justin Long and Bradley Cooper being adorable as usual, Ginnifer Goodwin's character is dumb and clingy and Scarlet Johansson is again the other woman trying to break up a marriage (and honestly, it's done better in Match Point). This book is supposed to be a wake-up call for women who are chasing after unavailable men, but then the movie ends up being almost an urban fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after with exactly who you thought they would end up with. Please don't take this movie seriously.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 25, 2009

Titan A.E. (2000)
The humans on their home planet are wiped out by a menacing race of robots and are forced to flee on spaceships to the stars. There they wait until a blond "chosen one" can discover a secret that can lead them to their new home. Sound familiar? Of course, in this movie the chosen one is a man, but so was Starbuck in the original series. This also includes a strange mix of CG animation and traditional hand-drawn animation. The result is a little jarring. I had thought that any collaboration between Joss Whedon and Don Bluth would be good, but sadly, it was just okay.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 24, 2009

The Way of the Gun (2000)
I don't really like Benicio Del Toro or Juliette Lewis, so this movie had a couple of things working against it at the start. Basically, a kidnapping of a pregnant woman goes horribly wrong and the two would-be criminals (including Ryan Phillipe with a really bad, strange accent) wind up mired in a whole lot of badness. It sort of tries to be both a buddy movie and a crime thriller, but both sort of get lost. There's also a lot of Butch Cassidy undertones in the end, but without Paul Newman or Robert Redford. It sort of falls flat without them.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 23, 2009

How to Steal a Million (1966)
How often do you get Audrey Hepburn and art crime caper in the same movie? The outcome is a lot of fun. It's almost a comedy of errors by the plot alone - a forged statue is loaned to a museum only for the forger to realize that he's about to be found out, so his daughter and an assumed art thief plot to steal it back. Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn are adorable together and the actual heist is great fun to watch. I'm not totally sold on the whole magnet-through-the-wall trick or the thing with the string and the key to unlock a door from the other side, but hey - it's a movie.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

August 22, 2009

Ten Canoes (2006)
This movie starts out with a voiceover in English that makes it sound like a National Geographic special. You know the kind - "the dingo stalks the gazelle over the open plains" - and all that. When it finally does get into the story, it switches one of Australia's aboriginal languages, which was a cool idea, but it still sounds like something you'd watch on PBS. It switches back and forth between black and white and color but with the same actors and characters, so that the overall effect is jarring and confusing. With three layers of narration for the same action, two of which are in a completely unknown language with sparse subtitles, the actual story gets lost.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

August 21, 2009

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
I know what you're probably saying - why in the world is this on my Top 100 list? You do have to admit that it's the best of the prequel trilogy. The actors certainly did the best they could with what they had to work with. It does have issues - besides the dialogue, there's the ridiculous character of General Greivous - maybe a droid, maybe not a droid, with asthma (huh?) - and the question of why did it take them 20 years to build the first Death Star? However, there are also some pretty good things. I think that the way they made up Ewan McGregor definitely makes it look like he could be a young Alec Guiness. Hayden Christiansen does a decent job making Anakin conflicted and sort of sympathic until he goes and starts slaughtering children (gutsy move on their part, by the way). The entire sequence of Order 66 is very sad and the final scene that echoes Luke's melancholy gaze into Tatooine's twin suns in Episode IV connects the two trilogies nicely. I do wonder, character-wise, why Obi-Wan doesn't just put Anakin out of his misery while they're on the lava planet. It would have been humane and also would have saved the galaxy a lot of trouble.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

August 20, 2009

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1939)
So this is the movie that started it all. Mickey Mouse may have debuted in Steamboat Willie, but the traditional Disney animated movies didn't exist before this movie. Just like its early companions, this has considerably more violence than newer family films. Snow White herself is very passive, just like most of the female characters in the early films, while the dwarfs protect her in exchange for cleaning and cooking. Most of the jokes in Enchanted are on this story. By the way, the dwarfs - are they brothers? Why else would they all live together in a cabin in the woods? And why do their shutters have little hearts carved into them? The Prince is hardly a character at all - he appears briefly in the beginning to sweep Snow White off of her feet, then disappears until he's needed in the end to wake her from her magical coma and whisks her away to his castle in the clouds. Literally. I really do like this movie - there are just a lot of strange things going on. Also, a glass coffin is just creepy.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 19, 2009

Legend (1986)
It's easy to forget sometimes that there were fantasy films before Lord of the Rings. I'm going to say right now that I was spoiled by Lord of the Rings and its mindblowing visuals and therefore cannot judge this film objectively. The unfortunate truth is that every fantasy film that I see now will be automatically compared to Lord of the Rings. Is that fair? No. But I can't help it. So baring that in mind, here we go. The one overwhelming thing that I don't understand in this movie is the need to have something constantly falling and swirling through the air. It's flower petals at first, then snow while the bad guys are in charge, then back to flower petals. It's not really a great addition to the look of the movie - it just makes it hard to see. As for the two lead characters, they're sort of a cliche of every major fantasy character written thus far and their dialogue only reiniforces that. I know this is a beloved movie of many many people and I think that I just missed out by watching it too late.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 18, 2009

The Last Tycoon (1976)
All right. I know that F. Scott Fitzgerald had a miserable, alcohol-soaked life and from that we as a culture got a whole lot of really great books, but what was so horrible that everything needs to end tragically? Although, this book technically doesn't end - he died before he could finish it. So besides the story being horribly depressing (like all of his stories), this movie is painfully slow. Its runtime in just about two hours, but it felt like twenty. It's an insider story about a Hollywood studio tycoon, but takes all of the glitz and glamour out of that Golden Age and focuses on the mundane and boring life of one guy. They throw in some stuff about the Red Scare and try to make the audience care about a love triangle, but none of it works. Robert De Niro looks like he's half-asleep through his performance. It does include a bit part by Jack Nicholson, though. I almost didn't finish it, but it was nominated for an Oscar and most of you know that someday I want to see everything that's ever been nominated. Two hours of my life that I won't get back.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17, 2009

Fight Club (1999)
I love David Fincher's directorial work so much. This book is frakked up and the movie version is no different. This is actually one of the few times that I prefer the book to the movie - mostly the ending. The ending of the movie is obvious, but the ending of the book is haunting and creepy. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton play off of each other perfectly, Jared Leto gets the hell beat out of him again (as he seems to in nearly everything he's in), and Helena Bonham Carter embarks on her string of recent weird roles. Even after you know the twist, it's a movie that you can watch over and over again and still appreciate. Every line in the film is delivered with such twisted conviction that it makes the whole story chilling even when it's not meant to be. It's also self-aware enough to through in jokes that break the fourth wall and include the audience in the psychotic little world. Be warned - the scene outside the lyposuction clinic is disgusting.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August 16, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife (2009)
I was different from the rest of my friends in that they've all read this book and I haven't. After all, you know my feelings on reading the book first. There has been much discussion since the trailer first came out about a lot of things - did the movie look cheesy like The Notebook? Did the trailer give too much away? Was it cast well? So I was really intrigued to see this, to say the least. Overall, I thought it was well done. I'm not a huge fan of Rachel McAdams, but she wasn't terrible. Despite the movie's title, it didn't really feel like the story was about her - it was more about Eric Bana's time traveling character (who, by the way, can't travel with his clothes, which means he reappears in the past or future naked - unfortunate for him, but fortunate for me and every other woman in the audience). I can only imagine how confusing it must have been for him to play the part, since he shows up at so many different ages through the film. He carried his part well and I felt that the little girl who played Alba did too. I'm looking forward to reading the book now, since I've been assured that much was left out of the movie.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

August 15, 2009

"Play It Again, Sam" (1972)
After you get over the fantastic 70s hairstyles, this is sort of an amusing movie. It's still Woody Allen, so it's irritatingly neurotic, but his character's absolute adoration of movies endears him to me a little. He's haunted throughout the story by the ghost of Humphrey Bogart and the imaginary form of his ex-wife, serving as the angel and devil on his shoulder as he struggles to make a meaningful relationship with someone. The final scene on the tarmac, a great homage to Casablanca, is actually touching and appropriate. I can totally relate to what he means about waiting your whole life to quote a movie. Also includes a very young Diane Keaton, who was (according to Wikipedia) Allen's lover before Mia Farrow and her daughter.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

August 14, 2009

The Mask (1994)
Back when Jim Carrey was still funny (much like Mike Myers was once funny), this movie is actually quite enjoyable. The visual effects were pretty impressive for the mid-90s and the soundtrack includes the catchy "Hey Pachuco" and the against-your-will-amusing "Cuban Pete." It's also Cameron Diaz's first film, before she was a Charlie's Angel or Princess Fiona. Don't expect deep conversations or heavy themes or tear-jerking scenes (though the parody of one is funny), but it's always good for a laugh.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 13, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
First of all, I'm greatly amused that they actually put in the credits that this film was based on a toy series. Long live '80s toys! I don't really remember the first Transformers, but this one was enjoyable. I know that a lot has been written and said recently about the robot twins - racist, not racist, I don't know. Not the point of this entry. I like the idea in this one of the Autobots working alongside a super top secret US Government task force, though the whole concept of the Great Pyramid at Giza actually being a secret Decepticon machine capable of wiping out the sun is a little much for me. Overall, I was surprisingly entertained by the whole thing. The end sequence in Egypt actually reminded me a lot of the battle scenes in Black Hawk Down, except, you know, with giant robots. And let's be honest - the cultural vocabulary of America is that much better for having the word "decepticon" included in it.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 12, 2009

Highlander (1986)
I was hoping that Sean Connery would be the one bright spot in this ridiculous muck of a movie, but not even he could make it better. It's too bad, too, because I think the central idea behind the story had potential: an immortal being from the Highlands of Scotland, circa 1500s, is still around in 1980s New York and must do battle with his mortal enemy. This was trashed by bad acting, amateur special effects, and grainy and dark cinematography. I considered not finishing it at all and choosing a different film for yesterday, but it was late and I wanted to go to bed, so instead of having wasted twenty minutes, I just suffered through it.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

August 11, 2009

Toy Story (1995)
No matter how many times I see this movie, I can't manage to like it more. I try - really I do - but something about it just bores me. Even after I found out that Joss Whedon was one of the main writers, it didn't make a difference. I can see why other people like it, though - Tim Allen and Tom Hanks are great voice choices for the two main toy characters, the whole idea of toys coming to life is whimsical and fun, and there's a great villain. I do love the music, especially "I Will Go Sailing No More" - the song that plays over Buzz Lightyear's realization that he's just a child's plaything. Very poignant.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10, 2009

(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are adorable each by themselves - together it's almost an overload. Even if this movie was terrible (which is definitely wasn't), it would be enough to watch these two talented actors play off of each other. I read somewhere that this is like an updated version of Annie Hall - I agree, but I also think it's better. Of course, I also hate Annie Hall. This is a sweet and quirky story about a boy and a girl who fall in love, sort of, and the good times and the bad times of their relationship. It's just like Annie Hall, but without the whining and the self-deprecating and the neurotic annoyance that is Woody Allen. All in all, a fun and adorable movie that makes you happy when you leave. Also, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character is named Tom Hanson. Is there anyone besides me, Anna, and Lauren who finds that incredibly funny?
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

August 9, 2009

Sliding Doors (1998)
You know, I mostly really liked this movie. It was well on it's way to maybe being on my Top 100 list, but then came the end. LAME! But besides the last ten minutes, it's a great film. Gwyneth Paltrow sells both of the parallel lives that her character is living, based on whether or not she catches a subway train. John Hannah is completely adorable as the soulmate that she meets in one life but not the other. It's a little confusing at times, but once one version of the character cuts her hair, it's that much easier to remember which one we're watching.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August 8, 2009

Touch of Evil (1958)
Think of the race relations issue in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Now, put it in a Mexican border town with the following: a car bomb, a drug cartel, an extremely creepy backwater motel, and Orson Welles as a corrupt cop. Charlton Heston, through black and white photography and presumably a good makeup artist, looks fairly realistic as a Mexican, while Janet Leigh is continually clothed and lit in a way that make her pale skin and blonde hair nearly glow. It's one of those twisty, turny movies that encompasses some of the best traits of Film Noir as well as an intense thriller. This was made two years before Janet Leigh starred in Psycho, but I think between the two of them we can safely say that anytime she is alone in a creepy empty hotel, nothing good can ever come of it.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Friday, August 7, 2009

August 7, 2009

Julie & Julia (2009)
Here we are - six months of watching movies! To celebrate, we went to see this movie, which is about two things I am awfully fond of - cooking and blogging. One note on my fondness for cooking - I like the idea of it and I like watching other people do it, but I feel awfully inept when I try to do it myself. Also, I'm way too squeamish - raw meat disgusts me. Anyway, I found this story of Julia Child and Julie Powell, the woman sixty years later who was inspired by Child to turn her life around through cooking, to be touching, funny, and heartfelt. Meryl Streep is amazing as always, Amy Adams is adorable as always, and Stanley Tucci made me fall in love with him as Julia Child's devoted and adoring husband Paul. I knew nothing about Julia Child going in to this, other than that she was a famous chef who had a cookbook and was on TV, but I felt that this did a great job of showing her a whole person, not just the cooking personality. It showed her when she was down as well as when she was successful, everything from getting really excited over shopping for vegetables to overenthusiastically chopping onions to crying when her sister gets pregnant. Julie Powell isn't quite as gripping a character, though Amy Adams makes the most of it. The "Lobster Killer" scene is hysterical. I'm predicting acting Oscar nominations come January.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

August 6, 2009

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
#38 on my Top 100 List
This is one of the most tragic stories on film, I think. It follows Norma Desmond, an aging film star who loses herself into her fantasy world of reliving her glory days more and more every day, eventually dragging down a young screenwriter with her. The huge, decaying house that it takes place in is just as much a character as she is, reminiscent of the lavish film sets of silent films such as Intolerance, and the film includes cameos by Cecil B. DeMille and Buster Keaton, among others, playing themselves as they allow and even assist Norma in living in her fantasies. It was made during one of Hollywood's "Golden Ages," the 1950s where studios were churning out dozens of movies a year, and it's also an insider movie. Not many movies were made during that period about making movies and it stands as an interesting look into the past when compared to something like last year's Tropic Thunder. It's sad as you watch Norma fall further and further from reality, but not without suspense and even a little bit of fear. I know that this was adapted into a musical and I know that musicals can definitely be dark (just look at Les Mis), but I don't for the life of me understand how you could turn this story into a musical. It work so perfectly on the screen, shot in soft black and white, that why would you mess with it?
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 5, 2009

Push (2009)
I've never been to Hong Kong, but if it's as colorful and neon-filled as it's shown in movies (which it probably isn't), then I'm not sure I could handle it. Much of this movie gets lost in its own look - swirling color and shimmering air and black eyes. Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning are decent - she's especially good as a creepy young "Watcher" who draws unpleasant glimpses of the future. It gives me hope that she'll make a good Jane in New Moon. The movie's sort of complicated, with hidden notes and erased memories and illusions, but by the end it's clear enough who's a good guy and who's a bad guy. It's a decent sci-fi thriller, but nothing spectacular.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

August 4, 2009

The Big Chill (1984)
This might be one of those movies that you can't appreciate when you're in your 20s. Apparently there's something to said for it, because the Academy nominated it for Best Picture, but I found all of the characters to be whiny and self-involved. The suicide of their friend brings back seven old college friends so that they can - what? Discover that they're all miserable? It's supposed to be about reconnecting with old friends, but it's really about discontent and melancholy. And what "reconnecting" does happen does so in a creepy spouse-switching way.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 3, 2009

A Room With a View (1986)
Any movie that stars Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench side by side wins points automatically with me. They are two of the greatest women ever to grace the screen. Add to that a very young Helena Bonham Carter, a foppish Daniel Day-Lewis, and much naked male carousing in the river (it is EM Forster after all) and it all adds up to quite an amusing movie. Sometimes a comedy of errors, sometimes a victim of the plot playing too much to the convenience of circumstance, overall it's an adorable romance and by the end, a feel-good story.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 2, 2009

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
This is the weirdest, most frakked-up, most horrifying thing I have ever seen. The little girl from Spy Kids has cancer, goes to see the head of an organization that repossesses organs from transplant patients, and is used in a vicious revenge scheme. Anthony Stewart Head rips people's stomachs out in his basement. Paris Hilton sings. What?? And it's an opera! It's like Sweeney Todd on steroids and a bad acid trip. I feel like it was kind of trying to do what Grindhouse did, but it's not enough. It's not bad enough to be good and it's certainly not good - it's in the middle where bad is just bad and singing murderers are not endearing to anyone, even if they are Giles.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 1, 2009

Grindhouse (2007)
Thank God for Netflix! This movie, originally one three hour theatrical event, was split into its two parts - Planet Terror and Death Proof - for its DVD release, thus negating the entire point of the movie. But Netflix, in its infinite wisdom, offers the original theatrical double-feature version through its watch instantly feature, so I was able to see it as it was intended. I feel like this was an experiment that failed because it was misunderstood. People complained that the movies were bad. Of course they were bad! That was the point. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were paying an homage to the grisly, graphic films that used to show in "grindhouse" movie theaters back in the day, doing so by making grisly, graphic, poorly edited films. One's about zombies (my favorite of the two) and the other's about a stuntman gone psycho who runs down unsuspecting women with his jacked-up car. They're both bloody and vicious and hold nothing back, but it's all part of the fun. Also, the made up trailers are fantastic and add the perfect shudder/cringe element to the whole overall experience.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Saturday, August 1, 2009

July 31, 2009

The Incredibles (2004)
So yesterday I watched the director's cut of Watchmen, which of course doesn't count for this project since I've already reviewed the film. It put me in the mood for something similar though (and by the way, the director's cut is definitely worth watching) and this film is actually very similar. Popular opinion turns against superheroes and they are forced by law to go underground and stop any sort of hero activities, then a new threat draws them out and they are forced to protect themselves. Of course, this being Disney, it ends with the superhero family being reaccepted into society instead of millions of people being killed in huge explosions, but both are fitting endings for their stories. There are also allusions to several Marvel Comics characters, including Quicksilver, Storm, the Invisible Woman, and Mr. Fantastic (or Skin I guess) as well as the DC character Superman. Finally, in what might be the greatest homage in Disney history, watch for superhero suit designer Edna Mode - most likely based off one of the most legendary Hollywood costume designers ever, Edith Head. No capes!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars