Tuesday, December 28, 2010

172. December 27, 2010 - Temple Grandin (2010)

This is an example of a smart biopic, since there is a story at the center of the plot as well as a person. Temple Grandin grew up with autism in a time when autistic children were institutionalized for life without a second thought. But she managed to graduate high school, college and graduate school and go on to design humane systems for animals in slaughterhouses - that was unheard of for autistic people at that time. Claire Danes' performance is phenomenal - her mannerisms and speech pattern make her unrecognizable as Claire Danes and transform her entirely into her character.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

171. December 26, 2010 - Tangled (2010)

#71 on my Top 100 List
Rapunzel has never been my favorite fairy tale. In fact, I barely remember all the details except that "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair," is somehow important. This version is heartwarming and moving and adorable - Rapunzel is a great character and Flynn Ryder is way more intricate that I expected. It's interesting to note that Rapunzel is 18 in this, whereas every Disney princess before her was 16 (and paired with a 21 year old prince, which is a little creepy in this day and age). Also, this is the 50th animated feature film from Disney. A worthy film of such a landmark! I highly recommend it.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Saturday, December 25, 2010

170. December 25, 2010 - Die Hard (1988)

Yippee-ki-yay, motherf-er! This is such a fun, great film. Alan Rickman can't keep up the German accent all the time, but he's just so badass that I don't care. Bruce Willis gives us some truly cringe-worthy moments, especially when he walks barefoot across a room full of broken glass. The woman who plays his wife is a little lackluster, but the two leads and an excellent performance by Carl Winslow from Family Matters make up for it. Plus Argyle the limo driver is a fantastic bit part. Merry Christmas!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

169. December 20/21, 2010 - Cemetery Junction (2010)

I enjoy Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and you all know how I adore Matthew Goode, so why didn't I enjoy this movie more? It's just slow and the humor is pretty dry (which I appreciate but don't find particularly funny) and there isn't a whole lot of a plot. I so wish that I could give this a higher rating and a better recommendation. Maybe it's just that insurance salesmen don't make great leading characters?
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Monday, December 20, 2010

168. December 19, 2010 - Love Actually (2003)

Words cannot express how much I love this movie. I love how the storylines weave in and out of each other and I adore Billy Mack and his terrible song and I tear up during the (most romantic in film ever) proposal at the end. The only thing I don't love is Laura Linney's decision basically to never allow her life to be her own by sacrificing her own happiness out of a misplaced belief that only she can help her brother. He's in a hospital! There are other people there who can care for him around the clock. She's allowed to have a life too. I appreciate that not all of the storylines end happily (because love doesn't always end happily in real life), but I think that the Peter/Juliet/Mark triangle and Harry and Karen's rocky marriage illustrate that far better. Throwing Rodrigo Santoro out is just stupid.

Last Christmas's entry is here.

167. December 19, 2010 - The Fighter (2010)

I think maybe I just don't get boxing movies. (Or any sort of fighting movies, because I didn't like The Wrestler either.) And I think at this point, I think it's safe to say that I just don't like Christian Bale. I know his character in this is supposed to be entirely unlikeable, but there is nothing about him that I find fun to watch in any movie he's in. I can understand the acting nominations that this got, but best picture over Winter's Bone or 127 Hours? Really? Doesn't do it for me.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Friday, December 17, 2010

166. December 16, 2010 - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (2009)

This last installment of the original Swedish version of the Millennium Trilogy feels like it's made up entirely of falling action from the second film. Lisbeth Salander recovers from the horrific injuries that she ended the second one with only to find herself in court still suspected of those murders. Plus, she's now suspected of trying to kill her father, Zalachenko. Which, of course, she did, but only because he had his freak son shoot her multiple times and bury her alive. Personally, I think she's totally justified. It's a descent story, but not nearly as exciting or attention-holding as the first two. Plus, the final scene with her and Blomkvist is nothing more than a tease.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

165. December 14, 2010 - Enchanted (2007)

This is one of those feel-good movies that sometimes you just need to watch. Especially when you're sick and have been rendered pretty much unable to talk. Amy Adams is a wonderful actress - she is whimsical and utterly charming in this but can easily shift and play damaged, bitter characters at the opposite end of the spectrum (since really, Disney princesses are about as opposite from real life as you can possibly get). I also think that the little girl playing Morgan is adorable. The "Happy Working Song" sequence still grosses me out with the rats and cockroaches and ugly rats with wings (aka pigeons) but it IS catchy. And I absolutely adore "So Close."

Original thoughts, from my birthday on my Mexican cruise, are here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

164. December 13, 2010 - 127 Hours (2010)

Gore doesn't bother me. Maybe it's because I know how filmmakers do it or because I've done effects makeup myself or because I've become very good at deconstructing film scenes into the parts that make them effective. But the scene in this where trapped hiker James Franco has to amputate his own arm with a pen knife is one of the most intense moments I've ever seen on screen. This is very similar in style to Slumdog Millionaire, but Danny Boyle gives those five days trapped in a gorge a unique story. I was unimpressed by some of the filler that they threw in there to make the film a solid hour and 35 minutes, but overall, it's an effective story. And yet another reason for me never, ever to go back to Utah.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, December 13, 2010

163. December 12, 2010 - Splice (2010)

This is by far the most disturbing film I've seen in a while (though I'm going to see 127 Hours tonight, so we'll see how I feel after that). It was sort of under the radar when it first came out and didn't stick around very long, at least in New England. I think that it would have benefited from being released around Halloween - it seems an odd choice for early summer release. The girl who plays Dren (the genetically engineered thing that at various times looks like a wingless chicken, a velociraptor or a teenage girl with weird eyes and a tail) does a great job in communicating without speaking. The way she moves her head is downright creepy. The moral questions that come up in this film are endless and the level of guts that the filmmakers had to go some of those places is astounding.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Saturday, December 11, 2010

162. December 10, 2010 - Love and Other Drugs (2010)

This is a charming movie that ultimately wins because it doesn't try to be anything that it's not. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's a quirky romantic comedy, since there isn't much out of the ordinary or strange plot devices. I was actually expecting them to take the one plot device that they DID have in a whole different direction. I'm not sure if I'm happy that they didn't go that way, since that would border on cliche, or critical because that's a flaw in the writing. Regardless, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway have pretty good chemistry (which throws back to Brokeback Mountain, where I actually believed them as a couple more than Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams who were an actual couple) and it's a solid chick flick.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Thursday, December 9, 2010

161. December 8, 2010 - The Secret of Kells (2009)

This is the kind of fanciful fairy tale that American animated films seem to be lacking nowadays. The animation style is a little like that of The Triplets of Belleville, but even more basic and simple. It's very flat, but I'm pretty sure that's intentional - it refers back to when films were shot as though on stage, where the action takes place inside the proscenium. I can see why this got nominated for Best Animated Feature last year (though its unavailability at the time was the reason that I couldn't see all the nominees for 2009), if only because it's so fresh and different from the glut of CG animation that's out now.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

160. December 3/7, 2010 - The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

This had the misfortune to be released just after Lord of the Rings and the technical specs are just not as good. However, if you can separate the two film series and watch this without comparing, it's not bad. Yes, the visual effects are choppy and sometimes amateur and the story is blatantly trying to sell an agenda, but there is a reason that these books have been so popular for so long. I never got into them as a child, but I do enjoy the films and I'll also be watching Prince Caspian before going to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader sometime in the near future.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, December 6, 2010

159. December 5, 2010 - Black Dynamite (2009)

This is a fantastic and hilarious parody of the 1970s in general and specifically the action movies of that period and stars who were in them. It's sort of a cross between Austin Powers and Shaft. Strange and incredibly vulgar/offensive, yes, but also hysterical. It's shot on old film stock so as to look as much like a 70s film as possible and everything appears to be authentic in that over-the-top, almost TOO authentic way. Don't let yourself get offended - it's all in good (though definitely not clean) fun.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 29, 2010

158. November 28, 2010 - Where the Heart Is (2000)

Though this isn't a great movie, it is heartwarming and it certainly shows that Natalie Portman can act. It was one of those that I somehow missed, though I would have been right in the target demographic when it came out. I finally watched it now since James Frain (Forney) showed up on last season of True Blood as the delightfully demented vampire Franklin. I was surprised by how much I liked this. The cast is great and the story, though sort of cliched by now, is pretty touching. But, I have to say - Americus? Really?
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

157. November 27/28, 2010 - Asteroid (1997)

This was made the year before Armageddon and Deep Impact and yet it still feels like it ripped off both of them. Actually, it's more like Armageddon and Independence Day had an unfortunate love child. Imagine every disaster movie cliche and meld them all together. Of course, this was a TV movie, so I guess I shouldn't have had any hopes. Michael Weatherly was in it when he was very young. Oh Logan Cale, even you couldn't save this movie.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

Friday, November 26, 2010

156. November 25, 2010 - Megamind (2010)

Man, this year has definitely not been an animation year like last year! Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon not withstanding, the animated features have just not been as good as they should have been. This is a cute film and the voice talent of Will Ferrell actually adds to it, not detracts like I expected, but there's not a whole lot going on other than that. Minion had the potential to be way funnier. I was impressed by how expressive they made Megamind's face, but if that's the only thing I was noticing, something's obviously lacking here.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

155. November 23, 2010 - Secretariat (2010)

I remember that I was surprised to see that Disney was the one producing this film, though I don't know why. It's the perfect underdog, come-from-behind story that Disney loves. It will inevitably be compared to Seabiscuit, but the tone is drastically different. Seabiscuit is a little more heavy and dark, whereas this has that rosy glow that Disney movies always seem to have. I will say that they did a good job building tension, even though everyone knows that Secretariat won the Triple Crown. The cast is okay, but I particularly loved seeing Nelson Ellis (Lafayette on True Blood), though I didn't recognize him at first without the glittery eyeliner.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Friday, November 19, 2010

154. November 18, 2010 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

#60 on my Top 100 List
And here we are at the beginning of the end. Though Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite book, this one was a very close second and, seeing as how I was disappointed in the POA movie, I was nervous. I think that this film was wonderfully done. David Yates has become the Potter director. I also think I've discovered Steve Kloves' problem - he's just not that good at adapting long books into manageable-length movies. But here, where he has two films over which to spread out the events of the novel, he seems to have fewer pacing problems and fewer bad cutting decisions. The opening battle over Surrey was done beautifully, including shifting Hedwig's role just enough to make it even more heartbreaking, and the camping parts didn't feel nearly as long or monotonous as in the book. It was the perfect place to split the two movies and I'm eagerly awaiting Part 2 next July.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

Thursday, November 18, 2010

153. November 16/17, 2010 - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Watching this again, I don't have such a problem with the changes that they made. Yes, I miss the last chapter of the book, but hopefully it will show up in the very beginning of Deathly Hallows Part 1 tonight. Ironically, this is the movie that finally sells Michael Gambon as Dumbledore for me. The scene in the cave, both when he's being force-fed the potion and when he's going all firestarter on the Inferi, is really amazing. And the destruction of various beloved buildings (whether they happen in the book or not) is heartbreaking. Entry on Deathly Hallows coming tomorrow!

Here are my thoughts from last year's midnight showing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

152. November 15/16, 2010 - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

It's definitely been interesting watching all of the HP films back to back like this. This one is by far my favorite - David Yates is amazing. The coloring, the overall tone, the art direction - it all captures the darkness of the fifth book. I think Daniel Radcliffe also does a great job of making Harry angry and teenage-angsty without being annoying. In the book, sometimes I just want to smack Harry upside the head - the movie version is definitely whiney, but I feel sympathy for him too.

When I watched this before Half-Blood Prince is here.

151. November 14/15, 2010 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

There's a moment in this movie toward the very end when Harry returns to the Hogwarts grounds with Cedric's body. People try to tear him away, but he holds onto his friend. For me, that's the moment in the series when the entire tone changes. Harry has to accept it that he let Cedric die and he has to let go, but he can't. And the audience knows that even worse things are coming. Plus, it's very moving and sad to see the ceiling of the Great Hall not bewitched during the memorial at the end. I think this is one of the best of the series (other than the bad hair), despite the fact that this is one of my less favorite books.

Here are my original thoughts.

150. November 15, 2010 - The Town (2010)

Ben Affleck certainly is a better director than actor. That being said, he still has a ways to grow in that respect as well. This was very similar to Gone Baby Gone in tone and style - I get that the stories themselves have a similar vibe, but I'm not impressed by someone just repeating what got him accolades last time. The performances are solid (Jeremy Renner especially) and the story is engaging enough. I don't mean to be harsh - I did enjoy the film. Though, I must say, I'm seriously disappointed that a Red Sox fan like Ben Affleck would make such a huge mistake. You cannot walk by Gate B inside Fenway Park, heading toward the Green Monster, and end up by Gate E walking toward home plate. It is physically impossible. He should have known better.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 15, 2010

149. November 14, 2010 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

I am not going to rant again. I promise. I know that I'm practically the only person in the world who dislikes this movie, but I do and no matter how many times I try to defend my position, I'm never going to win that argument. So I'm not even going to try anymore. I will say that I didn't hate it quite so much this time around and the way that time is referenced over and over again is pretty cool. That's the only positive thing I'm going with, though. Show don't tell is Screenwriting 101, people.

My first entry, aka rant, is here.

148. November 13/14, 2010 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Love, love, love Kenneth Branagh! He's genius as Gilderoy Lockhart. Anyone else could have played him corny and ridiculous and it would have fallen flat. His Lockhart is corny and ridiculous, but so much fun to watch. The costume design plays a huge part in it, from the lilac robes to the honey-colored wigs. Each of the kids has done some growing up between this and the movie before, especially Rupert Grint and Tom Felton. It's interesting to watch all the films so close together and see the progression.

Original entry here.

147. November 13, 2010 - Morning Glory (2010)

Normally I don't love Rachel McAdams. She was annoying in The Notebook (though honestly, that entire movie was nauseating), she was not spectacular in The Time-Traveler's Wife and she was only mildly hateable in Mean Girls. She is incredibly grating in this movie, but the rest of the cast makes up for her to make this a cute film. I'm not entirely sure why it's been getting Oscar buzz, because there really isn't a whole lot going on here, but it was at least enjoyable. It was nice to see Harrison Ford as a crotchety old man. It seemed like a nice change of pace for him.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

146. November 12/13, 2010 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)

I still firmly believe that this film series needed to start out this way. It had to be candy-coated and over-the-top and glowy, because the audience is being introduced to this world in the same way that Harry is. Despite the fact that it's dangerous and there is darkness, the wizarding world is a million times better than living under the stairs at the Dursley's. It needs to look like that. A lot of attention has always been put on the casting decisions regarding the children, but honestly, the Hogwarts staff cast is amazing.

I'm watching all of these before the midnight show of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One on Thursday.

My first entry for this film (before the midnight showing of Half-Blood Prince) is here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

145. November 9/10, 2010 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

I think I had only seen this once, a long time ago. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Inception. Both of them get the tone right on for all of the scenes that take place inside someone's head. Sometimes it looks normal on the surface, but there's always a hint of something just a little off if you're really paying attention. You know how much I adore Kate Winslet and this movie got her her fourth Oscar nomination. And naturally, it won for Best Original Screenplay (just as Inception is probably going to this coming February/March). I especially like the title, which, as Kirsten Dunst says in the film, is from Alexander Pope's poem "Eloisa to Abelard":
How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;
The heroine in this poem is onto something, I think. Sometimes forgetting does seem like the easiest way.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 8, 2010

144. November 6, 2010 - Dumbo (1940)

Wow, this could absolutely not be made today. Racist crows, faceless black characters (literally faceless), forced animal labor, animal cruelty - the list goes on and on. This was only the second or third Disney movie, so maybe animation was still too new of a medium for anyone to pick up on those things, or care. Though, Fantasia was made the same year and they got slapped by the Production Code. And yep, "Baby Mine" still makes me cry.

Here's a link to my first entry.

143. November 6, 2010 - Due Date (2010)

I was excited for this movie, and sadly it didn't really live up to my expectations. Robert Downey, Jr. and Zach Galifianakis should be an awesome combo, but Zach Galifianakis retains all of his goofiness and none of his charm from The Hangover. Also, giving RDJ the line "I've never done drugs in my life" just makes him the inadvertent butt of a tasteless joke. The dog is superfluous, the drinking Dad gag was done by Keith Richards years ago, and I am certainly not in the mood still to watch anything that involves a road trip through the Southwest.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Saturday, November 6, 2010

142. November 5, 2010 - The Life of David Gale (2003)

I stand by my opinion that there is a good story in this movie somewhere. Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet play well off of each other and the core plot of an innocent man trying to clear his name before his execution has the potential for suspense. It just gets buried under political grandstanding and over-stylization. There are a lot of contrivances and the dialogue isn't great, but it's worth watching every once and a while.

My first entry is here.

141. November 4/5, 2010 - Princess Ka'iulani (2009)

This is the story of a Hawaiian princess who tries to save her kingdom from being overthrown by the US. It should be interesting, given the richness of traditional Hawaiian culture and the lush environment, but it suffers the curse of most biopics - there just isn't enough drama in Ka'iulani's life to make an interesting film. And what drama there is is downplayed and muted - the whole thing feels sluggish, like it's just woken up from a late afternoon nap. The most affecting part of the whole movie is the tagline at the end that explains what happened to the real Ka'iulani.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Thursday, November 4, 2010

140. November 3, 2010 - Bride of Chucky (1998)

Yep - no matter how bad these are, I still watch them. But, now I've seen all of them (including Seed of Chucky, which I actually saw first) and don't have to watch any more. This one isn't quite as wretched as number three, but it's nowhere near good and the doll sex scene is even more disturbing than the marionette sex scene in Team America. Katherine Heigl shows up and honestly, with a start like this, it's amazing that her career went anywhere.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars