Saturday, September 18, 2010

123. September 17, 2010 - Easy A (2010)

The idea behind this seems to be giving the same exposure to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter that Clueless gave to Emma. They go about it slightly differently, in that in this movie, the main character Olive (Emma Stone, who is one of best breakout actresses in the last year, between this and Zombieland) talks all the time about the book and how she identifies with Hester Prynne. Overall it does pretty well. It's definitely funny and Olive manages to be endearing despite her borderline self-destructive behavior that the plot revolves around. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are hysterical, though a little disturbing, as her free-spirited parents.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

122. September 15, 2010 - Letters to Juliet (2010)

I very much enjoy Amanda Seyfried as an actress. I think that she has come a long way since Mean Girls (and I'm not just saying that because I used to live in the same apartment complex), but I question her most recent choice of films. This and Dear John are two of the most saccharine films I've seen come out in a long time. That being said, there is a fascinating story that comes out of this movie and it has nothing to do with the plot. Apparently, the whole story about Juliet's secreteries who reply to letters sent to Juliet herself is true. Heartbroken women from all over the world send their woes in letter form to Shakespeare's most famous heroine and both men and women from Verona volunteer their time to reply to each and every one that they get. To me, that is a far more touching story than anything presented in the movie.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

121. September 13/14, 2010 - The Orphanage (2007)

This may not have been directed by Guillermo del Toro, but it has the same chilling and moving feel that Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone have. J.A. Bayona definitely channeled at least some of del Toro's filmmaking talent. The story walks the line between paranormal horror and pyschological thriller, allowing the audience to piece together what they think is happening before throwing them for a loop at the very end. The performances are all pretty good, but this movie is truly about the story and the tone - though I will say that I greatly enjoy the surprise appearance of Geraldine Chaplin as a medium who is brought in to commune with the ghost children. Don't watch this alone late at night, but definitely watch it at some point.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Monday, September 13, 2010

120. September 12, 2010 - Maverick (1994)

Hmm. Mel Gibson in a western, huh? Granted, this is a satirical western that pushes everything way over the top and does not at all take itself seriously. It's a fun movie that includes gunfights, tense poker games, a torrid love affair and one hysterical exchange in a Native American language. The end gets a little muddled, between everyone's secrets and double-crossings coming out. Also, it's very difficult to watch Mel Gibson now in anything without making the obligatory racist/anger jokes (even Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes couldn't resist). I'm very jealous of Jodie Foster's hair.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

119. September 11, 2010 - The American (2010)

This reminded me of In Bruges, but way less fun. George Clooney is dark and brooding and his relationship with the prostitute Clara is tense and not necessarily healthy, but it's appropriate for the tone of the film. It's a very quiet, sleepy thriller, with bursts of action that appear and disappear just like gunfire. Also curious is that there is very little music except at moments when the audience is supposed to feel some kind of emotional connection. I get what the fimmaker was trying to do with that, but audiences are not that stupid. If they aren't feeling what you want them to feel, then adding some sad music is not going to help. The emotional resonance is either there or it's not.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Friday, September 10, 2010

118. September 10, 2010 - The Calcium Kid (2004)

Milk - does the body good. Apparently it also makes Orlando Bloom (who is hot and can certainly use a bow and arrow, but will never convince me that he would ever survive as a boxer) into a champion in the boxing ring. Right. The story feels rushed, with his character Jimmy going from nobody to superstar to disgraced celebrity and back to star in the first hour. It's a mockumentary, so it feels like it's following closer to real time than fictional film time and the character arc goes at warp speed. Minor characters come in and out, but no significant time is spent on any of them, so any sort of audience connection is lost.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

117. September 9, 2010 - The Girl Who Played With Fire (2009)

This is definitely a very different story than the first one. It's less graphic than events in the first, though the story gets more intense and has higher stakes for the main characters. Also, Mikael and Lisbeth spend the majority of this one apart, so the dynamic is completely new. I read in Entertainment Weekly that some people wonder whether author Stieg Larsson had issues with women. After seeing this, I disagree. I think he had major family issues. There is not a single functioning family anywhere in these stories! (At least not the first two - I have yet to read/see the third.) A couple of new characters are introduced (who I've been assured are important in the third installment), but the movie doesn't spend quite enough time establishing them. I guess that will have to come in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornett's Nest. Technically this seemed a little subpar when compared to the first one, but it's certainly not bad. I look forward to seeing the third movie (whenever it makes up to my corner of the country).
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

116. September 9, 2010 - Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)

This is the James Cameron that I like. Not the self-obsessed, blue alien-worshipping pop culture cancer glutton that he's become, but the serious film-obsessed (and I'm sure still self-obsessed but not as obnoxious about it) director who was truly passionate about something. This documentary is about his voyages down to the wreck of the Titanic and their quest to learn as much about it as possible. Through the course of the movie, audiences are treated to views of the ship that normally would never be accessible - things like Captain Smith's bathtub or the remains of Molly Brown's bed. As the tiny explorer robots (named Jake and Elwood) wind their way through the promenades and rooms, the crew members share their favorite stories about the ship and her passengers. This is a nice testament to the power that the story of the Titanic seems to have over people even today. Also, in a touching gesture, it's dedicated to Walter Lord, who wrote A Night to Remember - still the greatest book to be written about the tragedy.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

115. September 7, 2010 - Get Low (2010)

This is not at all what I expected. Based on the poster, which shows just Bill Murray and a mountain man beard-clad Robert Duvall standing in a field, I figured it would be a comedy or at least a story that included ample comic relief. Not so much. This is a fairly heavy story that, though it drags some in the middle, becomes truly moving by the end. It's obvious by how many people show up to Robert Duvall's "living funeral party" how curious everyone is about him. By that point, so is the audience, who have been granted far more information than the townspeople characters. His story, when it finally comes out, is worth the wait, but doesn't quite make up for how long the movie feels beforehand.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

Monday, September 6, 2010

114. September 6, 2010 - Mars Attacks! (1996)

And the Tim Burton quest continues. This movie is awfully strange. I appreciate the all-star cast - everyone from Jack Nicholson to Jack Black is in this - and the design of the martians is pretty cool. (Also gross - brains made out of green goo? Ew.) It's at the same time an homage to and a parody of the B horror movies of old (and shades of Ed Wood films can be seen throughout). There's not much to the story, but it's amusing and it does what it sets out to do. After all, everyone has to give in to self-indulgence once and a while.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars