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