Saturday, December 31, 2011

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Netflix DVD on 12/31/11
Not the best film to end the year with. I remember now why I hate Woody Allen so much. Even if he doesn't appear in the movie, his whiny poor me attitude seeps into every single word uttered by his main character. Owen Wilson is better than this. The concept of the crazy writer who has delusions of hanging out with famous artistic Parisians is not necessarily new or creative, and has been done far better. But this will get nominated for writing, because the Academy so loves Woody Allen. God knows why. Happy New Year everyone!
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 120

Hugo (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 12/30/11
This is a sad story for a family film! I know that orphans are often the subject of kid's movies (for some weird reason), but seeing how poor Hugo lives within the walls of the train station was heartbreaking. I like the cast, especially Ben Kingsley and Helen McCrory as Georges Melies and his wife. I had totally forgotten that this is a movie for people who love movies until halfway through. And while the automaton is creepy looking, I can get past it for the sake of the rest of the plot. Love all the famous faces that show up as the others who frequent the train station too.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 119

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 12/29/11
This was my first attempt at sitting through a 3D movie in a long time, and will also be my last for a long time. It makes my eyes hurt and my stomach start to roil. So not worth it. All that being said, this movie is great. It's fast-paced and full of adventure, complete with sinister Victorian bad guys and pirates. It is, however, very violent and somewhat dark for a kid's movie. Some of the things they did with the motion-capture animation were pretty amazing and it's my pick for Best Animated Feature of 2011. I have no experience with the Tintin books, so other than the fact that I thought Tintin was a kid, I had no expectations going in.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 118

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Young Adult (2011)

The Nick with Lauren, Kat, and Chris on 12/27/11
This was not at all like I expected. The trailers make it look far more like, as Lauren called it, a black comedy than it actually is. It's far closer to the tone of Diablo Cody's United States of Tara than it is to Juno. It's heavy in places, especially with the gentle treatment of the fact that there really is something wrong with Mavis, and there really is no character resolution for anyone. Despite that, it still feels like a complete story. I definitely laughed, but it also makes you uncomfortable in a lot of places too. Elizabeth Reaser's character of the wife of Mavis's former flame is the most sympathetic and likeable character. She throws the other characters into a much sharper contrast.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 117

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

Netflix DVD with Lauren on 12/23/11
Happy Christmas Eve! This was a decidedly weird movie that, by the end, totally worked. I think that it's partially because it was acted brilliantly (Ryan Gosling got a Globe nom for it) but it also has amazing writing. The connections between the characters aren't obvious or predictable, but they are completely believable when the whole thing is over. The whole love triangle with the baby sitter is a little weird, but I can overlook that in favor of the absolute exaggerated realism of the other situations. It's funny and sort of touching by the end. And Emma Stone, of course, is awesome.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 116

Friday, December 23, 2011

Take Shelter (2011)

The Nick on 12/21/11
This is totally different than the poster makes it look. The poster indicates some kind of apocalyptic bug invasion is coming, which would make sense with the title. The movie is actually about a man who suffers from increasingly disturbing visions of the end of the world, mostly in the form of tornadoes, so he builds a huge storm shelter under his backyard. And everyone thinks he's gone off the deep end. Michael Shannon plays him brilliantly, though I was not a fan of the end of the movie. Not only is it incredibly unclear, but it's also kind of tragic. If the end of the world really is coming, he and his family now have nowhere to hide.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 115

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

The Nick with Lauren on 12/20/11
Wow, Guy Ritchie. A fan of the slow-mo? I really enjoyed the story of this movie, actually more than the first Sherlock Holmes, but the heavy-handed stylized camera work was way too much. I was glad to be rid of Rachel McAdams this time around, and I loved Noomi Rapace as Sherlock's second sidekick. Mycroft Holmes was a nice touch, too. Moriarty is the classic villain, and he was played beautifully here. I would say delightful all around, except for the overused slow-mo.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 114

J. Edgar (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 12/19/11
I had heard that this was a terrible movie, but Leo is going to get nominated for Best Actor, so I felt that I had to see it. Turns out, it's actually decent. Leo is very convincing as J. Edgar Hoover, and Armie Hammer is heartbreaking as his best friend/unacknowledged life partner. Clint Eastwood makes Hoover into a pitiable character, and by the end, you almost want to forgive him for doing things like wiretapping his own employees. And I wish there was some way to know what was in those secret legendary files.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 113

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Puss in Boots (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 12/14/11
This is one of those spin-offs that was absolutely unnecessary and pointless. Puss in Boots was one of the most memorable characters from the Shrek movies, but if this was supposed to be the backstory, it was a huge disappointment. The plot was predictable, the new characters were uninteresting, and the structure was all over the place. Please, please, please, finally leave the Shrek franchise alone from now on. I can't imagine this actually winning Best Animated Feature now that I've seen it, but stranger things have happened. I guess.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 112

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren and Emica on 12/11/11
This movie is so cute! I had heard that it was good, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Poor little Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy, who is always hot) is so in love with Christmas, and so in awe of his father Santa Claus the 20th, that all he wants is to be a part of the holiday magic. His older brother Steve (a delightfully arrogant Hugh Laurie) has techno-ized Christmas, and when his "perfect" system misses a child, it's up to Arthur to fix things. He and his GrandSanta (Bill Nighy) take the old sleigh for a spin and try to beat the sun to England. It's funny and moving and totally heartwarming on a cold day.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 111

Four Christmases (2008)

Netflix DVD over 12/10/11 and 12/11/11
This is a pretty stupid movie, but it's fun too. I like Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon very much, and they don't seem like a mismatched couple (as happens so often in rom coms). There is nothing new or unique about the characters, though the story is relatively different, and it's not too heavy on the sappy "Christmas magic" message. Good for a laugh, even if not for much else.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 110

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Like Crazy (2011)

The Nick with Anna and Lauren on 12/7/11
Huh. This movie was odd. I'm not sure I buy the romance that the story is trying to sell. Two college students fall in love, the British one decides to violate her student visa to hang out with her American boyfriend all summer, and then red tape keeps them apart. What exactly did she expect was going to happen? Plus, from that point on, the couple grows apart but continues to force their relationship to work. Which it doesn't. The film doesn't end on a happy note, nor does it end on a convincing one.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 109

Monday, December 5, 2011

Margin Call (2011)

The Nick on 12/3/11
This was not at all about what I thought it was about. For some reason, I had expected some kind of political election thriller, but it's actually about the scrambling that takes place when the higher-ups discover a financial crisis in the making and can do nothing to stop it. It's actually very interesting to see how they scramble and what heads they are willing to chop off in order to save their own skins. The cast is great, from Zachary Quinto as the rocket scientist/risk analyst who discovers the problem to Kevin Spacey as the boss to Jeremy Irons as the big boss. I didn't hate any of them by the film's end. One thing that I did find a little strange was the mixing of characters as the story progresses. The lines between the levels of the hierarchy get so blurred, with low levels chilling and drinking coffee with their boss's boss's boss.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 108

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Somewhere (2010)

Netflix DVD with Lauren over 11/29/11 and 11/30/11
First of all, it took us nearly an entire month to get around to watching this movie. Not a great first impression obviously if it sat that long on top of our television under Thor and Downton Abbey. And I was not at all impressed with the film itself. I get that this is a whole indie style, where absolutely nothing happens, but it's just not good storytelling. Actually, that's not true. It's hardly storytelling at all if there is no story that you're telling. This is the third Sofia Coppola movie that I have seen, and the third that I have been disappointed by.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 107

Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)

The Nick with Lauren, Kat, Anna, and Sadie on 11/29/11
So...this is the best Twilight movie, huh? I'm not so sure I agree. I think that this movie suffers exactly what the book suffers. There are moments that are interesting, like the sex scene, the tension between Jacob and the rest of the wolf pack, and Bella's extremely SFX intense emaciation by her unborn half-vampire baby, but the rest of the time feels a lot like filler. It's very obviously not the whole story - this was not the best one to split into two films. I was very impressed by the effects to make Bella look like she was starving, though, and the birth scene was fairly intense. The sex scene was fine, but the shot of the destroyed bedroom after was way better.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 106

Happy Feet 2 (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic on 11/29/11
I was not a huge fan of the first Happy Feet. Something about the dancing penguins just failed to reach me. I also found the switching between CGI and live action a little jarring. However, though this one also features dancing penguins and one or two switches between CGI and live action, I found it much more amusing. The baby penguin trio is adorable. Though, interestingly, I found the story of the two krill, Will and Bill, to be far more enjoyable and engaging. Despite the fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the plot.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 105

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moneyball (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 11/27/11
First I should say that I'm pretty mad at my baseball team right now. I know that the Red Sox are great at implosions, but this year was such a colossal clusterf*ck that I am still less than willing to forgive them. Which made watching this movie, about the backdoor business side of baseball and the 2001 Oakland A's use of sabermetrics (mathematically predicting a player's value to your team) to build a stellar team, sort of bitterly amusing. I know that baseball is a business. But I have never forgiven Theo Epstein for trading Nomar Garciaparra - I don't care what the math says. And speaking of the Red Sox, there were some seriously slacking fact checkers on this film. It takes place during the 2002 season and includes a shot of Billy Beane visiting Fenway Park. Not only are there parts of the park visible that did not exist in 2002 (the left field roof, the absence of the .406 Club, etc.), but also the 2004 and 2007 World Series banners are clearly visible above the press boxes. Pay attention, people! And I know it doesn't sound like it, but this was a very well-made film and I enjoyed it a lot.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 104

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

The Nick on 11/23/11
Happy almost Thanksgiving! I have chosen to celebrate this Thanksgiving Eve with...a movie about a woman trying to escape from a cult. Not my best choice I think. This was a serious downer. However, it was acted very well - Elizabeth Olsen apparently got all of the Olsen family performing jeans. It does bother me when characters withhold important information from other characters, whether intentionally or because they can't help it, and that was my biggest problem with this film. I liked the intercutting between Martha's new life with her sister and her old life with the cult as Marcy. It's just heavy and a little too disturbing for right before Thanksgiving.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 103

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Time (2011)

The Nick with Emica on 11/7/11
This movie is somewhere between action and thriller. It's not heavy on explosions or car chases, but there is definitely a lot of running (the film makes a good point - if your wealth is measured in time and you're poor, you wouldn't meander anywhere) and it lacks the suspenseful edge that most thrillers have. Amanda Seyfried is pretty awesome, even with that terrible haircut. She successfully makes me feel bad for her poor little rich girl character. I actually found the whole concept of time being the currency as well as determining your life span to be very interesting. It's different, and it definitely kept me interested.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 102

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Ides of March (2011)

The Nick with Lauren on 11/5/11
I am not a huge fan of political thrillers to begin with. I find them often to be plodding and lacking a lot of the "thriller" elements. That being said, this one was decent. It's definitely something that's going to be nominated come Oscar time, and George Clooney and Ryan Gosling (who I normally don't like) were both very good. My biggest gripe with the film is that it lifts its character development, step by step, from The Godfather. Not much by way of originality, right down to the final shot of the film.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 101

The Three Musketeers (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 11/4/11
Kind of ridiculous, but all in all, this movie is really a fun time. There are a lot of sword fights and double/triple crosses, with Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson) stealing the show right out from under Milla Jovovich's nose. He is completely unconvincing as D'Artagnan, but they're all unconvincing as Musketeers. Ray Stevenson is always going to be Titus Pullo to me and the guy who plays Aramis looks like the love child of Orlando Bloom and James McAvoy. And speaking of Orlando Bloom, between him and Christophe Waltz, this movie has some pretty sinister villains.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 100

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Ninth Gate (1999)

Netflix DVD with Lauren on 10/30/11
This reminds me a lot of Rosemary's Baby in tone, which is most likely due to Roman Polanski as the director and the heavy occult theme. I think that I would have liked this a lot if the pacing had just been fixed. The movie is over 2 hours long, with the first 55 minutes or so dedicated entirely to set up. Once the first hour is over, you feel like you've been subjected to some kind of lecture on the mythology and history of Satanism. From there, the film moves with a very deliberate pace, though never quite introducing characters fully and building towards three separate and oddly-spaced climaxes. I enjoyed the film, but I most likely won't ever watch it again.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 99

The Stepford Wives (1975)

Netflix DVD with Lauren on 10/29/11
Surprisingly, this is based on a book by the same author as Rosemary's Baby. And I think it would have been really interesting to see what a director like Roman Polanski or even Tim Burton in his really early years would have done with it. The problems that this film has are more products of its era than the actual production. It's slow and almost deliberate, taking time for audiences to put the clues together and catch up to what's going on. Modern audiences don't need all of the bread crumbs that are dropped. That being said, this is far superior to that awful remake with Nicole Kidman a few years ago.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 98

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Merrill Auditorium with Lauren, Andy, and Dad on 10/28/11
This is one of the few original "monster movies" that I had never seen. Lon Chaney, father of Lon Chaney Jr. (duh) of The Wolfman fame, is the iconic Phantom, with the skull-like appearance and secret lair under the Paris Opera House. I'm not really familiar with the original book, nor have I seen many adaptations of it, but I definitely enjoyed this. We went to a special showing, complete with a 7,000 pipe organ playing the soundtrack - it's an amazing experience to see a silent film now with live accompaniment!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 97

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Carriers (2009)

Netflix Streaming on 10/10/11
This is like Contagion with a micro budget. Or, like Contagion meets Zombieland. It's pretty good! It's a roadtrip movie, through the west as the four main characters head to the ocean, to a place where they believe they will be safe from the virus. It's never really clear what the virus is, or how it started, but it's fast-moving and they aren't afraid to kill off main characters. It's also made clear that they aren't looking for some mythical community that is virus-free - they're just looking for a place with no other people where they will be free of the danger of infection. Overall, solid low-budget horror film.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 96

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The End of the Affair (1999)

Netflix DVD on 10/9/11
I have to read this novel for one of my upcoming workshops, and since this got a couple of Oscar noms a few (okay, 12) years ago, I figured it was time to Netflix it. And it's okay. It's just not really memorable at all. The story is told in retrospect from the man's point of view, except for a bit in the middle which inexplicably shifts to the woman, and meanders to its inevitable end. It's slow, which is not necessarily bad - it just makes it feel a lot longer than its 1 hour and 35 minutes. Which is probably saying something. Also, I think the casting is off, because to me, there is really no question between Ralph Fiennes and Stephen Rea.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 95

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Oceans (2009)

Netflix Streaming over 10/7/11 and 10/8/11
This is Disney's latest addition to their version of Planet Earth, but their camera work and wow-factor just doesn't live up to PE. Some of the underwater shots were really cool, and the satellite images of pollution spilling out of rivers into the ocean was effective, but technically, the rest is a little mediocre. The one truly moving/heartbreaking scene was when the freshly-hatched turtles make their break for the ocean and half of them get eaten by seabirds. Even some of the babies that make it to the ocean aren't safe. Overall, interesting but not mind-blowing.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 94

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

Brunswick Regal on 9/22/11
Even though I've never seen a Planet of the Apes film, I was excited to see this one because, honestly, I adore James Franco. And it's pretty fun! The CG apes look really unrealistic at times, but I enjoyed the facial expressions on Caesar (the grandfather of the intelligent apes) and the giant silverback gorilla was done well. Brian Cox is once again a slimy villain, as is Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy), but that's to be expected at this point. I would be shocked if I ever saw Brian Cox play a straight up good guy - and I still probably wouldn't trust him.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 93

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Debt (2011)

The Nick with Lauren on 9/20/11
This was an absolutely great movie until the last fifteen minutes. It's a framed story about the search for and capture of the so-called "Surgeon of Birkenau," a Nazi doctor responsible for horrible experiments on prisoners. I haven't been able to find anything on whether this doctor was a real person, but the human experimentation in concentration camps certainly was true. The film is so good all the way through - it's a beautiful balance of the two timelines, it's suspenseful, and it's very well acted - but the end completely falls apart. It feels like the writers got to a certain point and then looked at each other with no idea how to end.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 92

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hereafter (2010)

Netflix DVD over 9/15/11 and 9/16/11
Like the last entry, this movie is pretty bad. It got nominated for Best Visual Effects, but there were very few FX to speak of. The plot is split between three different characters, in a way that makes it difficult to emotionally attach to any of them. The only story that is even remotely touching is the poor boy whose twin brother is killed. However, he is onscreen so rarely that it's hard to remember that you feel bad for him. Fail for Clint Eastwood on this one.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 91

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 9/14/11
This movie was awful. I had heard that people were saying that it was the first major flop of 2011 and all that, and I had assumed that maybe it wasn't great but that it was at least fun. Nope. It's awful. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford are so far above this. Olivia Wilde's character secret? Really? And fighting the aliens magically bridges all of the characters' differences? And how the hell did that boat end up upside down anyway? Do yourself a big favor and skip this one.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 90

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Ben on 9/13/11
This is Guillermo del Toro, who was genius with Pan's Labyrinth and so smart in bringing The Orphanage to the US. This one isn't quite as spectacular. I think that the story could have been really awesome except for two things: it would have been far better handled by a Spanish director (and turned out in the vein of The Orphanage), and it would have been much scarier if the audience didn't see the evil pixie things. They're gross-looking, sure, but seeing them removes some of the horrifying mystery. It's much worse to know that something is moving under the sheets with you but not to see what that something is.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 89

Monday, September 12, 2011

Them! (1954)

Movie Night with Adam, Lauren, Mike, Kat, Anna, and Sadie on 9/11/11
I have a huge soft spot for B horror movies from the 50s. This one in particular is awesome in how awful it is. Giant ants mutated by residual radiation from testing in the New Mexico desert demolish a small town then move on to eat Los Angeles. You all know that the B movie movement was in response to fear over nuclear war and the Cold War - this one is not as overt as Godzilla and not as ridiculous as Plan 9 From Outer Space. Totally a fun movie.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 88

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)

Netflix DVD on 9/10/11
This is a very interesting concept that unfortunately isn't as interesting on screen as it is on paper. Basically the whole movie is Morgan Spurlock in meetings with executives of major brands trying to get them to finance the movie. It's a movie about itself that never has a finale or a climax, because it is the climax all along. We know that the movie gets made, because we're watching it. Even documentaries need storytelling. And Spurlock is a good filmmaker - this is just a misstep.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 87

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Contagion (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Anna, Kat, Lauren, and Sadie on 9/9/11
Honestly, I'm still trying to sort out all the awesome things about this movie. The cast is great, the direction is spot-on (even though I generally don't like Steven Soderbergh) as a tense thriller, and the story is like Outbreak only not ridiculous. It's great! The MEV-1 virus is terrifying because it is suddenly everywhere and it's not so exotic that it's not scary. It's a respiratory illness that kills you. End of story. Not a hemorrhagic fever or a rare form of cancer. It's like the flu. The movie does a great job of highlighting how fast something like that will spread.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 86

Friday, September 9, 2011

Love in the Time of Cholera (2007)

Netflix DVD on 9/7/11
I'm reading this book for my next MFA packet, so I figured I would check out the movie. So far, the book is pretty beautifully written, which is good because the movie is epically boring. Javier Bardem has never been my favorite actor and his character's habit of sleeping with a lot of women to make up for the fact that he didn't get his "one true love." The relationship between the two of them is not portrayed as being strong enough to last for 50 years in the movie. I'm looking forward to the book being better.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 85

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Netflix DVD on 8/31/11
I should say right off the bat that I do not like Julia Roberts. Never have. I don't understand at all why people love her so much. And in this, it never felt like she was playing the main character - she was very close to playing herself. On top of that, the main character in this is whiny and self-pitying, lamenting a situation entirely of her own making and expecting others to feel sorry for her. The only touching part of the whole (much too long) film is when she tries to raise money for a single mother in Bali by contacting everyone she has met throughout the course of her travels. Which is touching because of the single mother, not at all because of her.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 84

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Champagne (1928)

DVD on 8/30/11
I think I've figured out the problem with Hitchcock's early films. Besides the fact that he is still nowhere near being the Master of Suspense, he just doesn't have a firm hand on his stories. They meander in several different directions, like this one that strives to teach a spoiled young heiress a lesson. I don't know her enough to care whether she learns a lesson or not. And I know that on DVD releases of silent films, the soundtrack has been added almost arbitrarily, but what the heck was the point of having Pomp and Circumstance in there?
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 83

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Beaver (2011)

Netflix DVD on 8/28/11
There was a lot of Oscar talk around this movie when it was first announced. Then, the film got blasted by critics when it actually came out. It's not a terrible movie, just not very good. Poor Mel Gibson should probably just retire. His character is not at all likeable or sympathetic here - his explanation that talking through a puppet is "therapy" is weak and makes him sound crazier than I think he's meant to be. Then the puppet's subsequent takeover of his personality is just too bizarre for the rest of the film - it doesn't fit. I'm thinking there won't be any awards love come this winter.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 82

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trouble the Water (2008)

Netflix DVD on 8/24/11
I'm honestly surprised that there aren't more documentaries about Katrina. This one is not as successful as it sets out to be, I think. The filmmakers are very self-centered, largely ignoring those whose plights were far worse than theirs, and focusing heavily on the unfairness of FEMA's relief efforts. While I whole-heartedly agree that it was unfair that not everyone got the money they were promised, a lot of people didn't even make it that far. Those are far more heart-wrenching stories than a couple who can't get their money in time.
My Netflix rating:
3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 81

The Last Airbender (2010)

Netflix DVD on 8/24/11
I had heard really, really terrible things about this movie. Of course, at this point, everyone assumes that anything M. Night Shyamalan does is going to be bad. While it wasn't as awful as everyone said, it's still not at all worth watching. The plot is boring and contrived, the kid can't act at all, poor Dev Patel struggles with ridiculous lines, and I'm sorry, but that stupid dance they do to "bend" whatever element they are in control of makes them look like marionettes having a seizure. Apparently the cartoon that this is based on is far better, but I'm not a fan of anime, so I probably won't get to watching it.
My Netflix rating:
2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 80

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2011)

The Nick on 8/23/11
At first, when I realized they were splitting this film and setting half of the story in the present day, I was not at all pleased. I discovered this book a very long time ago on a new fiction table in California and I love it. I think it's a story that doesn't need to be enhanced or embellished to be a good movie. But once it got going and I saw exactly how they were doing it, it wasn't as hard to watch as I thought it would be. I see it as a completely separate entity from the book, but still enjoyable. I do appreciate when they put actors in dual roles, IF it's done well, and it is here. Nina/Lily and Sophia/Snow Flower make perfect sense to me as dual roles.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 79

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ghost Writer (2010)

Showtime on 8/23/11
I am really going to miss having Showtime and HBO when I move! This is a pretty tightly-written political thriller, given that for large portions of the movie, the main character isn't doing much of anything. Olivia Wilde was a nice surprise cast member (Adelle DeWitt from Dollhouse), her performance as the former Prime Minister's neglected and slightly vindictive wife being one of the standouts. I like the idea that the major political events serve only as a backdrop to the thriller. This got a lot of Oscar buzz last year, but no actual love.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 78

The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

HBO over 8/11/11 and 8/23/11
This was recommended to me way back when I was teaching World History and I'm just getting to it now. At first glance, it seems ridiculous - two male lions would never hunt together and further than that, they would never kill for sport the way it is depicted. I thought it was nothing but a failed attempt at an animal thriller. However, then I found out that the whole thing is based on a true story, which makes it way more interesting! The technical aspects just need work. The voiceover bit at the end makes the whole thing ring much more depressing, though, as it reminds the viewer how few lions there are left in the wild.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 77

Monday, August 22, 2011

SherryBaby (2006)

Netflix DVD on 8/20/11
This was nominated for a Golden Globe a few years ago and I never got around to watching it at the time. It's decent, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is very convincing as a struggling former addict, but the characters never manage to fully get my sympathy. The brother and his wife who have been raising Sherry's daughter just come off as selfish in their desire to keep her, not caring parental figures. Sherry doesn't garner any sympathy when she trades sexual favors to get what she wants. The only one I do feel bad for is the poor, confused kid.
My Netflix rating:
3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 76

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Last Unicorn (1982)

VHS on 8/18/11
I had forgotten that cartoons from the 80s all seem to be musicals. Thankfully, The Land Before Time managed to escape that. This movie is okay, besides the oddly placed songs, but I think again that it's hard to enjoy it without having watched it as a child. The animation is not great and the story is cute, but not engaging. I understand why some people love it, but the nostalgia piece is just missing for me.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 75

The Conspirator (2010)

Netflix DVD on 8/16/11
This is one of those stories that, even though you know the ending, you wish it would be different. Mary Surratt is famous because she was the first woman ever executed by the US Government. I still wished that it would end differently, even though I'm a Northerner. James McAvoy is more convincing with his American accent here than before. Evan Rachel Wood is particularly good as Mary Surratt's daughter and I definitely enjoyed the bit parts by Jonathan Groff and the guy who plays Andy Bellfleur on True Blood.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 74

Session 9 (2001)

DVD on 8/15/11
This is a weird, weird movie. I think it is one that will take multiple viewings to figure out exactly who is possessed by whom and when, but it's interesting enough to do so. It takes place entirely in the old Danvers State Hospital, a fantastic historic landmark that was unfortunately demolished by some apartment-complex developer a few years ago. Deserted buildings are always creepy, but never more so than when they were mental hospitals. This is like what Freedomland should have been.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 73

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Help (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Lauren on 8/14/11
This was far, far better than I expected! I tend to avoid any books or movies that have such a following, so I've never read this. I was expected a much more superficial story. And yes, there is some emotional manipulation going on, but the story is strong enough that I can forgive it. Past that, the performances are breathtaking. I have only seen Emma Stone in Zombieland and Easy A, both of which are awesome of course, but she blew me away here too. She is easily one of the best new actresses of the last couple years. She sells the story and the emotions behind it 100%. I feel like the perspective of domestic servants is still one that isn't ever explored, even today. The message doesn't feel dated or out of place at all.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 72

Good (2009)

Netflix DVD with Lauren on 8/13/11
I'm not really sure what this movie was about. And it's biggest fault is that it doesn't either. At first, it seems to be about a good man who inadvertently gets caught up in the Nazi regime. Then it moves into being about a man who maybe knows what he's doing is wrong but doesn't do anything to stop it. And from there, it becomes about a man who may or may not be crazy, depending on how the viewer interprets the creepy singing that comes from absolutely nowhere. If it had picked one of the three, it would have been a good movie.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 71

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Agora (2009)

Showtime on 8/11/11
I know that in real life, the library at Alexandria burned and therefore the scene doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but watching the mob ransack the library is heartbreaking. Other than that, this movie is a typical sword-and-sandals epic without ever quite reaching epic status. Rachel Weisz is wonderful as always, but her presence and the film's location of Roman Egypt make it feel a little bit like a cross between Rome and The Mummy Returns.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 70

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cairo Time (2010)

Netflix DVD on 8/10/11
This is a sweet and somewhat sad story. The so-called "whirlwind romance" that occurs between the two main characters is very understated and takes a back seat to what I think the movie is really about - loneliness. It seems that both Juliet and Tareq are incredibly lonely people. They find solace in each other as opposed to romance. It's also interesting to see the way the filmmaker portrays Cairo - it is not romanticized or made frightening. It's realistic.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 69

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Farmer's Wife (1928)

DVD over 8/7/11 and 8/9/11
Can't I be done Hitchcock's silent films yet? They're just not interesting in any way. Certainly not suspenseful (except The Lodger) and not engaging at all. The stories are simplistic and boring, the characters are not developed at all, and there are not nearly enough title cards. Please don't think this is a slight against all silent films - there are several that I have found very effective. Still waiting for the point where Hitch hits his stride.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 68

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pitch Black (2000)

Movie Night with Kat, Anna, Adam, Justin, and Sadie on 8/7/11
I've seen The Chronicles of Riddick already and hadn't really felt the need to watch this. Except that I own it on VHS and figured someday I should watch it to decide whether to keep it or sell it back to Bull Moose for 10 cents and gain the shelf space. I'm thinking shelf space wins. It certainly wasn't a horrible movie, but it's not one I'll ever watch again. Vin Diesel takes on aliens that look like velociraptors crossed with scorpions crossed with tire irons, since he can see in the dark and it's the middle of an eclipse on this planet. Thank God most of it's in darkness, since the CGI is pretty bad.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars
New Movies in Year Three: 67

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Chris, Kat, and Sadie on 8/5/11
I really do love Kevin Spacey, even when he's being an evil, sadistic psycho! This is another one of those stupid comedies that works because it doesn't try too hard. I like to think that I've gotten pretty good at seeking out those that succeed and avoiding those that don't (though a lot of that is also reliant on the reviews of people I trust). Here the cast works, especially Colin Farrell as the coked-out, Kung Fu wannabe. Jamie Foxx's appearance is one of his few that didn't entirely irritate me.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 66

The Way Back (2010)

Netflix DVD over 8/3/11 and 8/5/11
So, wandering movies. There are a lot of them. They're like a spin-off of road trip movies. There is not a whole lot that goes on besides journeying, so the story has to rely on a strong backstory and engaging characters. The problem with this particular wandering movie is that the characters die off too fast and the scope of the journey is just too big. While it's incredibly impressive in theory to watch a group of men (plus Saoirse Ronan) walk from Siberia across the Gobi Desert and the Himalayas to India, it's just not that interesting to watch for 2+ hours.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 65

Sunday, July 31, 2011

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

VHS on 7/30/11
Well, this is two and a half hours of my life that I will never get back. I absolutely refuse to call this a thriller, despite what Netflix and IMDB might say, because nothing. happens. At all. The words that sprang to mind halfway through this film were "long visual poem." That's not a good sign. I will say that the special effects are pretty awesome, given that it was 1968, and the music is iconic of course, but that is it. What was that acid trip daydream sequence at the end? Was HAL supposed to be menacing? I'm glad I watched it, because now I never have to watch it again.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 64

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Life During Wartime (2009)

Netflix DVD on 7/30/11
This is another of those films that doesn't know if it's a drama or a comedy - it tries to be both and fails to be either. I read about it in one of EW's movie previews (Holiday maybe?) and thought it sounded interesting based on the cast, especially Allison Janney. I really need to stop doing that - they almost never turn out to be good films. I'm not sure why this was getting talked about at Oscar time, except maybe the performances. They are all very solid - the only reason at all to watch this.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 63

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bad Teacher (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Ben on 7/27/11
This movie is funny simply because it doesn't try too hard to be something it isn't. It's stupid funny - not at all realistic obviously. I can assure you that if any teacher I ever worked with tried that crap, they would be fired so fast their heads would spin. That goes for Cameron Diaz's character and her arch-rival teacher. Justin Timberlake continues to impress me as an actor (really, who say that coming from "Bye Bye Bye"??) and Jason Segel is always a good time.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 62

The Other Conquest (1998)

Netflix DVD on 7/27/11
I'm nearly positive that I read about this in Variety a couple years ago and that's how I heard about it - I certainly wasn't getting Variety in 1998. I didn't even know what Variety was in 1998. So I'm not sure why they were listing it recently. In any case, it's not at all what I expected when I heard it was about the fall of the Aztec empire. The film follows an Aztec princess and a warrior who may or may not be her half-brother (though I really hope he isn't, because they start sleeping together halfway through the film) and their forced "conversion" to Christianity. Of course neither does, and violence ensues. It's not badly made - it just doesn't capitalize on the more interesting parts of history.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 61

Miral (2010)

Netflix DVD on 7/26/11
This was getting a lot of Oscar buzz for a while, and even though it was a decent film that should have had an engaging story, it just didn't hold my attention. Willem Dafoe felt oddly out of place and the story is divided over two timelines that are not blended well. Miral is not nearly well-developed enough as a character and the tension in the plot requires one to have more knowledge of Middle Eastern politics and history than the average person does I think.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 60

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beginners (2011)

The Nick on 7/24/11
I think it's possible that I put too much stock in a movie's cast. Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, and Melanie Laurent (Shoshanna from Inglorious Basterds) should come together to make a great film, right? Not so much. The storyline is a convoluted mix of three different time periods, two of which are really only distinguishable by which character has custody of the dog. The film should be about the relationship between a father and son, but that gets lost in the son's self-sabotaging attempts at a relationship and the father's determination to ignore the fact that he's dying of cancer. A great opportunity wasted.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 59

Captain America (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Anna, Kat and Sadie on 7/22/11
I love Marvel! Have I mentioned that lately? Their movies just keep getting better and better since they started retaining their own rights and producing the projects themselves. Captain America is one of the more boring superheroes, morally perfect and without the problems like Iron Man's alcoholism or the X-Mens' elitism (sort of like Marvel's version of Superman), but the movie is definitely not. Hugo Weaving (bless him, he will always be Elrond first to me) makes a great Red Skull. And make sure you stick through to the end of the credits!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 58

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Illusionist (2010)

Netflix DVD on 7/21/11
This is just as weird as The Triplets of Belleville, but without the charming whimsy. There is nothing at all wrong with the animation (you know I'm a sucker for hand-drawn), but what little spoken language there is seems not to be any language known to man. Triplets of Belleville had enough visual story to make up for that, but this one just doesn't. Disappointing. The rating is based on the quality of the animation and that's it.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 57

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)

The Nick with Emica on 7/19/11
New Top 100 list to be coming soon! This is a beautiful, fitting end to a very moving and well-made film series. Though the Battle of Hogwarts was drastically reduced in scale (as seems to have been the case with every big battle in these films), I understand why David Yates chose to do that. You can do so much on the page that would be nearly impossible to translate realistically - it's better to take the pieces that really work and emphasize them. Neville still gets his awesome moment with the snake, Mrs. Weasley still takes on Bellatrix, and the scene in the Great Hall with all of the bodies is even more moving on screen. I may have cried for half of the film.
My Netflix rating: 5 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 56

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)

Netflix DVD on 6/28/11
I feel like this film should come with a warning - it's very graphic. I was not at all prepared to see a back alley abortion being performed on-camera in a hotel room OR to see everything wrapped in a bloody towel after. It's minimalist, as a lot of European cinema tends to be, and the story is very powerful. Other than seeing far more than I was prepared for, I found it very moving.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 55

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Living Goddess (2007)

Netflix DVD on 6/28/11
First of all, I'm surprised there was never any backlash about the handful of goats and cows they sacrifice onscreen by very graphically chopping their heads off (I understand that it's a part of religious/cultural ritual, but you know how extremist groups jump on anything and everything that they can...) This story is really frakked up. They seclude these young girls because they think that they are reincarnates of a Hindu goddess and spoil her to the point where she believes that she is entitled to things like her parents and siblings bowing before her and kissing her feet. This practice goes back thousands of years, apparently. And then, once the girl gets her period, she's not a goddess anymore. It's an odd religious blend, as the girl says, since she's a Buddhist who is the reincarnate of a Hindu goddess. The story is fascinating and disturbing at the same time.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 54

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Movie Night with Adam, Justin, Kat, Mike, Anna and Sadie on 6/26/11
The best thing, by and large, about this film is the number of cameos and bit parts. You never know who's going to show up in the next scene! The plot of the movie is totally ridiculous, but in an awesome way that leaves you laughing but not rolling your eyes (for the most part). It's smart in that it's not too long, so the gags don't get old, and there is a little thread of continuity from the other Kevin Smith movies. It's not necessary to have watched the others first, though. Good times all around.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 53

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ajami (2009)

Netflix DVD over 6/24/11 and 6/25/11
I watched this because it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film a year or two ago - it's technically well-made, but it relies on a convoluted non-linear storyline that never becomes completely clear. It is never established how the characters know each other, nor how their stories are connected or any character's motives. It is supposed to combine characters of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths in the Ajami district, but if that's the goal, it does not put nearly enough emphasis on it.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 52

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Most Dangerous Man in America (2009)

Netflix DVD over 6/20/11 and 6/21/11
This documentary does not do a good job in expressing just how big a deal it was when the Pentagon Papers were released. In today's world, when people share the most inane thoughts that pass through their head (there's a great line about that in Easy A) and in the age of things like WikiLeaks, the impact gets lost in translation somewhere. However, as a film, this is a well-made documentary. It's not too long, the story has a flow, and it's a nice balance of historical footage and interviews. I find the stuff relating to the Vietnam War far more interesting than Daniel Ellsburg and why he did what he did.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 51

The Hangover Part II (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic on 6/20/11
This was funny, for sure, but I'm not entirely convinced that it needed to be made. A lot of the jokes are the same as the first time around, only amplified. There is a slightly convoluted sideplot involving INTERPOL. Bangkok is a great locale and certainly has a reputation, but I didn't think it was any more or less believable as all this happening in Vegas. The structure of the story the first time around was unique and totally different - there were huge, important portions of the plot that neither the characters nor the audience knew. It doesn't have the same impact the second time around.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 50

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bridesmaids (2011)

Saco Cinemagic with Dad, Jack and Shannon on 6/19/11
I've been resistant to seeing this since it came out, but my dad wanted something funny for Father's Day, so I finally went. It's not what I expected. It's funny and actually moving in some places, but the main character drove me crazy. She allows herself to be so pathetic and sabotages herself at every turn. Though I find problems with Maya Rudolph's character too, I probably would have been just as frustrated with her as she was. Melissa McCarthy was totally the standout, probably because it's such a drastically different character from what she's done in the past.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 49

Friday, June 17, 2011

Super 8 (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Kat, Anna, Adam, Chris and Justin on 6/17/11
I went into this with no expectations, and I have to say that it was a lot of fun! The dialogue is very well-written - feels totally realistic for 12-year-old boys. It's tongue-in-cheek funny and the visual effects are more than up to par. I'm not a huge fan of the camera flares that show up periodically throughout the movie, even if they are intentional - when there is no visible light source, it doesn't make sense. Elle Fanning has grown into a great actress and Kyle Chandler is kick-ass as the deputy sheriff. Why doesn't Coach Taylor ever whip soldiers with the butt of a rifle?
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 48

Another Year (2010)

Netflix DVD on 6/16/11
This was nominated for Original Screenplay last year, and I'm not sure I get why. The dialogue is pretty quick and sharp, sure, but the overall story is wandering and a little aimless. The storyline about Mary falling in love with a boy that she's known since he was 10 years old is too Mary Kay Letourneau to be poignant and she comes off as a flat character. If she has any characterization at all, it is solely desperation. Not enough to make a rounded character.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 47

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Centurion (2010)

Netflix DVD on 6/14/11
This is more like the King Arthur (the Clive Owen version) period of Rome rather than the HBO period of Rome. Characters run together in a haze of names that end in "ius" and one of the two recognizable actors is killed halfway through. Honestly, I think I would rather just watch HBO's Rome instead. Michael Fassbender is awesome, but not enough to pull this whole convoluted film.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 46

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Borrowed DVD on 6/14/11
First of all, I love that George A. Romero uses bright red paint for blood instead of something more realistic. It gives this whole thing an air of tongue-in-cheek suspension of disbelief that I think it needs to be successful. It's also interesting that in zombie movies, main characters take WAY more time to turn into zombies than bit characters. Roger here (the slightly dorky blond one) takes half an hour of screen time to turn into a zombie. Others seem to turn immediately. Though I think that zombie movies have come a long, long way since, this is a worthy start (or second - Night of the Living Dead is technically first) to a fun, gory genre.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 45

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)

Movie Night with Adam, Justin, Mike, Kat, Anna and Sadie on 6/12/11
Okay, so movie night was a little overshadowed this week by the fantastic performance of Avenue Q that I saw at the Ogunquit Playhouse! I was especially impressed with how much the puppeteers both blended in to the background AND contributed their facial expressions to their puppet counterparts. Yesterday apparently was comedy day (since, in between the theater and movie night, I also fit in rewatching Easy A) - this film could have easily been way over the top and vulgar but it holds itself back pretty nicely. They're pretty lax with traditional rules about time travel and not changing anything, but all in all, a fun time.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 44

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Green Hornet (2011)

Netflix DVD over 6/10/11 and 6/11/11
Chistophe Waltz, Edward James Olmos, and James Franco are all in this - how did I miss it? Turns out to be an okay slip-up, though. It's nothing special. I know that the Green Hornet isn't a comic book superhero, but it doesn't mean that a filmmaker can afford to skimp on the story. None of the characters are all that engaging, except for Kato the sidekick, who unfortunately gets relegated most of the time to being a sidekick. The villain doesn't do all that much and the final shootout feels like too little too late.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 43

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Biutiful (2010)

Netflix DVD over 6/8/11 and 6/9/11
I should probably start off with saying that I really don't like Javier Bardem. I've never seen him in anything where he really wowed me (even No Country For Old Men, but that may be more because I couldn't stand that whole movie). He's decent here, and the movie is okay, but there's not much that's memorable. The plot is muddled, which I expected since it's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and what parts are clear are just sad. It's dark and depressing, though not in a moving or affecting way. It just leaves you feeling blah.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 42

Saturday, June 4, 2011

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Chris, Adam, Anna, Kat, Justin and Sadie on 6/3/11
#61 on my Top 100 List
This is officially my favorite X-Men movie. They didn't mess too much with canon stuff, and what they did was okay. I think Charles Xavier and Raven Darkholme as foster brother and sister is kind of a sweet story, plus having Xavier lose his ability to walk from the Shadow King would have been way too campy for a live action film (good call, Kat). Michael Fassbender was absolutely perfect as Magneto - I think that he, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and January Jones as White Queen were the best casting choices. White Queen is still coolest when she's evil. And look for two awesome and hysterical cameos!
My Netflix rating:
5 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 41

The Last House on the Left (1972)

Netflix DVD on 6/2/11
I had to watch this for one of my seminars at my upcoming MFA residency, and I know that for its time it was probably very graphic and disturbing, but in the (unfortunate) age of torture porn, this no longer holds up. The production value is low even for the 70s and the shock value isn't there for modern audiences. It's also usually described as being a revenge story, where the parents of a victimized girl attack her attackers, but that portion of the story takes place very shortly at the end. It's interesting only to see the progression of the genre.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 40

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Deliverance (1972)

Netflix DVD with Lauren on 5/28/11
There is a whole lot of expectation built up around watching this for the first time. All anyone seems to know about it is centered around that one scene in the woods that includes the rape and attempted rape of two main characters. But in reality, that's not really what the story's about. It's about surviving in the woods against really stacked odds. The story structure has huge problems - the last third is made up entirely of falling action and there are really only three action scenes in the whole movie. Moments of horrifying and disturbing action are diminished by the long stretches of talking and boredom. Definitely not what I expected.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 39

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)

Netflix DVD on 5/24/11
Romeo and Juliet acted out by those hideous little garden gnomes! Yeah. I wasn't impressed. There is nothing more interesting about this retelling than there is about any other. Actually, that's not true. The only interesting/moving thing about this film is the story that the plastic flamingo tells about how he lost his true love. Plus, there's an inside joke about plastic pink flamingos that goes all the way back to BE Girls Lacrosse, but that really only makes it funny for me. For the most part, skip this one.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 38

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Roommate (2011)

Netflix DVD over 5/21/11 and 5/22/11
Yep, this one is just as bad as I had heard it was. Lyla Garrity from Friday Night Lights gets stalked by that girl from Gossip Girl (that's what Leighton Meester is famous for, right?) and chaos ensues. Except, nothing really serious happens until the very end (except for that poor kitten - and I don't even like cats. I hate them actually). And when the end does come, it's a lot of violence action jam packed into 10 minutes or so. Don't waste your time.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 37

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

The Nick with Kat, Anna, Eric and Chris on 5/20/11
The first Pirates film is awesome, the second two not so much, and I was wary when I heard they were making a fourth. Turns out, it's pretty good. It's definitely fun to watch (and the special effects are just as good as ever) and the new directions that the characters each take are interesting. Is it a fantastic film? Not really. But it's good fun for a night out, and the effect at the end of the Fountain of Youth is great - makes me think that's what Raiders of the Lost Ark would have looked like if it had been made today. Forgive the Little Mermaid moment and just go with it!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 36

Cleopatra (1963)

Netflix DVD over 5/18/11, 5/19/11, and 5/20/11
I know, usually I try to at least limit it to two days that it takes me to watch a movie, but this is four hours long and epically boring. Elizabeth Taylor plays Cleopatra as a lovesick girl with a singsong voice who gets what she wants because she whines for it - not at all like the strong and icy Egyptian queen who had her brother executed to usurp his power. Caesar and Marc Antony are similarly weak. I'm using the term "biopic" loosely, since the details of Cleopatra's actual life are pretty lost to historical fiction. The costumes and sets are pretty elaborate but not all that accurate, and I'm nearly positive that there were never any redheads in Ancient Egypt.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 35

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Fall (2006)

DVD on 5/18/11
This is a weird, weird movie. It takes place in a hospital in the 20s, where a paralyzed stuntman befriends a little girl with a broken arm. He starts to tell her stories as a bribe for stolen drugs from the dispensary and the film switches to faraway places such as India and the South Pacific. There are several movies that do this, and do it far better. The colors are pretty, but the production value is very low. When you don't have a lot of money, you shouldn't try to do lavish sets and stories. Also, everyone but Lee Pace needs to work on their acting chops.
My Netflix rating: 2 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 34

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Runaways (2010)

Netflix DVD on 5/15/11
Considering that Kristen Stewart is best known as virginal (at least till Breaking Dawn), innocent Bella Swan and Dakota Fanning is the golden child actress of the last decade, this is a big, dark move for both of them. Drugs, random graphic sex, choppy 70s haircuts - not at all what audiences are used to. The story is also dark and pretty sad. Joan Jett and Cherie Currie produced great rock music, but it came from very hard lives (as most great rock music does). Overall, the movie has a dark, gritty look to it that I don't love, but both actresses sell their roles.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 33

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Adam and Kat on 5/9/11
Okay. I haven't read this book, but it seems to me that it's a lot about railroads. And I know that the book is epically long - especially if it's going to be made in three films. Whatever subtext there is in the book that doesn't make it about trains definitely got lost in the translation to film. The casting is good (which, along with now being able to talk about the story, is why I went to see this) and the effects were not terrible, at least for the shoestring budget that I'm sure this had. If parts 2 and 3 get made, I'll go to see them, but I won't cry if they don't.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 32

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thor (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic with Kat, Anna, Sadie and Adam on 5/6/11
Ah, Marvel - how I love thee! Here continues the epic journey toward The Avengers. At first I was disappointed that Alexander Skarsgard didn't get the titular role here, but Chris Hemsworth was pretty badass and completely hysterical. It's also worth noting that, aside from the scenes in Asgard, this entire film takes place in one tiny New Mexico town and never once feels suffocated by the restrictive location. I like Marvel films so much more than DC ones because they are just far more fun. Batman is broody whereas Iron Man and Thor are just having a good time. And Idris Elba showing up as the Gatekeeper of Asgard was a great bonus!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 31

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Scream 4 (2011)

Saco Cinemagic with Ben on 5/5/11
This had the potential to be really bad (much like Scream 3 was), but I found it very fun! It's self-aware (just like all three before it), and pokes fun at Hollywood's recent obsession with reboots. They rounded up a pretty good cast of young actors and a fantastic group of cameos. I've heard that they're considering making 5 and 6 in the series, but that's pushing it. This one was more of the same good and, I'll admit, I wasn't able to call the ending. But if they try to push the new generation idea any further, they will just end up with a Saved By the Bell: The New Class situation. Nobody wants that and besides, this franchise has a reputation to protect.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 30

Sunday, May 1, 2011

All the King's Men (1949)

Netflix DVD on 5/1/11
Another down on my quest to see all of the Best Picture winners! I watched the remake of this with Kate Winslet not too long ago and honestly, I don't really like either of them. This one is better than the remake, but I still find all of the main characters detestable. Again, I find myself asking, what else was nominated for best picture that led this to win? When the characters are repugnant and the plot is boring, there is no reason to watch the film.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 29

Jane Eyre (2011)

The Nick with Kat on 4/30/11
I just finished reading this, breaking my cardinal rule of never reading the book first. However, with a handful of very minor changes, this stays incredibly true to the original. Even though I still haven't read anything by Jane Austen and can therefore not make any kind of comparison, I can safely say that I really like the Brontes. I thought that they got the mood of the story right with the film, and besides the fact that Michael Fassbender is way too good-looking to be Edward Rochester, I thought that the casting was very good as well. Well done!
My Netflis rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 28

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Cider House Rules (1999)

VHS over 4/27/11 and 4/28/11
Yes, I still own a handful (or around a hundred) of films on VHS. This is one of the Best Picture nominees from the late 90s - right around the time that I started seriously caring about the Oscars. It ultimately lost to American Beauty, which I think was the right choice, but this is a very strong film too. It's depressing and heavy. I was not expecting the abortion subplot to be so strong, but I didn't know much about the film going in. It's worth watching, but I'm not sure it's one I'll feel like watching again.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 27

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hanna (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic on 4/27/11
This is a very violent, fast-paced spy movie that centers on a little girl who's been trained by her ex-CIA father in the Russian(?) woods. The editing and music choices are sometimes really strange and the writing falters some places (especially with the dialogue - I will never understand screenwriters who don't have the hang of dialogue), but Saoirse Ronan is absolutely amazing. It's no wonder she's been nominated for an Oscar once already. I don't really understand why they gave Cate Blanchett that terrible Texas accent, but I guess it's a CIA agent thing. They're always southern, aren't they?
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 26

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How Do You Know (2010)

Netflix DVD over 4/21/11 and 4/23/11
This movie was pretty disappointing. With such a good cast (Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson), I was expecting a heartwarming, moving, funny film that was well-acted and well-written. Apparently, that was asking too much. Overall, this isn't a terrible movie, but it came nowhere near the expectations I had for that ensemble. It's also nothing special in terms of plot - generic love triangle rom com.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 25

Soul Surfer (2011)

Westbrook Cinemagic on 4/18/11
I was afraid that this movie was going to be very cheesy and overboard with the inspiration, but it's actually not. I think the key to that is in the performances. AnnaSophia Robb really owns the role of Bethany Hamilton and makes the audience feel for her. The Hawaiian locations are gorgeous and the surfing camera work is pretty eye-boggling. The one complaint I do have is with the shark attack itself - it's far too quick and too tame. Maybe it's my love of Jaws or some leftover scarring from 127 Hours, but I was hoping for a much more graphic moment - especially since that event is the catalyst for the major character arc.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

I'm sorry for the delay in posting. Unfortunately, we lost our office building to a fire on April 17th, and this whole week has been spent cleaning and seeing what is salvageable.

New Movies in Year Three: 24

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Arthur (2011)

Cinemagic Grand with Sheila on 4/9/11
I really expected to hate this movie. I really can't stand Russell Brand in the little I've seen him in (plus he's married to Katy Perry - big loss of points there too), but he's a little bit endearing in this. PLUS, Helen Mirren is here. Big plus. She really makes anything she's in that much better. This is a remake - I've never seen the original, so I don't have a comparison for you. But let's just say that I went into this expecting (as Stephen King would say) cinematic dog vomit. And in the end, it actually made me laugh.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 23

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Fox and the Child (2007)

Netflix DVD on 4/5/11
This is sort of a fairy tale about a young girl who befriends a fox and her kits living in the woods around her house. It's cute and the girl is a pretty good actress (which is good since she's literally the only one) but I have to take issue with the idea that's central to the story. People should not befriend wild animals. Growing up in a fairly rural area, that was one of the first things I was taught. Wild animals can be cute and exotic and intriguing, but trying to tame them is a bad idea all around. It is potentially disrupting to the animal's life and potentially dangerous if it has any sort of disease. Cute movie, but bad message.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 22

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Burlesque (2010)

Netflix DVD on 4/2/11
I had heard a lot of mediocre-to-bad things about this film, so my expectations were pretty low. Honestly, I thought it was fun! It's a little bit of a rip-off of Moulin Rouge! with some of the characterizations and much of the staging, but the costumes are beautiful and the singing is solid. Cher even managed not to annoy me! I really liked Kristen Bell and it's actually because I hated her character. Normally I find her adorable, so anything where she can make me hate her is a success. Seeing Eric Dane as the sleazy real-estate developer was fun, since I like him on Grey's Anatomy (however, after the debacle that was this week's musical episode, I think that I'm breaking up with GA for good).
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 21

Monday, March 28, 2011

Super Troopers (2001)

Movie Night with Mike, Kat, Adam, Anna and Sadie on 3/27/11
So...I don't really get the big deal about this movie. It was definitely funny and I laughed and all, but when people talk about it, they talk about it as the funniest film to ever grace the silver screen. Not so much. I'm very picky about what I find funny (for instance, Dodgeball = hilarious, Anchorman = dull) so it's possible this is just a taste thing. It's not to mine. Still, glad I finally saw it so I know what all the fuss has been over.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 20

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Parking Lot Movie (2010)

Netflix DVD on 3/24/11
This had the potential to be really interesting, but it screwed itself by trying too hard. If it had just been a simple doc about the comings and goings of this one particular parking lot, I think that it would have been a fascinating look at our society. However, what it actually is is a bunch of employees showing their worst face - goofing off, yelling at and insulting customers, and expressing their bitterness at the world. Could have been awesome, but unfortunately wasn't.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 19

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Flushed Away (2006)

Netflix DVD on 3/23/11
There are kids' movies that are also subtly for adults and then there are kids' movies that aren't. This one is not. It's entertaining and cute and Ian McKellen makes a fantastic villainous Toad, but there are no sly jokes or allusions to sail over children's heads and yet make the adults snicker. Cute adventure story for kids, but that's it. Really, I shouldn't have expected anything else, since there were also the people who made Over the Hedge. The singing slugs were pretty great, though.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 18

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Paul (2011)

The Nick with Mike, Kat, Chris and Sadie on 3/22/11
After not loving Hot Fuzz as much as I wanted to, I was wary about this one. It's fantastic! I liked it as much as Shaun of the Dead. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have written a very funny film that is self-aware enough to poke fun at itself alongside of some of the most beloved sci-fi films from the last 30 years. The cast is also great, with surprises popping up everywhere. Seth Rogen was the perfect voice for Paul. I was impressed that some of the alien effects were done with puppets instead of CGI. The blend is pretty good.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 17

Monday, March 21, 2011

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Movie Night with Anna, Kat, Mike, Adam and Sadie on 3/20/11
This is an odd movie stylistically and it takes a while to get used to. But, all of Baz Luhrmann's films are like that. The casting is absolutely spot-on (though Leo makes Romeo into the ultimate emo kid and Claire Danes looks remarkably ugly when she cries), especially with Harold Perrineau as Mercutio and John Leguizamo as Tybalt. It's interesting to see what they cut out and what they emphasize. If you can get past the glut of neon and odd editing patterns, it's worth watching.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 16

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Kind of a Funny Story (2010)

Netflix DVD on 3/18/11
The son from United States of Tara checks himself into a mental institution...why exactly? It's very clear from the beginning that, while he has some issues with depression and self-esteem, he's clearly not psychotic and doesn't belong there. I think that this is an issue with the performance, honestly. Keir Gilchrist doesn't play Craig like someone who is desperate enough to kill himself. Overall, this feels like it's trying to be a light-hearted version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but what the filmmakers don't seem to understand is that you can't make a subject like that light-hearted without it falling flat and feeling false. A good try, I guess, but not at all a success.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 15

Waste Land (2010)

Netflix DVD over 3/17/11 and 3/18/11
This documentary is confused. It starts as a story about art, becomes a story about the "pickers" in one of Brazil's largest landfills who pick recyclable material out of the rubbish, then again becomes about art. I think that it would have been far more effective if it had stuck to one or the other. The story of the pickers is touching by the end, but it felt like too little, too late. As a technical note, the subtitles are printed far too small on the screen - it makes them intrusive and distracting as opposed to normal subtitles that just become part of the watching experience.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 14

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Devil (2010)

On Demand with Karen and Dale on 3/12/11
Considering that everything M. Shyamalan has done in the past 7 or 8 years has been really terrible, this is actually not half bad. He only wrote this one (no directing) and, more importantly, he doesn't make ill-advised cameos/bit roles. They don't hold back too much on the freakish deaths and the face that shows up on the camera isn't as creepy as the one in The Exorcist but it is pretty weird. All in all, not a great movie, but certainly more entertaining than Lady in the Water.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 13

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Restrepo (2010)

Netflix DVD on 3/11/11
The "other adaptation" is loose here, since no writers are listed on the film. However, it was made while Sebastian Junger was on assignment to write an article for Vanity Fair. It follows a platoon stationed in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous valleys as they spend a year at Outpost Restrepo (named for their KIA medic). Sort of like a real-life, modern-day version of Platoon (which, by the way, is the only time I have actually liked a performance by Charlie Sheen). It should be riveting, but it just isn't. I think that's probably a flaw with the editing - too much downtime where nothing happens and too much confusing camera work when something DOES happen, all at the same time. I will say that the testimonials given by the soldiers are pretty heartbreaking.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 12

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rango (2011)

The Nick with Chris on 3/9/11
This isn't really a kid's movie with inside jokes for adults, but it's not an animated adult's movie either. It falls somewhere in between. Some of the things they say are actually a little shocking and it's pretty violent for a kid's movie, but there is definite family appeal as well. Rango is a great character reminiscent of all of Johnny Depp's past roles, at times timid and other times all bravado. He pokes fun at himself, referencing when he played Captain Jack Sparrow and Don Juan DeMarco. The other voice cast members are delightful, though much more difficult to place. And finally, those weird lizard eyes, where the skin extends around most of the eyeball, really freak me out. Even animated ones.
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 11

Monday, March 7, 2011

Waiting for "Superman" (2010)

Netflix DVD on 3/5/11
This is a very subtly upsetting film. The lack of quality education in this country is a problem that is easily ignored unless it directly affects you - in other words, most parents aren't concerned as long as their child's school is doing okay. Here, we follow a handful of children (six or seven maybe?) whose schools aren't doing okay as they and their parents struggle to get them better options - charter schools, private schools, college prep schools. The audience gets attached to each child and - spoiler alert - not all of them get accepted. You're left with a feeling of helplessness as the kids go back to what they had, suddenly out of options. Definitely makes you think. Also, this is much more visually interesting than this team's last doc, An Inconvenient Truth.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 10

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Netflix DVD with Lauren on 2/27/11
This is really interesting, considering that the main character of the film is still a huge mystery. No one knows what Banksy looks like or sounds like, and though he appears on the film, he's in complete shadow and speaks through a vocoder. The film itself is really interesting, mostly because I've never given much thought to graffiti as an artform. It's short, but there's a nicely-wrapped mystery in those 80 minutes. Happy Oscar Day everyone!
My Netflix rating: 4 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 9

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Romantics (2010)

Netflix DVD on 2/22/11
This has the same vibe as The Big Chill, the only difference being that these characters are 10 years younger. The acting is pretty lackluster but I think that's the fault of the story - no one really seems to have much to do. There's a lot of carousing in the ocean and walking along the lawn. Not a lot of action. Dianna Argon holds her own in a cast of pretty big names, but she doesn't have much to do. The characters are too superficial to be sympathetic and the ending is far too ambiguous.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 8

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Barney's Version (2010)

Cinemagic Grand on 2/22/11
In writing, it's fun to play with the idea of an unreliable narrator. Writing is intimate enough with the characters that, if done well, an unreliable or biased narrator can make a story even more interesting. In film, it doesn't work quite as well. The audience does not get nearly as close to the characters as a reader would. That means that halfway through the film, there has to be a reveal that the POV character cannot be trusted, which more often than not comes off as a betrayal to the audience. Not endearing at all. The Informant! was terrible with that, as is this film. Of course, I probably should have expected that, given the film's title. This is truly what Barney would say about his life. It's just not how I want to watch a film. Also it's a tease to mention a murder in the first ten minutes and then not do anything with it until an hour and fifteen minutes later.
My Netflix rating: 3 stars

New Movies in Year Three: 7