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