An ongoing thread for us GE contributors to give short reviews to films (old or new) that aren’t really worth creating an entirely new thread for… but are worth commenting on anyway.

(Archive)

284 responses »

  1. Armored (Antal Nimrod 2009):

    Kontroll: Antal’s first film and a very effective if even somewhat touching and well-observed film set in the Budapest Metro. Won some high-profile awards including the Award of Youth at Cannes.

    Vacancy: Didn’t see it, but don’t think it had the subtleness of the first film, but probably still effective.

    Armored: About as subtle as being slammed in the forehead on purpose with a wet salmon at Pike Place Fish Market.

  2. Avatar (James Cameron 2009)

    The promise made by Cameron and his marketing team at 20th Century Fox was that “movies will never be the same” after Avatar. It’s a boldly hyperbolic claim, but after seeing the movie on the big screen in 3D… I have to agree.

    Basic story… a paraplegic ex-soldier named Sully is recruited to ‘pilot’ an avatar, a hybrid of human and Na’vi (alien) dna in an effort to peacefully infiltrate the Na’vi society and convince them to move off a large deposit of an extremely valuable resource. If that fails, the corporation will move them by force. But Sully falls not only for a hot, topless blue Na’vi but also for their magical way of life, so he swaps sides and helps to lead their resistance.

    Avatar contains the most jaw-droppingly beautiful CGI work you’ve ever seen, from the alien lifeforms to the surface and skies of Pandora itself, Cameron will have you believing that these things exist and this place is real. As the Na’vi move gracefully through the trees and brush of the lush jungle your brain will know that they’re CGI, but your eyes won’t be nearly as convinced. Avatar presents the most stunningly immersive and complete CGI world yet created.

    But goddamn is it stupid.

    The story itself is about as original as a Kate Hudson romantic comedy, and the dialogue is even worse. It’s the old ‘failures of imperialism’ chestnut combined with the tale of a man with no home in search of a second chance… blah blah blah. It’s Dances With Wolves with a bigger sfx budget. A tribe of mystical and ethically superior humanoids faces destruction at the hands of nasty white men who rely on technology, and their only hope rests not with one of their own, but with a human with a “strong heart.” None of the characters have even the slightest depth including Sully. The rare mineral is called ‘unobtainium.’ The Na’vi jack-in to nature, literally, with their ponytails, and they commune with The Giving Tree by sitting Indian-style, sorry, Na’vi-style and gyrating their anuses in unison. Someone actually says “You’re not in Kansas anymore.”

    I could go on, but this is supposed to be brief so instead I’ll just say Avatar is the most impressive tech demo you’ll ever pay $15 to see in a theater. And yes, you should go see it in the theater.

  3. Ok. I’m not bothered by that review in the slightest. What ancient civilization worth their salt HASN’T sat around a tree and gyrated with their anuses.

    Here’s what bothers me, and it bothers me hard: My absolute, impressive, insane hatred for Dances With Wolves.
    If I sit down to watch this movie and any part of that Costner clusterf*^k appears in my head…I will walk out of the theater a VERY sad person.

    Thanks, Rob…and damn you at the same time. Can we get a review of Red Cliff…please? Though it is a 2 hour chopped mess…

  4. Seeing as how this is James Cameron, it seems like it will be on par with my expectations – visually great, possibly good soundtrack, but some cheesy dialogue. I hadn’t thought of Dances With Wolves as a comparison, but had thought of Pocahontas, Last of the Mohicans, or any other early Native American/European invasion type movie.

  5. Everybody’s Fine (2009)
    Robert DeNiro plays Frank Goode, a recently widowed father of four grown children. His kids promise to all come and visit one weekend, only all of them cancel at the last minute. Retired and having nothing better to do, he sets out on a trip to New York, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas for a surprise visit to see each of his kids.

    Each of them is hiding something from their father because they don’t want to disappoint him and go to extreme lengths to hide the truth. Apparently the kids only talked to their late mother and she relayed only the good news to Frank. So he has this perfect picture of his kids’ lives, and the kids are too afraid to disappoint him.

    It wouldn’t have been so bad if all the kids weren’t such cowards. (Spoilers) One of the daughters asks her estranged husband to have dinner and spend the night to hide the fact that they’re separated. Another daughter tells her dad that she’s a Vegas show dancer instead of a waitress, borrows a friends fancy apartment, and hides the fact that she’s bisexual and has a baby. One of the sons is supposed to be a conductor, instead of just a percussionist. And they all hide things that are going on with the other son, INCLUDING not telling him about his death right away. And at the end, Frank has a heart attack and they don’t even tell him the truth about that right away either. (End Spoilers)

    In many of the scenes, Frank sees his kids as young children (like we’ve seen before in Father of the Bride). My dad told me once that he still sees me as 19 (which is weird because that was a time with the most friction in our relationship). At any rate, the bit is overdone in the movie. We get it.

    And now I feel guilty for not calling my dad enough, and if my dad saw this he’d be sad that I didn’t call enough. Not to mention I’m not coming home for Christmas. So thanks Hollywood for opening up that wound and pouring lemon juice on it.

    Overall, I found the movie quite unbelievable and depressing. No it’s not uplifting as they would have you believe, even though the do all end up having Christmas together in the end.

  6. Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie 2009)

    Sherlock Holmes is the best big-screen adventure since Star Trek. A bold claim? Perhaps. An irrelevant claim if you didn’t care for Star Trek? Obviously. But two hours of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law running fast and loose through a beautifully rendered Victorian London shouldn’t be this entertaining, but it is from beginning to end the most fun I’ve had at the movies in months.

    The plot follows a madman bent on world domination who appears to have dark and mystical powers at his disposal and the efforts of Holmes and Watson to foil his plan. But the real story is the friendship between the detective duo, and both Downey and Law absolutely shine in their interactions with each other. Both actors bring their best game to the roles and you can believe the two have been close friends for years. Their banter and expressions are truly funny and fun.

    Not to imply the buddy-buddy aspect takes over the movie… this is still a big budget tent-pole movie so there is plenty of action to fill the screen alongside the male bonding. One of the best effects involves Holmes mentally planning his strategy during a fight… the action is shown in slow-mo as he dissects the best points of attack, then played again at full speed as it actually happens. Director Guy Ritchie resists temptation to overuse it and the effect is quite cool. There are also some fantastic set-pieces on a much larger scale involving bridges high over the river Thames, ships in drydock, and a thrilling sequence of explosions in very close proximity to our heroes.

    Any problems the film has are small in comparison to the joy the movie brings as a whole (but for the record they involve a Rachel McAdams character in need of more heft, some fight scenes edited and shot too tightly, and a plot that seems slightly more convoluted than it should be). Funny, exciting, and thrilling… Sherlock Holmes is the best time you’ll have at the movies since the last time you had a great time at the movies. Or something.

  7. A couple of Lawrence Kasdan films:

    The Big Chill (1983) – A large group of late 1960s college friends reunite after the suicide of one of their friends. Eventually issues from their past crop up (especially their general abandonment of their radical past) and tensions and resolutions occur.

    This has many fine qualities; it’s well-written and acted with some good character insight and sharp observations. It’s easy to see why it was such a big hit as it’s one of the first to successfully explore the transformation of the baby boomer generation from ‘radicalism’ to consumerism (that would be explored endlessly in the years after) .

    But despite it’s all round good work, as there’s virtually no plot development to speak of (until the very end) it’s a bit of a trial to sit through at times.

    Grand Canyon (1991) – The lives of several Los Angeles characters intertwine as they try to deal with each other and the perils of the modern society.

    One can’t deny this is a well-meaning, sincere effort that aims to impact on the viewer and say something about early 1990s American society. But for all its good intentions, it feels like the sort of film that Stanley Kramer would’ve made had he been still making films in that era; a heavy-handed ‘message’ film that is so desperate to be significant that it inevitably fails at that.

    Notably the most compelling scene in the film (a father teaching his son how to drive) is probably one of the few sections that doesn’t try to be significant.

  8. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008) – Simon Pegg (‘Shaun of the Dead’) plays a journalist of a rabble-rousing British entertainment magazine who gets invited to work for a much more popular, establishment American entertainment magazine. Initially he’s a disaster but soon he’s climbing the ladder of success.

    This has a bad rep and was a disaster at the American box-office but – initially, at least – I quite liked it. It is lively and sharply directed with some good gags and Pegg enables his character to be more engaging than he has any right to be.

    But it fades quite a bit in the 2nd half for a couple of reasons; firstly the film’s pov of the central character is very erratic and his behaviour is contradictory. As well, there’s (yet again) a dreary, completely unconvincing romance that drags the film down.

    Still, better than its reputation.

  9. In the original brief film reviews thread James wrote:

    Terminator: Salvation (2009)

    In six words: Brian was right, I was wrong.

    Not terrible. Just bland, safe and completely lifeless. While much of the blame clearly falls on McG, Bale (who forced radical, last-minute story changes) and Nolan (who tried and failed, to carry them out) are at equal fault. Everyone’s stock is down as a result of this.

    I saw this tonight and – probably because of low expectations – surprisingly didn’t mind it. It was reasonably entertaining with generally well handled action scenes (although the finale was a bit of a yawn).

    But yeah, can’t deny this was nothing more than a disposable, totally forgettable action blockbuster which in the context of the series, is dispiriting. Biggest error was the missed opportunities in utilising the emotional subtext of Worthington’s character.

    Bryce Dallas Howard (seemingly having a hair stylist on hand even when underground in a nuclear holocaust) continues her impeccable record of appearing in films that are major franchises and/or for prominent directors that are all set up to be ‘breakthroughs’ for her but turn out to be major disappointments.

    Bizzare to see Jane Alexander appear in one of her rare recent screen appearances, only to be then barely used.

  10. TIPTOES (2003):

    Ho.ly. Shit.

    Had I not just watched this movie, I would never have believed it even existed. Whatever you do…go now and open a Hulu account because the greatest WTF movie in the history of film is presently available for viewing.

    Gary Oldman plays a dwarf. Yes, everyone. Gary Oldman is Matthew McConaghey’s dwarf sibling. Oh, and Peter Dinklage is in it(using a really strange accent). And that woman from True Romance is Dinklage’s love interest. And Kate Beckinsale is Matthew’s love interest and Matthew comes from a family of dwarfs…and he tries to keep it a secret and to give any more away would be…to ruin a nearly perfectly formed wtf…the first ten minutes alone…Gary Oldman as a motorcycle-driving dwarf! This has overtaken my cult film favorite from Kentucky Fried Movie. I’m already watching it a second time as I write this…

    Greatest scene in the history of cinema: confrontation between a dwarf Gary Oldman and a ‘normal-sized’ person over why dwarf Oldman is in a female dwarf’s bedroom. A scene in which dwarf Oldman gets his ass beat!

    Second greatest scene: When dwarf Gary Oldman tells Beckinsale he is Matthew’s brother. The look on her face is priceless, as I’m sure she’s thinking the same thing: You’re Gary Oldman on your knees!

    “It’s just little people shit-”

    God I wish I could see behind the scenes of Oldman stuffed into that couch…

    Actual dialogue: “So you had a circle jerk with a bunch of little people? I would have loved to have seen that.”

    You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Kate Beckinsale say that line in a movie.

  11. Nine (2009)

    Even though I liked Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha, I hated hated hated hated Nine. I could tell by the opening number that I was not going to like it. There was absolutely nothing special about the songs, and there was nothing interesting about the film at all.

  12. I’ve never been a big fan of it but I had a look at a bit of ‘Caddyshack’ last night for the first time in years and my negative views were reinforced.

    It does have some funny bits and Rodney Dangerfield and to a lesser extent Chevy Chase have some good moments. But it’s such a slapdash, sloppy, self-indulgent mess that as a whole it’s pretty much a washout. That it was so successful and quite influential for future comedies has been rather regrettable imo.

  13. The rare hard-to-get mineral is called “unobtainium”…really?

    Einsteinium, Lawrencium, Seaborgium, Nobelium, Californium, Germanium, Darmstadtium, Americium, Meitnerium, Rutherfordium, Scandium, Mendelevium.

    Unobtanium seems rather apt by comparison.

  14. I’m sorry but those are mostly man-made and given honorary names, by comparison to a supposedly naturally occurring mineral. I can’t see defending this choice. The name was created to be comedic and therefore has no place in a “serious” plotline. “Sir, many died trying to obtain the unobtainium, but now that we have it, I suggest calling it obtainium”… it’s preposterous. Like others have said – a Mel Brooks gag.

    Either make up a new name or go for slapstick. Call it pandium or naavium or leave it nameless. But if you’re going for comedy you might as well call it hardtogetium. The fact that these people are serious in saying and going after it means Cameron either doesn’t respect his characters or audience or both (in this regard). So why should I?

  15. A couple of Blake Edwards 1980s comedies (with dramatic overtones):

    The Man Who Loved Women (1983) – Told in flashback at his funeral, a sculptor (Burt Reynolds) tries to deal with his insatiable desire for the opposite sex which is turning his life into a mess (not to mention his ability to have a substantial relationship. That women are so open to his charms only excaerbates the problem.

    The film his a terrible reputation but there are some good things in it. Reynolds is pretty good and the section with him and a very young Kim Basinger is well done, with Edwards’ ability for physical comedy coming to the fore.

    But overall the film just doesn’t come off. The mood never connects; at times it wants to be a melancholy drama, at others a frenzied slapstick comedy. And in terms of narrative it’s poorly put together with some unbelievable and silly plot/character developments towards the end. How Reynolds’ actually die is especially silly.

    Skin Deep (1989) – John Ritter plays a formerly successful author fallen onto hard times as his marriage and career have collapsed due to alcoholism and chasing after women.

    In terms of quality, a film of three segments. The opening sections feel choppy and messy and don’t really work. But then it begins to get into its stride with scenes that strike the right balance between drama and comedy that highlight Ritter’s dire plight (especially a scene where Ritter is the only one in a fancy dress at a function). But, unfortunately it wraps things up far too easily in the last 15 minutes which is a letdown.

    Still, worth a look, if for nothing else than it’s famous/infamous glow-in-the-dark condom scene.

  16. It does have some funny bits and Rodney Dangerfield and to a lesser extent Chevy Chase have some good moments. But it’s such a slapdash, sloppy, self-indulgent mess that as a whole it’s pretty much a washout. That it was so successful and quite influential for future comedies has been rather regrettable imo.

    Completely agreed, never understood the Caddyshack love. If anything, it’s one of those litmus test movies – as most of the folks I’ve known that really love it are douchy, frat boy types.

  17. as most of the folks I’ve known that really love it are douchy, frat boy types.

    Thanks, James.

  18. Also Fight Club. There’s a lot of overlap in the core audience of that and American Psycho.

    But Caddyshack is far more blue-collar that either of those and has a much different (and older) fan base.

  19. But Caddyshack is far more blue-collar that either of those and has a much different (and older) fan base.

    I disagree. Years ago when I asked my office mates for must-see movie recommendations (trying to make up for a sheltered non-R movie upbrining), I got suggestions for Caddyshack and Animal House from my white-collar boss who fits James’ description.

  20. Also Fight Club. There’s a lot of overlap in the core audience of that and American Psycho.

    I almost used Fight Club as my example.

  21. Wait a tic…are you guys saying Fight Club is only appreciated by slovenly frat boy types because there are soooo many layers occurring in that movie beyond the ‘macho violence’. Yeah?

  22. I didn’t say that anything was “only” anything. Obviously different people like different things, etc.

    But at any rate, I think we can all agree that there’s a significant faction out there who willfully refuse to see beyond the macho violence in Fight Club.

  23. Le cercle rouge (1970): Any chance to see a film by Jean-Pierre Melville is a treat, and I was thrilled to get the chance to see this at the Music Box this past weekend. This is Melville’s second-to-last film, and it’s about a group of thieves who rob a jewelry store, while a determined cop tracks them down.

    Basically, it’s to late-60s Paris what Michael Mann’s Heat is to mid-90s Los Angeles. It shares the same stylishness and the same pre-occupation with the moral code between cops and criminals, to the extent that the line separating the two starts getting a little blurry. It’s impossible to believe that Melville’s film wasn’t a primary influence on Mann during the shooting of Heat.

    I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s something that I think would appeal to almost anyone, but it’s a must-see for fans of crime pictures in particular. Melville’s influence on future filmmakers is plain as can be, and if you’ve never seen one of his movies, he’s almost certainly the best director of whom that can be said. And if you like this movie, his Army of Shadows, about French resistance fighters, is even better.

  24. Thanks to you, Brian, and Tarantino, I recently ‘discovered’ Melville…and what an amazing filmmaker…

  25. I hold my discovery of Melville on the same level of my discovery of the entire Hong Kong and Korean film genres…I’ve recently gotten as excited and as hyped about watching a Melville piece as I have every time I’ve been introduced to ‘Memories of Murder’ or ‘Election’ or ‘Infernal Affairs’…

  26. Same here, pretty much. Which of his movies have you seen thus far?

    I still need to see several, but I think Le Samouraï is the only major one, although who even knows if that’s true since his movies are still being rediscovered.

    I also think Léon Morin, Priest is probably going to make my Best Of list for this year on a technicality, since it never got a US theatrical release until Rialto put it out this year.

  27. The Wolfman (2010)

    I went in with low expectations – I wanted to be moderately entertained. My mistake. It was thoroughly disappointing. I have no idea what caused this caliber of actors to be drawn to this script. There was plenty of tedium, predictability, terrible line delivery and horrible pacing. The only items of note were the actual wolf transformations – they were interesting. Everything else…bleh.
    To top it off, I messed up my parking validation at the theater and had to pay 2.5x more than I thought I was paying. At least that ending was unexpected.

    Do.Not.See.This.Movie.

  28. Shoot, sorry to hear that. I was looking forward to this. They can’t seem to improve upon the original Universal films, even with all the new technology.

    Is it “Van Helsing” bad?

  29. Ouch, not surprised though. Joe Johnston is one of the blandest, paint-by-numbers directors working today. Two decades of output and not even a hint of a personal style.

    Working remote thanks to blizzard today. Not looking forward to shoveling.

  30. I would actually say it’s worse than Van Helsing, but comparing bad monster movies is tough. I almost called it a “by the numbers” horror movie, but it was somehow less than that. It appeared to be edited within an inch of its life and then chopped up some more. There are no real character developments/insights to speak of and completely lacking in emotion (especially in the supposed romance). The ladies (Emily Blunt and Geraldine Chaplin) do OK for their part, but the gentlemen (Benicio del Toro, Anthony Hopkins & Hugo Weaving) should be embarrassed.

    I mean…I missed Lost and paid $25 for this?!?! Ruined!

  31. C’mon Joe… sure you missed Lost, paid $20 for parking, and sat through a shitty movie, but don’t forget that you got to do it all with me by your side!

    So, ahem, yeah. I’m sorry you had to miss Lost, pay $20 for parking, and sit through a shitty movie. I’ll make it up to you with Green Zone.

  32. Rob, it was hardly your fault. But if you’re feeling guilty, just give me your credentials for Shutter Island and we’ll call it even. =)

  33. I don’t know why the news about Wolfman is disappointing to me. I never actually expected it to be good, but I will admit to hoping it would be.

    But I still can’t believe it’s honestly worse than Van Helsing. That would put it squarely in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen territory.

  34. Brian, I share your mysterious sense of disappointment. It also doesn’t bode well for the Johnston-helmed Captain America, which I’ve read will take place during World War II.

  35. I didn’t know everyone had such high hopes. Of course you’re all free to see whatever you wish, but my reason for calling it worse than Van Helsing is that I think everyone knew there was a little “tongue-in-cheeky, comic-booky” thing going on with that vampire movie. So anachronisms and some corny sequences were to be expected.

    The Wolfman was originally thought to be some sort of thinking man’s horror movie that was classed up by its cast. Then the previews started selling it as standard horror fare. Then watching it left me completely bored and uninspired. That’s what I said to Rob as we left: “Uninspired.” From the first minute I was put-off by a ridiculous voiceover reading some words set in stone and all hope faded shortly thereafter amongst all the one-trick jump-scares.

    EDIT: The final graph says it all: “It pains me to be so negative: after all, everyone involved in the production is a better film maker than I’ll ever be, but The Wolfman really is an absolute shocker.” http://timesonline.typepad.com/blockbuster_buzz/2010/02/the-wolfman-the-buzz-review-1.html

  36. Well, Joe, when you’re right, you’re right. And you’re right about Wolfman. I didn’t think it worse than Van Helsing, but it’s definitely in Fantastic Four/Live Free or Die Hard territory.

    I think the problem stems from confusion over what exactly the goal here was. In some ways, it seemed to be trying to be an old-school monster movie, but the gore and the constant jump scares didn’t really fit with an old-school ethos. So you end up with a movie that has the sillier aspects of monster movies mixed with the tedious aspects of contempory horror, and that’s a bad mix.

    Also, it’s an ugly film. It’s clear they were going for that dark, washed-out color look, not unlike what we saw in Sleepy Hollow (which was a similar movie in a lot of ways but 100 times better). But the cinematographer doesn’t seem like he was able to pull it off, and looks muddy and murky as hell.

    One other thing – in the credits there was a “Shakespeare advisor?” I know Benecio played a Shakespearean actor, but WTF? There were no actual Shakespearean content, except for a very brief insert of him on stage, and a line of dialogue where Hopkins names a few plays.

  37. Wow, with this plus the Edge of Darkness agreement 2010 is shaping up to be quite a different year already! I should probably quit while I’m ahead…

  38. Valentines Day:

    After an interminable 8 minute non-linear credit sequence (I checked) I laughed once not long after that (but mostly only because I’m a perv and the line references Anne Hathaway and another woman getting it on.) {Doesn’t matter if the other woman was reeaaalll ugly. It was Anne Hathaway.}

    After that, this was an epic slog through distinctly soporific dialogue and situations and exchanges between bland stars walking through the motions. (I mean…aliens viewing Ashton Kutcher’s performance would, well…i forgot where I was going with that.)

    Still…I recommend it if only because it unseated Avatar.

    Slim: Did I use soporific properly right there?

  39. Yes Man (2008) – Before seeing this, my expectations of this Jim Carrey film were that it was a virtual retread of Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty and be a one-joke premise that was mildly agreeable, totally superficial and forgettable.

    And you know what? It conformed to that 100%

    Not much of note to add; suffice to say it has a couple of the irritating modern film cliches such as a character whose living surroundings seem way out of proportion to what his income is and a scene where an entire crowd somehow spontaneously not only knows all the words to a song, but sing it entirely in tune.

    As the love interest, Zooey Deschanel does her standard ‘too-cool-for-school’ act, while Carrey largely wastes his talents. Rhys Darby does pretty well with what is largely a thankless role.

  40. Sorry for the (very) delayed response, Joe.

    I can’t see defending this choice.

    I can.

    I’m sorry but those are mostly man-made and given honorary names, by comparison to a supposedly naturally occurring mineral.

    Yes, “mostly”, but not all of them, right? Germanium, scandium and francium are all naturally occurring and you can guess what silly conception they’re named after (although Americium, sadly, is synthetic).

    The name was created to be comedic and therefore has no place in a “serious” plotline.

    I think this is the root of this little disagreement.

    First of all: I don’t think Cameron meant it as comedy but in all seriousness, since his symbolism tends to be as subtle as a sledgehammer.

    Secondly: I don’t think it’s that incredible that a chemical element like that came to be named unobtainium. The naming might have been an in-joke by the people who first discovered it first, considering this element is not found in our solar system, which by accident came to be the common classification use for it.

    Take sir William Ramsey and Lord Rayleigh, who in 1894 managed to find a way to isolate heavy gases, which they gave the hardly subtle names “the new one” (neon), “the hidden one” (krypton) and “the strange one” (xenon). Just because it’s not in English doesn’t mean it’s not overly symbolic.

    Unobtainium in greek would be something like anepiteytosium. Considering most of the guys working at the base where they call it unobtainium are not exactly scholars, I’m guessing they would just call it something far easier said.

  41. I still can’t understand why you are attempting to defend this but I guess the name works for some people and I’ll leave it at that. Thankfully it did not translate to (much) Oscar gold.

  42. Because I didn’t think it was that far-fetched and you got all up in arms about it. I’m defending it because you claimed that the naming of a fictional element is indefensible, when there are perfectly good reasons for why it could come to be called that. I don’t care about the name unobtainium per se, since I agree that it’s a dumb name, but as I think I’ve shown many chemical elements have that for all kinds of reasons.

    It’s the kind of argumentation where the points are laid out as taken for granted and where some kind of disrespect is somehow believed to have taken place, that I thought was worth discussing and defending against.

  43. Mary & Max (2009) – From IMDb: “A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York.”

    This odd little animated film deserves a wider audience, but I’m not sure who or where they are to be found. An Australian claymation film, this is squarely aimed at adults or at least teenagers, with elements such as suicide, alcoholism, orphans and psychopathy. The film is morbid but sweet and occassionally quite funny. Philip Seymour Hoffman as the voice of Max was a revelation once the credits rolled, since his Brooklyn-speak and strange but perfectly suitable delivery had made it impossible to place the voice.

    If you happen to come across it, give it a chance, since it deserved a shot at Best Animated Film far more than most of this year’s nominees.

    I’ll add a link director and writer Adam Elliot’s Oscar winning short film Harvie Krumpet, since it gives you a feel for the kind of films he makes, along with the fact that it is well worth watching.

  44. Once Were Warriors (1994):

    This New Zealand film came across just at the cusp of the independent film movement of the early 90’s, when Pulp Fiction and El Mariachi exploded on the scene.

    I haven’t seen this in quite a while, but I wanted to mention it and ask if Marco had ever seen it or if he knows if it created a following at all in Australia.

    With a remarkably strong lead performance by Jango Fett, I remember this being a searing vision of a relationship and a culture in turmoil.

    It was directed by Lee Tamahori and I remember it seemingly most of all for the slow slide into oblivion of each of the principals involved, as I’m sure we can all agree Attack of the Clones and Mullholland Falls are no step up from a well-realized independent film about a culture and failed human interactions…

  45. It’s the kind of argumentation where the points are laid out as taken for granted and where some kind of disrespect is somehow believed to have taken place

    Well then I certainly & sincerely do apologize, but I think this sort of thing happens on a daily basis on GE so I was confused about the fervor of the defense.

  46. I’m certainly not innocent of confused but fervent criticism. Not that yours was, but I can’t just stand idly by (for less than two months) while someone claims Cameron is capable of Mel Brooks-level parody.

  47. Zoolander (2001): It may surprise you all, but I hadn’t seen this before. I take it the character was developed by Ben Stiller for short sketches, and it shows, as there’s about five minutes of material stretched out over ninety minutes. I didn’t laugh once–but I did crack a smile at Will Ferrell’s breakdown at the end.

  48. I haven’t seen Zoolander but I’ve seen enough of Stiller’s work to assess that – while not without talent – his limitations as an actor (which seemed more suited TV sketch comedy) are badly exposed in films.

    That he’s been one of the mainstream comedy stars of the past decade says a lot for the standard of modern Hollywood comedy.

  49. Once Were Warriors (1994):

    …I haven’t seen this in quite a while, but I wanted to mention it and ask if Marco had ever seen it or if he knows if it created a following at all in Australia.

    I haven’t seen it but I do recall it making a big impact and being very successful in Australia when released (and certainly New Zealand as well). There was a sequel released several years later that was much less well received.

  50. Wonder Boys (2000) – This film, about a middle-aged professor and novelist (Michael Douglas) going through several personal and professional crises all at once, has a great critical reputation; iirc Wells was raving about it at the time of the release.

    On the plus side it’s aimable with several good performances from a high-quality cast; Robert Downey Jr and Tobey McGuire (who I’m not usually a fan of) were standouts. And the cinematography was a highlight (especially the scene where Douglas and McGuire are talking outside at night in the snow).

    Yet overall I found it to be a big disappointment. I thought it was poorly directed as it seems aimless in its construction as it goes here, there and everywhere for no real discenrable point. The longer it went the less interesting it got.

    That can be tolerable if the film is strongly entertaining and perceptive but for all the eccentric characters and unusual goings-on, deep down it’s all rather assembly-line and superficial, as exposed by the dispiritingly conventional final scene.

    It also has too many central characters. Katie Holmes’ character is prominently-billed but (with the exception of when she tells Douglas the problem with his manuscript) is largely irrelevant. Also, Rip Torn’s intermittent appearances seem pointless and could’ve easily been excised.

    I know it’s well liked by many – indeed JS, Nick and Brian have it very high on their best of 2000 lists – but while it’s not without its pleasures, I think it’s highly overrated.

  51. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Really? How can you make a sequel to that film? More importantly, who would want to?

  52. “Isn’t all of Avatar a Mel Brooks-level parody?”

    How Mel isn’t already working on a Spaceballs sequel parodying Avatar is beyond me.

  53. The Last Song – 2010
    All you need to know…
    “I hate you.
    I hate you.
    I love you.
    I hate you.
    I love you.
    I hate you.
    I love you.
    I hate you.
    I love you.
    The end”

  54. Night Moves (1975), directed by Arthur Penn. Scuzzy noir film, which reeks of the seventies, from Gene Hackman’s porn-stache to the casual nudity. Looks like a Quinn Martin TV show, albeit with swearing and bare breasts. Hackman is a private eye hired to find a teenage runaway (a very young Melanie Griffith) which takes him to the Florida keys. Almost all of the action is back-loaded into the film’s last third. Drawback is the script (an original, though it feels like it was adapted from a pulp novel), which has all the characters talking like Chandler or Hammett. As Sam Spade said, “the cheaper the hood, the gaudier the patter.”

  55. A couple of Hitchcock’s “lesser” films

    I Confess (1953) – Montgomery Clift plays a Quebec-based priest who hears a man confessing to a murder during confession; as a priest he is bound not to divulge this to the authorities, even when he himself becomes the prime murder suspect.

    This has always been labelled as one of Hitchcock’s weaker works (including Hitchcock himself) but I thought this was an excellent film. It’s a highly compelling tale of Hitchcock’s oft-used theme of the wrongly accused man for whom even attempts to assist him only harm his cause; I especially liked how the testimony from an ex-lover of his supposed to clear his name had the exact opposite effect.
    Clift gives a very good performance because of the emotional restraint he employs (which is consistent with his character and situation) which makes his occasional shows of emotion have all the more impact. The music is hauntingly memorable and Hitchcock makes great use of the Quebec locations.

    The Paradine Case (1947) – A successful English barrister (Gregory Peck) threatens his career and marriage when he falls in love with a client (Alida Valli) who he’s defending on the charge of murdering her husband.

    Like ‘I Confess’, this has a pretty poor reputation by Hitchcock’s standards but while not as good, I thought this was a solidly satisfying film.

    Many have said that Peck was miscast in this role but I thought he was quite good, as I think his persona actually made it easier for audiences to relate to him, as opposed to an actor more dashing and romantic. Mind you, his failure to even attempt an English accent is a mark against him.

    And who could blame his character falling in love with his client, as Valli is luminous in this film. Certainly an actress with whom b&w photography agrees with.

    In a small role, Charles Laughton again steals the picture, especially in a terrific scene towards the end.

    This isn’t top-shelf Hitchcock whose standard stylistic touches are largely absent here. The film could’ve done with trimming and the scenes between Peck and his wife are a bit on the sappy and cornball side (especially the final one).

    But overall, this film is worth a look.

  56. I have the feeling most of you have already seen this one, but I finally saw Battle Royale today. Loved the premise, which sort of combines The Most Dangerous Game and Lord of the Flies, but I thought the direction was poor. Most of it was too dark (I mean lacking in light, not in tone) and talk about a movie that didn’t know how to end! Was this ever remade in English?

    Edited to add: I see now that the many tacked-on epilogues were only on the DVD, not in the theatrical release. They are unnecessary. Also, there were plans to make an American version, but it was put on hold following the Virginia Tech massacre.

  57. Night Moves too. Arthur Penn’s description of it really sums up its genius for me – “A detective who couldn’t detect shit.”

  58. I agree, Slim on the darkness of the movie.

    It wasn’t just shot to be dark, it’s like they left the shutter too low and the lighting couldn’t compensate.

    I thought it was good, but not with the best of J-Film.

  59. I love Battle Royale. Have you guys seen the woefully uninspired sequel? And Slim, not sure if what you watched was the director’s cut of BR but I prefer that version for the depth it gives to Kitano’s relationship with his favorite student. And I would pay good money to get that painting on canvas for my apartment…

  60. I liked some of the “director’s cut” stuff, like the basketball dream. But I didn’t like the “requiems” that dragged the ending out. It should have ended at the fade out of the boat heading away from the island. It plays like the ending of never-ending Return of the King.

    I thought the script was great, but I would like to see it remade by a director who has a better handle on visual style. I’m woefully ignorant about Asian cinema outside of Kurosawa, so maybe this guy is some hot shot, but to me the direction was amateurish and cheap. Maybe they didn’t have much money to spend.

  61. Law Abiding Citizen (2009) F. Gary Gray. I must admit this was better than I thouhgt it would be, but I set the bar low. It has the predictably omnitient bad guy, but that he’s a sympathetic figure makes things more interesting than usual (Butler is tolerable here, but his American accent, as usual, is for shit).

    As a copy editor I should point out that “law-abiding” takes a hyphen in this instance.

  62. I tried watching Ninja Assassin last night and lasted less than 20 minutes. I’m actually kind of astonished that Warner Brothers released it as their big Thanksgiving release, as it screams “first week in January”.

  63. Farewell My Lovely (1975) – Film version of one of Raymond Chandler’s novels about private eye Philip Marlowe.

    Told mainly in flashback, a seemingly simple case of a man (just released after 7 years in prison) wanting to find his girl turns – as is so often the case in private eye films – into a very convoluted and complex case.

    Very smoothly and efficiently done that manages to fit several different intertwined plot strands, key characters and events in less than 100 minutes with great ease. This is all topped off by Robert Mitchum’s effortlessly convincing and assured performance as Marlowe.

    But it does have notable weaknesses. The ending on the ship was a bit of a disappointment and there just seemed a lack of resonance that makes it stick in the mind as the best films do. Also some of the supporting performances were underwhelming; John Ireland is dull as Detective Nulty and more critically, Charlotte Rampling is miscast as the ‘femme fatale’, too cold and distant.

    A fine film but I don’t think it’s quite the classic and definitive private eye movie that some paint it as.

  64. The Informers (2008), Gregor Jordan. I rented this because it was selected by Penthouse as the best nudity in a mainstream film last year–Amber Heard is frequently naked throughout. It turned out to be an interesting film, with some great visuals. It’s based on a series of connected short stories by Bret Easton Ellis (he also wrote the script) and it’s familiar Ellis territory–the dissolute, decadent children of privilige in L.A. in the early 80s. There’s lots of period music (we even see a bit of The Safety Dance video–whatever happened to Men Without Hats?) and a star-studded ensemble–Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Winona Ryder, Chris Isaak, Mickey Rourke and in his last role before he died, Brad Renfro. Worth a rental.

  65. Superhero Movie (2008) – Spoof movie of the recent glut of superhero movies (although this one is mainly based on the original Spiderman). There are one or two laughs to be had but mostly this is a predictably low-brow, inept, crude comedy.

    Low point is cringeworthy scene which mysteriously tries to mine humour out of Stephen Hawking. Biggest unintentional laugh is how the film tries to be ‘hip’ and contemporary by putting in lots of references to Ipods and Facebook, but couldn’t even get the detail of functions on YouTube correct.

    Also noteworthy is how a few critics I’ve read have been giving it praise by saying how at least it’s not as bad as those from the makers of Date Movie and the like, talk about adapting to the declining standards of modern comedy

  66. So I’m Netflixing Kathryn Bigelow movies (I hadn’t seen any aside from The Hurt Locker). Last night was Near Dark, which was okay for a cheapie, and tonight was Blue Steel, which was well-directed but had one of the most preposterous stories I’ve seen in a long time. It recalls Roger Ebert’s idiot plot maxim, but it’s worse because the idiot is a cop. The NYPD should screen this at their academy and require students to find all of the stupid behavior committed by the police in this film.

  67. Prince of Persia:

    Jake Gyllenhall is no Johnny Depp.

    Where Johnny Depp pulled off looking and sounding ridiculous and made it into one of the most iconic characters in movie history…Jake just looks and sounds ridiculous. And pulls off none of it. In a nearly incomprehensible, boring, pointless video game adaptation. Will be interested to see what Bruckheimer does next.

    And why were all these white people in control of what I assume was a middle eastern nation? I don’t even know if they attacked a place in Persia or travelled from Persia to somewhere else and it doesn’t even matter, and why am I still writing this and I love how even Shyamalan is turning ethnic characters Caucasian.

    Do conglomerates think audiences are this stupid?

  68. Killers:

    How can a B-list star make a C-list star look like an A-list star who’s slumming it? By being awful in an inept, pointless mess.

  69. Gi Joe:

    They’ve all given up even trying. That’s all that can explain it.

  70. PTU:

    Johnnie To

    And here’s yet another minor crime masterpiece from To. I’m often accused of going for style over substance in my film tastes, and To can easily be accused of having the thinnest, flimsiest plots in existence. (90 minutes for a stolen phone? Really?)
    But it’s the way To gets there that makes the trip so awesome. This guy never ceases to amaze me. His debt to Leone in his framing is large, but I love his singular use of so many dolly shots that fit into telling the story so well, something only Cameron does better.

    His regular stable of actors shine here, and the only weakness I found was the weak, somewhat muddled middle section and some of the motivations are a little suspect.

    Now watching Running out of Time. And then Breaking News and then The Mission. Johnnie To weekend!

  71. Fulltime Killer quite some years ago. Don’t remember a lot about it. I’ll have to check it out again.

    None of the others.

    Running out of Time isn’t blowin’ my skirt up. Maybe I’ll see if I can find Mad Detective or Running on Karma…

  72. Forbidden Planet (1956) – When an Earth mission led by Captain Adams (Leslie Nielsen) arrives on the planet Altair IV, they find that Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis) are the only survivors from the original expedition that had arrived some 20 years before. Dr. Morbius has been investigating the ruins of an ancient civilization called the Krell, who had technology far ahead of Earth’s. Whatever destroyed the Krell killed the previous expedition and is now threatening Adams’ crew. But why did it spare the Morbiuses?

    An adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this old sci-fi film holds up better than most from that era. Thought some of its special effects worked better than many of today’s CGI effects. And one wouldn’t have thought Nielsen would end up famous as a comedy actor based on this (but it was hard to shake that image of him watching the film).

    Like all good sci-fi the appeal of the film lies in its ideas. Indeed, so much time is spent discussing the Krell and their technology that there’s little narrative thrust to the film, which is the main criticism that can be laid at the film. But the world set up and the mystery surrounding the Krell works so well that you end up not minding that much. When it comes to the acting, there’s a lot of stilted declaratory monologues between the leads, but that might have to do with its roots in the theatre (and the fact that it’s a 50’s sci-fi film).

    It’s mostly interesting for all the other films and shows it clearly has inspired over the years, most obviously Star Trek with its intergalactic trouble-shooting crew and Lost in Space.

    P.S. Regarding the AGEBOC poster: It also has a big saucer that the crew travels in. This saucer is seen in the first scene and throughout the two first minutes of the credits of the film. It is then used as the headquarters for the crew. Pretty sure the landing of it was used as inspiration for the saucers in Mars Attacks.

  73. By a remarkable coincidence, I saw ‘Forbidden Planet’ for the first time just a couple of nights ago.

    Excellent film, agree with most points Nick makes, especially about the special effects. I could understand why people might find the lengthy explnation of the Krell dragged, but I found it absorbing and it was essential towards making the closing scenes worked.

    On the other hand, the banter of the crew members when Altaira appears on the scene is pretty corny and dated.

    Overall though, highly recommended.

  74. The Mission (Johnnie To):

    some critics have called this To’s Masterpiece, for it’s fluid camerawork, tight editing and great pacing.
    I would be inclined to agree with them had I not seen Election and had it not been for that AWFUL soundtrack music running throughout the ENTIRE movie.
    It’s all levels of awfulness, but then…I can’t stop whistling it.

    The performances are uniformly very strong, but a lot of the movie tries to fill its time with random acts of violence since it seems there isn’t really that much to say about bodyguards guarding their charge.

    Anyhow, now one of my favorite three To films.

  75. Rob:

    Ho boy, is Mad Detective good.

    And as a plus, it’s website logo is off the hook.

    Loved the movie from the moment Bun was trying to calm down his non-existent wife.
    Loved the motorcycle ride he took her on…and loved how expertly that sequence, and the entire movie, was directed.
    And the partner talking to the wife was remarkably affecting.
    The scene with the boy on the street, the wife in the car…and when the imaginary wife disappears…virtuoso filmmaking and acting, that.

    The shot of the seven people in the car is absurd awesomeness at its finest.

    The allusions to Lady From Shanghai at the end with the seven people in the mirrors had me giddy as a schoolgirl until I saw the shot of the fractured mirrors on the floor and nearly lost it.

    Just an awesome, awesome ending to an awesome, awesome movie. Close second behind Election.

  76. Finding Forrester (2000) – A film about the friendship between a talented sports/academic teenager (Rob Brown) and an elderly former great writer turned recluse (Sean Connery) and how they help bring out the best in each other.

    This is a strange, contradictory film in many ways. On one hand, the story never convinces, starting with the central character of Forrester who comes across as a rather grouchy old man, not someone with such pain in his past that he’s hidden from the world for decades. Connery is entertaining in the role, but is probably miscast as he doesn’t really have the acting strength required to pull it off.

    As well, the story gets increasingly silly and contrived, especially at a literary contest towards the end which is cornball in the extreme.

    The contradictory element is Gus Van Sant’s direction, which is quite deftly done and avoids many of the obvious cliches in such a story. He makes the film much more palatable than it should be but it has to be said, his talents are rather wasted on such a story that takes all the easy options.

    Not a bad film, but feels like a poor man’s ‘Good Will Hunting’.

  77. My primary memory of Finding Forrester has nothing to do with the movie itself, which is eminently forgettable. Jeanine and I went to see it on New Year’s Eve, up in Plano, TX, even though I was living in Arlington (about 45 minutes or so away). There was some snow in the forecast, but that didn’t prepare us for what we saw when we exited the theater after the film.

    In the two hours of the movie, it had snowed a good 3-4 inches, and the ground was now covered. That’s really all it takes to make the roads in the Dallas area more or less impassable, and the temperatures were dropping fast, making the roads icy. We soon realized that getting back to Arlington was out of the question.

    Luckily, Jeanine’s parents lived in nearby Carrollton, so we were able to (narrowly) avoid getting ourselves killed on the way there.

  78. I remember liking Finding Forrester because my ex-wife did. If I didn’t, I would be labeled as ‘contradictory’ or too ‘high-brow’.

    On a side note, Knight and Day is really a terrible movie.
    All principals, including Mangold, looked like they weren’t even trying, but Saarsgard looked as though he was being held in each scene he was in against his will. He deserves better and you can see it on every motion of his face.

  79. Rat Race (2001) – 2000s version of ‘It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World’ where a group of people are drawn into a madcap dash across America (by an eccentric millionaire played by John Cleese) for the prospect of a couple of million dollars. Inevitably, none of their treks go to plan.

    I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this, but was pleasantly surprised. The script has good ideas in it (I liked the running gag of what Cleese and his cronies would bet on) but I think it’s the direction by Jerry Zucker (director of ‘Airplane’ and ‘Top Secret’) that really makes it work; it’s well-paced with a good sense of comic timing and builds a momentum from all the litany of disasters happening to the main characters.

    A weak ending and overacting and mugging by some of the actors (Cuba Gooding Jr. is certainly in his element on that score) prevent this from totally hitting the bullseye, but overall this is an enjoyable, underrated comedy.

  80. I found Rat Race to be slightly amusing, hurt because It’s a Mad etc. World is one of my favorites, and it’s a pale copy (I remember Wells’ bizarre statement that he thought Rat Race was better). The interesting about it Rat Race is that it actually has three Oscar winners in the cast–Gooding, Kathy Bates, and Whoopi Goldberg, a high number for such a throwaway film.

  81. Re: the Oscar winners:

    Bates’ appearances was only a cameo (and only an unbilled one I think) so I don’t know whether that really counts.

    Goldberg’s film career was winding down by that point; indeed she’s barely made a film since then and now has a career on a TV chat show.

    As for Gooding, it’s been fairly well documented that his choice of films post-Oscar has been dire. In fact, I think it could be safely said that ‘Rat Race’ would be in the top 20% quality wise of films he’s done post-Oscar. And in anycase, as he showed in this film he’s a pretty limited actor.

    The more interesting thing casting wise was the appearance of Atkinson and Cleese, who’d be close to top of the tree in the most highly-regarded British comedians (in terms of their TV output) in the last 40 years. While this film is better than some of the other stuff they did in this period in Hollywood (Cleese in ‘The Out of Towners’, ‘Charlies Angels sequel; Atkinson in a Scooby Doo sequel), it certainly has an element of slumming it for both of them.

  82. Oh, I agree with you Marco–it’s not like it had Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, and Julia Roberts in the cast. I just found it amusing that such an insignificant film could truthfully say they had a cast with three Oscar winners in it.

  83. America’s Sweethearts was awful, and had Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alan Arkin, and Christopher Walken.

  84. I must have seen the whole thing, but I honestly don’t remember a single thing from it. All I have is the general feeling that it was a waste of time.

  85. I’m tired and can’t phrase this properly: but it seemed like the producers looked at the script and thought “Ok, we need a Julia Roberts-type” or “a Billy Crystal-type” and somehow actually landed all of those folks for roles each had played a million times before.

    There were zero change-ups…like they were completely risk adverse and just went for the most generic casting possible.

  86. Of course we have a much more recent example of a terrible movie with multiple Oscar winners in the cast: Nine. It has six: Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman.

  87. The difference with ‘Nine’ though was that it had high expectations and aims, with the ultimate aim of winning the Best Picture Oscar. That’s presumably the reason why it attracted the acting talent it did, whereas ‘Rat Race’ (and ‘America’s Sweethearts’ presumably) had no such aims.

    If you wanted a really good example of award-winning actors slumming it, the Irwin Allen disaster flicks are a good example as any, especially the later ones. I think ‘When Time Ran Out’ had three Oscar winners in the cast, and that’s not including Paul Newman who would win one a few years later.

  88. Or any of those ’60’s big religious and Roman epics from Hollywood.

    They always had every actor in Hollywood with any kind of name in them and they’re atrocious. And that led into the ’70’s disaster flicks…

    I’m with Marco on this one. Rat Race couldn’t have appeared to be anything more than a poorly-written remake of ‘Around the World’.

    Even Cannonball Run didn’t exhume any oscar winners. And those movies are fun on their own merits.

    It’s baffling why Rat Race would have the cast it did.

    I can even understand America’s Sweethearts, cause it was trying to be an American Notting Hill or Love Actually…but Rat Race? Come on…the agents were completely asleep on that one or some executive was cashing in all his favors.

  89. Love and Death (1975) Woody Allen:

    My god, was early Woody Allen inspired. I’d actually seen this one a little bit ago. Caught it again yesterday, and can’t stop laughing all the way through the thing.
    Has there been any better creative partnership than Woody Allen and Diane Keaton?
    They’re so sharp, so on-point with each other, and they’re so perfectly each other’s counter-point that there isn’t much wrong with either of their performances when they’re together.

    I’m starting Sleepers now, and I’m about ten minutes in and can’t stop laughing. I truly love early Woody Allen.

  90. Wow…

    The Last Airbender really was that bad. It was like the most dour children’s story that could’ve been uplifting or even exciting at points but was turned into the downer show by truly remarkably heavy-handed direction and some of the worst-directed actors I’ve ever seen.

    Seriously…how did executives look at the dailies and even think to put as much marketing money behind it as they did?

    As it is, it’s a bunch of kids using a modern-age version of the force to defeat the worst-acting and incompetent bad guys since the movie Willow.

  91. Cemetery Junction:

    (Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant)

    I feel it necessary to explain the makers of this film, because were it any other filmmakers, this would have been an affecting, very serviceable film in the vein of a Saturday-afternoon cable movie about a young man coming-of-age in a small town in Britain…and, oh my god…I’m boring myself just writing that sentence out-

    I didn’t think the depression I felt watching and charting the after-Extras output of Gervais and/or Merchant could sink any deeper than it could…but it did.

    This is a rote, by-the-numbers, cable television affair that is lit and shot horribly, and has a grave seriousness that blankets it like a deep fog as it trudges along each easily-figured note of the script until there is nothing left to ring from the proceedings except…well…nothing.

    The only saving grace of this movie comes at about the 40 minute mark when Ralph Fiennes, who I thought couldn’t get any better than he was in his conversation with the fat lead actor who wasn’t Colin Farrell in In Bruges, absolutely destroys a scene where he’s giving a retirement send-off speech to a long-time worker of his company. Never have I seen an actor nail entitled obliviousness as well as Fiennes did there. I will say, if you have to watch this, do so knowing that scene is coming. It really is a remarkable bit of acting…remarkable.

    On a side note, Gervais plays the father of the lead character in such a fashion that, apparently, he is now becoming a characterization of the character he is known for in all the things he did that were funny. After this, however…not sure there’s anywhere left to go with it. I will watch whatever these two do, but now…I won’t be as interested or excited as I ever was.

  92. Spaceballs (1987) – Comedy spoofing the ‘Star Wars’ films (and a few other sci-fi movies for good measure). Co-written and directed by Mel Brooks in his typical style, this is one of his better efforts.

    Like most Brooks films, it’s often heavy-handed and obvious in its humour and falls back on lame scenarios like characters banging into doors too often. But every time it looks like the film is going to go flat, a good line or piece of timing sees it gather momentum again and there are a solid amount of laughs to be had. And it also does a surprisingly good job of balancing between having gags mocking the film itself and filmmaking conventions as well as making the story and characters interesting and likable enough to follow.

    The best gag is one of the earliest – what looks like a standard exterior and establishing shot of the enemy ship which just never ends. On the other hand, the ‘One Froggy Evening’ gag just falls really flat.

    The strange thing about this film is when it was made, as it seemed the worst possible timing. Too late to cash in on the Star Wars craze when the films were being released and too early to cash in on the nostalgia that would inevitably grow about them as the years passed.

    Overall, this would be arguably Brooks’ best film of his post-1974 work.

    Footnote: I found it quite amusing that the central relationship between the two main characters felt like the template used in ‘Prince of Persia’.

  93. The Story of Us (1999) – An upper middle-class married couple (Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer) reflect on their relationship as it looks on the verge of collapse after many years.

    Considering its horrid reputation, I would never have bothered to see this film except I was curious to see whether star/director/writer combo (Willis/Reiner/Zweibel) responsible for one of the worst films of the 1990s in ‘North’, could be just as bad 2nd time round.

    The answer is not quite… although it’s a close call.

    From the opening scene where the two main characters are talking directly to the camera for no good reason, this is vacuous, bland drivel. It’s especially obnoxious in the scenes where they chit-chat with their friends with the sort of nauseating dialogue you never hear people say in real life but often pops up in lousy sitcoms.

    With regards to the two central performances, Pfeiffer tries hard but is defeated by the lousy material while Willis is way out of his depth to make something out of this. Still, at least he’s not as irritating as Rita Wilson as one of Pfeiffer’s obnoxious friends.

    Rob Reiner’s directorial career is one of the most curious of the last 25 years. His work over the last 10-15 years has been so universally loathed that it makes one wonder whether his work in the mid-1980s to early 1990s was overrated in hindsight, as it’s hard to fathom they’ve come from the same director.

  94. Tora, Tora, Tora (1970) – A depicition of the buildup to, and eventual occurrence of, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, leading to America’s entry into WW2.

    In many ways this was a courageous enterprise by an American studio – a high-budget film that tries to avoid any of the conventional crowd-pleasing aspects one usually associates with such films; instead a documentary-like even-handed depicition is given, right down to roughly half the film being shown from the Japanese perspective.

    It’s an admirable effort but doesn’t always work – the attempt to avoid conventional dramatics and make it ‘realistic’ lead to a lack of dramatic tension and interesting characterisation so that the opening 40 minutes or so are quite dull.

    But it improves significantly after that as it gets closer to the fateful day and the planning, errors and sloppiness from both sides begin to have context. And the attack itself is stunningly filmed; you feel genuinely convinced you’re actually seeing the real thing.

    On the American side, the film boasts a lot of high-quality character actors although they’re somewhat wasted as they’re given little to do and not given much in the script.

    Overall, this is a flawed but worthy and occasionally highly impressive effort and it’s understandable, but unfortunate, this failed at the box office.

    Grade B

  95. Sixteen Candles (1984) – The first of John Hughes’ enormously successful teenge-centred films from the mid-to-late 1980s. This film concerns a somewhat self-centred teenage girl who becomes depressed when – due to wedding plans for her sister – her entire family forgets her sixteenth birthday.

    It’s easy to see why this film is so appealing, especially when an era where it seemed 80% of teenage-based films were purely raunch films aimed at males. The main teen characters here are treated seriously and with respect, even those with goofy or unlikable elements on display. And there are plenty of amusing and poignant moments on display.

    However, the film is hurt by irritating traits such as the use of use of TV/film themes, and the crude depicition of the Chinese foreign exchange student (a gong is heard every time he appears) and some other briefly shown crude stereotypes. It’s a jarring contrast to the sensitive treatment of most of the central characters and their plights in the film.

    B-

  96. The Power (1968) George Pal produced sci-fi about a group of scientists who discover evidence of someone amongst them with enormously powerful psychic abilities… who begins to kill them off one by one.

    This is film with clear problems, its regularly sloppy and slapdash in its narrative and story construction. But in a funny way, this works to the film’s advantage as its messy construction means that plot events are harder to predict and therefore more effective. For exampe, the first death scene in the film had me gasping in shock on multiple occasions.

    The cast is excellent, with ironicially the weakest element being star George Hamilton. He’s a pretty average actor and never convincing of a scientist of any kind, but he’s got enough charm to just get by here.

    This film wasn’t successful in its day and perhaps one reason for that is that even though it was made in 1968, it feels like a film that could’ve been made 15 years earlier. Indeed, I felt the same thing about the previous Pal production ‘The Seven Faces of Dr Lao’. By 1968, despite its good qualities it would’ve felt a bit old-hat to audiences and not really a must see.

    A film hard to get hold of, but worth seeking out.

    Rating: B

  97. Four Lions (2010) – Like most satires that knowingly skirt controversy, this British comedy about five suicide bombers in training has its hits and misses. At times the debates between the radicals about which targets to hit and why, mirror the films confusion, since the script often hops from one tangent and even genre to the next. While the film hits enough targets to make it feel worthwhile, it does start dragging a bit in the middle, only to pick up towards the end.

    Given the right circumstances the film could end up being a word-of-mouth hit, even if I don’t recommend it to people who are sensitive, since it gets brutal in many ways.

    Its most controversial part might be the treatment of one of the radicals families; a happy wife and child in a regular suburban home, proudly urging him on, just like in any American comedy.

    “Go on, dad. Kill those dirty kuffars.”

    Grade: B

  98. Mr Nobody (2010) – This Canadian and French scifi film has an impressive budget ($50 million) and scope, with its four different stories, colorful visual pallette and recognizable cast.

    Film stars Jared Leto as an 118 year old man, living out his final days as the last mortal man in a future society where death has been cured. His mind not being what it was, in recounting his life he tells three different stories, all three being different outcomes of a childhood choice between living with either his mother or father. Each story strand stars Leto and one of three women he may have ended up with – Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger and Lin Danh Pam. The question of the film becomes about who he chooses and why.

    I liked and enjoyed the film but it is a bit of a love it or hate it kind of film, with its saccharine tone, big visual flourishes and pop philosophy. It both follows in the tradition and is a mix of Little Big Man, The Lovers from the North Pole and Amelie of Montmartre. Perhaps not as good as those, but certainly worthy to be mentioned in their company.

    Grade: B

  99. The Third Man:

    I know it’s nothing no one knows, but this is an incredible movie. Everything from the direction to the performances to the plot to the pacing…a murder mystery culminating in one of the most famous scenes in all of film…and I don’t mean the carousel speech. (Though that is equally amazing.)
    The chase through the sewers is a cinematography masterpiece of shadows and harsh lights and remarkable editing.
    I’m not sure why I never tried to seek this one out before or how it flew so far under my radar.
    Trevor Howard is amazing as Major Callahan (Calloway) and Orson Welles is sublime as Harry Lime, eve with he short screen time.
    Everything about this movie denotes it is a crime-noir masterpiece.
    My only issue is that, having not seen Cotten in a lot of things, it just seemed he was doing another version of his Jed Leland persona from Kane.
    And what an amazing death for Callahan’s right hand man and brilliant ending for Mr. Lime. (LOVE the fingers through the grate.)
    The series of looks between the two men at the end is worthy of any praise you can give it.
    And what a last sequence and shot. She just keeps going. Remarkable. (But oh, how I wish they would have cut to black when he threw the match down.)

    Thank you, Brian, for bringing it to my attention. It was a breath of fresh air in a rather poor tail-end of a movie year.

  100. Heh, you’re welcome.

    Check out Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt if you want to see Cotten playing something very different.

  101. Short Cuts (1993) – Probably the most Altmanesque movie of Robert Altman’s career.

    A study of roughly two dozen LA residents of varying backgrounds, lifestyles and personalities who intersect over the course of a couple of days.

    As is probably inevitable with a film of this structure, there are some storylines that aren’t that involving and some performances that aren’t that strong (I found Tim Robbins’ performance corny and irritating). But overall this is an excellent film. Altman is in his element here as his fiilmmaking style is very well suited to capturing the small but significant insights in the character observation and interaction that are essential for a film like this to work. Even though it goes for over 3 hours, it always held my interest. There are many fine scenes, with my favourite being the confrontation between Matthew Modine and Julieanne Moore which is superbly acted.

    The usage of an earthquake to more or less unify the characters having the same experience towards the end seemed rather trite, but overall this is an impressive effort well worth seeking out.

    Grade A-

  102. Short Cuts is probably my favorite Altman film, haven’t seen it in many years though. Raymond Carver’s book is also worthwhile if you haven’t read it.

  103. Out To Sea (1997) – One of the seemingly endless series of Lemmon/Matthau 1990s comedies – this one has them stuck on board a cruise ship having to be dance hosts.

    There are a handful of genuine laughs on display here, but overall this is a pretty lousy film that’s ineptly directed with a tiresome plot that wastes a good cast. Trading off past glories, Lemmon and Matthau are on autopilot here – Hal Linden and Donald O’Connor are much more entertaining in small supporting roles and probably would’ve been better as the leads.

    Most surprising thing about the film is that the writer of the mediocre screenplay would get an Oscar nomination for his next screenplay, ‘Chocolat’.

    Only essential viewing for those who want to see Donald O’Connor dancing to ‘The Hustle’.

    Rating – C-

  104. Terms of Endearment:

    Most likely, in hindsight, not much better than many television shows that have come since. But for it’s time, likely pretty powerful, with an ending that really socks you in the gut and a coda that dovetails into the credits nicely. (But what’s with the Simpsons font for such a heavy movie?)

  105. Sweet Smell of Success:

    Well, Brian, I owe you another one.
    Another brilliant noir, and every bit as strong and brilliant as The Third Man.
    The directing, the cinematography and the acting are all pretty fantastic. The scene where we first see Hunsecker is a master-class of directing and lighting and editing and the subtle vagaries of displaying character’s motivations through indirect conversation and reaction.
    The scene after with the policeman apparently based on Eddie Egan…aces.
    I love the way Hunsecker says: “I like Harry, but I can’t deny he sweats a little.”
    The location filming is sublime; the buildings in the background sometimes seem like cut-out models on the sky with tiny lights placed in the windows.
    The ending was decent, but not what I expected.

    “Match me, Sidney-”

    All-in-all…pretty awesome.
    Throw another out there, Brian?

  106. Oh, sorry Slim…
    Thanks, really appreciate it. Another stellar noir.
    Were you the one who also said something about Wages of Fear? Because that’s next.

  107. Nice Guy Johnny was such a bad movie…I can’t express how much I don’t want to write about how bad a movie Nice Guy Johnny was.
    Nice Guy Johnny was a bad movie.

  108. Couples Retreat:

    If I EVER drive an SUV while two kids yell at tv’s in the seats and a woman sits next to me asking if I want brushed or polished aluminum…I will kill myself. That was minute 4. That’s as far as I got.

  109. Don’t Make Waves (1967) – The reteaming of the director (Alexander Mackendrick) and one of the stars of ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ (Tony Curtis) on a film satirising the 1960s California beach scene sounds like a surefire winner… but this is largely a misfire.

    I think the biggest problem is that it’s so erratic in tone and plot. It veers from satire to romantic comedy to slapstick to farce without it ever meshing.

    It has the occasional funny moment, has a good cast (Sharon Tate is particulalry appealing), is generally interesting (mainly as a late 1960s curio) and the finale is bizzarely memorable, but this should’ve been better.

    Rating – C+

  110. The Man from Elysian Fields (2001) – A struggling writer (Andy Garcia) unable to support his family turns in desperation to becoming an escort for wealthy women, and unexpected events and opportunities result.

    After a clumsy and obvious beginning section, this film settles down with some engaging scenes and benefits from fine supporting performances from James Coburn (one of his final roles) and, in a rare acting appearance, Mick Jagger.

    But overall there are too many contrivances, unlikely character behaviour, weaknesses in the script and outright phony moments for this film to be considered a success.

    Garcia’s performance is another weak point as he provides his character with self-pity and nothing else. Would’ve been a much more interesting film had Coburn’s character been the central focus.

    Rating: C

  111. Unstoppable:

    What is a REALLY good genre film for the first hour devolves, though still pretty edge-of-your-seat, into a movie absolutely ruined by constant…and I do mean constant…dolly pans around EVERY character in the movie. Whether on a train or in an office or on a helicopter or waiting by the tracks, the camera is always moving on a long set of dolly tracks, sometimes the entire length of a room. It constantly tracks around the train as the two men inside talk and around helicopters and around the train itself, and…it gets very tiring and destroys what could’ve been a really excellent little b-movie.
    The pacing is excellent, the performances top-notch, and the story is solidly plausible for what could’ve been pretty laughable, save maybe for the boneheaded move in the beginning.
    I would recommend it, but stylistically…come on, Tony…you can reel it back better than that.

  112. That was awesome…and a lot more grounded, stylistically, than the real one. That guy playing Denzel was great.

  113. Oh, and also:

    SKYLINE:
    A movie so aggressive in its badness, a character actually walks into a scene, on the phone, and says, into the phone: “Well, you shoulda thought o’ that before you shot ‘im.” and then goes on with the scene.
    Seriously.
    And why would a conquering race of aliens spend the first hour trying to ‘handle their business’ and not succeed and THEN institute their fail-safe after they see we’re gonna fight back? They would have used their technology to understand and decide how we would ‘defend-and-counter’ and then they would have hovered over and sucked us all up.
    Bad, just…bad.

    Still…it was better than Monsters.

    Oh, and dude beats-up an alien.
    Seriously.

  114. Yeah, last week when I saw the 2nd Jay Pharoah clip that Brian posted I was blown away by how good his Denzel voice was.
    And that Unstoppable spoof is spot-on except ScarJo making fun of Rosario Dawson… Other than that I can’t believe filmman liked it (or wanted to like it) so much. The script was, as Charles Barkley would say, ‘turrible.’

  115. Almost Famous (2000) – Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical account of a 15 year-old who is amazingly given an assignment by the famed ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine to follow and cover the fictitious rock band Stillwater, which inevitably leads to some life-defining experiences.

    This was a massive critical success upon its release (although not a commercial success), culminating in winning a Best Screenplay Oscar. But (probably because of expectation levels) I was fairly underwhelmed by it.

    On a micro level, there were several problems with the film. In particular Billy Crudup’s pivotal character as his portrayl of him as sensitive and thoughtful which is a jarring contrast to the selfish and childish behaviour he often displays. Jason Lee’s character in the band is much more convincing.

    On a broader level, considering the era its set and subject matter it covers, the film feels too compact, even contrived at times.

    Still, there’s a lot of good stuff here. Even at over 150 mins (I’m pretty sure I saw the director’s cut extended version) this is very smoothly done and always entertaining. And there are several excellent performances from a top-notch cast, Especially by Frances McDormand as the teenage boy’s strict mother who turns what could’ve easily have been a one-note character into the most compelling character in the film with her terrific performance.

    Rating: B-

  116. I liked Almost Famous a lot more than you did, Marco. I gave it an A rating and thought it was among the best of that year. I think it’s only natural that a fifteen-year-old boy would display and at times baffling array of emotions.

    Haven’t seen it in a long time, though.

  117. I wasn’t referring to the kid (played by Patrick Fugit) in terms of erratic behavior, I was referring to Crudup’s character, who is the front man for Stillwater.

    If anything Fugit’s character was almost too mature, hardly demonstrating any childish behavior at all. I’m sure Crowe at the time was very well-adjusted to carry off such a feat atsuch a young age, but surely in reality he had his foolish and regrettable moments.

  118. Braveheart:

    I’d forgotten just how stirring and well-made Braveheart is.
    In structure, tone and emotion it always treads right on that fine-line between ‘too much’ and ‘way too much’, but it always manages to strike the proper balance.
    In lesser-hands, the King may easily have devolved into a caricature, but with Patrick McGoohan rolling his R’s and growling some of the best lines, it is a roll made instantly iconic.
    Gibson’s eyes burn with a fiery intensity in nearly every scene, but he amazingly steers clear of the need to linger on his own face too long, like Costner did NUMEROUS times in Dances with…well, in that other 3-hour epic by an actor-turned-director.
    And speaking of 3 hours. How did Gibson convince the studio to let him release a 3 hour blockbuster? Most likely due to the fact that even at three hours the movie never once falters or tries your patience too strongly.
    With excellent battle scenes and uniformly strong performances, this one has not lost a bit of its luster.

  119. And speaking of 3 hours. How did Gibson convince the studio to let him release a 3 hour blockbuster?

    1995 was just weird that way. Mann also had Heat that year, which clocked in around the same length. Scorsese had Casino. Who knows why that year had 3 major-studio three hour movies, because as far as I can tell there hadn’t been another since 1993 and Schindler’s List and wasn’t another until Titanic in late 1997.

  120. La Danse (2009)

    In anticipation of Black Swan, I thought I’d venture out of my comfort zone and go downtown by myself to see La Danse – The Paris Opera Ballet, a documentary which A.O. Scott of The New York Times claims as being “one of the finest dance films ever made.” I’m not a frequent patron of ballet – I once saw a production of The Nutcracker in Dallas that starred one my class-mates – but I was curious about the inner-workings of an art that takes so much dedication.

    It takes dedication just to sit through this film. The running time is too long at 158 minutes, with no narration and little dialogue. It plays out as though the audience is watching raw, unedited footage of rehearsals, board meetings, performances and even repetitive exteriors and empty interiors from unattended cameras. Intentional or not, without some kind of story arc it struggles to keep the audience engaged, as proved by several people who walked out mid-way through.

    Even the bits of different ballet productions were sprinkled so sparsely throughout the film that it was impossible to understand what the performances were even about. The only recognizable production was The Nutcracker. Everything else was fairly modern – from the psychotic mother spilling stage blood on children dancers, to men in unitard shorts in a sort of techno-ballet.

    Some of the film was interesting: a short scene with an overwhelmed prima ballerina, a newcomer grateful for a small part, and discussions about the effect of France’s retirement age politics on the company.

    Of course, the rehearsals were interesting too. Exhausted dancers bent over with their hands on their knees while hearing instructions from directors to make the minutest changes. Then they’d rehearse again and again and again until they got it right. One poor understudy was ridiculed by the directors during a costume rehearsal for the kind of leggings she wore underneath.

    I’m afraid there is very little drama in this film about the ballet world. However, I do think there is potential for a better movie if it were cut down a little bit and more chronological. My grade: C-

  121. Independence Day:

    And here’s a 2 1/2 hour ‘epic’ that has NOT aged well. It, in fact, has aged fairly poorly. From the inane script to the rather ridiculous lead performance of Will Smith (Actual line: “Oh, no you did not shoot that green shit at me!”) to the ridiculous characterizations to the cardboard-deep interpersonal relationships, this is a movie that I’m baffled I ever watched at least ten times in the first place.

    Speaking of baffling: British Independent Film Awards. Baffling.

  122. That’s not quite true – it was decent until everything got blowed up in the opening alien attack. This was, as far as I recall, the first time a movie had such destruction on such a massive scale, and it was rather unsettling to see.

    After that, it sucked in its now-typical Emmerichian way. And following that initial screening, even the first part sucked, because the novelty of seeing everything get blowed up like that wasn’t strong enough to last more than one viewing. It was old hat by the time Armageddon came along, anyway.

  123. I Saw The Devil (2010) – The latest film from Ji-woon Kim (The Good, the Bad and the Weird and A Bittersweet Life) is another one of his stylish genre explorations, this time of the serial killer film.

    Min-sik Choi (Oldboy) plays the serial killer who kidnaps the fiancée of a secret agent. The agent (played by Byung-hun Lee, from A Bittersweet Life and GI Joe) takes a leave of absence to hunt the killer down.

    Like many of the better Korean films, this doesn’t take the turns one has come to expect in these films (I won’t spoil what happens). I’m also pretty sure that, though it tries to mask it, the main character in the film is the serial killer.

    Choi is always a joy to watch, though I have to wonder about why he’s constantly playing guys going through intense physical pain. Perhaps it’s a case of typecasting. Warning, this film is NOT for those that can’t stand blood, gore and dismemberment.

    I’ve admired each of the three of Kim films I’ve seen. He has an extremely good visual sense and knows how to keep a story going with interesting characters. But each one has lost its way in the third act, becoming either a bit of a muddle or predictable. And that includes this one.

    It’s a shame because you’re riveted throughout most of the film; enjoying the unusual plotting, characters and fine acting.

    B-

  124. Cecil B. Demented (2000) – John Waters film which has Melanie Griffith playing a spoilt Hollywood star (is there any other kind?) who is kidnapped by film-obsessed radicals to make an underground movie.

    The film’s message against the conformity and mediocrity of mainstream cinema is an appealing one, and any film that takes pot shots at ‘Patch Adams’ is impossible to dislike.

    Unfortunately this film never really works. Waters’ films are a bit of an acquired taste and his sledgehammer style of filmmaking and the heavily mannered performances from the cast (and a promising opening) make this rather tiresome to watch. Griffith is good in the central role though.

    Rating: C+

  125. Breaker Morant:

    A 1980 Australian film about the court martial of three Australian Army soldiers fighting in the second Boer War in South Africa.

    Freakishly well-done film on all levels. From the writing to the directing to the acting to the cinematography, this is a brilliant movie.
    The Lighthorsemen has long been the best Australian film I’ve seen, that one directed by Simon Wincer, but this film easily supplants that one on all levels. The Lighthorse is still my favorite, but this easily surpasses that overall.

    Taking place mostly in the setting of a court-martial, it is none-the-less riveting directly through to the end.

  126. Haven’t seen it for years (studied it when at school), but ‘Breaker Morant’ is a very well done film, part of the wave of historical anti-British dramas that came out in Australia during that period.

  127. CLUE (1985):

    I read that it was Clue’s 25th anniversary, so I revisited a favorite movie of mine that I saw three times in the downtown Washington theater, to try to catch the different endings they created. What I didn’t realize then is…why would they spend the money to send all three different endings to the same theater? Anyhow…
    This held up just as well as I remember and I remembered it well, because I easily watched it 100 times when it came out on VHS. This is the first time I’ve ever admitted that.
    The movie is ensemble-brilliant-fun, Yvette and Miss Scarlett still titillate, Tim Curry still makes me laugh with just a look and Mr. Green’s lack of social abilities still makes me cringe and nod my head all at the same time.
    It was fun revisiting a movie I had recently forgotten, and if you haven’t seen it…give it a chance.

  128. The Notebook:

    Okay….as Brian has just so callously brought to the fore…I am a drama queen. I am prone to bouts of my own high-superiority and then dismiss any challenge to said superiority, but I gotta say:
    I liked this movie. For a film that I thought was going to exist simply in the realm of ‘ultra treacly’, it was surprisingly affecting and avoided any manner of clinging coyness and syrupy awfulness, and this is why I think it does that: Rachel McAdams. As Rosario Dawson elevated Clerks 2 simply by being there, so does McAdams elevate every single thing she touches in this film. Her reaction…with just her head and shoulders visible…her reaction to him undressing really sold that scene…and made that scene, which could’ve been really painful as written, attractively awkward.
    Anyhow…it’s late…and I’m tired. But I enjoyed this movie and was pretty impressed by it. For the type of movie it is, I guess. It doesn’t break any style records, but damn if I wasn’t moved…

  129. The Polar Express – Dazzling from a technical perspective, but it possesses the saccharine-level of a 1985 Care Bears Holiday Special. Nothing wrong with that, per se, but somewhat disappointing given the level of talent involved. Zemeckis’ tendency to stage every other scene as some white knuckle thrill ride seems desperate and gets old quick.

    It’s also rare that I actively dislike a performance by Tom Hanks, but he’s fairly grating here (in multiple roles). The conductor, in particular, is kind of a dick.

  130. I’ve always thought of ‘Clue’ as a poor man’s ‘Murder By Death’ but that’s probably being harsh. While it doesn’t quite hold up to the end, it does well to be as inventive and entertaining as it is considering the limitations of its concept.

  131. TRON (2010):

    Honestly, and I’m saying this with as little hyperbole as possible…TRON is the single worst big studio movie I’ve ever seen. In every single regard.

    They handed 300 million dollars to an architect who couldn’t be bothered with anything but making really cool set-ups within his shots, which were framed so perfectly and were kept on for so long that you could tell he was trying to make an art installation and not a real, organic, flesh-and-blood movie. And don’t tell me that’s the point. Yes, they’re in a computer…a 1980’s computer that somehow hasn’t miraculously crashed or been turned off…but they’re trying to create a story. With characters. And they failed.

    This movie proves what I know has been happening all along: Hollywood is making movies that look cool but make no sense because the people with disposable wealth buying these things will buy it on their I-Phone and watch the action scenes and not care that there isn’t a story and there are no characters.

    Terrible, terrible, terrible.
    There are so many holes in everything that happens in the movie, I would need an entire post to ask questions about each-and-every action and why NONE of those actions made sense.

  132. This movie proves what I know has been happening all along: Hollywood is making movies that look cool but make no sense because the people with disposable wealth buying these things will buy it on their I-Phone and watch the action scenes and not care that there isn’t a story and there are no characters.

    This sounds like you could be describing Tranformers.

  133. In my defense, though…I didn’t get through the first fifteen minutes of Transformers 2. In my defense.

  134. Also…Transformers was War and Peace compared to the incomprehensible inanity that was TRON. Say what you want, but you knew…reasonably well…why the Transformers came to earth, why Sam was chosen, blah blah blah…TRON made no such concessions and, in fact, let you know it didn’t have to and even after reshoots, apparently two months of reshoots, they only were able to put an interminably long stupid scene between father and son on a ridiculous freight train that you could hop to the portal at any time and another scene…who cares. Even Avatar, which I’ve watched 4 times since the theater most likely simply because I watch it for what I want it to be, encased its framework in some sort of rudimentary story so you at least care a little about the characters.
    TRON is the first absolutely unnecessary film I’ve ever sat through to the end.
    And it’s the SECOND TRON movie where the character the movie is named after has NO reason to be in the movie. His sudden ‘transformation’? Please…garbage.

  135. And Everything Is Going Fine (2010), directed by Steven Soderbergh.

    Documentary on the life and work of actor and raconteur Spalding Gray, told entirely with clips from his monologues and interviews. As a passionate fan of Gray’s (I saw four of his performances in person) it was a must see. I’m not sure how it would play with someone who had no idea who he was. The ideal way to get to know him, beside this film, is to immediately rent Swimming to Cambodia. If you haven’t seen it, you have a treat awaiting you.

    Whenever I hear about a celebrity dying I am very rarely moved to feel anything, as after all I don’t know these people. But Gray’s suicide affected me deeply, especially since he had young children and, because his life was essentially an open book because of his monologues, I felt like I knew him. The film closes with the car accident that started his downward spiral, but does not mention his death.

  136. BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE (2000):

    Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder is a modern masterpiece.
    This is the first film in Bong Joon-Ho’s oeuvre and while undeniably the work of someone who would become a master filmmaker, this is one strange ass movie, and while seriously funny in parts, for someone, as myself, who holds dogs in higher esteem than stupid humans, there were quite a few cringe-worthy wtf?! moments hidden in its slightly-too-long running time.
    The weird, idiosyncratic cast of characters, while written well enough, never rise above any level that allows us to see them as anything but machinations for the plot. None of them are connected, and none of them seem to be doing anything more than just…existing. No one has a relationship with anyone that isn’t at least slightly dysfunctional and the editing, well, it gets seriously wonky at times. And the ending? Anywho…
    Still, it’s undoubtedly refreshing to see a movie that lets you understand how its filmmaker, by all accounts, was able to amass a pretty awesome filmography.

  137. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – A modern updating of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ set amongst late 1990s American teenagers. Future stars of Chris Nolan films Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Heath Ledger star along with Julia Stiles.

    A moderate success at the time of its release criticially and financially, it’s reputation has grown since its release to be considered one of the best Hollywood teen films of the past 15 years.

    Viewing it now, it’s a generally impressive and solid film, although perhaps now overrated because of the relative standard of teen films is so low that anything merely competent is considered a minor classic.

    What holds this film back from being a full success is the direction by Gil Junger. His career has been largely spent in TV and it shows as his direction lacks style and scenes that should’ve hit the bullseye largely miss the mark.

    But there is plenty to enjoy here, especially due to a generally witty script and good cast. This was the breakthrough role for Ledger in Hollywood and he’s impressive but so is Julia Stiles in a more difficult part playing a very unlikable character – her reading of a poem at the end of the film is very well acted.

    B-

  138. Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) – Julie Andrews starring musical which is basically a pastiche and parody of 1920s music and conventions.

    An enormous hit back in its day (Universal’s biggest moneymaker of the 1960s), I was looking forward to this with anticipation but after a bright start (and an appealingly winsome supporting performance by Mary Tyler Moore) it’s constant high spirits, lack of memorable music numbers and inane plot turns become a chore to watch. Some rather tactless racial stereotypes don’t help either.

    A film that hasn’t stood the test of time.

    Rating: C

  139. The Traveling Executioner (1970) – An eccentric conman (Stacy Keach) makes his living in the American South in the early 20th century travelling to prisons and charging money for executing condemned prisoners in his stylised electric chair. It’s all going well for him until he falls for a condemned woman.

    While no classic, this film deserves a better fate than the virtually forgotten status it currently has. While erratic (and with a somewhat overdone finale) this is an unusual and often amusing film, driven by the highly entertaining central performance of Keach – his ‘Fields of Ambrosia’ speech at the beginning and ends of the film are real highlights.

    Worth seeking out… if you can find it.

    Rating: B

  140. Dungeons and Dragons:

    Nick was right…I have lost all faith in film as an art form.
    Thing is…it was so much worse than I was even expecting.

  141. Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Show (UK):

    I saw Les Mis three times on Broadway and I had forgotten how intensely rousing and populist this show is. This was a special concert taped in London.

    I have also seen the 10th anniversary concert recorded at Royal Albert Hall and while that remains the pinnacle of cast and performance for Les Mis, there were some really strong performances in this 25th anniversary concert that lent it some gravity and copious emotion.

    The most glaring problem with this current iteration of the show is that they cast Nick Jonas (?!) as Marius. When surrounded by the superb Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras, it’s abundantly evident he is so far out of his league it’s ridiculous. I mean, this kid is BAD. And he has no place up on the stage with those professionals. And whenever he would sing, strangely, he would always stare at the rear of the auditorium and never look away. I think he was reading a teleprompter, but what do I know.

    And though no one can be Colm Wilkinson, Alfie Boe does admirably as Valjean and Norm Lewis is a superb as Javert.

    In a brilliant move, they invited members of all major casts to participate, including the original London cast, and it’s an awesome thing to see all these old people singing as well as they did 25 years ago.

    I would highly recommend this if not for Nick Jonas. As it is, I say go back to the tenth anniversary concert.

  142. BOOMERANG (1992):

    This movie had me at “this girl had pretty feet, even.” It was an enjoyable enough movie…for what it was. And while the character and his motivations and peccadilloes are right in my wheelhouse, this is a remarkably poorly-directed movie with some really poor cinematography. Sometimes I even wondered if the cameraman had walked away from the camera, or something, such was the wonky framing and head-room. But it made a profit of 30 million, apparently, so what do I know?

    Aside from that, who can’t laugh at an Eddie Murphy movie? Martin Lawrence is aces and I never felt like I wasted…2 hours?! Was it really two hours?

  143. Conspiracy Theory:

    This is what it would look like if camera crews followed me around. I seeked this out again only because I was present in Times Square when they filmed the scene where he rolls up to the newsstand and they’re playing bucket drums. Otherwise…wow. This movie goes so far off the crazy rails in just the first twenty minutes it’s a wonder they ever got it back, but what they did get back gets so increasingly asinine…quick question: Why does Donner like to be so…childish with so many of his scenes? From the music to the acting. Just watch Maverick.

  144. PRIMER:

    I was wondering what happened to Shane Carruth, and then I saw he’s working on Looper with Rian Johnson. He made Primer in 2004 and for all intents and purposes, it’s a pretty staggering debut film shot for 7,000 dollars on FILM if I’m not mistaken.
    Everything about this movie works so ridiculously well, from the conceit, to how they present it, to where they film some of the scenes…(the fountain scene may not make total sense…a shotgun, a girl…wha? but it looks AWESOME).
    The acting is great and there are some pretty big ideas thrown around in a rather austere way…but it works like aces.
    If any of you haven’t seen this…or even if you have…I’d love to know what your take on it was.

  145. The Hunt For Red October:

    Still, even twenty years later, this movie stands with the best action films of our time, and bests them.
    What an amazing run McTiernan had in the late ’80’s early ’90’s.
    And Alec Baldwin shines as Jack Ryan. I thought he struck the perfect cord of desk-jockey-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-in-the-situation-he’s-in. The boardroom scene with all the generals is still a tightly-written, tautly-directed masterpiece of a scene.
    I remember being so depressed when I saw Harrison Ford would be in Patriot Games.

  146. Battle of Britain (1969) – WW2 film documenting the pivotal battle where Germany launched a sustained aerial assault on Britain, which eventually was unsuccessful.

    This film seemingly couldn’t miss – it had a great story, big budget and an outstanding cast. But it falls almost completely flat and is tedious to sit through.

    There are several reasons for this – the narrative and tactics are poorly handled and the film covers too many characters. As a result what is a virtual who’s who of British acting is wasted – only Laurence Olivier makes any impact.

    A major financial failure, and it’s easy to see why.

    Rating: C-

  147. I actually went to see ‘The Hunt for Red October’ when it was released at cinemas 20 years ago. Maybe I’d find it compelling now but as a 12 year old (probably not the most suitable film to see at that age) I found it as boring as any film I’d ever seen.

  148. K-PAX (2001) – Kevin Spacey plays a man at a psychiatric instiution who claims to a complacent psychiatrist (Jeff Bridges) that he’s an alien from another planet. Bridges is dismissive at first but as Spacey’s story becomes more convincing he begins to wonder what the truth is.

    It’s not bad in spots but my reaction at the end of the film was ‘meh’. It was all rather bland, and was particularly trite in how it handled Bridges’ character’s personal life.

    As for the acting, the smug look on his face that Spacey’s character has for 75% of the film makes it hard to care much for his character. And Bridges seems to be in autopilot with his uninteresting character.

    Rating: C+

  149. Free Willy 4: Escape from Pirate’s Cove

    My son and I had a whale of a good time watching the recent Warner Premiere release of Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove!

    While we were both disappointed that the film lost it’s development title (Free Willy 4 Real aka FW4Ever) we were pleasantly surprised with the feature despite it being a direct-to-video production.

    In the film, Bindi Irwin (daughter of the late Steve) stars as Kirra Cooper, a young Australian girl sent to live on her grandfather Gus’s (Beau Bridges) rundown amusement park in South Africa as her father recovers from a horrific accident. Most of you jaded folks will recognize that plot set up from any number of disturbing indie dramas, but I can assure you this is a family film.

    At sea, Willy (a whale) and his family encounter a violent storm. Willy is separated from the rest of his litter by currents and is washed into the lagoon at the amusement park where Gus swims daily. As the waters recede, Willy finds himself trapped and forced to contemplate a lifetime of enduring the lesser Bridges brother. A vision of his mother appears, urging him to persevere in the face of untold horror.

    The next morning, Willy is soon discovered by Kira and her grandfather. The grandfather sees Willy (whale) as his chance to save his business and opens the lagoon to visitors. Soon, Willy is posing for photos with fat American tourists, jumping through spinning hoops of fire and giving rides to children after Gus outfits him with an aqua saddle. He also fights other sea creatures in a crudely constructed underwater battle arena for wealthy businessmen to wager on.

    To add to the indignity: Gus even allows a local business to tattoo Willy with an advertisement (a muffler repair shop, no less!) in exchange for long-term payments towards the whale’s food supply.

    Things take a surreal turn when Winnie Mandela (Angela Bassett) arrives on scene with plans to seize the Orca and sell him to an upscale organic Japanese supermarket chain in exchange for precious stones of untold power.

    Armed only with her wits, 100 dollars, a FN Herstal Five-Seven pistol and pure determination: the plucky Kirra vows to “free Willy” from his predicament, even if it results in death (“mine or his….preferably his, obviously”).

    I will not delve into spoilers: but those predicting that Willy and Kira are happily reunited with their families and that Winnie ends up being sold for 7000 yen per pound in a Japanese version of Whole Foods can rest easy.

    The film is well-shot and the production values are pretty impressive for a direct-to-video feature shot on the cheap. The cast obviously treated the production like a vacation and their level of comfort resulted in some very natural, winning performances. Bindi reminds me of a young Jake Lloyd. She has the world in front of her and I’m anxious to see what she does next. Bassett plays Mandella like a cross between Lady Gaga, The Black Panther and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Her first scene (in which she arrives at Bridges’ park on a sled of pure diamonds, pulled by a pack of 15 cybernetically enhanced Lions) is easily the best character introduction I’ve seen in a South African produced sequel to an existing Warner Brothers’ franchise. Bridges has a blast with his performance and still looks good with his shirt off!

    I predict my fellow GoneElsewherians will have a swimmingly good time if they choose to dive into Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove!

    To be clear: this latest installment does not star Keiko, the lovable Orca who menaced Jason James Richter in the original trilogy, due to failed contract negotiations.

  150. The Usual Suspects:

    Some movies I watch from this period are tinged with so much nostalgia based on where I had seen them, who I had seen them with, the situations I was in when they were running, that I’m not sure I can do an objective review.
    I felt that for The Hunt For Red October, but not nearly as much as I did for this movie.

    For me, this is a classic, and one of the ten most influential movies in my life. So rather than talk about the movie I will say only that I was shocked….SHOCKED to read that Ebert had given this one and a half stars out of four.
    I mean, I’m not telling him what to like, but to dislike it that much…wow.

    But…a modern noir classic with uniformly strong performances and great writing and direction. Though a few of the things grate me, like when they surround the cop car and take a full minute of screen time to bust the front windshield. Really? Just conduct business through the windows…

  151. The African Queen:

    No, I had never seen this classic of the ‘studio era’ and what an amazing classic it is.
    I wonder how incredible it must have been to see so much of a movie during this era having been shot on location.
    The movie flows steadily through its story like the ship flows down the river. I was wondering a bit where the movie was going during the opening ‘village’ scenes, but once Hepburn gets onto the boat and hatches her plot and when that plot finally comes together at the end, it’s difficult not to marvel at how amazingly well-put-together the film is.
    Wonderful, wonderful movie-love the ending. Absolutely love it.

  152. Red Riding Hood
    Written by M Night Shyamalan’s five year-old daughter. Directed by HAL the computer.

    Girl falls in love with Boy. Girl’s parents arrange marriage with Guy (not Boy). Girl is sad. Girl’s sister is killed by Werewolf. Girl’s Sister was in love with Guy. Villagers grab torches and hunt Werewolf. Guy’s father is killed by Werewolf. Villagers kill a wolf. Girl’s Mother reveals Girl’s Sister was Guy’s half-sister (whoops – don’t tell your Father!) Guy and Boy fight over Girl.

    Villagers celebrate killing of wolf. Werewolf crashes party, kills people. Werewolf talks to Girl telepathically, tells her he has brown eyes (seriously). Priest tells villagers Werewolf is human. Villagers look at each other suspiciously. Girl suspects everyone with brown eyes including Guy, Boy, and guess who…Grandmother!

    Villagers use Girl as bait for Werewolf. Guy, Boy and Girl’s Father plan to rescue Girl. Girl escapes, goes to Grandmother’s house. Girl’s Father is Werewolf, kills Grandmother. Boy fights Werewolf/Girls Father and kills him. Boy is bitten by Werewolf (meaning he will now become one too). Boy runs away, will return when he has his powers under control. Girl waits. The End.

    Grade: FFFF

  153. HIS WAY:

    A Jerry Weintraub documentary about…well, Jerry Weintraub.

    When I watch a documentary, especially about ‘larger-than-life’ entertainment personalities, I expect the lives of those personalities to somehow be tied into the world and time around them and say something about how the personality affected their lives. This, however, was just a slog of talking heads and Mr. Wientraub himself telling the interviewer about his life and the things he did and smiling and saying “And I got away with it….can you believe it?”
    Personal anecdotes are great, but there must have been something, some separate story other than the one Mr. Weintraub wants us to know. They even make bigamy look fun! (Not sure if it was truly bigamy, but he has two wives…and he smiled and said: “And I got away with it…can you believe that?”
    The FAR superior “The Kid Stays In The Picture” relates the life of Robert Evans in a MUCH more objective, worldly eye. It seems Mr. Weintraub wanted to document his reminiscences and smile and show the world that ‘…yeah, he actually got away with it all.’

  154. The Birds:

    I know this isn’t anything no one knows already, but the irst 30 minutes of The Birds is a master-class in creating ‘atmosphere’. The editing, the direction, the economy of shots, acting and mood creates a remarkably pleasant mood so that when that first gull swoops down, it’s like a ‘bolt’…and we know the ‘game is on’.
    I remember a lot of the rest from repeated viewings as a kid (it was my mom’s favorite movie) and while it’s certainly dated, it holds up remarkably well and I never noticed before how staggeringly good that first thirty minutes really is-

  155. I feel the opposite way about the first part of The Birds … I think it’s wheel-spinning sludge, almost unbearable to watch. That early scene in the pet store is downright painful.

    That said, the bird attacks are so surreal when they finally start happening that I wonder if the utter banality of the first half-hour isn’t by design. I tend to doubt it, but I agree with you that the first gull attack is quite shocking when it happens, because up until that point we had been watching the most insipid romantic comedy ever made.

  156. Freaky Friday (1976) – The oft-told story of two people of different generations (this time a parent and her daughter) swapping bodies is the basis for this Disney film.

    It has many of the weaknesses common with live-action Disney films of this era – it looks cheap and garish, has excessive slapstick and mugging instead of acting.

    But this one is a cut above the usual standard because of the fine lead performances from Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris who make a lot out of a moderate script. Harris is especially good; she’s always impressed me in films and it’s a shame she basically dropped out of the business from the early 1980s.

    Let down somewhat by the finale with a neverending slapstick car chase (another standard feature of 1970s Disney films), but still holds up reasonably well.

    Rating: B-

  157. Burke and Hare (2010) – Black comedy treatment of a notorious pair of men in 19th century Scotland (played here by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis) who murdered numerous people so they could provide the bodies to science and profit handsomely out of it.

    I was interested in seeing this because it was directed by John Landis. While his films were often erratic, I thought his work in the 1977-1987 period imo is of a high standard – certainly he was as good as anyone in directing comedy back then. In his first film in over a decade, did he still have the same touch? Not really, apart from the odd moment here and there.

    I found the film tolerable (and a convincing recreation of 19th Century Scotland) but inconsequential and poorly detailed. The film’s desire to make the lead characters likable, even noble, in spite of all their horrible crimes was forced and obnoxious.

    Serkis gives the more impressive performance out of the leading pair – Pegg is OK but his acting limitations show.

    Rating: C+

  158. Working Girl (Mike Nichols):

    How this movie has accrued the legacy it has and how in the world it has EVER amassed a 73 on metacritic I will never know, because Working Girl is what would happen if Darren Aronofsky tried to re-imagine a cliche-and-stereotype-filled Will Ferrel-developed script and failed miserably to make it either ‘arty’ or at all ‘populist’.
    Mike Nichols directs as though he wanted to experiment with placing the camera in a tub of concrete to see how much more difficult it would be for the crew and it’s edited like they ‘meant’ to drag all the fun out of the movie.
    This one…baffles me.

  159. Purple Rose of Cairo:

    Alright, Slim was right. This is as close to a pitch-perfect movie as you can get. The style, the dialogue, the pacing, the flow of the story. It all works so phenomenally. I don’t know if it’s art, but I like it. Very much. One of his best works. And absolutely in the running for best of ’85.
    Though the fact that you don’t know what Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon is hurts, deeply. “Kiss…my….Converse.”

  160. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre:

    Every bit the classic many have whispered it is. The structure is perfect, the acting from Walter Huston is AH-MAZING and the direction is nearly flawless.
    Some of the supporting characters are a bit broadly drawn, but the tension is real, the motivations and feelings are real. Simply awesome movie.

  161. Blow Out:

    Tense, very well done thriller from Brian DePalma. I enjoyed it immensely, with dazzling cinematography and incredible widescreen framing from Vilmos Zsigmond.
    The downer of and ending is mitigated by DePalma pulling out all the stops and making it not just a downer but *sick*. Kudos, Mr. DePalma….kudos.
    The only problem I had was one scene that seemed to be from a different movie all together where Travolta gets in his jeep and attempts to run down more than a few cops and firemen and some Shriners in a parade. He crashes into a display window and then just walks out of the ambulance he’s in, without being detained, and suddenly it’s night. It was almost as if the editor edited in the wrong five minutes of the movie and then took us back to the narrative. So strange.
    Overall, very strong and very tense.

  162. The Collector (1965) – A lowly, repressed office worker (Terence Stamp) wins the lottery, buys an isolated country estate, and then imprisons a young art student (Samantha Eggar) there after kidnapping her, in the hope that she will fall in love with him.

    Despite getting several acting/directorial Oscar nominations (and winning multiple awards at Cannes), this film has a fairly lowly reputation with reviews I’ve read generally considering this to be a disappointment.

    Therefore I was surprised that – while far from flawless – how impressive this film was. As a two-hour film with basically two characters and not that pleasant to watch, director William Wyler does well to keep it as interesting and compelling as he does.

    Much of the credit should go to the two leads – Eggar and particularly Stamp (not the most obvious choice for this type of role) who are excellent. It stretches credibility at times, is a bit slow early on and is a tad long, but overall an impressive achievement, with an effective ending I wasn’t expecting.

    Rating: B+

  163. Watched The Collector in one of my college film classes. Have to revisit the movie.

  164. Saw The Collector years ago when I was 13 or so at a friend’s summer house, surrounded by bees and butterflies. Creeped me out like hell. Didn’t know it was Terence Stamp who played the main character. I just remember him as sort of faceless.

    I remember reading years later that the novel by John Fowles that the film is based on has apparently been the inspiration for at least half a dozen serial killers.

  165. Some Like It Hot:

    Quite possibly the most overrated, homophobic, unfunny-last-third ‘classic great’ movie of all time.
    Jack Lemmon is a remarkable actor, the middle is laugh-out-loud funny, but the last third is *terrible* and ridiculously homophobic.
    Meh.

  166. Outrage (Takeshi Kitano):

    I await a new Kitano gangster movie like some people await Christmas. I first saw Kitano on television in some really ridiculous comedy sketches and then when my then-wife pointed out that he was a well-respected filmmaker and he had a movie in the theaters (Brother), we went to see it. It wasn’t very good, but when I dove into his filmography, I was blown away by his earlier works, especially Hanabi and Kids Return.
    So it was with great happiness that, after what reviewers dubbed a ‘weird foray’ into personal works…he returned with Outrage.
    And while there are some awesome ‘violent scares’ in it, on the whole, it just continues with random violence without really giving any type of plot to follow besides ‘these are bad guys, this is what they do’. Which isn’t bad, I guess, and the ride to get there is filled with some of Kitano’s most accomplished work. This is really talented directing, and I hope his next one is a little more clear and concise and has something a little more to say.

  167. PUSHER:

    You know…Refn isone of my favorite directors working today, this is my bread and butter (European movie about drug dealers and ne’er-do-wells who knock around and get into trouble) but I just don’t see anything in this movie that was worth the time to watch it.
    Refn is a brilliant director, but this is just a camera following two dudes around and nothing happens. Not like Shane Meadows nothing where it all builds to the ending and all says something. This is nothing. Literally. Nothing.
    Wikipedia says it was a huge success in it’s native Denmark, but…just not my thing, I guess.
    He’s still one of my favorite directors.
    I feel almost like I did watching The Good The Bad and The Weird.

  168. Master and Commander:

    Peter Weir’s Hollywood anomaly, a smart, taut, excellent period action picture with excellent characterizations, smart dialogue and awesome dramatic twists in 1080p blu ray hi def on a 50 inch plasma with lossless DTS on a Yamaha receiver with Klipsh Reference speakers.
    The transfer was an incredible, near-flawless transfer and the audio, especially in the beginning, gave me tingles with each crick of the ship and pop of the cannons.
    Amazing experience.

  169. So after watching the stultifyingly boring Contagion, I’ve kinda been on an ‘end of the world with a whimper’ kick and so I went back and started Y: The Last Man again and watched
    THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN:
    Quite apart from Contagion, this was a dated (but in a really good way), tense adaptation of a Michael Crichton book I am now halfway through. The acting is strong, the effects are simple yet awesome, the sets are fantastic, and the danger is all too real. Unlike Contagion, where everything is wrapped in a nice bow after nothing is really very tense, and everyone is just dying.

  170. A couple of old British films that have been remade in recent years:

    The Winslow Boy (1948) – A British teenager is expelled from a naval academy for stealing and his father does everything possible to prove his innocence, even despite the enormous strain it places on his family.

    Based on a popular Terrence Rattigan play, this highly acclaimed film holds up reasonably well today. The plot maintains the interest, there is good dialogue and there is impressive acting on display (especially Robert Donat and Margaret Leighton).

    Alas, its age does show at times, especially in the depiction of the Cockney working-class maid which borders on the verge of self-parody. And iirc the original play was a bit more complex, especially in the finale.

    Still, pretty solid work. It would be interesting to compare it with David Mamet’s modern version.

    Rating: B

    School for Scoundrels (1960) – A sappy executive (Ian Carmichael) who’s pushed around in all aspects of life, goes to a ‘school’ where he’s taught in the art of one-upmanship and basically getting back at all those who’ve taken advantage of him.

    This is generally funny and aimable stuff, backed up by an excellent cast, especially Terry-Thomas in his standard persona of a lecherous foe to Carmichael. Unfortunately it loses momentum towards the end, with a particularly weak final 10-15 minutes.

    Still, a good time is had and this is an excellent film to watch for those wanting to get an insight into what British mainstream cinema comedy was like in this era. It’s certainly more fondly remembered than the 2006 American remake, which I’ve yet to see one positive review for.

    Rating: B

  171. The Mamet version of The Winslow Boy is terrific. Haven’t seen the old version. Didn’t know it existed, actually.

  172. Over the last few months have been to the cinema with my girlfriend to see films that I normally wouldn’t see, such as those listed below:

    I Don’t Know How She Does It – Sarah Jessica Parker plays a stressed-out working mother (well, as stressed-out as someone who can afford a nanny can be) juggling constant travel between cities for her work and being a good mother and wife.

    Bland and generic from the word go, the most bizzare thing about this film is despite having a totally conventional plotline, it can’t be bothered going through standard conflicts that it requires. For example, Seth Meyers plays an oily co-worker who is clearly setup as an anatgonist of Parker, but yet his character serves no function in the story.

    It’s surprisingly aimable all things considered and has one or two amusing bits but this lazy film with a non-existent narrative isn’t worth anyone’s time (and with a surprisingly good cast). Rating: C-

    Monte Carlo – Three young American women go on a holiday to Paris that quickly turns into a disaster. But things rapidly change for them once one of them passes themself of as a snotty heiress and they’re treated like royalty in Monte Carlo.

    Occasionally clunky in terms of plot and character development, this is actually passable entertainment for the most part. I’d never heard of Selena Gomez before this film (apparently she’s a Disney star and girlfriend of Justin Bieber) but she does pretty well in the dual roles.

    Not really worth going to the cinema for, but a passable time-filler. Rating: C+

    The Smurfs – The title is pretty explanatory of what it’s about, suffice to say that a group of Smurfs get transported to modern-day New York chased by the evil wizard Gargamel.

    This has gotten such negativity that it seems people were hating on it even before it was released. But I have to admit I had a fairly decent time with it. It’s bright, fast-paced and generally amusing, particularly with Hank Azaria’s performance as Gargamel. It has a couple of cringeworthy moments and is totally conventional in its structure but it’s overall decent fun and better than the reviews suggest. Rating: B-

  173. There’s a lot I’d do for love, but The Smurfs?!
    Unless she’s doing an independent study on how nostalgia dictates current creative product output (or something like that)….why on earth would she want to see The Smurfs?

  174. Peter Pan (1924)
    I love going to silent films at the Music Box. I had never seen this version of Peter Pan. I have seen live plays and the other Peter Pan movie. The entire film was very familiar (sticking to the plot of the original play) with one very blatantly obvious exception: it referenced American patriotism several times.

    Now, you might be thinking like I was, Barrie was British, right? Yes. And Barrie even helped pick the girl who played Peter Pan. But the Lost Boys mention American gentlemen, sing “My Country Tis of Thee”, and then fly the American flag once they defeat all the pirates. I suppose it’s a relic of early American cinema.

    Another odd moment is when Wendy compares Peter Pan to Napoleon. Pan jokes that he is like him because he’s small, and proceeds to put his hand on his chest mimicking a very familiar Napoleon pose.

    Overall, it won’t make the list of my top 5 silent films – but it was still fun to see.

  175. Serbuan Maut (The Raid, 2011)

    A SWAT team sets out to take down a crimelord and his gang inhabiting a fifteen story highrise in the slums of Jakarta. As they ascend and take out his enterprise floor by floor, he promises free rent for life to whoever in the building takes them down.

    An Indonesian action-martials-arts-thriller by British director Gareth Huw Evans, The Raid, starring Iko Uwais, is likely to make the islamic martial art Silat as famous as Muay Thai and Capoeira. The premise is simple, the acting solid but unremarkable, but the action sequences are gamechanging and frankly raise the stakes for action films this decade. Scenes where you go “There must have been a cut there, or we just saw somebody die on camera. You can’t just do that.” The audience I saw it with was laughing in disbelief at times. The best way to describe it is Ong-Bak times Die Hard.

    Still, it’s not a reinvention of the wheel, there are so many familiar elements story-wise that it’s practically an homage, but there are few outright missteps aside from a predictable last third. It starts out cautiously enough until it just explodes and after that rarely lets up.

    For his next picture Evans will hopefully have found a screenwriter as inventive and energized in his storytelling as Evans is in his action sequences.

    Grade: B+

  176. Ong-Bak times DIE HARD?! I just passed out, hit my head, came-to, read the description again, stumbled backwards down the steps and then walked to the computer and typed this. Sweet universe and all that resides in it…

  177. One thought I had after seeing it was “filmman is gonna have a stroke.”

    I don’t want to overhype the film, since it’s still trapped in some common clichés like people able to take hundreds of kicks and punches, but you of all people need to see it.

    I honestly don’t know what I would have written in a longer review aside from spoilers or speculative drivel.

  178. Rocky Horror Picture Show: ………………………………………………………I got nothin’.

  179. How Do You Know: (James L. Brooks)
    A remarkably inept multiple character study with Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson and Reese Witherspoon, among others, that rambles along and doesn’t really go anywhere and introduces plot contrivances just to introduce them and doesn’t really create any drama and…that’s all I got for that one, too.

  180. Yeah, not a major fan of Rocky Horror either. Tim Curry is great and the first half is enjoyable (but patchy) – but the second half bogs down badly, especially as all the good and iconic songs seem to be in the first half of the film.

    From roughly the same time, ‘Phantom of the Paradise’ is a much better type of this musical.

  181. Of course Rocky Horror is not a very good movie. The entire phenomenon requires you to watch it with a crowd that knows all the things that go with it at a midnight show. Watching it alone in your living room defeats the point. It’s participatory cinema. I only saw it once in a theater, which is enough, but it was fun.

  182. I thought the same thing, Marco! Phantom of the Paradise is by far a better example of this type of film. Did you know DePalma directed that?
    Man, I did not enjoy watching Rocky. I expected it to be strange, I expected it to be campy. I just never expected it to be so bad. The only close-to-fun moment was when Meatloaf showed up and then I was too busy going wtf….is that Meatloaf?! to even figure out what was going on and then he was killed and then I was like wtf? this makes no sense….

  183. Sliding Doors (1998) – In two split narratives, we see the contrastring professional/personal fortunes of a woman (Gwyenth Paltrow with an English accent) defined by whether she catches a train or not.

    The film’s unusual structure has gained a hold over the years (you often hear references to a ‘sliding door’ moment), but how does the film stand up on its own terms?

    Pretty well as it turns out, although it’s rather clunky and obvious at times and has an over-reliance on musical montages (they seemed especially prominent in the 1990s). It makes enough good use of its central concept and has enough charm as a romance to overcome these flaws.

    Paltrow is impressive in the central role and it made me think how disappointing her recent career has been. She had a great run in the late 1990s but in the last decade or so (probably post-Royal Tenenbaums) her film record has been underwhelming.

    Rating: B

    The Long, Long Trailer (1953) – Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were at the height of their TV popularity when they filmed this. They play a just-married couple travelling across the country in – you guessed it – a very long trailer with constant problems and mayhem.

    The film never reaches great heights but is pleasant and and amusing throughout. Ball wisely restrains her usual madcap comic style for the film format.

    While the film is probably a bit of a waste of his talents, Vincent Minelli’s stylish direction bring things up a notch or two. Rating: B

  184. Jolene:
    Stumbled upon this one on On Demand and was rather surprised by a somewhat affective film about a young woman’s coming-of-age.
    Not terribly special, and not completely unforgettable, and most notable perhaps for the copious, abundant Jessica Chastain nudity.

  185. WASP (2005):

    An early short film from British director Andrea Arnold, the director of Fish Tank. Won the academy awards in 2005.
    A very well done ‘social realist drama’ from Britain that has you on the edge of your seat due simply to the actions of some very flawed humans? Yup. Minor masterpiece.
    Depressing character study that packs more of a punch in its 23 minutes than most full-length movies. Arnold is now my favorite british director behind Meadows.

  186. Wedding Crashers (2005) – Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson play divorce mediators who regularly crash weddings to get easy access to free food, music and of course, women. But things change when Wilson falls for the daughter of a prominent government official (Rachel McAdams).

    This manages to get away with being a rather clumsy mix of raucous comedy and sentimental love story due to the charisma and chemistry that Wilson/Vaughan have, good performances from the supporting cast and some fitfully funny scenes.

    But it really lets itself down with a weak final 25 minutes culminating in a dismal wedding finale that is not only preposterous (even in the context of this film) but more importantly, isn’t funny.

    Didn’t realise Brad Cooper was in this – he looked about 15 minutes younger than he does today.

    Rating: C+

  187. ****Spoilers*****

    It started to go off the rails once their true identity was discovered by the family I thought. The falling out between Wilson and Vaughan’s characters seemed rather arbitrary. Wilson going with Ferrell’s character to funerals just seemed too silly (and out of step with Wilson’s character).

    But it really went awry with the wedding finale, so many things wrong with it. e.g. Wilson’s character has had nothing to do with the wedding preparations but he can waltz in halfway through the ceremony and just be best man (with a space there for him no less)?

    It was almost as bad as the ending to ‘Crazy, Stupid Love’.

  188. Putting Will Ferrell into that movie was a big mistake. His style of humor is a lot more surrealistic than the rest of the movie, and he can’t help but hijack the movie during the scenes he’s in. It just didn’t work.

  189. One of my movie pet peeves is the wedding-gone-wrong climax. It’s as old as the hills, and I’ve never been to, or heard of, for that matter, a real wedding that is disrupted like they are in sit-coms or movies. It’s a lazy way to end a movie.

  190. That was Will Ferrell’s best role “MOM! MEATLOAF!” “…what a LOSER. Good, good, more for me and you.”

  191. 7 Women (1966) – Famed director John Ford’s final film. A group of Christian missionary women in 1930s China are shaken up by firstly the arrival of a rebellious, non-religious female doctor (Anne Bancroft). Then, by having to contend with the potential attack from Mongolian warriors.

    At first glance, it’s understandable why this film failed back in the day. By 1966 standards it’s filming style felt old-hat, especially in how it was obviously filmed on a sound stage. Also soome of the performances aren’t great – Sue Lyon is weak in a key role and Betty Field overdoes the hysteria.

    But there is plenty of interest in this underappreciated film, starting with the battle of wills between the repressed head of the mission Agatha (Margaret Leighton) and the rebellious doctor. It’s fascinating to watch Agatha’s decline as her authority is increasingly eroded (eventually fully by the Mongols) and turns from a confident authoritarian to a blabbering wreck.

    The film is strengthed by the two fine performances from Bancroft and Leighton – it’s interesting to note this was the film Bancroft made before ‘The Graduate’, two films that had completely opposite receptions.

    Not up there with Ford’s best work, but well worth seeking out.

    Rating: B

  192. Out of Sight (1998) – A career bank robber (George Clooney) breaks out of prison and aims to steal diamonds from the home of an ex-con Wall Street banker (Albert Brooks). But many complications ensure, particularly his romantic relationship with a U.S. Marshall (Jennifer Lopez).

    There are two contradictory reactions I had to this film. Firstly I found the film’s narrative and some of the characters unbelievable and not really holding up on any level. Especially in the personas of Clooney and his sidekicks who were far too decent and lacking a hardened edge to convince – Ving Rhames’ character especially felt like he should be working for the Salvation Army instead of being a hardened career criminal.

    But yet the film manages to get away with its implausabilities because it’s so well directed by Steven Sodebergh. His sharp direction, ability to create the right mood for scenes and the intercutting back in forth in time make this constantly compelling without it feeling a minute too long.

    He’s backed up by an outstanding cast – it’s hard to think of a better cast in terms of quality and depth (right down to the cameos) in the last 15 years. Clooney is very good and I especially liked Don Cheadle – Lopez was good although a bit overly glamorous for her role.

    Rating: B

  193. Amadeus:

    I know I’ve pointed out in each review the manner of what equipment I’ve used while watching a movie but for this one…a 60 inch plasma and klipsch reference series speakers.
    I have rarely had a more immersive home theater experience than I did with Amadeus. The widescreen sumptuousness is all wrapped around a remarkable script with a near-perfect central performance by F. Murray Abraham.
    The expression on his face alone when Mozart’s wife is removing her bodice because of his psychological games is just…
    And the sound…with the music…for a lover of film there isn’t much better.
    It was the director’s cut, and as I had never seen it before, I wasn’t sure what was added or intended with the extra twenty minutes.
    One review I read stated “Amadeus is close to a perfect film, and with the director’s cut, it’s now twenty minutes closer.”
    I agree.

  194. The biggest addition in the director’s cut was the scene you reference between Salieri and Constanze.

    Did you watch the Blu-ray? I’ve held off on buying it because supposedly the video quality was pretty bad, but I love the movie and am thinking about picking it up at some point regardless.

  195. Yes, it was the Blu Ray.
    At times, it was like watching a laser disc that looked like the master was taken from a VHS master, but honestly, the movie draws you in so completely, it’s just…I stopped thinking about it after the pretty muddy and soft opening scene.

  196. At times, it was like watching a laser disc that looked like the master was taken from a VHS master…

    Yep, pretty much what I had heard before. I might still pick it up someday, but it’ll be a really low priority unless I find it super-cheap.

    Glad you liked the movie, though. It’s definitely one of the greats, IMO.

  197. In the words of Salieri: “It’s…miraculous.”
    Man, it was one of the greatest I’ve ever experienced. I want to sit in front of it again, take in what I didn’t have a chance to appreciate enough the first time. I want to watch every scene of Abraham in the hospital…the script is just so amazing.

  198. I haven’t seen Amadeus since it first opened in 1984. I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. I remember that I liked A Passage to India for the Oscar more. I’m certainly due for another look at it.

  199. Saw Amadeus & A Passage To India at the cinema with the family back in their original release. The thing I remember about APTI was that due to its length there was an intermission midway through the film – probably one of the last films to have such a thing on wide release.

    Haven’t seen APTI at all really since then so can’t comment on its quality but have seen Amadeus in bits and pieces since then and liked it quite a bit. Would want to see it in full again as well.

  200. Team America: World Police (2004) – From the creators of South Park (and using Thunderbirds-type marionettes), this comedy is about an elite American-based unit fighting world terrorism who incorporate a highly-acclaimed broadway actor to infiltrate a major terrorist plot. Soon, they encounter opposition from not only world leaders but famed Hollywood actors.

    The first 15 minutes or so are hilarious (especially the song from the broadway show ‘Lease’). But the relentlessly crude and simplistic humour makes the film an increasing drag from then on. There are some good bits (liked the montage parody) and like the South Park movie their songs are good, but there isn’t enough good material to justify a feature length film.

    Rating: C+

  201. “Unleash the panthers!” [Out run black kittens]. How can you think that movie *lost steam*?!
    “You’re bustin’ my bahlrs, Hans Brix!”

  202. Hanna:

    Unbelievable, over-choreographed, boring, overly artsy, no dialogue, no story development, uninteresting antagonists, very nihilistic, but I always find Cate Blanchett so indulgently radiant…and that’s nice.

  203. Rounders (1998) – A young man (Matt Damon) is trying for a respectable career in law after his enormous winnings piled up through his skills as a poker player are wiped out in one shot through a confrontation with a Russian of dubious background (John Malkovich). But the requirement to help out an unrelaible old friend (Ed Norton) means he has go back into his old lifestyle.

    Despite its modern style and plotline centred around the craze of hold’em Poker, I found this quite an old-fashioned movie, in an era where films had predictable narratives and instead relied upon good characterisation, acting and writing to entertain.

    It’s obvious almost immediately that this film will climax into a repeat confrontation between Damon and Malkovich and there are few surprises along the way. But the film is still good value because it is well-directed, solidly written and well acted by an A-grade cast.

    Norton is again good which just makes his career decline in the last decade all the more dispiriting.

    Rating: B

  204. Drive He Said (1971) – A talented but somewhat clueless college basketball player is unsure where his life is headed in dealing with crazy friends, tough coaches and the wife of a teacher he’s romantically involved with.

    This has all the makings of a top-notch film. A good cast with a particularly strong performance from Bruce Dern as a ruthless basketball coach. Interesting subject matter and from a production company that produced some of the most groundbreaking films of the era (e.g. Five Easy Pieces).

    And yet despite hard work all round, this is a fizzer. I think there are two main reasons for that. Firstly, Jack Nicholson made his debut as director on this and it shows as he simply isn’t skilled enough to bring all the elements on display here into a coherent whole. He does create a convincing atmosphere of what it was like to be at college in the early 1970s but not much else; in someone like Bob Rafelson’s hands this would’ve been so much better.

    And secondly William Tepper in the central role is a bit of an empty void, not even getting close to making his challenging characterisation a compelling one.

    Rating: C

  205. A State of Mind (2004) – (trailer) & (Netflix streaming)

    Ostensibly a ‘reality’ doc about the lives of two young North Korean gymnasts leading up to the grand Mass Games celebrations, and it is, however the British filmmakers creatively weave in information about how bad even the privileged in Pyongyang have it. I wanted to watch it because my daughter is a gymnast and I wanted her to see how good she has it, but also how hard practice leads to near-perfection.The athletes train outdoors on concrete slabs and are expected to be perfect. The Games are an unparalleled spectacle and to see the performances is to witness the fusion of humans into art like never before.

    The propaganda and state control is breathtaking as is the way the citizens are conditioned to blame America for everything that has gone wrong (when rolling blackouts cause the lights to flicker in one house, the immediate response is a disgusted “Americans!”). There are quite candid discussions with citizens about a variety of topics including: wars (the Korean War and just-begun Iraq War), lack of food/electricity/basic services, devotion to the Leader, and giving up one’s self to be a part of the collective. All seem to be completely on board with unifying and exhorting communism (I guess it couldn’t have been approved by DPRK any other way), though it is refreshing to recognize similarities in relationships (parent/child, spouse, friends,etc.) in comparison with my own experiences.

    This was obviously made long before Kim Jong Il was on his deathbed and it made me wonder if anything will change for the better for the people of North Korea. If this is how people in the capital live, how much worse off are the remote areas?

    Rating: B+, for being a cinematic eye-opener to things I have only read about briefly.

  206. Interesting, Joe. I hadn’t heard of that one before.

    North Korea is a pretty interesting place and seems utterly surreal.

    In answer to your last question, from everything I’ve read, rural North Korea is home to some of the very harshest living conditions in the whole world.

  207. The Moth Diaries (2011), Mary Harron: As usual, an interesting but ultimately disappointing film from Harron. A Gothic horror tale set in a girls’ boarding school, the film deals with either a ghost or a vampire (or both), and suicide. A new girl at school (Lily Cole) upends the life of another girl (Sarah Bolger), who is just starting to be happy again after the death of her father. Strange deaths start happening, and did that new girl just walk right through glass?

    Not a bad film by any means, but more atmosphere than substance. I will say that Cole fits the bill–one of the strangest looking beauties in the movies today.

    C+

  208. ANOTHER EARTH:

    Fu*#in’ mumblecore sci-fi. Is there anything Joe Swanberg or Andrew Bujalski can’t influence and ruin?
    Some of the worst cinematography I’ve ever seen wrapped around boring, esoteric nonsense. Remember when ‘indie festival films’ at least tried to tell a story and be engaging when they did?

  209. Sure. Many people love Tarantino…me one of the biggest. But he influenced a LOT of hack Tarantino knock-offs.

  210. It made me wanna watch Sleep Dealer again, though and cleanse my film palate.

  211. Okay, I get you. Haven’t seen much Swanberg–just Hannah Takes the Stairs, which was just okay. I’m not down on mumblecore as a genre. There’s good and bad in everything.

  212. ANOTHER EARTH is about as far from mumblecore as THE AVENGERS is… it has a script, professional actors, and a plot that involves more than twenty-somethings whining about their mundane lives. It’s also a pretty great little movie about guilt and forgiveness.

  213. Thanks for backing me up here, Rob. If Another Earth is mumblecore, then we’ve gotten to the point where the definition includes pretty much every low-budget indie out there.

    I’m not really sure how Another Earth is “esoteric”, either. It ends ambiguously, but other than that it’s a straightforward narrative with clearly defined emotional terrain.

  214. Just a quick note –

    This thread has gotten very long and is pretty slow to load, so I’ve created a new “More Brief Film Reviews” page. In a few days, I’ll close and archive this thread permanently (I’m not sure how I’ll do this yet, but I’ll think of something).

    In the meantime, please continue discussion in this thread of films that have already been reviewed in this thread, and use the new thread for any new reviews.

  215. Never mind, I figured out a better way to do it already. This thread is now the “Brief Film Reviews Archive”, and the new one can be accessed by clicking on the “Brief Film Reviews” tab on top of the page.

  216. Mumblecore ethos drips off this thing like every head of the eight in the dufflebag represented the number of years filmmakers had been ripping off Tarantino.

    And not esoteric? That movie is about as sci-fi as Good Will Hunting (as it is known) was actually written by Damon and Affleck.

    Slim, SPOILERS ********************************************************************

    Another Earth is *awful*. You can’t think of any other way to write your movie than some esoteric nonsense of another mirror of earth being in the sky and your entire story hinges on you paying attention to that ‘little blue dot’?

    END (Semi) SPOILERS ********************************************************************

    Take the earth out of this movie and it MIGHT make a little sense. Fix the cinematography, which is some of the worst I’ve ever seen and maybe make your beautiful lead actress as beautiful as she really is. I’ve never seen a cinematographer make a beautiful actress as ugly as they made her, seemingly when that wasn’t what was wanted. And if she NEEDS to be beat up and have that look, CAST SOMEONE ELSE.
    Stop with the lingering shots of fingertips and silence and grungy aesthetic that you ripped off from Winter’s Bone, but with only a MODICUM of the talent (regardless what I think of that movie, the cinematography was uniformly excellent).
    You can get a better image off your grandma’s HDV palmcorder than these guys got off whatever they shot on.
    Pretentious nonsense that could just as easily have been called ‘another pretentious indie movie’ and still been just as bad, but at least gotten a little more respect for not trying to think it’s something it isn’t. But go ahead, explain how it describes the inner workings of each character’s…and I just bored myself to tears already.
    Oh, and Marling’s acting? Holy smokes. This girl can be a star. But not with whoever guided her performance through this movie.

  217. Slim, (semi) SPOILERS ********************************************************

    Perfect example that this movie was indie kids walking around with a camera and seemingly writing whatever fits their ‘walking around with their camera’?
    The stupid camerawork when the guy with the alien mask walks behind her (which could have been good, but again, was ruined by the awful editing, cinematography and direction) and when she goes to his house the first time and he just lets her in and everyone is MUMBLING and he doesn’t even ask this girl in a hoodie with no car or anything who she works for and…
    ‘Oh, look! He’s so distraught and she’s gonna reconcile!’
    Uf….this was bad.

  218. No it wasn’t. This movie you hold in such esteem is about as incoherent as it gets.

    The Rainmaker:

    I watched this only because it was Coppola and it was Damon’s real big first film (I remember Damon thanking Coppola for taking a chance on him) and found it a very slow-burning piece with great intentions, but a bit aimless and a tad overhanded. The noble characters didn’t feel like they had much depth and the immoral characters felt like they didn’t pay enough attention to their immorality and how it was supposed to drive the plot. It felt like a lot of pretty pictures and not much else.
    It was surprising to me, as I’d heard a lot of good things about it.

  219. Sorry, that should be *heavyhanded*.
    And I just remembered we changed the thread. My bad.

  220. Oh, and Brit Marling will be the leading woman everyone thought Greta Gerwig would be.

  221. What have you got against Greta Gerwig? I think she’s great. Did someone piss in your oatmeal?

    I should add, not to sound like the blog police, that if a movie has already been mentioned on the blog, a response should be put under that thread. For example, Brian mentioned Another Earth as one of his ten best, so it really should go there (that’s why I discussed 3 there). Take a moment and run a search on top of the page. If anything, if it’s recent it will turn up in one of Brian’s review threads. That is all.

  222. I didn’t say anything *against* Gerwig. Sheesh.
    She hasn’t become what I think everyone (especially Jeffrey Wells) thought she would be.

    Attention: please don’t assume I hate anyone until I say I do. I hate the economics major who made Another Earth almost as much as I hate the mumblecore progeny.

  223. I posted here because I was writing a brief review of the movie. Please mail me the ‘Gone Elsewhere’ blog usage manual and I will study it.
    That is all.

  224. Re the Another Earth argument. Just watched it and….I side with Filmman. DIdn’t hate it with his vehemence, but didn’t like it, either. It is pretentious twaddle, with a metaphor as obvious as the planet in the sky, and ultimately phony. Acting seems to be mostly staring vacantly into space. And if they’re going to use astronomy as a metaphor, at least they could get some things right, like: an object that big and that close to Earth would play havoc with the tides. Two: how could an object “just be discovered” when it is visible to the naked eye? The Hubble telescope missed it? Not to mention, no one driving a car that speed in a head-on collision could survive without an airbag with nothing more than a bloody nose. And the Indian? Another cliche, cause you know those Orientals are so wise.

    And Filmman’s right, the cinematography was terrible.

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