Recent Films: 2010 viewing

Movies, dvds, etc. you’ve seen in 2010.

194 Responses to “Recent Films: 2010 viewing”


  1. Reid

    It’s Complicated (2009)
    Dir. Nancy Meyers
    70/100

    I saw this with Larri, Mitchell and Penny. I think we all we all liked it to the same degree. The next person I would recommend this to is Jill. The rest of the idiots might like this, but I’d be surprised if they really loved it.

    **
    I’m generally not interested in contemporary Hollywood romantic-comedies, but I’ve enjoyed Nancy Meyer’s two previous films, Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday (even though they were a bit uneven, especially the latter). Objectively, I’d say this was the best of the three.

    The film is about a divorced woman, Jane, (Meryl Streep), who begins an affair with her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin). At the same time, Jane gets interested in the architect (Steve Martin) working on her house.

    If you liked Something’s Gotta Give–which is a kind of romantic-comedy for 50+ women–then I would recommend this film. Streep plays a similar character that Keaton did and Streep’s performance, like Keaton’s, is very good.

    ***
    The Nancy Meyers’ films I’ve seen have been uneven–they succeed in some areas and fail in others. This film is no different. First, the things I liked. Streep is good in this. Actors usually command attention for one of two reasons: either they have star power or they’re fantastic actors. Early in her career, I’d say Streep was the latter–when she played serious roles. At some point (Adaptation is the first film that I can think of), she started playing roles in a more effervescent way, and, for me, started becoming more of a movie star (who could really act). She has such a winning spirit, and it makes her beautiful and sexy (despite the filmmaker’s emphasis on making her look old. More on that later.). I also liked Alec Baldwin in this role (although some of the dialogue seemed a tad awkward–dialogue involving how great they were together; you knew their relationship wasn’t going to work by that kind of talk).

    So what did I not like? Here are a few things:

    • Steve Martin. He’s usually likable and funny, but he just seemed dull and flat in this film. The bigger problem for me is that he didn’t have much chemistry with Streep. I didn’t believe or I couldn’t understand why she was interested in him.
    • I didn’t buy Jane ending any hopes with Jake. All the scenes prior to the ending suggest that the relationship has potential–particularly the scene where Jake talks about how different they are now and then Jane admits their marriage problems were partly her fault. Imo, the filmmakers don’t show what makes these things ultimately irrelevant for Jane. I mean, I know that Jane has taken a long time to get over Jake–so maybe she just doesn’t have the same feelings to go back to him. But somehow, her decision seemed too abrupt. I could see her deciding after some time. Also, if I bought her relationship with Steve Martin, that would have helped.
    • The children’s reaction to Jane and Jake’s recent affair. I can understand confusion, but for them to be angry and even sad just seemed a bit strange and false–particularly since the previous scenes seemed to suggest that they really enjoyed being togerther with both parents. Remember the scene at lunch after Luke’s graduation. I think several of the kids say how great a day it was being together as a family? To me, if the children had been awkward, ambivalent in some of the earlier scenes, their reaction would have been more believable.
    • I think one of the difficulties with the film is that the audience knows little or nothing about the history of family and the marriage, so it’s much more difficult to gauge the behavior of the characters in the film.

  2. Reid

    Sherlock Holmes (2009)
    Dir. Guy Ritchie
    Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, etc.
    70/100

    Jill, Penny, Marc, Joel, Tony, Mitchell, Grace, Don, John and Chris would probably like this enough that I would recommend this to them. I’m not sure about Kevin. You should know that I went into this with low expectations. At first I was interested, but then I heard lukewarm/bad buzz about this. Then, I just didn’t think that the Law-Downey team would work. I especially thought Downey’s accent would be lame. (It was passable.) Finally, I really didn’t care for Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, so I thought he’d mess this up. I thought the move to add action would take away from the film. All that to say, I thought the film would really stupid and really bad. Undoubtedly, these low-expectations contributed to my rating.

    **
    If you’ve seen and liked Young Sherlock Holmes, there’s a good chance that you will like this, I think. That film tries to revive the detective by adding clever (Spielbergian) action sequences. This film does the same thing, and ups the testosterone level by making Holmes a beefy, skilled brawler (in a martial-arts sort of way). Watson is also much tougher than previous incarnations, but in other ways he seems more bland. Fortunately, Law and Downey have decent chemistry–at least one I didn’t hate. I can’t say the same for McAdams and Downey. Actually, McAdams didn’t work for me, and I think she’s a solid actor/leading lady. I’ll probably see the sequel.

    Tyson(2009)
    Dir. James Toback
    68/100

    The people that I think would like this–Don, Mitchell, Joel, Marc and John–probably wouldn’t like it enough to seek this out. But if it came on TV, I’m sure they would be interested by this. I’m sure Penny would find this interesting on some level, too. Anybody who followed Tyson’s career with interest would enjoy this on some level.

    **
    The film is basically Tyson talking about his life (with pictures and footage of his fights). Toback asks questions (which you don’t hear) and Tyson just takes off. The one thing I liked about Tyson is his candor. I often felt like this was guy who spoke honestly–at least as much as he was capable of. The film doesn’t change that perception.

    The key to the film is whether Toback can get Tyson to probe and reveal himself. In other words, the Toback’s skill as an interviewer is key. Based on the film, I’d give him a B-, but others may give him a higher score. I just think certain issues could have been more deeply. explored. Still, the film held my interest and attention.

    Personally, I left the film feeling sorry for Tyson, like his life was a kind of tragedy in a way–not just in terms of his boxing career, but his life.

  3. pen

    Mitchell and I saw Youth in Revolt last night. My review: some funny moments, some uncomfortable moments (dealing with sex and/or drugs) and bleh. There was something vaguely disturbing and a bit depressing about this movie. Mitchell characterized it as a “male fantasy” movie. I would like to add the word “adolescent” before male (some might argue that’s just being repetitive…tee hee). Not as bad as Year One, but I did not really enjoy it.

    Therefore, it was great to go home and cleanse my movie palate (so to speak) with Young At Heart. PBS showed it as an Independent Lens film. I liked this movie about Seniors (I think the youngest was at least in his/her mid-70s and the oldest being 92 years old) who sing…but this is not your ordinary choir. They sing songs originally performed by Springsteen, The Kinks, The BeeGees, Sonic Youth, Rod Stewart, James Brown, etc. You should hear their version of “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” I like it better than The Clash’s version!

    Also, I saw Tender Mercies, which was a quiet, lovely film. Not one I would gush over, but I’m glad I saw it. There is a very young Ellen Barkin in this movie. I liked Robert Duvall’s performance, but was ambivalent about Tess Harper’s. Sometimes I thought, wow, she’s great…so subtle and thoughtful. Other times during the movie, I thought, wow, she doesn’t seem very genuine…more stiff and one-dimensional.

    And via Netflix, I saw Bread and Roses which appeals to the liberal side of my sensibilities. I thought the film was flawed (some of the plot things were odd), but the main character is fiesty and they did a good job hinting at the nuances of a serious problem.

    ***spoilers***

    Adrien Brody plays an activist trying to get non-Union, mostly immigrant cleaning staff to organize, yet he clearly comes from a middle-class background and does not really understand the lives and struggles of the people he’s working with in a personal way. You have a sister who has struggled and sacrificed so much for her family that her seemingly “bad” decisions really have complicated reasoning behind them. This film makes an effort and I appreciated it.

  4. Reid

    Book of Eli (2010)
    Dir. the Hughes brothers
    Starring: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, etc.
    63/100

    I’m recomend this first to Joel and Tony–I think there’s a decent chance they could really like this, and, at worst, just think it was OK. Mitchell shouldn’t write this one off. There’s an outside chance that he could significantly like this, and, at worst, just think it was OK. I’d say the same for Marc, Don, John and Grace. Larri really didn’t care for this.

    A critic I respect gave this a bad review, but I was really desperate to see an action film. So going in my expectations were really low. I ended up somewhat satisfied.

    **
    I suspect that all the people who would want to see this film will be disappointed. Conversely, people who wouldn’t want to see this may like it. There is not much to the plot: a lone drifter (in the Mad Max mode) travels a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In his travels, he runs into a ruler of a small town (Oldman), who wants the drifter to join up with him. Let me stop there, because I know some of you might be thinking, “So why did you recommend this film to me?”

    The reason is that, unlike the Mad Max films, this is not really an action film. Rather the film deals with the value of books and even issues of faith. While I liked that aspect of the film, I must say that the filmmakers don’t really explore these issues very deeply. On the other hand, they don’t treat the subjects in really silly ways, either (which is significant).

    ***
    (spoilers)
    I really liked some of the ideas about books. Basically, the two adversaries–Eli (Washington) and Carnegie (Oldman)–both understand the importance of a great religious text like the Bible–particuarly in the rebuilding of civilization. They differ in the way these texts should be used. Carnegie knows that he can use the words to control people–the words will give people meaning, and Carnegie interpret the words in a ways to control people and give him power. Eli wants to bring the book to a town where it will be safe and used appropriately. (At the end of the film, my sense is that Solara takes Eli’s place–and instead of delivering the book for safety and duplication, her mission is to spread its message.

    I also liked some the aspects of the faith the film touches on. Well, I just felt the characterization of God and the way he interacted with Eli wasn’t way out of bounds, and it was fairly consistent with my own beliefs. That doesn’t make the film good or bad, but it certainly made me enjoy the film a little more.

    The big drawback is that the film doesn’t explore the issues beyond what I wrote above (well, not much any way). That’s probably the main reason the film didn’t get a higher rating from me.

    The action sequences are pretty bland, too. In many ways, the film could have been a lot shorter (you could have taken off an hour).

  5. Reid

    Special (2006)
    Dir. Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore
    Starring: Michael Rapport
    56/100

    I’m targeting one idiot for this review–Tony. I think there’s a chance he could really like this, and if he doesn’t, I’m sure he would think my recommendation was justified. Mitchell, Joel, Penny and Grace might also like this, but I’m not going to say that the chances are a lot less. (They’re most likely think it was just OK.) Marc, Don and Jill would also have a similar reaction, but I think they have less of a chance of liking this. I’m pretty sure Larri wouldn’t like this.

    **
    This is a very low-budget independent film about Les (Rapport), parking meter “cop,” who signs up to take an experimental drug. As he starts taking the drug, he suddenly gains super-human powers. Probably the main theme of the movie resolves around the desire for self-worth and meaning in one’s life. There are very low-tech effects and the acting quality is not very good (which is one the reasons for the low score). There were also some occurences in the film that felt false to me, too. Still, there some merit to the idea–and I think Tony could really like this.

    I saw this on Netflix streaming, and I watched it because someone I knew recommended it as a good low-budget sci-fi film.

  6. Marc

    Saw Avatar in Imax 3D. I think it almost has to be seen in 3D because you lose too much of the magic otherwise. The earlier criticisms I’ve seen about how the plot is recycled are valid, and that is certainly true of Titanic as well. I’m also not sure that Terminator 2 or Aliens were exactly plot advancing. I have to say that I enjoyed the movie immensely though. I thought the 3D and effects were spectacular. In many ways I felt almost as if I were watching things in live action.

    I guess this will wind up being a point to discuss on that other thread, regarding what makes a movie great versus what makes a movie enjoyable. I honestly don’t know if Avatar stands out as a great movie. But it is a movie that stands out from everything else that has come before it and I was thoroughly entertained. That’s good enough for me.

    Mitchell, I think you ought to see the movie. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  7. Reid

    (Avatar spoilers)

    All stories are re-cycled to some extent, but in Avatar it was really ridiculous (and pretty cheesy). The Na’vi are essentially Native Americans, down to the war paint, bows and arrows and even their culture. Once Zoe Zaldana’s character appeared, I had an idea of how the film would turn out. And I actually thought the film would try to be a little more original with story. The fact that it wasn’t was a huge disappointment. T2 and Aliens don’t come close to the level of “recycling” in Avatar.

    Having said that, I think that I may have liked it more if I cared more about the characters, especially the guy who plays Jake. I thought he was one of the more bland, unmemorable leading actors I’ve seen in a long time. (Apparently, Hollywood disagrees with me as I see he’s the lead in the Clash of the Titans remake.)

    I do, agree, that Mitchell should probably see this. Then again, his negative attitude may be too much for him overcome.

  8. marc

    Worthington clearly stole the last Terminator movie away from Christian Bale. That probablay has something to do with him getting more roles.

  9. Reid

    Crazy Heart (2010)
    Dir.
    Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, etc.
    58/100

    Of those that have the best chance of liking this–MItchell and Chris–I would guess that the reaction would be on the lukewarm side. Still, some of my own lukewarm reactions are based on aspects of the film that are highly subjective. Of the remaining idiots, I would say Marc, Tony, Penny and Grace might like this, but, again, I’m guessing they would give this an OK. I’m pretty sure Don, Jill and Joel would think this is OK at best, and maybe like it less than that. Larri didn’t care for this.

    **
    This is a story about aging country singer, Bad Blake (Bridges). He’s struggling financially, and he’s out on the road playing gigs in small, no-name venues. During the “tour” (in his old truck), he meets a reporter (Gyllenhaal) that bring changes to his life.

    If you’v seen or know of Tender Mercies and you get the impression that this looks like a very similar movie, you’d be right. Imo, it’s not as good as TM, and it doesn’t justify telling a very simillar story. I’ll go into the reason in the next section.

    *** (spoilers including some about Tender Mercies)
    About thirty minutes into the film a question popped into my head: Is Kris Kristofferson dead? Bridges sure seemed to be trying to imitate him (both in terms of his physical appearances and mannerisms). Why not just get the real Kristofferson to play the role? (Of course, maybe they tried to.) I kept feeling like Kristofferson would have been a better choice. Now, I know critics praised Bridges in this, but, to me, he’s just OK–not something award worthy, imo.

    But the bigger problem for me was the chemistry between Bridges and Gyllenhaal. I just didn’t their relationship–and for this film to succeed, I think you really had to, right from the beginning. Blake is supposed to have an instant attraction to her, but it didn’t convince me one bit. Gyllenhaal’s performance didn’t help, either. Her acting is spotty in this and more of the bad than good. Both Bridges and Blake are solid actors, so I wonder if the director was more to blame for the flat performances. I don’t think the dialogue was the problem because there arre some good moments.

    As for the music, I just thought it was OK. There’s a song that sounded like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which was a solid song, but the singing was just OK. Speaking of the singing, that reminds me of Colin Farrell, who is just so awkward in this movie. I don’t know if he did his own singing or not (if he did, I thought that was the best thing about him in the performance). He just didn’t do a good job of playing a country singer. The accent wasn’t terrible, but not believable either (I was on pins and needles listening to him deliver the lines.) His scenes in performance (particularly the first one) just looked really phony to me, too.

    The film’s ending also was pretty anti-climatic–not just because it wasn’t a happy ending–but because it made you feel question the point of the entire film. Blake struggles back to the top (financially, physically and musically–just like Robert Duvall’s character in Tender Mercies) only to not reconnect with Gyllenhaal’s character. The same sort of thing happens in Tender Mercies, but the ending is more poignant and it’s more appropriate. Sledge’s life is always complicated–pain is always present with the joy and that was a big part of what the film was about. You don’t get the same thing in this film, and even if you did, it would just be making the same movie.

  10. Mitchell

    Reid, do you know you have a comment in the trash that I think you meant to put here? Is that on purpose or did something go wrong?

  11. Reid

    I think it was a double thread of Whatever Works. So, I meant to trash it. Thanks, though.

  12. Reid

    Night Moves (1975)
    Dir. Arthur Penn
    Starring: Gene Hackman, Melanie Griffith, etc.
    71/100

    There are other films I’d recommend more, but Mitchell would like this. Other people like Chris, Penny, Grace, Tony and Kevin would like this, too–but I’m not as sure. Marc might like this, too. Don, Joel, Jill and Larri would just think this is OK. Read the next section to see if this something you would want to check out.

    **
    This is more of a character study (almost adult melodrama at times) posing as film-noir. The plot involves a private detective (Hackman) hired by a former movie actress to track down her runaway teenager (a young Melanie Griffith). At the same time, Hackman’s character has to deal with his failing marriage.

    The dialogue is really good, and so is the acting. Hackman’s very sensitive performance surprised me, and it reminded me that he was a solid actor. But Jennifer Warren, as the woman that Hackman’s character is attracted to, and Susan Clark, who plays Hackman’s wife, also turn in fine performances. If you like good acting and good dialogue reminiscent of the good film-noir from the 30s and 40s, I recommend seeing this.

  13. pen

    Wolfman. Eh, it was all right. Entertaining enough to pass a warm afternoon in a nice air-conditioned theatre. Nothing particularly special or interesting about it, though. It was a bit gory, but not excessively so. Benicio del Toro looks haggard from the beginning of the movie and I keep thinking Hugo Weaving was going to say, “Miiiissster Anderson” at any moment, which was kind of distracting.

    Legion. Not biblically accurate, but well-paced and interesting. Reminiscent of Terminator. Paul Bettany is cool. Not for people who are going to get caught up in how un-bibilical it is, because you will hate it and it will be constantly distracting. The movie is going for action and popcorn appeal, and not a lot of subtext or real “deeper meaning.”

    Recent Netflix viewing:

    Deliver Us From Evil . This is a documentary by Amy Berg about the abuse of children by Father O’Grady. The film doesn’t really focus on Father O’Grady, though, which is good, because I get the feeling he likes the attention. Rather, there are heartbreaking scenes with the victims and their families sharing their stories. Also, Berg focuses on the Catholic Church and how its set-up and goals and values foster hiding pedophiles rather than exposing them.

    Close-Up. This is the Kiarostami film (1990), not the Przemyslaw Reut (1996) one. It’s a quasi-documentary in which some actual footage was used, plus some “re-creation” of scenes, but often with the actual people involved. The film focuses on a desperately lonely man with aspirations that do not equate with his circumstances. He and hoodwinks a family into believing that he is a famous filmmaker that will use their home and family in his next film project.

    Actually, it was interesting to see both Close-Ups. While they are not connected, there are some common themes about the role of media and how it affects public perception and influences the people in the spotlight. Also the ripple effect…fame, power, money, control and how it can skew “reality.”

    The director impersonated in Close-Up is real-life Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf…and the film they mentioned in particular was called, The Cyclist. So, I borrowed that film. It is about a Afghani man who takes on a nearly impossible bet to earn enough money to provide medical care for his sick wife. This bet involves a lot of money and the man essentially becomes a pawn between two forces beyond his control. It is moving and tugs at your heartstrings, but in a subtle way. I plan to see more of Makhmalbaf’s movies.

    Objectified is a documentary by Gary Hustwit, who also did Helvetica (which I haven’t seen yet). I liked the interviews with the designers. They are a passionate bunch. They see things in a different way…always questioning why things look and function the way they do. What if the handles were bigger and curved? What if you removed buttons and could just touch a flat screen? What if it was made out of a different material?

    The movie also looks at how design affects us, as well as how the current culture affects design. I found it interesting, but maybe a bit slow paced.

  14. Marc

    I’ve seen links to this profile on Roger Ebert in three different places but in case nobody else has had a chance to read this, I’ll post the link here. Give yourself about 15 minutes and enjoy.

    http://www.esquire.com/features/roger-ebert-0310

  15. Mitchell

    Sherlock Holmes

    Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I took a long, delicious, hard-earned, happy-birthday nap during this film. Then I took another. And the naps were so long that I can’t give it an honest review, ‘though I enjoyed what I saw.

    Youth in Revolt

    This had potential but despite Michael Cera, this adolescent male fantasy is only so-so. I just have to say that because of his more famous “I’m a Mac” TV commercial character, Justin Long cracks me up in everything else I see him in, and I seem to be seeing him all over the place lately. Portia Doubleday wins the award for best name. Seriously, with a name like Portia Doubleday isn’t she just destined for stardom? I looked it up, and it’s her real name, too. Anyway, unless you’re determined to see everything Michael Cera or Steve Buscemi are in, you don’t need to be seeing this, although I’m considering giving it another try on DVD.

    4/10
    48/100

    Leap Year
    Amy Adams, Matthew Goode

    It doesn’t bother me much when a movie is pretty up-front about how predictable it’s going to be, and this one is. I was pretty sure, based on the trailer, that I was not going to enjoy this film, but I was mostly wrong. It’s no surprise that Amy Adams is charming here, but what’s surprising is how well she carries the film and how nicely she acts with Matthew Goode. There’s some bad stuff here, like the Irish tavern whose occupants look at Adams like she’s some kind of different species of animal, or the scene where Adams causes Goode’s car to roll backward into a lake (or whatever they call them in Ireland). Despite all that, you can’t help but enjoy these two characters as they get to know each other. A good rental or a good date film.

    If you have a predilection for romantic comedies, you probably won’t regret checking this one out.

    6/10
    66/100

  16. Reid

    Edge of Darkness (2010)
    Starring: Mel Gibson
    33/100

    Penny and Joel will think this is OK at least. Marc would probably feel the same, too. I’d say everyone else can pass on this. Even Larri didn’t care for this. I didn’t think this was going to be very good, but I was desperate for an action film. Man, a good action film is really a rare thing. Depressing.

    **
    A police officer investigates the death of a loved-one, and finds that a complex plot involving politics (among other things) comes to light.

    ***
    Watching Gibson in this film reminded me of seeing Harrison Ford in the latest Indiana Jones film. Gibson looked really old; and he acted that way. Either that or he really didn’t care much about this film. I don’t blame him, since I didn’t care much for the story, either. It was sort of complex, but something to make me care just wasn’t there. (I also had a hard time hearing the dialogue in some of the scenes.)

  17. Mitchell

    When in Rome
    Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel.

    Holy cow this film stinks. I found myself saying aloud (and thankfully nobody was around me), “Stupid!” You know how you say it when you sorta drag out that initial /s/ sound so that it’s kind of a hiss? And how you give accent to the /t/ sound so that it explodes into the rest of the word, almost as if you’re spitting it out? “Ssssstupid.” Like that. I said it like twenty times. Everything about this movie is stupid except two things, and they sorta make the rest of the film even worse. Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel are well cast. They do their darndest trying to rise above a ssssstupid plot and ssssstupid supporting characters over-acted by sssssstupidly-thinking actors. Even the likes of Danny DeVito and Anjelica Huston, who should both know better and are certainly capable of far greater work, crank out caricature performances of lazily-thought-out characters.

    I liked Bell especially, but she’s not the actress who could save this dreck. I don’t think that actress exists, really.

    2/10
    25/100

  18. Mitchell

    Valentine’s Day
    Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Jessica Biel, Jessica Alba, Taylor Swift, Emma Roberts, Kathy Bates, Shirley MacLaine, Queen Latifah, Topher Grace, Hector Elizondo, Ashton Kutcher, George Lopez, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Eric Dane, and Taylor Lautner, among lots of other familiar faces.

    I once fell asleep in the middle of Braveheart while watching it on TV and woke up in the middle of Dances with Wolves, which I watched to the end. This movie felt longer than even that.

    I kept begging for it to end. “Just end already,” I kept whispering. There are like ten love stories going on here, each connected in some way with the others, and I have to say the setup was pretty good. The execution, however, is long, predictable, and boring, except for the story lines involving Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Garner. Even their stories are dumb and predictable, but they power their way through it and come out respectable on the other side, kinda like Tim Robbins crawling through that sewage pipe in The Shawshank Redemption and finally emerging newly baptized in the stream outside. I’ve come to expect this from Garner, but Kutcher took me by surprise. He really manages to carry his end of the film well; someone needs to cast him in a real romantic comedy with real writers and a director who’s not so in love with cliche. It wouldn’t hurt if he was cast opposite someone like Garner as well.

    I just want to say that ever since seeing Julia Stiles’s direct-to-video Carolina some time ago, I can’t stand to see Shirley MacLaine in any movie. She sorta fills me with loathing nowadays, which is a shame, because the lady can (or she could) act. She seems just to be making some bad decisions recent years.

    Topher Grace and Anne Hathaway do their best here, but they just don’t pull through their awful story the way Kutcher and Garner pull through theirs. I wouldn’t mind seeing them together in something else.

    Julia Roberts has a rather small part here, ‘though she gets top billing. Her story is cute but you can sorta see it coming down main street like the biggest float in the parade. Stick through the credits, though, if you can stay awake that long. She and director Garry Marshall play a very small tribute to Pretty Woman in the outtakes.

    Wholly unrecommended but you might want to check it out at least to see how nobly Garner and Kutcher attempt to rise above.

    3/10
    32/100

  19. Mitchell

    I just want to add two things to my thoughts on Valentine’s Day.

    First, Roger Ebert closes his (negative) review with this: “Valentine’s Day is being marketed as a Date Movie. I think it’s more of a First-Date Movie. If your date likes it, do not date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date. ”

    Second: When are writers and directors going to get it into their heads that as soon as some scene that only happens in the movies makes an appearance, the film has lost any semblance of credibility it might have had, and in this case that was already close to zero? Falling back on such cheap devices as the join-the-wedding-dance scene where everyone suddenly and without instruction knows all the same moves to a choreographed dance is a cop-out. It’s cheap, and it sucks. Now, a film that’s already set itself up as a musical is a different story. You expect the characters all to know the words to the songs and the moves to the dance. But in any other setting, it just doesn’t make sense. The scene reminds you that you are watching a movie, effectively breaking the fourth wall, the third wall, the covenant the film-makers have with the audience, and everything else except a sweat.

    On the one hand, it’s one of the things you kind of expect from Garry Marshall, whom I always considered good-hearted but lazy. On the other, doesn’t Garry Marshall like movies? Does he expect us to believe for one second that if he were in the the audience and someone else had made this film, he’d want to see these stock movie scenes? Why do we need another guy-running-to-get-to-the-plane scene? And when the ticket agent hands a character a pass that gives him access to “any gate in the airport, and it’s on me,” are our hearts supposed to be warmed? And when two people call out to each other during the screening of a film, irritating the other audience members who yell “Down in front!” and then make up and kiss while a romantic movie is playing on the screen behind them and the audience (now suddenly okay with having its view blocked) applauds wildly for the made-up couple, are we supposed to think, “Yes. That’s how it happened when I saw that in real life?”

    I know all of this is obvious, but I think it seemed even worse than usual here because it was just one awful, cliched scene after another. Pow, pow, pow, pow. Surrender.

    I might watch this film again just so I can hate all over it.

  20. Reid

    I had to smile while reading your these reviews. I smile because I can relate to what you’re saying–although, in my case, the films are action/adventure ones–and it sounds like you’re just tired of some of genre conventions. I’d guess the problem is not the “unrealism” of the scenes (after all, there are a lot of scenes that occur in movies that don’t occur in real life), but the fact that you’ve seen these scenes too many times and now you’ve passed a threshold of tolerance for them. I think this has occurred to me with films in general, but more with action films because I’ve watched a lot of these films and they’re filled with conventions of the genre. You love romantic-comedies so you’ve seen a ton of them–and you’ve seemed to be watching a high concentration of them in the past year. What I’m suggesting is that the films aren’t any worse than the one’s you’ve seen in the past. You’re just tired of some of the cliches and conventions of the genre.

  21. Reid

    Platform (2000)
    Dir. Jia Zhang-ke
    65/100

    I can’t highly recommend this to any of the idiots. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to Joel, Jill, Larri, Don, Marc and probably John. Penny and Grace would probably find this interesting on some level, but I don’t think they would really love it.

    **
    If you’re interested in Chinese society in the 1980s, then this would be a film to watch. The film follows a group of performers in a travelling dramatic group. At the beginning of the film they’re doing Communist sketches, but as the Chinese government liberalizes its economy, we see the group gradually adjust to the new economic environment. Using this as a backdrop, the film primarily follows two couples.

    The film sort of takes off wear Farewell My Concubine leaves off (well not quite), and the way it depicts the socio-cultural changes in China is a very similar approach used in the film.

    ***
    A word on Jia’s filmmaking. There’s a lot of shots of the characters from a long way off–so much so that I had trouble making out the faces of the characters. This was an interesting technique in that it made the characters feel remote. (The fact that these scenes were relatively short and that significant time elapses between the the characters’ last interaction adds to this sensation. This creates this sense that these people are small and insignificant compared to these larger social forces moving around them.

    Unknown Pleasures (2001)
    Dir. Jia Zhang-ke
    63/100

    Recommendations. See above

    **
    Let me say two things about the film. First, the film starts where Platform left off, regarding the performers (artist). In this film, a dancer belongs to a performance group that promotes and advertises beer. It’s the next step in the convergence of art and commerce.

    Second, the film focuses on two young men and the way they go down the wrong path. It is reminiscent of films like Mean Streets, Boys n’ the Hood, Cyclo and City of God. If you like that sort of thing, then this movie is for you.

    The World (2004)
    Dir. Jia Zhang-ke
    73/100

    I recommend this to Kevin. Again, Grace and Penny would probably find this interesting, but it’s not something I’d strongly recommend to them. The same people who wouldn’t like the other two films wouldn’t like this. I have no idea about Tony, Mitchell and Chris. (FWIW, these films feel like they are a trilogy, and I would recommend watching them in chronological order.)

    **
    This film follows the workers at an “Epcot-like” amusement park in China: Tao, a dancer in the Las Vegas-like performance and her boyfriend, Taisheng, a security guard at the park; and bunch of other characters that struggle to survive in the city.

    ***
    This amusement park–called, “The World”–is the culmination of ideas that Jia started in the previous two films. On one level it represents the final convergence between art and commerce. Not only has commercial sector swallowed up the arts, but it has joined with the arts to “swallow up life.” The amusement park dares to replace the real world. But the film shows that this is a failure by literally showing the life behind the facade.

    I’m not going to talk much about the characters or their stories as I found them not very interesting. What did interest me was metaphor of the amusement park and the images Jia used to convey his themes and concerns. There are several shots of Tao riding alone in a monorail that constantly goes around the park in a circle–indicating that these characters are essentially trapped in this place. Indeed, this sense of being trapped and helpless is the overwhelming sense one gets about Jia’s characters in all these films. They’re powerless to the great social forces swirling around them–which serves as a contrast to the notion of China’s economic success. The Chinese economy may be rapidly growing, and China may be a great superpower, but, right now, there are a lot of normal people who are getting crushed in the meantime. (There are many other images and scenes that do this, but I can’t remember them right now.)

    I also didn’t want to talk about the characters and their stories because they feel a little cliche and stale. Many of them come to the city to find and make a better life, but in the process they lose the things that mean the most to them.

    Another image that is crucial in the film is the airplane and the idea of flying to another land. I don’t know if the Chinese society has the idea that people shouldn’t or don’t need to travel–that China and the Chinese government can provide everything that a person needs or wants–but there are characters who are wanting to fly or travel to other areas and some others that cannot.

  22. Mitchell

    Crazy Heart
    Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell

    I’ve now seen this twice and liked it a lot both times. I think Bridges is very good. Gyllenhaal is…maybe not her best, and maybe slightly miscast, sorry as I am to say it. There’s just something off about the way she plays this part, and I think the writer made a bad decision in making her character so much younger than Bad Blake.

    Unlike Reid, I don’t have much of a problem with Farrell’s performance. In fact, I like it a lot more after a second viewing. He makes a few weird choices, like the way he always looks down, especially when he’s in Bad’s company, but there’s a sincerity here that I like. He knows he’s this super-popular country-nouveau artist but he seems to carry that with a humble grace. And his singing is terrific.

    Reid seemed to like Duvall’s performance, and I don’t dislike it but something about it is kind of uncomfortable. The way his character talks and moves is awkward and graceless; his clothes seem to fit poorly and he seems to fit poorly with other characters, even Bad. I’m not sure what the point to all this awkwardness is.

    I love the film’s editing and lighting. I love the way the camera holds certain scenes and they way it stays on Gyllenhaal (for example) even while Bad is delivering lines. The film seems to move smoothly from scene to scene, seemingly without effort. The lighting is a beautiful, warm, natural lighting in several different conditions. There’s a bright, milky light that fills in Bad’s wrinkles and makes him glow; there’s a warm, yellow light that casts half his face in shadow as if he’s waiting for the other half of his face also to be cast in shadow. Even in scenes with artificial light seem well-cast.

    What really makes it a very good movie, though, is the soundtrack. It is well-known among the Idiots that I’ve been a huge T Bone Burnett fan since the early nineties. In the years since, I’ve been thrilled by his success on film soundtracks. All this is to say that there was almost no way I was going to dislike the music. I like it quite a bit.

    This is a flawed movie, but it’s still quite good.

    9/10
    89/100

  23. pen

    Duplicity. One of those movies trying to be clever and falls flat, because it got caught up in its own convolutedness. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen have no real chemistry in this movie. Over-the-top, but not in a particularly good way. If you’re bored and really love looking at Julia and/or Clive, then see it. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

  24. Mitchell

    Aha! That’s exactly what I told you. Remember?

  25. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I liked the deference and respect that Colin Farrell’s character gave to Bad, but I thought his performance as a country singer wasn’t very convincing, and it felt awkward. (I think his Southern accent wasn’t very good, and the way he bobbed his head up and down and the strumming of his character just didn’t convince me that he was a real country singer.) As for his singing–if that indeed was his own vocals–I thought that was the best thing of his performance.

    I also agreed that Duvall seemed awkward, and his role in the film didn’t seem very meaningful. I mentioned that I would attribute the former (and I would now add the latter) to the director.

    Moon (2009)
    Dir. Duncan Jones
    Starring: Sam Rockwell
    72/100

    Not a great movie, but I think a lot of you would like this. Grace would be at the top of the list–and true to form–Chris would probably be next. Then I would recommend this to Mitchell, Tony, Joel and Marc. I’m sure Penny would find this worth-watching (but it’s not something that she would absolutely love). Kevin, Jill, Don (definite 3 with a chance of 4 stars)and Larri would mildly like this, too. I’m pretty confident about these recommendations, so I’ll emphasized knowing as little as possible going in.

    A bunch of people I know mentioned this as one of the more memorable films of 2009, and they recommended it to me. It was a good recommendation. The movie is not great, but I was thoroughly entertained (which surprised me given some of the weaker elements–which I’ll go into later).

    **
    In the future, humans get their energy from helium that is mined on the moon. The film follows Sam, a miner on the moon. But strange things begin to happen. (Mitchell: there are elements of this film that remind me of two of your favorite movies. You may not love this film, but you’ll like it, particularly the idea of it.)

    *** (spoilers)
    What surprised me about my reaction to the film was that I liked this despite the fact that I found the film somewhat predictable. I’ve heard several people complain about this, and I think many people will be able to predict what’s going to happen in many scenes. However, by the time you figure them out, you don’t really care. Plus, it’s not so much the predictability that matters about some of what’s going on, but the way the film will resolve itself.

    On the other hand, the film’s resolution was somewhat disappointing–specifically, the way the film made the corporation villains that Sam defeats in the end. To me, the villainy of the corporation is really only introduced at that moment in the film, so it feels tacked on. The bigger and more interesting issues had to do with identity, what it means to be human and the nature of clones. The film really had great potential in exploring these issues. (I had two possible ways of ending the film: 1.) Having the two clones do something to express their individuality in their death–which would say something about the powerful drive to express and demand respect for one’s uniqueness; 2.) make the story about the clones learning and growing as a person and then going back to the original Sam and sharing this somehow–or sending the information to him–like a Groundhog Day concept.)

    So I’m a little puzzled why I enjoyed the film as much as I did. I think the way the film unfolded and the concept of the way the corporations used one clone and the story they made up to deceive the clone were enough to satisfy me.

    The Prestige (2006)
    Dir. Christopher Nolan
    Starring: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, etc.
    39/100

    Honestly, I thought this was such a bad movie, I’m having a hard time deciding who would like this. I’m guessing most of you will think this is OK and most of you probably won’t think it was as bad as I did.

    **
    The film follows two rival magicians who are basically trying to ruin each other.

    ***
    This movie doesn’t work on so many levels. First, it doesn’t really establish the two characters very well–specifically, what drives them to be magicians–and it also doesn’t establish the nature of the relationship between the two characters. The film does hint at several potentially interesting themes: for example, Bale’s character feels like sacrifice and risk are necessary to be a great magician, but the film never fleshes this out; nor does it flesh out Jackman’s character’s response to this idea.

    Next, the whole subplot of Tesla and his invention is one of the ridiculously elaborate and contrived plot devices I have ever seen in a movie. There’s a lot of screen time given to this sub-plot and it achieves so little. This is worst than the deus ex machina in The Abyss–and that’s saying something.

    There are other problems, but I don’t really feel motivated to go into them. I will say that some of the same problems that plague Nolan’s Dark Knight are present here–namely, the way there are many different ideas and aspects of the film that aren’t fully developed.

  26. Reid

    More on Crazy Heart.

    Mitchell, I read the A.O. Scott review. What specifically did you like about it?

    Let me make some comments:

    • The review reminded me the relationship between Tommy Sweet and Bad Blake, specifically that I wished the film developed the relationship a little more. I don’t think it adequately establishes the nature of the problem between them–or at least the problem doesn’t seem to have substance when the two characters meet–specifically from Bad’s end; he doesn’t really seem sufficiently embarrassed, upset or resentful, so you wonder what was the problem–especially since Tommy seems genuinely respectful and deferential to Bad. And even if Bridges showed these things, you really wouldn’t understand the basis for them.
    • Scott writes in response to the query about what Jean sees in Bad Blake:

      There is a playboy’s charm and an old-fashioned Southern courtliness half-hidden behind the weariness, the anger at squandered possibilities, the flabby gut and the unkempt beard. This fellow may be bad, but he’s also dignified.

      I agree with this characterization, but that doesn’t change the fact that the actors don’t have chemistry.

    • I like this line from Scott’s review:

      But no one ever put on a country record in search of novelty or wild surprise. What you seek in those songs is honest feeling and musical skill.

      …if it referred to the film and not the character. But this made me think speculate about one of the main differences between Tender Mercies and this film, namely the direction. Both films skip over certain scenes (in TM, there are pretty large leaps through time, for example we don’t see very much of the courting between Sledge and his soon to be wife), and this requires tremendous skill to know what to show and how much. My sense is that Cooper (CH’s director) didn’t do a very good job of this. There’s also an awkwardness to the acting and the purpose of some of the scenes–and I tend to think the director is largely responsible for these areas.

  27. Reid

    Funny ha-ha (2002)
    Dir. Andrew Bujalaski
    73/100

    I would recommend this to Tony and Chris. I think Kevin would find this somewhat interesting, but I’m not sure how much he’d like it. I wouldn’t recommend this to Don, Marc, Joel, Jill or Larri. I know Grace didn’t like it, and I think Penny and Mitchell liked it a little.

    I liked this movie more because I think it was well-made and original, more than the fact that the movie entertained me.

    **
    Think of Annie Hall populated with socially inept Gen-Xers and you get a good idea of what this film is about. Marnie is the Annie Hall of the film, and we see her struggles with romance–particularly over Alex. There are other movies this film made me think of:

    Spike Lees She’s Gotta Have It–in the way that the film follows Marnie and her interactions with several different men;
    Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise–in the way the film follows a woman finding herself–or at least finding some inner strength to stand on her own;
    Richard Linklater’s Slacker–in that the characters seem very similar to the ones that appear in Slacker

    The last example is apt because I think this is really noteworthy Gen-X film–noteworthy because the film actually has an interesting character and story to tell rather than just depict the state of being for many Gen-Xers (e.g. Garden State or Kicking and Screaming.

    ***
    Mitchell, Penny, Grace and I talked about the film after we saw it and I made the point that I thought the movie used conventions of the romantic-comedy in an interesting way–in a way that films like Big Lebowski and Fargo used conventions of film noir in interesting ways. All of the films seem to certain genres and populate them with different characters and set the film in a different locations that would lead to an a-typical genre film–so much so that the film may no longer be in that genre anymore.

    Mitchell strongly disagreed with this claim, specifically that the film was a romantic comedy. On thinking about the film more, I think I may have overstated my case. Well, I don’t think calling the film a romantic comedy is accurate–just as calling Fargo and The Big Lebowski film noir is accurate. But I do think that all the films start off with certain premises of a genre–even though the final results may take them outside of their respective genres.

    To be more accurate, I think Funny ha-ha uses Annie Hall as a template more than romantic-comedies in general. There is the quirky central figure in Marnie, whose is like a nerdy, more socially inept version of Annie; there are characters like Mitchell (Bujalaski) who has a similar anxiety to Woody Allen’s screen persona; there’s the examination of romantic relationships and humor in them. But what I liked was the way Bujalaski envisions Annie Hall in the world of Gen-X nerds. The world we see is a very real, rich and one we rarely see–certainly one that is not as well-drawn as this one. We see nerds on the screen, but not ones with this much nuance, variety and realism.

    Take variety. There’s almost a kind of hierarchy that we see within the nerd world–there nerds who are jerks; nerds who are nice; nerds who are doomed to be just a friend, etc. Not all nerds are the same. For example, in a Hollywood film, Alex would essentially be the Mitchell character. But here, the film portrays him as someone near the top of the social hierarchy–he treats his nerd roommate dismissively; he calls the two guys playing frisbees dorks).

    At the same time, all the characters in the film are real–the qualities that make them nerds are subtle and not over-the-top. You don’t feel like you’re watching caricatures.

    Along these these lines, I’d like to mention the language and behavior of the characters. See these characters speak and relate to each other–specifically the scenes with Marnie and Alex–I feel like I’m listening to people from another country. I’d characterize the conversations are quirky and awkward; I’d describe the way they interact as socially inept. Yet, I get the sense that the characters themselves would not feel that way; in their world, the conversations work; some of them, like Alex, can behave this way and actually be considered attractive. (To me, a guy like Alex would have a very difficult time outside of this milieu would have a very difficult time–not to say that he doesn’t have some difficulties within this world, but not as much.)

    Because of all these reasons, I think the film and the filmmaker deserve some attention and acclaim. Indeed, this is the type of film I would consider as one of the decade’s best because it is new and largely succeeds at what it’s attempting.

  28. Mitchell

    (Crazy Heart spoilers)

    Actually, I think the film does hint at what the issue is between Bad and Tommy. First, we know Tommy got his start from Bad. Second, we know that Tommy is enormously successful. Third, when Jean asks Bad if Tommy is “real country,” Bad grudgingly admits that he is, but that he tries to hide it. Lots of old-timer musicians (and their fans) look down at contemporary country and resent its popularity, and you can see how Bad would feel the same way. You don’t see Tommy peeing into a plastic jug as he drives a ’79 truck to a gig in a bowling alley, yet Tommy and his ilk attained their fame and success on the backs of guys like Bad. Yes, Tommy is respectful of Bad, but that doesn’t change the realities of the market, including the fact that Bad has to beg Tommy to let him do a record with him.

    I’ll repeat what I’ve said before: this film is not as good as Tender Mercies, and it does have some flaws. However, the overall effect is positive; it looks good, it sounds great, and Bridges nails what I think is a compelling character, inhabiting him with likability, depth, and tragedy.

    As for Tony Scott’s review, it’s just really well written. We will never agree on critics because you want to respect their opinion, and by that you mean you want to agree with them. I want to be told what someone thought of a movie, whether I agree with that thinking or not, in a way that’s intelligent and eloquent. In my experience, one person does that better than A.O. Scott.

  29. Reid

    Mitchell,

    We will never agree on critics because you want to respect their opinion, and by that you mean you want to agree with them.

    I can understand why you think this, but this is not really correct. I’d be interested in reading critics that don’t agree with me if they wrote thorough pieces that back up their position. Most criticism doesn’t do this (even of the critics I agree with). I don’t just want to know what a critic thought of a film; I also want to know why he/she thought that.

    WRT Crazy Heart (spoilers)

    This is one of those films that depends on the extent to which you enjoy the performance. I thought it wasn’t anything special, but you and a lot of other people did. I don’t know if there is anyway to get beyond that. (Well, if I watched it again, I could point out specific details

    Re: Bad Blake’s problem with Tommy

    You’re right about the problems Blake has with Tommy, but I just felt like the film/filmmakers didn’t do enough to make those problems believable; the problems–and the fact that Blake had them–seemed to lack substance, imo. The relationship between the two also didn’t seem very well-developed–and maybe that was beyond the scope of the film.

    Syndromes and a Century (2006)
    Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
    78/100

    I’d recommend this to Kevin first. Penny would find this interesting, but I’m not sure how much she’d like this. I’m not sure about everyone else, although I can say who wouldn’t like this: Don, Marc, Joel, Jill and Larri.

    **
    This made several best of the decades list, and it’s not a bad pick, imo. This is definitely not a conventional film, but it’s not entirely inaccessible either. The film is broken into two sections, both taking place in a hospital. The first section focuses on a female doctor. We see her treating various patients, and we learn that another doctor(?) is in love with her. There is also a side story with a monk and a dentist. The second section focuses on a male doctor, a man who has just been hired. We see him doing his job; we briefly see him interact with his girlfriend.

    The plot is not very exciting, but the film is not about plot or even story, but about ideas. I’ll got into that in the next section. (To some extent, reading my interpretation of the film won’t spoil the film, per se–except if you want to figure it out for yourself.)

    ***
    This is a film that relies heavily on a viewer interpretation. I must note that my interest and (limited) knowledge of community and urban planning has greatly informed my personal interpretation of the film. I have no idea how valid this interpretation is, but it does seem to fit with the film.

    With that let me start with a definition of syndrome, which also helped me interpret the film:

    1.Pathology, Psychiatry. a group of symptoms that together are characteristic of a specific disorder, disease, or the like.
    2. a group of related or coincident things, events, actions, etc.
    3. the pattern of symptoms that characterize or indicate a particular social condition.
    4. a predictable, characteristic pattern of behavior, action, etc., that tends to occur under certain circumstances: the retirement syndrome of endless golf and bridge games; the feast-or-famine syndrome of big business.

    As I mentioned above, the Weerasethakul divides the film into two sections. The first section can be thought of as the traditional syndrome. Nature and religion are more present and valued in this syndrome; people seem to have more personal and humane interactions with each other. The physical environment seems more alive.

    The second half of the film focuses on what I would call the modern syndrome. In this syndrome people don’t value religion so much, and nature is largely absent. Interactions between people are also formal and even lacking in humanity. The physical environment is sterile and dead.

    This explains the “syndrome” part of the title. I understand the “century” part of the title this way: The characters and situations from the first part of the film reoccur in the second part of the film, but there are clear differences–the situations don’t play out in the same way; characters are given a different treatment. For example, the interview of the Buddhist monk by a doctor occurs in both sections, but the nature of the conversation is very different. I understand the first half of the film to have taken place earlier in the 20th century, while the second half of the film takes place in the later portion–i.e. a century goes by between syndromes. I understand the characters in the second half of the film to be “reincarnated” in the second syndrome. Btw, near the beginning of the film, there’s a conversation between the female doctor and I believe another doctor. They’re off camera, and we see a field. At one point, one of the actors makes a mistake. They start commenting on repeating the scene and the number of takes they already made. This is clearly the actors speaking out of character, but Weerasethakul leaves it in, I believe, to indicate the repeating nature of the film.

    Let me get back to both syndromes. There are several themes/issues that both syndromes deal with, albeit in significantly different ways, which is part of the point of the film. Here are some of the themes/issues–and I’ll try to comment on each of them: people and interpersonal relationships; romance; religion; community; and nature and the physical environment:

    • People and interpersonal relationship: In the traditional syndrome, the relationships are more personal, informal and humane. For example, the Monk’s teeth cleaning scene provides a start contrast. In the traditional syndrome, both the Monk and Dentist are speaking freely with each other. The Dentist even breaks out into song and the Monk shares some rather personal details about his past.

      On the other hand, in the modern syndrome, the two characters don’t say anything to each other.

      I also think that the different social classes seem to interact more frequently and maybe in a more personal way in the first section.The above examples illustrates that. There’s also a scene where the female doctor scolds what appears to be a worker at the hospital about paying her the money she owes him. While the scene may place the traditional syndrome in a negative light, I saw it in a positive one. It demonstrates that the professionals actually have contact with the lower classes–and that the interactions are somewhat personal. After all, the worker could ask her to borrow money, and she actually lent him money.

      Also, consider the way individuals treat disabled people in the two sections. In the first half, the treatment is much more humane and the characters are individuals. For example, in the first section, the orchid grower’s sister has a long and friendly conversation with the female doctor. In the second half, she appears, but only briefly–walking into the hall of a basement. That basement is where the disabled people go, a place where they seem forgotten.

      To my knowledge, these kinds of interactions don’t occur in the second half of the film.

    • Romance: In the first section, love is expressed in a passionate way. The man who loves the doctor loves her to the point of being in agony. That’s starkly contrasted in the second section, particularly with the scene between the doctor and his girlfriend. They’re conversation involves their career and moving to a “nicer” (she shows him pictures of some kind of industrial plant as an example of the attractiveness of the place) community. The couple kiss, but it comes across as passionless, cold and even awkward; even more awkward is their reaction to the man’s erection. It’s as if the filmmaker is saying that their relationship is purely materialistic–both in economic sense as well as the romantic one. Then there’s a shot of them leaving the office separately and enter what appears to be another room–and my sense was that they went there to have sex.

      There are no physical expressions of romance in the first half, but the romance is much more passionate. Even the female doctor’s interaction with the orchid grower seems more alive and passionate, even if it turns out to be purely platonic;
      Religion: Religion is respected and valued in the first section and has no place in the second half. The doctor’s first reaction the Monk in the first half is respectful. In the second half, the doctor treats the Monk with condescendingly and the Monk chides him for it. Indeed, that is the malady the Monk sees in the second doctor, while he notices a physical problem with the first doctor. There’s talk of reincarnation in the first half; one of the hospital workers is afraid of being in the presence of Monks. In the second half, there is little mention of religion, and when there is a bit of traditional medicine, the depiction is not very positive. (I’m thinking of the scene where the older female doctor tries to send power to the young man’s chakra’s. At the end of the scene, the other older female doctor is staring into the camera as the camera pans back. I’m not sure what that signifies–maybe it’s a way of the traditionalist chiding modern technology and its intrusiveness?)

    • Community: In the first half of the film, the community seems more alive and vibrant. We see people playing sports together; at the hospital we see people hanging out somewhere in the back, someone is playing a guitar; at an evening event, a real person is singing and playing an instrument; there is a lively open market.

      There is very little community interactions in the second half of the film. Instead, there’s a sense that people are isolated. Even in the closing scene of people exercising together doesn’t feel very personal or filled with strong interpersonal connections: the people are essentially doing things by themselves–note, the music is canned and mechanical sounding, too. Contrast that with the people playing the “volleyball” like game and the concert with the live singer (who also happens to be a the dentist) in the first half of the film.

    • Nature and the physical environment: In the first half of the film, nature is ever present. And the built environment feels more more alive and vibrant. In the second half of the film, the hospital seems cold and sterile. People seem isolated and alone. There’s a scene of the disabled person playing handball in the basement hallway. Something that sis solitary, not to mention a bit crazy.

    There many other examples and perhaps different interpretations, so the list above shouldn’t be considered exhaustive.

    There are other scenes that are important, but I didn’t address. Most importantly, there’s a rather long scene of a vacuum-like device sucking up the dust from what appears to be expansion of one of the hospital wings. The camera moves close to the nozzle as the we see the dust particles getting sucked in. My take: it’s progress in action sucking everything–people, the country, etc.–along with it, for better or worse.

  30. Reid

    House of Sand and Fog (2003)
    Dir. Vadim Perelman
    Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley, etc.
    77/100

    Mitchell thinks highly of this film, and I would recommend this film to almost every idiot, except for maybe, Larri, who got into it, but probably didn’t like it all that much. I’ll say more about this in the next section. Let me say that I had no interest in seeing this because of the nature of the story (more on that in the next section), but I found this film easy to watch–in that it held my attention with good pacing and storytelling. It’s a very good film

    **
    The problem with this film is the downbeat nature of the story. Who wants to watch a film about two characters–likable in their own ways–fighting for a house that they both have legitimate claims to? (The trailers also make it look like only bad things can and will happen from this conflict.) What’s remarkable to me is that despite the nature of the story, I think most people will find this film compelling–and easy to watch because of that. Mitchell says that this is film he recommends to people when he’s asked for a recommendation. I can definitely see why he says that; however, while the film will hold the viewer’s attention, the film is a downer–anyway you slice it. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from seeing the film. I’m sure the film will captivate all the idiots with its storytelling, even if its a downer of a story.
    Mitchell also described this film as flawless. I’m not going to argue much about that: the direction, cinematography, editing are excellent and the acting and writing are solid. In terms of execution, flawless is not bad way to describe it.

    ***(spoilers)
    Several comments.

    I do think that the transformation of Ben Kingsley’s character could have been better. When we get to the scene where he helps Connelly’s character, I didn’t feel like the filmmakers did enough to establish this behavior.

    I also thought the son’s final act and the consequences of his act was a little unbelievable, a little too theatrical, but that’s a minor complaint.

    I don’t think too highly of Jennifer Connelly’s acting, but she was solid in this.

    Finally, talking about the best way to handle the situation in the film might make for an interesting discussion. There is no clear-cut, right-or-wrong answer, but for me, I think the right course of action would be for Kingsley to sell the house back to the county. If I were him, I think I would feel compelled to do that.

    The Butterfly Effect (2004)
    Dir. Eric Bress
    Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, etc.
    70/100

    Don recommended this to me, and I enjoyed this. I’d definitely recommend this to Joel and Marc. Penny, Chris, Grace and Jill would also probably enjoy this.

    **
    A good sci-fi film is so rare that when a decent one can be very satisfying. That’s how I felt about this one. This one involves a young man, Evan (Kutcher) who has episodes of black outs when he was a child. While growing up, he keeps a journal with the idea that it might help him remember what occurred during these moments. When reading these journals as an adult, he learns that he can transport himself back into time–changing the past and thereby changing the future.

    I found the film entertaining, and as long as you don’t have high expectations, I think many other people would, too.

  31. Reid

    Bright Star (2009)
    Dir. Jane Campion
    73/100

    I’d recommend this to Mitchell. He could really like this. I wouldn’t recommend this to Don or Joel. Everyone else might think it’s OK-to-pretty good. I don’t think it’s a great film, but I enjoyed it.

    **
    The follows the love affair between poet, John Keats and Fanny Brawne. I really loved the look of this film–particularly of interior shots of Abbie Cornish with the natural light coming in the window. Cornish’s hair tied up and the roundness of her face gives her a classic Renaissance look. I also thought Cornish’s costumes were beautiful–I mean, to the point where it could almost look good if she wore them in the modern world.

    ***
    This is the type of film that I can see people being confused or surprised that I enjoyed it. There really isn’t much to the story, and I don’t think the film really adds interesting insights into Keats or his poetry and ideas. The relationship is not really well-developed, too. But I enjoyed the scenes of passion and the idea of being so in love that it hurts.

    Into the Wild (2009)
    Dir. Sean Penn
    58/100

    I’m sure Mitchell will find this worth watching, but I don’t know how much he’d like it. I think most of the other idiots would think this is OK.

    **
    A recent college graduate, Chris, gives up his material possessions and travels to Alaska. He meets different sorts of people on the way before getting there.

    Maybe I’ll like this more, if I thought about it, but I found it a little long, ponderous and a bit predictable.

  32. Don

    Funny but I was going to recommend “Into the Wild” to Reid, but back spaced it out because I liked it too much. Honest… I think I gave it 4 stars on Netflix.

  33. pen

    Saw the 3-D version of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and enjoyed it a lot…but something felt missing. I am not sure what I found lacking (or why), just that it was. I did like the young woman who played Alice and it was visually interesting. Something about story, relationship or character development is my problem, I think. Worth seeing.

  34. Mitchell

    Cop Out
    Bruce Willis, Tracey Morgan, Kevin Pollack. Directed by Kevin Smith.

    It’s an homage to cop films from Smith’s past, and it pretty much stinks. I think I chuckled once; Tracey Morgan and Bruce Willis do know how to deliver a line, even if the line is idiotic. Midway through the film, I realized that the background music was ripping off the music from Fletch and Beverly Hills Cop in equal, annoying amounts, so much that I was sure Smith, in his effort to pay tribute, had actually hired Harold Faltermeyer to do the soundtrack. I was right.

    3/10

    A Single Man
    Colin Firth and Julianne Moore

    You know that part in Singin’ in the Rain that I always say I hate? The long, boring, interpretive dance number with the blue background and the long, fluttering sheets? One gets the feeling that director Tom Ford thought that was the best part of the film. In his apparent ambition to create something artistic, Ford over-directs this thing almost to death. What saves it (and him, I guess) are some pretty good story-telling and some terrific acting. I like the pacing of this film, minus the parts that look like Calvin Klein ads. Colin Firth is just terrific in this, and Julianne Moore no less terrific. In scenes where Firth’s character just converses with his neighbors, with colleagues, with his students, with a guy he meets in a liquor store parking lot, and with his lover, we get this great sense of an actor who is showing far less than he knows. In his scenes with Moore, the two actors are just amazing; it’s as if they’ve played these characters for years, they know them (and each other) so well.

    If Reid can deal with the homosexual themes and images, he might actually like the parts of this I find lame, but I think that’s a big if. Penny would like most of it.

    I find it interesting that one of the lone voices of dissent in the praise this film has received is from a gay website, TimeOut New York. Ann Hornaday (Washington Post) and Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune) rather breathlessly express great love for this movie, so their reviews are worth checking out, too. It’s fun to read opposing views of the same film.

  35. Reid

    Outland (1981)
    Dir. Peter Hyams
    Starring: Sean Connery, etc.
    67/100

    I don’t think any of you would love this, but most of you would find it at least mildly enjoyable. I think Marc, Don, Chris, Tony, John and Joel would find this worth watching if they were bored on a Saturday night.

    It’s not a great movie, but I was sufficiently entertained–although I’ve been watching a bit of “arty” films, so I tend to enjoy a film like this even more.

    **
    This is about a Federal Marshall (Connery) sent to a mining operation on the moon, Io. The film combines elements of a traditional detective flick with a Western (specifically, High Noon.) Even if that description appeals to you, I’d say you still have to be cautious going into the film. I’ll try to touch on the specific reasons for this (read: reasons the film didn’t work as well as it could have) in the next section.

    ***(minor spoilers)
    Generally, a Hollywood film works when the character (and his/her “story”) is tied into the the film’s overall story and it’s development. In this way, developing the character often helps develop the story. That’s true for this film and it suggests one of the films’ flaws, namely that it doesn’t develop the main character well-enough. Why is the Marshall sent here? We know that he’s been sent from one place to another from his superiors, perhaps because he’s a “loud-mouth.” We’re told that by one of the characters, but that’s not really established. Why is he a loud-mouth? We never really know much and the film never establishes that character so that we understand him to be this way, if not understand the reason he is this way.

    Here some other problems:

    • I liked the plot point of figuring out the mystery behind the deaths, but it seems to happen a little quickly, a little too easily. Then once that’s figured it, it’s just a matter of waiting.
    • Once the Marshall got evidence of drug-use (not to mention assaulting a Federal Marshall from people linked to the manager) leading to deaths, couldn’t he have gotten the media involved, his superiors, the company or the government? To me, this would have been the best thing he could have done to stop the manager. It was critical for the film to explain the reason this was not a viable option. The film failed to do this.
    • Peter Boyle as the manager was an interesting choice. He wasn’t terrible, but I think a better (less goofy) person could have been chosen.

    I did like the Dr. Lazarus character in this.

  36. pen

    Two movies in the theatres recently:

    Cop Out. See Mitchell’s comments, above. It had some funny moments. Although, Tracy Morgan was kind of getting on my nerves by the end of the movie.

    The Crazies. Not as gory as you might think. Suspenseful and I liked Timothy Olyphant as the lead. Very…um…capable. Kind of like when I first saw Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. *sigh* One of the better horror films I’ve seen in awhile.

    Two Netflix DVDs recently:

    A Serious Man is a dark comedy without the traditional violence of other Cohen Brother movies. I believe I might have understood (and therefore enjoyed) the movie more if I was more familiar with Jewish culture. I could identify with the middle-class/suburban part of it well enough.

    I am not sur where this movie fits in with the rest of their films. It probably comes closest to Intolerable Cruelty and Ladykillers…in that vein. They are very careful to get the time period and characters authentic. The characters are not over-the-top quirky…more “middle-class” quirky. This is lovingly poking fun the Cohen way, with a little underlying flavor of subversiveness.

    North by Northwest. I get the swooning over Cary Grant. He is charming and handsome. A man of action, but also one whose heart can be touched. Yeah, I get the swooning over Cary Grant.

    This Hitchcock film has the blonde with the hidden agenda, the hero with fortitude to press on until the adventure ends and the mystery is solved. Plus they run around the country and eventually on the faces of the Presidents (Mount Rushmore). I enjoyed it. My only real complaint is that they revealed the inner workings of the mystery too early. I wish they had held out a little longer and kept the viewer in suspense.

  37. Reid

    Coincidently, I recently re-watched North by Northwest (73/100). Hitchcock is probably one of the most reliable directors–at least when it comes to well-made entertainment. The guy knew how to make films–which reminds me: I really thought of Spielberg when watching this. There’s the filmmaking technique but the clever situations that the protagonists have to get out of.

    The plot is pretty complicated and surprisingly it satisfied me versus feeling too contrived (a complaint I could understand). I think almost any idiot would enjoy this at least mildly.

    Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1962)
    Dir. Stanley Kubrick
    Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, etc.
    68/100

    I’d recommend this to Mitchell, Penny, Chris, Kevin and Grace. John, Marc and Tony might also like this, too. I don’t think Jill and Joel would care for this very much, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to Larri.

    I should briefly explain my score. Objectively, I’d say the is at least a 75, if not more, but the score includes my own personal enjoyment of the film–which was probably in the mid-to-high 50s.

    **
    This is one of those military films where the procedures for using nuclear weapons goes haywire–except this is a satire. There are several memorable lines and a memorable performance(s). I believe this film often makes the top ten comedies list.

    ***
    I’m not sure why I didn’t like this more. One reason is that foreign policy issues are almost always super-complex; there is rarely clear-cut answers. But satires tend to simplify the position that its poking fun at, and I think this is one of the reasons I didn’t get into as much. Then again, I don’t find myself cracking up at satires very much. To me, the film is more entertaining to quote than to actually watch.

  38. Reid

    The White Ribbon (2009)
    Dir. Michael Haneke
    74/100

    This is playing for a limited time at Kahala, so I wanted to get a review out asap. Of all the idiots, I think Penny should see this. (Actually, Haneke is one director I think Penny should really check out). I think Mitchell, Chris, Kevin and Grace would appreciate this film, but I’m not sure how much they’d like it.

    Objectively, I think the film could get a higher score, but I’m a little disappointed by it so the score is not as high as it could be. (That could change though.)

    **
    I’ve heard several people call this one of the best films of 2009. I don’t know if I’d agree with that, but in terms of quality filmmaking, you could definitely make a strong case. The composition, editing and cinematography are excellent and they come together quite well. But the film disappoints me in terms of the content (which I will go into later).

    The story takes place in a small German village prior to WWI. Strange, explained occurrences start happening in the village.

    ***(spoilers)
    The film felt like an “explanation” of the way Germans would come to embrace Nazism (in interviews, Haneke has said he wanted the film to shed light on the way people embrace extreme political views (e.g. terrorism). This is my source of disappointment, mainly because I feel like Haneke is oversimplifying and not adding much insight into the situation–i.e. using authortarianism, repression and abuse (sexual/physical) towards children can lead individuals who are capable of committing atrocious acts of violence and social deviance. To me, that was essentially the film’s insight, and it’s disappointing.

    Furthermore, I didn’t care for the stereotypical portrayal of the rigid, authoritarian Christian minister. Perhaps, this kind of Christianity dominated the Germany in the early 20th Century, but it’s still tiresome to see this portrayal. (Is blaming this type of Christianity on the rise of Nazism valid, too?)

    Having said all that, what I did like was the way the film suggests these insights. The film gradually unfolds to the point where the viewer can conclude that the children are the ones committing the crimes. There is a creepy quality that is quite effective–all the more so because the film is subtle, implicit and open-ended.

  39. Mitchell

    Funny Ha Ha

    I’m going to write a spoiler-free review here because there’s something I want to comment on at the end of this that I hope people will read.

    First, the film on its own merits. There isn’t a whole lot to say about this so-so picture except that the writer and director do a good job of creating a very likable main character. Marnie is cute, sweet, friendly, and smart with the typical lapses in judgment that people her age often have. Like a lot of people, her life would be pretty terrific if she weren’t so hung up on one young man who doesn’t like her back.

    There’s nothing especially memorable about the story; it’s rather slice-of-life in a way, and unless the quality of the production annoys you (which I’ll get to next), you’ll probably like this film if you like slices of life in the movies.

    The film is apparently the first in an emerging genre called Mumblecore, a name I have issues with, but whatever—I’ll save that topic for another time. This particular film (I can’t speak for the genre since this is the only picture I’ve seen in it) uses only ambient sounds and in fact doesn’t filter any ambient sounds out, so it’s very Dogme 95 almost to an extreme in that sense. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, in fact, to find out that the director of Funny Ha Ha was heavily influenced by the Dogme 95 films. Lighting seems mostly to be ambient (but there aren’t really any poorly lighted shots, so maybe not) and sound quality itself is pretty good. In a lot of ways the film looks like the better stuff you see on community access cable, but almost nothing on community access sounds this good or is this well-lighted. Community access cable programs sound awful because they tend to use the cameras’ on-board mics, or because they don’t seem to give a rip about sound quality. This film differs from that because it’s not the way the film sounds that’s low-fidelity, but what sounds the director lets in.

    Conversations overlap, the way they do in a crowded room where more than one conversation is going on at once. You often don’t hear certain words because of the slamming of a door, or the passing of a loud truck outside. In most higher-budget films, you can hear what one character is whispering to another even though the camera angle shows that you, the viewer, are much too far away to hear such whispering. Funny Ha Ha doesn’t let you in like that. You hear what you would be hearing if you were standing right where the camera happens to be, and this seems very deliberate.

    It takes getting used to, and while I can’t say I’d like to see it in every picture I watch, I did like it in this film. The lighting in this film works much the same way. You might see someone’s face in shadow for a moment while she ducks down to pick something up, kind of like what you’d see if you were there witnessing the party from that very vantage point.

    The characters are socially awkward, but most of them are likable or unlikable for reasons that don’t have much to do with social awkwardness. They’re too wimpy, or they’re really great listeners, or they’re irresponsible and likely to get married without telling anyone. Like most good slices of life, I kinda wished I’d gotten to see whatever happened before and whatever happens after the events in this film.

    I’ll give it a solid 6/10 or 65/100.

    —–

    Now I need to say something about the way Reid responds to this film, which has something to do with why it’s taken me so long to collect my thoughts about it. I confess right up front that he hits a nerve with me, something I’ve been dealing with all my life, really, but especially for the past couple of years. For this reason it is possible that I am being overly sensitive and that I am overreacting to something that’s not that big a deal, but after a couple of weeks of thinking about it, I think this should be said.

    Imagine you’ve seen a film in which almost all the characters are fat. The story itself has little to do with the fatness of the characters, but of course much of the dialogue and many of the plot elements will emerge out of the reality of these characters’ obesity. As far as you can tell, it’s a sincere, realistic, non-exaggerated portrayal of life for these people. You see one fat young man make awkward advances on a fat young woman he likes, and you see the way they have to deal with their obesity on their first date to a trendy restaurant, where the tables and chairs are so close together that just squeezing into their seats is clumsy and awkward. We laugh with them at the awkwardness, aware that it’s something they have to deal with every day. We admire the way they joke with each other about their fatness, as if taking that ammunition away from others before it can be used against them. We’re a little bit surprised to see that even among the morbidly obese, there are social strata we weren’t aware of. There’s fat, but then there’s fat. And the girl who would probably be completely ignored in most social circles is the babe of the group, desired openly by some and secretly by the rest.

    Now imagine that you’re fat, and you know people just like the characters in this film because they are your people. You’ve managed to fight your way out of that one categorization, forcing people to deal with you other ways. It hasn’t been easy to make people see you as more than the fat guy, and sometimes your determination to be dealt with as a person has made you belligerent or bitter or abrasive or cynical, and you have often pissed people off when you have angrily refused to be pigeonholed. But you have also learned (kind of like the Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, a film that has always resonated with you) that getting snarly is really a defensive move, a protection against being rejected, so you let people tell the fat jokes and then you try to contribute something meaningful and valuable to the conversation so that gradually, people see you as you, and not as the fat guy.

    How are you supposed to deal with your friends seeing the movie and saying things like, “It’s as if tubbies are normal people,” or “Being in the world of fatsos is like visiting a foreign country?” On the one hand, you agree, because yes, it is a different world, a world you have sometimes protected from those who wouldn’t get it. On the other, you might be resentful, because it’s not like all these fat people live a thousand miles away; they are your friends and neighbors and coworkers and classmates, and for whatever reason, your non-fat friends never took the time to get to know them the way they took the time to get to know you. That’s partially your fat friends’ faults, but you can’t help but be bitter and feel you’re being condescended to when your non-fat friends make these comments about the film. Your non-fat friends didn’t have to rent a movie to learn all this about fat people; all they had to do was be nice to the fat people they already knew.

    And you know what? One of those fat people they already knew was just like the fat babe girl in the movie. And you know what else? The fat girl in the movie isn’t beautiful for a fat girl; she’s beautiful period. And part of you wants to scream at everyone because their blindness isn’t something they were born with, but rather a decision not to notice all the things that make her beautiful. But you know from experience that that doesn’t do any good, remembering the Beast.

    On an objective, refusing-to-be-offended level, I have to agree with almost everything Reid says about the characters in this film (he’s slightly wrong about the Alex character, though: he might be fairly popular but most of the guys can’t stand him most of the time and don’t get what the girls like about him. it is the same way with normal people), but something about the way “socially inept” and “foreign country” sound coming out of his mouth, and by “his” I really mean by everyone who probably sees the film the same way, doesn’t seem fair. Knowing Reid’s heart, I know he means no ill will, but that doesn’t take the sting out of it.

    Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve thought of Marc, who was blessed to play ball at least well enough to be on the varsity basketball team, and how easily he swam with Reid’s group of friends in high school and with Wai Kang’s. Marc is in every way really one of the nerd boys, with his slightly off sense of humor, his tendency to laugh at his own jokes, his love of reading, and his mathematical aptitude. There are all these other great things about Marc, and people got to see those things because he could shoot a basketball with some amount of respectability. How would this world be different, I have wondered all week, if Chris or Alan or Danny could shoot a basketball? ‘Cause all that great stuff that makes Marc likable is there, too, in those other guys. When Marc comes home, it’s like there’s a celebration. When Chris came home and I tried to get people to come hang out, only Valerie (not even a classmate) and I were there with a couple of teachers. I suspect that’s partially because of me (the next night, there was another dinner planned by someone else and there were six or seven classmates there), but I also feel pretty confident that if I’d planned the same thing for Marc, people would have changed their plans.

    Is a movie like Funny Ha Ha good or bad for those of us who feel marginalized? It’s one of the many things I’ve been unable to answer. On one hand, I appreciate what I think is a pretty good portrayal. On the other, I am once again resentful. Who are you to make a movie about me? And why do it if nothing ever really changes? But there’s that bitterness again, that Beast trying to chase everyone away before anyone has a chance to reject him. I guess I should be grateful. So I guess I am.

  40. Reid

    Mitchell,

    I apologize for using the way I described the film. FWIW, while writing the review I tried to think of another term besides nerd, but I really had a hard time finding a word that captured my meaning. I also thought of writing a description, but it would have been long, cumbersome and I wasn’t sure if I could really do it. Anyway, that’s no excuse. I will try to be more sensitive about this issue in the future.

  41. Reid

    The Last Waltz (1978)
    Dir. Martin Scorsese
    Featuring: The Band, Dr. John, Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Butterfield, Bob Dylan, Staple Singers, Emmy Lou Harris, etc.
    68/100

    I recommend this to Mitchell first and foremost. I think Chris would like this; Marc would also have a good chance of liking this, too. I’m not sure about everyone else. I wouldn’t recommend this to Joel, Jill or Larri. See the next section to see if this something you’d like to see.

    Objectively, the film might deserve a higher rating. I gave it a lower score, partly because of personal preferences.

    **
    This is a documentary about The Band–Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals), Rick Danko (bass, vocals, violin), Richard Manuel (keyboards, vocals), Garth Hudson (keyboards) Levon Helm (drums, vocals)–specifically their last concert. Robertson asked Scorsese to film the last concert, and Scorsese really got into the process–expanding on it and turning the project into a more elaborate film…well, not elaborate by standards today, but it was more elaborate than simply filming a concert.

    Scorsese brought in one a set designer to get the stage ready; he planned on camera angles to match up the lyrics; he also intercut the performances with interviews with the group; there were also two separate performances they set up (before or after) the concert that they added.

    I liked hearing about this aspect of the filmmaking, more than the actual results (which weren’t bad, but just not as impressive–not as enjoyable as hearing Scorsese passionately talk about the making of this.)

    Having said that, the music can’t be faulted. The musicians were clearly into the music. The singing–by Helm, Danko and Manuel–really surprised me. They had strong voices and sang with a lot of feeling. I also liked the idea of The Band backing up various lead singers. That was pretty fun to watch. (I think Ronnie Hawkins was my favorite–although I really like “The Weight”).

    If you like American root music–blues, folk, country and rock n’ roll–this is something to check out.The Band makes music that combines all of these styles and I love the way the music doesn’t restrict itself to stylistic boundaries.

  42. Mitchell

    She’s Out of My League

    A romantic comedy with a little bit of a twist: the lead is a thin, nerdy guy of little ambition or ability who works at the airport as a TSA agent. His friends are similar. They hang out together and talk about women.

    Our hero meets an extremely hot, blonde woman; she’s wealthy and owns her own event-planning business. She’s smart and organized and she’s always got her stuff together. They go out. She’s genuinely interested in him, but he has difficulty accepting or believing that she could. Meanwhile, what stresses her out is that guys spend so much time idolizing her that they never accept her as a person.

    There’s stuff here for a really good movie, I think, but the film goes for crass. As far as crass goes, it’s only mediocre. I thought it was unnecessarily crude. Interestingly (or not), the stuff that I found too crude Penny thought was okay, and the stuff that she thought went a bit too close the line I actually thought was funny.

    There’s an airport chase scene. Be warned.

    4/10

    Diary of a Wimpy Kid

    Based on the enormously successful (29 million total copies in print as of the end of last year) children’s series of books, this is a fun little middle-schooler romp. It’s got alienation, popularity, sports, sibling rivalry, and The Cheese Touch. Punctuated by the cute little cartoon drawings that give the books such great flavor, the film is genuinely funny (I laughed out loud several times), ‘though the reviewers seem to be in agreement that the film version sucks some of the heart out of the story. I agree with Roger Ebert’s description of this as a good family film that everyone in the family will enjoy. Never did I think I was watching just a kid movie, and I think it does a great job of not talking down to younger audiences. This is especially a good pick if you got some Tweens who need to see a flick.

    6/10

  43. Reid

    The Hired Hand (1971)
    Dir. Peter Fonda
    Starring: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Verna Bloom, Robert Platt, etc.
    80/100

    Mitchell may not love the film, but he will appreciate it, so I’m recommending it to him first. I think I might cautiously recommend this to John and Tony. Penny, Grace, Kevin and Chris would all appreciate this on some level, but I’m not sure how much they would like it. (Certainly, I wouldn’t say they should rush out and see this.) Joel, Jill, Don and Marc would probably think this was just OK, at best.

    I liked this movie–not necessarily because it was super entertaining (it wasn’t boring either), but…I’ll go into detail in the next sections.

    **
    This is Peter Fonda’s directorial debut, and he really made a good film (with significant help from the editor and DP). The film is a Western that involves three buddies–wandering around (ostensibly doing odd jobs). The young one, Dan (can’t remember the actor’s name), wants to head to California. Archie (Oates) likes the idea, but Harry (Fonda) disagrees with the idea. Instead, he wants to go back to his wife, Hannah (Bloom), whom he left seven years ago. Arch points out that they don’t even know if she’s re-married or even living in the same town. But Harry insists.

    If the film sounds more like a drama than an action, it is–although there is some action in the film, too. If you like buddy flicks that explore close relationships between men, then I would recommend this film.

    ***
    A film professor told me that Peter Fonda told him that this was the best Western ever made. OK. I took that with a grain of salt, given the source. While the film may not be great, but it is very good, very well-made–and for that reason, I really enjoyed watching this film. Fonda and Oates are really good in this, and they made the film enjoyable for me, but it’s also the filmmaking. Let me give one example.

    From the opening sequence, you know you’re watching a film made by people with an artistic sensibility. It’s one of the better openings to a film that I’ve seen in a while. There is some dated qualities to it (I associate the silouettes and sparkling water and overlapping images with the 70s), but it largely works. There are other moments like this throughout the film. I also loved the ending–with no dialogue and just a simple, quiet gesture that told you everything you needed to know.

    Finally, I really liked the “love” triangle in the film with Harry in the center–which really comes out when Hannah talks about the way Arch is almost like another lover.

    If there’s one flaw, I’d say it was Bloom’s performance. Her character requires a stony toughness–which Bloom does well–but it also requires a vulnerability, loneliness and eroticism that Bloom didn’t do so well, imo. She’s so stony that those moments of emotion and tenderness just felt false to me. I’d bet others would disagree with me, but that’s my honest reaction.

    Oh, one other thing: Warren Oates. It’s sad and a bit amusing that for the longest time I thought of Oates primarily as Sgt. Hulka from the movie, Stripes. It’s sad because Oates has been terrific in some of the films I’ve seen him in (The Wild Bunch, Two Lane Blacktop, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia) including this film. Fonda also reminded me that he’s a solid actor, too.

    This film deserves more attention. People who love good filmmaking should see this.

  44. Mitchell

    Hot Tub Time Machine

    The reviews are almost unanimous in their praise for this entertaining, funny film. Everyone’s calling it this year’s The Hangover, but I think I’m the only person on the planet who wasn’t much entertained by that picture. Hot Tub Time Machine is equally ribald, stupid, and crass, but it does a much, much better job of making you care about the characters. As A.O. Scott says in his review, “viewers of a certain age and background — let’s say those who know the lyrics to “Jessie’s Girl” by heart, even if they never really liked that song — are likely to endure the merry anarchy with a twinge of pained, slightly nauseated nostalgia.”

    Each of the three main characters, in going back to 1986, is forced to relive his bad decisions and to evaluate what happened between those teenaged years and these middle-aged years. If you’re my age, you know what that feels like. I found it very difficult not to relate to these middle-aged men who, caught for the moment in the past, have committed to not changing anything (and thereby launching butterfly-effect changes on the present), but given the chance to make a few decisions differently in our own lives, how many of us would not be tempted?

    There are scenes of great crudity, but there are scenes of meaning and regret, too. Let’s say you somehow managed not to do ANYthing differently during your two-day visit to your teenaged past; you’ve determined that your present life, as flawed as it is, is still okay, and you still have time to right some of your wrongs. That’s great. But what if you knew your sister were miserable and screwed-up today because of decisions she made in 1986? Would you be able to resist the urge to say a few things differently, hoping she might not find herself, 24 years later, where you know she is?

    Hot Tub Time Machine somehow manages to be a raunchfest (with very little nudity, strangely enough) while balancing these sensibilities and this affection for its characters. It’s entertaining and very well done for what it is.

    6/10.
    66/100.

    —–

    Clash of the Titans

    I can’t believe I went to a midnight premiere of this, and I can’t believe it was quite nearly a sellout. Really? The anticipation for this film was such that people couldn’t wait until a few hours later to see it during a normal movie-viewing time?

    I was so sure this was going to be average at best. And it was average, but average in a good way. It is entertaining and the characters are likable, and the story is fairly compelling. The action and fighting sequences are decent (unless you’re as particular about them as Reid is—there’s lots of CGI and the film is cut in such a way that you can’t see what fighters are doing). I found the European accents annoying and the costuming, especially of the Olympian gods, to be kind of laughable, but I was never bored and only a few times did I think things I saw were kind of stupid.

    A good 5/10 or 50/100.

  45. Mitchell

    adding to my Hot Tub Time Machine comments:

    You know what? I think the trailer is a good indicator for whether or not you’ll find this a funny movie. Watch the trailer and if you laugh out loud a few times, go see it. Laughter is not the only reason to see this film, but if you’re at least wondering if you’ll find it funny, that’d be a good way to do it.

  46. Reid

    Timecrimes (2007)
    Dir. Nacho Vigolondo
    67/100

    I’d recommend this to Joel. I also think Tony, Marc, Grace, Penny and Chris would find this worth watching (even though they might not think it was great; although they could). I guess Don would give this a three. Mitchell, Kevin and Jill would find this interesting, too, but it’s not something I’d tell him to go and see.

    **
    This is a Spanish low-budget sci-fi film that involves time travel. A man spots a naked, unconscious (or dead) woman across from his house. He goes over there and weird things start to happen.

    If you’re desperate for a sci-fi film, I’d say this would satisfy you–especially for those of you who have seen a lot of sci-fi movies. (I don’t think this is a well-known film.) In any event, the script is solid–particularly the way the writer constructs the various…well, I don’t want to say any more.

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
    Dir. W.D. Richter
    Starring: Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, John Lithgow, Clancy Brown, Ellen Barkin, etc.
    60/100

    I think my brother saw and liked this already, and I’d guess I’d recommend this (mildly) to him if he hadn’t. This is something I could see Mitchell and Tony enjoying, even though they wouldn’t necessarily think it was a great film. Ditto Chris. Marc and Don would probably just like this so-so and maybe not much. Penny could find this fun. Not sure about Grace, but I suspect she would like this a little. Jill and Larri would think this is just OK; not something they should seek out.

    **
    This a really quirky sci-fi film that sort of reminds me of Big Trouble in Little China. Buckaroo Banzai (Weller) is a scientist, rock n’ roll musician and secret agent all rolled into one. He and his band/sidekicks (the Hong Kong Cavaliers) are out to stop Dr. Lizardo from freeing aliens from the 8th dimension (or something to that effect).

    I think this could have been a really good film, but it just doesn’t work completely from some reason. Weller is terrific as Buckaroo, and I love Goldblum.

  47. Reid

    Mother (2009)
    52/100

    I’d guess Penny has the best chance of liking this. Joel might like it, too. Don, Marc and Jill might think it’s OK to good, but I’m not sure. It’s not something I feel confident about. I would have thought Larri would have had a chance of liking this, but she really didn’t care for it. My mom and dad liked this, so take that for what you will.

    This is not a terrible film, but I had some a tepid reaction to the film that I almost want to score this in the 40s.

    **
    The film is about a mentally-challenged young man who goes to jail for killing a young school girl. His mother fights desperately to get him out. The film is a mystery with some comedic moments thrown in.

    ***
    (spoilers)
    I found the film a bit boring–mainly because I didn’t really feel for the main characters. Having said that, the actor who played the mother had a really interesting face, particularly her eyes–which were a combination of wildness and sadness. Still, I wasn’t really interested in her character. The twist in the film left me with a “so what” feeling. Larri also said there were a lot of plot holes, and I know what she means.

  48. Mitchell

    The Last Song
    Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Kelly Preston

    This is about as good as most of the critics are saying and not as bad as its worst reviews. All you really NEED to know, I think, in order to decide whether or not you want to see this, is that the screenplay was written by Nicholas Sparks and that he co-write the screenplay first, then wrote the novel based on that.

    So yes, it is a tearjerker of the first order. If a movie’s not very good but it tries to make you cry and succeeds at that, does that make it better than it otherwise would be? I don’t cry often at films, but I cry often enough, I guess, that I should consider that a measure of its effectiveness. I mean, in those parts where I was meant to cry, I wasn’t thinking, “This is so unbelievable!” or “I totally don’t care!” So I guess the film succeeds on some level.

    The big question is really this: Can Miley Cyrus act? And the answer according to me is: Yes. At worst, she’s passable. At best, she’s charismatic and likable. Interestingly (or not), it isn’t the scenes with Cyrus’s love interest that show her off best; rather, it is in scenes where she’s just a young woman interacting with other people she encounters that she impresses me the most. Perhaps this kind of acting isn’t as demanding, but she does move with surprising ease and believablility through a crowd of characters. I would like to see her in something less romantic and less formulaic, something less predictable.

    You already know Kinnear can act, and he does it pretty well here (channeling what looks like Hugh Laurie in House at times). I wish he’d be more judicious in his role-selection, though.

    I won’t get into the story, which is really involved with all kinds of elements that somehow mostly work, even if at times I thought, “This is really too much.” One quick example, to give you an idea: The young man Miley is interested in is a competitive beach volleyball player, a mechanic, and a volunteer at the aquarium who has been admitted to Columbia University for the fall and has at least three secrets that Miley is going to discover during the course of this film.

    Melodramatic as heck, and not my usual cup of tea, but you know? I was kinda glad I saw it. I don’t watch many movies like this and I think it’s okay to enjoy one once in a while. Especially since I’m getting kind of sick of romantic comedies.

    4/10
    46/100

  49. Mitchell

    One other thought about The Last Song: Kelly Preston has a small part here, and it’s the first time I realized that she’s only a marginal actress. I want to like her because she’s from Hawaii (despite Punahou ties), and she’s certainly an attractive woman, but when I think about what an actress like Marcia Gay Harden or Frances McDormand would do in this small role, I am reminded of the old cliche that says there are no small parts, only small actors. Too true. I don’t know that I’d call Preston a small actor, but she’s not towering over many others I can think of who might be cast in a role like this.

    Hang ’em High
    Clint Eastwood and Inger Stevens, with Alan Hale Jr. and Ed Begley (Sr.)

    Finally saw this again after more than twenty-five years since the last time. It’s not as good as I remember, but only slightly not as good. Eastwood looks great here, as does Inger Stevens. I really think this is a good starter-picture for people who maybe haven’t seen any Eastwood westerns. It’s not a spaghetti western; Eastwood had just come off a successful string of those pictures, and this film marked a return to Hollywood. It’s filmed in America and has a definite American vibe to it, not to mention American direction and an American soundtrack.

    It’s also morally not as ambiguous as those spaghetti westerns, which is not to say that there isn’t some kind of moral complication, because there is. The big issue is whether there is a difference between the lynch-mob mentality settlers in the Oklahoma Territory prefer and the hang-em-all mentality of the judge who administers legal justice on behalf of the US government. I get the feeling that this isn’t explored enough to satisfy someone who really wants to explore the issue, but I was satisfied that it was at least addressed.

    I’m not sure there’s enough here to call this an outstanding film in its genre, but it is a good flick and I like it. “If you hang a man, you’d better look at him!”

    6/10
    62/100

  50. Reid

    The Holy Girl (2004)
    Dir. Lucrecia Martel
    75/100

    I don’t know if I can strongly recommend this to any specific idiot, but the first one that comes to mind is Tony, for some reason. (I’ll try to explain the reason in the next section.) I think Penny, Kevin, Mitchell, Chris and Grace would all find this interesting–although I’m uncertain how much they would like it. I don’t think Larri, Jill, Joel, Marc or Don would care for this very much.

    There’s a lot I liked about this film, and I looked forward to seeing Martel’s next film (The Headless Woman.)

    **
    The film begins with two teenage Argentine girls, Amalia and Josefina, at a Catholic Youth group meeting. In these meetings there are discussions about vocation and the girls discuss different stories about people being called by God to a particular vocation. After one of the meetings, Amalia joins of crowd of people as they watch a man play the theramin. In that crowd, a man leans up against Amalia in a lewd fashion. The man, Dr. Jano, is a doctor attenting a conference at hotel that is run by Amalia’s uncle; Amalia and her mother, Helena, also happen to be living in the hotel.

    The film is a coming-of-age tale and blends emerging sexuality with a spiritual experience. I think this coming-of-age part of the film would appeal to Tony and Mitchell.

    ***
    The filmmaking struck me, as Martel uses odd framing and often focusses on little details in the the frame. I also loved Mercedes Moran–her look and her acting in this. There was an old Hollywood sexiness to her performance. I also liked the comic elements like Mirta, who’s an “angel of death” type of character.

  51. Mitchell

    Date Night
    Steve Carrell and Tina Fey

    The plot is so ridiculous that the only way this film can be good is if the characters are not ridiculous. They’re not. Carrell and Fey play a very likable, very believable married couple. I’m not married, so maybe others will see them differently, but what I saw were two smart, successful people who love each other but whose family and careers have pummeled them into a lull. They find themselves in the middle of a crazy, deadly, impossible-to-believe screwball of a comedy, but the crazy turn of events give them (surprisingly) a couple of opportunities to deal with some of their issues. They are sincere and have terrific chemistry and totally make this film. It’s a fun, entertaining movie because Carrell and Fey are fun and entertaining actors who believe enough in their characters to make us believe in them too. Recommended!

    7/10
    75/109

  52. Reid

    Twilight (1998)
    Dir. Robert Benton
    Starring: Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, James Garner, Reese Witherspoon, Stockard Channing, Liev Schreiber, etc.
    73/100

    I recommend this to Marc, then Mitchell. I think Penny, Grace, John and maybe Don (at least 3 stars) would enjoy this. I think Chris, Kevin and Don would at least think this is OK and maybe even like it a little more. Not a great film, but I enjoyed this.

    **
    The modern noir. If you like the dialogue of old Hollywood film-noir, I’d recommend this. It’s written by Richard Russo (the primary reason I’m recommending this to Marc), who also wrote *Nobody’s Fool*. Newman plays Harry Ross an old former cop, P.I., who’s been living in the house of a famous married couple (Sarandon and Hackman). Jack (Hackman) asks Harry to make a simple delivery and you know it’s not that simple. This leads to a mystery that Harry has to solve.

    Again, the dialogue is first rate, and while it’s mainly a detective film, typical of Russo, there is a quite a bit of comedic elements in the story/dialogue.

    ***
    While the film’s dialogue is terrific, there was something lacking. I felt I should have had more of an emotional connection with the lead character; I didn’t always get buy the performances, too. For example, Harry is supposedly seduced by the Jack and Catherine, but the performance–and I should say, the film–doesn’t establish that. I also think that the chemistry was lacking between some of the key relationships.

    People also may complain about the predictability of the plot, and that’s valid–although, to me, the film is about the characters, specifically the dialogue.

  53. Mitchell

    Duck Soup
    Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo Marx

    After seeing this film, I read the Wikipedia article about the Marx Brothers, and that helped me get a much better handle on this film than I had just from first watching it. Stuff I didn’t know about the Marx Brothers:

    : They were a vaudeville and Broadway act before they were in film.
    : They were real brothers!
    : Zeppo was the youngest and the group’s straight man.
    : They were all musicians.
    : Their Broadway shows and early films were basically stitched-together routines from their vaudeville days.

    This would explain why many of the physical gags have nothing really to do with the story, or why their films have song-and-dance numbers. It also explained why I didn’t know which one was Zeppo until the final number, when one of the unfunny characters joined the three obvious Marxes as the centerpieces of a long song.

    So apparently a Marx Brothers film (this was the first I’ve seen in its entirety) is a series of gags and musical numbers held together by a loosely constructed plot. Taken this way, Duck Soup is an entertaining, lighthearted movie that had me laughing aloud a few times (as with the three Grouchos in the mirror). The physical gags are lightning-quick and clever sometimes (like the Harpo stuff with the lemonade seller).

    All in all, it’s a fun movie, but not really the sort that I’d call my favorite. The lack of a meaningful narrative is a tough thing for me to adjust to, but I think I could get used to it. Look forward to seeing it again some day.

    6/10
    68/100

  54. Mitchell

    Death at a Funeral
    Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Luke Wilson, and many others.

    It’s not bad, but it’s not good. Also, it’s not very funny. I didn’t know it’s a remake of a 2007 film directed by Frank Oz. I won’t go out of my way to check that out, but if it shows up in the listings I might TiVo it.

    4/10
    39/100

  55. Mitchell

    Sex and the Single Girl
    Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall

    I read somewhere that Down with Love, the Renee Zellweger film, was most heavily influenced by this movie. That was a better movie, despite the star power of the older film.

    Curtis plays a writer at a sleazy magazine, assigned to write a nasty piece on Natalie Wood, a doctor at a sex research institute and the best-selling author of a book called Sex and the Single Girl. He does this by pretending to be his friend, the Henry Fonda character, who is having marriage problems with his wife, the Lauren Bacall character.

    You can figure out much of the rest. It’s a silly movie that insists you shouldn’t take it seriously, but it tries to come across as having some kind of comment to make on women’s roles in sexual relationships. This is where the movie mostly fails, because while it spouts liberal ideals about this, the characters’ actions reveal adherence to the kind of traditional thinking that today seems extremely dated.

    When you can forget about that, it’s not a bad picture, but most of Curtis’s interactions with Wood seem horribly inappropriate, and that was tough for me to move past. There’s serious chemistry here, and Wood is absolutely beautiful in every scene. She does some pretty good acting here, but she’s perhaps the only one.

    There is a pretty funny (and long!) car chase scene. I found it surprisingly entertaining if completely outrageous.

    I saw this mostly because of Lauren Bacall, who flatly plays a shrewish woman jealous of Fonda’s involvement with young, pretty women (he runs a company that manufactures women’s hosiery). She’s very unimpressive here. I kind of admire her willingness to be plained-down, because she’s definitely young enough (40 years old) and attractive enough to have been lovely, but the film is Wood’s and Bacall lets her be the hot one.

    This film felt too long by half an hour, but it’s the last half hour that’s the most fun, so endure it if it comes on one rainy day when you’re home sick or something.

    5/10
    55/100

  56. Reid

    Sway (2006)
    Dir. Miwa Nishikawa
    51/100

    I would mildly recommend this to Penny and maybe Grace. I have no other idea about the other idiots. I think this would hold the attention of most of you, but whether you like this or not is a toss up. I think most people would give this at least a 5 or 6, but there’s a reasonable chance you could like it more, too.

    There were aspects I really liked and other aspects that left me confused, so it’s hard for me to rate this.

    **
    The Japanese film centers on two brothers: Minoru, the older, and Takeru. Minoru is more responsible, kind and works at his father’s gas station. Takeru, a successful photographer and ladies man, left the family business and small town to pursue his career in Tokyo. He comes back to the town when his mom dies. There he sees an old girlfriend, Chieko, who is now working at the family gas station and seems to be potential wife for Minoru (who is rather a homely sort).

    One day the three of them decide to go to mountain stream. Something bad happens and one of them is put on trial for this act. The film then becomes a kind of courtroom drama, but ultimately it explores the relationship between these two brothers.

    Btw, someone recommended this film to me when I asked for recommendations of court-room dramas. The coutroom scenes are very good, and they’re especially interesting because the Japanese trials are different from American ones.

    ***
    As I mentioned I liked the coutroom scenes. I liked the way the defendant was the center of the trial: there were no witnesses or evidence, so the two attorneys asked a series of questions that gradually revealed details, details that “swayed” your perception about his innocence or guilt.

    But I really had trouble grasping the two main characters, their relationship and their motivations for their actions. There’s a scene between the two brothers at the prison that just confused me. At one point, Minoru seems crazy. He also claims that Takeru never trusts anybody, which seemed to come out of left field (the film didnt’ really seem to establish that). There’s a lot of other problems which I won’t get into.

  57. Mitchell

    The Outlaw Josey Wales
    Clint Eastwood

    This is considered by many (including Eastwood) one of Eastwood’s best westerns. If you, like I, have difficulty remembering which western is which, this is the one where Eastwood sees his wife and child killed by ruffian US soldiers in the aftermath of the Civil War. He spends most of the rest of the film trying to track down the soldiers who committed the deed; meanwhile, he himself is being hunted by the US government for gunning down a bunch of Union soldiers in retaliation for their killing a bunch of his brothers in arms.

    I have to say it’s pretty good, but the story is not as compelling as other Eastwood westerns, such as Hang ’em High or even Pale Rider. It’s visually quite beautiful and Eastwood is just about at his best here. There is an Indian elder who is alternately hilarious and annoying who serves as Eastwood’s traveling companion. I haven’t made up my mind how I feel about him.

    Good flick, but I think it comes up just a bit short of great.

    7/10
    71/100

    —–

    Pale Rider
    Clint Eastwood, Sidney Penny

    I haven’t seen this since I was in high school, when I was seventeen and Sidney Penny was fifteen. She was fourteen when this was filmed, so I should be forgiven for remembering this film primarily as the film with the seriously cute teenaged actress.

    I have to say that all the feelings came flooding back upon this reviewing. The young actress is as fetching all these years later.

    I have long held that this was one of Eastwood’s best westerns. Without having reviewed them all (it’s a current project, in case you haven’t noticed) just yet, I’m going to make the outrageous assertion that this is the best one. Most of it is not very complex, but something about the simple story and the way it plays out just works for me, especially the way the Preacher has such an influence on the people around him, bringing out the best in them when they themselves don’t remember what IS best in them. Unlike Eastwood’s other characters, there is not a lot of ambiguity here; he’s a good guy, and he says good things that have good effects on those around him. Call me a wimp, but I prefer that in a western. I want the good guys to be good.

    A very enjoyable picture, and as I said: I think it’s Eastwood’s best western.

    8/10
    82/100

  58. Reid

    Mitchell,

    Are you only watching Westerns directed by Eastwood or are you including the one’s he only starred in? If it’s the latter, when you get to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, let me know. I wouldn’t mind watching that again.

  59. Reid

    The Cutting Edge: the Magic of Movie Editing (2004)
    Dir. Wendy Apple
    76/100

    Strongly recommended to Mitchell, Grace and Penny. I’d also recommend this just as strongly recommend this Chris and Kevin would enjoy this. I’d expect others would find this mildly interesting to. Not a film I would say you need to go in with little knowledge, so read the next section for more information.

    **
    If you’ve seen and liked Visions of Light, a documentary about cinematography, I suspect you would like this film. The film basically attempts to shed light on movie editing, giving some historical background, as well as pointing out specific approaches and issues involved with editing (e.g. how directors work with editors). The best parts of the film are the ones where the examples used really illustrate the impact of editing. If you like this sort of thing, I highly recommend the film.

    So why not give this a higher score? Hmm, perhaps it does deserve a better rating. In some ways, the film is a cursory glance over editing, so maybe that’s the reason. (The film is 98 minutes.)

    Btw, it is available for streaming on Netflix.

  60. Reid

    2012 (2009)
    Dir. Roland Emmerich
    58/100

    Penny and Larri liked this, and I think this would entertain Marc, Don, Joel, Jill, John and Mitchell–but I don’t think you would think this is a great film. I guess, Tony and Chris would find this entertaining, too, but I’m not sure. I’d guess Kevin has the least chance of liking this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this mildly entertained him.

    **
    This is one of those end-of-the-world films with lots of actions sequences and cgi disaster scenes. In this case, the earth’s core is heating up due to unusual neutrinos from the sun. This is causing the continental plates to shift dramatically, leading to huge earthquakes and tsunamis.

    So what makes this different from any of the recent disaster movies–and why did I like this more than I would have thought? That’s a tough one to answer. The simple answer is that the action scenes–particularly the “Indiana Jones car chase scene”–is the primary reason. The characters, storyline–particularly the attempts at dealing with issues like compassion–are superficial Hollywood fare. But the movie has good action sequence and moves at a good pace.

    Kick-Ass (2010)
    Dir. Matthew Vaughn
    34/100

    Mitchell found this entertainging, which surprised me (more later). I think Joel has the best chance of liking this next, although it’s not a film I would think to recommend to him. Penny might like this, too. For the rest, I think it’s a toss up, but if I had to guess I’d say they wouldn’t like it that much (probably not as strongly as I disliked this).

    **
    The film involves an average teenager who decides to donn a costume and fight crime. Along the way, he runs in to a serious drug-lord. Along the way, he starts a relationship with a pretty classmate and meets other masked-donning-crime fighters.

    I describe the film as a teen action film, with some bits of comedy thrown in. I’ll go into my score in the next section.

    ***
    I had a lot of problems with this film. In short, I just thought this was bad filmmaking, particularly the writing and direction. The screenwriter doesn’t seem to put enough thought and effort, imo. Let me briefly go over a few examples:

    • Many of us fantasize about becoming super-heroes, but few actually attempt to do it. Imo, the film had to make us believe that Dave would do this; that there was a compelling reason (something about his personality or some circumstance) that would make him go that far.
    • Relationship with the hot classmate seemed weak and unconvincing;

    Let me stop there and do something else. The film can be thought of in at least two different ways: 1.) an action vehicle (ie. pure entertainment) and/or; 2.) thought-provoking commentary on superheroes and our interest in them; violence and youth culture; etc. The film fails on both counts, imo.

    Let me start by analyzing the film as an action/entertainment vehicle. I think one of my big problems with the film is the main character. To me, he’s just not well-drawn and while we can sympathize with him, he’s pretty flat and bland. Who is this guy, besides a normal teen who is sick of getting picked on and is in love with a cute classmate? There doesn’t seem to be much more besides this guy than that.

    The character and story arc also don’t seem thought through very well. At some point, he realizes that he’s in over his head and wants to get out. A big part of the reason is that he now has the hot classmate for a girlfriend and therefore has something to live for.

    I’m quickly losing interest in writing more, but let me say a few more things:

    I had a problem with the graphic violence. What was the purpose of showing this? Hit-Girl was so poorly conceived. OK, she’s a little cute girl that is violent and foul-mouthed. The concept is potentially interesting, but they don’t really do a good job of fleshing this out. Yes, this is not a well-thought out criticism. Let me give a short-hand response: during the film I compared the film to a film I imagined Taratino making. In Taratino’s hands, the film may not have been great, but it would have been made with more thought and skill.

    (Sorry, this is a mess of a post, but I just want to get this out there.)

  61. Mitchell

    Kick-Ass
    I thought it was entertaining and I like how Dave, like many comic-book superheroes, finds himself a reluctant hero. I was going to write that this is much more male fantasy than comic-book hero movie, but then I remembered that most comic books are male fantasy. I did sleep through the parts that Penny said were the most disturbing, so it’s possible that my take on this film is only accurate based on the parts I saw.

    I will also say that it pleases me to see that Christopher Mintz-Plasse can actually do a bit of acting. I wasn’t sure how much of his acting in Superbad was really acting, and while this character is kind of similar, there’s some good stuff going on with his performance. He’s fun to watch on screen.

    Oops. Almost forgot to rate it:

    6/10
    65/100

    (spoilers)
    I think Reid is missing something about the main character, Dave. He says he doesn’t know who this guy is, besides a normal teen who’s tired of getting picked on and who likes a cute girl. What he’s missing is that Dave is a geek. He doesn’t just read comic books: he hangs out in the comic book store. He and his friends have extended discussions about the tiniest details in the comics lore, stuff that most people would consider trivial but which he and his friends consider integral. It’s only a small jump from fan-boy to cos-play, don’t you think? In fact, cos-play is such the norm at the local anime convention that if you’re going, people assume you’re going to dress up unless you tell them you’re not. Once you get the guy into the costume and then into the dark alley so he can really play out the fantasy, it’s not that large a leap to his first couple of encounters. Unlike the comic-book heroes Dave admires, he doesn’t find himself in costume because of some kind of calling; the calling happens because he happens to be in costume.

    As far as Hit Girl, ‘though I did miss the scene where she gets unnecessarily violent, I don’t see how that’s different from what happens in comic books. There are a lot of teens in comic books and there’s a LOT of violence in them. No?

  62. Mitchell

    The Losers
    Zoe Saldana and a bunch of other people I don’t recognize.

    It’s like the A-Team. I kind of hope this thing lasts in theaters long enough for some smart theater manager to offer it with The A-Team as a double feature, ’cause that’s a double feature that would rock.

    I won’t go into the story, ’cause that’s not really important. The story is an excuse for lots of intricate action sequences involving a crack team of elite ex-soldiers trying to clear their name of something they didn’t do (I told you it was like the A-Team). The characters are fun to spend some time with and the actions is fun if you don’t overthink it. Zoe Saldana is ridiculously hot in this one. I thought she was hot in Death at a Funeral, but that doesn’t even come close to this level of hotness.

    I found the ending super annoying, but whatever. Fun movie.

    5/100
    55/100

  63. Reid

    Mitchell,

    (spoilers for Kick-Ass)

    I got the fact that Dave was a geek, but that still doesn’t really add much to his character, imo. (He’s a comic book geek, picked on and loves a hot girl). In thinking about this film, I think some viewers will find these details sufficient to connect with the character, but I wanted and needed more. Part of that something more, depended on the performance of the actor who played Dave. I just didn’t think he brought anything that made me really care about him. (But again, I think the writing is equally to blame.)

    You said,

    Once you get the guy into the costume and then into the dark alley so he can really play out the fantasy, it’s not that large a leap to his first couple of encounters.

    Yes , it is. Do you know anyone (especially someone like Dave) that has ever something similar to Dave? I don’t know of anyone, nor have I heard of someone doing it. As a child, I certainly had similar fantasies (maybe not so much as a teenager) and I also liked comic books, but I didn’t come close doing something similar. Imo, something extraordinary would have to occur for a normal, “geeky” person to go that far.

    I think one of the problems with the film for me was that I was not ripe for this fantasy. I think people who really want to buy into the fantasy of the film (ie. the teenaged comic book fans) would get into this film; they wouldn’t have the same problems that I did–with Dave’s motivations; with how he gets together with the hot girl (or even how his friend gets the hot girl’s friend, who is pretty attractive herself. I also thought Dave’s “lesson” was a bit lame. He realized that his life was worth living, so he shouldn’t be doing the super-hero thing. Well, there are other reasons for not doing the super-hero thing, but never mind. And, yes, it’s easier to believe your life is worth living when you have a hot-girlfriend.)

    As far as Hit Girl, ‘though I did miss the scene where she gets unnecessarily violent, I don’t see how that’s different from what happens in comic books. There are a lot of teens in comic books and there’s a LOT of violence in them. No?

    Not with the same kind of graphic violence and not with as young a girl (and she looked like a cute, petite fifth grader or maybe younger). The juxtaposition of this tiny, cute girl committing these graphically violent acts (blood spilling, limbs being chopped off, etc.) reminded me of Tarantino (in his case, juxtaposing violence with humor)–sans the talent and skill.

  64. Reid

    Iron Man 2 (2010)
    Dir. Jon Favreau
    Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, etc.
    70/100

    I don’t think the following idiots would love the film, but I think they would at least mildly enjoy this…well, everyone. (Joel, Marc and Grace have the best chance of liking this; maybe Kevin would have the least chance of liking this, but that’s just a guess.) I’m recommending this with one caveat: don’t go in with high expectations. It’s not a great movie, but it’s not bad, either. Btw, I’d strongly consider seeing this on the IMAX if you have the chance.

    **
    The “flux capacitor” device that keeps Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) alive and powers his suit has started to poison his blood. Unless he finds a different element to make power this “battery,” he’s going to die. At the same time, Ivan Vanko, a Russian physicist, has a developed his own “flux capacitor” and wants revenge on Stark (the film explains the circumstances).

    If you liked the first film, I’d guess you would probably like this one–at least a little. A lot of your reaction depends on the expectations you have. You won’t enjoy this if you’re expectations are really high, but you probably enjoy this if your expectations are really low.

    And to gauge my reaction, let me tell you some things I liked about the film. First, I love Robert Downey Jr. in this role. I don’t know what it is about him. Second, I love the way the filmmakers have brought Iron Man to life on the screen. It’s some of the best use of cgi I’ve seen and I love the design of the suit; the way Iron Man uses pulsar technology to fly. It’s one of the coolest weapons (did I mention that in the “coolest weapon thread) ever. It far surpasses the Iron Man suit as present via the comic book medium.

    ***
    I had heard the film had multiple character and plotlines, so I expected something like Spiderman 3 or the X-Men sequel. In other words, I went in with very low expectations. But I was pleasantly surprised. The film does have several plot lines and characters, but the film introduces and integrates them in an appropriate way.

    The film was by no means perfect, though. The pacing was just a tad slow (although this such a minor problem I shouldn’t even mention it); the way the suit gets to Stark during the race wasn’t a good idea; the final fight sequence with Rourke’s character was a bit too abrupt (they really could have done better with this). These are relatively minor complaints though–so why didn’t I give this a higher rating? I’m not really sure, but I’m pretty confident about my rating.

    Btw, I loved the suitcase scene.

  65. Marc

    Do they really call it a “flux capacitor” or are you bringing in the “Back to the future” trivia factor… and were any of the models to scale??

  66. Reid

    No, they don’t call it a flux capacitor–but I couldn’t remember what it was called. (“Flux capacitor” seems to fit, though, huh?) Funny you should mention models, there is one in the film! Haha. I think you will like this film, Marc (as long as you don’t have high expectations), and I think seeing it in IMAX would be worth it.

  67. Mitchell

    Iron Man 2

    It’s not as good as the first film, but it’s better than the sequels of any comic-book superhero movie I can think of, including The Dark Knight, by just a little.

    Some (very minor, in my opinion) spoilers follow.

    Since I’m not so much into the action scenes as the scenes in between the action scenes, I have to say that the in-between stuff is pretty good; it’s just not as good as in the first movie. I didn’t think the first movie really developed the friendship between Tony Stark and Rhodey, so when a student of mine mentioned that Terrence Howard was going to be replaced by Don Cheadle, my response was, “So what?” I do like Don Cheadle, but I think for this role I’d rather have seen Terrence Howard. Anyway, I’m mentioning all this to say that since the relationship wasn’t well-defined in the first film, a lot of what happens in the second is kind of puzzling; you kind of have to just accept it.

    I hate to say this, but it seems like the main purpose of this film was to set up several other films. I don’t have much of a problem with that, but come on. All these S.H.I.E.L.D. people are annoying and don’t really do a thing for either character development or plot advancement. And since I’m not a comic-book reader, their significance is a complete mystery to me.

    Gwyneth Paltrow, though is terrific. What does it say that Paltrow’s Pepper Potts had me almost completely unaware of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (whoever that is)? She looks great in every scene, and the actress’s performance is wonderful. She’s a perfect foil for Robert Downey, Jr.’s brash Tony Stark, and again: I wish my drama students could watch her. Watch her face when she’s not delivering lines and you’ll see what a thinking actor does.

    When I saw the trailers, I thought for sure I was going to hate Mickey Rourke in this (the comic-booky Russian accent was a turnoff until I remembered what movie I was watching), but he’s actually quite good. And whoever that is who plays Justin Hammer is perfectly sleazy. I mean perfectly. Sniveling AND sleazy.

    I’m not a big fan of War Machine. Why does a guy like Tony Stark need a sidekick? As much as I enjoy the interplay between the characters, especially when armored, I find War Machine’s very existence redundant and not very interesting.

    But all things considered, this is nice, escapist fare. A fun movie, thanks almost entirely to Downey, who seems born to play this role.

    A strong 7/10.
    78/100

  68. Reid

    Mitchell,

    (minor spoilers)

    I really agree with your comments about Rhodey and War Machine. Both are redundant and they add very little. Actually, taking them out may improve the film. But then again, by the time Rhodey appeared, I wasn’t reading Iron Man. Although I remember noticing Rhodey and the various suits and thought it was kind of silly. For Rhodey to be meaningful, the filmmakers would have to have done a better job of establishing his close relationship with Stark. Even from the first film, I feel like the filmmakers expect us to assume this is true. (I wonder if this is one of the examples where fans of the comic accept or even love this part of the film because they use their knowledge from the source material to fill in the blanks left by filmmakers.)

    I didn’t mind the S.H.I.E.L.D scenes–but again, I’m a little familiar with them (although not the incarnation we see on the screen. The Nick Fury I knew was white. At some point Marvel changed him to a black man, and I think altered the back-story. But that’s just a guess.) Still, I thought this scenes were relatively harmless. Yes, they’re partially setting up the Avengers film, but it didn’t detract from the main story in Iron Man 2.

    I also think Rourke made a solid villain. I thought they could have developed him a bit more–or at least heightened the hatred and revenge factor. The final battle scene could have been better, too.

    Have you seen Sam Rockwell (the actor who plays Hammer) in other films? Actually, he’s in Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I can see him becoming a favorite of yours. You should check out Moon.

  69. Reid

    ESPN 30 for 30: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks (2010)
    67/100

    I’d recommend this to Marc, Joel, Don and Mitchell. I think John would probably find this entertaining. And Penny would probably enjoy this, too, but not something I would tell her to go and see. Not sure about Kevin, Chris or Tony.

    **
    Not really a movie, but a ESPN special on Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacer guard and his battles with the New York Knicks in the mid-90s. If you’re not familiar with these games, I won’t say any more, and you can watch the documentary and find out for yourself. It’s only a little over an hour.

    ***
    Here’s my favorite segment of the film, which focuses on Spike Lee’s role in Reggie Miller’s performance. It’s fun and pretty funny, too. (Mitchell, if you’re not going to see this, just watch this clip. I think you’ll like it.)

    It’s funny to see Spike back-peddling in the clip. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, huh, Spike.

  70. Mitchell

    I meant to see that one. Kornheiser talked about it before it debuted on ESPN.

    I’ve seen three segments in the 30 for 30 series that I really, really liked: The one about the USFL, the one about the original Rotisserie Baseball League, and the one about the Raiders.

  71. Mitchell

    It turns out I’ve seen Sam Rockwell in several films:


    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    Galaxy Quest
    Charlie’s Angels
    The Assassination of Jesse James…
    Everybody’s Fine
    Iron Man 2

  72. Mitchell

    They Live (1988)
    Roddy Piper, Meg Foster. Written and directed by John Carpenter.

    It is my opinion that this is a late-night, cable TV classic: not something you should ever really go out of your way to see, but if you’re up late one night and it happens to be on, it’s a good way for an insomniac to spend a couple of hours.

    Roddy Piper is charismatic as heck, as any wrestling fan knows. Can he act? Well, he acts well enough for a movie like this. I mean come on: nobody really thinks Piper is the crazy powder-keg he is in wrestling, right? That’s acting of a sort.

    Piper is a homeless guy looking to start fresh in a new town. He gets a job at a construction site but before he gets his first paycheck, he has to live in a shantytown. He discovers a pair of sunglasses that reveals to him that there are aliens all around, and that they are usually the wealthy people in power. He also discovers that there are subliminal messages all over the place, messages such as OBEY, MARRY AND REPRODUCE, and (on paper money) THIS IS YOUR GOD. None of this is visible without the sunglasses.

    Piper gets a friend (after a VERY long street-fight) to try the glasses on. The authorities find out that Piper and his friends know what’s going on, so they try to kill them. Piper tries to destroy the illusion so that others can see. You can imagine this is not a popular move.

    It’s a good premise, but you can tell the budget here is quite low. There’s not a lot of introspection or interesting dialogue; the Piper character is kind of a detached, gloomy fellow, so it’s also something of a downer of a movie. But I find it enjoyable in a mindless kind of way.

    It’s not as good as Piper’s other late-night classic, Hell Comes to Frogtown; however, I’ve seen worse movies that I’ve paid more to see.

    Give it a sentimental 5/10
    or
    55/100.

  73. Reid

    Shutter Island (2010)
    Dir. Martin Scorsese
    Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley,
    60/100

    I’d guess that Joel and Penny would give this a similar ranking as mine, but I guess they’d like this the most. Marc, Don, Jill, Tony and John would also like this a little, too. I’m not sure about Chris and Kevin. I guess Larri would give this a 5.

    **
    FBI agents, Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), head over to Shutter Island–a prison for criminally insane individuals–to investigate a prisoner who has escaped.

    ***
    I’m not sure why this film didn’t really work for me, but I suspect part of the reason is that I’ve grown tired of this type of movie. On the other hand, I wonder if part of the premise made getting into the film more difficult, specifically the idea that the viewer has no idea if Teddy is in his right mind or not. Without having any idea about Teddy’s mental state, the Teddy’s perception could be real or totally made up. I think this kept me at arm’s length from the character and the story.

    Green Zone (2010)
    Dir. Paul Greengrass
    Starring: Matt Damon,
    56/100

    I’d guess Penny would like this at least mildy, although I wouldn’t recommend this to her. John would be my next guess. Joel, Don and Marc might like this, but I’m not really sure. I’m even less sure about Mitchell, Kevin, Chris and Jill. I’m pretty sure Larri wouldn’t like this.

    **
    Roy Miller (Damon) is the head of an army unit looking for WMD in post-invasion Iraq. His unit keeps finding empty buildings, despite the intelligence saying otherwise. Frustrated, he begins to act on his own to find these weapons–in the process joining a CIA officer who disagrees with the way things are being handled.

    Essentially, this is an action movie with a political message and certain perspective of what went down in Iraq–specfically, that the US government knew that there Iraq had no WMD and still insisted on invading Iraq. Well, the film insinuates this and also insinuates that the US government for intentionally misleading the American people about the reasons for invading the war.

    ***(spoilers)
    I have trouble getting into movies about US foreign policy that have, what I consider, over-simplified interpretations. Personally, I don’t think the US government blatantly gave false intelligence. My guess is the Bush administration were based on several factors: 1.) limited intelligence; 2.) the fear of Hussein having WMD or getting them in the near future; 3.) a desire remake the Middle East; 4.) the belief that this would be much easier than it actually turned out to be. Personally, I think points 1 and 2 are legimitate issues–and these factors alone could have warranted an invading Iraq.

    One other big problem I had with the film was the way it seemed to hinge on saving or killing a top Iraqi general, who told US officials prior to the war that there were no WMD or a program to make them. Miller and the CIA agent believe that saving him is vital because it would ostensibly “prove” that the US government knew there were no WMD before invading Iraq. For the same reason, certain officials want the general killed. But this idea seems silly. Why should US officials believe what the general said? The film gives no indication why US officials should have believed this general. If the general lives and says that he told US officials that there were no WMDs, that hardly proves that the US government lied to the American public.

  74. mitchell

    Princess Ka`iulani
    Q’orianka Kilcher, Will Patton

    This film had some potential. There is built-in drama just telling the story, especially if you’re into Hawaiian history. However, the movie does several things poorly, each not so bad as to ruin the film, but taken together, they add up to a less than satisfying experience.

    (minor spoilers)
    I’m not Hawaiian, so I don’t have much invested in this story. I don’t know how historically accurate it is, and I don’t especially care as long as the gist of the story is faithful to the history books. Whether this is trying to tell a historic tale or merely tell an interesting story against a historical backdrop, my interest is strictly as a film-goer who loves Hawaii. I add that part because I think being from Hawaii adds a dimension that might not be there if I weren’t.

    First, the acting. Kilcher is mostly quite good, ‘though the script demands a bit of melodrama, and at times she seems to be overacting. In scenes where she is just the smart, playful, good-humored girl, she’s very good. In scenes where she speaks with the gravity of a woman who’s in line for the throne of a nation, she seems a bit stiff. Will Patton (Denzel Washington’s assistant coach in Remember the Titans) plays Sanford Dole. In a movie with mostly so-so acting (and that’s being generous), he really stands out as someone who knows what he’s doing. Everyone else ranges from bad (Ocean Kaowili as Kalakaua, which is too bad because I love him as a musician) to not too bad (Tamzin Merchant as Theo Davies’s daughter in a small role). Most of the supporting acting is stiff and overacted, which makes the whole thing feel just a bit amateurish.

    The editing is super annoying in this film. You know how sometimes characters kiss, and the camera holds their image for a few seconds before lifting up and into the sky as a transition to the next scene? There is a moment in this film where you know that’s what’s going to happen, and it does. When you can predict the edits, the editing is bad. But there are other things, too, that sorta hint at an editor or director who saw Citizen Kane a few too many times. Other elements of the production are also weak, from the sappy soundtrack to the weak script. I promise: if you see this film you will lose count of the number of times someone occupies the frame just by looking out toward the sky and pondering deeply. And the voice-over narration that opens and closes this film is awful.

    There’s nothing wrong with any of these things taken singly, but added up, as I’ve said, they feel cheesy. The film manages, perhaps from the significance of the story it is trying to tell, not to go overboard into total cheese, but it approaches the line teasingly. The overall effect is like a well-done educational film, the kind our teachers used to borrow from the state library and show us on film days (Wednesdays where I went to elementary school). Which is to say that it doesn’t suck, but it’s not a good film, which is also to say that this is too bad, because I wanted to like this and there was a lot of potential for my liking it.

    Gotta give it a weak 4/10 or 45/100.

    edited to add:
    I completely understand some people’s anger at the film’s original film-festival title, The Barbarian Princess. Now that I’ve seen the film and have thought about the intended audience, I’m convinced that it’s a better title than the one they changed it to.

  75. Reid

    Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (2010
    69/100

    Grace and Marc liked this. I’d recommend this to Penny and Jill. I also expect Don, Chris, Tony, Mitchell, Joel and Larri to like this, at least a little.

    **
    This is based on a popular novel by Steig Larsson, who has written two other novels with the same two main characters. One of the characters is an investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, the other, Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker (with a “punk-rocker” type of background). In the film, Blomkvist is hired to solve a forty year old mystery of a disappearance. In the process, Salander teams up with Blomkvist to help him.

    Basically, this is a mystery/thriller and it’s a decent one. I don’t think one has to read the novel before seeing the film.

    ***
    After reading the book, I thought that the film could actually be better–not because the book was not good, but just because the film medium offered opportunities for the film to exceed the book, particularly in seeing the two characters interact on the screen. The success of these scenes depended, as they often do, on casting. The film hits the mark with the two leads–and they fit fairly well on screen (although I have a few quibbles about the way their relationship developed.)

    I also think some of the changes in the film actually improve–or at least were wise moves–the story–ie. minimizing the Blomkvist-Berger and Blomkvist-Cecelia relationships; also not making Blomkvist a womanizer.

  76. Reid

    Testament (1983)
    Dir. Lynne Littman
    Starring: Jane Alexander, William Devane, etc.
    74/100

    I saw this with Penny, Mitchell (who missed the first 20 minutes), Grace and Jill. I think Mitchell liked the film, but I’m not sure about the others. (Grace and Jill were annoyed, but that’s another story.) Larri saw this before, and she didn’t care for (not her type of movie), but she also couldn’t stop watching it, either. I’d mildly recommend this to Chris, Kevin, Tony, Marc and John (although please read warnings below). Don and Gregg might also like this, but I think they would be happy to not see it, too. I think the film could have a slightly bigger impact if you go in blind. I didn’t like this as much as I remembered, but it’s still a soild film

    **
    This was originally made for American Playhouse, but I believe it was released as a feature film. The film follows a family and a small town after a nuclear attack. The film is movie and disturbing–taking a similar approach to a film like *Graveyard of Fireflies*.

    Btw, this is a movie selection for a movie discussion group I’m participating in.

    ***
    I loved the approach of the film–namely to eschew special effects, “Mad Max” style set-design, and melodramatic moments. This a quiet film that allows the audience to fill in the emotional scenes–and it’s fairly effective at doing so. Here are some other comments:

    1. I really liked William Devane’s performance in this. It’s so good, that when he’s not in the film you really feel his absence and understand it’s effects on the family.
    2. I think some of the scenes didn’t hit me in the same way it did the first time. Possible reasons for this: 1.) I already knew what was going to happen; 2.) the fear of nuclear war has been forgotten and overshadowed by other threats (especially since 9-11); 3.) the amount of (good) films I’ve seen since has lessened my estimation of this film.
    3. As an example to the latter, I think some of the scenes seem a bit contrived, almost too good of an idea from the writer to resist. For example. the mother and daughter talking about what it’s like to make love. It’s a nice scene, but it seems a bit too theatrical, even though the scene is played with little melodrama.
    4. I liked the way this film takes a different approach from post-apocalyptic films. The sets and characters don’t seem very different from us now, but that also gives it more of its power, I think.
  77. mitchell

    I guess I haven’t seen enough good films, ’cause that scene about making love is my favorite part. Remember, it is sparked by memories the daughter shares with her mom of days when her dad was there. It seems like a natural conversation for a girl in her position to be having, especially following those do-you-remembers.

    I do like the film, but I’ll refrain from rating it until I someday see the movie in its entirety.

  78. mitchell

    Good Hair
    Chris Rock, Eve, Ice-T, Raven-Symone, Maya Angelou, KRS-One, Salt-n-Pepa, Al Sharpton, and others.

    Man, this could have been great. Instead, it was just pretty good. Chris Rock wrote, produced, and narrates this documentary about black women and their hair, focusing largely on the current American standard of beautiful hair that says a woman’s hair should be long, smooth, soft, and flowing. He interviews some famous people, but also lots of people involved in the hugely lucrative industry of helping black women straighten and relax their hair AND lots of everyday folks in barbershops and salons. He even travels to the source of the hair that black women spend a thousand bucks to weave onto their heads, India, where he discovers an incredible (I mean that literally) industry just surrounding the gathering and selling of hair.

    To his credit, Rock’s approach seems more to be “WOW!” than “this is sad,” but you’ll probably feel a lot of the latter sentiment as you see this film. There is one facet of the film I find almost completely uninteresting: the big hair-styling showdown that Rock seems to employ as a dramatic device. He introduces it early and returns to it throughout, ending with the showdown itself, but I thought it was a distraction and not really part of Rock’s thesis.

    The heart of the film, I think, is an extended section just before the final showdown, where Rock interviews black women about the expense of their hair vs. their hair’s somewhat fragile characteristics. He asks black men if they ever get to touch their girlfriends’ or wives’ hair, and they universally say “no way!” Women talk about how difficult it is to find a way to make love so that their hair doesn’t get messed up. Men talk about how white women have more appeal because their hair isn’t so high-maintenance. They cover a LOT of ground here, and it’s almost all fascinating, especially when Rock interviews a bunch of black men in a barbershop and (waiting for their girlfriends and wives to be done) in a salon.

    I went through several attitude shifts during the film, but I was led (either by Rock or by the interviewees) to the conclusion that Ice-T basically sums up best: Whatever makes a woman feel beautiful is okay with me.

    7/10
    72/100

  79. Reid

    That sounds like an interesting documentary.

    Mitchell,

    Re: Testament (spoilers)

    A part of me likes the scene, too, but don’t you feel like it’s a bit contrived–like it’s a writer’s idea that’s too good to pass up, even though it’s more theatrical and not realistic (not to say that a daughter-and-mother don’t have these conversations, but it’s something more suited and believable in a film, then in real life.)

    I’m a little sad that you didn’t get to see the first twenty minutes, which was a great set-up for the film. I think you would have liked this part, and you could give this a rating somewhere in the high 70s to mid 80s.

  80. Don

    Good Hair

    I really like Chris Rock, which is why I wanted to watch this, although he was pretty straight in this movie.

    I agree with everything Mitchell said (although I wouldn’t rate it nearly as high as he), and was most struck by the amounts of money these women would spend on their hair. The non-celebrities (who seem rather poor) would spend thousands on their hair in one year, and the celebrities tens of thousands a year (flooring amounts of money).

    Reid, I cannot really see you liking this movie. Mitchell’s description above was almost as interesting as the movie. hehe Although, since I didn’t like it that much, there’s a chance…

  81. Reid

    Although, since I didn’t like it that much,…

    …that’s an endorsement. 🙂

    The Narrow Margin (1952)
    Dir. Richard Fleischer
    72/100
    71 minutes

    I’m guessing people like Penny, Mitchell, Grace, Marc and Chris would give a comparable rating. I think Joel, John, Jill and Tony would probably like this, too, but I’m less sure; I’m less sure about Don and Gregg.

    **
    Looking for a good thriller that you likely haven’t seen? You can’t go too wrong with this film, which has solid script and direction. The plot is simple: two police officers have to escort a mob informant on a train, while the mob attempts to prevent the escort from getting there. It’s not a great film, but the story develops in nice ways–particularly the cat-and-mouse manuevers that takes place on the train, reminiscent of situations in Die Hard–sans the action, stunts or the elaborate set-ups. Modern viewers might want more of these things, but if you don’t find these qualities important, I’d recommend this film (as long as you don’t have high expectations). At 71 minutes, the film moves at a decent pace (although people like Gregg might find it too slow) with little wasted scenes. It’s a low time investment in any event.

  82. Reid

    The Secret in Their Eyes (2010)
    Dir. Juan Jose Campanella
    Starring: Soledad Villamil, Ricardo Darin, etc.
    75/100

    I’m writing this quickly because I don’t know how long this will play at Kahala Theaters. I’m giving a fairly strong recommendation to Penny (who I’m the most confident will like this), Mitchell (almost as confident as I am about Penny) , Grace (This is better than Girl with a Dragon Tattoo), Chris and Marc. I’d probably recommend this to Tony, too. Don, Jill and Joel are sort of too close to call, although I know there are aspects that Don will enjoy. If I had to guess, I wouldn’t recommend this to Gregg, but I could see him liking this a little. Larri gave this a 6/10. Of the people I’m recommending this to, I predict they would give this a score of 70 or more. I don’t think knowing information about the film would hurt the experience, but to the people who I’m recommending this to, I don’t think you need to read any more. (Mitchell, you should do this for your Tuesday film.)

    **
    This is an Argentinian film that won the Best Foreign Language Picture Oscar last year. I haven’t seen the other films, but this is a good film, imo. On the other hand, what I really liked about it, was something that is pretty subjective (although I think most of you will agree with me on this.) Still, there are other things that people will appreciate that aren’t as subjective.

    The film is about an investigator who is haunted by a crime committed twenty-five years in the past. He’s writing a novel about the experience, which also involves his boss, a woman that he had loved deeply. If I had to give a short description of the film, I’d call it Remains of the Day that incorporates a mystery storyline. But the film seems to have more layers than just a typical romance or mystery. (I’m still trying to work these out.)

    ***
    (spoilers)

    I can’t remember the time I’ve seen such palpable expressions of longing and love from an actor’s face and eyes. That’s where a lot of action (or at least point of interest) occurred for me (although I must say that I was really taken by Soledad Villamil’s beauty in this). These moments were so effective that I didn’t really care that the film didn’t really establish the relationship very well. I almost instantly believed they were in love (almost like love-at-first sight from a viewer’s perspective).

    While the romance is strong in the film, the film is interesting for the way it weaves a murder mystery (along with some politics) into it. (The film has some funny scenes, too.) I still haven’t worked out these connections, but I know enough to be satisfied with this film.

  83. Mitchell

    Anvil: The Story of Anvil

    By now, you probably know what this film is about, but in case you don’t, here’s the quick rundown. In the Eighties, just before the dawn of thrash metal, a band called Anvil shared the stage with such bands as Scorpions, Bon Jovi, and Whitesnake. While those other bands shot to enormous stardom, that kind of success eluded the guys in Anvil, despite their being highly respected by the members of those other bands. Lars Ulrich of Metallica. Lemmy of Motorhead, and Slash of Guns N Roses express admiration, but they also express puzzlement at the band’s lack of success.

    Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner formed Anvil when both were still in high school, swearing to rock together until they were old men. Well, they’re over fifty now. One is a delivery person for a children’s school-lunch catering service. The other works jobs in construction. When they can get time off from their jobs, they play concerts and record music whenever they can. This film follows them on a tour through Europe where they play arenas built to seat 10,000 people but only 174 people show up. They play bars where the owners refuse to pay them. They miss trains. They miss airplanes and sleep in airports waiting for the next day’s flights.

    Their families alternately admire their tenacity and shrug their shoulders in resignation. “It’s over,” one of their sisters says. “I still think they could make it,” says one of their wives.

    What makes this the terrific documentary is the amazing, almost unbelievable resilience and optimism of the guys in the band, especially Lips Kudlow. Describing the debacle that is the European tour, Kudlow says, “Things went drastically wrong, but at least there was a tour for things to go wrong ON.” He continues, “I don’t regret any of it.”

    The overwhelming (and I mean overwhelming: I found myself unexpectedly tearing up a few times) message of this film is spoken by Kudlow near the end: They gave up a lot in their pursuit of the dream, but at least they went for it. And they continue to go for it, and who knows how long they’ll continue to go for it, but they’re not giving up just yet.

    It is a wonderful, wonderful, feel-good movie, and one of the weird effects the film has had is a sort of resurgence in popularity for the band. It opened for AC/DC on part of its North American tour following the release of this movie, and the band has been performing live shows regularly ever since, including an appearance on Conan. After seeing this film, you can’t help but root for them.

    8/10
    88/100

  84. Mitchell

    Just Wright
    Queen Latifah, Common, Pam Grier, Paula Patton, Phylicia Rashad

    Well. Tony called it one of the worst movies he’s ever seen. I wouldn’t go that far, but this was pretty bad. Yes, it’s a formulaic romantic comedy, but I like the formula, so that’s not what was so bad about it. The real problem is that not only does the plot follow the formula, the rest of the film is unimaginative, unoriginal, cheesy, and not that interesting. The film has one original idea: one of the main characters is a professional basketball player, which largely serves to bring in as many real-life sports personalities as possible, including Dwayne Wade and Dwight Howard. Believe me, that’s not really a plus.

    Latifah is her usual, glowing self, and she works pretty hard to hold up her end of the movie. The script, however, is so weak and the direction so awful that she just can’t keep it afloat. Paula Patton (lovely as always) is interesting but only for thirty minutes; nothing really hints that she and her godsister Latifah have any real kind of relationship other than what’s stated directly by the characters. Phylicia Rashad could have been good here, but she phones it in and is given AWFUL lines. Basically, she plays Mrs. Cosby but without the brains. Pam Grier plays Latifah’s mom. She and the guy who plays Latifah’s dad play stock characters, the sort of people who only exist in movies. All the parents in this film say and do things that are cheap short-cuts to real acting and real writing.

    What’s truly offensive about all this is that there was the potential for a good romantic comedy here, but with just about everything phoned in, all I could do was roll my eyes at bad choice after bad choice. I had so much trouble stifling my groans that I had to remove myself to a section of the theater where nobody would hear me.

    3/10
    33/100

  85. Mitchell

    All Through the Night (1941)
    Humphrey Bogart, Kaaren Verne, Conrad Veidt, Peter Lorre, and Dame Judith Anderson

    Quick summary: Bogey is some kind of organized criminal, but it seems like he’s mostly involved in separating people from their money through gambling, either taking advantage of visitors who want a good time or by getting inside info on the horse races. He’s surrounded by the usual thugs, comic losers, mostly, who know how to follow orders. When his favorite baker is found murdered, Bogey investigates and is implicated in the baker’s murder as well as the murder of another gang-type fellow. Now evading the law while he tries to figure out what really happened, he stumbles upon an underground group of Nazi sympathizers, organized to weaken America from within in order to give Germany an advantage.

    Bogey looks great in this film, perhaps the handsomest I’ve ever seen him. He moves confidently and with an interesting sense of humor throughout the film. Kaaren Verne, the love interest, is lovely and teary-eyed and a decent actress. Peter Lorre is his usual slimy self here and Conrad Veidt plays the bad guy.

    There’s some dumb stuff in here, including a ridiculous fight scene and some lame dialogue, but overall it’s an interesting, somewhat suspenseful film.

    It’s really a 5/10 but it gets a Bogey bump. Don’t go out of your way to see it, but if you are sick at home one day and it comes on, leave it on.

    6/10
    62/100

  86. Mitchell

    Across the Pacific
    Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet, Mary Astor. Directed by John Huston.

    Boy, you’d think that with the names above (it’s a Maltese Falcon reunion), this would have been a decent flick. Well, decent it is, but not much more. ‘Though it is a fairly interesting story, the payoff just isn’t worth it. It’s a bunch of good actors (and pretty good performances) looking for a much better script.

    For those who care, a quick summary: Bogart is dishonorably discharged from the army for theft. He gets on a boat headed for China because he’ll offer his services as an artilleryman to anyone who’ll hire him. Other passengers on the boat are Greenstreet (a Japan sympathizer), Astor (the love interest, of course), and a bizarre Japanese nissei. As the boat makes its way to Panama for passage through the canal, Bogart is offered a bribe for information he might get from friends at his former duty station in Panama. There are some fights, some betrayals, some surprises, and finally some heroism. None of it expecially compelling yet not boring enough to turn off the television.

    4/10.
    45/100.

  87. Mitchell

    So far, I’ve seen fourteen films released in 2010 and they average 4.714 out of 10 per film, according to my ratings. I’ve seen three films that rate 7/10 (Date Night, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Iron Man 2) and nothing better than that.

    I stand by those three 7s, by the way. So far they are the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year. Looking forward to this week’s Get Him to the Greek. Perhaps things will begin to look up.

  88. Reid

    Mitchell,

    You should see The Secret in Their Eyes. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it more than the films you’ve been seeing, and there’s a chance you could really love it. It’s playing at Kahala, though, and I don’t know how much longer.

  89. Mitchell

    You’re not doing TOO much better than me:

    63 Book of Eli
    33 Edge of Darkness
    34 Kick-Ass
    70 Iron Man 2
    60 Shutter Island
    56 Green Zone

    You have three or four films listed above as 2010 pictures but they’re really 2009 pictures, so I didn’t count them.

    This gives you an average of 52.667 out of 100 compared to my 4.714 out of 10, a difference of roughly 5 percent, ‘though to be honest I did a quick average of my 100-pt ratings and that came out to about 39/100. Anyway, that’s not really the point. The point is that 2010’s films (of which The Secret in Their Eyes is not one) haven’t been very good.

    I might see that movie anyway. I’ve got a bunch of Consolidated certificates I need to use up eventually. However, driving out to Kahala violates the spirit of the Tuesday Movie so I probably won’t see it on a Tuesday.

  90. Reid

    I just think there’s a decent chance that you could really like The Secret in Their Eyes (although if a few things don’t work for you the way that it did for me, you could just think it was OK–but I’m betting these things will work for you), and I thought I’d point that out–especially since you don’t seem to be enjoying the films you’ve been watching. (Bright Star was another one, but that’s no longer playing.)

  91. Reid

    Cure (1997)
    Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
    68/100

    I’d recommend this Penny, first. Grace would probably find this interesting, at the very least. I could see Kevin, Tony and Chris really liking this or just thinking it’s OK. It’s a toss up. I’m even less sure about Mitchell, Joel, Jill, Marc and Don. Larri wouldn’t like this.

    **
    This is a thoughtful thriller about a detective trying to solve a series of unexplained murders, committed by seemingly random individuals. By “thoughtful thriller,” I mean that the film wants to make a larger and perhaps more serious point versus simply providing entertaining thrills.

    ***
    I must say that I didn’t quite understand the point of the film–or at least the point didn’t resonate with me. (I’ll discuss this with anyone who has seen the film, but I don’t feel like writing more about it right now.)

  92. Mitchell

    Capitalism: A Love Story

    This one was hard to be amused by because it was so depressing. Which is pretty much what Penny said last year. Moore’s stunts, most of which he unloads at the end of the film (crime scene tape around the buildings of investment banks that received government bailout money), feel silly and small compared to the huge problems he lays out earlier in the film, so that it’s tough to find them very funny.

    I wish Moore hadn’t spent so much of his time being anti-capitalism, though, and spent a little more time examining the concept of the American dream. Does he think that something about the very nature of capitalism is at odds with the American dream? It seems clear that it’s really greed, and not capitalism itself, that’s the problem. Is there a way to reconcile the ideals of democracy and capitalism so that greed doesn’t interfere with the dream? I considered the possibility that he did address that but that I’m not smart enough to understand.

    The one part that sorta somehow gave me some encouragement was the strike by those people in the windows and doors factory in Chicago, ‘though when you think about it, although the strike was successful, those people were still out of work at the end of the strike; all they’d won were the wages they were owed, which could very well have cost everyone else and not the company itself.

    Still, I think it’s a good documentary to see if only because it should make most of us whose retirement savings are tied directly to the stock market consider what that really means.

    6/10
    66/100

  93. mitchell

    First Blood, 1982
    Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy, and David Caruso

    I was in eighth grade when this film came out and had recently seen Rocky and Rocky II. When the commercials for this film came on television, I knew it was something I wanted to see. However, I was thirteen years old and my parents didn’t let me watch R-rated films before I turned seventeen. So I never got to see this.

    About a week before the film was released, I saw on my father’s book shelf the 1972 novel on which this film was based, and asked my dad if I could read it. He said yes, of course, mentioning that he’d read it but didn’t even remember that he’d read it when he saw the movie commercials. He was pretty sure, I think, that I wouldn’t find it interesting enough to finish.

    I think I read about three quarters of it before I found other things to read, so I don’t think I ever finished it. I wonder if I’m the only person my age who read the novel before he saw the film. What I remember is that it was dark and moody. In this way, the early scenes in the film really do a good job of matching up with the book. I really like the sort of dark, lonely, gloomy way the first half hour of the film is put together, with what seems like ominously overcast skies and the almost stereotypically gray colors you often think of when you think of the Pacific Northwest.

    Where it goes next is a kind of sad downward spiral. You root for Johnny Rambo as he gets back at the town for mistreating him, but really don’t want to. So the end seems like the only end possible, but it’s definitely not a feel-good ending.

    I was surprised by David Caruso, who has a minor role in this. He’s not terrific, but he does a pretty good job here; it’s more acting than he does on his best day in CSI: Miami. I had no idea he could actually act.

    Anyway, I’m glad I finally got to see this. I have never seen the sequels and I don’t think I will. I like this movie, to a certain extent, and don’t like the thought of sequels I’ll probably enjoy less.

    6/10
    62/100

  94. mitchell

    Iron Maiden: Flight 666

    A couple of years ago, the guys in Iron Maiden decided to re-perform one of their classic concert tours: the 1984-1985 World Slavery tour that took them all around the world in eleven months, not as a rehash of old ideas (as incorrectly assumed by one interviewer), but as a way to thank younger fans who were too young (or not yet born) twenty years ago to have seen them at the peak of their popularity. Kind of a cool idea, when you think of it.

    Logistics would be a problem, as the band wanted to hit all the major stops of that tour but not spend a whole year doing it. The solution was to customize the interior of a passenger jet so that it could carry the band, the road crew, the management, the gear, and the enormous stage set. This would let the band fly from one city to the next with far less logistical headache.

    Oh, and the plane, named Ed Force One after the band’s famous mascot, is flown by lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson.

    As rock documentaries go, this is one of the best, production-wise. The look, sound, and editing are all terrific, and who could complain about the soundtrack? The film follows the band across five continents for twenty-three concerts in just forty-five days, filling the spaces between flights with short interviews with band members, crew members, and fans. The concerts themselves are shown briefly, represented each by a different song or two, so that by the end of the film you’ve heard just about all of the songs you’d expect in a full-length concert movie. This is a huge plus, and it’s a very, very good thing. The songs just rock in the live concert setting. People who think they know what Iron Maiden’s about but have never listened attentively to their songs should really check out what the band looks and sounds like in concert.

    I have two small complaints as a fan of this great band. First, the concert footage is cut like a live music video so that it’s just about always visually interesting. That’s not what I want to see. During a guitar solo, I want to see the guitarist; I want to see what he’s doing on his guitar. I don’t know what other people look at when they go to a concert, but I don’t switch my attention from one musician to the next after just a few seconds; I like to watch the musicians do their thing for several minutes at a time. Gr!

    My second small complaint is that I didn’t feel like I got to know the band well enough, or that it wasn’t given enough time to talk about individual songs and performances. I realize that’s not the purpose of the movie, but just a little bit more of that could have gone a long way! For example, most of the classic (pre-1990) songs featured the famed twin-lead guitar duo of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. In 1990, when Smith left the band, Janick Gers was the second lead. When Smith rejoined in 1999, Gers stayed in the band. Now Maiden has three lead guitarists; how does that work in the studio and on stage? Would it be called a triple-lead attack now? Or is it still a double-lead with the three guitarists taking turns being the rhythm guitarist? The footage clearly shows each of the guitarists having solos, but how that dynamic works is never mentioned. Maybe that’s too rock-and-roll-geeky for a general release film, but come on! I think that’s a bone the film-makers could have thrown the hardcore fans.

    The film gets a little bit long; by the time the tour hits South America, you realize you’re just hanging on to hear “Run to the Hills” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” two songs that have yet to appear in the film, and to finish out the tour with the band. In this way, the narrative gets weaker near the end, but it’s still pretty hard to complain about what is there: great music and great performances.

    I saw this film just a few days after Anvil: The Story of Anvil. It’s weird, but the Anvil story is more compelling and more satisfying, even though you can’t even begin to compare the music and performances. Maiden is clearly the better band with better songs, but their story just isn’t as cool as Anvil’s, and since we get to know the members of Anvil as people, we care a lot more about their story.

    It’s a solid 7/10 and a great experience.
    75/100

  95. mitchell

    Get Him to the Greek
    Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Sean Combs

    Jonah Hill is an A&R guy at the record label run by Sean Combs. His job is to get Russell Brand from London to New York to Los Angeles to perform a historic concert. Brand’s messed up on alcohol and drugs and is used to doing things his own way, so he’s not as cooperative as Hill might hope.

    It’s a silly, crazy, raunchy, funny movie. Jonah Hill as the straight man does a nice job, and it was fun to see Combs play what is really a caricature of himself. I don’t really know who Elisabeth Moss is, but as Hill’s girlfriend she does a really nice job; she’s smart and sweet and funny, and she does a lot to establish Hill’s character early in the film.

    I give it a low 7/10 mostly because it was entertaining and I laughed aloud several times.
    71/100

  96. Mitchell

    Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey
    Sam Dunn, with Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper, Geddy Lee, Tony Iommi, Bruce Dickinson, Vince Neil, Dee Snyder, and a lot more

    Dunn is the director of Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (reviewed above), and in this, his first documentary (2005), he leads the viewer through his pesonal journey as a lifelong fan of metal. Dunn has a graduate degree in anthropology, and his approach to this film is something of a mix between scholar and devoted fan. Structured not unlike Thrashed, Dunn’s film first tackles the history (he comes down solidly in the Black-Sabbath-was-the-first-metal-band camp) then evaluates the qualities that make metal what it is, the evolution of the form, the fans who love the music, some varieties within the genre, and some interesting topics related to the genre, such as women in metal and censorship.

    The interviews are pretty terrific, especially Alice Cooper, Geddy Lee, and Bruce Dickinson. A film that covers so much ground is going to have difficulty getting too deep into any one area, but that’s okay because it does such a good job with what it does cover. I think this would be a good film for non-metalheads to watch if they have significant others who love metal. It gives some pretty good insight into why it is some of us love this music.

    Killer soundtrack, too. I actually jotted a few notes to myself when I heard songs I didn’t recognize but wanted to check out later, such as Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades.”

    I was pleased that someone in the “History” section of the film agreed with me in calling Deep Purple the first metal band, ‘though the popular pick, as presented by the film-maker, is still Black Sabbath.

    A good rental, especially if you have a mild interest in loud music and the (smart) people who love it!

    7/10
    75/100

  97. Mitchell

    Religulous
    Bill Maher

    I’d been wanting to see this ever since it was in theaters, but I only got around to it this week. The title really says it all: Maher spends almost two hours leading viewers from topic to topic as he explores what makes people believe what they believe. Maher’s position is that the only real response to the questions about where we come from and what happens when we die is, “I don’t know,” but he interviews people who have all kinds of answers to that question and all kinds of responses to what their answers are.

    For most of the movie, he interviews Christians of various stripes, including a TV evangelist, the owner of a Christian gift store, a man who runs a ministry dedicated to helping gays become straight, a scientist on the Human Genome project, a priest who works in the Vatican, a U.S. senator, and some truckers who stop in at a chapel-in-a-trailer service.

    Maher gets pretty provocative with his direct, pointed questions about faith and about certain elements of the biblical narrative. A small number of people are uncomfortable with it and leave the interviews, but most are very patient. While they seem to know they won’t convince Maher of anything, they do their best to present their faith anyway, and I wonder if this is something Maher notices. He does tell the truckers, who lay hands on him and pray for him to receive answers to his questions, that he thanks them for “being Christ-like and not merely Christian,” but I wonder if he sees the sincerity and open-ness the others also share even when they know he’s making fun of them.

    Maher spends a small amount of time near the end also exploring Islam, Scientology, and Mormonism. He’s a brave man, if you ask me.

    I have heard from a lot of people that this is Maher’s attack on Christianity, but that’s not what I see. I see an intelligent disbeliever who has very good questions and is not receiving the answers he’s looking for. Sometimes I’m sure I am hearing someone give him the answers, but he gets focused on making the wise-crack or he gets hung up on little details that don’t really address the questions at hand. Other times, I can tell people are just way in over their heads with his questions and they give the answers we were all told when we were very young in Sunday school, answers that lack very much intelligence or sense.

    I really like the interview Maher does with the Catholic priest at the Vatican. This guy doesn’t back off the truth, but he agrees with Maher about all the ways the believers seem to have made the faith silly. You can tell Maher respects this guy for his honesty; I hope he also sees a man who knows his faith.

    Others might see Maher as a guy trying to make fools of religous people, but again, that’s not what I see here. I see a guy with all the questions we should all have about our faiths, and while I’m not sure he’s totally open to the answers he might be getting, I do see him asking the questions. I found the entire thing encouraging.

    I give it a low 7/10.
    71/100.

  98. Reid

    MItchell,

    I had almost no interest in watching Religulous, as I thought it would be a cheap shot attempt at denigrating religion and religious people, but you’re review made me re-think that. On the other hand, you said something near the end of your review that gave me pause:

    I see a guy with all the questions we should all have about our faiths, and while I’m not sure he’s totally open to the answers he might be getting, I do see him asking the questions. I found the entire thing encouraging.

    Do you think Maher genuinely wants answers to the questions he’s asking? And doesn’t that make all the difference? I mean, if he’s just asking the questions to make the interviewees look dumb, aren’t you giving him more credit than he deserves?

  99. Mitchell

    I don’t know if Maher genuinely wants answers, so it could be a pearls-before-swine situation, but I think the spirit is powerful enough to use even that. As I said, although I was mildly embarrassed by some of the answers the believers give Maher, I was still encouraged that he asks the questions and most people answer sincerely. When Maher thanks those truckers for being Christ-like, I don’t think he’s being glib. I think he really does appreciate being treated nicely and lovingly by these guys.

  100. Reid

    When Maher thanks those truckers for being Christ-like, I don’t think he’s being glib. I think he really does appreciate being treated nicely and lovingly by these guys.

    Yes, that’s cool. And it’s cool when the people answer in a patient and sincere way. But I don’t find Maher asking these questions primarily to ridicule his interviewees as encouraging at all. (Then again, I haven’t seen the film, so maybe I would change my mind.)

  101. Reid

    Mother and Child (2009)
    Dir. Rodrigo Garcia
    Starring: Annette Benning, Naomi Watts, Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson, etc.
    73/100

    I’d mildly recommend this to Penny, Grace and Mitchell (Mitchell might not love this, but I’m sure he would like this to some degree.). I think Jill, Tony and Don would be next on the list (although, I’d expect Don to give this a three, but a four wouldn’t surprise me too much, either). Marc would be next. I’m not sure about Chris, Kevin, and John, but I would guess they would think it’s OK.

    While I don’t expect the people above to love this film (although that’s not out of the question), I do think they would all find this worth seeing and above average. It’s playing at the Kahala theaters right now, and it’s definitely worth seeing if you want to see something at the theater.

    **
    One of the reasons I wanted to mention this film is that it is a good Hollywood film; it shows that there is such a thing–or more to the point: that a Hollywood film can be made that isn’t going for easy laughs or tears. Indeed, the things the film didn’t do made the film noteworthy for me.

    The film is essentially about motherhood seen from three different stories (that interweave). Benning is a middle-aged, crusty woman that gave up her baby for adoption when she was fourteen. Now twenty or more years later her daughter (Watts) has become a successful lawyer who seems afraid of intimate relationships. The third story involves a young black couple that looks to adopt a child because they are unable to have one of their own.

    The acting is solid (and I’m pretty sure many of you will like this part of the film). Benning does a fine job here and the other actors are solid as well. At the same time, there was something slightly missing in the characters or performances. The story also seems just a little flat. About half way through the film, I thought the film depended on the ending: a great ending would have made this a pretty great film, but a mediocre ending would make a mediocre film. The ending was a bit better than mediocre for me, so the film turned out to to pretty good.

    One last thing. The word “post-racial” comes to mind when thinking of this film, and I loved this aspect of it. There are interracial relationships that seem natural, while the ethnic minorities don’t feel like their sacrificing their cultural identities. The cultural aspects are secondary to the characters though, and so the characters feel like real people rather than representatives of their race.

  102. Mitchell

    Yeah, well. The apostle Paul actively persecuted Christians right up to his conversion.

  103. Reid

    Mitchell,

    If you’re saying that you find the answers to Maher’s questions encouraging and the fact that the spirit could use this situation in a positive way, I agree. Loving, thoughtful and genuine responses are encouraging.

  104. mitchell

    The Karate Kid
    Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan

    There was a lot of backlash against this film even before it was released. People complained that (a) it’s not a movie that should be remade, (b) it’s kung fu, not karate, and (c) it’s Chinese, not Japanese. One friend of mine even said he refused to see it because it is an insult to the legacy of Pat Morita.

    My response: Have you seen The Karate Kid, Part III and The Next Karate Kid? Pat Morita did plenty to tarnish his own legacy.

    I think people have responded this way because those of us who are a certain age have an emotional attachment to this film. It’s tough to think of something we love being remade in a way that could never equal our memory of it. I totally get that, but I say go ahead and give it a shot, because young people today don’t have the same emotional attachment to the original film. Let them enjoy the story their way in their time so that they can.

    If you know the plot of the original, you know the plot of this one. The story is exactly the same.

    If you liked the original, I think you’ll like the remake. There are things about it that are better; there are things about it that are worse. But over all, it’s a good movie. Jackie Chan is very good in this part. Jaden Smith is good enough.

    “You’re the best! Around! Nothing’s gonna ever keep ya down!”
    “Sweep the leg!”
    “Either you karate do yes, or karate do no. You karate do guess so, *squish* just like grape!”
    “Fear! Does not exist! At this dojo! Does it?!”

    No, those aren’t in this remake, but you’d be surprised at what is. A good, fun, somewhat touching movie. Doesn’t even approach the original, but I was 15. What’s better now than when we were 15?

    7/10.
    77/100.

  105. mitchell

    Global Metal (2008)
    Sam Dunn

    The director of Iron Maiden: Flight 666 and Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey put together this look at the heavy metal scenes (bands, fans, and public reaction) in India, Indonesia, Brazil, Dubai, Iran, Japan, China, and Israel.

    Boy, you really have to be a fan to get into this one. I was interested, but not THAT interested. There was a lot of stuff about the politics and cultural repression in these areas and how they influenced metal, and how metal influenced them, but the story starts to get a bit repetitive in each country.

    I have to say that I like the Japan section best because it was the most different. For the most part, the Japanese fans don’t seem to have much to rebel against. They seem to tell the film-maker, “This is my fun life. It has nothing to do with my real life.” It seems to be consistent with young Japanese people’s character: the cosplay, the fantasy, the clothes and hair and language.

    The last sections, in Dubai and Jerusalem, are pretty interesting, too, but I don’t think the film-maker gives us enough of the music.

    Anyway, you can probably skip this. If you really like his other films, then you should see this one too, but only if.

    6/10
    66/100

  106. Reid

    Personal Best (1982)
    Dir. Robert Towne
    Starring: Mariel Hemingway, etc.
    73/100

    I’d recommend this to Grace and Penny. Mitchell would be next (read the next section). I’m unsure about Kevin and Chris; I don’t think Don, Marc and Joel would care for this. I’d want to have seen this without knowing anything about it, so I’d recommend seeing it that way.

    **
    What an interesting movie this was. When you see a lot of movies, seeing a movie that you never quite saw before is always refreshing–especially when the movie is good. Basically, the film is a kind of sports movie for women. The film follows the rise of a track runner (Hemingway) and her relationship with another female athlete.

    ***(minor spoilers)
    Here are some general comments off the top of my head:

    I liked the way the characters displayed their athleticism without sacrificing their femininity; these weren’t women who just basically became men. There are several scenes that highlight this.

    The other thing I liked was the expression of feminist position without overcharged socio-political overtones.

    The film also uses nudity in an interesting ways. I liked the shower scenes of the woman having normal conversations. There’s an erotic component to the scene, but for the most part the conversations humanize the characterize and sort of mitigate the erotic nature of the scenes.

    In some ways the film doesn’t work, although I can’t really put my finger on it.

  107. Mitchell

    You had me at “Mariel.”

  108. Mitchell

    The Shootist (1976)
    John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart, Harry Morgan

    This was John Wayne’s last picture. There was some question about whether Wayne would be able to finish the movie because he was in ill health, but he made it a personal mission to complete it.

    The Duke plays an aging gunfighter who is dying of cancer. He wants to spend his last days quietly in a boarding house owned by Lauren Bacall, but his notoriety makes that impossible. Between people with grudges to pay back, young punks who want to establish names for themselves, townspeople who want to capitalize on his fame, and idolizing youth (such as Ron Howard’s character), Wayne finds it difficult to keep his promise to Bacall that he will be a quiet, inconspicuous tenant.

    Wayne is very good here, perhaps the best I’ve seen him. Lauren Bacall is also good, but what was really great was seeing twenty-two-year-old Ron Howard interact with the elderly John Wayne. The combination of Wayne’s gravity and Howard’s eager youth works really well.

    People who love Shane (or even just the scene Reid describes as one of his favorite) might dislike the climactic scene at the end. There are a LOT of similarities between the scenes. Since I don’t really have an emotional attachment (or any kind of attachment, really) to Shane, I thought it was a good scene, but I can see how some might hate it for all the similarities.

    I like John Wayne, but I don’t love him. I can’t think of too many of his films I’ll set aside time in my life to see, but this is one. It’s a nice, thoughtful, well-made western.

    7/10
    75/100

  109. Mitchell

    Sicko (2007)
    Michael Moore

    Ugh. I can’t write a review of this, mostly because I’m not interested in continuing our debates about health care. All I want to say is that I think it’s a very well-done documentary. It does simplify some issues, perhaps necessarily, but over all I found it a heartbreaking film. I list it here only as a record of films I’ve seen this year.

    7/10
    76/100

  110. mitchell

    Grownups
    Adam Sandler, David Spade, Kevin James, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock

    People who know what I like in a film will recognize immediately one thing that I did admire about this picture. There are scenes where the five childhood buddies (or sometimes four of them as they talk about another) are sitting around talking. Joking, insulting, clowning, remembering. There’s an easy rhythm here, a natural flow, and the conversations move quickly, easily, and believably from potty humor to sobriety and back. I heard Chris Rock say in an interview that these guys (I’m not sure about James, but he did name the others) are his best friends, and there’s nothing he enjoys more than just hanging out with them. It’s evident here. It’s not perfect, and there are movies that do a better job of it, but I like the effort because that’s what I really want to see in a movie.

    I have to admit I mostly enjoyed the movie. I liked the premise and I sorta liked the main characters. I did not like the female characters (despite one of them being played by Salma Hayek), I didn’t like the kids very much, and I didn’t care for most of the plot, even though I thought it was very well-intentioned. The problem is that Sandler, who co-wrote this, doesn’t let the story just happen. He forces obvious and silly plot elements in order to hammer home his point, rather than trust his characters and actors to let the story speak for itself. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say that one of the final scenes involves all the characters in one place, opening up, admitting their faults, summarizing what they’ve learned and how they’re going to be better, and finally getting into a group hug.

    I’m giving it 4/10 even though I probably enjoyed it more than most 4s.
    45/100

  111. mitchell

    The Last Airbender

    Of current releases, this movie has the lowest Metacritic rating: 21. That’s two points lower than Furry Vengeance, even. I certainly understand (and even agree with) most of the criticism, but it is a better movie than that.

    First, I should say that I’ve only seen a few minutes of one episode of the television series, so I’m evaluating it only on its own merits and not in comparison to anything else. And I found it to be a mostly engaging story with awful dialogue, decent (but no better) effects, interesting scenery, and stilted acting. I blame the acting mostly on the dialogue, which sounds like the kind of thing you write for kids when you think they just won’t understand it if people speak they way they normally would or say things they might really say. As a movie for kids, I kind of look the other way on this, ‘though if it were a novel for kids I definitely would not. The fact that the story and action are interesting enough for me makes me think they’ll be interesting enough for most kids.

    I also don’t really care that characters who were Asian in the series are played by Caucasian actors in the movie. I know this is an issue for a lot of people.

    Be warned that this is the first of a planned trilogy. I didn’t know that, so I was slightly disappointed. But only slightly, because although I won’t go out of my way to see the next installment, I will see it.

    6/10.
    62/100

  112. Reid

    Mitchell,

    Re: Karate Kid

    Your review makes me interested in seeing the film, but Joel really disliked the film and said that there was no way I would like it.

    Re:The Shootist

    I saw this a very long time ago, and I remember liking it. As for Wayne’s best performance, have you seen The Searchers, Red River, True Grit and Rooster Cogburn?

    Knight and Day (2010)
    Dir. James Mangold
    Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, etc.
    49/100

    Penny would consider this a decent popcorn movie (although Larri didn’t care for the film so much), so if you know what that means, you can sort of gauge what kind of film it is and whether you would like it or not. Many of you would think this is OK, and some may even like it. It’s hard to call. I’d say Jill would like this; Joel would find it worth watching on dvd. Mitchell would probably find it mildly entertaining at least, but I don’t expect him to love this. I wouldn’t really recommend this to Don or Marc, but I guess they would think this is OK.

    **
    This is an action that doesn’t take itself seriously (a good thing) and also tries to incorporate romance. Roy Miller (Cruise) is CIA type agent uses a woman, June (Diaz), to smuggle off an important energy device. While the agency hunts down Miller, he and June fall in love.

    ***
    I really like a good action film, and I like Cruise (in these type of movies) and Diaz (although, man, she looked old in this at times–mainly her skin), but this disappointed me. Judging the film on what it’s going for, it doesn’t really succeed. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the romance doesn’t completely work, and I think that has to do with the start of their relationship. June being attracted to Miller is not hard to believe, but her reaction to his killing the people on the plane and then crash landing it broke my suspension of disbelief. The romance also doesn’t work because of the pedestrian dialogue. It needed the type of dialogue from screwball comedies or even suspense films of the 30s and 40s.

    Second, and perhaps the bigger problem was the quality of the villains, especially the casting. Peter Sarsgaard is a solid actor, but he’s miscast in this and/or the villain is so poorly drawn. (His boss, played by Viola Davis, and the Italian arm’s dealer, played by Jordi Molla, are also very bland.)

  113. Mitchell

    I think Joel is wrong. There isn’t no way you’d like this movie. You liked the original, right? I know you do, and I know some of the things you like about it. Many of those elements are in the remake. You won’t like the relationship between the Smith and Chan characters as much, but I think you’ll like Chan. As I said before, people of a certain age-range are responding emotionally to this concept of a remake, and I think that’s what Joel is doing. I don’t think you will; I think you’re more likely to accept this film on its terms, and it does what it tries to do fairly well. In fact, I think this would be a good movie for you and your wife to see together. It’s sweet.

    I have seen a few John Wayne movies but don’t remember which.

  114. Reid

    OK, I’m motivated to see Karate Kid, if for no other reason than to see who was correct.

    The Hit (1984)
    Dir. Stephen Frears
    Starring: Terrence Stamp, John Hurt, Tim Roth, etc.
    63/100

    This is the type of film I can see Chris and Mitchell liking (possibly Tony and Kevin as well). Penny would find this interesting; ditto Grace. I’d expect Don, Marc and Joel to think this was just OK. Not something I’d recommend to Larri.

    **
    I imagine this film would have a bigger impact in 1984 than it would in 2010–primarily because of 2010 audiences have experienced the films of Quentin Tarantino and his imitators. This is a road movie about hitmen (Hurt and Roth) who have tracked down a (British) mob snitch (Stamp) and bringing him back to the boss. The characters and their scenes hanging on the journey drive the film, but I think the feel a bit flat because of the reasons I mentioned earlier. (Still, Stamp is solid in his role.) Chris, Penny and Mitchell could easily disagree with me about this, and if that’s the case, they could like this a lot more than I did.

    Ultimately though, I think the film is a kind of meditation (more mainstream) meditation on death, and that aspect of the film is pretty good.

    Zombieland (2009)
    Dir. Rueben Fleischer
    Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, etc.
    54/100

    I think Penny mildly liked this, and I would expect her, too. I think this would be a decent Tuesday film for Mitchell and I also think Tony could like this a bit, too. This could entertain Kevin, and to a lesser extent Chris, quite a bit, too. Joel and Jill would be next on the list, but it’s a toss up: they could like the film quite a bit or just think it was OK. I tend to think Marc and Don would just think this is OK. Larri wouldn’t care for this.

    **
    This is not my type of movie, so I’m not sure why I saw it. (I was looking for mindless amusement, and it was available on netflix streaming.) The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic earth that is ravaged by infected humans that eat flesh (like 28 Days Later). The film several survivors as they meet on the road.

    But here’s the thing: the film is more about relationships–particularly the nerdier protagonist and his need to find a girl and group to belong. The film begins with violence/gore/action, but becomes an afterthought (until the very end). If you like Jesse Eisenberg’s style of humor, there’s a good chance you could enjoy this film.

  115. Mitchell

    Don’t take the kids. It’s violent.

  116. mitchell

    Battle Circus (1953)
    Humphrey Bogart, June Allyson

    This one was full of surprises. Bogart is a surgeon in the Korean War, serving in a MASH unit. In fact, the title was going to be MASH but the studio rejected it because it thought people would think of potatoes. One thing that surprised me was how familiar everything seemed because I’m such a fan of M*A*S*H the television series. Bogart does a pretty good job in this comedic lead as a womanizing, drinking doctor. One of my favorite Bogart things is the rhythm he establishes when exchanging dialogue; I like the way he is often right on the other person’s line. At times it’s quite entertaining, as in this exchange with June Allyson’s character, a new nurse at the unit:

    “Is there a wife, maybe? Well is there?”
    “You know, you’re about to wreck something beautiful.”
    “Don’t you think I oughta know if there is?”
    “No!”
    “Well. I guess that means there is.”
    “I think I’ll go back in there and have a drink.”
    “Why don’t you want to talk about it?”
    “Because I want a drink!”
    “But you just had one!”
    “Not like the one I’m going to have!”

    There are moments of drama and suspense as the film reminds us that there’s a war going on. Yet somehow, even though I just saw this a few days ago, I cannot remember how the film ends. It’s kind of like that: entertaining but not especially memorable.

    6/10
    62/100

  117. mitchell

    Blackboard Jungle (1955)
    Glenn Ford, with Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow, and Jamie Farr (!)

    I have mixed feelings about this classic I first saw about six years ago. I saw it again last night and there are some things that I like more, and there are some things I like less. It is mostly alarmist fare, a movie about how the bad youth of America are running amok in the streets and in the classrooms, and how a very few teachers are willing to deal with them and stick to their mission as educators. In some of the classroom scenes where we see the students act out in class, the teacher’s speeches get rather cheesy, and his behavior gets downright inappropriate. In one scene, Glenn Ford is in the teachers’ lounge where he calls out his colleagues, accusing them one by one of being cowardly, lazy, stupid, delusional, ineffective, and incompetent, which I seriously can’t imagine happening either in 2010 or 1955. The whole film is kind of like that.

    Still, there are things to recommend this movie. A 28-year-old Sidney Poitier is quite good, and this is the screen debut of Vic Morrow AND Jamie Farr (21 years old and listed in the credits as Jameel Farrah). I showed this to a group of ninth-graders several years ago so we could talk about attitudes about teenagers today, and how they haven’t really changed in fifty years. I think it’s one of those movies a movie-lover should see, but it’s not especially good.

    5/10
    51/100

  118. mitchell

    Trust the Man (2005)
    David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gyllenhaal

    Wow. You look at a movie like this and it seems to have all the ingredients. Then you can’t believe how awful it is. Duchovny is a stay-at-home dad, the husband of successful actress Julianne Moore. They’re having some of the usual busy-couple problems, including some issues in the bedroom. Because of their separate daytime lives, they have different opportunities to seek the comfort of other company, Duchovny with one of the moms he sees at his kid’s play dates and Moore with a young actor in her stage play. Crudup is a sports writer, Moore’s younger brother, an immature brat of a man who won’t drive his long-time live-in girlfriend Gyllenhaal to work because he doesn’t want to lose the good parking space in front of his house.

    As the two couples work out their issues, we’re presented with multiple perspectives in adult romantic relationships; much of it by way of one-on-one conversations between different combinations of the main characters and some of the people they encounter. It is a dialogue-heavy movie in which not much happens, story-wise–the kind of movie I dream of making myself some day. Yet just about all the attempts at dialogue and insight these characters struggle through fall miserably flat, as if the characters are incapable (if willing) to articulate a meaningful thought.

    When I think about what someone like David Mamet could have done with this cast and this story idea, it makes me sad because this was an enormous waste of talent. Gyllenhaal and Moore do their best, but the material is too weak even for them to save, and the ridiculous resolution is one of the laziest, stupidest things I’ve seen in any movie loaded with this kind of acting talent. Duchovny has a few good moments too, come to think of it. It’s too bad, because it’s all wasted on this piece of boring, stupid garbage.

    3/10
    30/100

  119. mitchell

    We had a talk a while back about whether or not you can say that the stuff you spend more time pursuing can be less important to you than the stuff you spend less time pursuing. I thought it was kind of a silly discussion, but for the record: according to my list at IMDb, I’ve seen 997 movies, while according to my my list at GoodReads, I’ve read 780 books. I think that means, over the course of my life, that I’ve spent much more time reading than I have watching movies. Not a surprise at all, since I spent almost all of my free time in elementary school (including all day long during school holidays) and most of my academic time in college reading. I think I’ve only watched more than two movies in one day a very small number of times. I wish there were some way I could calculate how much time I’ve spent watching television in my lifetime.

  120. Reid

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

  121. mkd

    I’m trying to say that over the course of my life, I’ve definitely spent more time reading than I have watching movies.

  122. Reid

    OK, I guess I’m confused because the comment seems to come out of the blue. (I don’t remember the original conversation.)

  123. mkd

    That seems to be happening a lot lately. 🙂 Seriously, we spent like almost half an hour talking about that.

  124. Reid

    You mean, we just talked about this over the weekend? Maybe the way you’re describing the conversation is throwing me off. Were we talking about activities in general–not just reading or watching films? And are you trying to say that what you spend most of your time on is, indeed, what is most important to you (i.e. that what one spends a majority of time on is what one values the most)?

    The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
    Dir. Akira Kurosawa
    Starring: Toshiro Mifune, etc.
    61/100

    My relatively lukewarm reaction to the film makes knowing who would like this a little difficult. I’m feeling like most of you would have a similar reaction to me, and some might like it less. At best, Don, Joel and Jill would think this is OK. Penny and Grace might have the best chance of liking this. Mitchell, Chris and Kevin would find it worth watching, but I doubt they would love it.

    **
    The film tackles political corruption in Japan–specifically the way government bureaucrats received kickbacks in awarding contracts to private companies. The story involves the way several of these corrupt bureaucrats pressured mid-level managers (with key information) to kill themselves or be killed to protect the people at the top. This leads to one relative to investigate these murders and seek revenge.

    ***
    I’m not sure why this film underwhelmed. The direction is solid, and there are some interesting (unpredictable) developments in the story, but the story never really connected with me. The film entertained me, and maybe there are some interesting depictions (I’m thinking of the scene with Nish (Mifune) and his wife in the underground chamber.)

    The Browning Version (1951)
    Dir. Anthony Asquith
    Starring: Michael Redgrave
    59/100

    Mitchell and Tony should probably see this, even though he may not love it. I think Penny and Grace would probably like this. I’m not sure about Kevin and Chris, but I’d guess they would at least mildly like this. I wanted to like this, but I didn’t. My expectations could have gotten in the way of my liking this more.

    **
    Criticker anticipated that I would give this an 89, and combined with what little I knew of this film, I went in with high hopes. You know how you watch a film hoping that it will depict a character going through a similar hardship that you’re experiencing–mainly because you want some comfort and catharsis? Well, that’s how I felt going into this film.

    The movie is about an British teacher who has to leave his school for health reasons. He began his career as a brilliant scholar, someone who had a genuine desire to pass on a love for his subject (Classics) to his students. But somewhere along the way, he lost that desire. The movie didn’t really match my situation, so it wasn’t satisfying–but that’s not really a fair way to judge a film.

    ***
    (spoilers)

    On a more objective level, I can say that the last scene in the film was way over-the-top and unbelievable (I’m speaking of the audience reaction to the Crocker-Harris’ speech.) Thinking about the film a little more, I think the character lacked complexity and depth. You feel sorry for what happened to him, but the details of the way his spirit ground down and his character in general weren’t that interesting. I have a feeling other people may disagree with me though.

  125. mitchell

    The A-Team
    Liam Neeson and a bunch of people I don’t recognize

    This was quite a bit better than The Losers, ‘though I maintain that the two films would have been a great double feature. You could almost fall asleep in the middle of the first, wake up in the middle of the second, and not even know the difference.

    The story doesn’t even matter, but the important stuff: the film begins before the A-Team was formed. Then the “crime they didn’t commit” that’s mentioned in the TV show’s opening voiceover is played out. The rest of the film is the group’s attempt at clearing its name. It’s a series of plots, capers, and stunts that the A-Team is known for, only wilder and crazier. The sequences don’t all work (earlier stuff is better than later stuff, if you ask me), but all in all it’s a fun movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a sequel, and I’ll probably see that, too.

    6/10
    63/100

  126. mitchell

    Back to the Future, Part II (1989)
    Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Elisabeth Shue, Flea

    I saw this in theaters and thought it was so weak that I never bothered to see Part III. However, I was recently thinking about the original film and how well it rewards repeated, attentive views, so I thought I’d give this another shot, especially since I thought I really ought to see Part III. I could remember almost none of Part II; it was like seeing it again for the first time.

    Aaaaand although it’s not as bad as I remember it, it’s still not very good. The jumping around backward and forward through time is kind of interesting, but it serves mostly as setup for one frantic scene after another. It seems to forget all the charming details and thoughtfulness that characterized the first film. Additionally, it feels like something of a downer. Where the original movie revealed to Marty McFly lots of pleasant surprises about his family and his town, Part II reveals a darker, unpleasant reality created by Biff’s greed. It’s not fun to watch Marty move around in this awful place, and since there’s no real payoff, no happily-ever-after feeling, the movie feels terribly depressing. I liked that in The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers, but it’s not what I wanted in a film like this.

    4/10
    45/100

  127. mitchell

    Back to the Future, Part III (1990)
    Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Mary Steenburgen, Lea Thompson

    Everyone says this is the weakest film in the trilogy, but it’s better than Part II for a couple of very simple reasons. First, the plot is basically linear and not convoluted like Part II. This lets us get to know this 1885 Hill Valley world the same way the first movie let us get to know the 1955 Hill Valley. The introduction of a love interest for Doc Brown adds a layer that I think is sweet, especially since it’s someone like Mary Steenburgen, who I just love. Then there’s this tragic flaw of Marty’s, the inability to walk away from a challenge when someone dares to call him “chicken.” Although that part gets tidied up a bit too nicely, I like that it’s inspired by his own great-great grandfather and great-great grandmother. In all, this picture is much, much more enjoyable than Part II, and although it doesn’t approach the first film for entertainment and good feeling, it’s a worthy sequel and a nice conclusion to the series.

    7/10
    72/100

  128. Reid

    I don’t remember those films very well, but I remember thinking they were really bad.

    State of the Union (1948)
    Dir. Frank Capra
    Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Angela Landsbury, Van Johnson, etc.
    71/100

    I’m not sure which idiots consider them Capra fans, but I’d recommend it to them. I’d suspect many would find this OK at least.

    **
    Encouraged by a newspaper editor (Landsbury), who also happens to be his mistress, businessman, Grant Matthews (Tracy) decides to run for president businessman. The editor, Kay Thorndyke enlists a skilled Senator (Jim Conover, played by Aldoph Menjou) and a reporter (Spike McManus, played by Van Johnson) to run his campaign. The problem occurs when Matthew’s backers pressure Matthews to tone down his honest, tough talking approach–to the chagrin of Matthews’ estranged wife, Mary. Will Grant tone down his approach to win the White House or will he side with Mary and tell the people what they need to hear?

    ***
    There’s a lot I wanted to write about, but I don’t have the time, so I’ll just throw out some comments:

    • Is there a better screen couple (and maybe real life Hollywood couple) than Hepburn and Tracy? Yes, Bogey and Bacall were great, but, while they were hot on screen, they didn’t have the sweetness and deep affection that Hepburn and Tracy did.
    • Hepburn has a wonderful moment in this film (tour de force comes to mind). I’m thinking of the moment she gets tipsy. Actors getting drunk and being funny at the same time is really hard to pull off, but Hepburn does it (with terrific support by Maidel Turner). Right in the midst of that, she breaks down emotionally. Then she has to pull herself together courageously for the man she loves. Finally, we see tears of love, joy and maybe even pride. Hepburn’s talent is on full display here
    • Anjou is not as good as Claude Rains or Edward Arnold, and I think that hurts the film a bit. The writing is partly to blame as Anjou’s Conover doesn’t make a strong enough case for his approach–which, to me, is ultimately the right one. Had his character been more nuanced (not just seen as a villain), I think the film would have been more interesting. (This is one of the aspects of the film I wanted to write about more.)
    • Like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the film struck me with how contemporary it felt. There were moments were Tracy’s character sounded like President Obama. Indeed, I think Capra would have made one heck of a speechwriter. There are speeches/dialogue that really resonated with me, and I think it would resonate with a lot of other Americans, too.
    • Capra is definitely one of my all-time favorite directors; nay, artists, period. What makes me love him is his ability to present American ideals in such a sincere and earnest way. There isn’t anyone else like him in that regard (not that I can think of anyway). I used to think that Jimmy Stewart was the key to presenting these ideals in a sincere way, but now I’m not so sure. Tracy make them work in this film, and even wooden, Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck do so in Meet John Doe.
  129. Reid

    Toy Story 3 (2010)
    Dir. Lee Unkrich
    59/100

    I’d expect Penny and Jill to enjoy this. I’m less sure about Marc, Don and Tony, but I’d say they have a shot at liking this. (I would have thought Mitchell would have liked this as much as Penny.) Larri would think this is just OK. I’m not sure about Chris and Kevin.

    Regarding my score. Even 61 feels a bit high for me. My subjective reaction is probably in the mid-50s while objectively I think it probably deserves a mid-60s score. While the film is OK as an entertainment vehicle, I do have more significant problems with it, which I’ll go into later.

    ***
    I didn’t feel motivated to write a review, but the metacritic score of 92 changed that. 92? If you’re familiar with metacritic, you’ll know that’s a pretty high score (90s are pretty rare). As I mentioned, the film provided acceptable entertainment, but the film also doesn’t seem very different from those sequels that are made primarily for financial reasons. While watching the film, I asked myself: does the story warrant a third film? The answer is no–even though it’s not a terrible movie the story doesn’t seem strong enough to revisit these characters. Here are some specific problems I had:

    1. The idea that the toys are better off going back to Andy. A big part of the emotional core of the film involved the twin ideas that the toys needed to be faithful to Andy (they had to be there for Andy–whatever that meant, since they would be, at best, put in an attic) and that Andy, at seventeen, still had a strong emotional attachment to the toys. I wanted the film to find a way to make these two components work, but the film failed to do this for me. Really, the best thing for the toys were to find other children who would play with them (Of course, as old toys there might be less of chance that children would want to play with them. I could see a lot of kids not wanting to play with Woody.), so Sunnyside was the ideal place. Woody’s argument to go back just didn’t carry any weight. Even when the place is run by the evil, Lotso, going back to Andy isn’t so compelling. (The more compelling response is to change Sunnyside.)

      Re: Andy’s attachment to the toys. I mentioned this to Mitchell and he disagreed because he could relate to Andy. But I think it’s fair to say that Andy and Mitchell are the exceptions; that this is not a common occurrence. Because of that, I felt Andy’s attachment to be false or not compelling.

    2. The escape sequence. I thought this part was so complex and elaborate (requiring too many things to go right that could easily go wrong) that I really couldn’t get into the thrill of the escape.
  130. Reid

    Inception (2010)
    Dir. Christopher Nolan
    53/100

    I didn’t care for this, and it’s hard to say who would like this. Normally, I’d guess that Chris, Grace, Marc, Tony and Joel (who said he liked it) would like this. I’d think of Penny, Mitchell (who really like it) and possibly Don as well, but my own personal reaction clouds my judgment.
    Most of the review will go into why I didn’t really care for this film.

    ***
    You know how elaborate movie plots can make you lose interest in a film? I’m thinking of films with a lot of twists or “cons” in them. The contrived feeling puts one at arm’s length to the film and sometimes it exceeds your ability to suspend disbelief. That was the case for me in this film. The protagonist’s plan was ridiculously complex, with many parts that had to be executed perfectly for the plan to work. This execution not only required coordinated actions to occur at the precise moment, but it often required unbelievable combat. (I’ll leave the chemist’s ability to protect his teammates by evading armed men in pursuit on the side.) I’m thinking specifically of the Forger, who not only possessed shape-shifting abilities, but Rambo-like combat skills. It was just too much for me to swallow.

    But there were other problems. For one thing, the film cobbles together some of the best ideas from other films, films like the Total Recall (the “Mr. Charles” move is similar to the psychologist that tries to convince Quaid he’s dreaming) and The Thirteenth Floor. It also touches on the question of reality–something that films like The Matrix, ExiStenz and Dark City (I could also include, The Island, and Open Your Eyes)–without really adding anything interesting to issue. In terms of any serious commentary or insight into the questions of reality or human psychology, the film really didn’t have much to say, imo.

    That would not have been so bad if the characters and their stories were compelling, especially DiCaprio’s character and his relationship with his wife (which reminded me a little of What Dreams May Come). I just found the characters poorly written and developed; I didn’t really care about them at all.

    In closing, my sense of Christopher Nolan is that he is a director with some interesting concepts and ideas, but he needs help developing a good script. The scripts need to have more focus, better developed characters and story. Somethings, like action sequences or clever plot points, need to be abandoned in favor of the characters and story.

  131. Reid

    Micmacs (2010)
    Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
    46/100

    Really hard to tell who would like this. I can say that Larri wouldn’t like this. I think most of you will like this more than me, but that’s not saying much. Mitchell would probably think this is OK. I probably wouldn’t recommend this to Don or Marc.

    **
    A man’s father dies from a landmine. Later the man is shot in the head. The story involves this man–and some street people (who each have various abilities)–and his quest to get revenge on the two weapons companies that has ruined his life. This revenge involves making the heads of each company to think that the other has been sabotaging their business. In the next section, I’m going to why this plot (not that great to begin with) failed as a film.

    ***
    Let me go over the reasons this film wasn’t very good to me:

    The lead, Danny Boon, was not a good lead at all. Not only didn’t he win my sympathy, but he wasn’t funny or interesting in the slightest. Like Delicatessen, Jeunet seems to be partly trying to recreate the kind of silent film–i.e. have these sympathetic sad sack lead characters that are sympathetic and amusing (generally with physical gags). If I were blunt, I’d say that Boon has little or no talent.
    The script lacked imagination. I just didn’t care about any of the characters or the story. Really, the film is essentially like a lot of Hollywood action-comedies (i.e. poor writing).
    The look of the film are a couple of notches below the look in films like Delicatessen and City of Lost Children
    The physical gags and the tough situations that the heroes have to get out of are uninspired.

    The Kids Are All Right (2010)
    Dir. Lisa Cholodenko
    Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Rufalo
    72/100

    I’d recommend this to Penny, Grace, Mitchell and Tony. (There’s a decent chance that they would like it more than me.) I’d recommend this to Jill next. I think Kevin and Chris would find this mildly entertaining, but I don’t expect them to like this very much. I think Marc and Don would just think this is OK. Larri mildly liked this.

    **
    I don’t think the gushing (if it is gushing) by critics is entirely warranted, although if you have to see all the bad Hollywood films they do, this would look pretty fabulous, too. Still, there are reasons to go and see this. For one thing this is a good film, and I’d be pretty content if this was the typical Hollywood film. Therefore, we should support films like this, so that Hollywood would make more of them. (I’d also add Mother and Son to the list.) This movie is for grown-ups, who appreciate intelligence and craft in their filmmaking.

    The film is about lesbian couple and their two teenaged children. The younger of the two decides to contact their sperm donor (Ruffalo). The film is about the way Ruffalo’s character disrupts the family, and the way the family deals with this. There isn’t much of a story, but in many ways the film is like a kind of family version of a character study. We get to see how this upper-class, suburban family deals with this new person entering the family.

    ***
    One of the reasons I don’t think more highly of the film is the script. Someone reading the script wouldn’t get very excited about making the film. The biggest point of interest is the way a lesbian couple would deal with, what is essentially, a pretty cliched storyline in a family drama. Indeed, if the couple were heterosexual, I don’t think the critics would be so enthusiastic.

    Having said that, there are some really good aspects of the film. First and foremost, there’s the acting, particularly by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. Another critic referred to them as two of America’s finest actors, and that thought occurred to me while I watched this film. (Ruffalo’s character was also pretty interesting.) To me, the dialogue didn’t really stand out (although it’s solid), but the acting on display was just a pleasure to watch. Perhaps I’m over-hyping the performances (and if you had too high expectations you could get disappointed.) It’s not the best acting I’ve seen, but it’s very good, and I do think that Bening, Moore and Ruffalo deserve nominations (at least based on the films so far).

    There are two other things I want to say about the film: 1.) the way the film focussed on the family drama and advocate for homosexual’s raising kids (or gay marriage). The film may have that effect, but you don’t feel like that’s part of the filmmaker’s agenda. The characters stand-up on their own; 2.) along similar lines, Cholodenko employs and light and nuanced touch with the characters–especially the lesbian characters and Ruffalo’s. In other words, the characters aren’t black-and-white; the lesbian couple aren’t saints, and the heterosexual sperm donor is not a complete jerk. (He’s a jerk, but the depiction is subtle.)

  132. Reid

    Michael Jackson: This is It (2010)
    64/100

    I’d guess Don would have the most interest in watching this, although I think people like Penny, Mitchell and Jill would find this somewhat entertaining. Obviously, if you really love Michael Jackson, then it’s probably a film you’d want to see. I think Larri mildly liked this.

    **
    Obviously, there’s a lot of people who are crazy about Michael Jackson and when he’s touring people flock to see him. I’ve always wondered how much I’d like one of the concerts if I went to one. Would it be as great as people seem to think? That’s part of my interest in seeing this film. You see the film documents the rehearsals for what was supposed to be Michael Jackson’ s last concert. We see dancers auditioning and the staging/rehearsals for many of Jackson’s hits. While you don’t get to see the actual performance, I think you get a decent idea of what the concert would be like. Well, maybe that’s not true, but I saw enough to feel impressed by what I saw.

    ***
    Is there a greater entertainer in the 20th Century than Michael Jackson? In terms of singing and dancing, I think I’d choose him. (James Brown and Prince come to mind. Who else should?) The guy has one of the greatest voices (certainly in terms of pop music), and he could be the greatest dancer. (JB is up there, too.)

    One thing that stood out for me was the effortlessness of his dancing. There’s a scene where he’s showing what appears to be new moves to his dancers. He’s chewing on a sandwich while he shows them the moves and then does it with them at a faster speed. It reminded me of that scene from Dirty Harry when Harry gets up from lunch, jogs over to an oncoming, out-of-control car and shoots the driver–while continue to munch on his sandwich! You get the same sense of effortlessness when he’s doing his choreographed routines.

    Not only is the dancing effortless, but Jackson’s physique isn’t all that impressive. Yes, dancers are slim, but some of his dancers have well-chiseled bodies. Jackson is this emaciated guy, which makes his dancing all the more impressive. (In this way, he’s a lot like Fred Astaire, who just looks like this dopey, gangly guy, but really was an incredible dancing machine.)

    The other thing I liked (and perhaps never fully appreciated, although it was probably obvious) was the link between Jackson’s dancing/choreography with Broadway and Hollywood musicals and previous entertainers.

    As far as the singing goes, he seemed to be holding back a bit, as these were rehearsals. He alludes to this in one scene–which also happens to be the one scene where he does let loose. (A cool duet of ”

    If the singing wasn’t top notch, the songs and the rhythm section were. I haven’t really listened to these songs in a long time, but they really sounded good. I don’t know if I’d pay the cost of tickets, but I think I’d enjoy the concert if I did.

  133. Reid

    Salt (2010)
    Starring: Angelina Jolie
    60/100

    I think Grace has the best chance of liking this, and I’d probably recommend this to her. I think Penny, Marc, Joel, Jill, Mitchell and maybe Chris would find this mildly entertaining (if not more thant that). Don would be next on the list, although I’d guess he’d give this a three. Larri liked this.

  134. Reid

    State of Play (2003 BBC mini-series)
    Dir. Peter Yates
    Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Bill Nighy, James MacAvoy, etc.
    80/100

    I’d recommend this to almost idiot–especially Marc and Chris–especially if they haven’t seen the American movie: don’t see the American version if you can help it and see this istead! You look for something entertaining to watch (and you’ve seen Gone Baby Gone, I’d recommend this.) FWIW, I saw the American movie version first, and despite knowing the ending, I still really enjoyed this series.

    **
    If you like All the President’s Men and JFK–particularly the aspects the deal with solving a mystery–then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this mini-series (six one hour episodes). What surprised me was that I didn’t care for the two of the main actors in the film–Kelly Macdonald, who I really liked in Gosford Park and No Country for Old Men, and John Simm (I liked his normal, every day schlub look, but I found him too bland and not strong enough of a lead.); they weren’t terrible, but just OK. The surprise was that I liked the film as much as I did despite this weakness. (Having said that, I did enjoy Bill Nighy in this, and I think fans of Nigh would feel the same.) That speaks to the strength of the plot and the way pieces of the mystery come together.

    Btw, the British idioms and political structure did confuse me at times, but, all in all, I got the gist of what was going on. In any event, besides the two films that I mentioned above, I can’t think of any other political mystery that’s as good as this.

    ***
    spoilers

    I thought the last development at the end was sort of unecessary. It was a bit too contrived, and I thought the previous developments were more than adequate to enetertain audiences. Also, I personally thought George Fergus and their party’s plan to intentionally allow Sonia Baker to leak information from the energy committee was brilliant move. If I understand their position correctly, they didn’t want to take on the Oil companies head on because they may have been able to pass any substantive energy legislation. Instead, by leaking the information, they could monitor the level of acceptance of the energy company to policy recommendations. The oil company changed its behavior based on recommended policies. Imo, this is a far better result than having the oil companies mount a full assault on the passage of the policies. Moreover, if there were some policies that the oil company did not like (which might be indicated by the fact that the oil companies didn’t change their behavior), they could not put those in the recommendation. All of this happened without the oil company’s knowledge, and as long as the many substantive energy policies were accepted, the government could live forgoing on others. I think it’s a really good move. (I can understand that Stephen Collins’ anger, since it lead to the death of Sonia, but he also seemed disgusted with George Fergus independently of that.)

  135. Reid

    Art of the Steal (2009)
    Dir. Don Argott
    62/100

    I think Penny and Grace would find this interesting, but it’s not something I’d urge them to see. Ditto Mitchell, Chris, and Kevin. Marc might mildly like this. Joel and Jill, too, although I’m even less sure. Objectively, I think the film deserves a significantly lower score (maybe in the 40s), but it kept my attention for the most part.

    **
    This is a documentary about the Barnes’ art gallery that was moved, against the wishes of the founder, to larger gallery. If you’re like me, that description doesn’t really sound very interesting, and so I didn’t have a strong desire to see this. But it was on netflix streaming, and I was in the mood for a documentary.

    Let me just say that I got into the film because several interesting details (which I will reveal in the next section if you want to know). Unfortunately, by the end of the film, there were some bigger problems and I’ll go into that in the next section, too.

    ***
    OK, here’s what I liked. (Note: to me, what I’m revealing is the most interesting aspects of the film, imo, so it can be seen as a kind of spoiler. On the other hand, this may also entice you into seeing the film.) First, I found the founder of the gallery, Albert Barnes, extremely fascinating. He had a classic rags-to-riches story, but he also learned about art at some point. His knowledge was so significant that he was able to collect great works of art (before critics realized the importance of those works; indeed, according to the documentary, the critics denigrated the artists Barnes championed–Matisse, Picasso and bunch of other now widely respected artists. How did this man from a working class background get this kind of insight into art? Unfortunately, the documentary never explores this.

    Anyway, what’s interesting is that the Barnes’ gallery may be one of the greatest galleries in the US, if not the world. In addition, Barnes had a unique way of displaying the art (can’t really describe it), and I wished the documentary shed light on Barnes’ approach and how it worked (if it, indeed, did work).

    Barnes’ approach to displaying the art wasn’t the only unnusual thing about the museum. Barnes emphasized education (there were classes held there) and eschewed any commercialization of the art. He hated art critics and the overseers of the Philadelphia Museum. While he didn’t like critics, the documentary portrayed him as sympathetic to the average person who was interested in art.

    So what didn’t I like? Basically, I felt the documentary was very one-sided. To make the story compelling, the filmmaker paints the people trying to move the Barnes’ gallery as avaricious and unscrupulous villains, while avoiding tougher questions like the way the Barnes’ gallery was managed after his death. Talk of moving the gallery started happening because the gallery was falling a part and the foundation was losing money to run it. The film ignores the reasons this happened. The people wanting the move the gallery certainly were thinking about the potential to make money, but I don’t think moving the gallery would have been an issue if the overseers took care of the gallery and had enough funds.

    Finally, there’s another interesting issue I wished the documentary explored. The Barnes’ gallery was in a remote and, perhaps, inaccessible location. Barnes’ wishes were to keep the gallery were it was. Does the public interest–in this case, access to some of the greatest works of art–trump the wishes of one individual? If someone owned all the art at the Lourve and refused access to the public (in his will, Barnes, allowed for public viewing a few days during the week), would this be permissable? I think it’s an interesting question that the film never really explores.

  136. mitchell

    Is there a greater entertainer in the 20th Century than Michael Jackson? In terms of singing and dancing, I think I’d choose him. (James Brown and Prince come to mind. Who else should?) The guy has one of the greatest voices (certainly in terms of pop music), and he could be the greatest dancer. (JB is up there, too.)

    For singing and dancing, you could be right. But greater entertainers in the 20th Century? I nominate:

    The Beatles
    Johnny Carson
    George Carlin
    U2
    The writers for The Simpsons
    Harry Houdini

    And maybe more but my mind is sorta on fantasy football right now.

    I totally understand your appreciation for Michael Jackson, and I don’t doubt his enormous influence and creativity. But we will probably never know what happened between him and those young boys in his home, and I’m not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. That’s an almost impossible thing for me to get over; it colors and taints almost everything I see of him or hear from him. It doesn’t bother me that he was something of a freak—many creative geniuses are. However, if he did what it looks like he did, I have difficulty getting enthusiastic about him.

    ps: a cool duet of what?

  137. Reid

    The cool duet was of the song, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” (You can probably watch it on youtube.)

    Re: Greatest Entertainer

    As I mentioned, I was referring to singers and dancers. If we’re talking about an enterainer in a broader sense, Jackson is not the clear cut number one. (Carlin wouldn’t be the first comedian that comes to mind.)

  138. mitchell

    Yay. A free Saturday and the ‘Bows are done before lunch time. Catching up on some films.

    Despicable Me
    Steve Carell

    It’s cute and harmless and somewhat entertaining. Carell is the second-evilest villain in the world. His plot to supplant the new first-evilest involves stealing the moon, which he hopes to accomplish by exploiting three orphaned sisters. The girls are smart, sweet, and likable, but the film indulges the temptation to get too cutesy. The film is also populated by small Nuprin-looking minions who are also cute and funny. It’s just a bit too much cuteness for my tastes, and I hate the way the villain’s behavior changes as his heart warms up. This could have been a much more effective (and cooler) film if the villain’s basic temperament and behavior don’t change but he learns to express his affection for these girls within that framework, kind of the way Oscar the Grouch maintains his grouchiness but still manages to be lovable.

    Anyway, I certainly could have gone without seeing this. 5/10; 55/100

    —–

    Toy Story 3
    Tom Hanks, Tim Allen

    I didn’t enjoy the second film NEARLY as much as the first. I consider the first a real landmark AND a great movie. The second just felt like more of the same, and more didn’t mean better, especially with the introduction of Jessie, the cowgirl. This third picture was even more of the same, and although I found the newest characters (particularly Ken and Barbie) likable, none of this made the film lovable. I have to admit I was moved by the last sequence, but it’s that kind of heart and realism that is lacking in the rest of the film.

    (minor spoilers)
    Reid’s position that Andy and I are the exception is actually a case in favor of the movie. Andy’s attachment to his childhood toys (and keep in mind it’s not ALL of his toys; it’s these specific toys) is what makes him a good owner, which goes to Reid’s other criticism, which I’ll get to in a second, and it’s what makes the final scene so effective. It becomes immediately clear that Andy isn’t passing his toys to just anyone, but to someone who will cherish them the same way he did, someone who knows how to play with them. When you watch the way Andy and the little girl have played with the toys throughout the series, you understand that it’s not about the toys themselves, but the way they unlocked his imagination and provided countless hours of creative growth. I didn’t play with all of my toys this way, but I did play with my stuffed animals and Hot Wheels this way, so I do know what the boy is going through. I don’t think it’s fair to say this “rings false” just because most people don’t experience it. The film provides enough evidence that these aren’t just any toys and this isn’t just any boy.

    The other criticism of Reid’s that I have to disagree with is whether or not the toys should want to go back to Andy, rather than to stay at Sunnyside and make it a better place. Woody is in the minority among his peers, but he insists that the reason they go back is because they BELONG to Andy, and until Andy willingly gives them up (which he obviously isn’t planning to do), the rights of ownership trump everything else. When I was a kid, my mom used to make my sister and I go through our stuff and find stuff to give away to the Salvation Army every year, in anticipation of the Christmas. We had to find things (including books) we no longer wanted or needed and donate them because we were likely to get new stuff. It’s a good thing to do and I’m glad we did it, but if my mom had just done it herself, assuming she knew which toys and books we wanted and which we were ready to give up, it would have been heartbreaking. Yes, someone else might have gotten more out of my little stuffed bear or my copy of The Wednesday Witch, but I still cherished those and it should have been my decision to part (or not part) with them. I still have my copy of The Wednesday Witch and I don’t plan on giving it up. I won’t even lend it to anyone unless I completely trust him or her to give it back in reasonable condition.

    That ownership means something, and that’s why Woody is so insistent. I realize it’s not a black/white issue; that’s why the toys themselves are kind of split on the whole thing, but Woody’s position is valid.

    Having said all that, there is a sort of contrived sentimentality about the whole movie, and I think it’s this: the filmmakers aren’t building a movie that moves toward the very effective, sentimental end of this story; they are building a movie that moves toward the less effective, syrupy sentimental end of the franchise. It’s not the end of Andy’s relationship with the toys that the film is trying to sentimentalize, but the end of a series of films. That’s weak, and that’s why I can’t give this better than 5/10 (55/100)

    —–

    Ramona and Beezus
    Joey King and Selena Gomez

    People who know me well know that I cite Beverly Cleary as the author who turned me into a voracious reader, back in third grade. I’d already been reading (a lot!) before I first picked up Ribsey, but it wasn’t until then that reading became an obsession of mine, the kind of thing I’d neglect anything else for. I’ve learned in recent years that I’m not the only one (did you know there’s a Beverly Cleary tribute with sculptures of her beloved characters in a public park in Portland?), so a film like this was going to have to be entertaining for kids today and still remain true to Cleary’s original work.

    It pretty much does, ‘though I thought Beezus and her best friend Henry Huggins were just a bit too fond of each other. Selena Gomez as Beezus is just fantastic here, a young actress I’d never heard of but who really plays the part well without mugging or coming across as cooler than everyone else in the film. Joey King as Ramona does the job, reminding me a little bit of a less-likable Mara Wilson. Plot elements are taken from several of the Ramona books, most notably from Ramona and her Father, which I consider to be the best in the series. It gets a little preachy at times, and I think John Corbett as Mr. Quimby is just way too good-looking, but that’s a minor thing. It’s light, fun, entertaining fare and I give it a happy 6/10 (66/100)

    —–

    Dinner for Schmucks
    Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis

    A pretty funny movie in which Rudd invites Carell to a dinner where there’s a contest to see who can bring the biggest idiot as a guest. The movie succeeds but doesn’t shoot high enough; although it convinces you that Rudd’s character is convicted by the error of his ways, it doesn’t do enough to convict the audience for laughing. That one extra layer really could have made this a very good film. Rudd is a great straight man, I have to say. He’s very nearly invisible in a really good way.

    6/10 (62/100)

    —–

    The Other Guys
    Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Dwayne Johnson, Samuel L. Jackson

    This is pretty funny but the joke gets tired midway through the film. All I wanted was for the story to hurry up and finish playing itself out so I could go home, because it became clear that it wasn’t going to come up with a new way to make me laugh.

    4/10 (45/100)

    —–

    Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
    Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Anna Kendrick

    Best movie of the year so far. It’s fun, funny, clever, smart, and creative. There are things in this movie I can honestly say I’ve never seen, and it’s a pleasant surprise. Cera is his usual brilliant self (‘though Tony says he’s better here than he’s been since Arrested Development) but what makes this movie is the little unexpected stuff, like abrupt changes of pace and visual effects that pop up when you don’t normally see them.

    Cera plays Pilgrim, who wants to date Winstead but must first defeat her seven evil exes. Like those video games where you progress through a series of increasingly difficult villains, the movie takes us through these exes with fast action, cool graphics, and a really good soundtrack. If I were sixteen, I believe I would see this every weekend until it left theaters. This might have been my Breakfast Club.

    A strong 8/10 (88/100).

    —–

    The Switch
    Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston

    It’s all right. I love Bateman, as does just about everyone else, and I like Aniston, but the film this most reminds me of is About a Boy, which is a far superior film. Aniston decides to be artificially inseminated. Bateman, her best friend, accidentally does something that results in his semen replacing the chosen father’s. Seven years later, Bateman and Anison, still unmarried and still best friends, are forced to deal with the reality of this switch.

    The setup is extremely distasteful, if you ask me, and although I like Bateman very much, something about the film feels flat and shallow. One nice surprise is Jeff Goldblum as Bateman’s friend, a kind of advice-giver who seems likable and kind of weird at the same time. It’s the best I’ve seen Goldblum in quite a while.

    Not a bad movie, but not a good one, and I have a feeling it will quickly be forgotten. People will be at parties talking about their favorite Bateman films and someone will say, “What was that one where he…?” and it will take several moments and possibly a quick look at iMDB to remember the title.

    6/10 (66/100)

    —–

    Get Low
    Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray

    The performances are all terrific. The story is interesting, but it’s not THAT good. Played by lesser actors, the characters would feel like characters you’ve seen a million times before. As it is, you still feel that way but you realize that these actors do it much, much better. I would love to see these same actors playing the same characters in a much better, more creative film. Murray could possibly get a supporting actor nomination here; he’s really good in this, ‘though I’m rather certain Reid would disagree.

    The visuals are pretty good; it looks like the cinematographer borrowed from the same pallet as (or at least watched several times) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Lots of dull blues and greys mixed in with brilliant whites and pale yellows.

    Duvall is Duvall, and that’s always good enough a reason to see a film.

    7/10 (71/100)

    —–

    Lottery Ticket
    Bow Wow, Ice Cube

    I planned to see the new Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, but after a long day at work I just wasn’t in the mood, so I called an audible and saw this instead. It’s pretty funny. I think my tenth-grade students would really, really like it. It gets too preachy, but there are two very attractive actresses (Naturi Naughton as Bow Wow’s best friend Stacie and Teairra Mari as his fantasy girl) and that kind of makes up for it. Seriously, they are both very pretty.

    I am not fond of what Ice Cube does here; his characters is well-imagined but mostly he plays the eccentric old man who speaks truth nobody listens to. Cube is capable of very, very good acting, but this isn’t really it.

    Bow Wow pulls a winning lottery ticket worth more than two hundred million dollars, but people find out about it and everyone wants a piece of him. Since it’s July 4th weekend, he can’t redeem the ticket until the end of a looooong weekend during which many opportunities for bad luck and bad decision-making come knocking. Some of it’s dumb; most of it’s entertaining; all of it is harmless.

    6/10 (65/100)

    —–

    Inception
    Ellen Page, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard

    It’s good. It’s not great. It’s engaging. It’s entertaining. It’s loud. It’s either a complete downer or nice and uplifiting, depending on how you interpret the final scene. I lean toward uplifting. You’ve already seen it and you’ve already read the criticism. I’ll just say that it gave me something to think about at least long enough to make me want to see it again the following week, and then I never really thought about it again after that. Rewatchable, but not rerewatchable.

    8/10 (80/100) and the second-best film I’ve seen this year.

  139. Reid

    Re: Toy Story 3

    Mitchell said,

    I don’t think it’s fair to say this “rings false” just because most people don’t experience it. The film provides enough evidence that these aren’t just any toys and this isn’t just any boy.

    How do you judge whether something rings true or not? Isn’t this based on the way you understand how people behave in real life? If most seventeen year olds don’t have this kind of relationship with their childhood toys, don’t you think it’s fair to say that Andy’s relationship rings false?

    I think the key is that the film has to portray Andy in a way that makes his relationship believable (even if this is not typical seventeen year old behavior). Andy wasn’t convincing for me.

    Woody is in the minority among his peers, but he insists that the reason they go back is because they BELONG to Andy, and until Andy willingly gives them up (which he obviously isn’t planning to do), the rights of ownership trump everything else.

    I didn’t get the sense that Woody’s argument stemmed from some moral position (i.e. leaving Andy was wrong because Andy owned them. Besides, this argument is not as compelling as the toys are sentient beings; don’t they have a right to decide? This is different from your example with your mother making decisions about your toys.). Instead, his argument seemed to stemmed from loyalty and love for Andy–the toys’ purpose was to serve Andy, even if that meant sitting in an attic box forever.

    On the other hand, the film hinted that the toys served a broader purpose–namely, making any child happy, not just this one specific owner. In that case, there would be a more compelling reason to go to the daycare center.

    Utlimately for me, the reason to go back to Andy or Andy’s attachment do his toys didn’t resonate enough for me, and that was a crucial weakness, imo.

    RE: Inception

    My reaction towards Inception comes within the context of Christopher Nolan’s other films (which were still fresh in my mind), and Inception has some of the same characteristics: good concepts, but not enough refinement and focus in the final script. (There are some silly turns in some of his films and poor execution.) Inception is not a bad film, but the sloppiness, lack of focus and lack of fully forming and executing the ideas are frustrating.

  140. Reid

    Winter’s Bone (2010)
    Dir. Debra Granik
    48/100

    The metacritic score of 90 piqued my interest in this, and I’ll go into the reasons I didn’t care for it. I have a hard time determining who would like this. What didn’t work for me could easily work for others. If this is the case, I could see Penny, Mitchell, Grace and Tony really liking this. Chris, Don, Kevin and Marc could like this, but I tend to think they’ll have a similar reaction to me. (Well, they might think it’s OK at best.) Ditto Joel, Jill and Larri.

    **
    This is a low-budget film about a young girl, Ree, raising her two siblings. The film takes place in some montainous part of the US (West Virginia?), and the characters seem to be I would describe as hill-billies. Luckily, the film doesn’t portray them as caricatures. Anyway, the plot involves the potential loss of the family home. You see, Ree’s father, has jumped bail, and if he doesn’t show up in court, the family will lose the house the father used for bail. Ree has to go find her father, which leads to some dangerous situations.

    ***
    The film depends on the casting and acting, and, for me, both don’t work. (The dialogue is just serviceable as well). For example, Ree is supposed to be this resilient character. I think her character calls for a mixture of toughness, vulnerability, in addition to win the sympathy of the audience. Certainly, I sympathized with Ree, but the actor didn’t have the screen presence to make me really care and like her. I also thought her acting was pretty limited. Ditto the actor who played Ree’s tough Uncle. He really didn’t have the kind of gravity that I think the character called for.

    My sense is that the director used a lot of amateurs or non-actors in this film, and it shows. In that way, the film reminds me of another small film–Frozen River–minus a strong performance by Melissa Leo. (I didn’t really care for Frozen River).

  141. Mitchell

    Flipped
    Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Anthony Edwards, Aidan Quinn, Rebecca DeMornay, Penelope Ann Miller, John Mahoney. Directed by Rob Reiner.

    When I found out this was a Rob Reiner coming-of-age film, I didn’t need to know anything else in order to want to see it. Stand by Me is almost a standard in the genre, a well-made, almost timeless movie with very good, young talent and a clear memory of what it felt like to be on the verge of teenagerhood, or at least a clear presentation of what we think it felt like. Things may not be factually accurate, but even the inaccuracies are true. It ranks up there with The Sandlot for me.

    Flipped looks a lot like Stand by Me and relies on similar devices, including a lot of voice-over narration and a soundtrack from the late fifties and early sixties. The critics are mixed in their response: Roger Ebert says it’s “a warm entertainment” that “re-creates a life we wish we’d had when we were 14.” Joe Morgenstern says, “Minutes seem like hours as the narrative dawdles and stalls.” Nathan Rabin (The Onion A.V. Club) says it “contains a number of elements that would be problematically sentimental individually, but prove disastrous when combined” and that Reiner “slathers on multiple coats of sentimentality, just in case a solitary moment of restraint or understatement somehow slipped through.” Michael Phillips says it “lands somewhere between synthetic nostalgia and the texture of real life” and feels “like a good try, as opposed to a good film.”

    Because I like Flipped, I enjoyed reading the negative reviews more than the positive; I know what I like about it and am sure that’s what positive reviews like about it too. Do the negative reviews have a point?

    Yes. But what the detractors dislike about the film are some of the things I like, including the HEAVY voice-over narration by the film’s two stars. This is the most narrated movie I’ve ever seen, and where I think that kind of thing is often a crutch for writers and directors who don’t know how to tell their story through dialogue, setting, action, and good characters (not to mention good acting), in this case it is a device that tries to remain true to the spirit of its source material (a young-adult novel I have not read by Wendelin Van Draanen). As it does in The Sandlot and Stand by Me, I think it reminds us that what we remember is more important than what actually happened.

    The soundtrack is a bit heavy-handed at times. There are times when I thought to myself, “Okay…that’s enough soundtrack!” and the soundtrack then fades down as if the director is reading my mind. Unfortunately, there are times when I thought that and the soundtrack continues, as cheaply manipulative as far too many movies.

    But the acting is solid, especially by Madeline Carroll, who plays Juli Baker. She reminds me of a less-witty Alexis Bledel (from Gilmore Girls), which is a good thing here. The older actors (who play parents and a grandparent) lend enormous believability to sometimes lazily-thought-out characters (especially Anthony Edwards, who for most of the film seems like a caricature, and Aidan Quinn, who for most of the film seems like a television dad from the nineties).

    My biggest problem (besides the soundtrack) is that I think it’s too easy to set this film in the early sixties, pre-Vietnam. The music and art direction remind us too easily of a million films we’ve already seen (including one of Reiner’s own) that attempt to walk very similar ground. The novel is set in the current day, and while that might not work for Reiner’s intended audience, why not set it in the seventies or eighties, ground which in sentimental nostalgia seems far less trodden? It’s true that a lot of the music from those decades has been done to death, but there’s a lot of unmined material from both decades that could work just as well. Do we really need another movie soundtrack with “He’s So Fine” and “Teenager in Love?”

    Finally, there’s one thing this film is missing and I haven’t decided whether I like it more because of it or if I’m disappointed because of it. I’m planning to see it again, so I’ll stay away from the spoiler for now and revisit this review later, perhaps in a week’s time.

    I feel rather confident that Reid will find more to dislike than to like; he won’t give it better than 57 and might go as low as 40. Everyone else will likely find it worth the time. I kind of think Tony will love it.

    An early 8/10 or 85/100, but I’m going to see it again and re-evaluate.

    Edit: I just found out that Madeline Carroll is the little girl who plays Kevin Costner’s daughter in Swing Vote. Aha.

  142. mitchell

    Reid: I think it’s interesting that high Metacritic scores still make you interested in a film. After the Pan’s Labyrinth episode (plus the over-enthusiastic early scores for recent films at iMDB, such as for Inception) it seems I really trust neither the critics en masse nor the people en masse. Although I guess a Metacritic score is a lot more meaningful than what interests ME in a film. Which is who knows what?

  143. Reid

    Generally a score in the high 80s or more is usually pretty good. (Pan’s Labyrinth wasn’t bad, but I usually like a film more with the score it got.) In the case of Winter’s Bone, some comments from critics, as well as little details about the plot, piqued my interest.

    Ultimately, I’m with you: I don’t trust the critics or large groups of people. It’s kind of depressing. If there were a way to find a handful of people that knew my tastes and saw a lot of films, I think that would be the most reliable way to get recommendations.

  144. Don

    You guys watch so many films (well compared to me) that does it matter that you only watch movies that you will love? I can see if you only could watch 10-20 movies a year, then you would only want to see the best ones.

    For me, I enjoy 90% of the movies I watch. I don’t love them all, but I’m entertained by almost all. I take it that’s not the same for you guys. Which means when you see a movie that you rated 48, you wished you never wasted your time. That’s the feeling I get from reading your posts, that “It’s kind of depressing.” that you have to watch these “crappy” movies.

    Just wondering…

    PS – I loved Pan’s Labyrinth. 🙂

  145. mitchell

    I dislike Pan’s Labyrinth the more I think about it. Highly overrated film.

    Since films in the 40 to 60 range mean sorta average, I still enjoy the experience of seeing them (‘though 40 means just BARELY), because I like going to the movies. A 50 doesn’t mean I’d rather not have seen it on most days because even a middling movie is a good experience for me most of the time. It’s only when the films creep below that, like below 40, that I consider it a bad experience.

  146. Reid

    Don,

    I would have predicted that you would have thought Pan’s Labyrinth was just OK, so what made you like it so much?

    It’s getting harder and harder for me to find films that satisfy me. Generally speaking, I’d rather not see films below a 60. The feeling of dissatisfaction is so…dissatisfying that words like “depressed” seem appropriate. When a see a bunch of films like this in a row I almost wonder if I’m starting to lose interest in films itself.

    What’s depressing is that most of the films I do see are actually films that I have an interest in seeing. What I mean is that there are a ton of films that I filter out. (If I had to see a lot of those…whoo boy, that would be rough.)

  147. Reid

    Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
    Dir. Howard Hawks
    Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell, etc.
    68/100

    I think most idiots would like this a little, although I wouldn’t think to recommend this to Joel, Don, Marc and Jill.

    **
    Geoff Carter (Grant) is a daring pilot that runs an air delivery service in South America. Enter Bonnie Lee (Arthur), a chorus girl that gets off her boat and hangs around Geoff and his guys. The film is a mixture of comedy, romance and suspense. The suspense involves treacherous situations with the pilots, and they’re surprisingly effective. (Well, probably not equivalent to really good suspense/action sequences now, but better than I would have thought.) There’s also a sub-plot involving Bat MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) and Judy (Hayworth), his wife, that, to me, is just OK. One other thing for Mitchell: except for one scene, there is no musical score in the film–which to me works fairly well in the suspense scenes, but doesn’t work so well in the scenes involving dialogue. The lack of music in the suspense scenes adds a bit of realism that heightens the suspense (in a similar way that occurred in Batman Returns). I’m not sure why I missed it dominated by dialogue.

    The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
    Dir. Vincente Minnelli
    Starring: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, Gloria Graham, Barry Sullivan, etc.
    71/100

    Like Only Angels Have Wings, I think most idiots would think at least think this is OK. The idiots who would have the most chance of liking this: Mitchell, Penny and Grace.

    **
    This has to be one of the best films about the main people–i.e. producer, director, actor, writer–involved in Hollywood filmmaking. Douglas plays Jonathan Shields, an ambitious, anything-for-the movie, type of producer. (Douglas creates a very compelling and some ways admirable heel.) We learn about him through a series of flashbacks (a la Citizen Kane)–first with a director (Sullivan), actor (Turner) and a writer (Powell). I liked the structure, and I liked Douglas.

    ***
    In a way, the last story involving the writer seemed a bit rushed and the ending didn’t feel so real.

  148. Reid

    Last night, I wanted to test a dvd player I recently installed, so I popped the original Karate Kid in my dvd player. Within a few minutes, the movie sucked me in. When I think about the film, I think about Pat Morita’s performance and the great chemistry he and Ralph Macchio, but this time, for some reason, it was Macchio’s performance that drew me in. After watching most of the film again, I feel like saying Macchio’s performance is underrated and even Macchio as an actor is underrated. I don’t know what it is about him as an actor–there’s a kind of vulnerability that’s appealing. In a way, when you look at Macchio in this, he’s not a believable teenager; on the other hand, he effectively and appropriately conveys the emotions of this character. This doesn’t really get to what makes Macchio appealing, but, for some reason, I do find him appealing. (He also had some of this in Crossroads.)

    The other thing I noticed was the musical score and the use of (pop) music. I think it’s really effective (even little scenes like the opening cross country drive), and the film would not have been nearly as good without it.

    The direction and casting also stand out again. There’s a lot of little things the John Avildsen gets right, and it really adds to the film.

    Btw, after I watched some of the climactic scenes from the subsequent Karate Kid films (the ending of 2 and 3), and it was a lot worse than I remember.

  149. Reid

    The Cove (2009)
    Dir.
    71/100

    I think most idiots are going to like this. Idiots like Don, Joel and Larri may not normally be interested in a film like this, but I think they would enjoy watching this, and i would mildly recommend it to them. If you’re looking for something entertaining to watch, this would not be a bad choice. I really wasn’t interested in this, but I ended up liking this. (More later.) Btw, this is streaming on Netflix.

    **
    If you have read the New Yorker magazine I’m sure you are familiar with articles that you initially had no interest in, but turn out to be surprisingly fascinating. That’s how I felt about The Cove, which is a documentary about animal activists trying to expose the killing of dolphins in Japan. I think dolphins are really beautiful creatures, but I don’t love them so much that the films’ premise interested me. Yes, I heard that the way the filmmakers try to get the footage is really suspenseful and exciting, but it still didn’t sound very exciting to me.

    As it turns out, the film is pretty exciting. Perhaps, more than that, I liked the different details about the incident as it unfolded.

    Having said that, the film is absolutely one-sided, and it’s a not great documentary in terms of exploring the other side of issue. It raises some interesting questions–e.g. is there a non-human organism that is immoral to kill–to the extent that one can and should prevent others from killing?–but never adequately addresses them. But the film is pretty entertaining and engrossing, and I enjoyed it on that level.

    The Burrowers (2008)
    Starring: Clancy Brown, William Mapother, etc.
    41/100

    I don’t think I can recommend this to anyone, although Mitchell might think it’s OK. There are things Joel would like, but, ultimately, I’d guess he’d be disappointed.

    **
    A man searches for a woman he has been courting and her family after they have been abducted by what appears to be a Native American tribe.

    ***
    There is one good thing about this movie, imo, namely, this general concept of combining a Western with a horror (monster) film. Everything else about the film just didn’t work for me. First, there is some interesting casting. Clancy Brown and William Mapother are two the protagonists, which is interesting because they are more effective villains (The Highlander and Shawshank Redemption for Brown and In the Bedroom for Mapother). I was a bit skeptical about this casting, but the reason reason they don’t have more to do with the uninteresting writing and the lack of chemistry between the two. Not only that, but the director doesn’t use the non-action sequence (travel scenes) to develop the characters or the story in any interesting ways. As a result these scenes–which seem to take up quite a bit of the film–are dull. Ultimately, though, you just don’t really care about the characters or what happens to them.

    The action/suspense sequences aren’t much better. One failing is that the viewer can guess pretty early that some kind of creature(s) have taken the missing people, not a Native American tribe. A bigger problem is that most of the action/suspense sequences aren’t very imaginative or exciting. There are very few cleverly constructed predicaments the protagonists find themselves in and no creative ways for getting out of these situations.

    Another problem is that the monsters look pretty silly or at least not scary in the slightest, a big problem for any monster movie. There’s also some inconsistency in behavior. In the early part of the film, the creatures seem to move upright and quickly. In the end, they crawl sluggishly on the ground.

    To improve this movie, you probably have to start with the basic idea of a family gettting abducted by underground creatures and then re-write the whole picture from there.

  150. mitchell

    Boy, I didn’t see The Burrowers coming. What inspired you to see that one?

    Easy A
    Emma Stone, with Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, and Amanda Bynes

    I’ve been saying for a few years that I’m keeping an eye out for this generation’s version of our teen movie. Here is an excellent candidate, in a way. While it is colored and flavored like a movie of the 2010 generation, it has a very 1980s structure and feel.

    Emma Stone (from Zombieland and Superbad) is Olive, a high-school student with not much of a social life. She’s basically invisible on her campus except to a few close friends. One of these friends, who is shallow enough to be pleased to learn that she’s known for her big boobs, pressures her into making up a silly story about going all the way with some unseen college guy when she really spent the whole weekend alone. Word gets out, and Olive’s reputation changes over night: now she is the school slut, and the school’s Christian clique turns her into something of a cause, interceding for her in prayer circles on the school lawn. Things snowball until she is (mistakenly) known to have slept with a large number of losers, loners, and otherwise alienated.

    Determined not to be a victim of her new reputation, Olive decides to embrace it, in the manner of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter, going so far as to sew a red A on her new, more sexually daring wardrobe.

    It has all the makings of a ridiculous screwball teen sex comedy, but it’s a lot more than that. Stone is a smart, charismatic actress (as I believe her supporting role in Superbad clearly hints), and the script puts her to good use, turning this into a thoughtful, interesting, somewhat provocative film which uses high school not merely as the backdrop for its characters, but as a real (if cliched and somewhat difficult to believe) part of the story itself. The film aims not just to titillate, but also to examine some of the dynamics of reputation and social strata in school.

    It aims a little higher than the typical teen sex romp, and I think it mostly hits its mark. Perhaps it’s asking a bit much to wish it had aimed even higher. I still do, though, and wonder if this could have been truly great, perhaps something in the realm of The Breakfast Club.

    An early 8/10 (87/100), but I think repeated viewings could boost this higher for me.

  151. mitchell

    Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
    Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan; directed by Oliver Stone

    Nope. Not even close. But still entertaining and I don’t regret seeing it. I am almost sure Reid will rate this no higher than a 5, and he’ll be really annoyed by the resolution, which he will find either contradictory or confused. I myself was slightly disappointed, but I enjoyed the characters enough to find it worth my time. I didn’t even fall asleep, and I certainly could have given my Monday night exploits lately.

    I think the cinematography is outstanding in this; it is something I don’t remember about Stone’s films, ‘though I guess maybe I haven’t paid close enough attention to the few Stone films I’ve seen. The soundtrack is kind of nice, too. I recognized several (as in at least five) songs from the David Byrne and Bryan Eno album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (2008), an album I bought in the week of its release but never thought very memorable. Those songs are great in this movie, though, and I’m eager to rediscover the album.

    It’s just not compelling enough a story for such a great and iconic character as Gordon Gekko.

    6/10
    65/100

  152. Mitchell

    Conflict (1945)
    Humphrey Bogart, Sidney Greenstreet, Alexis Smith

    Never heard of this one until it popped up on my TiVo one night. Humphrey Bogart murders his wife in order to be with her sister (Smith), but things go a little weird when he begins to find hints that his wife might not be dead. Greenstreet plays a family friend and confidant. Bogart and Greenstreet did seven movies together; this is the only one in which Bogart plays the bad guy.

    This is a good, engaging film with some pretty good performances. Greenstreet is especially fun to watch, but Bogart does a good job, too. It definitely lacks the kind of timelessness the better-known Bogart films have, but it’s a good way to spend ninety minutes.

    7/10
    75/100

    —–

    Paradise (1982)
    Phoebe Cates, Willie Aames

    Oh my goodness. What a stinker of a picture. There’s only one good reason to see this movie, and even that doesn’t make this worth it. See Fast Times at Ridgemont High for the same good reason PLUS lots of other good reasons, too. This long, slow, drawn-out ordeal with terrible acting has a plot designed just as an excuse to see Phoebe, and there’s not enough of that to justify the time it takes you to sit through it.

    I am not above seeing a movie for titillation’s sake. However, there needs to be enough titillation to counteract all the bad stuff; a little goes a long way, but in this case it doesn’t make up for enough.

    2/10 (one point for each of Phoebe’s titillations)
    21/100

    —–

    Private School (1983)
    Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine

    Better, but only slightly better. Most of the film is a ridiculous, impossible-to-believe sex romp, and it does a decent job of being that. But then it tries to play both sides: it attempts to wrap things up in a meaningful, resonant way, and in that it fails miserably. Taking itself too seriously is this film’s enormous misstep, and it kinda messes everything up that way.

    I wonder what fourteen-year-old me (who wasn’t allowed to see it because of its rating) would have thought of it. Forty-one-year-old me says it’s a

    3/10
    34/100.

    —–

    Zapped! (1982)
    Scott Baio, Willie Aames, Felice Schacter, Heather Thomas

    This is more like it. Baio, a science geek working on a big project, accidentally gives himself telekinesis. As any high-schooler would, he puts his newfound powers to mischievous use, but he is encouraged by his best friend Aames to go beyond mischievous to very nearly criminal. Schacter is the nerdy classmate who finds herself suddenly not as interesting to Baio, who has used his powers to attract more glamorous schoolmates.

    Although it is a silly, meaningless kind of movie, the film does a good job of making Baio a likable character, someone you’d like to see succeed, so that when he ignorantly shuns the girl he really should be with, you actually care. I surely wouldn’t call this The Breakfast Club, but at least it’s no Private School. For a teen exploitation film, you could do a lot worse.

    4/10
    41/100

  153. Kevin

    The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
    Ricardo Darin, Soledad Villamil

    A good foreign crime thriller that has a love story component to it. A retired criminal investigator revisits an unsolved case many years later, and in his recollections he comes to many reflections about his personal life choices, both past and future. The movie takes place as a flashback structure over a 25 yr. span, and as such is able to extend the period of waiting, self-denial, and/or long-suffering over that time that makes it feel a lot more expansive a film.

    Filmed in Argentina, this movie won the ’09 Foreign Movie Oscar; it had many of the parts that some recent foreign winners had to them, but was probably not as good as some of the recent others (i.,e The Lives of Others, etc.) that seemed to tie up many of the same plot components into a more satisfying whole. The ending is redemptive, but, without spoiling it, it felt a little too “easy.” I still, though, did find it one of the more enjoyable and accessible foreign movies of late. Of South American cinema, I also like Lucretia Martel equally, who is also an Argentine, but her work is a little more social and less poetic than Campanella.

    I’m curious to hear what other Idiots think of this movie after having seen it. I tend to think it’s more appealing to women than men, but Kelly noted afterwards that asking American audiences to buy into a 25-year plot arc of lives unresolved seems a little less plausible. It was a little overly sentimental at times. Still, though, I thought it was pretty engaging.

    75/100

  154. Reid

    Hey Kevin,

    I wrote a review of the film in this thread (May 30). I really enjoyed the film, too; it was one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen so far this year. I do think that most of the idiots would enjoy the film, and I also think mainstream audiences could enjoy this (at least the more mature ones that don’t require explosions or crude humor). I definitely preferred this to The Lives of Others.

    (spoilers)

    I loved the way the two lead characters personified the title of the film. For me, the longing and love was all in their eyes, and I enjoyed that aspect of the film. I also enjoyed the sidekick friend and even some of the suspense scenes (liked the way the stadium scene was shot).

    I like Martel’s Holy Girl, but not the one before that so much (The Swamp?). I have A Headless Woman at home, but I haven’t seen it yet.

  155. Kevin

    Hi Reid:

    Sorry to miss your earlier review. I agree in your above that there’s a composition to the different character & plot elements (the goofball sidekick, the plot twists, etc.) that made it pretty engaging.

    The recent stories on Brazil’s stabilized & emerging economy makes me think that we may be in for another wave of South American cinema that may be accessible like The Secret.., but just slightly different enough from American culture that makes US audiences open up a bit. It may be the consolidation of a middle class that makes this class of cinema possible, though it’s arguable that Argentina’s economy has not been kind to the middle class in the last decade. To that end, I really liked The Swamp, since it was a little edgier. I haven’t seen Headless, though.

  156. Reid

    Kevin,

    From what I understand Argentinian cinema is very entertainment based (or at least there is a strain of that type of Hollywood filmmaking). I can’t remember where I heard this from. (I might have heard this from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s son, the director of Mother and Child, which was pretty good, btw.)

    There’s been some buzz about South American filmmakers at the mubi.com site (formerly auteurs.com, which was a discussion board for Criterion films), but my impression was that the films were on the “artier” side.

    As for The Swamp, it seemed like a rather pedestrian critique of social class (specifically the middle class). Of course, I don’t know much about Argentianian politics or society, so…Did you see Martel’s The Holy Girl? I thought that was really interesting. Interesting camera angles and solid acting. I liked the mixture of religious ideas in the film, too. I can see why Almodovar likes Martel.

  157. Reid

    Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
    Dir. Banksy
    71/100

    I’d say Kevin has the best chance of liking this, and I would mildly recommend it to him. Chris might also like this, too, but I don’t think he should rush out to see this. I’m sure Penny, Grace and Mitchell would find this interesting and worth watching, but I don’t know how much they would like it. There are some qualities that Joel and Don just might think is cool, but I don’t think it’s enough for them to like it. Ditto Marc. Larri definitely could pass on this. I have no idea about how Tony would feel.

    **
    Here’s a simple description of the film: this is documentary about a guy–Thierry Guetta– who films street artist. Originally, Guetta’s footage was supposed to be used as a documentary about these street artists, but eventually one of the street artists decides to make the film about Guetta.

    But the film is really about celebrity and the nature of art. Specifically, the film explores the objective value of art and even questions the seriousness of making art. The film pokes fun at everyone involved, including the artists themselves. In a superficial way, the film is like an art version of Spinal Tap, with a heavy dose of cleverness a la Charlie Kaufmann’s Adaptation and has a feeling of blending reality and fiction that feels like Kiarostami.

    ***
    (spoilers)

    The film cleverly examines and pokes fun at people in the art world–in a way that I haven’t seen before–but, in the end, I don’t know if it sheds any insight into the nature of art or the people surrounding it. For example, that fans, critics, and the media end up falling for art hoax is really not surprising, and I don’t think it’s much of an accomplishment because we’re all susceptible to becoming enthusiastic for some artist/art that really isn’t very good. Art is a sophisticated thing and many people have a desire to be considered sophisticated, while fearing the opposite. So going against respected opinions requires a fair amount of courage; it’s much safer to align your opinion with these folks. We’re vulnerable in that way and this is part of the reason think a hoax like this is sort of a cheap thrill.

    On the other hand, the film has an interesting way of questioning the existence of objectivity in art. Are there qualities of good art that are independent of personal opinions of the piece and the factors that shape these opinions? Is the value of art really something ephemeral? I mean, if an untalented and superficial guy like Thierry can become a great artist overnight just because he decided to one day, it suggests that the value of art depends on perceptions–perceptions that can be easily manipulated.

    In the end though, I suspect that while some artists and their work can be superficially elevated in time, the great artists/art will remain. That is to say, I believe great art has certain inherent qualities that are not completely subjective; these qualities tend to reveal themselves over time.

    On a side note. Some wonder if the film is authentic or a hoax. Personally, I don’t think it matters too much, but my own feeling is that it is a hoax. My feeling is that Banksy and perhaps some of the other street artists planned to make Thierry an art sensation. (By the way Thierry behaves in the film, I’d say he was in on the plan.) Again, whether this is true or not really doesn’t matter much. Then again, if the film is a hoax, but people accept it as authentic, then it adds another layer to the joke and makes the film hipper. Oh well.

  158. Reid

    Catfish (2010)
    Dir. Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman
    69/100

    I think Penny would definitely find this interesting, and I expect Mitchell, Grace, Kevin, Chris and Tony would agree. I’m not sure how much these idiots would like it, but I’m think Penny, Mitchell and Tony would find it worth watching. I do think the film will hold the attention of most idiots (it’ll make you curious enough to want to see how the film ends). In the end, I don’t know how many of you would like this.

    If you do plan to see this, I recommend knowing little about it, as some descriptions of the film could take a little away from the film.

    Now playing at Kahala Mall.

    **
    The film starts with Ariel Shulman filming his brother, Yaniv (or Niv). Niv is a photographer and he’s been sent some painting of one of his photographs from Abby, an eigth year old girl in Michigan. This starts a relationship between Niv and Abby. Ariel and his buddy, Henry, decide to make a film of this relationship.

    That’s probably not enough to get you interested in the film, but I’m trying not to say more because it sort of takes a way from the film. I will say that Niv gets close to some of the family members, and he eventually attempts to meet them.

    ***
    (spoilers)

    As I mentioned the film carries the viewer along fairly well–mainly through suspense, which got a little uncomfortable at certain points. Ultimately, the ending disappointed me a little. Is the film primarily about the illusionary nature of the social networks and a cautionary tale about putting too much stock about the relationships we form there? If so, that seems a little too obvious.

    I think the film would have been more satisfying if it revealed more about Niv–particularly what he was going through at the end. Yes, did he really upset that he had been deceived? What was his feelings towards Angela, especially after the incident? (We know he had her as a friend on his facebook page, but what was the nature of the relationship?) Maybe the answers to these questions might not be so interesting, so it may not have made the film any better.

    On a side note, the film has a eery connection to the first episode of Taxi. If you’re not familiar with it, Alex (as well as some of the other cabbies) meets a woman on the phone and really enjoys his conversation with her. When the cabbies meet her in person, they realize she’s a rather overweight and not a very physically attractive person. Angela is a lonely person, and, in the end, Alex offers to his friendship to her. What’s eery is that the woman in the film is named Angela, and she some similar physical features. The circumstances are also strangely familiar. (I did wonder if the filmmakers staged the whole film, but the “acting” of Angela and her family seem real and not a performance.)

  159. Reid

    Social Network (2010)
    Dir. David Fincher
    Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, etc.
    58/100

    I have no idea who would like this. My reaction was lukewarm, and I tend to think most idiots would react the same way, but I just don’t know. I don’t think Don would care for this much. I know for sure Larri wouldn’t like it. Other than that, I can’t really say for sure.

    **
    By now, most of you know what this film is about. The film chronicles the start of Facebook and it focuses on the Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and the people who worked with him to start up the company.

    The current metacritic score is 96, which leaves me scratching my head.

    ***
    The film starts off well with a conversation between Zuckerberg and his girlfriend, Erica (Rooney Mara). What was so promising about this scene was the terrific dialogue, written by Aaron Sorkin–the type of rapid fire overlapping conversation the was so common and entertaining in the West Wing series. (At the end of the scene, I thought about how Sorkin make a movie about any subject and make it entertaining just because he’s so terrific at writing dialogue.)

    It was a promising start, but things went downhill from there. For one thing, the film doesn’t really work in terms of an interesting character study. I felt the film really revealed interesting facets of Zuckerberg (or anyone else for that matter). His character is largely flat for me.

    The movie could have worked in terms of the relationship, especially between Zuckerberg and his best friend, Eduardo (Andrew Garfield). I really didn’t care about these two or really care about their friendship. Again, the relationship flat and superficial. So the characters and relationships weren’t memorable.

    The story also wasn’t very interesting or compelling. There is very little suspense, surprises or drama in this film, imo. The way the concept of the Facebook develops doesn’t seem very interesting.

    The filmmaking in terms of the score, compositions or editing didn’t stand out for me (although I haven’t really analyzed it yet).

    If there’s one thing that was interesting it’s this: the irony of Zuckerberg–a lonely guy, lacking the social skills and grace to obtain social acceptance and female affection in real life creates a revolutionary social network in the virtual world. Zuckerberg doesn’t get what he desperately wants, and in some ways the quality that prevents him from getting that–the ability to great at ideas at the expense of social skills–is precisely what allows him to successfully create facebook.

    The film’s problem for me is that it doesn’t expand and add very much to the description above. Again, the characters aren’t very memorable or compelling and the story is pretty dull.

    One last thing. I’ve heard make comparisons to Citizen Kane, specifically the concept of Rosebud. Yes, that’s there, but the film is more similar to There Will Be Blood (although that has similarities to CK, too). The thing that makes Zuckerberg and Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis’ character) so successful also gets in the way of them getting the thing they want most.

  160. Reid

    I saw a trailer for Clint Eastwood’s upcoming film, Hereafter, which deals with, you guessed it, the hereafter. I just wanted to comment about it before seeing it. My impression of Eastwood is that he’s not a very profound thinker. He’s not an idiot, but he’s not very deep, either. This next film could either corroborate or go against that view.

  161. Marc

    Just out of curiousity and for context, what directors do you consider to be profound/deep thinkers?

  162. Reid

    First off the top of my head: Terrence Malick. The guy is truly an Artist.

    Btw, by “deep/profound,” I’m thinking of people who really a keen understanding of human beings, existence or spiritual matters. I would also say that one determine this either by the films themselves or the filmmakers (when they speak or write).

    Other contenders: Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Stanley Kubrick (at least 2001), Andrei Tarkovsky, John Cassavetes,…

  163. Mitchell

    Secretariat
    Diane Lane, John Malkovich

    One of the earliest religious disappointments in a young girl’s life devolves upon her unanswered prayer for a horse. —Phillis Theroux

    If this quote makes you nod your head, you’ll probably like Secretariat, a horse movie to affirm the feelings of any horse-movie hater. It is a nice, heart-warming film in the classic sports-film mold, appropriate for families and horse-lovers. I have read more than fifteen horse books and I’ll bet I’m the only guy I know who can name the racetracks where the three jewels of the Triple Crown are held (I can also name harness-racing’s equivalents of the Kentucky Derby, both for pacers and trotters), so I think I am the only guy I can think of to whom I might recommend this. Something makes me think Don might like it, though.

    Diane Lane plays a middle-aged mother in Colorado. Her father, the owner of a horse-breeding farm, takes ill and Lane is determined that the farm will continue, even though she knows very little about the breeding, training, and racing of thoroughbreds herself. She hires a retired trainer (John Malkovich) to prepare her one colt for the Kentucky Derby. The success or failure of the farm depends on the success or failure of this horse, and both owner and trainer approach the entire project with a go-for-the-win attitude.

    Lane’s family is still in Colorado, so all this horse-training puts some strain on everyone, especially a teenaged daughter with anti-war sentiments, not to mention the very busy lawyer husband who’s counted on her to keep the household humming for all these years.

    There is one breath-taking moment of complete beauty, when Secretariat runs across the screen from left to right in slow motion. There are other scenes of only regular beauty, too, of the sort you’d expect from a film about thoroughbred racing.

    What happens is a matter of history: not only does Secretariat win the Derby and then the Preakness and then the Belmont, but he does it in a way that stuns the world at a time when horse-racing was perhaps the world’s most popular sport after boxing.

    I doubt anyone could hate this movie. I rather liked it.

    7/10
    72/100

  164. Reid

    The Town (2010)
    Dir. Ben Affleck
    Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, etc.
    69/100

    Penny, Don, Marc, Jill, Joel and Larri would at least enjoy this mildly. Actually, I think other idiots would, too, but those individuals are the ones that probably have the best chance of liking it even more.

    **
    This is a bank heist film with a different twist: the brains of the outfit falls for one of the witnesses of their robberies. He wants to get out of the business, but can’t for a variety of reasons. There are a lot of cliched elements in the film, including the characters or the relationships.

    But sometimes the fact that the film doesn’t offend your inteligence is enough and to me, that’s one the things the film has going for it. The other thing is Ben Affleck. Some people don’t like him very much, but I do. To me, he’s a lead actor with more than adequate chops, but his believable working class vibe, intelligence and a nice-guy quality make for an appealing lead for me. He’s probably one of the biggest reasons the film was decent for me.

  165. Reid

    The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
    Dir. Peter Yates
    Starring: Robert Mitchum, etc.
    58/100

    I’m pretty confident people like Marc, Don, Jill and Larri woudln’t like this. Actually, I don’t think the other idiots will like this enough for them to consider seeing this. (I predict the remaining group of idiots will think this is OK.)

    **
    Eddie Coyle (Mitchum) is a small-time crook. He makes a living by delivering contraband or supplying guns to a bank robbing outfit. The problem is that Eddie faces jail time in a federal prison, and he can’t go back in. So, he meets with an undercover cop to find a way he can avoid doing the time.

    The film employs a more European treatment of the heist film, and the moodis very downbeat–like several other 70s films. Whereas earlier Hollywood films often featured the triumph of the little guy, some 70s films focused on the powerlessness of the little guy. This is one of those films, and if you can’t like a film like this, I don’t recommend it.

    ***
    In a way, I have a hard time rating this film. As entertainment, it’s not very…well, entertaining. But the film might not want to entertain so much as make a larger point. So far, that larger point seems to be the way the guys at the bottom get crushed–whether it’s from the state or big business (represented by higher ups in organized crime). The film’s value and appeal may lie in helping some viewers commiserate–in a misery loves company sort of way.

  166. Reid

    Cutter’s Way (1981)
    Dir. Ivan Passer
    Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, etc.
    57/100

    Larri wouldn’t like this. The chances are slim that Don, Marc, Joel or Jill would like this, too. The rest of the idiots might like some things about it, but, overall, I’d guess they would think it was OK, at best.

    **
    This is an odd film–sort of a mystery/thriller with quirky characters and a mood (sometimes downbeat and other times comical) that you wouldn’t find in a standard Hollywood film; it’s the type of film the Coen Brothers would make.

    Bridges plays Richard Bone, a directionless individual who would probably be considered a slacker. His best friend, Cutter, is an angry (and maybe crazy) crippled war veteran. Bone sees a man dump a body in a garbage can and later sees the man in a parade. Cutter convinces pulls Bone (and the sister of the dead person) into a crazy scheme to blackmail the murderer. Along with the plot is a love triangle between Bone, Cutter and Cutter’s wife.

    ***
    Bridges does a fine job, but I found didn’t care for Hurt’s or Eichhorn’s performance very good. Hurt with his gimpy walk, eye-patch, stump for an arm and constant raving made him look like a bad parody of Bluebeard. At times, I wonder if that’s what the director wanted. Eichhorn is a very attractive physically, but there was something about her performance that seemed hollow, that didn’t ring true. Yes, she’s supposed a character with a broken spirit, but I didn’t buy it for some reason. There are some nice moments of dialogue, but without the acting, it doesn’t really work very well, imo.

  167. Mitchell

    Hereafter
    Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by Clint Eastwood

    Clint Eastwood has directed some of the most affecting movies I’ve ever seen, one of which is probably in my top twenty favorite films of all time. His best work is thoughtful and quiet, presenting characters in difficult situations, characters teetering on moral precipices. One thing I admire about his better work is that he leaves judgment up to the viewer and he seems especially careful not to be overly manipulative. His decisions seem to focus on telling the story, not on telling you how to feel about it, and certainly not on telling you how he feels about it.

    Hereafter is a film about death and dying, but it focuses on the living. Three stories are told in rotating fashion. There is the young man (Damon) who seems to have a talent for communicating with the dead. There is the woman, a French television news anchor, who nearly drowns in a tsunami while on vacation. And there is the young orphan boy. The film jumps from one to the next, giving us little pieces of each.

    It’s an interesting film that takes its time telling us these three stories. Unlike other films where the narrative is split, I didn’t feel as if I were being yanked from one and dropped down into the next; Eastwood does a nice job of moving us between these worlds. I appreciate the way he gives his characters time to think, because he also gives the viewer time to think about what’s happening on screen, but I think a lot of people will grow impatient with the pacing, especially when the first several minutes of the movie are rather frenetic.

    I have to say here that the movie’s full effect was almost surely lost on me; there were at least four families in the theater with me, each with three or four small children who ran up and down the aisles and almost never eased up in their stream of chatter. I understand that grownups sometimes need to see grownup films, so I try not to judge, but this was a wholly inappropriate film for young children. Who takes little children to a movie specifically about dying? You can imagine what those quiet, reflective moments in the movie were like for me considering the people with whom I saw the film.

    This is why I like going to movies by myself. I mean REALLY by myself. Alas; in all these years of movie-going, I have been the only patron in the theater one time.

    So I will probably have to see this again in better circumstances. Rather than concentrating on my own reactions to the stories here, I heard myself telling me to block out the distractions. I don’t think that’s what Eastwood had in mind, considering his sparing use of soundtrack music.

    Damon is quite good here in his second Eastwood film. I suspect many people will consider his acting less than extraordinary, but I can see why Eastwood likes him. He allows himself to be the vehicle through which the story is told and doesn’t act his way into your judgment of the character. I love guys like Samuel L. Jackson, but they practically hold up cue cards telling the audience how to feel while they do their acting. Damon trusts the story and director and lets his character inhabit the story as if he doesn’t know he’s on camera, just the way good acting should be.

    Bryce Dallas Howard is a major surprise here in a non-major role. I think she’s a beautiful woman, but I’ve been sure for ages that kissing her would be like kissing Richie Cunningham, something that doesn’t especially appeal to me. She plays a brunette here, pale and giggly and appealing, and as a potential love interest for the Damon character, she’s a nice contrast to the somber persona he seems to be trying to rise out of. And not once does she make me think of Richie Cunningham.

    In avoiding a thesis statement for this film, Eastwood takes a chance that people will feel gypped in his refusal to take a position about death and the afterlife. I can see that: I mean, why make a film that explores what happens when we die if not to say something meaningful about it? I submit that Eastwood does take a position here, and it is the one that makes the most sense: “I don’t know.”

    The one flaw I can pin on Hereafter is its somewhat disappointing story arc. While I like the way the film ends, I kept thinking there should be something more, something else, some other kind of payoff. It’s not something I felt about Million Dollar Baby or Mystic River, ‘though I know people who did feel that way about those films. I think this means I should probably see it again and hopefully see the end a different way or at least come up with a reason for my sense of deflation.

    Until I do, I give it a 7/10 (75/100).

  168. mitchell

    Morning Glory
    Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton

    I really wasn’t expecting this to be good, because Ann Hornaday, who seems to like everything, didn’t like this at all.

    Here’s what’s bad about this movie. Harrison Ford overacts in a grouchy, curmudgeonly way that seems false. Diane Keaton overacts a little bit, but one gets the feeling that its because the writers didn’t give her enough material for her to work with; she seems to be trying to rise above the material and still accomplish what the director (Roger Michell) is trying get. The story is silly and predictable, as stories like this often are, moving forward exactly the way they should.

    That’s a lot working against it, but the movie has a couple of things to recommend it, a few things that help it to rise above what it had every reason to be. First (and foremost in every review I’ve seen) is Rachel McAdams, a bright, energetic, likable, cute actress who wins you over with her sweetness within the first minute of the first scene. I feel like I know this actress really well, but it turns out I’ve only seen her in Sherlock Holmes, and as I wrote above near the beginning of this thread, I slept through most of that. I kept thinking of Amy Adams while watching McAdams, also a bright, energetic, likable, cute actress who wins you over with sweetness. Interestingly (or not), Roger Ebert also compares her to Amy Adams in his review of this film.

    Then there’s David Wolos-Fontena (I think; I can’t for the life of me track down the info I need), McAdams’s assistant producer for the morning news program they put together. In another film, his would have been a pedestrian role, a been-through-the-ringer older guy who knows better than to take the top spot on the totem pole. I’m not sure what he does here except occupy the character in such a way that he is amazingly believable in a movie full of slightly unbelievable characters. You know by the way he speaks that he’s got stories to tell. He doesn’t tell them, but everything he does is shaped by those experiences, and who bothers to do that anymore except when it contributes to the plot?

    One of my peeves is intrusive or cheap film soundtracks. Here’s a movie that doesn’t try to do anything different with its soundtrack, but it does it just right. There’s even a short music video sequence that I didn’t mind at all, and that’s saying something. The film-makers have a bit of fun with the soundtrack, too, in one scene using “The Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” with a nice comedic effect in a place you wouldn’t expect it. The songs are not the same old songs you hear on every soundtrack, but they do have a familiar feel to them (one is Colin Hay’s “Waiting for My Real Life to Begin,” a song I love) (that’s the singer from Men at Work, by the way). Here’s a pretty good example of a film soundtrack that does what it’s supposed to do and no more.

    And finally this: the camera work. In a film where every scene seems like something you’ve seen a million times before, you keep getting views of these scenes that are interesting and fun to look at. It’s nothing mind-blowing; I doubt film-school students will study this movie in great detail, but it’s the kind of fresh look that breathes energy and creativity into what could easily have been sleep-walked through. There are overhead shots where you don’t expect them; there are wide camera angles that give the characters (who often move about frenetically) space to do their thing; there are speeded-up sequences that make the characters seem to be moving as through through one of those flip-books that makes little cartoons move around in front of you. It was a pleasure just to look at this movie; I imagined the director and cinematographer having a lot of fun thinking about the angles they were going to use for this movie.

    On my way out, I took a look at the movie poster to note the director. I didn’t recognize Roger Michell’s name, but it turns out he directed Notting Hill, another movie I consider to be better than just about everything else in its genre. That little bit of info was very rewarding to learn.

    It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed myself this much at a movie. It’s a good, fun film with a lot of things working against it but too many nice things working for it.

    A nice, strong 7/10 or 75/100.

  169. Reid

    Inside Job (2010)
    Dir. Charles Ferguson
    73/100

    I recommended this to every idiot, with some caveats. The information is important and for the most part I commend the filmmaker for dealing fairly well with a complicated subject. (Well on some ways he does well, in others, not so well. More later.)

    **
    If you’re only going to watch or read one thing about the financial crisis, this is not a bad source to choose–although there are some caveats. This is an ambitious film as it seeks to explain the financial crisis in two hours. As I mentioned the filmmaker does a solid job of explaining some of the technical aspects (at least, as far I know), and this is no easy feat.

    ***
    One of the things that has gotten me a little downhearted recently is my impression of the press’ coverage of government. My sense is that they really don’t have a good understanding of government and this is often coupled with journalistic tendencies that distort the reporting.

    This film made me think of these problems, and part of me wants to make a documentary critiquing this film. Here are some questions and criticisms I have of the film:

    1. Is there a legitimate reason (i.e. not just making financial institutions more profitable) to de-regulate Wall Street? Or said in another way, what would be the cost of keep regulation–specifically would there be a cost to the average citizen? Is there a credible argument to show that no one is to blame? The film presents only the bad side of de-regulation and gives the impression that there is no upside. The film trying to answer this only would strengthen the film (although it might make the film less appealing to the audience).
    2. How difficult would stopping some of the risky financial moves have been? The economy seemed to be doing well (at least in the 90s and early 2000s), and average people were benefiting. How? They were able to obtain houses, nice houses, they normally wouldn’t be able to. Also, from what I understand individuals were able to get cash in the form of loans on their house, which gave them purchasing power. This not only helped the individuals who had more spending power, but it kept the economy going. (But these loans had high interest rates and done under suspicious circumstances.) Regulation or halting some of the dangerous practices might have decreased home ownership and the economy may not have been as vibrant. Of course, that may have forced the country to deal with a deeper problem–namely, the middle class losing purchasing power. The de-regulation of Wall Street lead to a quick, painless fix to these problems. In a way, everyone was winning. Therefore, I think putting a halt to this would have been difficult. But the film doesn’t convey this at all.
    3. I don’t think the previous point would go over well because it basically says that the politicians and the general public were partly to blame (at least if the previous argument is accurate). While I think that is true, I still some of the main points of the film are valid (banks probably shouldn’t be too big to fail; the revolving door between industry and government troubling at the very least; ditto the way academic economists make money from Wall Street, etc.)
    4. Is there any compelling arguments to be made for appointing former Wall Street executives/administrators to government positions? Who would make good alternatives and why?
    5. Was there good reasons to not heed those who warned about the risky behavior and potential financial collapse?

    One criticism I have with documentaries is that they don’t give the “villains” in the film the benefit of the doubt. In this film, for example, I wondered if there was a way to explain the way investment companies could sell stocks of companies to investors, knowing full well they were going to sell them quickly. The obvious answer is that they were deceiving the investor to make money, but I would have liked to have understood why and how this behavior was able to occur; why did it become accepted and normal?

    Despite my criticisms, the one point I agree with is that the potential for this to happen again is still there. Banks are still “too big to fail,” so if they take risky behavior and crash, we’ll be in the same boat as 2008.

  170. Mitchell

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

    There’s really no point in reviewing this. If you’ve seen the past six films, you’ll see this. And if you haven’t, you won’t. Plus, it’s really (and obviously) just half a movie. I really liked it.

    I’m going to see it again, but for now it’s a

    9/10
    93/100

  171. Reid

    Choose Me (1984)
    Dir. Alan Rudolph
    Starring: Keith Carradine, Leslie Ann Warren, Genevieve Bujold, Rae Dawn Chong, etc.
    68/100

    I can say who would think this was OK at best: Larri, Joel, Don, Jill and Marc (probably John, too). Of the remaining idiots, I’d think Mitchell might have the best chance of liking this, although I’d guess he’d think this is just OK. Normally, I’d recommend not reading the rest of the review (especially the third section), but in this case, I’d encourage you to read the next section–as you might become interested in seeing this (and reading on may be the only way for that to happen).

    **
    Before I get into a general plot descripton of the film, let me say a few things. On the surface this is not a hard film to understand or enjoy (if you find it enjoyable). But when you really think about the film, it is hard to pin down–particularly the attitude of the film and what it’s trying to say. I think that may appeal to some (it does to me) because it exists somewhere between a comedy and drama–but not in any over-the-top sort of way. This what makes the film maddening to me. I’m not sure what to make of it. As I mentioned, it’s easy to understand on some level, but I need more time to really understand the characters (who they really are and what drives them) and the film’s point of view on topics like love, sex, relationships and even talk radio. (In the third section, I’ll go into these topics.)

    Mickey (Carradine) gets out of a mental hospital and goes to a bar run by Eve (Warren). There’s instant chemistry between the two. At the same time, Mickey strikes a conversation with Pearl (Chong), a frequent parton at the bar. Later, Nancy enters the story as a roommate of Eve’s. Nancy happens to also be a radio relationship/sex therapist that Eve happens to call on a regular basis (although Eve doesn’t know Nancy is her new roommate).

    The acting–especially by Carradine and Warren–is very good in this, and I enjoyed seeing both on the screen. (There is some nice dialogue as well.)

    ***
    OK, here’s my attempt at explaining the film. (spoilers)

    Nancy is a therapist who can’t experience a real relationship because she spend all of her time and energy talking–or “intellectualizing”–love, sex and relationships. Because of that, she views places more emphasis on the non-physical aspects of a relationship and less importance on the purely carnal aspects.

    Eve is a former prostitute who has no problems falling for men physically. But she fears a more serious long term relationship like marriage because she thinks marriages don’t last. She could be just afraid of a deeper, emotional commitment that goes beyond the physical, too.

    Enter Mickey, who like Eve, has no trouble falling for women. The difference is that the same time he falls for women, he’s ready to marry them.

    In the end, despite her fears and uncertainty, Eve gives into Mickey’s proposal for marriage, and they both run off to Vegas–emphasizing that relationships are a gamble–or better yet, a crapshoot. I’d guess that’s the point of the film: that we really don’t know anything about falling in love or making a relationship work. To some extent, the film might even be advocating an instant kind of attraction–i.e. love at first sight (although, having just written that, I think that’s probably not the case).

    On the other hand, this all sound more serious than the film intends. In some ways, the film feels like a kind farce or satire (the title suggests this as well) about our inept and completely pathetic ways (listening to talk radio “experts” for one thing) we long for love and romance.

    (I’m still not finished processing the film, but I may never finish so that’s about it for now.)

  172. mitchell

    Love and Other Drugs
    Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal

    The film this is most likely to remind you of is Thank You for Smoking. Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical representative in the Ohio River Valley. He’s good at his job because he has no scruples. This is also why he’s good with women, at least from certain juvenile points of view. He meets Hathaway, a young Parkinson’s Disease patient, one day while tailing a doctor, and they are a perfect fit because, as she puts it, all he wants is a moment of pleasure in order to deal with all his inadequacies, and she wants the same thing.

    There’s been a lot of talk about this movie because Hathaway does several nude scenes, and I for one am not complaining, but she predictably does more than just take off her clothes. I wouldn’t say she’s great in this, but she’s just about right: smart, sexy, independent, needy, compassionate, and defensive. Gyllenhaals’ better than I expected. He carries a smug, smarmy look through most of the film (another reason you will be reminded of Thank You for Smoking but that look is gradually worn away and it fades into a couple of other looks. I wouldn’t say he’s great either, but he’s a bit better than you might expect in a movie like this.

    I’ve seen so many romantic comedies lately that it seems weird to see a romance without the comedy. And I liked it. In a lot of ways, this reminds me a lot of the Bogart-era romances with its interesting plot and interesting characters. However, it somehow falls just shy of very good. Worth checking out.

    7/10
    75/100

  173. Mitchell

    “Here is everything a great movie should be: adventure, romance, mystery, intrigue, and genuine emotional drama. It’s Casablanca.” — Ben Mankiewicz on Turner Classic Movies

    I really like the little intros Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz give on TCM. Here’s one of my favorite things I’ve heard someone say about my favorite film.

  174. Reid

    Unstoppable (2010)
    Dir. Tony Scott
    69/100

    I recommend this to Joel, Don, Marc, Gregg, and Penny. They might not think the movie is great, but they will think it’s a solid entertainment (as long they don’t go in with really high expectations). I think almost every other idiot would like this, at least mildy. Larri really liked this, giving it an 8.

    **
    The plot essentially very simple: train carrying highly toxic chemicals and a lot of fuel has become a runaway train that must be stopped. The film involves a conductor (Chris Pine) and the engineer (driver; Denzel Washington) who are on another train that is headed towards the runaway. Rosario Dawson is at the command center trying to find ways to stop the train.

    What’s interesting is that the characters and their backstory are really bland and don’t contribute to the story in any meaningful way–but the film still manages to be very effective. There are two reasons for this: 1) The little plot developments that occur throughout the film that keeps the audiences’ attention and builds suspsense; 2) Scott’s kinetic filmmaking style. The camera is almost always moving, zooming around objects or people and the editing is often quite quick. This works well because, while the train is moving, it’s almost like a stationary object in the film, so the kinetic style adds some energy and interest for filmmgoers.

    Apocalypto (2006)
    Dir. Mel Gibson
    77/100

    I’d recommend this to Joel and Marc. Next, I’d recommend this to Penny, Don and maybe Larri. I’m really not sure about the other idiots. I think there are elements in the film that Mitchell and Grace would not like. I could see Chris and Kevin liking this, but I’m not sure. I’m not sure about Tony, too.

    **
    Think of an old Cecil B. DeMille blockbuster–lots of extras in costume, huge set pieces, lots of action and thrills–but with a modern R rating, and you get the idea of what this film is like. Gibson tries to recreate a Mayan civilization and does a good job of it (no, or very little, use of cgi). Before I go into the plot, I think it’s better to know as little as possible about the film. I will say that there is some savage violence in the film.

    The plot involves a Mayan group raiding and capturing the inhabitants of a little village for slave trade and human sacrifice–primarily the warriors of the village. One of the warriors escapes and a chase ensues.

    If some of you have seen the movie, *The Fast Runner*, think if that movie were made in Hollywood (but not really cheesy) and you get an idea of what the film is like.

    ***
    This film surprised me. For one thing, it really kept my attention from start to finish. It didn’t really offend my sensibilities or intelligence and worked very well as an action-adventure film. The main character gets into some tough situations and gets out of them in pretty satisfying ways.

    The set pieces and costumes also impressed me, especially since Gibson didn’t really use any cgi. Learning about the number of costumes and props made, plus the number of make-up artists and extras used really impressed me even more. It’s a pretty good looking film and the action sequences are well done. It’s a very good action-adventure film.

  175. mitchell

    Tangled
    Mandy Moore and a few others I don’t recognize the names of.

    If you love the classic Disney animated musicals, you’ll love this. It easily holds its own against The Little Mermaid and is a step better than Mulan and Tarzan. This adaptation of the Rapunzel story has good songs, terrific animation, and a really, really good lead performance by Mandy Moore, who surprised the heck out of me. I wouldn’t put it up there with Beauty and the Beast or Pinocchio, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if others would.

    7/10
    77/100

  176. Reid

    As good as Little Mermaid, huh? Wow. I liked the latter quite a bit as well as Mulan. I just might have to make the effort to check this out.

  177. Reid

    Into the Night (1985)
    Dir. John Landis
    Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfieffer, etc.
    55/100

    I suspect this is Mitchell’s type of movie, so I mildly recommend it to him. Fans of John Landis might want to see this. I’d guess that most people would think this is OK, but something they could pass on.

    **
    Ed (Goldblbum) can’t sleep, so he drives to an airport to see if he can fall asleep there. (based on a suggestion from a friend). At the airport, he runs into Stacey–or rather she runs into him as some Iranians try to shoot her down. Stacey jumps into the car and Ed speeds away and thus begins the chase. I liked the start of the film, but the film gets sort of bogged down. I like Goldblum but he seems bored in this. At the same time, he and Pfieffer really don’t have great chemistry, too.

  178. Mitchell

    The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader
    Directed by Michael Apted

    I missed Prince Caspian ’cause it just wasn’t in theaters long enough for me to catch it. But now that I’ve re-read my review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and really enjoyed The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I need to see it.

    Because most of my criticisms of the first film are also true of this film (‘though Edmund is a lot better in this one, and Lucy’s good right off the bat). However, since I’ve only read the first half of the book about four times and never finished it, parts of the story were unexpected.

    There are scenes here that look alarmingly cheaply made, like too many actors are crammed on too small a soundstage for what’s supposed to be an exterior shot. Still, the story here is strong, and that overcomes most of the shortcomings in production value.

    There is one scene I found extraordinarily affective: where Reepicheep takes a moment to do something very kind for Eustace; it had me crying like a little girl. It could have been overdone or, or something, but instead it is quiet and genuine and sincere, and we’re talking about a mouse and an obnoxious boy here. Yet enough has been put into place for this scene to feel real and heartfelt. This comes about midway through the film and it totally sells me on the rest.

    I should say that I saw this in 3D because of the bad showtimes for the 2D version. Everything I’ve ever said about 3D holds true, still. The dimming effect of the glasses is a major downer. White is too important a color in movies to be removed entirely from the visuals, and that’s what happens with these glasses. Additionally, for someone who has worn and hated glasses since he was ten, the addition of an extra pair is cumbersome, annoying, and (I admit it) kind of embarrassing. There has to be a better way. After about a third of the way through the film, I abandoned the glasses entirely and enjoyed a nice, bright screen without the hassle of a pair of glasses worn over a pair of glasses. And I paid extra for the privilege, of course.

    I am THROUGH with 3D.

    Still, I give it an 8/10 and a 78/100

  179. Reid

    Uncle Boonmee Recalls His Past Lives (2010)
    Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
    70/100

    I definitely would not recommend this to Don, Larri, Marc, Joel, Jill and probably John. I’m not sure about the rest. I’d say Kevin might have the best chance of liking this of the remaining idiots. If you’ve seen and liked other Weerasethakul films then I would recommend seeing this.

    **
    This won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and listed at the first and second spots in Cahiers du Cinema and Sight and Sound, respectively. This is a meditative art film that focuses on issues of death, maybe even different types of death and the way we deal with them. The plot involves a sick uncle who seems to be near death because of kidney trouble. He is visited by the spirit of his dead wife, and lost (dead?) son. His sister-in-law and nephew visit him before he dies. Like some of his other films, Weerasethakul interjects a kind of oral folktale vignette in the middle of the story. This definitely might be difficult to take for those used to mainstream filmmaking.

    ***
    As I mentioned the film seems to be about death and different types of death. There is the death of the Uncle and the cave scene seems to symbolize the passage from death to rebirth. There’s also what might be the death from a female’s perspective (although I don’t know if that feels right) in the tale about the princess and the catfish vignette. Finally, there’s a death people experience from technology–namely, television–which we seem symbolized in the last scene.

    However, I’m not sure if this interpretation adequately explains many other scenes in the film. For example, in the opening sequence we see a water buffalo that wanders off into the forest and then is brought back. Presumably, the buffalo is Uncle Boonmee (I assume this because the narrator mentions that Uncle Boonmee could look back on his past lives and that he was doing so.

    I also don’t understand the scene with Tong (the nephew) talking about a dream about going into the future–while still photos are shown of a monkey spirit with military personnel.

    There does seem to be something to the film, however, even if I can’t make complete sense of it. Like other films, I love the use of natural light in this film as well.

  180. Reid

    High Art (1998)
    Dir. Lisa Cholodenko
    Starring: Radha Mitchell, Ally Sheedy, etc.
    63/100

    I wouldn’t recommend this to Don, Marc, Joel and Larri. I really wouldn’t recommend this highly to the remaining idiots, either, although I think Penny, Grace and Kevin might have the best chance of finding things they like about the film.

    **
    Syd (Mitchell) works for a photography magazine, and she’s been recently promoted as an assistant editor. She’s ambitious and one day meets her neighbor, who also happens to be a well-known photographer, Lucy (Sheedy) who has been out of the scene for a long time. Syd wants to publish Lucy’s photos. The film, in my opinion, offers a bitter and cynical portrayal of those in the art publishing industry (and maybe those involved in the business side of art in general).

    ***(spoilers)

    After watching the film, I thought that Syd (Radha Mitchell) was genuinely in love–or at least genuinely cared about–Lucy (Ally Sheedy), but I’m beginning to doubt this the more I think about it. Indeed, I think I understand her character a lot better, and, based on that, I have developed an interpretation of the film.

    Syd is basically a really ambitious person on the business side of art, and she will do anything to advance her career: she will allow her boss to use her as a a gopher; she’ll take heroin; have sex with a woman (even though she’s dating a guy), say she’s in love with the artist and even allow nude photos of herself to be published. If this is a valid reading of her character, I think Radha Mitchell’s performance is very good. Her performance is so subtle that viewers might not come to the same conclusion I have.

    Besides the reasons I mention, I think the last scene in the film supports my interpretation. In this scene, we see Syd glance at a receptionist, who earlier asks Syd what Syd did to get the promotion. (It was asked in way that could be interpreted that Syd did something unsavory to get to her position.) At this point, we know that Lucy has died (probably of a drug overdose) and that Syd has literally slept with the Lucy and allowed nude photos of herself and Lucy to be published–confirming the receptionist’s impression that Syd must have done something unsavory to get promoted. (It is also important to note that Lucy mentions that Syd’s boss was once a receptionist, but was able to become the person in charge of the magazine.)

    Therefore, I believe the film is cynical and bitter critique of the business side of the art world. It says that people in the business world know little or nothing about art (see the portrayal of Syd’s immediate supervisor–e.g., he hasn’t heard of Lucy–when she’s clearly well thought of by others–another photographer and the executive editor acknowledge she is terrific–and they’ll degrade themselves to satisfy their ambitions.

    On the other hand, the film paints artists as pathetic creatures deserving of our sympathy. They’re vulnerable and go through so much suffering that some resort to drugs to deal with the pain they go through. (Lucy has a very difficult relationship with her mother, too.)

    But this “message,” is not very interesting or insightful, imo; hence, the rating not being higher. What is good about the film is Mitchell’s performance (and Cholodenko’s direction of her). Syd’s ambition and venality is not obvious, and I wouldn’t be surprised if viewers don’t see her in a negative light because of this.

  181. mitchell

    How does Ally look?

  182. Reid

    Her look and performance made me think of Dennis Quaid in Far From Heaven–who, I thought, looked like a dried out drunk. Sheedy looks like someone who has gone through a life of heavy drug and alcohol use–the effect being both external and internal. This was appropriate for her character, though. I think you will like Mitchell’s performance and probably Sheedy’s and Patricia Clarkson’s (the latter wasn’t very good, imo).

  183. Reid

    The Fighter (2010)
    Dir. David O Russell
    Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, etc.
    68/100

    I’d recommend this to Don, Joel, Marc, John and Penny. You’ll all probably think this is worth watching, but you probably won’t think it’s great, too. Jill, Larri, Chris, Tony and Kevin would probably like this, too, but maybe less so.

    **
    The comparison to Rocky is inevitable. The Fighter is not as good, at least in terms of an effective drama, but it does provide decent entertainment. for the climactic fight. Those who like sport’s films—boxing in general—will probably enjoy this on some level. Those who don’t like boxing and are hoping for an interesting drama, with well-drawn characters could probably pass on this. The performances—especially Christian Bale (who is way more appealing in this supporting role than his leading ones); Melissa Leo (who I didn’t recognize at first) and Amy Adams—are solid, but the film doesn’t seem interested in fleshing them out. The viewer only gets to know them on a superficial level; ditto the relationships between these characters and the main character. That’s a signficant oversite which weakens the dramatic impact of the film. (I’ll go into that more in the next sectioin

    ***
    (minor spoilers)
    Who is Micky Ward, the boxer featured in the new film, The Fighter, and why does he fight? The film’s ultimate failure at answering this question is probably the biggest problem I had with an otherwise entertaning and compelling—if cliched—underdog story. It is also the main difference between the film and Rocky. Unlike Rocky, The Figther doesn’t seem to be very interested in it’s main character and the reasons for his fighting, and this takes away from the drama of the story, especially the climax. Yet, the film does hint at some of these motivations. For example, Micky’s return to boxing (after getting his hand smashed) seems to stem from the embarassment and pain the documentary on his brother, Dickie caused. But the film doesn’t really build upon this and it’s sort of forgotten after a while.
    Ward’s relationship with Dickie (Christian Bale) also seem to be crucial, but are never fleshed out. In addition, the Ward’s relationship with his mother (Melissa Leo) could have provided an interesting backstory to Micky’s fighting. There’s a scene where Micky suggests that his mother’s interest in his fighting seems to be primarily based on her interest redeeming Dicky, i.e. her interest in Micky solely depends on her love for Dickie. But then the film doesn’t really develop or expand on this in a way that it ties into Ward’s character and his fighting. Finally, Ward’s relationship with his girlfriend (Amy Adams) does little to contribute to our undersanding of his character.

    These things constrast sharply with Rocky, where the film is basically a character study. Rocky spends the first two thirds of the film establishing his character and the reason he fights. The relationship with Adrian also serves as a way the viewer can understand Rocky in a deeper way and how this is relevant to the climatic fight. There is very little of this in The Fighter and the film—unless in terms of its dramatic impact—suffers because of it.

  184. Reid

    True Grit (2010)
    Dir. Coen Brothers
    Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, etc.
    69/100

    I think most idiots would mildly like this film–although it wouldn’t be surprising if some of them liked this a lot more than I did. (Joel and Jill thought it was mildy entertaining and Larri hated it.) I’m certainly not confident telling anyone to rush out and watch this.

    I had pretty high expectations for this, and I was mildly disappointed.

    **
    This is based on the novel by Charles Portis, and it is remake of the film starring John Wayne (who won an Oscar for his performance). The story is simple: a tenacious fourteen year old girl pays a US Deputy Marshall to track down a man that shot and killer her father. A Texas Ranger (Damon) joins up with them on the hunt.

    ***
    After reading the novel, I felt the key to the film was the casting. After seeing the film–which had well-cast actors–I’ve concluded that the story is just not that great. It’s good and entertaining, but limited. Yes, the dialogue is amusing, but it’s not that funny; the action situations are OK, but not exceptional and the characters are not as interesting when you really think about it. Of course, if you come into the film with very low expectations or none at all, you could have the opposite reaction. So, it’s a matter of expectations.

    Besides my high expectations (I enjoyed the novel and relished seeing the actors in these roles), the other reason I think the story is to blame is because the filmmaking seemed fairly good in this. I just don’t know how they really could have improved on the story–without making significant changes. For example, I wondered if they would explore the revenge in a more in-depth and complex way–i.e. that it’s not always satisfying; that the targeted person may not be as bad as one thought, etc.

    One other matter, Jeff Bridges vs. Duke. I think Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn is excellent and on par with Duke’s (at least from what I remember). In some ways, I think he surpasses Duke (great look–both in the comedic moments and the more action ones) and other ways he doesn’t (Duke wins out in the “Fill your hand…” line). Damon is good for the role. I think Steinfeld was fine, not great (although I don’t know who could have been better). Barry Pepper wasn’t the person I imagined for the role and I didn’t think he made a great villain, but that wasn’t a major problem.

  185. Mitchell

    The Fighter
    Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams

    There are films you must see because you love films and to miss them would create huge holes in your filmgoing experience. Then there are films you must see because everybody’s talking about them and you want to be in on the conversations. I wouldn’t put The Fighter in that second category, but it approaches it. There’s been a ton of buzz about the performances, especially Christian Bale’s, and while the film falls a bit short of its hype, it’s got enough going for it that you could do a lot worse.

    It’s tough to fault Bale for any shortcomings this movie has, and it has a few. He inhabits the character of Dicky Ecklund like an animal trying to shed its skin. His performance is the most physically impressive I’ve seen since Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child last year. I admit I have a few reservations about the acting, because while it’s very good, I wonder how much better it is than any other decent actor’s performance as a crackhead, a boxer, or a crackhead boxer.

    Amy Adams is just about as impressive as Micky Ward’s girlfriend Charlene. She’s a pretty woman, but she allows herself to be seen from unflattering angles and doesn’t seem at all self-conscious about it. It’s true that she plays a pretty woman in the film, yet it’s a different kind of pretty from the pretty she plays in Leap Year. Charlene isn’t perky or peppy or sweet. Though she’s still the prettiest girl in the neighborhood, she hasn’t taken the best care of herself and her life’s been pretty sucky. Man, what a likable actress.

    I don’t know if Mark Wahlberg is going to get an Oscar nomination for his Micky Ward, but I wouldn’t have a problem with it. He does a solid job and would probably have been more impressive with a better script. I didn’t see any missteps, and he comes across as likable and conflicted.

    I agree with Reid: the script doesn’t give us enough, and that’s where the film falls short. While it is entertaining, it isn’t the kind of compelling that might have put it up there with great films like Rocky. Still, I can’t think of anyone who’d dislike it. Not yoo, not yoo, and not yoo!

    7/10
    71/100

  186. Mitchell

    True Grit (1969)
    John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, and Robert Duvall

    John Wayne plays Rooster Cogburn, an aging U.S. Marshall hired by a teenaged Kim Darby to track down her father’s murderer. Glen Campbell is a young Texas Ranger already on the murderer’s trail. The three of them chase the murderer, who has taken up with another known criminal played by Robert Duvall.

    The performances are pretty good all around. I was especially impressed by Glen Campbell, who I guess I’ve only really thought of as the guy who sings “Rhinestone Cowboy.” He’s charming in this, with just a touch of lecherousness to add to the film’s dark overtones.

    People talk a lot about Kim Darby’s performance, and I have to say that while I found her irritating in the first half hour (as an actress, not as a character), she won me over later. Wayne is Wayne as always, in this case at perhaps his grizzled, cranky, charming, avuncular best. The Darby character is a girl on the edge of womanhood and she puts herself in situations where lesser men might do bad things, but there is never a threat of impropriety from Wayne, ‘though one gets the feeling that in his younger days, he certainly wouldn’t have been above it.

    Campbell, on the other hand, from the very beginning adds an air of lasciviousness that goes beyond flirtation and into creepiness. I think the director does this on purpose: Campbell admits early in his acquaintance with Darby that he was thinking of stealing a kiss but is now more inclined to hit her in the head. This creates a sexual tension that isn’t relieved until about two thirds of the way through. I don’t know how I feel about this; I think it would have been a stronger movie without this element, but I admit it does give the film an extra layer that lesser films might not attempt. Early in the film, when Campbell takes it upon himself to teach Darby a lesson, Wayne intercedes and says it’s because Campbell is “enjoying it too much,” basically highlighting (and acknowledging, much to my relief) that sexual tension.

    The film is gorgeous to look at. I don’t know if I got some kind of remastered print of it, or if it’s just the fact that I was watching it on the higher-resolution screen of my laptop computer, but it looks a LOT better than most westerns from the same period. There is a brightness I appreciate, with lots of panoramic shots that show off the beauty of the land the characters traverse. I said aloud more than once, “Thank goodness this film’s not in 3D” because the whites are just too gorgeous to sacrifice to those dang dimming 3D glasses.

    I could have done without the soundtrack music most of the time, but I acknowledge that it’s not any worse than most films from the same time.

    It’s a lot better than I expected.

    7/10
    75/100

  187. Mitchell

    True Grit, 2010
    Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon

    It’s got basically the same plot as the 1969 film; in fact, the first twenty minutes look almost exactly the same, but then the plot veers off into a couple of different directions the original never takes.

    I agree with Reid: Bridges’s Cogburn is comparable to Wayne’s. It’s tough to pick one over the other; I like them both quite well. Hailee Steinfeld, whom I have seen interviewed on television, is very impressive as the teenager who hires Cogburn to find her father’s murderer. I’m giving the advantage to Steinfeld, who is smart but still teenagery. Kim Darby’s version of the same characters seems already to know what she knows, while Steinfeld’s seems to figure a lot of it out while it’s going on. I like this better. Matt Damon is tough to compare to Glen Campbell because the characters are quite different. Damon’s not nearly as lecherous as Campbell, and I like this better, ‘though the “teaching a lesson” scene is still there. I like the scene better in this film because Cogburn doesn’t stop him for reasons as sexual as in the first film.

    This one’s grimmer and darker and more depressing. It seems realer. But realer doesn’t make it a better movie. Visually, it is as interesting as the original; I might give this one the advantage there, too. The soundtrack is better; I really like the slow, melancholy interpretation of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” which is much better this way than the way we’ve sung it in church all our lives. Iris Dement puts vocals on it in the closing credits and it’s really good, ‘though not as good as the instrumental version in the film itself.

    Better than, worse than, or about as good as the original? I say slightly better, but only slightly.

    7/10
    76/100

  188. Reid

    Re: True Grit

    (spoilers)

    FWIW, I think the grimier, darker look of the Coen Brothers’ film is more appropriate to the source material. Also, Le Beouf is not lecherous in the book.

    Not having seen the Wayne version in a long time, I’m wondering who you thought did a better job in the horse charging scene. As I recall, Duke was cooler yelling, “Fill your hand you…” than Bridges. I know you probably don’t care about that one way or the other, but I remember loving that scene in the first film.

  189. Reid

    Undisputed (2002)
    Dir. Walter Hill
    Starring: Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, etc.
    43/100

    Joel might like this, but I tend to think not. At best, most of the other idiots will think this is OK, so I wouldn’t recommend this. Btw, I saw this because one of the critics I follow called this one of the best action films of 2000s. Unfortunately, I diagreed with that.

    **
    George “Iceman” Chambers, the reigning heavyweight boxing champ, is sent to prison for rape (sound familiar?). There he meets the prison’s boxing champion, Monroe Hutchen (Snipes), a former heavyweight contender, and you know they’re going to have to face each other in the ring.

    ***
    The film fails for several reasons, mainly having to do with the actors/characters. For one thing, Rhames is this loud-mouth villain in the mold of Clubber Lang, but in this film, it diminishes his toughness. I remember something Michael Caine said. He said people of power don’t move or talk very much. I think that’s an important insight that the filmmakers don’t apply here to the film’s detriment.

    There’s also some silly things that happen with both characters while in prison. For example, Rhames is able to intimidate and push around the prison gangs. Even if Rhames is a tough cookie, I can’t believe he could push around the prison games just by his physical prowess. The few scenes where Iceman and Monroe talk with each other in a confrontational style is also poorly done. The dialogue is weak and the actors don’t seem very formidable at all.

    The King’s Speech (2010
    Dir. Tom Hooper
    Starring: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter, Geoffrey Rusch, etc.
    60/100

    Penny and Mitchell really liked this, which I wouldn’t have predicted. Given their reaction, I’d suspect Grace would have a similar reaction (at worst, she’ll think it’s OK). Chris might like this, too. It’s hard to know what the other idiots would think. Basicaly I’d say most people will think this is OK at worst, and some of you might like it quite a bit more.

    **
    I suspect Mitchell’s going to write a description of the film, so I’ll let him do it.

    ***
    The relationship between King George VI and his speech therapist was the most interesting part of the film and I wished the film had spent more time with their relationship. Also, I would have the film to have revealed more insight into the King the reasons for the impediment. Penny made a valid point that the King may not have divulged this type of information in real life. That may be true, but then perhaps the movie should not have been made, or it should have been altered for dramatic effect.

  190. Reid

    A Serious Man (2009)
    Dir. Coen Brothers
    81/100

    I’d definitely recommend–maybe even highly recommend–this to Chris, Kevin, Tony (can’t remember if Tony saw this) and John. This is not the type of movie Gregg would like, but I’m recommending this to him. I’d also recommend this to Mitchell and Joel; maybe Marc and Jill. (I would have recommended this to Penny, although I know she saw it and gave a lukewarm reaction to it–which surprises me a little. It’s a toss up with Don. He could possibly like it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t. I think Larri would just think this is OK. I liked this a lot, and it is definitely one of my favorite 2009 films.

    **
    People have pointed out that this is a retelling of the Job story and I guess that gives a pretty good description of the film. Larry Gopnik is a physics professor and his world is crumbling around him. He seeks the counsel of rabbis in his desire to make sense of these things.

    The dark humor worked for me and I was surprised by the serious treatment of some of the theological issues in the film.

    ***
    I don’t think I’ve seen a film that has dealt with theological issues that was equally funny and profound. (I’ll try to give some examples later.) Going to this film, a friend of mind commented about the three visits to rabbis being three sections of the film dealing with theological issues. I’m going to interpret these three sections and then give some a general interpretation of the film.

    Each of the rabbi ostensibly addresses the problem of suffering in the world. (Btw, there is definitely parallels to the book of Job. The film is partially divided into three encounters with three different rabbis. Job also has three dialogue sections. Unfortunately, I’m not familar enough with those sections to notice any substantive connection.) If God exists and He is omnipotent and loving, why do bad things happen to people? What is God telling us in these misfortunes…what is He saying to us, period? The first rabbi seems to represent the approach that if you alter your perception on a problem–e.g. have a more positive outlook, or just see things with a “fresh set of eyes,” problems will someone make sense or at least you’ll be better able to deal with the problems. This is a pat answer dismisses the difficulty of the problem and really doesn’t provide any useful approach to dealing with the issue.

    With the second rabbi, the film seeks to address the specific problem understanding events in terms of the way God is speaking to us. Basically, the rabbi doesn’t offer any answers, but his approach, sort of dismisses the needs to understand the mysterious aspects by suggesting that need to find answers is only a passing fancy, one that will soon disappear.

    The third rabbi represents God imo. Let’s go over the entire scene. It begins with Danny walking into Marshak’s office, which is preceded by a long room filled with different knickknacks–among them a set of teeth, which, to me, alludes to the message on the Goy’s teeth, which in turn suggests the idea that Marshak represents God; a picture of insects (locusts, perhaps?) and a famous painting of Abraham sacrificing Isaac.

    When Danny sit down in front of Marshak, this is what Marshak says,”

    ”When the truth is found to be lies. When all hope within you dies…Den vat?…Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Paul Kanter and Jorma….(Danny whispers Kaukonen) something or other….These are the members of the de Airoplane.” (Danny nods, with a subtle smile). Marshak then takes out the radio which Danny couldn’t find (even after breaking into the Hebrew school master’s desk) and slides it over to Danny. Danny is pleased. Marshak says, “Be a good boy.”

    This is one of the examples of (profane) humor and profundity that I mentioned earlier—profane because the filmmakers are making these kinds of jokes on such a serious subject. (Plus, profane and profundity sound good. ). The quote from Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” fits perfectly with the movie and yet it’s funny in this context. At the same time, there is a response to the question Marshak asks. What is the response? For one thing, Marshak’s words suggest that he (God) is very aware of the details in one’s life. God is not unaware of our problems, even the one’s that seem pretty insignificant. For another thing, when Marshak gives back the radio, it’s a small blessing. Danny not only wants his radio back, but he needs the twenty dollars wedged in the case to pay someone back (someone who wants to beat him up to boot). To me, this says that God is interested in our lives, knows what’s going on—down to the smallest details—and that he cares about us; that he wants to do good things for us. Finally, he wants us to be good, to do good in the world. This last line harkens back to Notchner’s remark about helping others: “It can’t hurt,” and his remark that God doesn’t owe us anything; rather we owe Him something. All of these things, while funny and amusing in the context of the scene are also profound statements and a fairly good answer to the questions posed by the film. Much credit should go to the film for not providing specific answers to these questions because no satisfying answer exists. The “response” in the Marshak scene is about the best one can hope for. And I would argue for the believer it is fairly satisfying.

    So what about the ending? Prior to the last scene, good things seem headed for Larry and his family. They all experienced the beautiful bar-mitvah, and there’s a hint that Larry’s marriage might be on the mend. Larry’s tenure also seems imminent. Everything is looking up, until the phone call Larry receives which probably means he contracted some serious illness and the oncoming tornado about to hit Danny and his classmates at Hebrew school.

    So what is the meaning of the ending? First, I think the film wants to avoid any easy answers; it wants to remind the audience that life is filled with good and bad; that there are no easy answers to the problems the film raises. In a way the ending restores balance with the good things that just preceded it. More importantly, it maintains the mystery of life and of God. All the problems that Larry faced are not gone and there might be more on the way.

    Second, in some ways I feel like the ending is a challenge to believers. God may give you blessings, but there is always some disaster or hardship waiting around the corner. Can one’s faith continue in such a situation? Is Marshak’s (God’s) response sufficient? In my view the sufficiency of the response depends on the faith of the individual. This alludes back to the vignette at the beginning of the story. The woman, imo, represents faith (irrationality) as a way of dealing with the mysteries of life. The man represents the rational response. We don’t know if the man is an evil spirit or not. There is no way to tell, but, with faith can help guide when facing life’s mysteries. (Again, we don’t know if she makes the right choice, but that is often the case with matters of faith. We are often unsure if an action made in faith is “correct” or “right.”)

    I want to make a few more comments before I close. First of all, I want to address what the film is about. As I said the film is about some of the most difficult theological questions we face in the world and it provides a response—not an answer—to these questions. The response is something funny that one of the characters says, namely “accept the mystery.” This is one of those moments that is both funny and profound at the same time. The quote attributed to Rashi at the beginning of the film also suggests this interpretation: “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.”

    (Note: After I wrote the above I came across some other interpretations of the film–interpretations that seem more compelling in some ways than the one I had; I felt pretty deflated afterward. Indeed, I planned to rewrite my review, but after reading the following interpretations, I lost all motivation; I got knocked out. Here are some of the comments:

    Russell Wyner said, “So what’s the moral? If you want to be happy, don’t take life so serious.”

    David Lincoln Brooks said, “The ending is clear: The movie is the Biblical story of Job, re-written for 1967 in Goffin/King’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday” land. The implication is a grimly funny one: no matter how bad things get, they can ALWAYS get worse.

    It’s a wry discussion of what it means to be Jewish… They may be the Chosen People, but…. chosen for what? To suffer constantly?

    The tornado comes right after Danny Gopnik has been bar-mitzvah’d into the faith. The Coens are definitely making a bitter joke about what it means to be Jewish.

    No matter what Rabbis say to try to make life better, there’s no cure for cancer, death and taxes. Much of life… has to be borne. And many of life’s ills are not invited, earned, deserved.”

  191. Reid

    How Do You Know (2010)
    Dir. James L. Brooks
    Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, etc.
    65/100

    I’d recommend this to Penny, Tony, Jill and Mitchell. At the worst, you’d think this was just OK, but there’s a chance you might like it quite a bit more. The next people that come to mind are Grace and Don. I’d say the same thing I said about Penny and Mitchell, but I’m less sure that you would really like this. I’d say the same thing about the remaining idiots, but I’m even less certain about them. There were some terrific moments, but not so good moments, too. Larri had a similar reaction.

    **
    Lisa (Witherspoon) is an aging softball player with the US team. She’s starting to date Matty (Wilson), a star MLB pitcher. George (Rudd) runs his father’s–Charles (Nicholson)–firm, but now faces a federal investigation. George was supposed to go on a blind date with Lisa, but cancels because he was seeing someone else at the time. The film involves all these characters and a love triangle between LIsa, George and Matty. If you like other James L. Brooks films, you should give this one a shot.

    Some comments about my specific recommendations to idiots (if you want to know them). Penny: there are scenes in this I know you’ll really enjoy, and if you don’t have the same problems I did which, is a possibility (although Larri had similar problems with the film, so…), you could really like this; Mitchell: you like romantic comedies and I think Brooks might be one of the best directors for rom-coms. I could see you really liking the characters and while I thought the performances weren’t that strong, you might disagree. There’s a chance that you could really love this. Tony: Based on comments about other films, I think you could really love this, too. Grace: would definitely think this was at least OK, and I think she will think it’s more than OK, but the chances she’ll love this is a little less than the three previous idiots. Jill: at least like and could really love this. Don: I think there are some scenes Don will enjoy, but I’m really unsure if he’ll really like this or not; there is a possibility for that to be the case.

    ***
    Man, what an uneven film. There are fabulous moments in this film, the type of moments where that could thrust Brooks into greatness, especially in terms of the genre. I think of moments with humor and pathos; moments with terrific dialogue. As far as writing scenes in a romantic comedies–scenes that are touching, funny or a combination–there are few in the same class as he is, imo. (The wedding proposal scene is one of the great proposals on screen, imo. I think having ordinary looking actors play the part made the scene great, too; there’s the bus stop scene at the end of the film; the play-do birthday gift and probably some others I can’t remember.)

    If only the rest of the film could be solid. Alas, for me, that wasn’t the case. One of the big problems for me is that the film doesn’t really establish the characters or their relationships very well. I felt a bit disorienting by some of the initial scenes. It was like watching the fifth episode in a TV series without having seen the previous episodes. Several examples come to mind: Matty and Lisa going out on a date, when clearly they went on many before; George’s Dad screaming at him, while his secretary almost hits George’s Dad.

    Having said that, the problem could have been the acting and/or the casting. Witherspoon, whom I like, was a surprising disappointment. She has always had a star quality, but in this film that quality is gone. She looks tired and not really into her part. Sometimes her acting is amateurish–she gives these really obvious facial reactions that remind me of a high school acting.

    Rudd is also unconvincing as this really nice guy, but again maybe it’s the “middle of the TV season problem.” I didn’t really buy or care about the relationship between George and his father. And the secretary just comes out of the blue, too. (Why does she care so much for George? At one point, I thought she loved him.)

    I must express one caveat to this negativity, namely, the print of the film I saw was not in good shape and the sound wasn’t either. It sounded like I was watching this at a drive-in theater–and these things really did take away from the experience.

    In any event, I find the uneven quality maddening because there are moments of greatness in this film. I think Brooks has a masterpiece in him. Actually, I think he should go back and make a mini-series or a TV series at HBO. He has the potential to make one of the best TV series of all-time.

  192. mitchell

    The King’s Speech
    Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter

    A quote from Wikipedia’s article on Merchant Ivory Productions:

    The expression “Merchant-Ivory film” has made its way into common parlance, to denote a particular genre of film rather than the actual production company. The heyday of this genre was the 1980s and 1990s with such films as A Room with a View and Howards End. A typical “Merchant-Ivory film” would be a period piece set in the early 20th century, usually in Edwardian England, featuring lavish sets and top British actors portraying genteel characters who suffer from disillusionment and tragic entanglements.

    I believe that except for the Edwardian part, The King’s Speech fits this description rather well, and that’s one reason I would be predisposed to liking it. I love a good period piece, especially when it’s got Helena Bonham Carter or Emma Thompson in it. Since Ismail Merchant’s death five years ago, there haven’t been enough of these in theaters, much to my lament.

    Colin Firth plays Albert, Duke of York, who later becomes King George VI, a man with a stutter in an age where radio is becoming an essential tool for communication with the people. His brother, the crown prince David (later King Edward VIII), doesn’t seem especially interested in being King. He is romantically involved with a woman who has been twice divorced, a situation considered unacceptable for the man who will sit upon the throne.

    Albert’s wife is Elizabeth, Duchess of York, who supports her husband and encourages him to seek treatment for his speech impediment. Multiple failures lead to Albert’s despondence and then to a new teacher, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who insists on treating Albert under Logue’s own terms, meaning without the pretense of royalty and in Logue’s office.

    The film deals slightly with the political tumult caused by George V’s failing health and David’s insistence on dating the woman he loves. Most of it, though, revolves around Albert and Lionel’s sessions, in which the counselor tries to help Albert get to the psychological root of his problem. Albert is resistant: he’s royalty, and it is inappropriate for a commoner to ask him personal questions. However, because of some of Lionel’s early success with the prince, Albert and Elizabeth ask Lionel to help just with the mechanics of speech. If the problem cannot under rules of etiquette be solved, it can perhaps be masked.

    I have expressed my outrage at Helena Bonham Carter’s being completely ignored for supporting-actress Oscars last year and probably this year for her portrayals of Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films. It was a joy to see her bloodthirsty performances in those films; it’s an equal joy to see her back in this more genteel, mannered territory. Colin Firth is excellent as the king who teeters between restraint and fury. I totally loved his outbursts of temper, as does Geoffrey Rush who plays with a kind of underlined sadness throughout. He knows he can help the prince but also knows that the prince won’t totally let him do it. The acting in this film is the best reason to see it. Any shortcomings the story might have (and I’m not sure there are any, really) are made up for by the excellent performances by the three principals.

    One of my favorite football players when I was growing up began his NFL career with a severe stutter. Because of it, many people thought he was dumb, and he tended to keep his mouth shut most of the time. After several years in the pros, he sought treatment and overcame the impediment, and people learned what an articulate, thoughtful man he was. Albert doesn’t have the advantage of modern treatment that Lester Hayes had, and Lionel admits that he is treading new ground in his approach. How frustrating it must have been for the prince to grow up with this condition, mocked by his siblings even as an adult and feeling like the lesser of the royal princes. And how frustrating it must have been for Logue, a man whose heart for people with this condition is probably his primary asset in treating it, when he is only permitted to care enough about the prince to scratch the surface of his therapy.

    The inability for everyone involved to share what he or she is really thinking is a beautiful handicap. The king might have psychological shackles on his ability to express himself, but the social shackles are even stronger, and although Lionel does his best to break them, he’s dealing with lifetimes (if not centuries) of deliberate non-disclosure. Lionel can’t even talk to his wife about his frustrations, really, because he’s not allowed to tell anyone about his relationship with the prince.

    It is a thoroughly enjoyable film; I thought I must surely have a smile on my face from the opening sequence until the end; I was so happy to be swimming around in this world with these characters played by these great actors.

    A strong 8/10.
    85/100.

  193. Mitchell

    Criticker predicted I’d give it an 87. That’s pretty cool.

  194. Reid

    Re: King’s Speech

    Mitchell said,

    The inability for everyone involved to share what he or she is really thinking is a beautiful handicap. The king might have psychological shackles on his ability to express himself, but the social shackles are even stronger, and although Lionel does his best to break them, he’s dealing with lifetimes (if not centuries) of deliberate non-disclosure. Lionel can’t even talk to his wife about his frustrations, really, because he’s not allowed to tell anyone about his relationship with the prince.

    Had the film explored and revealed more insights into the King’s shackles and developed the idea that Lionel also had shackles of his own, I would have liked this film a lot more. In a way I feel a bit cheated by the film as it never fulfills it’s premise-a commoner (an Australian, no less) suspects the King’s stuttering is caused but some deeper psychological issue–i.e. the two never work to reveal those causes.

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