Wednesday, March 7, 2012

December 2011 - In Review

Am I catching up... well not really. Here is the batch from December with a few notes on each.

Worth Watching
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011) [9/10]
It is pretty close between this one and Contagion for the best of the month. This was a pretty good comedy starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Marisa Tomei with a minor role by Kevin Bacon. This is how all romantic comedies should be made, check this one out.

Contagion (2011) [9/10]
Films like this one just make me more of a germaphobe. Directed by Steven Soderbergh with another stellar cast of Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, John Hawkes, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, and Kate Winslet. I read a review where one of the actresses said that Soderbergh called them up, said I have a small role for you, I'll have everything set up, just come out for a week and shoot your scenes. For a movie about a plague with a lot of stars there is no telling which one will get knocked off, pretty cool.

Moneyball (2011) [8/10]
There was something about Brad Pitt's character that wasn't a perfect fit for me. I thought it did a great job acting but I don't know... on the other hand Jonah Hill was amazing, I didn't know he was capable of anything more than crappy comedies and won't know if he'll ever get a role this good again. It really pisses me off that Plummer beat him for the Globe and Oscar because Beginners really really sucked, but we'll get to that. I loved seeing some play Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, hilarious. If you don't like sports films, don't dismiss this one, it has little to no game time scenes, it is about the science behind statistics and a very interesting film.

Drive (2011) [8/10]
The more I reflect on this film the more I like it. Ryan Gosling stars as "driver," which reminds me a lot of the 1978 film The Driver, that I watched in action movie month last June. The film stars the same, a driver hired by criminals to get away from the scene and out run the cops. Like the 1978 film we start to see "driver" wanting to have more in his life than just driving, but unlike the original this one becomes a very bloody action film half way through. Be warned this one is not for everyone.

Buck (2011) [8/10]
An Oscar shortlisted documentary about "The Horse Whisperer," I know what you are thinking... "man that sounds awful.... and boring." On the contrary it is one of the best documentaries I've seen this year. It has the perfect mix of telling us about what Buck Brannaman does, and his background. It is only 88 minutes and edited very well because I was never bored. Don't overlook this one it you like documentaries, it should have been nominated for an Oscar.

Great Muppet Caper, The (1981) [8/10]
My favorite Muppets movie, better than the original, better than the Manhattan one, better than Tresaure Island or Muppets from Space. My daughter has watched this one at least 4 times now and the storyline is easy enough for her to follow. Not as man good cameos at the original but Charles Grodin is pretty good as the bad guy.

Just Average
Super 8 (2011) [7/10]
I struggled with giving this one a 7 or an 8 and I settled on a 7 because it just wasn't great. I thought Elle Fanning had the best performance, but struggled to really find any other stand out performances. All in all it was a pretty cool sci-fi film and would be good to watch with kids in the 11-16 range.

TT3D Closer to the Edge (2011) [7/10]
A documentary that had no real shot at an Oscar, but not one I wanted to dismiss. Shot in 3D, but I would imagine the majority of the viewers will see in without the 3D. It is about the "Isle of Man" TT [Tourist Trophy] motorcycle race. With 237 deaths in 102 years it is easily the most dangerous race in the world. Once considered a world championship, but because of safety it is no longer a championship event, meaning that racers do this just for the glory. The documentary follows Guy Martin, it takes a little time to get used to the thick British accents, to don't think you have to understand everything Guy says, the narrator [Jared Leto] will straighten you out.

Bill Cummingham New York (2011) [7/10]
Another short listed Oscar documentary that did not get a nomination. This one is about Bill Cummingham the writer for the fashion section of the New York Times. A very interesting individual this character study documentary won't teach you much, but will show you a pretty unique and interesting individual.

True Romance (1993) [7/10]
Directed by Tony Scott, and written by Quentin Tarantino, starring Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, and James Gandolfini [Tony Soprano]. If that isn't enough stars to get you interested then I don't know what else you need. Written by Tarantino between  Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, so you can imagine how much cursing and killing you are in for.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) [7/10]
I've definitely avoided this one because I dislike Hugh Grant, but that hate has been fading for some time now, so it was a good time to finally watch this one. I actually found Andie MacDowell to be much more annoying that Grant in this film. Best part... Mr. Bean [Rowan Atkinson] was the priest.

Muppet Christmas Carol, The (1992) [7/10]
Michael Caine stars as Mr. Scrooge. I highly suggest watching this one with a kid rather then letting them watch this by themselves. The ghosts of Christmas past can be pretty scary, especially the ghost of Christmas future. My daughter liked it, but we only watched once since it was a little scary.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011) [6/10]
Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford star as a couple of cowboys that fight an alien invasion. Made on a $163M budget and grossing $174M would not be considered a sound investment. A wimpy 6.2 on imdb and a boring storyline made this a good popcorn and beer movie, but not one you will remember.

Change-Up, The (2011) [6/10]
Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman star in a typical body swapping fantasy comedy. Bateman is a married man with two kids and a stressful job, Reynolds is a single actor who has lost the respect of his father and can't really get any respectful roles. The two not only see how difficult their friends life is, but see the error in their own lives. Cuter than I thought it would be, a somewhat fun comedy.

Pride and Prejudice (1940) [6/10]
Winner of an Oscar for Art direction, but watched because it was on the imdb top 250 in 2001. Good enough to not want to put it in the "avoid" group. But it is a dated black and white time piece. Not one I would recommend because the 2005 remake was pretty good, watch that instead.

Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) [6/10]
I struggle with getting the "comedy" of foreign films sometimes. Add to that, Germans are the funniest people, I'm German so I can say that... The plot reads funnier than the actual film. Centered around Alex, the film starts by explaining the East German way of life in the 80's before the wall came down. Alex's mother has embraced the communist view and when she sees her son at a rally against the communist she faints and goes into a coma. While in a coma the wall comes down and Germany is reunited. Alex spends the rest of the film making her think things never changed. The title comes from the Lenin statue being removed by helicopter that Alex has to make another lie about. In the 1001 movies book and nominated for a golden globe, it was just ok.

Avoid Watching
Amacord (1973) [5/10]
Avoid might be a little harsh, a film by the great Federico Fellini that won an Oscar. Silly, long, and really more for classic film lovers. Check out La Strada or La Dolce Vita before committing yourself to this one.

Guard, The (2011) [5/10]
Brendan Gleeson was nominated for a Golden Globe for his leading role. Also starring Don Cheadle and Mark Strong, this British comedy about a racist cop was really not funny at all. I didn't think it deserved a Golden Globe nomination, nor do I think it was snubbed by the Oscars.

Russian Ark: Russkiy kovcheg (2002) [5/10]
A film recognized for the fact that is was made in a single shot rather than for its storyline. An incredible film that makes its way through the Russian Hermitage Museum but is very boring. The final "scene" is of a ball with dancing and an orchestra, good luck staying awake through that 20-30 minutes with little to no dialogue.

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) [4/10]
Thanks to an Elton John song this received a Golden Globe nomination. They made back almost triple their budget so it would have to be called a success. It is just a kids movie though, I really dislike it, but there wasn't much to really like.

Beginners (2011) [3/10]
The fact that Plummer won the Golden Globe and Oscar for Supporting Actor with this horrible movie makes me want to give it a 1/10. The plot jumps around and the main characters present a story that is just rubbish, I don't care about Ewan McGregor's character and Mélanie Laurent didn't bring anything exciting to the film either.

Hesher (2010) [3/10]
I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt films, and I thought that having Natalie Portman also would make this really good. Instead you get a story about a wreck-less misfit that should really have been locked up for some of his actions. He becomes the influence for a young boy and the film is kind of difficult to watch at some points.

Margin Call (2011) [2/10]
BOOOOOOOOOOORING. Seriously the acting made this film seem very realistic, great screenplay. But when the subject matter is boring, uneventful, and jumps from star character it star character is it really worth your time. Don't be fooled by the great cast, it is a bad movie.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

November 2011 - In Review

I know I promised this post about 3 weeks ago. Hopefully I can start getting things on track again soon.

Worth Watching:
Temple Grandin (2010) [10/10]
Winner of the AFI TV Program of the Year, the Golden Globe, and the Emmy for TV Movie/Mini-Series. The film is a biography starring Claire Danes as Temple, an autistic girl who becomes a top scientist in a line of work that is primarily male. The film addresses a lot on Autism and was my favorite of the month.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) [9/10]
A sequel to an already re-booted series, the film has a new star with James Franco. I actually remember joking about this film coming out but was surprised at how good the storyline. This could have been all about the action and CGI, but the story and acting made it very entertaining.

Our Idiot Brother (2011) [9/10]
I watched this one as a break from a couple serious films. Expecting light-hearted, stupid, and disappointing, I was surprised to find it light-hearted, touching, and entertaining. Every time I watch Paul Rudd I expect a bad film and it turns out good, you might be surprised by this one.

The Help (2011) [8/10]
Not a lot to say on this one. Based on a popular book, nominated for a number of awards, good but not epic. I like Emma Stone, I liked Octavia Spencer but didn't think it was necessarily an awards performance that it is hailed as. I thought the standout performance was Bryce Dallas Howard's as Hilly though. I did feel the film failed to show how difficult it was for the women after the book was published.

Midnight in Paris (2011) [8/10]
Written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Owen Wilson. Honestly I could see this Allen playing this lead role if he was 20 years younger, it is almost like he wrote this for himself knowing he would have to cast someone. Wilson isn't always my favorite, but he almost reminded me of Allen from film like Manhattan. This film should win an Oscar for the screenplay, it was a fun witty adult comedy.

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) [8/10]
One of the few Oscar nominees I actually saw before the list of nominees was released. This documentary is about radical tree huggers who go on a domestic terrorist arson spree against loggers and others who they felt were hurting the environment. A very interesting documentary on a group, ELF, that I knew nothing about.

Hangover II, The (2011) [8/10]
Obviously this isn't as good as the original. The comedy is over the top and crude, but it was entertaining nevertheless.

Everything Must Go (2010) [8/10]
I find myself liking Will Ferrell's dramatic films, and wish he would give some of his awful comedies a rest some times. Same goes for Adam Sandler. This film is about an alcoholic who's wife leaves all his stuff on the front lawn. After mustering the will power to get out of his drunken stooper he starts to clean his life up... a little. Don't expect a grand happy ending, the span of the film is short and it is pretty slow.

Just Average   
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) [7/10]
Chris Evans stars in this forgetful summer blockbuster about the comic hero Captain America. Made as a build up to The Avengers out in 2012. It was entertaining, but not very memorable.

Fast Five (2011) [7/10]
The fifth film in this series, a strange one that didn't even have the two main stars in one film. The lead characters are on the run from the FBI, the script was made out of thin air and actually worked. I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. A strong 7/10, I just can't recommend a silly series like this.

The Muppet Movie (1979)    [7/10]
I watched this one with my daughter. It starts with the "Rainbow Connection" and leads Kermit across the country to Hollywood. He meets the cast as we go along, so if you want to see how all of these character are supposed to meet then check this one out. We had to see this since a new "Muppets" movie is now in theaters.

Green Lantern (2011) [6/10]
Ryan Reynolds stars as a test pilot who is granted a special ring and made an intergalactic hero. Probably one of the strangest superhero stories to make it to the theaters in this surge of superhero films. I was disappointed.

Water For Elephants (2011) [6/10]
I watched this one in HD, and I have to say it was visually very nice. At least in the beginning. The first 30 minutes were very interesting and I was surprised at how much I really liked it. But half way in it became a lame romance film. First half 8/10, second half 5/10. So just average for me.

Life In A Day (2011) [6/10]
One of the many documentaries I "thought" would get shortlist for the Oscar and was not. This one is the "youtube" documentary. People from all over the world filmed themselves on the same day going through their normal lives. It starts out choppy and ends cheesy, but there is some interesting stuff in here. Consider it our generations video time capsule.

Tabloid (2010) [6/10]
A comedy documentary, this was probably the most famous "snubbed" documentary this year. Directed by Errol Morris who won for The Fog of War in 2003. The film was a little annoying, fun in parts, but I like to learn from documentaries and I didn't learn anything from this.

Cars 2 (2011) [6/10]
This is what happens when Pixar cares more about profits and feeding their product line than they care about quality films. Bad plot, hard to stay awake, and the first time Pixar hasn't been nominated for an Oscar in a while. Very disappointed.

The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984) [6/10]
I was sure this was the film I grew up loving, turns out it is not. The Great Muppet Caper was the film I thought this one was. I watched this with my oldest daughter and she was very bored. Her cousins even got up and decided to play instead. It is about The Muppets trying to get a Broadway show and becomes a search for Kermit.   

Avoid Watching   
Larry Crowne [5/10]
I hate to put this in the avoid, but unless you are a big Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts fan than this was a pretty lame film. Larry gets fired from his job for being over qualified, goes to community college, and goes through some major life changes. Kind of a cute romance, but really forgettable.

Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011) [4/10]
Like Larry Crowne I don't want to bash this film. Honestly I could see pre-teens loving this film. It is just the same Jim Carrey in another silly role. Very cookie cutter, dad needs to impress estranged kids regain love of his wife. I'm guessing this follows the Richard Atwater book, but I'm really not 100% sure since it has been so long.

Keith (2008) [3/10]
When a film shared your first name then you really have to give it a chance. Sadly this was a really bad B romance movie with a repetitive and awful soundtrack. Let's not forget bad acting and sappy storyline. I wish I could suggest a movie called "Keith" but it is more fun to say I watched it than to actually watch it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Blog is NOT Dead!

So it has been quite some time since I've reviewed any films. Each film is actually a lot of work and requires a good amount of time to find and upload a movie poster. Link to imdb. And come up with something to say. When I get behind it becomes a big challenge to catch up, and this time I fell behind over 40 films before throwing in the towel.

So here is the plan.

The format of the blog will be changing drastically. Instead of posts about each individual film I thought I would post only about films I deemed "worth watching" but then I was afraid when I got behind I would give something a "just average" as to avoid writing about it.

Instead I'll be writing "Monthly Reviews," a single lengthy post sorting all the films I've watched over the month into "Worth Watching", "Just Average", and of course "Avoid Watching." I'm going to write a lot less on the film, so I'm going to assume my readers can find imdb themselves and see who is in it and what is is basically about. The blog will basically a journal of what was good and why.

Expect the first post, a review of the 20 films from November, this week. Another on 23 films from December next week, and 17 from January shortly after. I will probably still writing full reviews on the Oscar short films, my rankings of the best picture nominees before the Oscars air, and my annual top 20 in October.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)

Morgan Spurlock [Super Size Me] is back with a documentary about brand marketing in movies. Spurlock has made just one feature documentary between this and the 2004 McDonald's documentary that was so popular, mainly because he has had a documentary TV series, 30 Days, that he has been working on.

The documentary starts by giving examples of advertising in movies and television shows, some incredibly blatant. He then decides he wants to make a movie built 100% on advertising money. He gives his pitch to a few companies and receives constant rejection. I'm not sure if this was just editing to make the viewer think that he went from constant rejecting to a lot of acceptance or not. He starts to pick up some major sponsorship from POM Wonderful, JetBlue, and Mini. At this point the film really takes a turn, we see the affect of the sponsorships and what he is allowed to say. The final approval of the film requires that POM Wonderful is happy with the final product. So we aren't even sure what ELSE has been taken out.

The film does not attack any of the issues with advertising in film, it merely talk about how it works. That isn't enough for a good documentary. You won't see this on anyone's "top" lists.

Vote: 5/10

IMDB Link:

Rio (2011)

Blue Sky Studio's latest animated film, the company that brought you The Ice Age Series, Horton Hears a Who, and Robots, brought out their latest animated film earlier this year. A good year for a weak computer animated film since Pixar's film was a flop and Disney and Dreamworks didn't have much.

The film is about a rare South America bird who's home is Minnesota. Domesticated before he was able to fly out of his nest he has never learned to fly and has never been outdoors. When an ornithologist visits his owner she is convinced to take Blu to Brazil to mate him with the last female of his species.

The film is very cookie cutter from the start. Probably enjoyable for the kids and something my 3-year-old would enjoy some day. As an adult I was bored the whole time. The assisting characters I found irritating and juvenile. Probably the weakest film this company has made to this point [maybe equal to the Ice Age sequels]. It is a very weak Oscar Animated year if this one gets nominated.

KSF: 2/5
Vote: 5/10

IMDB Link:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Conviction (2010)

Like Flash of Genius I struggled to commit my time to watching this one because I felt I already knew the entire story. It only takes reading the imdb synopsis to get the whole story, but this is one of those films that knowing what happens really doesn't ruin the story itself. I remember this being on the Oscar radar but I don't get what kept it out of the running. Sam Rockwell seems to be constantly ignored by the academy and Hilary Swank already has two wins in the leading lady role, so getting overlooked for this one isn't that big of a deal.

The film is about a brother and sister who grow up in a small town with a dysfunctional family. They like to sneak into other people's homes and pretend they have a normal home with a normal family. After several run in's with the police Kenny [Rockwell] is labelled as a suspicious character and is hauled in for questioning every time their is a crime in town. After a brutal murder he is brought in for questioning and almost a year later is determined to be the killer. With no physical evidence he is given a life sentence thanks to an ex-wife and ex-girlfriend on the stand that lied about this whereabouts. His sister Betty [Swank] decides to pursue a law degree to free her brother.

I also relate this film to Flash of Genius because the main character gives up a normal life and family in pursuit of what they feel is right through legal means. Based on a true story this one, overlooked last year, is well worth your time.

Vote: 8/10

IMDB Link:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friends with Benefits (2011)

Director Will Gluck, who brought us Easy A, last year. Brings us a movie that at one point was going to be called "Fuck Buddies." Good luck marketing that. It was actually in production around the same time as No Strings Attached which features Natalie Portman who was paired up with Mila Kunis in Black Swan. Just a little interesting that co-stars of a film with 5 Oscar nominations was in the process of an ad campaign for a film where the stars were working on two separate and similar films.

So the film is about a young hot shot website designer [Justin Timberlake] who is contacted by a headhunter [Mila Kunis] to take a job in New York. Dylan seems happy in LA, but with some convincing from Jamie he takes the job. He works for GQ where Woody Harrelson plays a pretty funny sports writer that questions Dylan's sexual preference. Jamie is Dylan's only friend in the city and their "work" relationship turns into a friendship with "benefits." Trying to avoid a romantic relationship their emotions start to play a factor and we learn that Dylan has commitment issues.

Pretty typical to have a guy with commitment issues, which is why I liked No Strings Attached a little more. In retrospect I'm not exactly sure when No Strings didn't get an 8/10. Either way, the flash mob scenes are pretty cute, there are some good running jokes, and Timberlake proves once again he can handle the shift from singer to actor. Probably worth your time if you like Rom-Com's.

Vote: 7/10

IMDB Link: