You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2012.

47.  The Perfect Host

David Hyde Pierce is so good in this movie.  I know.  But believe me, he is.  The first two-thirds of the film sees criminal on the run Clayne Crawford seemingly con his way into David Hyde Pierce.  The tables soon turn, though, as Pierce is revealed to be off his rocker and we get a sort of highbrow torture porn.  The last third of the film, which I didn’t love, shifts gears a lot and feels more like the resolution to a heist movie.

46.  Hesher

A showcase for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, basically.  He plays the titular character who is a disaffected malcontent, essentially the person you least want in your life.  He worms his way into the life (and house) of a kid dealing with the death of his mother and an inconsolable father (Rainn Wilson).  The films is kinda insane and kinda brilliant as we follow Gordon-Levitt just generally being a dick.  Natalie Portman is also in the film for a little, though we don’t get to spend enough time with her character.

45.  Bad Teacher

This film made $100 million at the box office, somehow.  I mean, if Brian, John, AND I all miss on forecasting a movie, you know it was a big surprise.  The story maybe isn’t the most inventive idea in the world: Cameron Diaz plays a lazy, boozehound gold digger of a teacher, and a plot point of the movie is that she’s saving up money to get a boob job.  She’s a crappy teacher, but will she be such a bad teacher by the end of the film, or will a lesson have been learned?  It’s anyone’s guess!  Diaz seems to have a lot of fun with a role that would have gone to Robert Downey, Jr. if it were written for a male.  The two love interests are a delightfully dweeby Justin Timerlake and an underused Jason Segel with the underrated Lucy Punch as the nemesis.  The film gets a lot of little things right.  There are several funny jokes and well-played moments.  The larger story is, well, I’m biased because I know the writers (Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky) are from The Office, but it feels like a tired sitcom plot.

44.  Arthur

Confession: I’ve never seen the original.  I think this one struggled a little bit with its cartoonish premise.  Whenever the film focused on its depiction of Brand’s drinking problem or his relationship with his mother, or whatever the heck was going on with Jennifer Garner’s character, it had all the flaws of an unfunny super broad comedy.  Which is shame, because Helen Mirren was having a lot of fun with her role and the relationship between Brand and Greta Gerwig was actually pretty sweet.  And the film did have a number of funny lines.

43.  Daydream Nation

There’s a lot of weird stuff going on in the periphery of this one, but Kat Dennings as a wisecracking precocious high schooler is always going to rate highly with me.  Reece Thompson seems to have carved out this weird niche as an indie awkward high school kid who ends up with a really attractive actress.  Well done, there.

42.  Transfer

Here’s what I wrote in my film festival writeup:

John nailed this one.  It deals with the kind of sci-fi I love, but fell into the trap of films I often describe as being like a TV pilot: it started creating the beginnings of an interesting world and brought up tons of questions.  The premise isn’t that unlike Dollhouse, for example, especially second season.  As John said, to be more successful, the movie really had to focus in on the questions it wanted to tackle.  And I know it sounds weird, but the dubbing really was distracting

41.  The Other Woman

Natalie Portman plays a young woman who has an affair with her boss (Scott Cohen) and gets pregnant, breaking up his marriage to Lisa Kudrow.  Portman and Cohen soon marry, but tragedy sets in as the infant child dies, plunging Portman into a deep depression she struggles to deal with while helping raise her stepson.  Portman naturally gives a winning performance in this drama.  The film itself is pretty dark.  And interesting to see how it didn’t make Portman as “the other woman” into a heroine or evil.

40.  Trust

This movie is about a fourteen year old (Liana Liberato) who gets into an online relationship with a predator who then takes advantage of her when he gets them to meet in person, and the ensuing chaos that results when her actions become known.  The movie, directed by David Schwimmer, was very difficult to watch, and frankly I can’t imagine how parents of an adolescent girl could get through it.  My main criticism was that it could have delved into the parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener).  I’m also not sure it nailed the ending, but I have no idea what a good ending for something like this could have been.  I think John and I have both commented elsewhere that we were struck by Liberato’s performance.

39.  Moneyball

I did a full write-up of the movie here.

38.  The Descendants

Back to back best picture nominees!  I shared my thoughts on The Descendants here.

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57.  Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits is a classically plotted romantic comedy masking as a romantic comedy that looks down on romantic comedies.  No, I don’t know what that means either.  Maybe I still have Scream on the mind, but this one seemed to be trying too hard to be a post-modern look at the rom com.  Because there was a sweet, funny movie, if it would stop getting in the way of itself.  And Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are such stellar leads for a screwball comedy.  Also, moar Woody Harrelson as a gregarious gay co-worker and Patricia Clarkson as a promiscuous mom, pleez.

56.  Limitless

If you’ve been following along, you won’t be surprised that I liked the premise of this Bradley Cooper-starrer: there’s a magic pill that basically makes you awesome.  But, of course, there are some drawbacks.  I’m not sure the movie totally delivered on the setup, though.  The ending, in particular, was a bit off.  Nice to see Robert De Niro in a role that’s more in his wheelhouse.  And, I gotta say, I don’t get Abbie Cornish.  Maybe that’s residual Bright Star disdain, I dunno.  Oh, and Anna Friel!

55.  Happythankyoumoreplease

Written and directed by Josh Radnor, we find that he maybe isn’t so different from his character Ted on HIMYM, after all.  In some sense it is your typical New York indie film, with intersecting storylines, brooding about life decisions, and Radnor kinda stealing a black kid and refusing to force the kid to go home.  That said, the film has a light touch and Radnor seems to have an ability to deftly manage his stellar crew of actors, which includes Zoe Kazan, Pablo Schreiber, Kate Mara, Richard Jenkins, Malin Akerman, and Tony Hale.  Hale, in particular, gives a very compelling performance, and I say that as someone who wasn’t really a fan to this point.

54.  The Mighty Macs

I’m kind of a sucker for sports movies.  This is the second girls basketball movie I’ve seen, and I don’t even really like basketball that much.  The film is based on the real story of tiny Immaculata University (spoiler alert) winning the 1972 D-I women’s basketball title.  It’s got all the sports movies tropes you’ve come to know and love.  Carla Gugino stars as a former basketball player making her coaching debut with an ill-equipped team (they don’t even have a gym!) who needs to find unorthodox ways to make her players come together as a team.  The film also features David Boreanz as her NBA referee husband who bristles at first at the idea she wants to be anything other than a homemaker, Marley Shelton as a nun questioning her faith who becomes the assistant coach and Ellen Burstyn as one of the head administrators of the college trying to keep it afloat.  You know what’s going to happen every step of the way, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.  The basketball action was surprisingly decent, given how bad the depiction of sports usually is in the things.  Also, I’ve said it many times, but it is baffling to me that Carla Gugino isn’t a huge star.  Even in a decidedly non-sensual role like this, she still oozes sex appeal.  But (perhaps) more importantly, she has crazy engaging screen presence.

53.  No Strings Attached

I feel terrible that this one ended up so close to Friends with Benefits, because there was that whole thing about how ridiculous it was the two movies had the exact same premise.  At a macro level the plots are similar, sure, but the films are pretty different.  This one had the feel of a late 90s romantic comedy (where, as discussed, Friends with Benefits is a more modern, meta take on a romcom).  There aren’t any particularly surprising beats, but the script (from New Girl creator Liz Meriwether) is fairly strong and the cast (which includes Natalie Portman, Olivia Thirlby, Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, Jake Johnson, Kevin Kline, and Cary Elwes) carries it home.

52.  The Mechanic

Pretty sure I saw this in theaters with Adam.  It is very standard Statham fare.  He plays an assassin looking to exact revenge after his mentor (Donald Sutherland) dies, but then Sutherland’s kid (Ben Foster) comes into the picture and wants to apprentice.  I don’t think it is an essential Statham film, necessarily, but a worthy addition to his oeuvre.  Of note is that the film was directed by Simon West, who directed Con AirLara Croft: Tomb Raider, and the upcoming Expendables 2, co-written by Richard Wenk, who has a screenplay credit on this one.

51.  The Best and the Brightest

Forgive me for rehashing the plot to this comedy, I’m still a little unsure I believe it actually exists.  Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville play a couple who just moved to New York.  Fine.  They want to get their daughter into a private kindergarten to give her a leg up in life.  Fine.  But because they just moved to the city, they hadn’t put her on any waiting lists, so now it is proving really hard to get her into one, to the point where they hire a consultant (Amy Sedaris).  OK.  So far, fairly straightforward stuff, right?  Now, through a comic misunderstanding, the headmistress of the school they are trying to get into is left under the impression that Neil Patrick Harris is a poet whose “poetry” is actually the ridiculous and explicit IM conversations his college friend had with women on the internet.  But since this is New York and a movie, everyone thinks they are really hip, avant-garde  poems.  Which is silly, but it is really sold by John Hodgman doing his deadpan thing as he extols the philosophical and metaphysical virtues of the sophomoric writing.  The movie rapidly devolves from there into a farce where NPH has to go to a swingers club to impress Christopher McDonald (who is known only as The Player).

50.  The Eagle

The Channing Tatum movie everyone seems to forget.  Here he’s a Roman warrior journeying through the British wilderness with his Briton slave (Jamie Bell) trying to restore his father’s honor by finding the emblem of the legion his father lost.  A nearly unrecognizable Mark Strong shows up, as does Tahar Rahim (A Prophet) and also Donald Sutherland for a few scenes, so the cast is solid.  The movie would have been better if Jamie Bell’s motivations were a little more clear, but it is a pretty decent sword and sandals adventure flick.

49.  Another Earth

Nominated for a couple of Spirit Awards, this film was #22 on both Brian’s list for most anticipated summer movies last year as well as mine.  At first blush it seems like a sci-fi film because it is about the discovery of a second, seemingly exact duplicate of Earth.  But really, it is a low-key drama about a promising high schooler (Brit Marling) who ends up in an alcohol-related accident that leaves a mother and child dead and her life in ruins.  She, eventually, goes to the guy whose life he destroyed, and without revealing her past, starts sorta kinda trying to get his life back together.  I liked the premise a lot, I’m not entirely certain the movie went where I most wanted it to.  I did kinda like the ending, though.

48.  Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within

Both its predecessor and this one are highly regarded films from Jose Padilha, the director of the upcoming RoboCop reboot.  It mixes action and politics and drama in a story about crime and police in Rio de Janeiro.  Padilha does action very very well.  I just would have liked to have seen more action scenes in the movie.  There’s really only two or three and they don’t take up much of the movie.  The rest is musings on police and corruption and crime.

67.  The Divide

The Divide starts just as New York City is being attacked by bombs of some sort.  In the frenetic confusion, a group of people living in a particular apartment building make their way to the bomb shelter.  And from there the movie is, basically, a closed room look at what happens to people when civilization, as we know it, has ended.  Director Xavier Gens and writers Karl Mueller and Eron Sheean definitely have a Hobbesian view of things, in that life becomes nasty, short, and brutish.  It’s a bleak look at humanity, as life becomes more and more insanely terrible for the people as power shifts and the constructs of normal life become more forgotten.

66.  Circumstance

Obviously an Iranian film about a teenager and her sexual awakening in a relationship with her (female) best friend is going to pull down the film festival awards and make a splash at the Spirit Awards.  The film is actually much more accessible than I expected it would be.  Most of the movie isn’t a depressing exploration of repression (though I’m not saying that isn’t in there at all), but rather a kind of hopeful look at adolescence in Iran.  It might have been too light, to be honest, some heft could have improved the film.

65.  Thor

I think that, for me, Thor was the weakest of the films that set up The Avengers.  I think it suffered from a problem I’ve had with other potential or actual franchise-starters: too much emphasis on laying the groundwork for future movies and not enough focus on telling a compelling story within this movie.  Of course, looking at the big picture, that’s a reason that The Avengers did so well, it had the luxury of hours upon hours of movies to set up most of the characters.  Chris Hemsworth was a very pleasant surprise to me here, he was fantastic in the movie.  And I realize this goes without saying, but the film needed way, way more of both Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings.

64.  Margin Call

Many people raved about J.C. Chandor’s script, which garnered nominations from both the Academy and the Spirit Awards.  I’m not among them.  The script does do a number of things well.  Turning the 24 hours leading up to the financial meltdown into even a somewhat compelling movie is a pretty impressive feat.  And like Outrage, I got a really good sense of how information moved up and down the company ladder.  But ultimately, it didn’t seem like there was enough there.  After the beginning (which I found interesting, because yay number-crunching), the film hinges around only one or two key decisions, but has seemingly tons and tons of characters, and while all of them are done by quite excellent actors, it isn’t like we get to spend much time with them.

63.  Peep World

Speaking of great casts, this movie boasts a rather impressive collection of underutilized and underawarded talent.  Ron Rifkin is the patriarch of a family that includes Rainn Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Michael C. Hall, and Ben Schwartz.  As you might expect, given that crew, the family is a little dysfunctional and so by the time we get to the climatic scene the film has been setting up the whole time, which includes significant others Taraji P. Henson, Stephen Toblowsky, Judy Greer, and Kate Mara, pretty much everyone hates everyone else.  The film is framed by Ben Schwartz, who has written a bestseller (which is being turned into a movie) that is a thinly disguised version of his family and their lives.  Now, I watch a lot of mystery shows on TV.  A lot.  And let me tell you, nearly every single one includes a version of this plot.  I’ve seen it done countless times.  So while this one may not necessarily have covered new ground, it did manage to keep my interest, and a lot fewer people ended up dead than usual.

62.  Pariah

The other arthouse high school lesbian movie of the year.  Star Adepero Oduye was touted by many as a contender for the Best Actress Oscar and while she didn’t make my list, I’m not sure it is outrageous to say she needed to be part of the conversation.  The film is maybe a little formulaic, as much as this kind of thing can follow a formula, but it is generally a good watch.  Kim Wayans appears to have mostly retired from acting since In Living Color, but she shows up here in a surprisingly powerful role as a Oduye’s disapproving mother.

61.  Jumping the Broom

This movie seemed to have trouble figuring out its tone.  Sometimes the comedy was very broad, and I seem to recall that how it was pitched in the trailer I saw.  But then it threw in some melodrama and serious stuff.  Not that a film can’t cut across the spectrum like that, but it is a difficult trick to figure out and most often, I find, part of the movie just seems out of the place.  I actually liked the movie least when it was broad.  But when it started delving into some more meaningful, thought-provoking things, I thought the film was quite good, and would have liked it to continue in that vein more often.  The token white person in the movie, by the way, was Julie Bowen.  Who is a pretty solid choice for token white person.

60.  Drive Angry

It would be difficult to overestimate how ridiculous this movie is.  Nicholas Cage plays a guy who escapes hell because some cult kill his daughter and is about to sacrifice his granddaughter.  William Fichtner is called The Accountant and is trying to bring Cage back.  Let’s face it, from those two sentences you know if this movie is for you or not.

59.  Jared is an Idiot

So I use a Google spreadsheet to keep track of this list.  Ranked 59th, I have Think of Me.  Astute observers will note that I already covered this movie in position 111, where I also have Think of Me.  I have absolutely no idea how that happened.  So I’ll take this opportunity to note two 2011 movies I’ve watched since starting this list.  Albatross stars Jessica Brown Findlay as a free spirit still looking for her place in the world who befriends high schooler Felicity Jones and then sleeps with her dad (Sebastian Koch) who is married to Julia Ormond.  It is a decent movie.  Brown Findlay kinda reminds me of Busy Phillips a little bit.  And I’ve more proof that Jones has dynamic screen presence.  And then I also saw Margaret with John.  The film probably deserves way more than a few sentences here, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It has the pedigree and writeups that would suggest it wasn’t for me, but other than being a little long, I thought it was pretty solid.  And interesting to see how everyone’s career has gone since the movie was made.

58.  Scream 4

Scream wasn’t the first self-aware movie, but it might be the most perfect.  Scream 4 is equally self-aware, but that just means we get to witness the odd sight of a movie struggling (and failing) to figure out why it exists.  It may be good, bad, or just a fact that time has passed this franchise by.  We are old hands at meta, and what was clever in the first movie seems tired now.  So, like an aging ballplayer offering glimpses of the bygone glory days, this movie seems to show that the franchise has run its course, even if the script is generally solid and occasionally inspired.  Speaking of inspired, whoever is responsible for getting Kristen Bell, Alison Brie, Lucy Hale, Hayden Panettiere, Anna Paquin, Emma Roberts, Marley Shelton, and Aimee Teegarden all together in one cast should receive some sort of prize or medal or something.

77.  Cowboys and Aliens

Saw this one in a theater in the Outer Banks with family last summer, and I distinctly remember the place had at least two pinball machines on which we might have killed a half hour (and who knows how much money) before the film.  Afterward, I think we all agreed that it was nice to be in the air conditioning for a couple of hours.  Increasingly (and perhaps not surprisingly) it seems that if a movie is so ridiculous that its insanity can be encapsulated in its title (e.g. Snakes on a Plane), the movie isn’t going to be able to live up to expectations.  My big problem with this one is that pretty much every supporting character could have been cut without the film needing to be edited for coherence.

76.  Drive

In my notes I describe this film as a B-movie with great actors.  I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, but I didn’t see in the movie what other people seemed to.  I think what I was getting at is that there’s a lot of down time between the action scenes, stuff that maybe some people see as “arty” and others see as “boring.”  Maybe “arthouse B-movie” would be a better description.  It felt a little bit like director Nicholas Winding Refn and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel spent a lot of effort making every shot precious.  Which is maybe a good idea in theory, though here I often find it tiring and distracting.

75.  Like Crazy

Something of an arthouse hit after winning the Grand Jury award at Sundance, it was considered to have been snubbed by the Spirit Awards.  As much as anything can be snubbed by the Spirit Awards.  On one hand, it is very easy to be angry at Anton Yelchin (perhaps best known as Chekov from Star Trek who got to hook up with Kat Dennings in Charlie Bartlett a few years back and now gets to hook up with both the lovely and talented Felicity Jones and the equally lovely and talented Jennifer Lawrence here.  On the other hand, screw that guy.  The movie is about Yelchin and Jones falling in love in college, but when Jones intentionally overstays her visa, the couple has to figure out how to make a trans-Atlantic relationship work.  I found the time jumps a little hard and it was also difficult to sympathize with the characters, which seems pretty important for a movie like this.

74.  Immortals

Tarsem movies are always visually stunning and. I’d argue, in a way that actually services the plot.  And it turns out his visual flourish translates pretty well to the fight scenes in an action movie.  In particular, the fights scenes with the gods were really really cool.  It would be nice, then, if he viewed plot as something more than a necessary evil.  Speaking of necessary evils, Mickey Rourke was an inspired casting choice as a bad guy.

73.  Rango

I found Rango to be pleasant, a little weird, and mostly forgettable.  Didn’t seem nearly as clever to me as some people made it out to be.  Of course, I didn’t really like Chinatown.  Still, you do have to give them a lot of credit for Timothy Olyphant voicing the Clint Eastwood role.

72.  The Adjustment Bureau

Based on a Philip K. Dick short story (and if you are playing along with the Jared recap drinking game, drink!), the movie sure needed Dick to have written more pages, because there is too much padding and general aimlessness here.  There also feels like a constant level of tension from the very start to end of the movie, which isn’t exactly how that’s supposed to work.  But hey, a Philip K. Dick movie with Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie, and lots of cool hats can’t be all bad.

71.  Footnote

Saw this Israeli movie, which was nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar and Spirit Award for screenwriting, in theaters with my grandma.  It is a surprisingly watchable movie, given its Oscar status.  I mean, sure, there’s the requisite depression and ennui, but the film takes on a relatively light tone and tells a very micro-level story about the relationship between a father and son, and how that impacts their family life.  I found the story engaging, though it occasionally went in directions other than I would have liked.  Also, generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of open-ended, well, endings.  When, as we were filing out of the theater, multiple little old ladies in the audience asked me if they had missed something in the abrupt ending, I think writer-director Joseph Cedar made a creative mistake.

70.  The Debt

This is the American remake.  With Helen Mirren as a member of Mossad and let’s just say I’m not 100% convinced that part was made up.  Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds make up the rest of the team in the present day, and in the past the characters are played by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington, respectively.  Director John Madden is experiencing a nice career bounce with this year’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and while this one may be a step above Killshot, it certainly didn’t suggest a return to the form of Shakespeare in Love.  Especially disappointing because the screenwriting pair behind Stardust (Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn) have a credit (then again so does one of the people who wrote Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Anyway, this movie took awhile to get to the stakes, but there’s an interesting spy movie hiding somewhere in there.

69.  The Ledge

This is different from Man on a Ledge, which is currently sitting in a Netflix envelope on my shelves, waiting to be watched.  In this one, Charlie Hunnam is the titular guy on the ledge (and side note, it took me like an hour to place him as the guy from Undeclared), who had gotten involved with his neighbor (Liv Tyler) who has a devoutly Christian husband (Patrick Wilson) who doesn’t take kindly to being cuckolded, and Terence Howard is the police negotiator.  The movie got a little preachy at times, (if it took a side, it was equally preachy on all sides) and tried to frame the story as a battle between ideological viewpoints without actually doing so.  Instead, it just seemed like Charlie Hunnam was in a different movie than everyone else.  Wilson, naturally, was fantastic.  He’s one of those guys who I would cast in a movie without needing to know what type of movie or role it was.  Also, Liv Tyler’s boobies.

68.  The Beaver

I’m not sure the first movie directed by Jodie Foster in fifteen years, written by Kyle Killen (the guy behind the cancelled TV shows Lonestar and Awake) and starring the still-searching for redemption Mel Gibson as a guy who loses the ability to function without talking through the beaver puppet on his hand was ever going to match the hype brought about by that confluence of factors.  The thing is, the movie isn’t really as strange as it seems like it would be.  Gibson plays a deeply depressed husband and father who uses the beaver puppet as a way to cope.  There’s a subplot with Gibson’s son (Anton Yelchin) hooking up with a high school classmate (Jennifer Lawrence) that is distractingly underdeveloped.  Observant readers will note that’s the second time in this post those two play an on-screen couple.

87.  The Ides of March

I wrote a long post this one, entitled “The Ides Don’t Have It”.  I’m probably not as clever as I think I am.

86.  Sympathy for Delicious

A challenging movie written by star Christopher Thornton and directed by co-star Mark Ruffalo, this film is nothing like what I was expecting.  Thornton plays a paralyzed, bitter, angry, shell of a man who used to be a DJ but now just sort of wallows.  Ruffalo is a priest who works with the homeless, feeding them and trying to give them support and hope.  Anyway, it soon becomes apparent that Thornton has the ability to heal people just by touching them (though he can’t heal himself).  The film then becomes about people trying to use Thornton’s powers or use him for his powers.  Meanwhile, he just wants to be a musician, and gets hooked up with a rock band fronted by Orlando Bloom with Juliette Lewis on bass.  The film does have some interesting ideas about fame and celebrity, and I like that the plot went in unexpected directions.  But I wished the movie went a little deeper, it felt like it was just scratching the surface of what it wanted to say.

85.  A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas

Like Neil Patrick Harris, because the first one was so good (and perhaps unlike NPH, saw me pulled over by the cops and lectured about how disgusting White Castle was) I’ll keep showing up for however many crappy sequels they make.  NPH’s bit was actually pretty funny.  And the waffle bot was probably one of the most brilliant characters I saw this year.  But I’m sad to say the movie just didn’t seem to capture the spirit of the original.

84.  Attack the Block

This film is at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and a number of online writer-type people whose opinions I generally respect couldn’t stop talking about the movie.   A well-review action/alien invasion movie?!  I was in.  So in, in fact, that I invited people over to watch the movie with me, talking it up as a little-known gem.  I was, as my friends were more than happy to tell me, a little bit wrong.  The movie was OK, but not really exceptional on any level.  I liked the premise well enough: aliens invade a certain part of London and a group of kids defend their apartment building against them.  But I dunno, the action was never that exciting.

83.  In Time

Takes place in a world where currency is minutes of life.  Everyone has a clock on their arm that’s starts counting down when they turn 21 (if I remember correctly) and when it hits 0, they die.  Your salary is in minutes, food costs minutes, you can transfer minutes from your arm to someone else’s by touching it.  The Philip K. Dick fan and economist in me are both pretty excited by that premise.  Justin Timberlake is our hero, a working stiff living week to week who gets gifted hundreds of years by Matt Bomer.  He then crashes the rich part of town, kinda kidnaps Amanda Seyfried, and they turn into Bonnie and Clyde.  I would have liked to see a deeper exploration of the story, the actual plot is fairly thin.

82.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Grouches did a chat about this one, but I don’t think we ended up posting it because the chat pretty quickly devolved into everyone making fun of John.  Also, I think I was the one who liked the movie the most and so ended up having to defend a film that I thought was just OK.  I disagree with a lot of criticisms (Grouches or otherwise) I’ve seen about the film, many of which revolve around the involvement of 9/11, which I thought was handled fairly well.  I’m just not sure there was much of an impactful story beyond that.  I read the book, thought they did a decent job adapting it.  Was surprised about von Sydow’s nomination because it felt like they cut out a lot of his character’s story.

81.  We Bought a Zoo

The latest Cameron Crowe movie in his descent toward irrelevance.  Matt Damon plays a dad whose wife recently passed.  An adventure writer, he decides to buy a zoo, against the advice of his brother, Thomas Haden Church.  The movie then segues into more or less your underdog team tropes as the zoo’s staff, led by Scarlett Johansson, desperately tries to get the place ready in time to pass inspection by the strict John Michael Higgins.  There were a few dramatic moments that felt like they should have been meaningful, but Crowe seems to have lost his touch for building to emotional climaxes.  We’ll get into this a little bit later, but Elle Fanning is absolutely riveting on screen, even in a small role like this one.

80.  I Am Number Four

The third Alex Pettyfer movie between this post and the last one.  Here, he learns he is one of the last remaining survivors of an alien race sent to live on Earth, but is being hunted by these other aliens.  He is given a bodyguard/protector guy who poses as his dad.  Who happens to be Timothy Olyphant and therefore is awesome.  The bulk of the movie is a typical high school new kid in town kinda deal, with Dianna Agron (who I heart a lot) as the love interest.  Later on, Teresa Palmer shows up as another one of the hunter race and teams up with Pettyfer to fight the bad guys in some pretty solid fight scenes.  The movie’s big problem is that it feels like it is spending too much time laying the groundwork for sequels.  But it is hard to justify a franchise without making the first movie interesting by itself.

79.  Ironclad

So King John (Paul Giamatti) signs the Magna Carta.  Yay!  But it was sort of done under duress and he is evil and wants to do nothing but chew scenery and kill freedom.  Boo!  He starts going all medieval on the former rebels (and yes if you are just catching it that joke was intended) and wants to destroy this one castle that a few Knights Templar have gone to protect.  Really, the film doesn’t particularly care about anything until it gets to the part where Paul Giamatti’s army starts fighting James Purefoy’s band.  The action was decent, but kinda bizarre in that every four or five deaths got really gruesome.  It would just be stabbing…stabbing…quick slice…stabbing….BLOOD EVERYWHERE AS ONE GUY IS DISMEMBERED.  Which was kinda cool and pretty jarring.  Story coulda used some work.  And more Kate Mara.  Which, admittedly, is true for every movie, but if she’s already in it to begin with, might as well use her a little more, though she did have a decent role.

78.  The Green Hornet

So this movie seems to have faded from memory, huh?  Certainly mine, at least.  I seem to recall that the film had some funny bits.  Rogen and Chou worked really well together.  Don’t really have any idea why Cameron Diaz was in the movie, though.  Her character seemed woefully underserviced.  Christoph Waltz could be the bad guy in every movie made over the next five years and I’m not sure I’d get tired of him being evil.  I also noted that the Johnny Cash cover of  the haunting Sting-penned “I Hung My Head” was on the soundtrack, which is one of my favorite Sting songs and really both versions are worth listening to.

Hey, 2012 is halfway over! Time for our first edition of top fives!

John

1. Headhunters
2. 21 Jump Street
3. The Hunger Games
4. Brave
5. Bullhead

Jared

1. 21 Jump Street
2. Wanderlust
3. The Raid: Redemption
4. Lockout
5. Cousinhood

Adam

1. The Avengers
2. Lockout
3. 21 Jump Street
4. The Raid: Redemption
5. John Carter

Brian

Brian didn’t submit a list, but fortunately we know each other so well I already knew his top five.

1. Katy Perry: Part of Me
2. The Vow
3. This Means War
4. What to Expect When You’re Expecting
5. Joyful Noise

97.  Kill the Irishman

Based on a the true story of an Irish-American in 1970s Cleveland who works for and against the mob, surviving several assassination attempts.  Ray Stevenson delivers big time as main character Danny Greene.  Larger than life in every way imaginable, he was a lot of fun to watch.  Even overshadowing the stellar supporting cast of Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Vinnie Jones, and Linda Cardellini.  The story is surprisingly and disappointingly thin, eventually it just becomes the mob wanting to kill this guy and not being able to.  I guess that’s the problem with real life.

96.  A Better Life

I wrote up this movie in a longer post, but basically I loved Demian Bichir but found the points the movie made more interesting that the plot.

95.  Beastly

A fairly tale update that isn’t dark and gritty and violent?!  Some Hollywood executive must have gotten fired for that.  This take on Beauty and the Beast is set in the present and sees pretty boy Alex Pettyfer get turned into a tattooed freak by witch/fellow high school student Mary-Kate Olsen, a curse that can only be lifted if he finds someone to fall in love with him in a year, the usual deal.  His never-there dad (Peter Krause) moves/hides him away in a luxurious apartment and home schools him with blind tutor Neil Patrick Harris.  Who is awesome.  Through a series of circumstances, he gets classmate Vanessa Hudgens to stay in his place and you know the rest.  My two main problems were that there was so much prologue that the love story never really got a chance to develop and that Alex Pettyfer is something of a cipher at the moment.  My crush on Hudgens continues, but I think she did make the movie a lot more watchable than in the hands of a lesser Beauty.

94.  Beginners

I dunno, I just didn’t see what others did in the movie or in Christopher Plummer’s performance.  Not that I would take anything away from the guy.  The character just seemed kinda blah to me.  I didn’t get a lot of the creative decisions made in the movie, at times seeming quirky for the sake of being quirky.  The dog was pretty great, though.  It needed more dog.

93.  J. Edgar

The Academy finally said no to Clint Eastwood!  I saw this, improbably, at the Uptown with Adam and maybe four other people in the theater.  Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black does a poor job finding the story Hoover’s life.  He hits on all the high points, sure, but never figures out a way to make us care.  Even if it must have sucked having evil Judi Dench for a mom.

92.  The Music Never Stopped

A rare leading turn for J.K. Simmons as a father desperate to reconnect with his son (Lou Taylor Pucci) who is suffering from some sort of brain problem that prevents him from remembering anything new.  And for awhile from remembering anything at all.  But his therapist (Julia Ormand) soon realizes that music can be an aid to bring Pucci back to some sense of normalcy, as it were.  The film had some tender moments, some of which involved Tammy Blanchard.  I struggled a little bit because I didn’t think the film did a good job defining Pucci’s problems, so I wasn’t always sure what he could or couldn’t do.  Simmons was solid, of course.

91.  Ceremony

In this one, Michael Angarano cons Reece Thompson on a trip under the pretense of connecting better as friends, but really Angarano is hoping to somehow break up the wedding of his ex-girlfriend (Uma Thurman) to an award-winning filmmaker (Lee Pace).  The characters are all more interesting than I’d expect, given the romcom setup, a credit to the actors and to writer-director Max Winkler.  I would have liked to spend more time with them, actually, to given them time to fully develop.  Lee Pace was, naturally, so good as the douchey guy Thurman is going to marry.  Just a lot of fun to watch.

90.  Cougars, Inc.

So, OK.  Kyle Gallner (Beaver from Veronica Mars) stars as an unmotivated kid who has a history of expulsion and finds himself needing to pay for his tuition to a particular boarding school for whatever reason.  Obviously, the most logical way to make that kind of dough is to set up a gigolo service where he pimps out his friends to the titular cougars, who pay to have sex with these high schoolers because that’s a thing.  Said cougars include Denise Richards and Kathryn Morris.  Jim Belushi is the school’s headmasters and the love interest is Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland.  The movie couldn’t really figure out if it wanted to be a sex comedy or a romcom or a troubled kid finding his way film and so commited to none of them.

89.  Our Idiot Brother

A movie starring Paul Rudd with Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Kathryn Hahn, Rashida Jones, T.J. Miller, Emily Mortimer, and Adam Scott should be  funnier than this.  I almost have to believe there’s 90 minutes of hilarious footage somewhere.  Or if not, the director didn’t shoot enough.

88.  The Company Men

Stars Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, and Tommy Lee Jones as three guys high up in management in a shipbuilding company forced to undergo job cuts.  Also Kevin Costner as Ben Affleck’s father-in-law, Rosemarie DeWitt as his wife and Maria Bello as another employee.  I think John Wells’s film has some interesting things to say about jobs and how they define us and whether they should define us.  But given how high up the corporate ladder the main characters are, the ramifications of the downsizing don’t really resonate as much as had they been a little lower.  Because it is hard to have sympathetic characters with such nice toys.

107.  Real Steel

Let’s get something straight.  Real Steel is way more like Rocky than Warrior is.  Just had to get that off my chest.  The fight scenes in this movie were all really cool.  The fights themselves were well-choreographed and the special effects were really neat (and I’m sure I would have appreciated them even more on the big screen).  But I think every single line of dialogue needed to be rewritten.  The plot probably could have been sharpened as well.  I suppose that all just made the fight scenes that much cooler, but it would have been nice if as much attention were paid to the non-fight parts of the script.

106.  War Horse

Clearly not one of the ten best movies of the year, it wasn’t quite as bad as people made it out to be.  But ultimately, the film’s framework of short vignettes tied together by the horse proved not to be satisfying.  Pretty much by design, we didn’t get a chance to become emotionally invested in any of the characters.  Which was disappointing because of the many fine actors in the production, sure.  But also because as the war did horrible things to character or created special moments of humanity, it was hard to have the emotional reaction so clearly expected by the score, visuals, and direction.

105.  Henry’s Crime

Stay with me for a sec while I’ll explain the premise.  Keanu Reeves is your typical nice guy who unwittingly gets caught up in a bank robbery and sent to jail.  During which time his wife (Judy Greer) leaves him for one of the actual bank robbers because why not waste Judy Greer and he befriends a lifelong inmate (James Caan).  Upon his release, Reeves decides to rob the bank he got sent to jail for not robbing because I think he doesn’t understand how double jeopardy works.  He enlists Caan and an a local actress who never quite got around to leaving for New York (Vera Farmiga).  The way they get to the bank is through the adjacent playhouse, which is putting on a production of “The Cherry Orchard” and is directed by Peter Stormare.  Reeves gains access to the playhouse by becoming the lead in the play.  Which means this movie is about Keanu Reeves acting as a guy with no acting experience acting in Chekhov.

104.  Take Shelter

Yes, Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain are both quite good.  But I was kinda left wondering what the point was.  Maybe that’s on me, where I expect crazy-or-not tales to be morality plays like The Twilight Zone.  I just don’t necessarily see that a depiction of the descent into madness is an end by itself.  Regardless of how well Shannon played the role, I needed to see something more.

103.  Win Win

I wanted to love this film from writer/director Tom McCarthy (The Station AgentThe Visitor) but I seem to be liking his films progressively less and less.  The plot is disturbingly thin: Paul Giamatti (a lawyer and wrestling coach) kinda takes advantage of an elderly client, the guy’s grandson shows up and is really good at wrestling, then they have to deal with the kid’s mom, who isn’t particularly nice.  And the wrestling wasn’t terribly exciting because the kid is way better than everyone else, so it isn’t like he has to learn or train or anything, really, he just is dominant.  Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Melanie Lynskey, and Margo Martindale are all wasted.

102.  Red Riding Hood

Not entirely certain who decided all fairly tales needed to be recast as dark and gritty gorefests, but I just hope he’s found someone with whom he can discuss his messed-up childhood.  This version of the story where a wolf terrorizes a medieval town isn’t terribly interesting.  Gary Oldman is pretty great in it, because he is Gary Oldman, but he yells a lot.  Like, a lot.  The male leads in the film were pretty poorly cast, I thought.  Or maybe Amanda Seyfried just outshone them by so much she made them look bad.  Always a possibility.  Speaking of her, it isn’t in the movie, but here is Seyfried singing a pretty fantastic version of Sam the Sham and the Pharoah’s “Little Red Riding Hood” (which is a great song to begin with):

 

101.  Last Night

Sadly has nothing to do with the Traveling Wilburys’s song.  Stars Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington as a married couple who are each tested by temptations of infidelity when he goes on a business trip.  So as the movie flits between the two, it becomes a question of trying to guess (or root for/against?) who will cheat and who won’t.  I think that’s an interesting premise, but not sure the movie fully delivered.  Worthington’s business trip is with Eva Mendes, who very clearly wants to get in his pants (and who Knightley is already suspicious of).  Two things. First, Mendes is wildly underrated as an actress.  Second, if Eva Mendes wants to have sex with you, there’s just no way you are avoiding that, like, that’s just a concept I can’t wrap my head around.  Anyway, Knightley is tempted by a former lover who happens to be back in town.  They ended up walking a dog, getting locked out, and bringing the dog to the party.  Which I appreciated.

100.  Tyrannosaur

This indie darling from Paddy Considine stars Peter Mullan as a mean drunk who happens across a thrift store owner (Olivia Colman) who is trapped in a bad marriage with Eddie Marsan.  One would be best advised to have videos of puppies and rainbows queued up to watch after seeing this movie, because Tyrannosaur is a friggin’ bleak movie.  Not even “life sucks and then you die” bleak, but more “life sucks and then it sucks some more and then anyone you love dies and the only way to escape is the sweet embrace of death, which will never come except for when someone murders you.”  I was definitely behind the awards push for Colman and Mullan, they were both solid.

99.  Jane Eyre

I guess I prefer being bewitched (body and soul, naturally) by Mr. Darcy?  Which is probably a role Michael Fassbender should tackle in a decade or so.  I could understand how the romanticism of the story (I haven’t read the book, I’m sorry to say) might sway some romantics of the female persuasion, but I wasn’t taken in.  I needed to see more interaction between Mia Wasikowska and Fassbender, I just wasn’t into their relationship at all.  Also, I understand the times were different, but man, Rochester was messed up.

98.  Unknown

Without Liam Neeson, this is probably a straight-to-DVD pulp piece.  With him, the film becomes vaguely watchable.  It feels like the entire movie is built around trying to figure out why someone is pretending to be the person Liam Neeson is, so the twist/resolution was going to be key, perhaps essential to the movie.  The twist is definitely satisfactory, but not satisfying.  Pretty much all previous events are explained by the twist, so it did its job there, but I wanted more.  Diane Kruger, January Jones, and Frank Langella co-star.

July 2012
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