You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2012.

27.  Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The cast of a Coen Bros. movie meets the casts of a studio romantic comedy in a film where the actors don’t really matter at all.  At some point the crashwhizbanginess of Michael Bay’s films have to get old, right?  Seems like there should be diminishing returns.  But so far I’ve found the films continue to be watchable, even as they move away from any semblance of logic and toward a cacophony of lights and sound.

26.  Young Adult

This dark comedy reminded me a little of Rachel Getting Married in its depiction of a unlikable emotionally scarred lead who finds herself in the middle of some pretty uncomfortable to watch situations.  And Charlize Theron is quite good in the role.  It was great that Patton Oswalt was in the Oscar conversation.  I’m not sure he would have made my personal top five, but that’s probably more on the size of the role than his performance.  And, similarly, I think the script overall was good, but not great.

25.  Mysteries of Lisbon

In the interest of full disclosure, I watched this Portuguese epic over the course of two nights, and really, films are meant to be seen in one sitting.  In my defense, this bad boy clocks in at a whopping four and a half hours.  Which is a lot of movie.  As my Dumas books will attest, I’m kind of a sucker for long winding interconnected 19th centuryish tales of adventure and intrigue.  And there were a lot of stories crammed into this one.  But the framing convention and connecting narrative of a sick boy seeking to learn his history was really effectively used to show that maybe all was not as it seemed.  So it is a little bit of a mindf*ck.  In a sense, I thought it tackled a lot of the themes and ideas Tree of Life was going for.  Only, you know, effectively.

24.  Hanna

Whenever you start getting frustrated about the lack of original movies that Holly greenlights, it is nice to think of the less obvious stuff that has managed to come along.  Like this super low-key action movie about an adolescent girl who was trained, from birth, to be an assassin.  The film takes an interesting approach to telling the story and has some well-designed fight sequences.  It is almost like an “indie” action movie, and no comparisons immediately come to mind.

23.  Martha Marcy May Marlene

This indie smash does a fantastic job maintaining tension throughout the whole movie.  I was continually drawn in, trying to figure out exactly what was going on, while never finding the film too opaque.  Enough digital ink has been spilled over Olsen’s coming out party  that I don’t feel obliged to chime in.  Especially because we get it, she’s the Olsen sister we never saw.  Jokes about that stopped being funny a long time ago, if they even ever were.  Good for her for taking them in stride, though.  Actually, she reminds me a little bit of Maggie Gyllenhaal, for whatever that is worth.

22.  Midnight in Paris

Here’s my full take on this movie.  You can tell my knowledge of cinema has a real depth and breadth and couples well with my understanding of nuance, because I compare Midnight in Paris to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

21.  Just Go with It

I firmly believe you can never know how good a movie is before actually watching it.  You can have an educated guess, of course, but if you go into a movie with an open mind, sometimes it is going to surprise you.  I’ll grant the conditions were favorable, I believe I watched this on a plane after getting a lucky upgrade to first class.  And the fact that the soundtrack heavily leaned on Sting and the Police songs certainly didn’t hurt any.  But underneath the, yes, somewhat tired romantic comedy was a genuine warmth.  The kids were cute and Bailee Madison’s intentionally bad British accent slayed me.  Brooklyn Decker is an incredible physical specimen, sure, but she showed a perhaps surprising competence, and her character was given actual depth.  And there was a sly sense of humor, for example the ballyhooed cameos from Nicole Kidman and Dave Matthews that went beyond stunt casting into something oddball and fun.

20.  The Help

Huh.  Thought I had written this one up, but I guess not.  I sorta think people projected their own stuff onto this film.  Which is probably all but inevitable, especially for a film where race issues feature so prominently.  But personally, I viewed it more as a feel good underdog type movie and didn’t really think it tried to “solve” racism or have any sort of deep social message (while i may agree with the idea that racism is stupid, I’d like to think we are living at a point where that’s a particularly complex idea).  I mean, look at Octavia Spencer’s end scene, where she thinks she’s going to be fired, but it turns out Jessica Chastain cooked her a meal.  That’s just heartwarming.  The only real criticism I have is that the film felt a little bloated, I think they could have trimmed the running time down a bit without losing anything.  The cast is top notch.  I’m not sure if I were running things I would have given them three Oscar noms, but I’m certainly not upset about it.  For me, the most questionable one is Jessica Chastain, both because voters probably should have settled on her role in Take Shelter over this one and because I’m not sure what separates her from Bryce Dallas Howard (intended as a compliment to the latter) here.  Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were both fantastic.  Davis wouldn’t have been my pick for Oscar, I guess, but it is baffling to me why she isn’t getting better roles.  Frankly, I’m surprised Showtime hasn’t nabbed her to lead some series and win Emmys for the next half-decade.  Oh, and as I alluded to, I think the argument that the film is about a young white woman ending racism are silly.  But, if a young white woman were to end racism, let’s just say I wouldn’t be bet against it being Emma Stone.

19.  Super 8

The movie was simply fantastic up until the train crash, but once the film turned into a monster movie, I think the quality leveled off some.  If J.J. Abrams could have toned down the supernatural elements, I think the movie could have been something truly special, instead of simply a solid film.  And I guess while I’m critiquing, I’ll say that I was really hoping this would be a breakout role for Coach, er, Kyle Chandler, but his role just didn’t allow for that.  I do need to go on a little rant about the relative lack of recognition for Elle Fanning’s performance.  Which probably was, for me, the performance of the year.  Certainly the supporting performance of the year.  I’m not sure I can remember being a theater where our collective breath was taken away the way it was during the scene was Fanning was acting out a scene at the train station.  In fact, coming back from Europe, I put on Super 8 and fast forwarded to that scene and then the scene where she does a zombie.  Riveting stuff.

18.  Contagion

Probably one of the scariest movies I’ve seen, in the sense that I didn’t want to touch anything or even really go outside for about a week after seeing this one.  I though director Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns did a fantastic job depicting a global epidemic by way of a number of different storylines.  The film lost a little steam about 3/4 of the way, possibly as a result of so many different stories.  And I think the very end was maybe a bit much.  Still, it was a skillfully handled film chock full of talented actors and actresses.  Side note: I distinctly remember the first time I saw the trailer for Contagion in theaters.  When Gwyenth Paltrow died, my theater applauded.  That says something, I think.

37.  Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Turns the stereotypical college kids get terrorized by hillbillies premise on its head.  Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) just bought a dilapidated cabin in the woods with the idea of fixing it up and so head there for a vacation.  Through a series of misunderstandings, a group of college kids think the two have taken one of their crew (Katrina Bowden) hostage and then try to attack Tucker and Dale.  Hilariously, these attempts keep ending in the college kids accidentally killing themselves.  Maybe not quite as good as I wanted it to be, but it is a fun watch that I’ve recommended to people.  Also, Katrina Bowden is ridiculously attractive.  And was quite good.

36.  Cell 211

This film dominated the 2010 Goya Awards, winning Best Picture, Actor, Director, Editing, New Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Sound, and Supporting Actress, along with nominations for Cinematography, Makeup and Hair, Score, Production Design, Production Supervision, Special Effects, and two in Supporting Actor.  The Goyas, of course, are Spain’s Oscars.  I bring all this up because there was another film up for a ton for a ton of Goyas: the winner of the 2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, The Secret in Their Eyes.  I’m actually with the Goya voters here, I liked Cell 211 a little better.  The movie tell the story of a new prison guard who ends up having to pretend he is a prisoner when a riot breaks out.  It is an interesting story of power struggle.

35.  Sucker Punch

I’ve heard most of the criticisms of this movie, and I don’t necessarily disagree with them, but at some point, attractive and scantily clad girls in ridiculously over the top action scenes is going to play, you know?  The action scenes were wildly imaginative, in fact, I dug the whole aesthetic of  the film.  But the sequences started to get kinda repetitive by the end.  Looking at the names of the main actresses, it feels like the casting director was aiming for a prestige cast but only got their sixth or seventh choices.  They did a decent job, but I can’t help but wonder what the film would have been like with a cast perhaps more action-appropriate.  Though let’s not forget both Carla Gugino and Jon Hamm are in the movie.

34.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes

A pretty good movie, but I think people got a little carried away hyping it.  The one thing I really liked is that while obviously the film is potentially the first in a franchise, it primarily focused on telling its own story and didn’t spend too much time laying the groundwork for future movies.

33.  Bunraku

Watched this with Adam during our mini action film festival.  I think the obvious comparison are to movies like Sucker Punch and Immortals, films that boast incredibly stylish (and stylized) looks, with engaging action scenes.  And where there was probably was a story at some point, but likely got pushed to the side to fit in more visuals.  I think this one was an A-Team/Road House kind of deal where a bad guy takes over a town and an unlikely newcomer has to take him down.  The cast features Josh Hartnett, Ron Perlman, Kevin McKidd, Woody Harrelson, and Demi Moore, all of whom seem to be having a lot of fun.

32.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Saw this one pretty much right across the street because they were playing it at the Lincoln Theatre, and I had to see what a movie there was like.  I think the theater still had some kinks to work out, the sound wasn’t great and they didn’t show any trailers, so the movie started exactly at the listed showtime, leading some of us to try to find a seat in a pitch black theater as the opening credits rolled.  I’ve read the book and seen the Swedish movie (which can make it a little awkward trying to remember exactly what happened in each version), and I’m not huge fans of either.  I definitely thought David Fincher and Steve Zaillian’s version was the best of the three.  The casting was great, Christopher Plummer is exactly what I had in mind for Martin Vanger, Stellan Skarsgard is appropriate creepy, and Daniel Craig is always a solid choice.  And Rooney Mara was absolutely worthy of all the awards and nominations tossed her way.

31.  The Trip

Even if you haven’t heard of The Trip, you’ve probably seen the clip of the two leads talking like Michael Caine.  And really, that’s pretty much all the movie is, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon essentially playing themselves and shooting the sh*t.    To add some dramatic heft, they both are wrestling with their attempts to be more famous and there’s a side plot with Coogan’s uncertainties surrounding his girlfriend.  I thought the pair, along with director Michael Winterbottom, did a great job evoking what a road trip feels like, while still generally keeping things interesting enough that you don’t mind watching someone else’s road trip.

30.  Elektra Luxx

A sequel, of sorts to another movie you haven’t heard of, Women in Trouble (which I ranked #44 on my 2009 list).  Sebastian Gutierrez continues his formula of getting a bunch of really attractive actors and actresses who also have screen presence and just sorta seeing what happens.  Carla Gugino is the lead, a porn star looking to get out of that world.  As I’ve probably say a thousand times at this point, she’s fantastic and I have absolutely no idea why she isn’t a huge star.  Her eventual love interest is Timothy Olyphant as a manly PI with impeccable manners, because Timothy Olyphant has the coolest typecast ever.  Adrianne Palicki returns as a bubbleheaded porn starlet desperately in love with her best friend, the more sensible Emmanuelle Chriqui.  Which were the most interesting parts of Women in Trouble, so good choices, Mr. Gutierrez.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a great end credit cameo in the first one as a…uh…porn blogger, I guess, and he gets an expanded role.  Marley Shelton, Malin Akerman, Lucy Punch, and Vicent Kartheiser all show up as well.  Oh, and Julianne Moore cameos as the Virgin Mary.  Naturally.

29.  Bridesmaids

Not really sure what I can add to the discussion here.  I think I’m maybe a little lower on the film than most people, though I definitely found it funny.  It felt a little like a rough draft to me, as most of the characters were barely sketched in.  I sort of wonder if the film would have been rated so highly with a lesser actress than Melissa McCarthy in that role.  Still, way funnier than most comedies I saw this year, and if it gets people to realize female-centric comedies are an inefficiency in Hollywood, I’ll be happy.

28.  Blitz

Also watched this during my action film festival with Adam.  It stars Jason Statham and Tyrannosaur‘s Paddy Considine as cops trying to track down a serial killer who is targeting the police.  You will not be surprised to learn that Statham plays a tough as nails cop who refuses to play by the rules.  If you are fan of the Statham oeuvre, it is worth a watch, but it likely won’t change your mind about the guy.

August 2012