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April 13, 2014

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2011 – Year in Rearview – Part 1

February 22, 2012

These are the only films released in 2011.

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“Broadway, Charles. Broadway!”

A bitter, stinging disappointment. I loved Matthew Vaughan’s Stardust, and his participation coupled with the casting of terrific leading men James McAvoy and Michael ‘Mancrush’ Fassbender I had exceedingly high hopes for this. Then I saw Kick Ass, which has to rank among the least enjoyable comic book adaptations I’ve had to witness, and tempered my expectations somewhat. I did not temper them enough, as First Class is a mess. Themes of otherness, prejudice and minority rights, central to the X-Men mythos, are hammered down bluntly and seem to simply be retreading earlier films. The little the film does have going for it is predictably the relationship between the two leads; the rest of the cast is left to act poorly and be defined almost solely by their mutant powers, most of which are terribly boring and uncinematic.

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“Francine, these Chocodiles, oh my god, these Chocodiles, oh my god.”

A movie written by Pegg and Frost, staring them, with Seth Rogen playing a wiseass alien has no business being as unfunny as this.. A few laughs make it through, but really. They oughta know better.

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“Great Aryan Jesus, this feels so much better! Why did I wait 40 years to tear this thing off?”

A fairly rote superhero flick, but so was Johnston’s totally likable The Rocketeer. What happened here? I wouldn’t say it starts out strong, but it’s inoffensive enough, with some enjoyable performances if not a lot of ideas. About halfway through the film seems to run out of any notion of where it’s going and thus becomes unexciting, no matter how many explosions are hurled at the viewer.

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“I’m from Asgard. You’ve probably never heard of it.”

Thor also falls victim to some aimless meandering and boring secondary characters, but is salvaged by having an actual arc for its lead and entertaining godly posturing by the Asgardian players.

The Films of 2010 – An Exhaustive List

January 17, 2011

These are the only films released in the past year.

I reenact Matthew Patel’s expression in the above screencap every time this film comes to mind. Shyamalan’s adaptation has exactly two things going for it: the art direction, and Patel’s performance.  A more disastrous butchering of the excellent television show cannot be imagined.

A letdown. There are spurts of good dramatic storytelling but they’re overwhelmed by frequent goofy comicisms and weak supporting roles.

I’m always excited by the promise of dream landscapes in film, but barring some astounding visuals I couldn’t shake the disappointment at Christopher Nolan’s fairly pedestrian realizing of dream imagery and dream logic.  Instead, sensory overload is delegated to an intense gauntlet of bombastically scored, confoundedly edited action sequences, which sail past excitement into overkill, though I would be remiss to neglect mentioning the genuinely exciting rotating hallway fight. The tragedy of Cobb I thought was emotionally sensitive and compelling at a rare level for Nolan, and Joseph Gordon Levitt- well, he’s a star.

The whole movie is fairly routine but it’s solid. I don’t have a lot to say about it. Hopefully Jon Hamm stays a presence in cinema after this.

Atmosphere atmosphere atmosphere. It was good.

Half a documentary… or wholly a documentary… or a big lark… I don’t know what to say. Man does it get funny when it… when it does.

A wholly satisfying sequel, strong and weak in similar areas to the original but with more strengths and less weaknesses.  It’s just a joy to look at.

This is as nearly as perfect a comic book adaptation there has ever been. Edgar Wright understands completely the nature of the books and brings it to gleeful life with faithful characters and a thrilling visual style.

The Super Coen Bros. make a movie. It is great. It looks great. Jeff Bridges is great. The world is round.

movies ‘n tv

April 2, 2010

A torturous journey escalating to grotesquerie in the second half, maybe to an extreme bordering absurdity by the end. Dark and unsettling, I was freaked out most of the way through. Rich photography, and fleshy, disturbing performances by the leads.

I went awhile vaguely knowing about Party Down‘s existence and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge. It’s kind of shocking to see a proliferation of new comedies – Party Down, Community, Modern Family, Archer –  that confidently strut through their first seasons and come up with real, consistent laughs. All benefit from casts that have an easy chemistry, and this one is especially good, all playing either has-beens or aspiring nobodies. Ken Marino’s likeably pitiable boss, Adam Scott’s washed-up actor,  Martin Starr’s unpleasant and vicious nerd, among others; none surprise you that they’ve ended up working at a cut-rate catering service.

I think one part of the production that the show really benefits from is its typical episode structure: taking place over the course of a single gig, we see each event from start to finish, which may not quite be real-time but lends situations a certain presence and continuity. Anyway, it’s funny, watch it.

December 10, 2009

“You’re the fuckin’ reason this country’s going down the drain!”

This Movie Blows, Vol. 1

October 15, 2009

acrosstheuniverse

Gaudy musical sequences sapped of nuance,  flatly vocalized by cardboard characters who wander through used and abused narrative cliches. As a vagrant lesbian enters a scene we notice, hey, she came in through the bathroom window, and our protagonist Jude (shudder), paragon of wisdom that he is, informs us that “she came in through the bathroom window.” No fucking way! That is this movie. So on the nose it borders on the unbearable. Oddly enough, the only song sequence that worked for me was the above pictured “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kites”, which by all accounts should be dreadful. Maybe it works by virtue of being the only song that isn’t sung, rather going the spoken word route, delivered by Eddie Izzard no less. Also, the sequence’s abrupt segue into a trippy visual collage made my head start to spin, and the less I’m aware I’m actually watching this film, the better. This movie blows.

Stuff from July ’09

August 10, 2009

hotrod2

This was pretty savaged upon release but I laughed a good deal during it. Lots of goofy dumbness but it’s kind of endearing.

stardust

DeNiro reaches a career high point as a closeted gay sky pirate, in a performance that prompts one to… wonder just what happened to him. I mean, I guess after one builds a career on one acclaimed performance after the next, maybe they get boring? Maybe? I dunno. It’s a very weird point in a moderately normal fantasy movie. And gosh, what a great looking one, presenting a very handsome fantasy universe with all the neatest vistas you can cull from The Lord of the Rings. Well, I mean… they’re there. Though it’s much more fairy tale than it is epic fantasy. In tone something of a cousin to The Princess Bride, in a manner of not taking itself too seriously while still staying dramatically effective. Then again, it’s not nearly as laugh out loud funny. Anyway, I enjoyed it muchly.

ninth gate

Pulpy, bordering on trashy, some neat book stuff though and Depp gives the lead whatever tired sardonic feeling he can muster. Weirdly unsuspenseful (aside from a neato self-immolation near the end), considering it’s helmed by Polanski. That was a WTF moment of discovery. WTF.

May 9, 2009

bourne

A couple days after watching these, it begins to nag at me: is Bourne really an interesting enough character, are the situations he’s involved in interesting enough, to warrant three movies? Maybe. Sort of. I don’t know. The Bourne Identity intrigues us from the start and does a good job holding interest as it manuvers through Bourne’s fractured memory and the unfolding conspiracy he’s a part of. Bourne is eventually disturbed by what he remembers and begins to reject the person he used to be, though those skills that come so naturally to him do come in oh so handy.

Somehow The Bourne Supremacy seems to start over from the middle of Identity, and again Bourne is relentlessly hunted down by the CIA, albeit for different reasons. A thirst for revenge and an overwhelming survival instinct subdues who he would aspire to be… you know, I’m having trouble remembering what all this was about. Truth be told, there’s an air of repetition about it that blurs my memory; new characters are introduced and loose ends thrown to be picked up in the sequel, but again Bourne confronts Treadstone higher ups (they really have it out for him) and, argh, so much time is spent with the CIA putting traces on phones, looking out for Bourne on monitors from their isolated offices, though I recognize that is the chief conceit of these pictures. Listening in, looking through cameras; it’s bound to get stale after a time.

The Bourne Ultimatum is really where it’s at. Sure, events are repeated again, but admittedly so – several scenes directly mirror those from the previous films – but insights into and revelations about Bourne’s past are satisfying, and obligatory new villains like David Straithairn’s Vosen ingratiate well into the plot. And those isolated CIA offices with their eyes permanently searching for Bourne are refreshingly turned on their head in a pretty neat scene. Superb action scenes such as a chase on the rooftops of Tangier or the pursuit scene in NYC are series highlights.

Do the films merit the time put into them? No less than other, more standard action pictures, I suppose. Bourne does undergo a personal journey throughout the series but that seems to be put to a halt when the many, many chase sequences pop up; when Bourne constantly outwits his pursuers and his physical endurance borders on the superhuman, his humanity withdraws and what we’re left to witness is essentially an unyielding machine that barrels through everything in his path. I guess that’s just how he works, but it’s just a bit alienating. There’s a balance of character and suspense that I don’t think is quite attained in the latter two pictures, despite our gained clarity into Bourne’s past, often he still seems too efficient in motive and action to rise entirely above the level of a device for the films to employ to move things along.

That all sounds kind of negative. The series’ denial to keep things dumb for a wider audience is appealing. A dense plot lay within and a relatively classy, non-exploitative air accompanies it. Bourne might be a virtual Rambo in pure energy, but in character they share little else.

A few cherry picked views from ’09

May 9, 2009

laputa

The pacing at the beginning is off the charts, not a lot of room to introduce characters but since they’re all familiar archetypes it doesn’t matter. Felt like I was playing Final Fantasy but… watching? Frantic and exciting action sequences abound, charming visual design, generally full of charm charm charm.

children

A vision too well realized and extremely frightening. What a strong and sad character Theo is, learning to do what is necessary and losing everything in the process. The authoritarian police state shenanigans, fictional of course, still hit far too close to home.

daredevil

I was kind of shocked at the title hero’s ruthless approach to crimefighting, a personal code that is sorta refined as the film goes on when Matt Murdock is faced with his own brutal nature. It’s actually kind of refreshing to have a hero with such a gap between his public and private identity, almost a Dirty Harryish aspect, being a lawyer who doesn’t let the law get in the way of his own righteous punishment, though Affleck’s sheer inability to pull it off is a letdown. So bland. The side characters almost make up for it: Jon Favreau’s character is fairly amusing, Kingpin is, uh… well… he yells a lot. Easily the best thing about the flick is Colin Farrell’s sensitive, nuanced Bullseye,  a total cartoon of a character who kills people in fun ways. More of him, please!