My First Reviews Part 3
Something happened here that I can’t put my finger on, but I began to enjoy things again; and not just movies. This was around the middle of January, 2011 for the chronologically interested…
An okay movie. Cutting edge (for the time) effects, simple plot, sometimes a little sub-standard dialogue and things kind of pushed through to make the story advance. A “historically important” film in my view, laying the groundwork for so many more, and many better films to come.
Tron Legacy +++
Just as good as the original. Far superior effects obviously, with the price grab of 3-D attached. There were a few moments where the 3-D actually worked, but for the most part simply added fluff to distract from another thin story. It was enjoyable. Soundtrack was catchy, and fit perfect with the mood they created. If the original TRON did inspire so many movies, you could see some of them being used in Legacy. Several “Matrix” shots and fights. A climactic chase that borrowed from the chase in the first “Iron Man”, (again with Bridges…hmmm…) Of course you have to wonder if they went through all the CGI trouble to de-age Bridges for CLU why not Boxleitner and let us see TRON without his helmet? Few other holes, but still a fun night out. Hopefully made a new friend tonight. Mmm.
This was the funniest movie I have seen in a while. The violence, the gore were so over the top, you couldn’t help but laugh at it. A good “popcorn” flick, very enjoyable depending on your frame of mind. For a movie with a simple premise, the plot is well laid out, and Rodriguez takes care to give a “higher quality” trash. Also, the gun fights, fist fights, knife fights are all well shot, well paced. In fact, the pace doesn’t really let up all movie long. Fine cast, with some big names, and some Troublemaker favourites such as Marin and Trejo, who shines in the title role.
Magnum Force +++-
Classic Eastwood. Classic Dirty Harry. Good story, gritty realism. Good use of the San Francisco locales. Fun car chases, and of course lots of shooting. Ted Post was a very good follow up director after Don Siegel. This film saw a lot of young actors (Urich, Soul and Matheson) and the veterans Eastwood and Holbrook round out the cast nicely.
Maltese Falcon +++-
Good movie, classic noir. Well acted, with a great cast, I would like to see it re-edited, just to make some of the scenes a little smoother. Very jumpy transitions at some points. I wouldn’t change the movie at all by remaking it, but maybe clean the edges a bit. A few scenes cut out too short, and makes the plot a little hard to follow for some. Decent musical score, very good camera work. “The stuff that dreams are made of…”
Cry of the Owl +++
Good movie, with good suspense. I liked the slow build; not necessarily a slow pace mind you; it didn’t throw twists at you at all possible turns. There were some nice “table turning” moments, a man spies on a woman, watching her from afar, watching her “being happy with someone else”. When he’s discovered, he seems to realize the folly of his ways, but now she won’t let _him_ go. He’s now stalked by the woman he was watching, who has now left her boyfriend for the fated relationship she envisions with her stalker. A bit of murder, a bit of intrigue is thrown in for good measure, to give a good suspenseful film. Julia Stiles was okay, and convincing in her part, but Paddy Considine was great as the man wanting to escape the city, his ex-wife, and depression.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L’instinct de mort) +++-
Good gangster film. Vincent Cassel was great as a somewhat likeable, most times brutal “Public Enemy Number One” (sorry, that’s Part Two). Stylish, and fast paced. No punches are pulled with the violence or performances.
True Grit (2010) ++++
Every bit as good as the original. A very good movie, and a very good western. Great performances. Very good acting. Lots of sly humour thrown into the mix make this one very enjoyable all the way through. Several differences between this and the original, two major ones. I think I’ll have to read the book now to see who had a more faithful adaptation. I think the best part of this movie was Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, who I think outdid the other, more established, and Oscar winning actors in this film. I think keep an eye on her, hopefully she can continue to deliver the goods, and was not a one hit wonder.
The Social Network +++-
Good movie, solid directing and writing. Good performances. Eisenberg was good. Very good opening scene. Enjoyable, and interesting, with a bit of a history lesson as well. Not sure if it’s the _best_ picture of the year, but it was good.
Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 +++-
The end of Jacques Mesrine’s story. Good action, good drama, well paced, just as the first. An enjoyable gangster movie. Really enjoyed the climax, which we already saw in the opening credits of Part 1, but this time, seen from the Police point of view.
The Oxford Murders ++
Not great, but not terrible. Good cast, for a murder mystery, but it tried to be too “twisty” at the end, and doesn’t really resolve anything at the end. A little to over-complicating with the coincidences; which the movie states there are no such thing as, just logic and series and sequence and mathematics, and a host of other things to fill 100 minutes. Not even the large breasted women and contractually necessary sex scenes can get this one past 2 Stars.
Arn: The Knight Templar +++-
Nice period piece that tended to drag at times. I thought it was about 25-30 minutes too long until I saw in the credits it was based on a trilogy of books. That being the case, there were slow times, but I’m assuming there was a lot of material to fit in, which would be hard to do without some lulls. The action scenes were well done, nothing was really glorified. Well acted and well produced. Again I’m suckered in by the Swedes, with their fantastic stories; this one a fictional recounting of the founding of Sweden; and their Do It Yourself furniture. It looks like I may have to pickup Jan Guillou’s books, because the story was quite well done. Good writing gets me every time, beating out effects and star power always.
Red Hill +++-
Though a lot of this story has been told before (escaped convict, comes back to the town that put him away to get revenge), this one has quite a few things to set it apart. The Australian landscape is a great setting for this “modern day western”. The Australian cast make the action and suspense top notch. The beginning of the film slowly builds the characters and the atmosphere, eventually switching gears turning Red Hill into a crime thriller/suspense yarn. The action is slow and methodical, but paced out just right for the tone they were setting.
The King’s Speech ++++-
Excellent movie, with an excellent cast. Fantastically acted by Firth. He definitely gets my vote for Best Actor. I hate it when they give an actor the nod for any dramatic role they have, thinking they may not have another good one so best to reward them now <cough> Pacino <cough>….but Firth was very deserving of his nomination in what I would think a very difficult role. Actors train, and rehearse and practice all their career to give clear delivery, perfect enunciation. To suddenly have to switch gears and produce a believable stammer, many could find themselves with an impossible task. I am somewhat familiar with the historical facts regarding the Kings George and this film really brought the time and the players to life. Sets were good, costumes were good. The only thing stopping me from giving a full five star review, would be the theatre I saw it in, had a very bad sound system. A lot of the audio was very “tinny” sounding, ruining the nostalgic feel for when it really was supposed to sound “tinny” such as the radio addresses. I will definitely be picking this film up on DVD, and hopefully that will provide a better experience.
The Devil & Daniel Webster (All That Money Can Buy) (1941) ++++-
Found it at the store, listed it on Amazon, sold it to someone, read the back, thought it looked pretty good, decided to give a watch before shipping it out. That was a good decision, it turns out. Good movie.
Excellent cast. I’m blown away by nearly everything Norton does. DeNiro and Jovovich were very good as well. This was a steady psychological suspense drama, but not really a thriller. As I said, great performances, for three very disturbed characters. More spiritualism than I would have expected from a prison movie, but it did keep your interest all the way through.
The Big Lebowski ++++
So I’ve finally seen this, only about 13 years later. I wish I had seen it sooner. I have a deeper appreciation now for the other films of the Coen brothers, and for their choice of leads. Very smart, very quick dialogue. Many laugh out loud scenes in this tale of mistaken identity, kidnapping, double crossing and bowling. Bridges is great as The Dude who everyone can relate to as a character who just wanted compensation for his ruined rug (it did after all tie the room together) but gets his easy going, laid back life disrupted and his car killed by doing so. Ah well, the Dude abides.
Jack Goes Boating ++++
Another “indie” hit that you really should see. Small cast, but great characters, and great performances. Very realistic and emotionally honest. The NYC locations are fantastic and truly make the city another character. The film starts with Jack getting set up with Connie and it seems like the first time either of these very awkward and unique characters has ever been in a relationship. Their story grows at almost the exact rate that their matchmaker friends Clyde and Lucy’s long established relationship fails. The two misfits end up looking a lot more adjusted than their “normal” counterparts. Very solid directorial debut for Philip Seymour Hoffman, with a fantastic soundtrack as well featuring the Melodians and the Fleet Foxes.
Thoughtful, and thought provoking. Enjoyable. Eastwood is one of my personal favourites of all time, acting, directing, you name it, I’ve enjoyed virtually everything he’s done. I even sat through Pink Cadillac. As always, Eastwood gets great performances out of his cast. I also enjoyed the fact that he personally did the music for this film, which added a very nice touch. That said, this one is not for everyone. When I first heard about Hereafter, I was led to believe it was supposed to be a “supernatural thriller”, and it is far from that. Not a thriller at all, but with a shade of “supernatural”. Hereafter masterfully follows three separate stories of three people and the different ways they have experienced “death” in their lives. One a psychic, one a near death experiencer, and one who loses a loved one. Of course all three stories intertwine, or else we would have had three separate movies, but they come together very well. I really enjoyed this film, but you have to go into it with an open mind about life, death and whatever happens next.
The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968) +++-
Rather a funny and light tale with a great leading actor in Paul Newman who didn’t do enough comedies in my opinion. Secret War of Harry Frigg tells the tale of five one-star WWII Generals captured and imprisoned in an Italian villa that is more five star hotel than stockade. All have escape on the mind, but as they’re all of equal rank, so they govern by committee and no one will vote for an escape plan other than his own. Private Frigg is quickly promoted to Major General and sent in to be captured and break the other Generals out. Of course, living the life of luxury is too good to leave, so their escape is delayed, until on the night the plan is to take place, Italy surrenders, and the Germans take command and bring our troop to a their POW camp. Fairly clever dialogue, with decent performances and delivery. A mix of McHale’s Navy, Hogan’s Heroes and The Great Escape.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story +++-
Likeable comedy-drama. Good performances, Galifianakis was strong, but not too over the top. He didn’t play silly or act funny the whole time, obviously he was there for some of the laughs, but delivered a lot of the drama to the film too. A film that everyone can relate to from some point of their lives. The film delivers without being preachy or trying to re-invent “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for a more comedic or modern generation. Good music, good art direction.
Black Swan +++-
Decent psychological drama. I won’t go so far as to call it a thriller, as the story was very predictable and the thrills were small. Great performance by Portman; evidently Oscar thought she was “perfect”. This movie made me even more of a Vincent Cassel fan than I was before. Well shot, and seemed to give a true look into the darker side of people so focused and dedicated to their craft. Probably won’t do much to increase ballet school enrolments.
Casino Jack +++
Interesting story of real life federal lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Provides some insight into the workings of lobbyists, for those who don’t understand it, and for those who either don’t remember, or never followed Abramoff’s story to begin with. Quite funny at times, and sadly probably didn’t have that much embellishment. Overall, I enjoyed the movie, but it seemed to fall flat for me. Several plots seemed to dangle, or over complicate the greater story. This could be because there was a lot of material to try and present to give an accurate picture of the scams and the money Abramoff ran. Strong performances by Spacey and Pepper, plus Jon Lovitz is a fun addition.
Due Date ++
Road trip comedy with Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis playing his Hangover character again, in a different movie. The jokes were sporadic, but you could see them coming for miles down the road. Most of the laughs tried to come from the physical comedy of either Galifianakis’ clumsiness or Downey’s character getting beaten up or hurt. There were a few scenes that were truly funny but for the most part I was thankful it clocked in at just 100 minutes I couldn’t get back. To make any good comedy it must be believable. The situations “Ethan” and “Peter” end up in stretch so much of the viewers faith that they detract from the overall film. My final recommendation is to just re-watch “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” to see how it was done properly the first time through.
The Tourist ++
Again, proof that two big, bankable stars do not a great movie make. So much potential, but so much wrong in this movie. This could have been a great Hitchcockian mystery/thriller, it has all the makings, and all the beginnings. An woman involved in the intrigue being followed by police to track down her criminal boyfriend; a classic case of mistaken identity (a Hitchcock favourite à la North By Northwest); exotic locales, I could go on and on. This film did not deliver. Perhaps I was looking for something that wasn’t supposed to be there to begin with. It all felt too forced. I’ll easily give the director that Angelina Jolie is one of the most beautiful women in the world, but you don’t need to have all traffic stop, all eyes follow her in every scene she walks into, though he did anyway. Angelina looked fantastic in her various ball gowns and other costumes, which again seemed like the “glamour” was being forced upon us. I enjoyed watching Angelina wiggle her bum as she walked away from the camera, but that too grew tiresome when it was thrown into almost every other scene. Real people do not walk that way all of the time! One of the most infuriating parts to me was the score of this movie. It was like the director again was trying to show us that she was exotic by playing swoony, classical music and slowing down the delivery of every bit of interaction between Jolie and Johnny Depp. The finale of the film is very predictable, and even some of the scenery looked badly CGI’d in. Not everything was bad about this one though, it was nice to see Timothy Dalton, my second favourite Bond still being cast. Poor chemistry, poor dialogue, poor delivery. The stars just seemed to phone this in, as it looked to be a very quick shoot for them both.
Only one more set to go…