Posted on 6/19/12 10:25 AM
This is one of those movies tough to put on a rating scale. Going by how well it accomplishes what it sets out to do, it's an easy 10/10. By how much I appreciated the experience, I'm still not sure myself. Not much lower though.
Every so often, I'll come across a genuine mind trip of a movie, one that's not just strange but challenging in some unsaid way. And that challenge only grows more layered across the runtime. Even in the trailer, I could feel a magnetic quality in Gummo. The brief testament to life's beauty all but resonated with the odd, affectionate images of poverty. The film includes as much crude and disturbing content as some of the worst attempts I've seen to make money off of cynical shock vaule. But this isn't cynical, and it isn't really shock value, and most of it doesn't even feel at odds with the rest of the vision. On one hand, I'm inclined to say that a plot with roughly three acts, which the film deliberately avoids, is the popular storytelling form for a reason. But where I've paused during my favorite movies to think about the rating counter and what magnitude the experience had reached, I had forget this during Gummo. It only detracted from the experience.
I should ad that I didn't intend to watch it at first. My first encounter with Harmony Korine was when "Trash Humpers" became a candidate for the movie to watch at next week's Obscure Movie Group meeting. I decided to skip that week. (I heard it lost to Pink Flamingos.) But I read up on Trash Humpers just to see what corner of the no-budget, no-effort grade z film world the people in charge had dug it out of. Learning that it not only had drawn some attention but had a few critics giving it dead-serious praise was the first hook. In fact, making it look like a grade-z film was a deliberate choice by the director. From there I had to know more. And everything I came across was somehow intriguing.
Intriguing is the word of the day here. Korine has yet to score a fresh on the tomatometer, yet the only two consensuses sound like they're secretly on his side. His early films, including Gummo, seem to be his most admired as well as his lowest scoring. There is definitely a "trademark odd beauty" to them, but many of the negative reviews insist that they're as pretentious and detestable as they could possibly be. I've also noticed a few speculations on why people say that. Here's mine;
I think we can agree that people don't gravitate towards things that are too outside the norm. We need to get used to the idea of something before we can trust it. If it doesn't easily fit into one of the labels we have ready, we come prepared with "annoying", or "stupid", or at the very least "weird". Gummo is "weird" to most people, and disturbing on top of it. For that, most don't want to understand or consider it, writing the whole thing off as disguised ugliness. While simply declaring other critics' opinions invalid is unfair, I think it's a misunderstanding to say that Korine is "mean", "smug", "sour", or "pretentious" here. Korine has said that he made this film because he finds the people portrayed very interesting, and his sincerity is clear. What his film sets out to do is not to judge them, or us, but simply to show us life on their terms. This isn't a statement. It's a tribute. It's a collage, both realistic and dreamlike for whoever wants to see. The images are funny, sad, adorable, pitiful, and oddly nostalgic. Sometimes what it portrays is dispicable, and the dislike I felt probably did drop my approval a little. But every moment has a place in this visceral image of life that Korine weaves, and as the main character says, though he seems to forget it himself at points, "Life is beautiful. Really it is. Full of beauty and illusions."
I still can't put my finger on Korine himself. Watching him in person, he's awkward and sometimes unintelligible. Reading his prepared statements, he's confident and assertive in his visions that seem operate on a different plane. He claims to admire or identify with the subjects of just about every movie he makes, which sort of seems visionary and pretentious at the same time. But if it's made one thing clear by now, it's that Korine is not worried about how he comes across. Whether a good one or not, he's a true artist out to express visions, not elevate our vision of him. He is, I agree, "the real deal".
Posted on 5/26/12 08:38 PM
They're making a movie titled "LOL", starring Miley Cyrus. I now have a new symbol of my indestructible hate for the people entertaining my little brothers to replace iCarly.
...Well, that is unless it turns out to be more of a self-aware, smarter movie than the airhead "parents just don't get us ;-D" pop culture flick the description is making it sound like. Cyrus may be the most over-marketed tween icon of them all, but she has something most of the others don't; actual talent and charm. But that won't help a used bubblegum movie attempting to be "trendy".
Posted on 11/01/11 11:05 AM
The fact that I was borderline impatient with this movie at the start highlights how invigorating it becomes even more. On a slow day, having just been rubbed the wrong way by the (melo?)dramatic lines in Secretariat to the point of frustration, I wanted a movie with emotion, but I needed a movie with entertainment. Against my better judgement, I went with another underdog story and came out with a fresh connection to the genre.
At first, I was worried that the movie would mostly be segment after segment about Rudy's steps towards playing football at Notre Dame, his dream since childhood. It was. And I loved every one of them. There are some dramatic moments involving lines that I don't often hear people speak in in everyday life, just like in Secretariat (a movie I can't give a final opinion on, since I sort of missed the boat overall). But this time, they made me believe it. Rudy, while still very human and not lacking common sense, is a sincere guy, as played by Sean Astin. His focus isn't making sure he sounds sensible. It's making sure he gets the point across.
The story is one of the best testaments possible to working toward your dream, because it praises the journey more than the final payoff. Rudy, a sub-par high school student, studies for four semesters at a small college, discovering and learning to work around his dislexia. He gets the best grades of his life, as well as starting a mutually benifiting friendship with a slightly awkward intellectual. He's finally accepted into Notre Dame and tries out for the football team, making it on the practice squad by impressing the coach with sheer limitless effort. He goes at 100% every moment, gets up after every hit, and is soon attached to the only word anyone can think describe it with; heart. And it's all worth it to him, because his dream isn't an idealized vision of reality. He loves Notre Dame football. He lights up every time he talks about it. What he wants isn't glory, but simply to be a part of it and to be able to say that he graduated from Notre Dame. In some ways, this makes it all the more a dream worth chasing. And it's fun to follow him every step of the way.
Things don't always look good for Rudy, but part of the story's power is in the fact that working towards his goal has literally already made him a winner. As a friend tells him when he starts to think otherwise "In this life, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody but yourself. And after what you've gone through, if you haven't done that by now, it ain't never gonna happen". If he'd been ultimately rejected at any point, he still would have had worthwhile achievements, and if he'd ever quit, he wouldn't have had the movie's final scene to share with us.
Posted on 6/02/11 08:15 PM
Ghost Rider is better than the Punisher movies that I've seen, and it does have its moments. But it's still a little too tedious and depressing and not fun and exciting enough. Even as a violent, unspectacular good time, it doesn't quite deliver.
Posted on 6/02/11 08:11 PM
I'm always happy with a sequel that's fun, though not quite up to the original's standards, and competently continues the story. I came into Iron Man 2 knowing its reputation and expecting to have good time. But much to my surprise, though I did indeed have a good time overall, I sympathized with the negative reviews a little. I think it's because the story wasn't entirely competent. (Spoilers)
It would have been disappointing if Tony wasn't still, first and foremost, the shameless party man, so that was a good call. But still, I have to wonder why the government and other countries trying to gain control of and/or replicate his suits doesn't bother him. Isn't he worried that, when his design is recreated (in 10 years at longest), the problems he found in the last movie will start again? What about when Ivan, the son of his dad's bitter former partner, shows that he has it right now (in an attempt to kill him)? Has he resolved to be at peace with the world and its weapons with peace established for now? (If that's true, fine, but let us know!) We only see that he's not worried, though Pepper Pots and his friend Colonel Rhodes are, and happy to be the media star.
But he does have a problem with the device that's saving his life also poisoning his blood (which explains his behavior, though still not his original resolution, as his other problems persist). This brings in a subplot, also not without its faults. With no apparent solution, he tries to live up his last days. He gives Pepper, whose role as a love interest is developed only a little better than Tony's newfound beliefs, his job and drives her crazy with his thrill-seeking. (Somewhere along the way, he suggests they vacation together.) He crosses a line while drunk at his (last?) birthday party, leading to a fight in Iron Man suits with Rhodes and to Rhodes (who feels betrayed after sticking his neck out for Tony) flying off to give the suit to the army. By now we feel bad for Tony and want to see his complete comeback.
I respect that Iron Man 2 doesn't want to let us off with the usual cliches. It deliberatly sidesteps the moment where Tony and Pepper would've reconnected with a Hollywood heart to heart talk and fallen into eachother's arms. And the climax begins at the part that, without a better idea, would have been Tony's obligatory triumphant return as a new man. But, come on, it should give SOME KIND of resolution! Instead, the problems just sort of fade away, and the angst we felt isn't entirely resolved. Tony's heroics against Ivan's robots, built with the resources of Tony's underhanded buisness rival, just reassure everyone. The end. The one thing that does get a nice resolution is Tony's impending death. Nick Fury steps in and tells a beaten Tony there is a way to save his life. It turns out Tony's dad cared about him after all and started creating an element for Tony to finish, which can power Tony's suit and not kill him. (There's a strech.) The dad he never really knew saves him (and wasn't a bad guy after all).
The cast does well enough. Samuel Jackson's usual authoritative presence is the perfect answer to Tony's collapse. The best friend role is filled adequatly, creating the character Tony has the best moments with on screen (not to mention a good old tag team fight at the end). Mickey Rourke brings a presence to Ivan and his limited development. He's menacing as he cloaks his work in mystery from the man desprate enough to break him out of prison and employ him ("Hammer"). Hammer, a whiney Tony Stark wannabe, could be a little more subtle, but some of the funnier moments come from him. And I've liked Pepper Pots so far. She's a refreshing version of the love intrest character, complete with a memorable (odd) name. It's a shame the movie didn't try to find a smart, deeper scene to reconnect the two of them. Instead she simply overhears that he was dying. Then, when Tony saves her, they argue bit before just falling into eachother's arms. We simply assume they figure everything out. Not bad but not good either. As for Scarlett Johansson's character, I know she was in the comics, but I'm not sure what purpose she serves here, apart from doing extra stock character jobs and making Happy Hogan look bad. Maybe they thought Hogan couldn't fill out a scene on his own. But maybe I'm wrong and her scenes would have been worse without her. And of course, Robert Downey Jr. is the only one I'd want to play Toney Stark.
I pretty much liked Iron Man 2. The action, for all its logic gaps, was great. The suits and droids battle it out with inventive weapons and gadgets that we never get tired of watching. Tacking on another point to my score would still be an accurate reflection of the experience. But I have to say, movies with lower t-meter scores have left me more upbeat and satisfied.
Posted on 5/20/11 07:49 PM
The rule of thumb with Friedberg and Seltzer is that they get worse as they go. However, I'm not so sure that's the case here. The horrendous Willy Wonka scene in Epic Movie (a film of theirs that I decided against watching from start to finish) offended me more than all of this movie combined. And I actually laughed/smiled at a few jokes. The guy yelling "stop kicking people into the pit death!" at the king after he goes over the top with that was kinda funny. And the scene with the king trying to toughen up his son by pro wrestling him was almost flawless satire.
And now that I've listed just about every positive thing that can be said about this movie, I can get into how pathetic it is. Apparently when they helped make Scary Movie, Friedberg and Seltzer missed all the jokes and just assumed the sight of scenes from other movies and things you'd see in the bathroom were what was funny. I'm not even sure how to review it. At least in most bad movies, someone is trying to accomplish something with a moving plot. Apart from the scenes I mentioned above, all they're really doing is imitating scenes from other movies and making them senseless. (Many of them are from 300 so they can claim it has a plot at all.) Each one is like something thought up by drinking buddies who decided to watch a Family Guy marathon! ("Oh yeah, that part where Cookie Monster went crazy! Hey, what if the penguin from Happy Feet danced in and suddenly went nuts and attacked everyone?" "Yeah, what if Paris Hilton suddenly had this ugly hunchback?" "What if...") I could probably go more in depth, but it's so mindless, I don't even want to try. It's not too offensive to sit through. And as the first of their movies I saw, it didn't drive home what pathetic filmmakers Friedberbg and Seltzer are. (I'm almost positive that I would have given both Epic and Disaster Movie lower scores if I had seen them through and through.) But it's still a weak, unfunny, mindless movie.
Posted on 3/13/11 10:01 PM
I once read that a tragedy should not be turned away because it depicts sad events and that watching and experiencing it "purges" the sad feelings one may be carrying. I say bull. A tragedy can be a powerful experience, one that can hammer home a greater point, but if you consider depictions of suffering or death in and of themselves good for the soul, you haven't thought enough about what you're viewing. Many tragedies have shamelessly piled on such without a second thought. I'd suggest a look at another Eastwood film, my personal favorite, "Unforgiven" as an example of what I mean. But I guess you could say there's a grain of truth to that statement. Even I have come out of a tragedy or two, horrendous events and all, feeling... somehow better. And I think Million Dollar Baby has shown me why that is.
It takes some time after the movie ends for it to sink in all the way. Having played the last scenes over in my head several times, I've now moved on to looking back through the steps in the journeys these characters took. It begins with Eastwood as an experienced trainer who insists on lots of preparation for the far between steps up in competition he allows, Freeman as his assistant with a mixed past in boxing, and Swank who, as Freeman puts it, "knew she was trash," but loves boxing. (There's a sense of having seen it all before for a little while with her.) Where they end up is a gripping image that pushes the details of the journey out of one's mind for awhile. I only now realize how involved with them I became and, from there, why it never occured to me to reject the tragic aspects. Everything fit seamlessly in the story. There was no forced tragedy heaped on to make it a tear jerker. I was honestly reaching out to these characters as they dealt with their problems, never questioning how things played out for them. And I guess the "grain of truth" is that such a connection, maintained through enduring, thinking over, and reaching the end of terrible events with your characters, really can make you feel a little stronger.
I only give full marks to my very favorite films, maybe five total, and this movie wasn't as entertaining as they were (plus it begins with less power than it ends with). It also doesn't have a firm, powerful message like Unforgiven, which places in my top ten. But I sort of feel bad for having to rate it. The experience of this movie is almost beyond numbers. It goes beyond entertainment. It's not a testament to anything. It's organic emotion. It's a subtle connection with a powerful resonance. It is what it is, and after all the underdog stories we've heard before, it's entirely one of a kind.
Posted on 1/21/11 05:32 PM
This movie suffers the most attacks among Don Bluth's films, and it's not hard to see why. A Troll in Central Park is childish, short, and, well, flowery. But at the same time, there's a charm to it, a sense sincerity, even inspiration, that pays off in the end. Tots movies are often stuffed mindlessly with clichés and treacle, but Bluth, a passionate animator, was never one to resign himself to that.
The settings are a kingdom of trolls, where bad=good and vice versa, and New York city. The main character is Stanley, apparently the only good troll, who can magically grow things with his literally green thumb. He's caught growing flowers and taken to the Oscar the Grouch gone extreme villain, queen Gnorga, who sends him to a place where nothing grows; New York City. But he lands in central park, where he meets the cutesy toddler named Rosie and her older brother Gus, who's sorta wild. Thus the (short) plot is set in motion, with Stanley entertaining his two new friends and Gnorga deciding to just finish him off.
There are a couple scenes, such as the trip on Stanley's boat that's made of "a dream", that can be a little intriguing. And the songs are surprisingly memorable. Gnorga's "Queen of Mean" has a nice beat to it, and manages to ride out her "terrible is wonderful" gag for just over two minutes with some amusing images. And Stanley's twice sung "Absolutely Green" is warm and bright. While a basic description would probably make one think "syrupy clichés", the song as a whole actually seems inspired. And when coupled with the animation of the scenes, there's little question of its sincerity. (The idea made me think "John Lennon's 'Imagine' for toddlers".)
None the less, it's flawed. Sometimes it's too cutesy, mainly with Rosie, and at times it overextends the ho-hum comedy, as with Gnorga's comic relief sidekick, King Lort. It isn't breathtakingly exciting, despite some engaging moments, and there's not much beyond the environmental stance that reaches out to older viewers. I wouldn't call any of the characters deep either, except maybe Gus or Stanley. And while the climax (stepping up the intensity a bit to become a little creepy) and ending were good, the very last bit went too far with New York City itself. (I prefer to think of it as a vision, rather than what actually happens.)
Overall it's decent enough and worthwhile as a kids movie. So if you need a film to watch with kindergarteners, give it a chance. It may charm you more than you care to admit. But if I'm wrong, I'm still glad there's a movie for those seven and under that treats its audience like children, not morons.
Posted on 11/09/10 08:07 PM
This movie reminded me more of a sitcom than the Harry Potter books. I didn't find it better than prior installments, let alone the best in the series. In general, the new approaches didn't go over well with me. And it's hard not to miss parts cut out from the novel. While I admit that for the most part, those who had never read the book may better off with these bits cut, I don't think that's always the case. (Oh by the way, to tac this on to the end, there's a better broom than the Nimbus 2001, and "somebody" just got it for you.)
For starters, it was far too hokey. Malfoy has become the type of doofus that you just don't run into in reality. You're not supposed to take him at all seriously, even as their sneaky, underhanded rival, and he walks away a beaten moron almost every time he shows up. Now, I know we all want to see our heroes triumph over him and laugh at where his arrogance takes him, but was the best way to give us that really to make him a total stooge? Consider this; in the novel, when he cruelly insults Hagrid, Hermione slaps him out of anger (beating Harry and Ron to doing it themselves), giving the surprise he had coming. Then, before he can do something about it, she draws her wand, forcing him to back off. It's a very satisfying and amusing moment with Malfoy getting his and Hermione showing that she can be pushed to step outside her perfect student mindset when it comes to her friends. In the movie, he waltzes in with some forgettable line and then begins sobbing like a baby when Hermione pulls her wand on him. Harry and Ron, rather than going after him themselves, call "he's not worth it" to her, as they now, apparently, see him as their annoying little brother. She puts her wand away, he starts chuckling like a doofus, she punches him and poses like Wonder Woman, and he starts sobbing again and stomps back to Hogwarts like he has just been told to go to bed early. To this version of Malfoy, that stuff is SUPPOSED to happen. Where's the victory? You might get a laugh, but bad things happening to stupid people who ask for it is sort of a cheap gag that has seen more than its share of use (especially in sitcoms). I'd expect many people to be indifferent, and personally, I was rolling my eyes. And he's not the only one. Ron is also becoming more of a stooge here, making his character more of a comic relief side kick, and Hermione has been turned into a macho know-it-all who's always right. Sure, she was a know-it-all before, but to a lesser degree, and it was just as much her weakness as it was her strength. It was much more enjoyable when she was also allowed to do something foolish for Ron or Harry to point out, instead of always the other way around. Instead of three unique friends, they've become generic sitcom characters. We have the main character, the comic relief sidekick, and the know-it-all girl who shoves every male's stupidity in his face. Even Wormtail was made into a sillier character. Wormtail is a despisable villain, and Harry deciding that he should live was a moment of revalation. In spite of him hating the man, Harry gave him something to be grateful for for the sake of Lupin and Sirious. But instead, the movie would rather reassure us that Wormtail is still suffering by making him into an idiot who never knows when to stop begging.
Also, it was overdramatic. If they wanted to highlight Harry not getting called up to fight the bogart, there are several reasonable ways they could have done it. But instead, we got Harry walking up to fight the bogart, followed by this; Lupin: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (jumps in front of Harry with the rest of the class probably thinking that that was more than a little bit awkward.) Lupin: ... (The bagart transforms into the full moon) Lupin: ...Ridiculous! Alright, that's enough. We're cutting this scene short because the sight of Harry near the bogart makes me jump and scream and lose any thought of more rational solutions. And then, when he trains with one, we find that poor Harry only has TWO happy thoughts! Aw, doesn't that just remind you of the Robin Williams Peter Pan? And with Harry sobbing under his invisibility cloak, screaming dramaticly, and making death threats when he finds out the news of Sirius Black's betrayal, he's well on his way to becoming the tragic little hero that Rita Skeeter tried to make him into. (That last one's more forgivable, but I just don't remember Harry expressing anger and passion with sobs and dramatic shouts. It comes across as melodrama.) These scenes are dramatized far too much. It makes the characters seem less realistic, not more.
In the end, I couldn't help but be dissapointed, almost frustrated, by this movie. I know you'd think that it would still be worth watching for the visuals, but in spite of the eye candy, I found it boring overall. The climatic moments didn't move me all that much. Maybe it would have been different if I hadn't read the book, but Harry meeting Serious seemed to move from one moment to the next with little tension. (I'm guessing it's because none of the moments were stressed or drawn out. Harry's decision to turn on Snape, for example, was made instantly, without him being pushed to, and hardly had me on the edge of my seat.) The Lupin vs. Sirius dogfight was hardly the most exciting thing I'd ever seen in Harry Potter. (Maybe if they'd spent more time on it...) And when they traveled back through time, there was hardly a question about whether they would succeed in their mission. They just did. Having to escape the werewolf wasn't bad, but after watching Harry overcome magical gaurds to the sorcerer's stone, fight Voldemort/Quirrell, and take on a giant snake with a sword, that just didn't do it for me. And I do prefer the Harris Dumbledore. (The Dumbledore from the last two movies.) He was much closer to my vision of Dumbledore. He was a character you think you'd feel comfortable talking to, even if you hardly knew him. And you get the sense that he usually knows what he's doing. (He may not have captured Dumbledore's sense of humor perfectly, but I can forgive that.) I would have liked to see that version of the character (as Dumbledore did in the book) go from his usual state to a passionate and serious wizard skillfully weilding his wand. With the Gambon Dumbledore, there was hardly a transition, because he was already a somewhat aggressive character. I know the first two movies had their problems, but I don't think that it was plain and simply that they remained too close to the book. (But I've already written about that in my review of the second one, and this review isn't about those films.) I just hate to think that a dramatized, sitcom style Harry Potter movie was the answer. I didn't like it much at all.
Posted on 11/08/10 07:27 PM
I came into this one expecting a pleasent, unremarkable movie that I would soon forget. But I was pleasently surprised. It was made with more intelligence than one would expect.
Not only is it funny enough and, as the consensus says "harmlessly pleasurable" but it has some clever approaches. It's fun how Zac Effron reacts to everything like a parent would. And yet nobody can write him off as a nerd, with his basketball skills and charisma. (The first time, everyone's all set to sneer, laugh, or whatever, until he starts punctuating his speech by dribbing a basketball like a globe trotter.) And it has some thoughtful (in one case, very amusing) romances. I also like how it not only doesn't buy into but attacks the whole "teens are powerless to control hormones" idea. Now, I still wouldn't call it spectacular, but it's one of the better movies of its kind that I've seen recently.
(On a side note, the character works better when played by Zac Effron than Matthew Perry.)