Ponyo is good, but disappointing. There are, and will be, others who love it and will be enchanted with its childlike wonder, etc. The typical response to vintage Miyazaki. But, I felt it lacking, like 2/3 of a film I'd expect from this acclaimed director. Wonderful visualizations, some great meaningful moments, but the charm was a little obvious and the challenges/lessons not nearly so inventive or affecting. In other words, compared to works of genius like Spirited Away, its magic feels more like a whimper.
The first 2/3's of Silver Linings Playbook was actually somewhat endearing / interesting, creating a couple of believably flawed characters (Cooper and Lawrence) that, through sheer force of a cliched narrative, still had the audience intrigued by how they would react to each new situation. Then, through a pivotal sequence of a football game and a living room scene thereafter, the producers seemed to hijack the script and the movie became everything one might've cynically expected of it from the outset. Stakes are raised, almost artificially, and the delicate world these interestingly-drawn characters dwell in becomes a single-minded game. Background characters and their baggage or relationships? They're now comic supporting crew. This movie simply becomes, well, a whole mess of adjectives, all pointing basically to it being thoroughly unremarkable. It's not that Silver Linings Playbook is entirely unlikeable. It's just that the film ultimately doesn't rise above its own formula, succumbing to every crowd-pleasing contrivance in the home stretch that leaves a distaste for just about anything that occurred. Silver linings my ass. That was far too easy.
Acting was fine, but nobody involved with this production deserves any kind of Oscar consideration. The movie needed to cool it on the speed zoom-ins and pan-outs, too.
Solid ghost movie from Ti West (director of House of the Devil). It's not nearly as good as House, and I found myself wondering whether West had invested a whole lot into this project for much of the first half, but it really gets going in the last half. Which is, like, how he made House of the Devil. Slow, sometimes-meticulous setup, toying with our attention and atmosphere, before turning up the volume to a breathless crescendo. Fun stuff.
The Avengers leverages the previous films for its primary characterization beats, and starts here by continuing some of those arcs - albeit in simple swipes. Nevertheless, maybe because of that, it took a little bit for Avengers to find its groove for me, rushing on the screen with a frenzy of plot establishment with characters from all over the Marvel universe, and I found it difficult trying to establish my bearings with it all (which, yes, can lead to a bit of dull movie viewing). But as each character was wrangled in by SHIELD, the rhythm and energy became more consistent - and Whedon's little touches became more evident. And with the aforementioned updates on character continuation, I found the interaction between all the superheroes, etc., a lot of fun, if not too terribly revealing.
Still, the fact that Whedon is able to balance each of the superheroes - both in their motivations and in their style of action - in a massive franchise-peaking picture like this with a coherent plot and ample stakes, is pretty impressive. There isn't a ton of room for the usual Whedon stuff; it's just about delivering something that makes sense. Everybody gets a fairly equal share of presence and conflict, and the forces of evil seem so ratcheted up, with the volume almost up to 11, that the Avengers' collaboration feels well-placed for the proceedings. And while this film wasn't really of strong emotional resonance, the setpieces and the interactive action were often outstanding, combined with the humor and the strong character touches, it netted out to a pretty stirring effect. Had a lot of great, breezy momentum, and finished just as you would expect most fun blockbusters.
It's low-calorie, but I don't know that it's such a bad thing for this kind of grandiose superhero film. The sense of consequence didn't feel right given the scope, though, and there are a few plot advancement moments that don't work. That said, I would so watch that again.
It's an over-produced, underwhelming, but still entertaining documentary. The opening credits hint at a character study, but it's really just highlight storytelling with (crazy) Joyce McKinney and a couple of sleazy British tabloid journalists. Forgoing any build-up or tension, the film sound-effects right into the primary conflict: Joyce "falls in love" with some Mormon, and kidnaps him in Britain. The scandalous details are well-documented here, and we sufficiently deduce that McKinney is gonzo (and her raspy laughter a bit demonic), but there's not much more to it than reliving old tabloid headlines. Tabloid may have been attempting to illustrate a media mindset by detailing dueling tabloid papers and dangling tantalizing nuggets to the audience as some kind of slinky burlesque. And as a piece of entertainment, it pretty much succeeds, but as as a thoughtful analysis of the mechanisms that elevated the story to ridiculous heights, I wasn't feeling it.