zumsted07's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Gosford Park
Gosford Park(2001)
½

Continuing the theme of rewatching "movies I kind of watched ten years ago," I watched Gosford Park tonight! It was good. The overlapping conversations were great, doing what other movies struggle to do by suggesting that there really are things going on at any given moment outside of the frame. And tracking shots through hallways were so brilliant that I am confident that I could walk into the mansion where the events take place and know my way around with little problem.

PS-Something about the scene where the servants are discreetly listening to the music played in the parlor was fantastic. I absolutely loved that scene.

Vanilla Sky
Vanilla Sky(2001)
½

I first watched this when I was 12 or 13. It was late at night at an age when I was unaccustomed to staying up late at night, and I was drifting in and out between Vanilla Sky and sleep. Since then, I had always been curious what the fuck happened in that weird movie that my sleepy middle-school mind simply could not comprehend all those years ago. I finally gave it the rewatch that it deserved.

It's too long and it wraps up too nicely. Those are my only two complaints (but they're not exactly tiny complaints). Otherwise, Vanilla Sky is a mishmash of two of my favorite films: Mulholland Drive and Total Recall. It's fantastic. And guys, Tom Cruise is the shit.

Before Midnight

I'm not sure what I was missing having not seen the prior two installments, but this was pretty damn solid regardless. The conversations throughout the film (aka the conversations which comprise the entirety of the film) are flawlessly executed. They are wordy, and occasionally consisted of that painful kind of clever dialogue that you can't imagine people saying in real life, but the delivery by Hawke, Delpy, and everyone else makes it work and makes it feel like real life. Maybe I've never heard people talk like that in real life, but maybe I've simply never met such interesting and intelligent people. And, of course, when a movie that is essentially four or five long conversations that feel as real and interesting and tragic and heartbreaking and redemptive as real life, you can bet the farm you're watching a damn good movie.

The Wolverine

Standard operating procedure: all X-Men movies get at least a one-star boost. If this movie was not an X-Men movie it would net 2.5 or 3 stars.

The Wolverine is fine. It's a fine summer movie. It's more fine for the first two-thirds than it is in the utterly obnoxious final one-third. That final laboratory scene is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen. That's not a compliment. Everything up to that was legitimately good: great vibe/style/setting/tone and whatever other buzzword you may choose. But like DeSean Jackson, The Wolverine got a little cocky and spiked the ball before hitting pay dirt. Shame.

Pitch Perfect

I'm that cynic who hears enough people tell me how "surprisingly good" a mediocre-looking movie is, and all of a sudden I assume it's going to suck. Thus I assumed Pitch Perfect would be awful. It wasn't. Anna Kendrick is charming and lovely. Cups is a charming and lovely song that I can't get out of my head. I'm glad Angela kept pestering me until I finally watched this. It was "surprisingly good" indeed.

Sound of My Voice

The cool premise--investigative journalists infiltrate a cult--is executed with a bit of a slow burn and seems to tread water for a while. Then, a bit of cliche romantic squabbling gives way to an interesting, and interestingly ambiguous climax that seems to be completely unambiguous unless you ask some questions about things that went otherwise unexplained. What happened to the little girl's mother that she was raised only by her father? Was the "FBI investigator" really an FBI investigator? Did she ever show her badge? What was the deal with the scene where she was introduced? She seemed more like a hit person than an FBI agent, which suggests there is more of a conspiracy than a superficial reading would suggest. Unfortunately, what I've heard was the first of a planned low-budget trilogy will probably not see the questions answered later on.

Blue Velvet
Blue Velvet(1986)
½

David Lynch makes movies that you've seen before but does so in ways you've never seen before. Blue Velvet is not about plot (a "been there done that" story about a guy who gets wrapped up in the very crime that he is investigating) it's about form. Lynch see a cliche and transforms it into a bizarro version, still recognizable as cliche but transformed into something unbelievably unique. Like Twin Peaks was, on some levels, a mixture of primetime soap opera and investigative procedural, anyone who watches the show knows that it is so much more. Blue Velvet is the same thing and its greatness is nearly indescribable. The characters' strange mannerisms, the overwrought somberness, and the dramatic shift in tone in the ending epilogue make this movie what it is--which is amazing.

(Also: Consistent with another strand of Lynch's films, Blue Velvet is a Freudian wet dream. Frank Booth fetishizes Dorothy's blue velvet robe, rubbing himself with it both during sexual activity and in public. He also is the castrated/impotent power monger, who can't stop talking about "fucking" but does not have intercourse in his sexual encounters and compensates by asserting his phallic dominance through sexual violence and humiliation. Jeffrey is a voyeur, peeping on Dorothy from his hidden vantage point in the closet and his secret photography of Booth's criminal dealings. He also consummates a sexual relationship with a much older [and debatably maternal?] woman, but not his age-appropriate girlfriend.)

The Kings of Summer

Fantastic movie and fantastic meditation on gender. Kings of Summer can be read as some as "just another coming-of-age" story, but it's so much better than that. When I think of coming-of-age films, my mind instantly jumps to Stand By Me. In that movie (forgive me for painting with broad strokes about a movie I haven't seen in a long time), you see a bunch of boys going out and doing "boy things" that give them the perspective to later transition into manhood. The Kings of Summer kind of says fuck that.

The three boys (high school freshmen) want to be treated like men. When their parents don't respect their adolescent desires for "masculine independence" it drives them to run away and build a man cave with their bare hands in the woods, where they can hunt their food and do whatever the hell they want. Perhaps because they're teenagers, but more likely because of their subscription to "I do what I want to do" masculinity, they never once consider the impact that their actions have on their parents. The closest they get to reflecting on their perception of masculinity is when they grow bored of "boys will be boys" and agree that the only thing they're missing is "a woman's touch." Enter an admittedly contrived love triangle. By this point in the movie, I was getting a little pissed off to see the solid and simple coming-of-age story seemingly devolve into a cliche Yoko Ono breakup and foreseeing a "bros before how" conclusion.

Mercifully, this movie is smarter than that. It challenges what boys grow up thinking of masculinity and pride and power over nature, etc. The hunter is not "manlier" than the gatherer. The comfortable-in-his-skin weirdo is no less "masculine" than the smirking kid with the tough-guy mustache. The love of a girl is not a prize in some sort of "competition of manhood" that should justifiably drive a wedge through friendships. And a self-loathing father transitioning to single-parenthood is capable of the big task of raising his son, no matter how big and unmanageable the "wonton of parenting" seems to be.

Man of Steel
Man of Steel(2013)
½

People's go-to rationale for not liking Superman is that he's "too good" or a "boy scout" or "faces no challenges," and that this is somehow unrealistic or boring. Now, I don't care whether you like Superman or not, but I want to address some of these criticisms by way of comparison. Superman is awesome in a different way than the Avengers are awesome (I'm going to use the Avengers as counterpoint because they are a) fundamentally different than Superman; b) a group of heroes allowing me to compare Superman to not just one hero, but instead six; and c) they're big time right now).

The Avengers are cynical, petty, egomaniacal, and in the case of Captain America, deferential to authority. In this way they are "realistic," and I feel like audiences enjoy the in-group tension and squabbles because prideful and hyper-talented people tend to do that kind of stuff. Superman is none of those things. He is moral and humble, but compared to Captain America he caters to the needs of the people (as he perceives them--but he has help from a cross-section of society: Lois, Martha, etc.) and not always to the government. He lives amongst the people, which is something none of the Avengers do. Superman is not realistic, but he's what heroes SHOULD be, whether those heroes are of the super or ordinary variety. He has no interest in being a god, a celebrity, a millionaire, or even a hero really: all he wants is to protect the people he cares about, ALL people, when they face a challenge they cannot handle on their own. Superman is what we want heroes and governments to be, while Avengers are what heroes and governments are. I think that makes Superman awesome.

Now the argument about him being boring is different. We are cultured to be attracted to flaws (personality flaws only, unfortunately, since we live in an age of advertising). Superman takes the high ground, sure, and is pretty much morally flawless, but what MAN OF STEEL touches on is how difficult that can be for him. He's not a "boy scout" because he's an all-powerful entity. He's a "boy scout" because he was raised really well by his parents. But he lives in the same world that we do and is prone to the same temptations that we face. I would argue that witnessing that struggle is all the more fascinating because we finally see somebody overcome those temptations for once. For the past couple decades (at least) we've seen so many anti-heroes that it has become exhausting, expected, and in the case of new characters a bit lazy. It's nice to see somebody not only fight his inner demons, but actually come out on top. Go Superman. And go MAN OF STEEL for breaching the tough nut that is Superman.

Valley of the Dolls

Introductory note: Why the heck did I choose to watch Valley of the Dolls out of all the movies that exist? Blame Mad Men and the internet for the "Megan Draper is Sharon Tate" theory. I've spent a lot of time internet-sleuthing Sharon Tate and Helter Skelter over the past couple days after the theory piqued my interest, and it only seemed natural to watch a Sharon Tate movie.

But holy shit, this movie. TNT doesn't know drama, Valley of the Dolls knows drama. It's like TMZ: the movie and it's just as good-bad as that concept suggests. Sex? Check. Drugs? Check. Pornography? Check. Affairs? Check. Breast Cancer? Check. Huntington's disease? Check. (okay this is starting to get weird...) Ageism? Check. Appreciation for Revolutionary War era architecture? Check. What else could you possibly want?

If the movie wasn't so cliche, I don't think it would work. But given the themes of emptiness and corruptive power of fame, the over-acted and cliche execution is perfect and warrants some consideration that the filmmakers knew exactly what they were doing in making such a subpar movie. It's an empty Hollywood film telling us how empty Hollywood is. Poetic, really.

Marvel's The Avengers
½

Oh yeah, I watched this a few weeks ago. I liked it, but it wasn't transcendent. It was something like the perfect application of a familiar formula, in that it was perhaps the most entertaining "summer movie" in recent memory, but it didn't add to the superhero genre in novelty (the first Spider-Man), depth (The Dark Knight), or setting (X-Men First Class) like the best superhero films. That said, I completely understand why/how it was the cash cow it was and, unlike a lot of movies, I don't root against it merely because it appealed to everyone.

My only substantive gripe is the short shrift given to Bruce Banner suddenly figuring out how to control the Hulk. The singular plot point of prior Hulk movies (and a significant plot point underlying this movie) is resolved without mention when, only a few scenes removed from a prior uncontrollable rampage, Banner confidently hulks out without losing control.

Inland Empire

Maaan, I hate not liking a film because it's incomprehensible. I tried really really hard to make what I was seeing make sense in my own mind, and I thought I had something too. Then the last half hour rolled around and shit hit the fan. I ended up feeling like I watched the entire movie just to set up a freaky image to scare the bejeezus out of me (after Laura Dern shot the dude a few times and his face warped into some crazy monstrosity). Basically I felt like I watched a three hour movie version of this game: http://bit.ly/UiRx

All that said, I love David Lynch, and I'll watch this movie again--probably within the next few months--and I'll enjoy it in some way, shape, or form. But watching it yesterday I only thought two things: (1) I bet this is saying something about gender violence and (2) I'm going to have so many nightmares.

Eyes Wide Shut

I watched this after reading about (although unfortunately not seeing) Room 237 and the deep analysis that people bring to Kubrick films, so that may have colored my viewing. Buuut, can anybody watch this and not see the allegory to the internet? It's 1999, people engage in sexually deviant behavior under the guise of anonymity. Tom Cruise even buys a costume in the middle of the night, as if he's shopping at a brick and mortar internet shopping site! I think it's fascinating and I loved it. But can anyone explain to me why Tom Cruise repeats every question that he is asked? "What is the password?" "The password? Fidelio." -- "Are you the doctor who was here last night?" "Am I the doctor? Who was here last night? Yes."

Spring Breakers

Harmony Korine didn't sit down and say to himself: "let's show how awesome spring break is." I'm not even sure he intended anything so simple as a critique of superficiality and the MTV culture (which seems to be the dominant interpretation). Instead, Spring Breakers seems to be about criminality, and the myth that kids are just being kids when they engage in criminal activity. When we hear about college kid exploits at PCB and other popular spring break destinations, we roll our eyes but we imagine that "what happens in PCB stays in PCB," and that the illicit drug use and sexual assault behaviors remain on the sandy beaches and in the cheap hotel rooms. What Spring Breakers does is quash that myth. With the exception of Gomez's character (the counterpoint through which the film makes its statement), the girls are the scum of the earth. They are drug-abusers, violently narcissistic, and felons BEFORE they go to spring break, but they have the college sorority girl privilege of the perception that they'll "grow out of it." Enter Alien. Unlike the vacationing girls, he didn't choose crime, but was raised in a criminal culture. Yet he is far more human and far less despicable than the girls because he didn't make that choice. His life tortures him. We see glimpses of it through his accounts of his childhood and his material possessions that point to a sad insecurity, but it all comes to a head when he is reluctant to kill his childhood friend, current enemy (and is shamed into doing it by the blood-thirsty girls). He doesn't want the hard knock life that he has been dealt, but through the force of inertia he continues down the path that he was born into. It's the girls versus Alien comparison that is the core of Spring Breakers. To consciously and selfishly choose to hurt others is evil (the girls). To be forced into it should garner sympathy (Alien). We live in a society that punishes unfortunate people like Alien far more harshly than people who come from good families, who are just going through "a phase," when it is these very people who have the world at their feet and the luxury of legitimate choices, who are more blameworthy when they hurt people. For some people Spring Break isn't just one week per year and the myth of the "on/off" switch for criminal behavior is a complete lie. For some people, regardless of whether they are privileged white kids, "Spring Break forever."

Compliance
Compliance(2012)

Don't watch this if you don't want to get really pissed off. Just make sure you're getting pissed off for the right reasons. I feel like viewers might be tempted to condemn Sandra, who was coaxed by fear of authority to do things that no sane person would do of her own volition. But the gross degradation that Becky experienced was not just Sandra's doing or even the satellite pervert pulling the "prank." The social evil that facilitated the horrifying events in Compliance is instead a culture that is bullied into submitting to authority. Think, why is it okay that we are cultured to assume that failing to submit to police instructions will result in punishment? If police procedure was transparent, if people were educated of their rights (suspects and also witnesses) during a police investigation, the police wouldn't be--and wouldn't be seen--an omnipotent bully. But as it stands, when verbally protesting an arrest or a speeding ticket results in heavier punishment, we clam up and submit because it's easier. It's not just the Sandras in the world who don't question police authority, almost all of us do it. It kind of bums me out. I've got to believe there's a way that the police can operate efficiently without promulgating the specter of an irrational iron fist.

Life of Pi
Life of Pi(2012)

It's a beautiful parable that speaks gently even though it has a lot to say. The ending makes a really insightful comment on the human need for religion, but that's not what the movie is about per se. Religion is simply a useful framework to interpret what is really a story about man's adaptation to nature--both human nature and animal nature. But the most beautiful thing about Life of Pi is that the film is equally brilliant and complex whether you read it literally (a man and a tiger) or figuratively (a man and his inner rage--if that's the right term?). Watching with the recommended religious framework gives you access to both interpretations at once, but the film is fantastic whether you are a believer or not. (And I would be doing myself a disservice if I failed to mention, watching this film inspired me to adopt a cat. It just made me want to have an animal in my life. If only little Atila didn't already have a great name, I would've named him Richard Parker.)

Fracture
Fracture(2007)

Hotshot lawyer Ryan Gosling plays a narcissist who becomes an idealist when wily wife-murderer Anthony Hopkins starts pushing his big ego buttons. Objectively it's a pretty tightly-spun legal thriller. There aren't any egregious logic leaps or "what a coincidence" twists that derail many films in the genre. A lot of the twists and turns hinge on legal procedure, so that's probably less exciting for some people than it is for me. (Side note: Anthony Hopkins is basically just playing Hannibal Lecter with a bumbling European accent. Whatever works, I guess.)

Total Recall
Total Recall(2012)
½

You know what? It was fine. It was a fine movie. It's not a faithful remake of the beautiful Schwarzenegger version, which is what makes it kind of rock. The backdrop was surprisingly original--a world split in two, where economic disparity is geographic disparity--and the action sets were solid. There was some missing logic in the final act (of a "where did he get that gun?" and "that's convenient that the ship was right there for him to steal" variety) but I was pretty much hooked by then. Why did the critics hate it so much? Only because they had seen the original. I trust that people who went into this one with the misfortune (for it is a grave grave misfortune to live in a world where you have yet to "get your ass to Mars" for a length of "two weeks, two weeks, two weeeeeks.") of not having seen the original would consider it a slightly-above-par scifi action movie.

Thunderstruck
½

Sometimes when people watch movies that are indefensibly bad, yet they like them anyway, they refer to them as "cute." Because I could never say anything bad about my one and only, Kevin Durant, I have to refer to this movie as "cute," because it's basically a pile of garbage that makes 90 minutes feel like an eternity. Luckily, I was willing and able to revel in the plot's simplistic awfulness, Kevin Durant's acting skills (notice how I didn't put skills in quotation marks!), and the Mama Durant cameo. But only to an extent.

Argo
Argo(2012)

Whenever I hear that a film is a "political thriller," I'm instantly turned off a little bit. Generally more political than thrilling, most films in the genre do very little to initiate the viewer into the political issue that serves as a backdrop, whether real or fictional. Without the requisite knowledge, I tend to get frustrated when I can tell by chase scenes and frantic music that shit just got real, but I have no idea what the political stakes are. Argo knocked it out of the park from the get-go with a nifty little storyboard introduction to the Iran hostage crisis that gave me a better understanding of the Iranian Revolution than did the entirety of the film Persepolis. With the political stakes properly explained within the first five minutes, Argo becomes cinematic stimulant. Ben Affleck the director was so effective that Ben Affleck the actor's sleepy-eyed calmness couldn't chill me out. And good grief that airport finale was some of the most thrilling cinema I've ever seen.

PS-Bryan Cranston should've been nominated for Supporting Actor over Alan Arkin.

Django Unchained

It's a Quentin Tarantino film. It's amusing and it's charming and it's bloated and it's arrogant. While I really liked it, I could've done without some aimless scenes (the eyeholes in the mask scene was painfully long and had no bearing on anything) and without yet another bad acting lesson taught by Quentin Tarantino himself in a head-scratching cameo (Australian miners in Mississippi?).

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

It ebbed and flowed to the point where there were just as many times that I was bored or frustrated by the continual goose chase and the contrived emotional turmoil. But the characters' pain that opened the film and the closure found at the end of the film were very effective bookends to an otherwise directionless movie, and they were powerful enough to overwhelm any quibbles that I otherwise had.

Silver Linings Playbook

It toes the line of being a conventional romantic comedy, but the nuance of its characters rescue it from being a story you've seen a hundred times before. And it's refreshing to see a high-quality film that's overwhelmingly positive, instead of trendily dark and moody or detached and ironic (a goal that was clearly intended, if Pat's disgust at depressing high school literature is any indication).

Enter the Void (Soudain le vide)

There's not much higher praise you can give a film than to call it fresh or original. ENTER THE VOID is fresh and original, so it has that going in its favor. Unfortunately, everything runs dry well short of the finish line. After 2 hours, when most films would be winding down, ENTER THE VOID just says "ah, f*** it, let's just orgy" and commence 40 minutes of orgy. I guess orgies are fine, but I was really liking the contemplation of death, the visually-interesting color scheme, the seamless use of POV, and the hazy dreamlike quality of narrative prior to the final 40 minutes.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

It's incredible. Visually stunning. Imaginative. You see the world through a child's eyes. It's a world that is alien to virtually everybody that will sit down to watch the movie, but it's a world that is real and is inhabited by real people. Generally, when we are exposed to a world like the Bathtub we're compelled to feel sorry or to disdain the people who live there, who are "primitive" and "unrefined." But in Beasts of the Southern Wild, the joke's on us. Who are we to determine what people should do? How do we know what's best for somebody else?

The characters who live in the Bathtub have a good thing going. What they lack in intelligence, they make up for in savvy. What they lack in possessions, they make up for in community. What they lack in good fortune, they make up for in simple happiness. And, even though we are taught to reward savvy and community and simple happiness in theory, we try to rescue people from it in practice. Beasts of the Southern Wild wants us to know that, just because we feel sorry for somebody, doesn't mean they need our help. They got this.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
½

I expected a generic and frenetic fart-joke laden kid's movie. Nope. It's frenetic, but also surreal and perfectly absurd. It runs through some disappointingly dull conflicts (the mayor manipulates Floyd so easily! Floyd gets pissed at Sam Sparks right after they bond!) but does so in short order which caps their annoyance. But over all, this movie is perfect in a way. It's a starving man's lsd trip, or a lunatic's idea of a social issues movie. Brilliant.

Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
½

I'm new on the Tim and Eric bandwagon, but while 80% of the show is pure platinum gold funny, the movie is closer to 50% (hence the 2.5 out of 5 score). The issue is the format. The show relies on the humor of the late-80s/early-90s kitsch culture aesthetic which drives home a lot of the humor. Here, almost everything has the polish of a film, and the really weird stuff that everyone does misses the mark. Sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. Plus, I think the R rating, and the more graphic possibilities that that opened, enticed the guys to be a bit more obvious (the penis piercing scene especially).

Sphere
Sphere(1998)

What an incoherent mess. It truly is an original and interesting concept, but it was executed by a middle schooler with zero imagination. Really? Three scientists manifest their whims and they can only whim up like 3 things in the entirety of the multiple days that they have this power? Not just 3 frightening things, but 3 things TOTAL! And to say 3 things might be a bit generous..

Happiness
Happiness(1998)

If you think 2 and a half hours of watching despicable people do despicable things sounds NOT like fun, you should watch this. I didn't always enjoy myself, but there's an ironic touch (albeit, probably refreshingly, no overt commentary) that keeps you just far enough at arms length that you feel fine--but just fine, no more--in the characters' company despite how awful awful awful they are.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape

It's tragic in how mundane it is. Similar to Winter's Bone, which I also watched recently, What's Eating Gilbert Grape gives access to a nowhere family in a nowhere place. Is there anything more tragic than a depressed young man who doesn't even have a frame of reference to desire something different?

Bad Education
½

This is the first Almodovar film that I've seen that didn't click on all cylinders for me. I felt like there were so many plot threads introduced every ten minutes that the entire story felt constructed, and that its construction was apparent, as opposed to the seamless "reality" of Almodovar's other films.

Gattaca
Gattaca(1997)
½

This film does work to extend the idea of class-hierarchy into new places. We see it as ridiculous and unjust that people who are not born as perfected humans are denied access to jobs if they train themselves to be qualified for them. Like sci-fi does (and what makes it an endlessly unique genre), we more easily digest this injustice so that we can look for--and easily find--no less silly injustices in our own societies. There are barriers of entry everywhere, most notably class as I mentioned above, that hold back individuals and culture. Besides class, you can argue that college is a questionable barrier to entry, maybe drug use. What the movie seems to be saying is that the ability to perform should be of the utmost importance, which is very admirable indeed. Great movie.

Talk to Her
Talk to Her(2002)
½

All hail the king of human drama. I was drawn to the idea of loyalty in this one. Marco's effortless ability to stand by a twisted friend was touching, confusing, but also somehow more realistic than the expected cold-shoulder that a simpler filmmaker may have opted for.

Brave
Brave(2012)
½

I feel like this movie was green-lit after establishing some great characters and an interesting setting, while the rest of the story was created in a game of Pixar Mad Libs. After the first act (which is pretty much laid out entirely in the trailers), what we get is a been-there-done-that body-switching story, with witches, learning to get along, and all that stuff I saw in Emperor's New Groove. Of course, this is Pixar, so they do a good job of getting by on schmooze and charm, but I couldn't help but be disappointed despite my general enjoyment.

The Dark Knight Rises

I love that it ended the trilogy and ended it well. A crowd-pleasing ending, but one that isn't too pandering. Bane was a frightening villain who will unfortunately be compared to the Joker instead of being respected on his own merits. There are a lot of elements from numerous canonical Batman story lines (most obviously Knightfall and Dark Knight Returns) but, as with the previous Nolan Batman films, nothing is so bound by the source material that events become predictable. I don't want to go into any specifics, for obvious spoiler-free reasons, but a review is essentially pointless for Dark Knight Rises anyway. I'm sure 99% of the people who see this film will know whether they are going to like this movie or not at the very moment they walk into the theater. And 99% of those 99% will like it.

A Snake of June (Rokugatsu no hebi)

A twisted movie with a shocking disrespect for women. The plot revolves around a voyeur who blackmails a woman with photos that he took of her masturbating, trying to convince her that she should be more comfortable with her sexuality. She ultimately forgives his manipulative and perverse blackmailing scheme (it gets worse than spying and picture-taking, believe me) and finds that he is right, she SHOULD be more comfortable and expressive with her sexuality! All it took was a man to terrorize her and use her sexuality as a bargaining chip for her to understand!

Bah. What frustrates me most is that, because of surreal moments in the film, people on IMDB boards are comparing this trash to a Lynch and Bunuel movies. Not cool.

Sabu
Sabu(2002)
½

For me, this was the epitome of an average film. Apparently it's a "historical" drama, as opposed to a simple "period" drama, but basically it tells a somewhat compelling story that suffers only slightly from some questionable character motivation (why does Eiji hit his best friend and one of his few advocates for an injustice that he has already discovered he wasn't responsible for?) but otherwise wraps up essentially as expected all along.

Jopog Manura, (My Wife is a Gangster)

South Korea exporting this film to the United States is like the United States exporting Miss Congeniality to the rest of the world. This movie is a comedy that tries to simultaneously be a dramatic and tough mafia movie (as opposed to a mafia movie with occasional humor or a comedy about the mafia). Like Miss Congeniality, this one features a tough female who has to domesticate herself for reasons out of her control. It struggles, despite a not uninteresting concept.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains

After watching this punk rock movie to top all punk rock movies, I wondered why the hell I never heard of it before stumbling upon it on some Craigslist DVD fire sale. It's a really fantastic movie that satires and comments on the fundamental hypocrisy of a successful punk rock band (you can't fight the establishment if you have to enlist with the establishment in order to make any money whatsoever). Despite the brisk 87 minute runtime, it does a lot of cool things, least of which is introducing us to Diane Lane, Laura Dern, and Ray Winstone. The film has a lot of attitude, and you don't always like the characters, but like The Stains themselves, confidence in execution make up for other potentially glaring shortcomings. A must-see if a raw low-budget Almost Famous sounds appealing to you or if females rebelling against gendered expectations sounds cool instead of boring.

Carnival of Souls

Imagine if Final Destination was made 50 years ago and was, you know, well done. Add in some ambiguous feminism undertones (is she punished for wanting to be independent?) and you have a great movie that's sometimes scary and always interesting.

Eraserhead
Eraserhead(1977)
½

As someone who sometimes struggle to find enjoyment in formless and abstract films, I found that there's enough horrifying beauty to Eraserhead, and enough narrative context with which to spin a useable interpretation to the nightmare images that unfold, that I liked it just fine.

Izo
Izo(2004)

It aspires to be poignant allegory, a twisted bizarro Jesus story where, instead of salvation, a christ figure emerges to wreak destruction on the humanity that crucified him. It succeeds at being a big ol' pile of shit. One of the worst things that can be said about a film is that it feels 3 times longer than its runtime. This film felt about 8 unintelligible hours long, despite a 2 hour runtime. It jumps from scene of obnoxious screaming and graphic violence to scene, with a few character interaction scenes interspersed with enough pseudo-philosophical rambling to lend some semblance of a reason to the violence taking place. The film embodies ideology in these break-from-the-action scenes as a group of castrated old men who are in charge of economics, religion, law, education, etc. and what concerns me the most about this film is that we are supposedly led to despise these characters (no problem there) moreso than the child-murdering demon who is hellbent on their destruction, at the cost of the lives of thousands of innocents (a wee bit of a problem there). As far as an intelligent argument being made about society goes, things went terribly wrong somewhere. Also, at one point, a woman pulls a sword out of her vagina. So there's that.

Son of Rambow
½

It's about as uneven as it gets, with needless layer added onto needless layer for artificially-heightened drama (I'm looking at you French kid!). That said, despite some frustrations throughout, the core concept of the film was simply a whole lot of fun and a whole lot of charm. And the sentimental ending was a satisfying cherry on top.

The Adjustment Bureau

A very underrated movie that I was interested in since first seeing the trailer, yet inexplicably missed out on since its release. The embodiment of fate is disturbing in its all-knowing all-capable power, appearing human but lacking the shades of grey that defines humanity. As they attempt to persuade Norris of a the benefits of their chosen path for him, it is clear that their definition of success and happiness are too objective, too textbook. It's a good touch, and it approaches the money/success vs. love/bliss dichotomy in an interesting and heartbreaking way as Norris discovers that he is "fated" to be alone in order to be traditionally successful, and that the sacrifice of his brother and father was collateral damage done for "his own good." I did have a bit of an issue with the last 20 minutes or so, however, where all nuance goes out the window, magic articles of clothing are utilized, and a cop-out resolution is quickly arrived at. Still, on concept alone, this film deserves to be more-seen.

Winter's Bone

You mean to tell me that not all drug dealers are black inner-city young people?! The people represented in Winter's Bone are the underbelly of society that is not often represented in Hollywood fare. Like Breaking Bad, the film refuses to make drugs and drug violence an "urban" thing. The characters were all well-developed and presided so comfortably in shades of grey that you truly understand how everybody justifies their actions, even when actions include murder, evading arrest, etc.

Crash
Crash(1996)

Instead of making a film about the self-destructive psyche, Cronenberg makes a film about the sexually-frustrated and sexually-deviant psyche. It doesn't work for me. It's a potentially interesting concept (dude and his wife can't seem to find sexual pleasure. Dude gets in a car crash, meets some car crash enthusiasts, finally feels alive) that is consistently abbreviated by uncomfortable sex scenes that to an extent serve a purpose, but are exploitative in their length and frequency. The sparse, whispered dialogue didn't really do anything for me either. We watch people get aroused and excited, but hearing them talk to each other you could be fooled by their indifference. Overall a lackluster film from a great director. I'll stick to my body-horror Cronenberg, thank you very much.

The Amazing Spider-Man
½

This is something of the perfect summer movie. While some films confuse "summer movie" with noise and incoherence (Transformers) and others wholly transcend the label (Christopher Nolan films), The Amazing Spider-Man walks the line of being a tight but loud action film that is a crowd-pleaser without insulting the people with a brain in its audience.

The people who I've talked to who had no interest in seeing this film have generally hidden behind the "I don't dig reboots" argument, so I suppose I'll make comparisons to the previous, inferior Spider-Man films. While it's true that the Raimi movies captured the light-heartedness of the golden-age comic books, everything about them was goofy, even as the characters and events were more somber (hitting the low-point of the entire 3rd movie). Rather than continue down this road of unintentional farce with their heavyweight superhero franchise, Sony rebooted and did things right. Spider-Man is still funny, but he's funny because HE'S funny--we're laughing at his jokes, we're not laughing at his voice or his acting or his face (sorry for the low-blow Tobey). What's more, the entire film doesn't try to be as charming as Spider-Man. The Lizard is legitimately frightening and the stakes always seem high. Anyway, blah blah blah, what I'm getting at is that Amazing Spider-Man takes itself more seriously and is a better movie because of it.

Additionally, I loved the romance in the film. In the previous movies, the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane was all fits and starts, breakups/makeups, apologies, and love triangles and the drama was annoying. Things are pretty much smooth-sailing between Peter and Gwen in this film, and the challenges that do arise are more understandable, and the reactions that Peter and Gwen have to these challenges are mature instead of whiny and childish. Blah blah blah, the romance angle was good too.

Go see this movie.

Twin Peaks - Fire Walk with Me

In the opening image of this Twin Peaks prequel, an axe destroys a television set while a woman screams in horror. Herein lies the problem with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch created a canonical Twin Peaks text while eliminating all of the charm and small touches that made the television show so amazing. He blew up the television Twin Peaks and made an uneven and baffling film Twin Peaks.

The first act is a mess. It's a half hour of events that are so lacking in straightforward logic that I have no idea what questions it is supposed to make me ask, let alone what relation it has to the remaining hour and 45 minutes of the film. A girl is dead, David Bowie talks about the black lodge in an incoherent way, and an FBI agent disappears. No attention is paid to these situations later in the film.

The remaining film is much more watchable, albeit unsatisfying. The events are darker, misguidedly sexier, and very uneven, but the familiarity with the characters from the show and the closer semblance to linear narrativity make it intelligible.

Overall, Fire Walk With Me is just a frustrating frustrating film that might have been interesting if it wasn't a Twin Peaks film, although there are still more mysteries opened up than closed. After perusing IMDB message boards, I've concluded that there is some level of logic to the film, but it requires a level of understanding that comes more from conjecture and community agreement than anything actually provided us by Lynch. I remain interested in uncovering the mysteries of Twin Peaks, but all that this movie did for me was show me how far I have to go.

Rain Man
Rain Man(1988)
½

It took me 23 years of my life to finally see this film. I liked it. It was tender. It also had one of those "I was worried that some 2nd act issue would predictably blow up in the characters faces only to be hastily resolved" moments during the Las Vegas bit, but it was extinguished without the usual manufactured drama that tend to accompany such scenes. Damn fine movie.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
½

Part deux of a 2-for-1 theater double-feature was fantastic, even on the heels of the fantastic Moonrise Kingdom. Seeking a Friend is a companion piece to my favorite film of last year, Melancholia, opening up the apocalypse-by-way-of-astronomical-collision to the entire world as opposed to the microscopic view of a the secluded family. The humor can be a bit misplaced at times, but the few obnoxious bits (I'm looking at you, heroin party) run by very quickly, giving the limelight to the slow burning romance. At first glance, the Steve Carell and Keira Knightley pairing is age awkward, but the age issue is neither dwelt upon nor ignored, it just is. And it grows sweetly and organically enough, with the pending apocalypse as a superb catalyst, that it worked very well for me.

Moonrise Kingdom

It's a rare film that gives children the agency, ingenuity, and overall respect they deserve. And generally those movies that do take on a certain self-indulgent self-serious prototype, where adults are the enemy and adventures and feelings are mundane, only special because they are experienced and felt by children. Moonrise Kingdom is better than that. The adventure is true, the danger is true, and it's just a really good movie that so happens to revolve around children. All the Wes Anderson quirks are present as well, for better in my opinion.

Half Nelson
Half Nelson(2006)

A strange combination, this was a heartbreaking and charming film. Gosling is great as a drug addict teacher who has his good days and his bad days, while struggling to be a role model for his inner city students. I found the motif of jokes to be super-fascinating and puzzling. They always seemed to pop up when Gosling (as Dan Dunn) is acting cool in a basic social situation that is for some reason uncomfortable for him (family interaction, hanging out with a romantic interest, etc). That his drug addiction does not make him uncomfortable in the classroom, where he is a fantastic teacher, or when confronting drug dealers, speaks to the complexity of the film's perfectly flawed character.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

Oh my days. With the cast that is involved here, you'd at least think the movie would be watchable. Sadly, no. Restrained, show-don't-tell storytelling at its poorest execution. They decided to tell things anyway, albeit the wrong things, the stupid things. What they refrained from sharing were motivations, relationships between characters, and other things that are generally important for coherence. Add to that some laughable moments and gross mistreatment of sexual violence within the plot and we have ourselves a POS of a film.

Repulsion
Repulsion(1965)

A film that lulls you almost to boredom, only to shock you with violence and nightmarish images. Seeing Carol quickly spiral into a misogyny-fueled madness, we recognize (and perhaps are shamed by) the boorish/piggish male behaviors that are so commonplace that they seem almost innocent. Ironically, it is Polanski who reminds us just how not-innocent presumed male ownership of female sexuality truly is. And Catherine Deneuve is fantastic.

Natural City
Natural City(2004)
½

Imagine a convoluted Korean Blade Runner knock-off where the human-cyborg romance takes center stage, the cyborg rebellion gets shoved to the margins, and the commentary on what qualifies as humanity is scrapped altogether. What we're left with is a movie of vast potential that falls almost completely flat. The action scenes are unique, though, and I really hate faulting a movie because of its unfulfilled ambition when ambition seems to be lacking in so many films nowadays. So, while it doesn't suck, it certainly doesn't not suck.

A Tale of Two Sisters

The pieces to the puzzle are laid out deliberately slowly for the first 2 acts, then they try to tell you everything you need to know at the end. In the rush and flurry, however, I found everything largely incomprehensible beyond a very basic understanding. What was hallucination and what was real? Where does this situation link up with that one? With very little concrete to go off of, this was merely a series of effectively creepy images until I could consult Wikipedia for some concrete answers. It's not that I expect all movies to be easy, but if not they should be ambiguous enough for multiple interpretations. Providing concrete answers but explaining them poorly is simply not the ideal recipe for a horror film.

Snow White and the Huntsman

I get the feeling that the filmmakers didn't really want for this to be a Snow White movie. Granted I'm not super-familiar with the non-Disney Snow White lore, but this movie is at it's best when it has nothing at all to do with the iconic Snow White images engrained in us by Disney culture. But when the magic mirror, the seven dwarves, the witch's disguise, the poisonous apple, the comatose Snow White, and the resurrecting kiss all enter the fold, the movie kind of sucks. The fact that these appearances (with the exception of the dwarves) all fly by both fleetingly and half-baked, as if duty-bound and checked off of a checklist, tells me they were done out of obligation to cultural history. Shame, too, because there was a solid original-feeling fairy tale hidden under all of that obligation, with a great villain, redemptive hero, and strong female lead all ready to bust out of the icon that binds them. Charlize Theron was great, Kristen Stewart was good, and Chris Hemsworth was Thor.

Renaissance
Renaissance(2006)
½

Meh. The style of the film was the primary thing that drew me to this film but it was also one of the first things to repel me upon viewing. It becomes a crutch which dehumanizes a film which is disappointingly robotic anyway. Perhaps intentional but still poor.

The Saddest Music in the World
½

A clever indictment of the soulless Hollywood blockbuster culture. The whole film is an extended metaphor as we see an obnoxious backstabbing American use flashy-but-soulless musical numbers to fake his way to a cash reward in a "saddest music in the world" contest, triumphing over more genuine and passionate competition.

I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (Saibogujiman kwenchana)
½

It's a quirky movie that gets by on charm and colorful characters. That's not a bad thing of course, but the fairly low ambition of the film shrinks its ceiling somewhat.

Prometheus
Prometheus(2012)

A fantastic film whose magnitude unfortunately left me with a lot of agonizing questions. SPOILER ALERT: Why was nobody panicking? Were the xenonorphs intentional or accidental side-effects of the cell-degenerating bioweapons? If Fassbender's character was merely testing the nature of the bioweapon by infecting the scientist so as to gain an idea of whether or not the engineers would help the old man, did he seriously find the test successful enough to move forward with the old man's plan? Or are we to see him as a mere agent of chaos? Bahh, I'm getting worked up now, but I truly did enjoy the film and would recommend it.

The Tree of Life
½

It does its best to alienate casual viewers with a jarringly disruptive detour about half hour in, pausing the narrative for 15 minutes for an existential series of shots giving a nutshell history of life on Earth. I was just nearing my boiling point when the narrative returned but the beauty of the film outside of the distracting interludes overcomes and makes for a fascinating film. It's only frustrating that it has to test a viewer's patience so much before delivering its reward.

Bluebeard
Bluebeard(2010)

The central storyline, wherein a poor dowry-less girl is tempted to marry an aristocrat despite the auspicious disappearances of his previous wives, was largely uninteresting when it really shouldn't have been. The saving grace for the film, though, is the narrative framing device for the story where two young girls discover an old book containing the Bluebeard tale and proceed to read and argue. The ending of both parts are fascinating, one for poetic reasons the other for tragic reasons, and provides a solid bowtie on an otherwise so-so film.

The Social Network

Zuckerberg is like a black hole of a human being. He's a genius, but he resents the fact that he needs other people. That he's a genius makes Eisenberg/Zuckerberg fascinating to watch in this movie. That he's a spiteful asshole makes him cringeworthy. I'm honestly a bit surprised that this movie is receiving the universal praise that it is, but I don't think I'm being cliche (or if I am, then I don't think I'm exaggerating) when I say that this feels like the first retrospective movie about MY generation. For me, and other 20-somethings, watching this is like a dude who grew up in the 70s watching That 70s Show. The references, the questionable way that "friends" in the movie interact with each other, it doesn't feel too different from the college experience that I am wrapping up. I'm sure as I evolve into later stages of life, there will be That 70s Shows galore for my generation, but I'll always remember this movie for being the first.

October (Ten Days that Shook the World)
½

This is not a film you watch unless you are passionate about Russian history. Notice I didn't say "want to learn about Russian history," because this movie boxes you out like Kevin Love. You've got to know your stuff before you stick this into the DVD player. I didn't, so I was bored and frustrated for 100 minutes.

The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)

To some, this will seem like just another boxing movie, but it's totally not. Whereas most boxing movies that I have seen have focused on the individual in the ring, his self-destruction or his redemption or his taste of glory, THE FIGHTER places the focus on all of the outside-the-ring mayhem and noise that threatens to overwhelm the central boxer. Micky, the boxer, is the sane one, the calm force, while everyone else is visibly unstable. It's a subtle twist, but is wholly effective in making this boxing movie fascinating where others tend toward formula.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

I suppose I'll start by noting that I did not have the intense physical/emotional reaction that I understand most people to have. I expected to, and I felt uneasy when I was supposed to feel uneasy, but the visceral impact was not what made me love this movie. What I do love is how it's a pyscho-meltdown movie that doesn't try to hide it from the audience. There's no attempt to trick the audience into believing that the weird stuff, the horror-elements foregrounded in the TV spots, is really happening. We recognize most every oddity we see as being in her mind, but watching her reactions to these things shift and change from the denial at the beginning, to the fear, to the resistance, to the acceptance at the end, is where this movie finds its drama. And it's the subtly of that shift in reaction, which is gradual but only announces itself in big and loud situations, that makes Portman's performance so noteworthy.

Role Models
Role Models(2008)
½

It didn't have so many of the laugh-out-loud "where did that come from" humor that I dig above all else (though it's still super funny), but it's really just a solid movie. The plot could probably be recycled in an inspirational drama.

Howl
Howl(2010)
½

One could consider this a documentary in light of the fact that everything said in the film was previously said by Ginsberg and the lawyers in the obscenity case surrounding his work. So, in that sense, this is a super-interesting documentary in terms of a unique form, but it's nothing more than passingly interesting and it felt much longer than the short 90 minute runtime.

Fair Game
Fair Game(2010)

I'm kind of surprised that this movie never really made a splash in theaters or in buzz, but I found this story really fascinating, even without being really in the know about the issue when it happened. It's a story that feels real, not overly dramatized, and the heroism of the Plame and her husband is made all the more profound because of that.

Mr. Brooks
Mr. Brooks(2007)

This could've been so much better than it was. It's fine and everything, but there were some minor fumblings in various sideplots and a few plot holes that didn't ruin the movie, but still held it back from reaching its potential.

The Other Guys

I'm so surprised that I like this movie as much as I do. I had convinced myself that I was tired of Will Ferrell's brand of humor, but hot damn this movie is pretty hilarious. I'm not sure I understand the police procedural part of the plot, but as a link from gag to gag, I don't really even care.

The Town
The Town(2010)

Sooo good. It's like three heist movies, with Scorcese-ian "gang" influences, all in one tight and concise package. I love the cast and really just about everything else here. My favorite movie of 2010.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
½

I feel like I'm in the minority in not really getting tired of Michael Cera's schtick. This was a really frenetic movie that missed almost as often as it hit, but the way in which Edgar Wright (and probably the dude who wrote the comics) introduces so many frenetic nerd-culture elements into the reality of the movie, without it seeming out of place to the characters involved.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

I loved this movie in spite of the fact that the three principle characters were pretty bored for about half of the movie. I'm super-excited for the last film in the series.

The Thin Blue Line
½

This whole film made me uncomfortable. Seeing a real-life murder dramatized and heightened under the guise of documentary is just a bit tough to swallow. The fact that this movie helped free a man originally convicted of murder is just... uncomfortable. Kudos for making a documentary legitimately interesting to watch, though.

Angst Essen Seele auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul)

Yeah there's the whole factor of camp, which makes the film interesting and which shouldn't be ignored. But there's nothing to the overall plot that I haven't seen before and a handful of goofy lines doesn't make this more than an average movie in my mind.

Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot Goes Wild) (Crazy Pete)

Hands down my favorite Godard film. Perhaps my favorite film of all time. Everything is firing on all cylinders as we see Godard play with genre, montage editing, notions of reality, and everything else that makes Godard Godard. What results is a charming, playful, and fantastically quirky film that is made all the more fantastic by the chemistry and overall likability of Belmondo and Karina, quite possibly my favorite actors ever.

Safe
Safe(1995)

There's a lot going on here, and none of it is happening on the surface. We are given a frustratingly unidentifiable protagonist who exhibits symptoms of a disease that, for all intents and purposes, doesn't exist. She never quite figures out what is ailing her in the same way that we, as an audience, never quite figure out what to make of this film. I can appreciate it for being unsettling, but only to a degree, since I cannot say that I overall enjoyed this film.

The Little Mermaid

I really hadn't seen this movie for a good long time, but I think as an adult (as opposed to a boy who was more into Power Rangers than mermaid princesses) I took much more enjoyment from the film.

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette)

Minimal and heartbreaking. Ricci's face is so visually indicative of his situation. From exuberance the morning when he begins the job to increasing worry and desperation as his situation dissolves. It's really a fantastic movie.

Vertigo
Vertigo(1958)
½

Looking at all of my FBook friends who've reviewed this movie, I am the lone dissenter. The reputation of VERTIGO precedes it and will precede it for everyone that watches today, but I can't imagine even enjoying this movie if it was released today, let alone hailing it as a timeless classic. That's not a scathing indictment, it's just commentary on the way that this movie does not age well in my mind.

Waking Sleeping Beauty
½

Undoubtedly a piece of pro-Disney PR propaganda, but no matter what people's opinions are on the company that produces the films, the stuff that the film revolves around is pretty darn impressive: from Little Mermaid through Lion King, Disney came out with some fantastic films, and I found myself enjoying the anecdotes and behind the scenes drama that led up to and coincided with them.

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

This is a good film, but I have difficulty recognizing it as one of the best.

All That Heaven Allows

Not really my genre, but there was still some camp-value enjoyment to be had here. Aside from recontextualizing it to current-day though, it's a solid movie in its own right. There's a reason it's remembered as the definitive melodrama.

8 1/2
8 1/2(1963)
½

This is probably as close as you can get to an auteur film. It's my first Fellini film, and I didn't know how to react to it, although I reacted strongly. We are, presumably, shadowing Fellini himself as he struggles to make a film, distracted by everything yet tuning it all out at the same time. The dips into the surreal are welcome, too.

Make Out With Violence
½

Make-Out With Violence should have been awesome. Instead it was just good. The mood of the film was constantly somber and muted and never seemed to make up its mind whether it wanted to focus more on the lives of a small group of teenagers coping with the death of a friend or on the friend, herself, who is reincarnated as a zombie. Obviously, they should've focused mostly on the zombie or else write it out of the damn script. That said, the split of two different focuses works as well as it could have, but I just yearn for what could've been if the filmmakers had chosen one of the situations as the primary story and relegated the other to a background or secondary story.

I Am Love
I Am Love(2010)
½

The difficulties of the rich, I AM LOVE is a profoundly affecting drama that lets the viewer in on the under-the-table desires of a wealthy family. Although the focus is undeniably centered on Tilda Swinton as the emotionally tortured matriarch, we learn so much about every single member of the family. For me, personally, I enjoyed the moments in the film when all of the family was present, or when they are given equal screen-time, more than when the primary adultery plot took over during the middle portions. Either way, the film is completely fascinating, both tragic and rewarding, and possesses enough visual flair to make it register on its technical merits alone.

Machete
Machete(2010)
½

There was a lot to like about this movie, but there was perhaps more to dislike. This is not exactly a perfect companion to GRINDHOUSE because it is missing something. What that something is, I am having difficulty defining. Charm? Respect for the films it is modeling itself after? Whatever it is, I found myself thinking, during the middle of the film, that this was a wasted opportunity to capitalize on the fantastic trailer that preceded the film by four years. Then that might be it also, though, that the film went through painstaking lengths to include every segment of the trailer. This is essentially an adaptation of that trailer, so that the story told in 2 and a half minutes (because it was fairly self-contained) is stretched to almost an hour. It's too bad that Rodriguez and Co. didn't feel comfortable enough deviating from the trailer, so that two "masterpieces" could bear the MACHETE name, instead of only one.

The Exterminating Angel (El 聲gel Exterminador)
½

My first foray into the filmography of Luis Bunuel, it was a very rewarding experience. What we get is a critique of class structure. Kindness, wisdom, selflessness, age, occupation: none of these things could save the members of the dinner party from their in-room prison. Comparing the breakdown of humanity in this film to William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies, reveals just how savage high society can be. It is no more than a couple days before a dead body is stored in the closet, lies are being told, and men shove women to the ground for a drink of water. Yet, in all of this loss of humanity, the one thing that this silly people hold on to are their markers of wealth within the class-structure that they are isolated from. Women remain in dresses, men remain in tuxedos (albeit jacketless), and they come to agreement to maintain their hygiene, if nothing else. Though I'm still figuring out the significance of all of the repetition within the film--and the way that repetition ultimately sets the dinner party free--I was immensely impressed by this film. It is a Twilight Zone plot made poignant by Bunuel.

Contempt
Contempt(1964)

Contempt is a film in which the background and the meta-narratives provide the intrigue that the base film may be lacking. Whether it's the consideration of the film as an outlet for Godard's own estrangement to his muse, Anna Karina, or the notion of "selling out" being personified by Fritz Lang (and in Godard's most commercial film, to boot), the addition of these readings combine with the general plot of a jaded lover who doesn't want to have to explain why she is upset in order to create an infinitely interesting film. Love, and falling out of it, is depicted in proper complexity. Notions of "the death of cinema" are depicted through the bullheaded producer who has no eye for film art (a prophetic characterization that predicted the transformation of Hollywood from auteur-based to blockbuster-based). The already fascinating package is then topped with a very beautiful bow: Brigitte Bardot.

The House of the Devil

The first 2/3 are, admittedly, verrry slow, and I cannot completely write off the sensation of feeling bored for the temporal majority of a film. However, the "boringness," that is, the lack of excitement/stimulation, is the primary contributor to the complete horror of the film's increasing tension and ultimate climax. This film is terrifying. Moreso than most horror films, House of the Devil uses all of our senses to create an unsettling atmosphere of something subtly amiss. Every drip of a drain, dart of the eyes, and faint shadow put me on the edge of my seat and the utter madness of the payoff paid dividends to that palpable tension. Not for the ADD set, but House of the Devil is a superb horror film.

Aliens
Aliens(1986)

As seems to be the case with most of James Cameron's films, there is really nothing revolutionary about the plot. We basically have a war movie set on another planet fighting another species. However, Cameron has a talent at maximizing "seen it before" scripts (which he often writes) into pretty fantastic movies. Sigourney Weaver is great as the reluctant hero and I was also impressed by the wee lass who played Newt, Carrie Henn.

Knife in the Water
½

I try really hard to hate on all things Polanski, but dude's a damn fine movie-maker. Bravado is put under close examination in this one. The tension between the yachtsman and the hitchhiker is superbly drawn. At points we are almost tricked into thinking it's good-natured. Perhaps what I love the most is that there was no overtly noticeable breaking point. The yachtsman breaks to be sure, but there is no dramatic push that brings him there. Like the movie as a whole, it's a slow buildup that takes one unawares. Not splashy, but nuanced and fantastic.

Existenz
Existenz(1999)

eXistenZ is a fascinating Cronenberg film. It's wedged between his bodyshock phase (if you can call the bulk of his career a "phase") and his current phase, which I suppose can only be described as more traditional. This film dissects the ramifications of humanity's ever-increasing reliance on virtual media for experiences--focusing specifically on videogames. The quest for real-ism masking the beauty of real-ity. The plot is a fairly straightforward conspiracy thriller... except it's not. The whole film is slightly askew. We are not hardly eased into anything, but are thrust from situation to situation with only enough exposition and explanation to keep us running on fumes. It is all a very jarring experience that sends the viewer "with the flow" until the very end where our grounding in reality is pulled from beneath us like a rug. This is like one of those movies that baffles you so much that you search for answers and interpretations on the internet, only... you don't need to search for answers and interpretations because everything that baffles you sits on the surface and can be easily sorted out by the time the credits role. eXistenZ is an underrated achievement.

Breathless
Breathless(1961)
½

As Godard's first film, BREATHLESS establishes his ability to make "nothing" (ie drawn out conversations that meander and fail to relate to the plot, per se) interesting. It is the conversations, performed in an aware, wink-at-the-camera fashion, that make this and his other films the epitome of cinematic charm. When people recall BREATHLESS, do they recall the plot of a cop-killer trying to collect on a loan and woo a woman to skip town with him before the police close in? I say that it is more likely that they remember the schmoozy, borderline d-bag character of Michel and the conflicted Patricia, at once naive and independent. The film is rich simply because Godard and his characters draw you in.

Dinner for Schmucks

I will preface this review with 3 things. 1) I love Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. They are my favorite mainstream comic actors in Hollywood (Ricky Gervais and Will Forte don't headline many movies). 2) Because of item #1 on this list, I was very excited for this film. 3) I HATE Meet the Parents and other "let's see how much bad stuff we can make happen to this dude" comedies.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS is directed by the guy who directed MEET THE PARENTS. I thought it wasn't a big deal, but it was. It really was. There is a good movie somewhere in DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS, a funny one too, but everything is tainted by the lazy and uninspired comedic route of personal disaster. I don't think it's funny when someone loses his girlfriend of two years because of a "hilarious" misunderstanding. I don't think it's funny when a hilarious disaster happens again a second time. By the third time, I was seriously ready to walk out of the film, which I was so excited to see. I understand that some people like the prolonged torture comedy subgenre, but I have no idea why. It's lazy. It's so much easier to have somebody say something that, unintentionally or not, ruins somebody, and call it funny than to actually construct jokes that elicit laughter for being funny instead of miserable.

Now that that's out of the way... As I said, there is still a decent movie here. The opening titles, featuring taxidermied mice in hilarious poses, are the funniest that I've seen since THE BROTHERS SOLOMON, and supporting roles by Jemaine Clement and Zach Galifianakis are hilarious even if they do contribute to the disaster. And, of course, all of the epic trouble that is created in the name of "humor," is all averted at the end, and it was a very sweet ending that was cliche but unexpected because I expected things to stay crappy. In all, this was perhaps the most frustrating movie I've ever seen in a movie theater.

Videodrome
Videodrome(1983)

A paranoid thriller grounded in media paranoia, VIDEODROME defamiliarizes the public's passive intake of television, spinning it as insidious passive programming: lulling the brain so that it can be ripped from your possession, infiltrated, and eventually controlled. We sculpt our lives via the images that we see on screen--for example I've never been in a police station, but because of TV I have a pretty darn good idea of what one looks like and I just roll with it--but these "life-makers" are programmed by the people at the top. VIDEODROME is ceaselessly thought-provoking, though not necessarily so. It doesn't come across as heady or intellectual but is easily digestable which, in keeping with the film's content, makes the audience that much more susceptible to its message.

Inception
Inception(2010)

INCEPTION is the very first movie where I had a strong urge to watch it again as soon as the credits rolled. If we're being honest, a simplistic definition of the plot sounds a bit silly: people are trained to steal corporate secrets by navigating the dreams of a sleeping mark. Of course, Christopher Nolan gives us anything but a simple movie, and the specifics of the operation are unimportant to the audience's immersion into the film. What is important is the sense of urgency that kicks in at the halfway point of the film and is so palpable with ever-rising stakes that things could have just as easily and believable gone horribly wrong or perfectly right. Of course, Leonardo DiCaprio anchors the film as a dream-extraction expert haunted by the memory of his deceased wife (a haunting with severe implications for each of his teammates involved in the ultimate heist, or Inception), but I was very impressed with Ellen Page also, playing a mature character for the first time that I've seen, and being absolutely fantastic. Kudos to Cillian Murphy also, whose role was perhaps one of the more difficult ones in that he was the actual dreamer and, as such, was bound by the absurdities of the dream and forced to react with surprise and subdued bewilderment while everyone else rolled with the punches. INCEPTION was a nearly perfect Hollywood movie with so many layers, quality performances, and a buzzworthy ending that it will undoubtedly be long-remembered.

Salt
Salt(2010)
½

Although it doesn't transcend the summer movie genre in ways that TOY STORY 3, THE DARK KNIGHT, or INCEPTION (at least from what I hear...) do, SALT manages to be a very good film while still wearing its summer movie garments. There are explosions and spies and betrayals and one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but I never once thought to myself that something I was seeing was stupid ala the big dumb films that seem to find success during the hottest months of the year. Then again, a plot comprised of a secret Russian operation wherein highly-trained child sleeper units are placed seamlessly into American society isn't particularly intelligent, but it works because everything is bundled tightly and neatly, as opposed to big and sloppily.

The Simpsons Movie

I will agree with the most prominent critique that I heard about the movie: that it feels like a couple episodes as opposed to a movie. There is nothing that can be done about that. However, as a non-superfan of the show, I was merely amused instead of geeked out. So while the film was enjoyable, it is fundamentally unable to be all things to all comers and, because of the following that the show has, satisfying the core audience is probably more important than satisfying me. I can dig that. If only movies based on comic books were bound by the same principles...

The Paper Chase
½

Got me jacked for law school, that's for sure. I was impressed by the shot compositions, which I don't usually notice, so they must've been bloody fantastic. All of the characters are well-developed, albeit falling into "d-bag" or "admirable" categories to serve the purpose of the plot. The primary success of the film, though, is to make dramatic the rigors of a school year.

Beauty and The Beast (La Belle et la b皻e)
½

The film would flourish on the atmosphere alone. The castle might as well be a living, breathing character and the music is perfect at every cue. Although I found that things suffered a bit when Belle leaves the castle, the irony of the ending transformation concludes the film on a fascinating level, with a dose of ambiguity that can be taken or left depending on who is viewing. Fantastic.

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)
½

Things were a little bit convoluted in the beginning, in terms of how they tied in with the events that transpired as the movie got rolling. As such, there was some unnecessary headscratching to be done when names are said and connections are made in reference to early events. That said, the movie really comes into its own and spends much more time on Lisbeth's character than does the first one, so that when watching a film called "The Girl who..." we are focused primarily on the titular intriguing female character, with the reporter Blomkvist playing more of a supporting role. It's too bad that the two, who have such entertaining interactions in the first film, don't meet up until the very end of this one, which denies any culture clash comic relief from surfacing.

The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)

I've been watching some good movies lately! A SECRET IN THEIR EYES could've been a standard conspiracy, procedural type film, but it wasn't. Usually I like glossy run-of-the-mill movies as long as they're in a foreign language, but this one transcends my low standards by leaps and bounds. The characters are all well-rounded and there is always just enough information being shared to make that which brews beneath the surface all the more intriguing. Furthermore, justice is on full display here, scrutinized and dissected though ultimately with a refreshing lack of forced insight or judgment.

Blow-Up
Blow-Up(1966)

To tell the honest truth, an hour into the movie I was sure that I was wasting my time and, until the very last scene, I was feeling better about it but still disappointed. Then, watching some mimes play tennis, I just got it! Seeing the most arrogant D-bag in the world start to doubt the validity of his perceptions and realize that maybe what he saw was all an unconscious fabrication... Brilliant!

Paprika
Paprika(2006)

And woman saves the day! Although I find that this movie suffers from the unavoidable symptom of all anime films to be logically confusing at various points, PAPRIKA is so damn imaginative that I would love it if it was half as well-executed. It's absolutely beautiful and it integrates a really creative angle to a standard conspiracy/thriller storyline. It is absolutely fascinating.

The Last Airbender
½

Only spectacular. Spectacle after spectacle, but the storytelling was SO sloppy (bad dialogue, poorly-disguised exposition, episodic incidents) that it was tough to overcome. The effects were pretty cool, but I was only marginally interested in what was actually going on. As far as the M Night Shamylan (I know I spelled this wrong...) resurgence tour goes, this is pretty much a step sideways.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3(2010)

I absolutely love the bittersweet and the appropriately sentimental, and TOY STORY 3 was perhaps the most spectacular of both that I have ever seen. I'll admit I had tethered expectations because of it's release 10 years after the 2nd film and the seemingly ordinary plot of the toys being exiled at a daycare. But the film delivers so so so much more, and there were quite a few times where I had a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. It's just a damn good movie.

The Exploding Girl

Being mellow is cool and everything, but you can be mellow and exist in the mumblecore genre while still giving the audience something, ANYTHING, to hold its attention. At 1 hour and 19 minutes, this movie akin to doing a laborious homework assignment. What would have been a decent sideplotline in another film is stretched until it breaks in this film. I don't need much razzle dazzle to enjoy a film, but I like the things I watch to at least be marginally interesting.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
½

I didn't like this as much as I really really wanted to. I was whole hog digging the first 2/3 of the film but was uninterested (and slightly confused) by the resolution. The ultimate disappointment I had with the film, though, does not tarnish the many things that it had going for it: namely the visual effects and Lily Cole (a surprise here) and Heath Ledger (despite his character being the source of most of my confusion).

Divorce Italian Style (Divorzio all'italiana)

The nonchalance of the despicable central character almost makes him likable. He is alternatively indifferent and animated.

The Room
The Room(2003)

THE ROOM is the polar opposite of Reese's peanut butter cups. Where there's "no wrong way to eat a Reese's," there is no right way to review this film... On the one hand, it's terrible. Absolutely terrible, down to its very essence. The sex scenes make up 1/3 of the movie and are gratuitous and nigh-pornographic with the excess of pelvic thrusting, one scene is played twice consecutively with only minor adjustments to dialogue, the "emotion" is color-by-numbers, etc. Of course, it is also pretty darn funny. The third time you hear Mark say "Oh, I'm just thinking," it's hilarious. When the lady at the flower shop says "You're my favorite customer" (something that people may think, but never actually say), it's hilarious. Really, though, I would lean toward giving the film more credence as a truly awful film, as opposed to an awfully good film, because it conditions you to expect something ridiculous, but only delivers occasionally to the point of inciting laughter, and there is nothing else to be enjoyed from the film than the laughter.

Persona
Persona(1966)
½

It's an enigma. The avant-garde trappings and the psychological tension complicate an otherwise simple character study. Are we to read the film as a careful-what-you-wish-for cautionary tale, wherein Alma's desire to be listened to comes with a heavy emotional toll? Or are we to dig deeper, seeing the two women as a composite identity, a struggle between hearing and speaking? That it is so wide open makes PERSONA a difficult cookie for me to crack and, while I hate to criticize a film for my lack of understanding, with this film I find myself unable to reach a personally satisfying interpretation, and I really want to have one.

The Lovely Bones

I feel like this is one of those films that is disrespected without just cause. Though by no means a perfect film, THE LOVELY BONES is wholly undeserving of the venom spit at it by the critical masses. If I had the choice, would I have removed a couple scenes (goofy Grandma-cleaning montage and creepy possessed-by-a-dead-spirit scenes, I'm looking at you!)? Sure. But the movie is certainly effective at touching a cord. I was ready to hate Mark Wahlberg in this one. I loved him. He is the emotional core of the film and his ability to let despair wash over him so convincingly is amazing--I literally got goosebumps when he was rushing around town asking strangers if they'd seen his daughter, while slowly realizing that it's a lost cause. Wisely, the ending straddles the Hollywood/non-Hollywood line. We want Susie to give her family and friends some clue that will help them find her murderer, but she decides to instead let them move on with their lives. Thus, when her murderer dies ironically and in an unrelated situation, there is satisfaction despite the haphazard closure that it provides. Also, it's a Peter Jackson film, so the visuals are amazing.

Wild Strawberries

The perfect "life movie," WILD STRAWBERRIES is like a non-cliche version of Dickens' Christmas Carol. A man, jaded by old age, revisits his past on his way to a recognition ceremony. The dream sequences is are dream-like (no small feat) and the subtle transformation, not only of Isak Borg, but of everyone that he crosses paths with, feels natural and emotionally rewarding. It's an ultimately satisfying and positive outlook on life, but it doesn't sweep up the sadness that comes with a life long-lived. As someone who fears old age, the profundity of its "message" is comforting. One of my favorite films. Ever.

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)
½

Fear of the unknown is common. That death is both the most inevitable and the most unknown occurrence in everybody's life makes it the most horrifying. THE SEVENTH SEAL explores these facts with a profound detachment. We grow frustrated with the knight's desire for knowledge of the unknowable, although we too want the same knowledge. With Death literally chasing him down, he fails to let go. Everyone in the film refuses to let go, until at the very end, the domestic slave picked up along the way finally gets it, freely accepting Death's ruling. Is she more admirable? Bergman would seem to suggest "yes," but that he ultimately leaves it up to the viewer is perhaps what makes THE SEVENTH SEAL transcendent.

Wonder Boys
Wonder Boys(2000)

I was only motivated to see this movie because I just recently finished reading the book. The movie certainly does it justice, as it is largely seamless and just different enough that it's faithful and refreshing. I'm not a Michael Douglas fan, but he was rock solid in this one.

Eastern Promises

The plot is very uncomplicated and feels like more of a sidestory for something bigger, which makes you yearn for more to go on. But if you take it for what it is, the plot is stretched just far enough that it fills out a runtime while still holding your interest and making Eastern Promises a very good movie.

Boys Don't Cry
½

Whoa. This film carries you along on the shoulders of Brandon Teena and you absorb the blows just as she does. It's a bleak and harrowing look at dangerously ignorant middle America, where these events transpired in reality less than two decades ago (only 6 years before the film's release). Kudos to Hilary Swank.

Malibu High
Malibu High(1979)

A malcontent, easily corruptible young woman decides that she wants to start getting good grades so she can graduate. Not wanting to study, she prostitutes herself out to her male teachers. When the principle notices that she has A's in her male-taught classes, but an F in her female-taught class, she kills him. Oh yeah, she also works her way up the prostitution ladder until her pimp turns her into a (quite successful) hitwoman. It's all very strange and would be appealing if the lead actress didn't have so much snotty attitude. There was only so much I could take.

Stepmother
Stepmother(1972)
½

Trash to the extreme, but it's "good trash," if you will. Watch this movie alone and I'm sure it sucks, but watch it with friends and the absurdities are hilarious. The main character barely speaks English, the first murder victim has an affinity for obnoxious blue blazers, and after thinking you're only going to get to see two murders, they unleash a THIRD (*gasp*) one on you that is sure to rattle you for days.

This Is England
½

It started out by charming my socks off, then quickly became frightening, which is fitting since that is exactly what the film is trying to say about the skinhead subculture that is the focal point of the plot. According to the film, the skinheads began as a fun-loving gang rebelling against superficiality by committing petty vandalism. When a former "member" is released from prison, though, he brings with him an anti-immigrant philosophy that divides the group and turns the skinheads into the neo-nazis that we know them to be today. All in all, it makes for a damn compelling movie, going into similar territory as AMERICAN HISTORY X in terms of brain-washing youth etc. but it does so a lot more subtly before arriving at the brutal conclusion.

Todo sobre mi madre (All About My Mother)

A wee bit episodic and a wee bit tidily wrapped up at the end, I came away feeling a bit indifferent. However, the characters do their best to keep you involved, the plot is prime melodrama, and the visuals are pretty to look at, which doubtless make the film a favorite for critics and casual viewers. I was just less charmed than the others.

Mary and Max
Mary and Max(2009)
½

It's high dosage of sweetness is fully countered with an even higher dosage of loneliness, as the idiosyncrasies of the two titular characters cripple their abilities to enjoy life on their own. Linked by fate, the story is told almost fully through the letters that Mary and Max write to each other (kudos to Barry Humphries, who more or less narrates over the whole film). The humor is spot-on and the progression of the characters is very interesting, making the bittersweet ending just that--bitter and sweet.

The Devil Is a Woman

Total camp, but it can only be appreciated on that level since its frustrating depiction of frustrating women (and the men who love them) grows tedious very quickly. Edward Everett Horton is a bright spot as the only one who always seems to know that the film is kind of ridiculous (sometimes it appears that Dietrich catches on, but other times I questioned it).

Date Night
Date Night(2010)

Everything in DATE NIGHT functions to showcase Steve Carell and Tina Fey, making the enjoyment of the movie reflective of one's enjoyment of Carell and Fey. I like them, so I liked it. The mistaken identity plot was underwhelming, but it was made up for with solid jokes, warmth, and James Franco.

Bram Stoker's Dracula

I pretty much hated this movie. Too theatrical (in setting, in acting, in... anything else you can be theatrical in) and too lacking in ambiguity, this movie is like a loud, flashy, dimwitted student film. Although I suppose it is technically impressive, it is that possibility for greatness, or even goodness, that makes it so rotten when it falls miles short. Dracula is initially pure, over-the-top evil, then becomes questionably sympathetic halfway through (he's freaking Dracula for heaven's sake! He's evil, enough said!). He chooses to mutate, not simply into animals and mist and other useful things, but also into grotesque half-beast monsters. Dr. Van Helsing is the wise, experienced expert but is metaphorically castrated at some indefinable point in the film, for he is essentially useless in the climax. Lucy and Mina share an unexplained, quickly cut away from kiss in the rain. Mina is initially wooed by Dracula because he tames a wolf. All of these things, and many more, are all so questionably worked into the movie, when they might easily not have been that it is such a huge mess. I'm trying to keep my high regard for the book out of the equation, but even without my appreciation of the source material, I feel as though I can see this film for the failure that it is. *Rant over*

The Road
The Road(2009)

Sure it's depressing but it also demands respect. It takes an episodic tale that conceptually reads better than it could ever be viewed and makes it feel organic. The liberty taken to increase the role of the wife was a very good choice: it allows for natural segues and adds layers that weren't there (because they weren't necessary) in the book. Part of me feels that the climax occurs around the halfway point, as opposed to the ending, so there wasn't any kind of payoff to escalate interest in the latter half, but I can't fault it too much since the ending hits a very high note that is both ambiguous and emotional.

The Lost World
½

And to think a "girlish whim" stirred up so much trouble. THE LOST WORLD is good as a standard adventure film, solidifying many of the tropes that we know now way back in the silent era. Though the dinosaurs are sold as the main focus, I would argue that they are extraneous, a spectacle that adds to but does not comprise the film. Seeing how the final segment connects with Spielberg's THE LOST WORLD is super-satisfying since I had no idea going in that there were any connections to be had.

Saturday Night

A super-fascinating documentary, SATURDAY NIGHT was James Franco's final project for a class at Columbia in which he documents the making of a single episode of SNL, from idea to performance. Though not necessarily stellar on its own filmmaking merits, it is awe-inspiring to see the SNL writers and cast do everything that they do on a super-tight timeline. What's more is that they are all funnier off set than they are on. Even as a casual fan of SNL, I walked away from SATURDAY NIGHT with a great appreciation for everybody that works on it.

Dogtooth (Kynodontas)
½

DOGTOOTH is unsettling. That much is for sure. But in getting past the initial discomfort that permeates every minute of its runtime, there is a fascinating movie to be seen. Think about it: everything that is weird in the film, from incest to self-violence, is the product of the unique and tragic world that the central characters live in, where their parents have constructed a "safe" place for them by completely shutting them off from the outside world--paying any costs to maintain the illusion even as the children grow into adulthood. With the plot structure as such, the parents in this film are two of the most effective film villains that I have seen in a long time.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

A very interesting concept: a fortune-teller possesses her power via the help of an eclectic group of ghosts living out their purgatory within the confines of her home. The experience was heightened by the score, which was performed live, but I feel as though the film could stand on its own legs regardless.

The Runaways
The Runaways(2010)

Everything about THE RUNAWAYS hits the right notes, so much so that I imagine it will surprise absolutely everyone who questioned K-Stew's chops and Dakota Fanning's age. I was all aboard for the whole movie, but it felt too short. We don't really experience the rise of THE RUNAWAYS like we probably should. We only see their increased popularity via a montage of newspaper clippings and then BOOM they're uber-popular and performing in Japan--where they ultimately start to unravel. Of course, this is only so disappointing because I loved the movie and would have been happy to see a bunch of the in-between that probably sits on the cutting room floor.

Suck
Suck(2010)

Meh. It was pretty good. I liked parts better than the whole. To me, the celebrity cameos served only to distract from what was otherwise an entertaining core-plot of a struggling band voluntarily becoming vampires in order to be successful. On that note, I wish that that would've been the singular focus, instead of complicating things with a by-the-numbers revenge against the head vampire. Dave Foley is super-annoying too, just for the record.

Get Low
Get Low(2010)

GET LOW is the story of a man who, after voluntarily living as a hermit for 40 years, becomes the subject of many tall-tales circulating a nearby town. As he begins to plan his own funeral, supposedly to juxtapose the false stories with the truth of his life, we begin to get a clearer sense of the past that led him to isolation. GET LOW gets by on the performance of its central actors: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, and Sissy Spacek. Everything converges in such a way that all of them are fully-fleshed, 3-dimensional characters, each one demanding sympathy from the audience. That said, it is Robert Duvall's show, through and through, and very well might earn him some buzz around awards season.

The Unknown
The Unknown(1927)

One of the better silent films that I have seen. The quest to "possess" a beautiful woman complicates the notion of hero and villain. Our identification with Alonzo marks him as the hero, but his scheming plot to own the object of his affection, Estrellita, simultaneously marks him as a villain. It's fascinating to watch, in general, and seeing the film with a live score only served to heighten that experience for me.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc)

I was left a little bit cold by JOAN OF ARC. What is essentially an extended courtroom scene, I feel as though it is unfair to complain about the merits of this confined structure which, though foregrounding the emotional turmoil, was a bit alienating due to the cyclical arguments being given by both the prosecuting council and Joan. Additionally, watching the film with a live score, awesome in theory, was a dull experience due to the creative choice to forgo traditional instrumentation for electronic ambient noise.

The Loved Ones
½

This is torture-porn masquerading as torture-porn. There is certainly a plot and suspense and whatnot, but I have little doubt in my mind that that plot and suspense was woven around an initial blood & gore gameplan. I will give kudos to the actress portraying the deranged teenager, but the film on the whole felt pretty exploitative and left a bad taste in my mouth (partially from the context in which I watched, wherein my viewing neighbors were very disturbed and upset). Loved the song though!

Harry Brown
Harry Brown(2010)
½

This is probably unfair to what the film was trying to do, but I had a difficult time trying to take HARRY BROWN 100% seriously. Meant to be a commentary of sorts about spoiled children who turn into violent teenagers with no respect for authority, all I saw was old man Michael Caine killing minors. I feel as though I can respect the film on both levels, however, and there were scenes where the tension was expertly notched up to super-high levels (Harry Brown's visit with the scummy arms/dope dealer), which made the film rewarding even while being simultaneously harrowing.

Cold Weather
Cold Weather(2011)

Like many true "indie" movies, the glaring weakness for me was the very slow-moving pace and the jaded emotionlessness of the central characters. We are told that, when $1 million (or however much) is stolen from a friend of the central character, the stakes are very high, but you wouldn't know it judging by the reactions of the characters. I really did like the means by which the mystery evolved, transformed, and was ultimately solved, but I needed some more in the way of polish to be more engaged with what was happening.

MacGruber
MacGruber(2010)

This was damn hilarious. I understand that, for many people, stupidity is seen as a major shortcoming in comedies, but I beg to differ. MACGRUBER isn't stupid like SCARY MOVIE is stupid. Instead, everything is in hyper-mode, making every joke exaggerated to a point where we laugh at the excess. The fact that everyone involved in the film is aware that they aren't making an intelligent, or even satirical, comedy allows them to go all the way over the top, and I love that. I laughed more during MACGRUBER than I did at THE HANGOVER and, while I may call THE HANGOVER the better movie, laughs are currency in comedies, making MACGRUBER one of my favorite (not one of the best) comedies that I have seen in a loong time.

Lovers of Hate
½

I found myself waiting for this film to end. The tone was ambiguous, which is admirable but frustrating, in how it tried to combine comedy and horror-stalker elements into a tone that was muddled and uninteresting. The characters were all childish, beyond belief, to boot. I feel like the concept was good but I was underwhelmed by how the story was concocted around that concept.

Elektra Luxx
Elektra Luxx(2011)

Pretty much exactly like WOMEN IN TROUBLE, this is the continuing adventures of Elektra Luxx and a handful of the other women from WOMEN IN TROUBLE. Additional scenes with Joseph Gordon-Levitt were very much welcome here, and I got to the point where I was just waiting for his next appearance, since the subplot of his porn industry news website hacked into by his sister was more interesting than the rest of the more central stories. It's not that it's bad, and having director Sebastian Gutierrez on hand to discuss how he could make a nice-looking film with nice-looking actors on a small budget made me respect ELEKTRA LUXX more than I otherwise would have, but it ultimately fails to hit with any impact.

Mr. Nice
Mr. Nice(2011)

I will admit to having dozed off a bit while watching MR. NICE, but the repetitive nature of the plot--man deals large amounts of drugs, almost gets caught but doesn't, man deals large amounts of drugs, almost gets caught but doesn't, etc--was still very apparent despite the lapse of 10-15 minutes. It's not that MR. NICE is a bad movie, it's just that it's over long and takes it for granted that all of the elements (as repetitive as they are) of this nonfictional story are interesting enough to be included into the film, bloating the run time in the process.

Cyrus
Cyrus(2010)

It gets oh so close to annoying yank-my-hair out territory, but the skill with which it walks that line allows me to appreciate it all the more. Basically Reilly is a sadsack loser who finally meets a woman that he connects with, but she has a 20-something live-at-home son who doesn't want to see his strangely close relationship with his mother change. The film handles Reilly and Hill's juvenile rivalry very well, as all of their threats are so passive-aggressive and secretive that we don't find it stupid when Tomei doesn't see what's going on. I can really appreciate that and, in combination with the numerous super-funny parts, I thought CYRUS was a very solid movie.

Micmacs (Micmacs  tire-larigot)

The crown jewel of SXSW 2010, MICMACS is a very clever French caper comedy that sees a doofus of a man, wronged by each of two rival arms dealers, employ the help of his misfit friends to ingeniously escalate a turf war between the two arms dealers. It's super-clever and super-charming and creates a bevy of memorable characters. There's really nothing negative that I can say about this film, and I truly hope that it finds an audience.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
½

Perhaps it is too harsh to say that one joke can ruin a film (or greatly diminish it), but when TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL literally ends with a suggested rape that is played for laughs, it was cringe-worthy enough to mar what is otherwise a solid horror comedy about two dudes who are mistakenly believed by a group of college kids to be axe murderers.

The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights

This was a brilliant documentary. I tend to leave documentaries largely unmoved, but UNDER THE GREAT WHITE NORTHERN LIGHTS was totally captivating. I walked into the film as a casual White Stripes fan but left with a massive appreciation for them. The concert footage was perfect, the interviews were de-mystifying, and the focus on their impromptu local shows showed just how cool they can be. Ranks alongside THE COVE as one of my favorite documentaries to date.

Kick-Ass
Kick-Ass(2010)

Something was a bit off with KICK-ASS's execution. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it may have had to do with some of the gimmicky flashbacks, narration, and "what-if" scenarios... Either way, this is a movie that is greatly benefited by audience reaction and I was lucky enough to watch it with a massive fantastic audience. The stylized violence is good in the same vein as SIN CITY and 300, but there's something more satisfying in seeing it play out in a "real world" setting (as opposed to seedy noir or "historical" settings). Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz steal the show and the film wisely focuses on them to a mostly equal extent as the titular Kick-Ass. In a sense, I wouldn't say I was disappointed in KICK-ASS but some parts are just plain stupid and would've been better on the cutting room floor.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
½

Weakened only by the too-sharp contrast between goofier-than-goofy awkward romances and super-dark good vs. evil, Half-Blood Prince is still a great achievement and probably the best Harry Potter film to date. Watching this and realizing just how epic this single movie is arouses within me a greater appreciation of the Harry Potter film franchise, which continues to one-up itself and has been super-entertaining for an entire decade.

Female Trouble

I understand what this is, in the sense that it's supposed to be bad taste and camp and whatever else, but more than disliking the plot (in which only part of the bad taste and camp exist) I just found the whole thing to be super-annoying. I laughed at the shock parts and the absurd parts, but you know what I didn't laugh at? Everybody screaming at each other in shrill voices. It was super grating and it comprises the whole movie, which in itself was so blatant in its visual unappeal that I found myself not laughing at the movie but just being irritated by it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I was very impressed with this film. Although the resolution drags on and ties up strings that I had forgotten were loosened, the mystery core of the plot delivers a heck of a thriller. It's like the beautiful child of FRAILTY and TELL NO ONE, and it's fantastic.

Nowhere
Nowhere(1997)

My first foray into New Queer Cinema, and it was a doozy. NOWHERE is tragic in plot and beautiful in aesthetics, and the weight of the situations grow slowly so that what starts out as a typical day becomes something much more urgent and bewildering. The bizarre elements, featuring alien abductions and murder-by-soupcan, are novel and unique and strange, creating a discomfort that has an ambiguous effect on an ideologically heterosexual audience: at once alienating because of its strangeness, yet inviting by its existence as a reprieve from the sexual politics of the characters. Everything in NOWHERE is a mishmash. Identities, styles, characters, and it makes for a jarring but entertaining film.

Shutter Island
½

Does a great job of getting under your skin, most notably due to minor continuity editing "flaws" and other unsettling formal techniques that are subtle enough that I have no doubt many went unnoticed. This, in combination with music and eerie line-delivery, delivers one of the most visceral moods that I have ever encountered. The plot does keep you guessing, revealing things at the last possible moment to disrupt any notion that you may have of "having it all figured out," but I found the ultimate lack of ambiguity at the end to be disappointing, if only a little bit, because the rest of the film presents itself as so ambiguous that the concluding reveal was less preferred than a left-open mystery.

Mulholland Drive

Freud would have a field day with this. I watched this for the first time in a few years and I'm pretty sure that, by watching the movie with Freudian interpretation in mind allowed me to have a pretty solid understanding of the film. That said, it's a major doozy and it is absolutely haunting. An ideal dream quickly gives way to a shattered life, making for what might be the most jarring experience I've ever encountered in a film.

Rope
Rope(1948)
½

An amazing technical achievement due to the lack of cutting (I counted one obvious, 3 non-obvious edits in the whole hour and a half film). The concept of the plot, where two men kill a friend as a self-declared "artistic" practice, then hold a lively party with mutual friends (and the victim's father and girlfriend) in attendance, is very disturbing although Hitchcock doesn't linger too much on the murder but on the smarmy arrogance of the killers and the calculated rationality of James Stewart, who ultimately unravels the mystery. Everyone plays off of each other very well and the performances are great on their own merit, let alone when considered the half-hour long takes.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

I rewatched this childhood classic so I could give a presentation about the androgynous masculinity of the Turtles and the highly phallic connotations of the Shredder. So, I could go on and on about that, but instead I will geek out about how nostalgic this movie is for me. It stands up when compared to the iconic action movie tropes of the time (overwrought music, etc.), albeit child-ized. It's got an edge to it that would undoubtedly be neutered in a modern-day remake/reboot. Also, I got a kick out of the fact that a young Sam Rockwell appears as "main thug." What's not to like?

Lethal Weapon

Mel Gibson steals it. He is crazy and unpredictable, except when it comes to right/wrong conscience.

Women in Trouble
½

I was originally charmed by this movie when I saw it at SXSW. The thrill of the festival, the thrill of the stars in attendance, the thrill of a packed-house audience, all likely contributed to that. On a rewatch, though, it's a mediocre (maybe sub-par) execution of what is an intriguing idea--to reintroduce sexploitation in a feminist fashion. Alas, writer/director/producer Sebastian Gutierrez may want to limit himself to just director/producer next time because the dialogue was painful at times (as was the delivery, in his defense) and the film just feels a bit off because of it. A sequel is coming to SXSW, though, so I guess I'm up for being charmed again, even if disappointment awaits later.

Pumping Iron
Pumping Iron(1976)
½

Things I learned from Pumping Iron:
1-Arnold Schwarzenegger is a (lovable) dickhead and a bully
2-Lou Ferrigno, on the other hand, is a very sweet man
3-Clever editing perpetuates the "evil ginger" myth by casting Ken Waller as a villain
4-All bodybuilders are apparently compensating for childhoods of being bullied.
5-Apparently, lifting weights is like (at risk of being vulgar) "coming day and night" and "having sex with a woman"
6-Lastly, I learned that I should hit the gym once in a while because I am a weakling...

All that said, PUMPING IRON is a fascinating documentary that creates heroes and villains, perhaps unfairly, and weaves a compelling narrative from nonfictional material. It's probably one of my favorite documentaries.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

BAD LIEUTENANT is like an ultra-heightened Scorcesian character-study of a severely flawed character that keeps digging deeper and deeper into self-destruction. However, in BAD LIEUTENANT there's a (mostly) happy ending! I'm pretty sure Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog were on the exact same page throughout as both men seem equally crazy as a general rule, and the finished product is so well-executed. If nothing else, the film accomplishes a way of making a dirty cop movie be entirely original, which is a feat in itself.

The Hawk Is Dying

So, the premise is this: George desperately wants to train a hawk and, despite failing 4 times resulting in 4 separate hawk's deaths, he is confident that this time will be different. Sideplots involve the death of a handicapped nephew, his failure to earn respect and esteem of his peers, and a budding relationship with a junky college student. It's all quite bizarre, but it's also captivating if for no other reason than Giamatti's performance and the spectacle of a man's relationship with a hawk. The hawk is George's ticket to respect and its presence is an essential extension of his character, and depending on your ability to buy into that (even in strange amusement), the movie is pretty strong.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
½

It really is painful to watch, but it may be for that reason that I respect it the most. What's more is that it really did feel natural and realistic, even at its most surreal and monstrous. A lot of credit needs to be given to Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe because they are where the emotion comes from. In their interactions with each other, you can see the hatred boil up in each of them as they play a constant action/reaction game of cat and mouse. For as much as I respect this movie and can get on board with the high praise it is receiving, I just can't imagine wanting to see it again. Of course, I would recommend that everybody see it once.

The Crying Game

Some political espionage mixed with sexual confusion. Could've made for a fantastic movie, and it did for the most part. The first act (the part with Forest Whitaker) was awesome, the second act (the part with the notorious surprise) was good, then the finale (the part where Dill gets bipolar and emotionally imbalanced to annoying effect) was bad. Dill's transformation from arrogant to a wreck is slow and excruciating. Some things were explained (Fergus/Jimmy's poor reaction to her secret, the discovery of Fergus/Jimmy's role in Jody's death), but there didn't feel like enough to drive the rest of her mood swings. And when most of the movie pivots around her and her relationship with Fergus/Jimmy, I needed more than Showgirls-esque emotional reactions to hook me.

Strange Days
Strange Days(1995)

STRANGE DAYS might also be known as F*** tha Police: the movie. Essentially, it's a commentary about Rodney King with a neo-noir, futuristic scifi plot woven around it. I was on board for the whole thing and really dug it for the most part, but the big reveal at the end is extraneous to the core plot and muddies up the distinction between the macguffin and the truly important. By the time the twist is revealed, we know who is responsible for the rapper's murder and who has ordered the death of two minor characters, but we are directed to believe that those people aren't the "big" bad guys. Instead, the "big" bad guy is the dude who steals Lenny's girlfriend. *eye roll* Despite all that, the execution of STRANGE DAYS is fantastic, and there is a distinct sense of urgency as Lenny and Mase's pursuers close in and time grows closer to the new millennium. So, while it leads us along and promises big things, the defusion of the conflict just doesn't sit well with me. Also, I dislike Juliette Lewis.

The Most Dangerous Game
½

Doesn't do as much as it could, relying on an extended chase sequence for the entire second half of the film (portions of which take place in heavily scored silent-film era style). However, a dose of irony that is constructed in an early conversation about the rationality of hunting and the intertwining of hunting/violence and sexuality show that there is more to the film than what appears on the surface. At only 63 minutes, though, subtleties are touched on but not explored.

The Princess and the Frog

The hubbub seems to be swirling around the return to 2D animation and a black central "princess," but I found it equally remarkable that Tia was so independent and didn't make compromises even when she inevitably marries the handsome (and oafish) prince. In the final scene, she has her restaurant, and she is managing her restaurant, while her royal husband is a mere waiter/entertainer. While I love Disney films like everyone else does, it has never really done anything like that. Otherwise, the movie had pretty darn good music and musical sequences (I'm thinking all of the Shadow Man songs), but served up one of those characters who quickly wears out its welcome and panders to the juvenile jokes that get kids rolling in the aisles. The character in question was okay as far as those types go, though, and overall THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG was just super-refreshing and therefore appreciated.

The 39 Steps
The 39 Steps(1935)

Not perfect in creating tension like Hitchcock's later films, but I liked THE 39 STEPS. Mistaken identities, conspiracies, murder, it's all there. Robert Donat as the protagonist is fantastic. Unlike almost every other lead character in these kinds of films, he was unable to convince a random woman to cover for him and was overall not very smooth at all. He plays well off of his female co-star to and their chemistry made the whole thing go down pretty smooth.

Kyt Han (Cutie Honey)
½

Equally charming (in a bizarre, campy, animated-live action way) and annoying (whenever it didn't hit the charming points). There are many laughs and snickers to be had at the beginning, when listening to a J-Pop theme song with English subtitles like "Who is the trendy girl with the tight butt" and just the ridiculousness of the first bad guy. But things got pretty stale after the first 15 minutes and didn't even have any campy novelty value, making it pretty marginal in terms of my enjoyment.

Predator
Predator(1987)
½

Some major cheeseball action going on in the midst of the normal action. PREDATOR is such a manly masculine fest that it allows for some good laughs. Two guys slap hands, then engage in an impromptu muscle flexing arm wrestle. One guy shoots blindly into the rain forest, then is joined by three more guys who follow his lead by also shooting blindly into the rain forest. There's a lot of cool stuff like that and I liked it. Great, quality cinema? No. Still awesome? YES!!

500 Days of Summer

It's kind of like candy-coated torture with a cool soundtrack. We know Tom will be spurned, his heart will be broken, even while he is dancing with animated birds and winking at his Han Solo reflection. When we see it in progress, slowly (perhaps too slowly) but surely, it's the juxtaposition between the highest of highs and the lowest of lows that make it excruciating. But, as if to give respite to the audience, we at least have some creative split-screen action. And that damn cool soundtrack.

THX 1138
THX 1138(1971)
½

The first act meandered quite a bit and the subtleties were very subtle and, thus, alienating. But while I thought it to be a major problem, assuming that I was missing something important, the rest of the film plays out conventionally. The shift in tone was pretty disconcerting, but I was admittedly thankful for a reprieve from interpreting glances and cryptic conversations. On the whole, the film is pretty darn visionary and almost Kubrick-ian in the visual and auditory sparseness.

Inglourious Basterds

I know I wrote a review for this immediately after seeing this, but it seems to have been lost... Needless to say, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is awesome. My previously undying love for Tarantino wavered a bit after waiting so long for and being so disappointed by DEATH PROOF, but INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS announced QT's re-arrival on my radar and became my favorite film of his. The multi-focus storyline is executed fantastically and the humor is organic and unobtrusive to the plot. Seeing the fantasy of the good guys winning (reaching its crescendo with the violent and excessive gunning down of Hitler himself) is triumphant as a filmic reality.

Pinocchio
Pinocchio(1940)

Whoa. My young grade-school brain didn't even scratch the surface of this movie. I love it now, but I can't help but imagine that the morality and behavioral lessons that it was trying to disseminate to a young audience likely went unnoticed for the most part. PINOCCHIO gets dark, making it daring by today's standards, but it's also a bit jarring. It definitely belongs in the upper tier of the Disney catalog (itself an upper tier of the general film catalog), but it's early-age Disney through and through where the visuals seem to contradict the depth of the simple story. It sounds like a bad thing, but it's enlightening to see such a juxtaposition.

Up
Up(2009)

I always put Pixar in the corner, just assuming that their films will be overrated because EVERYBODY talks about them nonstop. Then, I watch the movies, and I always eat my words (or my thoughts, anyway, since I never actually tell people that I think Pixar is overrated, since I would probably be shunned for it). UP is fantastic. It's adventurous, funny, romantic, and most importantly, mature. I hate the idea of the film being labeled as a "children's" movie, but I'm glad that children are given a work of art to enjoy in a society that feeds them crap like the current the ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS movie. And I'm glad that Pixar is devoted to making movies that transcend audience all together. Never put baby in the corner.

My Sister's Keeper

Very standard, bordering on sub-standard, weepy fare. The whole film is disjointed by framing the plot around a "medical emancipation" court case in which the non-sick daughter "sues" her parents for the right to personally decide whether or not she must donate her organs to her sick sister. I feel like this could have worked, and probably did, in the book but it automatically disconnects all of the more important emotionally engaging aspects of the film. Whereas the runtime should be used to make the audience care about characters enough to jerk tears out of them when the ending rolls around, I constantly found myself wondering "is this in the present (court case) time? Or is this a flashback?" This, coupled with the lack of anything outstanding made for a poorly executed film.

Pygmalion
Pygmalion(1938)

On a level of standard viewing, I thought PYGMALION was fantastic. I'd never seen MY FAIR LADY or any of the other infinite remakes with the same "turn the unladylike woman into a lady" plot. The pacing of the film was noticeably perfect, in that the premise never felt stretched or dense, despite its simplicity. I'm really trying to sort through some of the issues in the film, though. I am somewhat upset that the Doolittle and Higgins predictably conclude the film in a forced romance, especially because of the dominance and condescension that he shows her throughout everything--even the final line of "would you fetch me my slippers, Miss Doolittle" suggests that Higgins is still a bit of a prick. I don't want my issues with the ending to diminish the film's value, though, because issues of female independence are broached in response to the inherently non-feminist plot, but the note that it ends on is a negative one.

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

It felt pretty one-note. Though they included some "poignant" variation by broaching topics of hate and gay father-son relations, the film was primarily 3 dudes on a road trip. There were some funny moments, but there were also some annoying moments. In all, it just didn't quite win me over. I liked the stage numbers, though.

Avatar
Avatar(2009)

I was absorbed the entire time. It was the first movie I've ever seen in 3D, and it was the perfect film to start me out on. The visuals, as everyone probably knows by now, are stunning. Whereas the Robert Zemeckis CGI characters of Beowulf and Polar Express look good but a bit off in the face (called the "dead eye syndrome" by many), the Na'vi faces are so emotive that they really come to life. And while the plot certainly doesn't do anything new, it totally works and it plays the plot-type to perfection. It is just as (or more) inspiring to watch the underdog, good vs. evil story play out in Avatar as it is in any movie that precedes it, and the way that the Na'vi were humanized is a large part of that. Though we view the story from a human imposter, the viewer is not led to "Orientalize" them as much as assimilate into their culture, like Sully ultimately does. Additionally, I thought the acting was top-notch, with Zoe Saldana especially perfect as the central Na'vi character, and I've read some arguments about adding a "Best Animated Performance" category to future Academy Awards and, after seeing her performance, I am very much on board with that. Essentially, Avatar can get by on its visuals alone, and many people will claim that it does, but the plot and the characters are definitely strong sidekicks.

36 Fillette
36 Fillette(1987)
½

Humbert Humbert: Our Hero?

The dvd jacket to 36 FILLETTE bills it as "the French Lolita," and while I've never seen Lolita, the only positive thing that I can say about this film is that it's cool to see a female coming of age story, since it's a male dominated story-type. That's where my praise ends, though. 36 FILLETTE is essentially about a girl on a crash course with future emotional problems. She has some psychological complex about sex where she is both fascinated and repulsed by it. The filmmaker seems to think that the best way to show this is to make everything an ambiguous teeter-totter: when an older playboy that she "picks up" (though who picked up to is up for debate) talks about sex, she bristles, but whenever she talks about sex, he bristles. It's just absurd. More absurd is the fact that she is 14. Blah, it's all just a pretty rotten set up and, while I suppose it maybe might possible be read by some small number of people as being about female sexual freedom, it strikes me as exploitative, aimless, and boring.

Bully
Bully(2001)

It goes out and accomplishes exactly what it wants to, which definitely works to its credit, but a bit of subtlety would be nice. Now that I'm initiated into the Larry Clark universe (having seen this and Kids), I just wish he was either a) less angsty/rebellious, or b) a bit less heavy-handed in the delivery of his angst/rebellion. BULLY was a serviceable film, but it could've used some polish to clean up the stylized grime. I realize I'm speaking in vague terms right now, but its an off-shoot of the fact that my main problem with BULLY was the tone. All of the "spaces in between the lines" were filled with sex and drugs (whereas in KIDS, the whole film was between-the-lines sex and drugs). Its calculated issues-oriented subject matter makes it one of those movie that I can picture a teenager who wants to get into "cool" films watching after reading the title off of some "cool" film list on Google, then feeling enlightened after seeing it. Either way, BULLY was definitely interesting and, I don't know, maybe I liked it?

Antichrist
Antichrist(2009)

I'm sure I would "like" this movie if it didn't boldly, loudly, and indisputably claim that women as a gender were natural evil (notice Woman's obsession with nature as she becomes ungripped and murderous). With its beautiful imagery and some perfectly stylized sequences, it has the makings of a film that I can greatly appreciate, and on those levels I do. But a film is more than the pictures on the screen, and I simply can't get behind such an obtuse message.

The Namesake
The Namesake(2006)
½

I'm not very familiar at all with the melodrama genre, but if there are many that are as good as THE NAMESAKE, then I'm sold. This film is all about the family and it's really refreshing, touching, sad, then ultimately life-affirming. Nothing feels forced, even where cross-cultural issues are explored. Teenage rebellion isn't framed so heavily against a 2nd-generation vs. 1st-generation immigrant dynamic, but instead is just teenage rebellion. If you let this film engross you, I can guarantee that it will give you insight and a valuable perspective on your own parents, even if you can't relate to the cultural differences.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

My problem with the TWILIGHT series through 2 films is that it really does have the potential to be decent, but it always ends up so gosh-darn unspectacular. Movies are supposed to climax somewhere, but it just doesn't happen in TWILIGHT movies. They plot is so uneven where the least important stuff is (the biker ridealong scene) is given an undeserving air of importance, while the significant stuff (Jacob starting to get more aggressive because he's hitting wolf-man puberty) is shoved aside because "people will just naturally understand." I don't care how many people have read the books, the movies should pretend that those books don't exist and focus on telling the story instead of using the books as a crutch to allow for shoddy storytelling. Also, the emotional instability of every single character may come across okay on the written page, but everyone seems a bit insane when you're seeing what are supposed to be real characters acting in such unrealistic, out-of-touch ways. I think there is a possibility to salvage the TWILIGHT series, but a musical chairs of new directors isn't going to do it, a good script will. Preferably one that isn't afraid to make a real movie, even if that means tweaking things from the book.

Paranormal Activity
½

Understandably, I had high expectations for this movie. You don't just sit down and watch "the scariest movie every made" (pfft) and not expect to be scared. But where successful horror movies, for me, create palpable tension that literally tenses my muscles and what not, I was as cool as a cucumber watching PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. Sure there were moments that were fairly effective but I felt like there was something minor off with the presentation, so that I just wasn't all that surprised or creeped out. Potentially, this problem could stem from the fact that the leads were people that, if I met them in real life, I would want to spend as little time with as possible: the guy was unbelievably arrogant and the girl was super-passive about being f-ing HAUNTED BY DEMONS! Also, maybe the low-budgetness also dulled the frights for me, because I never expected anything bigger to happen. Doors slamming shut and funny noises would be creepy if there was some indication that it was a precursor to something big. That said, I did like the ending (both of them that I saw) perhaps because the true danger finally became realized, but before the final scene I started wondering if it ever would. In sum, I really wanted to like this movie, and some of the creepy atmosphere almost got to me, but I literally just wasn't feeling it.

The Shootist
The Shootist(1976)
½

He just wants to be treated like a normal person! At this point in John Wayne's career, I could see this as a comment on his persona. He was the "Western guy" throughout his long career and I'm sure there was part of him that didn't want to be that guy, despite how good he was at it. That's an interesting allegory to be taken from THE SHOOTIST anyway. The film in itself is pretty good, but gets rather dodgy at points because the tone tends to fluctuate throughout. It's cool to see a who's who of past-their-prime actors like Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, and Lauren Bacall, along with Ron Howard and the dude from MASH, but the film is too uneven to capitalize on what could have been greatness.

The Fall
The Fall(2006)

This was criminally under the radar. It has a lot in common with PAN'S LABYRINTH in my opinion, with the whole story being fuelled by both child-like imagination and adult-like struggle. To boot, I would claim that THE FALL is one of the most visually stunning movies that I have every seen. I think it's a tragedy that it wasn't trumpeted upon its release, because I can confidently say that it is likely one of my favorite films from 2006.

Alice in Wonderland
½

Essentially, ALICE AND WONDERLAND can be seen as a guidebook to domesticize children. What makes it super creative is that it does so by showing children the chaos of what they want--everything that Alice wished for in the song where she describes her ideal world shows up in Wonderland. It's the same kind of thing that WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE also does so well. It's imaginative and it's odd, and it all works for me.

The Fly
The Fly(1986)

As soon as the gross-out factor came in, I feel like the movie got weaker and weaker. The set-up was really good, but as soon as the fateful "transportation" happened, the movie just became a serious of dull moments before the next reveal of a new stage of ugliness that is the Brendlefly. If there would've been a deeper push for some kind of emotion, either from Brendle or Veronica, I'm sure I would've enjoyed it more. As it stands, though, it's only average.

TRON
TRON(1982)

TRON is definitely a vehicle to show off some revolutionary special effects. The plot relies on an understanding of computers that is basic today, but probably was much less basic almost 30 years ago. It's all of the techno-babble that probably hindered its success and memorability, but I was really impressed by how well the film integrated and characterized computer terminology and concepts into concrete things. The idea of a computer "world" with human-like programs is essentially a fantastic way to make the actual science and technology understandable. The visual effects are pretty darn neat, too, and they hold up in their own way because the black-light aesthetic hasn't really been replicated since.

101 Dalmatians
½

Probably one of my favorite Disney animated films. It's so easy to enjoy, right from the get-go with Pongo looking at all of the women who resemble their dogs (and vice versa). I don't know exactly what sets it apart specifically, but everything is pitch-perfect and there's none of the cringe-inducing caricatures that have a way of showing their face in others from the era.

Clue
Clue(1985)

In terms of sheer replayability, CLUE definitely is in the discussion for my favorite films. It's ridiculous without being stupid and, despite the humor, the whodunnit aspect holds up rather well. I mean, if we are to dissect it a little bit, CLUE is a really revolutionary movie. It's using an unusual property that one wouldn't expect to be adapted to film (being a board game adaptation in 1985, it predates most comic book films--all except for SUPERMAN?--and comes before the toy adaptation craze) and it's multiple ending structure is ingenious. It's a shame that the film isn't remembered for the gem that it is, because it really is more fun than almost every movie I've ever seen.

Night Watch
Night Watch(2006)

It's only weakness is how convoluted it is. If I hadn't been watching it with a group I probably would've paused and rewound a few times to sort things out. It's not that the overall plot was difficult to follow, but there were new aspects to the vampire and anti-vampire's powers that seemed to keep popping up and the great stakes of the finale were unclear to me for a while. Once I could keep up, though, it really was a pretty fascinating movie. It's UNDERWORLD-esque in that it does something different with vampire mythology without robbing it of what makes vampires cool, and the visuals are really original. The use of subtitles was really awesome, to boot.

Suspiria
Suspiria(1977)
½

Although I would argue that there is only one genuinely scary sequence in the film, there's such a greatly constructed mood of discomfort that works from the beginning. The set pieces and the lighting are fantastic, and there are character tics that I'm still trying to figure out their importance (why were all of the dancer's so peculiar about money?). This is the first Argento film that I've seen and, with it, I can certainly understand the "master of horror" label that gets bandied about with his name, and SUSPIRIA has definitely inspired me to pursue some of his other films.

The Grace Lee Project
½

More than a little pretentious as a concept, but I really enjoyed two of the individual stories (the ones about the Asian Black activist and the woman who helped her domestically abused friend). There didn't seem like the filmmaker had much to say other than "there's a lot of Grace Lees" so that her observations and everything seemed really scatterbrained.

Rush Hour
Rush Hour(1998)

Chris Tucker gives a performance for the ages! Brett Ratner cements himself as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood!

Really, this movie sees all of the cliches associated with 80s action movies and, instead of spinning them (like other films do to the point of a new cliche), they just roll with it and wrap it in a nice wrapping paper of racial humor. I won't say it's not entertaining, but it's just lazy and derivative and uninspired.

Top Hat
Top Hat(1935)
½

Like SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, TOP HAT makes me wish that films like this were still made. Where are the comedy-musicals? Where are the talented male dancers? It seems almost like Hollywood can't do sweet and naive anymore because it's so busy being cynical and "ground-breaking." It's a pity, because TOP HAT is a lot more fun than most movies that hit the megaplexes.

Il portiere di notte (The Night Porter)

It's a bit of a challenging movie to watch because the crux of the narrative hinges on two characters' bizarre S&M sexual relationship. I pity the two main characters, as they are essentially harmless yet are tied into a power structure that doesn't want to be toppled. There was a noticeable lack of dialogue but I enjoyed the faint ambiguity that was allowed by it and character motivations still came across clearly. As I was watching the first half or so of THE NIGHT PORTER, I got to thinking that it's eerily like CASABLANCA where a past romance is renewed with doomed circumstances--although THE NIGHT PORTER puts a heck of a twist on that.

In the Loop
In the Loop(2009)
½

What! This only has a cumulative 2.5 on all of Facebook Movies!! I guess there's a drawback to being super-clever and intelligent... Anyway, IN THE LOOP is a satire that is many times more effective as a political meditation than some of the pretentious stuff that seems to come out all the time. The humor works on all levels, with the foul-mouthed insults likely to get the Family Guy/Wedding Crashers crowd giggling, while the hypocritical humor works for people who can keep up with the names and other information that swirls about. It certainly doesn't do a whole lot to inspire confidence in politicians, but if IN THE LOOP teaches us anything it's that they can distort opinions in their favor regardless of circumstances.

Aladdin
Aladdin(1992)
½

Sometimes when you revisit films from your childhood, they really aren't that good. Disney just does it right, though. Aladdin is as fun to watch as it was when I was 5 or 6 years old. All of the songs are memorable enough that I could sing along to each while the movie was running, and it's almost a shame that "A Whole New World" overshadows the rest because it's only slightly better than some of the others. No matter your opinions of corporate politics or whatever, Disney makes darned good animated movies.

World's Greatest Dad

I feel like the ideas were there, as I find it fascinating how people fondly remember people who they never liked in the first place, but the different elements thrown into the mix weaken what may have been fairly poignant. For instance, with all of the lies that Lance spreads about his dead son, is it any wonder that people gain a newfounded respect for him? Granted, the reverence that the students give the son is over-exaggerated for comic effect, though it's not that funny. Essentially, I feel like the point of the film was to reflect on how people misconstrue the dead as innocent, but it concealed some of that through unnecessary plot intrusions. Plus the kid was such a terrible terrible person that it transcended its purpose and made the whole 1st act difficult to watch. I will say that Robin Williams is really fantastic in the role and I'm hoping he chooses non-RV/License to Wed type of projects in the future.

The Wedding Banquet (Xi yan)
½

Starts out as a sort of saccharine family sitcom type of movie that, almost out of the blue, morphs into more serious fare. The story is that of a gay man being pressured into a woman to a) get the woman a green card and b) stop his parents from forcing him into an arranged marriage. It's definitely a solid movie.

Orphan
Orphan(2009)

I resisted the notion that I would enjoy this film. "Oooh, another creepy kid movie! Wow, that's fresh!" By about the halfway point, though, when $hit starts to go down, I was hooked. My emotional response to this movie was off the charts! Granted, a lot of that came from the characters making such stupid decisions and were so easily manipulated that I wanted to slap them for it, but I was able to take these moments into stride because I just got the feeling that the filmmakers were conscious of the conventions they were using. For example, they didn't hide the jump scares and actually set up numerous musical and visual cues that would suggest a jump scare, only to reveal nothing. This had an interesting effect, in that it kept you on your toes: you couldn't assume that a jump scare was coming, yet you couldn't assume that it wasn't coming. So, while these things were frustrating, they were done really well, and the gasps and held breaths grew organically from them, because you can't hardly snicker at a horror film that is snickering at itself. Thus, you just go along for the ride, and ride out the emotional roller coaster.

Bakjwi (Thirst)

A vampire story done right. Essentially, of all the vampire movies released in the past year, this one could be said to have the most in common with Twilight (at least the first 1/3) and finds a way to commit to a love story without bastardizing the canon of what a vampire is in fiction. Basically a woman falls in love with a priest, who also happens to be a vampire. Whereas Twilight turns the vampire-lusting woman into a danger-prone Daphne who must be saved at every turn from her vampire lover, Thirst is almost feminist in the power that the female takes--ultimately surpassing that of the male. It's all super-fascinating and the film explores numerous themes, most notably the nature of sin when nobody is watching. Additionally,the ending is so satisfying that it could redeem an almost unbearable film. The fact that the two hours leading up to it weren't so shabby makes it the figurative icing on a bloody fantastic cake (pun).

The Cove
The Cove(2009)

Absolutely heroic! The Cove at once explains an entire, broad-reaching problem, shows us how difficult it is to fix the problem, then presumably fixes the problem, all in an hour and a half. The lack of compassion of the men who kill and allow the killing of 23,000 (!) dolphins per year is matched only by the overwhelming compassion of the group of people who risk prosecution to save the dolphins. I'm having difficulty expressing how compelling this documentary is, but it literally gave me goosebumps by the end.

The Fourth Kind

I'm a bit on the fence about this one because my enjoyment of it really hinges on how much stock I put in the "reality" of the whole thing. Regardless of how real it is, I was soo annoyed at the cliche sheriff who fails to even entertain that there is something weird at play when it seems fairly obvious. The interspersing of real/dramatized footage was really unique, though, and luckily didn't veer into an hour and half episode of "Unsolved Mysteries."

Kids
Kids(1995)

I believe that film does have the power to represent a social issue and serve as a catalyst for change. I also believe that film can be dangerous and exploitative and can be as much a factor of a given social issue as a catalyst. KIDS is absolute garbage. It exploits a "real" issue by relying on controversy to claim notoriety and infamy. But where is the spark that tells the audience that this is wrong? I saw nothing but child actors being told by filmmakers to do disgusting things, under the guise of teaching the public about the issues. It's damn shameful is what it is. The movie gives no message at all. It just shows. And what it shows is so negative that it needs a message to redeem itself to viewers who had to sit through it. I watched the entire movie to see if any semblance of hope would appear in the last act. Maybe Jenny finds Telly and prevents him from giving a deadly disease to other young girls. Instead, she gets raped. Cut to black, roll credits. It's just sickening, and I'm saying this from the perspective of someone who considers himself to be movie-savvy and as world-savvy as possible for someone who has only lived 20 years. I know this is a rant, but I really do feel strongly about how dangerous this movie really is.

The Joy Luck Club
½

I enjoy sentimentality as much as the next person, but the Joy Luck Club really lays it on thick. That's not to say that there isn't a good movie there, which there is, but men seem to be demonized and the sob-stories clock in at a couple too many. Despite being well done in all facets, there's just too much.

Elephant
Elephant(2003)

It's super unsettling, but I would refrain from labeling it as "realistic." I feel like the characters are real, but that they are, in a way, hyper-realized. They fall almost into cliches and stereotypes because the dialogue is so limited that we have to find out what kind of person they are in only a few lines. For example the group of three girls have no depth when they hold generic conversations about how terrible their mom's are and how much fat is in their salad dressing. People may say these things, but I can't imagine anybody so easily fitting that "type" with every word that they say.

This is unfortunate because the film seems to work in every other way that it is intended. I'm unsure exactly what that intention is, however. I feel like the videogame emphasis (literally with the two kids playing a computer game and symbolically with the "first person shooter" feel of all the characters) simplifies complicated motives and, in doing so provides an easy motivation that hides others. I feel like it at once wants us to consider the randomness of tragedy, but it undermines any notion of random by pointing to a specific cause. So, despite the sinking feeling that I felt when things got heavy, I just wish things were a bit more honest on the whole.

Where the Wild Things Are

It was so good. I don't care if you've never even read or heard of the book, this movie is about being a kid and how frustrating it is to be marginalized without having the life experience to understand the depth (or lack of) of your problems. Here's a kid who gets bummed when nobody notices him and is transported to a world where his problems are relieved of their "childish" implications and are experienced by everyone else. I really liked that. We aren't told that Max's problems are lesser or greater than our adult problems, but we just see things play out, and that trip is pretty interesting and touching. I would never label this as a children's movie, however, since I think the themes explored rely on some sort of enlightenment by the viewer, leaving the visual element as the sole attraction for children. The visuals are fantastic, though, so I wouldn't blame anyone for dragging the kids to the theater.

The Virgin Suicides

It's an intensely tragic story that presents itself as avoidable, as if the events don't have to unfold the way that they do. It's horrifying to realize that the mother can, in a skewed way, be said to have the best of intentions for her daughters yet a complete disregard for their need to experience life--especially in the wake of their sister's suicide. I like that the film didn't attempt to explain feelings and emotions that the girls had, which would have inevitably taken them for granted. There's a truth to be gained from the thought that one has no place to comment on or discount the inner turmoil of anybody. The actresses who play the sisters do a great job of being understated in their unhappiness, and the plot's slow build-up of their confinement makes the film's final act especially poignant.

Cocktail
Cocktail(1988)

Part tutorial on idiotic machismo, part predictable exploration of love vs. money. Cocktail is an awful movie made watchable by some stroke of chance. When I say it's watchable, though, it should be read with a grain of salt because you never once forget how ridiculous it is. It just kind of lulls you into an acceptance of the events that are happening on the screen. Powerless to slap anyone in the face for being stupid, I was left with only the power to laugh at the cardboard characters. Looking at the poster for the film, I feel like it really sums the film up: Tom Cruise putting on his best manly face, but positioned in an unintentionally funny, terribly awkward pose.

Lady and the Tramp

Certainly not the ultimate Disney movie, by any means, Lady and the Tramp is still fantastic when held by any other standards except for those created by Disney itself. It's still a remarkable movie and really does a lot with 75 minutes. It's tough to watch and then write about a movie like this without a sense of nostalgia for 2D animation and an era where fart jokes weren't a staple of children's entertainment. With Lady and the Tramp, it's all about charm and I like it.

Dead Snow (D鷣 sn)
½

Guts make a victorious comeback in Dead Snow, an absolutely insane over-the-top horror film about Nazi zombies. These zombies not only tear humans limb from limb, but they also play around with entrails to a degree that I'm not sure I have ever seen before. More hilarious than disturbing, Dead Snow does a very good job at keeping the action going at a break neck (ha, pun) pace and delivers everything one could possibly expect from a movie whose plot synopsis boils down to two words: Nazi zombies.

Whatever Works
½

I totally bought it. I'm admittedly a sucker for good life-affirmation, which made parts of the film where Boris is annoyingly and overbearingly pessimistic a bit annoying and overbearing. However much it teeters at the line of annoyance, however, it never got too grating and it made the conclusion satisfying. Though it plays for laughs, the title "Whatever Works" is presented as a pretty admirable philosophy but is susceptible to distortion by the self-righteous. Basically, the film gives credence to luck and embracing the fact that you can't know everything, and I think I like that. Larry David is... good at being a pain in the arse, which I respect even though I his arrogance made him pretty unlikable.

2 ou 3 Choses que je Sais d'Elle (Two or Three Things I Know About Her)

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is both self-reflexive and political, which serves as a very effective combo. Unlike most of the American political films that I've seen, which work so hard to weave political ideas into a coherent plot, 2 or 3 Things literally just takes some time out for the narrator and characters to share what's on their mind, often helplessness and disappointment. That's not to say that the plot was purely decoration, though, as the political musings are incorporated into a loose story of a woman who turns to prostitution to make ends meet and tries to maintain a semblance of normality. Also to be appreciated are the references to the cinematic construct, where characters seem very much aware that they are in a movie, leading at one point to a scene where a man tries to make small-talk with someone because "people don't just talk in movies."

The Life of Emile Zola
½

A powerful story of integrity and justice but, like many good-but-not-great films of generations past, the effect is diminished by films that have come out since and accomplish the same goals in a more subtle way. It pains me to hold that against the Life of Emile Zola, though, because it's obviously not this film's fault that it must be compared to later films, but expository dialogue and kitschy nameplates are put front and center at times that slightly diminish my enjoyment because of how blatant and static the message is. That said, I never knew anything about Emile Zola before seeing this film so I am very grateful to learn of this hero of the common man.

Made in U.S.A.

I wish I had some kind of privileged insight into the mind of Jean-Luc Godard. While I like everything that I have seen from him, I am never able to make heads or tails of about half of what he does--which may be the allure. I know there are layers and layers at work in Made in USA, but I feel like I was only to take any understanding from one or two of these layers, which is both frustrating and a captivating at the same time. The film humbles me and was absolutely effective at making me want more, even if just to tease me with more questions. If one can take nothing else away from the film, it is undeniably beautiful, which is an aspect that everyone can appreciate, even if they grow impatient with the storytelling.

Chan Is Missing
½

Laid-back almost to a fault, CHAN IS MISSING follows two friends looking for a man who they loaned money to. Basically, it's an indie noir that contemplates Asians' place in American society. I appreciated the social commentary and I greatly enjoyed the dynamic between the two protagonists who are absolutely hilarious when they play off of each other. Though, thinking about it, I'm having a hard time putting my finger on what exactly is missing from the film, I feel like CHAN IS MISSING created a bit of a ceiling for itself through its super-indie vibe that the well-executed mystery (albeit with low stakes) could not fully overcome.

The Invention of Lying
½

THE INVENTION OF LYING is a super-saccharine comedy that doesn't fully execute on a clever premise. The truthful world that is introduced is absolutely great, but once Gervais learns to lie, it gets all warped and largely abandoned to focus on the founding of a religion and the way that superficiality can only be masked by lying. But that really isn't very funny at all and, since it's not a particularly profound message, I wasn't satisfied to see the hilarious concept be transformed that way. The whole film is watchable, but only the first half is very fun.

Enter the Dragon
½

The top-notch action of this film is unable to save the afterthought of a plot. Although kung fu is not often a genre known for plot depth or originality, once the characters arrive on the villain's island, everything just gets sloppy. There was a point when I literally forgot what the villain did that made him so bad and deserving of a butt-kicking. The movie does a good job of shoving these complaints to the background through fantastic fight scenes, but when the movie finished they all came back and dulled my enjoyment of the movie.

The Letter
The Letter(1940)

Bette Davis as a femme fatale who gets away with murder. That basically sums it up. Her story gets told and retold: to her husband, her attorney, the jury, etc.; to the point that it's difficult to keep things straight. In that way THE LETTER is effective in leaving the audience in the dark just as much as the characters are and we become unaware of what exactly happened, until the third act when things spiral out of control. It was difficult not to enjoy the deceit-filled ride, but I was left fairly lukewarm with the way things wound up. I understand Bette Davis's motivations being left unclear, as that is what the movie pivots on, but all of the other characters seemed to be similarly shady (the murdered man's Chinese wife who protects Davis's reputation by selling evidence, the attorney who puts his career on the line for whatever reason, the assistant who facilitates the destruction of the evidence, etc.) and it felt more contrived than effective.

Away We Go
Away We Go(2009)
½

I'm impressed. I tend to be leery of the "breakthrough indies of the year" since they usually have a certain self-awareness of how cool they are. I didn't get that vibe from AWAY WE GO. It was funny when it meant to be funny, sweet when it meant to be sweet, and emotional when it meant to be emotional. Hitting those intentions with 100% accuracy is a feat that's easier said than done, and it should not go unrecognized in this one. John Krasinski is convincing as a complete dork with a heart of gold, ditching the cooler-than-thou Jim persona from the Office. Maya Rudolph is quality too and made me forgive her one-note SNL stints. Really, AWAY WE GO is a true relationship movie about two good people who are unsure if they need more than love to survive. I really liked it.

Flower Drum Song
½

Examining the crossroads of second generation Chinese-Americans as they grapple with the heritage of their parents and the American culture of their friends, FLOWER DRUM SONG pays appropriate respects to both sides of the argument, crowning neither perspective as correct. The cast consists only of Asian and Asian-American actors, which is refreshing to see, and secured my crush on Nancy Kwan, despite her character being light on moral fiber and female independence. I feel it's profoundly important that the film, produced in Hollywood, doesn't demonize Eastern tradition, yet I feel like the film made the characters themselves polarized in their behavior, existing as either "Asian" or "American," with the rare character who reconciles both identities being shunned by the man she is interested in. Still, like THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, I believe that FLOWER DRUM SONG has only the noblest of intentions but falls into the era's trap of simplification and essentialization. The music was fairly weak, too, although the accompanying dance numbers saved them on numerous occasions.

The Innocents

Certainly creepy and ambiguous. I like that the conclusion doesn't so much wrap up the story as it invites interpretation. I'd really love to go into tons of detail as to my reading of the ending, but it's impossible to do without giving away key spoilers. Even on the most basic level, though, the build-up of seemingly innocent irregularities to full-fledged aggression coming from two children is so organic that it amounts to constantly building tension that has a satisfying payoff.

The World of Suzie Wong

This was a film that I saw in a screening period for an Asian-American cinema class and, while it was dissected to no end in the class in terms of "white knight 'rescues' girl from her heritage" and other racially-negative analysis, I very much enjoyed THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG. It is not hard to tell that the intent of the film couldn't have been any further from the cynical readings of today that serve only to display that we have a better understanding of how to handle racial diversity today than we did almost 50 years ago. Compared to a similar film of the era, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, SUZIE WONG gives character depth to the Asian population in a time where many popular films carved these characters out of cardboard and yellow-faced white actors. In this regard, and even on its own merits today, I think the general message of the film is remarkably sensitive in terms of race by portraying the majority of Westerners as superficial bigots and making literally all Asian characters immensely sympathetic, even where their profession in prostitution may commonly suggest otherwise. With extra-textual content aside, the film is solid in its own right, as it defies traditional romance and doesn't always settle for easy decisions for the characters. While the gender portrayals are ultimately more groan-inducing than the racial ones, I still found little to fault in this movie, which did nothing to overly excite me but impressed me nonetheless.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

What an awful movie. As if the unbearable characters weren't bad enough (is it ever fun to watch douchey bros and the sad, identity-less girls who "love" them without a grasp of what love means?), the camera becomes one of these characters as well, with exploitative, lingering shots of whatever part of the female body the script has written to be most exposed at a given time. While this is a disease that plagues 90% of movies out there, I cannot think of a movie where it was more meritless and uninspired than in this one. Furthermore, the general moral of the film is: if you are a hot girl, the world is yours to do whatever you want; but don't befriend a social outcast or he'll inevitable grow obsessed with you. Hailed by certain online communities as something along the lines of "the rare, quality teen horror movie that America ignored," I am hard-pressed to find redeeming qualities in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, and may very well be turned off of slasher films for good.

The Brothers Bloom
½

Although I felt as though a lot of the twists could've gone a different way, and possibly made a better movie if they did, I felt like things were executed adeptly so that a lot of red herrings were placed for an ending that it would be almost impossible to see coming as it stood. The more I think about this movie, the more that it seems to me to be a movie about movies, much in the same way that the Prestige is. Like the theme of the Prestige (the 3 parts of a magic trick), I feel like the elaborate cons and the multiple references to playing a part relate to movie-making, where studios and directors basically lure audiences into elaborate cons for their $10 admission price and everyone at every level expects to be satisfied, although the audience is the only one that lost anything to get to that point. It just made the whole thing pretty darn interesting to me. (PS- the intro scene is perfection)

The Time Traveler's Wife
½

Read the book. Loved the book (it made some tears slip-n-slide down my cheeks). For a movie adaptation, the Time Traveler's Wife deserved a Curious Case of Benjamin Button-esque treatment. Instead it was treated as the new Notebook. Of course, the Notebook is a quality movie and the Time Traveler's Wife is also, but there isn't much careful attention paid to time travel's psychological effects on each of the characters. Instead, the film has a "that sucks" attitude and it merely serves as a prop for the love-against-all-odds story. It just seemed a tad simplistic, but regarding the movie in its own right, it's a quality tear-jerker and the characters have enough depth that they don't seem Hollywood-perfect or Hollywood-flawed (time traveling aside), and it was enough to excite the tear-ducts, even if they didn't roll.

Shanghai Express
½

The pacing is off and the characters are cut out of cardboard, but SHANGHAI EXPRESS is really pretty solid. Marlene Dietrich plays a "woman of the night" who meets up with a former lover on a train headed to Shanghai. As the train gets hijacked by Chinese revolutionaries, Dietrich's former lover gets captured and she must offer her body up as payment for him to go free. When the captors are killed, she returns to the train to find her former lover furious at her for going with the captor (for he knows not that she did it to save his life). Where this could be a cliche, avoidable, Hollywood misunderstanding, Dietrich's character is pulling the strings and intentionally is looking for her former lover to trust her decisions so that they can build a healthy foundation for a future. My synopsis makes it sound convoluted, when in fact it isn't, but overall SHANGHAI EXPRESS is a moderately entertaining relic of the 1930s.

Sin Nombre
Sin Nombre(2009)

Sin Nombre is visually breathtaking. There's a flair to the camera work that, at once, marks the hyper-ambition of a first-time filmmaker while also serving as a promise of great things to come. As I watched Sin Nombre, I felt the gravity of every decision that was made by the core characters and was put in their shoes to the extent that the life-or-death-ness of the situations felt appropriately bleak as the viewer. Sin Nombre treads very carefully to avoid immigrant-tale cliches but manages to do so without abandon, never once stretching anything to thin for the sake of differentiation. It was fantastic.

The Cheat
The Cheat(1915)

95 years later, it's hard to watch without a significant amount of discomfort at the "yellow panic" that marks the villain as a villain primarily due to his Asian ethnicity. The titular "cheat" is very elusive, though, as it could be referring to any of a number of lies, secrets, and double-crossings that take place. Taking a step back from its offensive portrayal of the Asian villain, as a DeMille film it still has technical merits and was a very popular film when it came out, launching Hayakawa to stardom that gave him the opportunity to atone for his caricatured Asian villainy.

District 9
District 9(2009)
½

I feel like the power of District 9 comes from what it didn't tell us. Do we need to know what the aliens were doing in Earth's neighborhood before they experienced whatever technical problems stranded them? Do we need to know why they didn't do the typical "destroy the humans with superior weaponry" schtick? No. It's not important, and I know for a fact that whatever explanation they provided would hold the movie back quite a bit. On the other hand, District 9 didn't tiptoe around the questions either. Not knowing what happened to the space ship felt organic to the plot, as opposed to a twist that never developed; and seeing Christopher act so reluctant to kill MNU soldiers in the hospital raid made nonviolence a character trait instead of a misstep.

However, the movie did ask for the audience to believe quite a bit which slightly diminishes the film somewhat in my eyes. Here, I'm specifically referring to the spaceship fuel that doubles as a human-to-mutant transformation agent. Though not crippling to my enjoyment of the film (obviously, considering the 4.5 rating), it was the pivot on which the movie rotated and it felt a tad bit uninspired.

I will say that District 9 is what a Summer blockbuster SHOULD be and, hopefully, its financial success will put even a small dent in the established cash-for-trash system. If movies were food, District 9 would be enjoyable, yet healthy strawberry-banana smoothie, while Transformers 2 would be a nutritionally meritless funnel cake.

The Rules of Attraction

This movie was twisted in a personal and depressing way. I disagreed with all of the decisions that the characters made but tethered my feelings to the fact that I have seen these kinds of people downtown (albeit in varying degrees of extreme-ness) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (and Sunday, Monday, etc.) nights, fueled by their sex drive with no thought of the emotional damage that their empty lives are doing on themselves and others. I guess, in that way, the characters in Rules of Attraction are just plain pathetic. Luckily, the movie leaves a distance suggesting viewer superiority that makes their f--- ups seem almost humorous. Without that, this would be 100% depressing, rather than the 80% that it musters up. A thumbs up for committing to an interesting visual style rather than merely calling upon it once or twice.

The Wackness
The Wackness(2008)

It's true the the incessant dialogue-based orientation in the 1990s ("I just want to listen to Boyz II Men when I'm with you.") is cringe-inducing at times, but the Wackness is otherwise solid. I like that this movie dealt with drugs and sex without really advocating or demonizing. Drug use and sexuality are both partaken by characters in the Wackness with an innocence that downplays their significance. Indeed, the movie seems to be portraying the vices not as an end or destination in itself, but as a means to an end that can/should be abandoned upon delivery to greener pastures. Essentially, it's this and not the 1990s "mad hipness" that makes this movie "fresh" as a coming of age story.

Circus
Circus(2000)

Undoubtedly made in the image of Lock Stock, etc. but whoever made Circus got the formula all wrong. Nobody likes those movies because they like seeing people be double, triple, and quadruple crossed (I really think someone literally quadruple crossed someone in Circus), they like them because of the followable twists and turns that come with people getting into and then out of deep $hit, with a heavy emphasis placed on "followable." I'll admit that I have a general weakness for the genre, though, and liked Circus okay because of it, but I could make a grocery list of problems aside from the crossing that I mentioned. The music was TERRIBLE! Noir sometimes. Discotheque sometimes. It was awful and poorly used. One character in particular had no confirmed resolution. And the main character (John Hannah) comes off as this clever genius with access to a hefty amount of money to pay a blackmail, yet he can't pay off his bookie? I don't know. I'm kicking myself for each of the three stars that I give this, but I really did like it okay, it's just... bush-league.

Hunger
Hunger(2009)

This movie was brutal. I like how we start the movie following one character, then seamlessly shift to another, then another. Additionally, I really liked the superlong (geez, it was probably almost 15 minutes) take of B

Milk
Milk(2008)

Right now I'm eating my words for publicly proclaiming my disappointment that Sean Penn won best actor over Mickey Rourke. The Wrestler is a great movie (and in terms of entertainment and enjoyment, I might consider it superior to Milk, in my opinion) and is all Mickey Rourke, but Sean Penn as Harvey Milk is untouchable. And Milk as a movie is just so important, it's power so undeniable. Of course the content would matter little if things didn't snap into place perfectly, and they do, thanks to Gus Van Sant and the amazing supporting cast. How have I never heard of Harvey Milk before I heard about this movie over a year ago? My point is, that with gay rights still being far from absolute, the story of Harvey Milk is as poignant and inspiring as ever and his name should be common knowledge.

A Mighty Wind

The first hour of A Mighty Wind creates an entire fictional isolated folk history, with the last half hour creating nostalgia for it. If you think about that, creating a nostalgia for something that the viewer was only just introduced to, it's a pretty fantastic feat. The humor was subtle and, while not being unfunny, it doesn't elicit more than a grin more often than not. This is what all mockumentaries should aspire to--the characters were quirky but not totally displaced from a real world.

Revolver
Revolver(2005)
½

I thought this was fascinating! The "enemy" of the film is uncanny to say the least and, while presenting such an enemy is bound to be either somewhat confusing or painfully obvious, I'd say the execution is as close to perfect as possible. One negative, though, is that what should be the major shocker ("revealed" about an hour and a half in) is explained very vaguely so that it's frustratingly cryptic until you pick up additional hints, but the dull shocker, revealed at the very end of the film, is explained in detail although I had predicted it about halfway through the movie. That's not of significant detriment, though, and the brilliance of the plot smooths over everything. I also loved the end credit sequence, which drives everything home in an interesting way and lends gravitas to the story that it succeeds. I guess people should beware that things get a bit confusing, but it's nothing that can't be sorted out by running through things in your mind for a couple minutes afterward, and there's no harm in a movie that actually makes you think about it.

Shinkansen daibakuha (Bullet Train)
½

The Bullet Train is certainly more nuanced than the other Sonny Chiba movies that I have grown accustomed to watching. Bad guys aren't caricatures and moral decisions are agonized over by the good guys. That said, on the whole, The Bullet Train left me unimpressed.

The Deer Hunter
½

This is fantastic! It is likely the most emotionally powerful movie I've seen. Sure it's long, but it isn't boring in the slightest. It seems like each minute of the movie tells you something that is built upon and pivotal later in the film. I literally feel like I know all of these characters, who were superbly portrayed by the way, and I cannot say as I've felt that same way about any other movie I've seen. As a war movie, it's revolutionary to boot, as less than 1/3 of the movie takes place in "combat."

Street Kings
Street Kings(2008)

For the longest time I regretted that I bought this movie on the back end of a "Buy 4 for $20" deal at Blockbuster. It was virtually dumped in theaters and critics must've been ho-hum about it because I had heard virtually nothing about it. Then I watched it. I imagine this is what the Shield is/was like. Bad cop with a strong sense of right and wrong. In Street Kings, Keanu Reeves is such a cop and he gets caught in the middle of a conspiracy of corruption and whatnot. The whole plot is admittedly muddled and some things that warrant a more detailed explanation receive short handling, but the movie is really compelling. I had no idea what was going to happen next... like at all. Heck, I didn't even know to expect an all-star cast (Reeves, Chris Evans, Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, etc.) until the dvd rolled. So, I guess to sum up my enjoyment of Street Kings would be to highlight the notion of surprise, both within the film and outside the film as it blindsidedly pole vaulted my expectations.

Daytime Drinking (Naj sul)
½

Well, I really liked the ending. I don't mean that in an "I'm so glad it's over way" but, after being worn out from following a sadsack character get betrayed at every turn, I loved the wink-at-the-camera aspect of the final scene. If only the movie wasn't so long and wasn't so frustratingly reliant on misfortune, I could've enjoyed the entire movie on the same level, because I know a decent movie is present in Daytime Drinking, it's just not shown to the audience.

The Wrestler
The Wrestler(2008)

This is so good. Wrestling has really been fairly untapped as Hollywood subject-matter, which is a good thing in that it makes The Wrestler all the more interesting. Randy (and to an extent, Pam) in this movie is the kind of guy that you just look at and automatically think what everyone in the movie thinks, that he's a "f--- up." Maybe he is, and the allusions to his abandonment of his daughter support that, but I like that we as an audience don't see him as a "f--- up" but as a guy who has made a couple too many bad decisions in his personal life, yet can still wear the mask of his former glories when the lights come on. The sudden but fitting conclusion drives them home in every way imaginable. It, like the movie on the whole, is tragic and awe-inspiring at the same time.

CJ7
CJ7(2008)
½

In a nutshell, it's a Stephen Chow children movie. It's definitely got plenty of the groan-inducing kiddie-movie staples: poop, CGI "animals," caricatures of bad guys, childhood rebellion against parents, etc. However, it also has the offbeat humor, martial arts feel, visual flair, and well... heart, of a Stephen Chow movie which puts it on a children movie pedestal that is unmatched by American (live action) members of its ilk that I have seen in a long time. It's too bad it was only available to me in its dubbed version, which featured annoying voices that distracted from the movie at times.

The Haunting
The Haunting(1963)

It does a lot with a little. I propose that any new horror directors who really want to be effective should watch this and learn from it: no blood or special effects is needed to craft a timeless horror film. Indeed, the shrieking music that is all the rage in contemporary cinema is outperformed by the extended silences that build dread throughout the Haunting. The house plays as the central character of the movie, with the human characters lending just enough minor oddities to add to the creepy tone of the movie--helping the film to really hit on all cylinders.

The Fugitive
The Fugitive(1993)

The Fugitive leads you by pulling you along with a string. Of course there is no doubt in the audience's mind that Harrison Ford is innocent, but I feel like the movie gives off an aura of foreboding that, in trying to prove his innocence, he is simply digging his own grave (epitomized in the "I didn't kill my wife!"---"I don't care" exchange). I regret that I watched this on television because I know for sure that I would have been wholly immersed in the action had it not been cut up by commercials every minute in a half.

The Crow
The Crow(1994)
½

It's really stylish, which is where most of the appeal for the film lies. Sadly, such gothic and brooding style has been beaten to death in the 15 years between The Crow's release date and when I watched the movie. On another note, Brandon Lee was really likable which adds to the tragedy behind the film.

The Hangover
The Hangover(2009)
½

The Hangover's plot does absolutely nothing of note. The basic situations are funny only in a very broad and general kind of way that likely wouldn't incite laughs on their own merit for anybody that's seen a comedy... ever ("A tiger in the hotel room? Ha! Hilarious!"). Really, the enjoyment of this movie comes from the banter between the lead characters, of which I am pretty sure most was improvised. It's zany and fresh while (obviously) being appealing to a large audience. Of particular note is Zach Galifianakis, without whom, this movie would be entirely forgettable. Dude is hilarious, the others just try to keep up with varying degrees of success. He is that funny. My rating for The Hangover without him, would likely be in the neighborhood of 2.5-3 stars, aka mediocrity.

Splinterheads

I saw this months ago at SXSW and, while it has been too long to give it a thorough review, it was quite interesting as a sweet romantic comedy, which is the only real way that I can describe it although it by no means identifies with the Hollywood cliches that have come to define the genre. Instead it's about a smart-ass loser who is ripped off by a carny con artist but instead of getting mad at her, becomes attracted to her reckless way of life. It's charming, what can I say. And despite not making a significant impression on me at SXSW, it is one that I have thought about off and on since then, which is a feat in and of itself.

Golgo 13: Kron no kubi (The Kowloon Assignment)

In this one, Sonny Chiba plays the deadliest assassin in the world, who never misses his target and shoots his victims between the eyes as his trademark. I get the feeling that this one was heavily influenced by James Bond movies in whatever way an exploitation movie can be. Despite working outside the law, Chiba globetrots, womanizes, reaches destinations via scuba gear, and takes down a worldwide drug baron. The movie itself was solid, but was held back by a painfully noticeable lack of fight scenes, of which there were only two or three.

Hissatsu onna kenshi (Dragon Princess) (Which Is Stronger, Karate or the Tiger?)

It's good to finally see a female kung fu protagonist who can take down the guys--although it's too bad that it comes at the cost of a Sonny Chiba-deficient Sonny Chiba movie. So, in a nutshell, here's the plot: there's a bad dude who, whenever faced with competition of any kind, sends assassins to kill his competition so that he can always succeed; this bad dude kills Yumi's father (Sonny Chiba, who sadly is only around for about 18 minutes), resulting in Yumi living out a lifelong quest to exact revenge. I found the bad guy laughably cowardly, granting another level of camp to an exploitation kung fu movie with the hilarious subtitle of "Which is Stronger, Karate or the Tiger?" and has an unexplained 2 minute softcore pornography interlude. Despite the fight scenes being poorly shot, thus subtracting from the audience's enjoyment of the fight choreography, Dragon Princess is totally solid in the realm of people's pretty specific expectations of kung fu cinema.

The Girlfriend Experience

My reaction to The Girlfriend Experience kept changing as I watched it, leaving a good chance that this rating will want to be a 4 or a 3 in a couple days. However, I think I've got it right with a 5. There is so much complexity in this movie, stemming entirely from the almost asphyxiating air of mystery surrounding "high-class" escort, Chelsea. She gives customers the titular "girlfriend" experience but doesn't share anything about her personal life with them. Her gimmick is that of a sophisticated call-girl, but in her real life she acts like Paris Hilton with a soul (which is admittedly better than the real Paris Hilton). She seems to perform an almost charitable service to lonely, sad men (I'm thinking particularly of the Jewish man that she meets in the final moments of the movie), while charging them for her charity. Really, I think this movie fascinates me because its the rare film where I know there aren't answers to all my questions, but for once I don't really mind--which takes my biggest pet peeve about movies and makes it into an overwhelming positive.

Capote
Capote(2005)

Infinitely interesting, but short of captivating, I was really drawn to the nature of the movie as a big fan of In Cold Blood. While Capote was certainly what I expected, it's pace and the relation between the content and the runtime were a little off in my opinion. I felt like as soon as Capote begins to develop a relationship with Perry (about 40 minutes in?) the movie slows to a crawl as the last hour revolves prominently around chats and Capote's inner-conflict between finishing a good novel and marginalizing a blossoming friendship. With all that said, the movie straight-up deserves kudos in more regards than it warrants demerits. It goes without saying how terrific the acting is. Likewise, although its execution figures prominently in my complaint about pacing, the focus of the psychological damage that In Cold Blood had on Capote (with the ending making a correlation between the events and his succeeding career futility and untimely death) is a fresh and less than obvious spin to put on what could have been a color-by-numbers plot.

Bruno
Bruno(2009)

The character and the concept are genius, thus making Sacha Baron Cohen a genius, but I feel like the execution was less than extraordinary. I don't know if they didn't collect enough footage or what, but the first half of the movie never really catches people slipping up or being anti-gay or saying anything stupid. Instead, the people (Ron Paul, Paula Abdul, his agent) all seem like they have reasonable and respectful reactions to Bruno's antics, until he pushes it well past their comfort zone and they remove themselves from the situation. Where's the funny in that? I don't know why we are encouraged to to feel like they had reactions they didn't just because they removed themselves from a situation that they didn't feel comfortable. Luckily, however, the second act preys on the ignorant and hateful (like it should, in my opinion) and lampoons American bigots like the seemingly more topical Borat. I prefer to think of this movie as a social experiment, which is why I was so lukewarm to the portions that tried to elicit a reaction from those who were genuinely accepting of Bruno's behavior up to a point that transcends "gayness" and becomes downright embarrassment-mongering.

Gomorrah (Gomorra)

The lack of a singular focal character to tie all of the subject matter together weakened the experience of Gomorrah, in my opinion. Here I was expecting a City of God-esque movie, but where Rocket tied that movie together and gave it a heart and soul (albeit one marred by violence), there was no such reference character here, making it colder and impersonal. Additionally, I had a hard time keeping the characters and their relations to each other straight. However, Gomorrah can get by on its visceral nature, because despite the seeming unconnectedness of the characters, the violence that surrounds these characters (and their helplessness to change it--even for those conducting the violence) is at center stage and serves as the focal point that I had wanted to see as a character. Not ideal in my mind, but effective in its own way.

Medicine for Melancholy
½

Interestingly shot, Medicine for Melancholy is pretty much just the day in the life of two people getting to know each other. Jo and Mikah both seem pretty real and do more than spew out pseudo-pyschological "deep" thoughts like is cliche with such alt and hip characters. Instead, their ramblings are grounded within the very observable society that they live in. My only gripe on that front is that we don't see the part of society that they (well, only Mikah really) rail against. We aren't introduced to the issue of dislocated lower class or unintentional racial pressures, which makes some of what they have to say fall flat to a general audience. That said, there is more to their interactions than serious-talk, and some of Mikah's behaviorisms are hilarious and give the movie another dimension.

Who's That Knocking at My Door?
½

This deserves mention beyond the obligatory "Martin Scorcese's first picture." I enjoyed the film quite a bit on the whole, with the only thing diminishing my enjoyment of it (albeit significantly) was the mookish behavior of all of the males towards women. I understand the point that it is serving, that of the guilt-free double standard that some Catholic fundamentalists see concerning sexual behavior amongst men and women, but it seemed like too much to me. I was very impressed with Harvey Keitel (he reminded me of Emile Hirsch for reasons mostly stemming from his early interactions with "girl") and Zina Bethune, who is beautiful by the way, as the aforementioned "girl." Pacing was a bit of an issue, but I legitimately got caught up in what was happening nonetheless.

Persepolis
Persepolis(2007)

Persepolis is great. Great in the way that it tells the story of an individual where the more obvious story is that of a war and a country. Great in the way that it was traditionally, paper/pencil/pen, animated. Great in the way numerous vignettes presented personal memories that were only connected in loose ways, but combine to create an at once heartbreaking and hopeful portrait. Great in the way that Marjane Satrapi maintained creative control of her life story from the writing of the graphic novel through the production of her movie; the personal nature shines brightly throughout.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Meh. I didn't particularly enjoy this, due primarily to the grating character of Alice's son Tommy who may just be the most annoying character I have ever seen in a movie. Really, though, that's the only real strong opinion I have about Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore as a whole. The rest of the movie was good but not great, with Scorcese maintaining his 1970s focus of characters who seemingly cannot make the right decision--although this one is a bit more hopeful than the rest. I suppose I like the ending, but Kristofferson's character didn't leave me with a whole lot of evidence that he wouldn't be a scumbag like the rest of the men in Alice's life. I guess to sum things up, I'm glad I watched this as an early film from Scorcese and I moderately enjoyed it but that damned kid was so exhausting that it hindered things so that it didn't sit as well with me as it could/should have.

Midnight Cowboy

Shades of Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy as Best Picture winner shows just how bold the Academy Awards were 40 years ago and how safe and dull they are today. This is closer to a artsy film student experimental movie than it is to movies today. Joe Buck isn't given a drawn-out, fully-fleshed backstory that spells out exactly what drives his current actions but his past is told in brief glimpses that suggest events but leave room for interpretation. What we get is a character that we don't fully understand, which somewhere in the last 40 years has been deemed a no-no by Hollywood (although, strangely, it earns kudos when executed--see Anton Chigurh and Daniel Plainview). At least we'll always have Midnight Cowboy, where all of our questions (is Rico gay?) aren't in-your-face answered for us.

Alpha Dog
Alpha Dog(2007)
½

This movie is damn scary. The ending is inevitable but every time you see somebody pass up the opportunity to put a stop to everything (out of a very misguided loyalty), your heart will sink little by little. I was really surprised by how much I liked Justin Timberlake in his role. He definitely pulled off a "cool kidnapper" with the way he was joking with and spoiling the kid (Anton Yelchin, whose portrays a naivete that prevents his character from realizing the kind of people he is dealing with), which made his inaction and facilitation of the final deed all the more disappointing. Alpha Dog is definitely not a rewarding experience to watch, but it is very powerful, heightened by the post-event interviews that ground the events in the reality that they happened in only 10 years ago.

Lat sau san taam (Hard-Boiled)

Watching Hard-Boiled is like watching a video game. The hero, Tequila, goes through droves and droves of bad guys, occasionally getting shot, without reloading his weapon. There are three massive, intricate, and totally awesome action scenes in the movie that all hold up very well in terms of best action scenes that I can think of. Some of the stuff that is done in Hard Boiled elicits snickers instead of jaw drops, but I feel that that even adds to its charm watching it 17 years after its release. The plot of the movie is unimportant, really the acting is unimportant, the action is what drives the movie and it's greatly enjoyable nonetheless.

Volver
Volver(2006)

I was surprised by how much I liked Volver. It is the first Almodovar film that I have seen (though Bad Education and Talk To Her are recent additions to my dvd collection), and I sort of assumed that he would be a director that I could respect and reasonably enjoy from a film student POV. Not true in the best of ways. Volver was unadulterated fun (I'm not sure what unadulterated means, but I'm using it as "fun w/o guilt"). What one might assume to be the driving plotpoint, the death of Cruz's husband, is merely a macguffin for a story about relationships that has enough flare and strangeness that it is something entirely new. Penelope Cruz is beautiful. Almodovar obviously knows this, as he brings it to the fore of the foreground. Indeed, there are moments when it's as if the actual camera is looking longingly at her. That's not to say that her performance is anything short of great, in the least quirky role of the film, and the supporting cast is equally good at making the quirk seem real and not out-of-place.

My Blueberry Nights
½

The general plot certainly wasn't anything to write home about: A woman recently endures a breakup and soul-searches across the U.S. meeting interesting people along the way that teach her a thing or two about relationships. What makes this a darn good movie is the visual flair that Wong Kar Wai brings to the table. Interesting camera angles, subtly slowed or sped up footage, and exaggerated coloring, all suggest a depth that could contribute to a quality essay should I have the intention of writing about this for an assignment in the coming semester. Additionally, the cast is all fantastic, with extra kudos given to David Strathairn who I found absolutely brilliant as sadsack Arnie. In comparison to Strathairn, Weisz, Portman, and Jude Law, Norah Jones comes of a bit bland in this, her first acting role. I don't consider that a knock against her, but rather a symptom of being surrounded by great actors and her role as the soul-searcher which doesn't leave her with much to do besides looking like she's taking meaning from her various interactions.

Sita Sings the Blues

Sita Sings the Blues is the most fun that can possibly be had in an animated film in some parts; straightforward and solid, but unspectacular in others; and overly self-indulgent on the part of the filmmaker in still others. The setup is that Nina Paley suffered a difficult breakup with her flaky boyfriend, who moves to India. In her heartbreak she reads the Ramayana, puts a feminist, woman-scorned spin on it and turns it into a movie. That's definitely an interesting and personal behind-the-scenes story about a film's conception, but it is by far the least interesting part of the movie and is annoyingly self-indulgent. Of course, her portrayal of the Ramayana provides the bulk of Sita's runtime and is by no means disappointing. Split into two types of storytelling and animation, I personally found the vibrant, circular-animated musical parts to be the most engrossing and made the movie unique and very very enjoyable. The other, a more informative retelling of the Ramayana by three somewhat unreliable narrators is visually less appealing but made enjoyable by the humorous banter between the said narrators. While I get the feeling that the portrayals of Rama are unflattering and possibly even offensive to some Hindu people, I found the story very interesting and was able to be simultaneously entertained and informed about a religion that I knew little about. I would have no qualms giving my wholehearted endorsement of Sita Sings the Blues were it not for the parallel storyline of filmmaker Nina Paley's failed relationship.

After Hours
After Hours(1985)

This is painfully exhausting to watch. I understand the "nightmare" quality to it, but everything was just so... trivial, yet had dire consequences, which left me feeling vicariously defeated. In that regard, I'd say its effective and, thus, I don't want to be too harsh, but it certainly is a very unrewarding filmgoing experience. As cliche as it would have been, I'd have preferred the closure and the sigh of relief that would have accompanied a literal "wakeup" moment to solidify the notion that it was all a horrible dream. But that's just me.

Hollywoodland
½

Hollywoodland really had me going full throttle but disappointed me with its conclusion. (*possible spoilers*) I understand the notion of the case being "unsolved" but I don't like Adrien Brody's character's personal conclusion of the events. As an audience, we are tugged along on a tour of Hollywood's forces of corruption, epitomized by the MGM head and we see Brody rise up to the challenge of peeling away the layers without monetary motivation, yet all of the suggestive circumstances fail to ultimately sway him when he finds out that George Reeves was unhappy? I hate to harp too much because the film was quality and pleasing in every way for the vast majority of the runtime, but it was a bitter and unfulfilling parting shot to a good movie. I didn't expect a conclusion where there is none, but I wanted Brody's character to at least believe that the dirt that he had dug up was worth something, when ultimately he did not. I suppose he willed himself to feel that way to protect his son? Maybe, but his final "vision" of the possible/probably events of Reeves' death seemed pretty definitive.

The Dreamers
The Dreamers(2004)
½

Reminded me a lot of Y Tu Mama Tambien. Two inseparable friends (in this case siblings) introduce a fascinating new member (Matthew) into their group, with sexual trysts and strained relationships to follow. The Dreamers was more interesting, in my opinion, due to both the background of French protests and New Wave cinema, but also to the very interesting (read: borderline unsettling) intimacy that the twin siblings have with each other. Although the depths of that relationship is danced around rather than met head-on, we are given suggestions of its destructive force, which hits home in the climactic riot, reaffirming the siblings as an island of their own upon which Matthew was only visiting.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
½

Well... I didn't outright hate it. I heard all the negatives about this movie and they were all true, but people forget to mention that under all the garbage (and there is a LOT of garbage, which I will attempt to list off in a moment), there is the expected Summer spectacle which is cheapened, but not erased, by the aforementioned garbage. So, with my 2.5 stars being rationalized by the quality of spectacle, comes the rant. There was about 7 major stupid recurrences throughout this movie that were annoying, offensive, and outright terrible. #1- the racist caricature "black homeboy southern" twin-robots that were reminiscent of black-face skits in terms of offensiveness. #2- the super-annoying mom of Shia Labeouf's character, who was so grating that the 1st act of the movie wore her taint throughout its duration. #3- the super-annoying roommate of Shia Labeouf's character, who was so grating that the 2nd act of the movie wore his taint throughout its duration (although he mellowed out later). #4- Devastator had testicles. And, yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. #5- the absolutely pointless Gremlins-esque appliance robots at the beginning of the movie. #6- the humping dogs at the beginning of the movie and the humping Decepticon halfway through the movie. #7- the fact that little robots in the film fart fire on more than one occasion.

Honestly, if the twin-robots were removed from the movie it would be pretty enjoyable and I could forgive other stupidities. The other 6 are mere chump change compared to that, but are all extraneous, detrimental, and completely unnecessary.

Maria Full of Grace

It's difficult to not get caught up in Maria's ill-fated journey as a drug mule from Colombia to New York. The tension all feels real and human, as opposed to the cheapness of some films, and the film seems to neither condone nor damn Maria's decision to earn "easy" money, nor does it entirely explain her choice to ultimately stay in America (although we can assume). Maria is something of a mystery, guarded and secretive, and rather than slowly unraveling her psyche throughout the movie, by the end of the movie she remains a mystery.

Father of the Bride

This movie actually made me pretty emotional. I don't know why, as in what circumstances made me feel this way, but I kept putting myself in George's shoes with the bittersweet process that is the wedding of a daughter. Then, in the end I was so let down that he didn't even get to dance with her at the reception. In addition to my sappy reaction, Steve Martin was at the top (or at least, closer to the top) of his game, comedy-wise, with the supermarket scene serving as a great example.

Ghost Town
Ghost Town(2008)

The premise seems dull and the trailers looked painfully unfunny, but I took the plunge based off of the strong reviews and Ricky Gervais, and it paid off. The first half is amusing if not laugh-out-loud and the second half is effectively redemptive and heart-warming. Although Ghost Town doesn't do anything Earth-shattering, it overcomes the eyerolls that accompany the plot description and is a sweet little movie that is carried entirely by Gervais's grumpy-to-compassionate persona.

Snow Angels
Snow Angels(2007)
½

Literally the single most depressing movie I have ever seen, courtesy of the director of Pineapple Express... Snow Angels centers on a broken couple on a road-to-nowhere town that gets even more F-ed up then they originally were upon the accidental death of their young daughter. Really, you just feel bad for everybody, but the movie does a good job of showing how the characters got in the crappy positions that they are in so that you don't feel that their misery is unfounded by a history of bad decisions. I really liked the subplot with Olivia Thirlby and Michael Angarano. Kate Beckinsale plays her role without glamor and comes across as much less sympathetic than her deadbeat, drunk husband who continuously looks for 2nd (and 3rd) chances to redeem himself for her (without success). Although Snow Angels is one of "those movies" where someone dies and has a profound impact on a group of people, it really delivers and isn't boring like the well-worn concept might suggest.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

I really wanted to really like this, but it's hard for me to muster more than a "kind of" like it. I try hard not to be one of those people who compare plot points of a movie to those of its source material, hating the movie for being "too different." I read Mysteries of Pittsburgh and loved it. Where the movie version falters is not in that it is too different, it's just in how it is different. The movie follows a reluctant son-of-a-gangster, Art, during the summer following his college graduation where he meets and falls in love with first a woman, Jane, then a man, Cleveland. What the movie does wrong is decrease the number of characters so that Cleveland epitomizes character traits of two characters from the book. In the book, Art falls in love with a man (not Cleveland) who is a pretty good dude, making it make sense that he would fall in love with him. By making Art fall in love with Cleveland, who is pretty much an a-hole, in the movie, it just doesn't make sense to me, and they don't even lay hints that Art becomes slowly more interested in him. Again, it's not a gripe about faithfulness to the novel, but about good storytelling. With such an important part of the plot hinging on a romance that is questionable in its believability, the movie suffers greatly once it hits the 3rd act. All because of this stupid oversight of the script.

I will say, however, that it is super difficult not to develop a major crush on Sienna Miller (Jane) during this movie. She is absolutely adorable and turns in a good performance, as does Sarsgaard.

Donkey Skin (Peau d'滱e)
½

Delightfully bizarre and delightfully... French. I loved it. Indeed, Donkey Skin is what a Disney animated musical would look like if it wasn't animated. The colors are vivid and exaggerated and the music is catchy (and I don't even know French). The plot is so strange, though, that it is so surprising that it is as faithful to the fairytale source material (which is hundreds of years old) as it is. A donkey that poops gold and diamonds? A king who tries to marry his daughter due to ill-informed advice? But it all works at the hand of the director, Jacques Demy, who doesn't seem to dwell overly long on the oddities but instead includes them as mere plot decoration. Donkey Skin is magical.

Cloverfield
Cloverfield(2008)

I thought it was really solid. It's certainly refreshing to see a monster/disaster movie where we aren't following scientists or experts who are telling the government what the best move is. Also refreshing to see characters who don't have access to guns. It is this kind of focus to a real world that inspired the handicam nature of the movie which overall works very well. I can imagine the headache that it would be to watch in theaters, but on my 17 in (aka 15 inches too small) television it wasn't dizzying or anything. The only complaint there is that some of the cuts weren't organic at all, that is they didn't seem to come at a time when a person would naturally turn off the power for a little bit but were instead done at random a little too often to be perfect. Still, the ingenuity of 100% committing to the style (especially in a major blockbuster movie) earns points in my book.

The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)
½

I'm pretty sure that the first day I stepped into a film class I was shown a clip of 400 Blows. Then, on the second day of that (and any other) film class, I was shown another clip (or the same one). Needless to say, I was pretty much told to respect this movie a long time ago. Finally watching the whole thing was a thing defined by expectations. 400 Blows is about a whiny kid who doesn't like to follow the rules, gets sent to a delinquency center, then runs away. That is all true and is pretty much the summary that I'd been given prior to viewing. What I liked, though, was the way in which the movie squeezes a thorough progression into the short run-time. Antoine starts out as a seemingly smart but troublemaking student. His behavioral problems shoot up an ante after a friend convinces him to skip school which, unknowingly at the time, serves as the tipping point where all of the authority figures in his life give up on him without looking for a reason behind his problems. Following Antoine as a character, I didn't much like him at all, but saw in him a dude that was really messed up beyond his petty crimes. Anyone who abides by the outdated "rotten apples need tough love" theory of child-rearing needs to watch this movie to get their head on straight.

Tokyo!
Tokyo!(2008)
½

Tokyo!, as a package, really runs the gamut of film types: from sad to creepy/bizarre to heartwarming. I'm a bit surprised that the portrayal of Tokyo was so unflattering. Instead of being overly glorifying (ala Paris Je'Taime), it was more eye-opening about the isolation and interpersonal distance between people who live in the crowded city. I'd say I liked all of the segments fairly equally and, while none of them completely blew me away, the whole package was very satisfying. The acting was all brilliant, to boot, making the experience that much more enjoyable.

The Brothers Solomon

This is the funniest movie I have seen in a looong time. It is also the stupidest movie that I have seen in a long time. Judging by my head over heels love of Corky Romano, that seems to be a good formula for my enjoyment of comedies. Liking Brothers Solomon definitely requires a certain sense of humor, but if you fit the mold you will have a smile on your face throughout the runtime and will laugh out loud at least every couple minutes. The ridiculous of the premise and the weirdness of Will Forte and Will Arnett just works.

Terminator Salvation

I've wanted to see this since I saw the first trailer, but the negative reviews definitely tethered in my expectations. It turns out that it met my original expectations quite beautifully. I don't know where all the gripers are getting their ammunition. I respect that die-hards don't consider this movie to be "necessary" because the future was only the framing device to tell the two original Cameron stories. However, if you take a step back and erase the Terminator name and preconceive notions constructed by the earlier films, this is a damn good movie. I've heard complaints that there are too many characters, but that's not the truth. There may be too many high-profile actors so that they don't get the screen time that we are accustomed to seeing them in, but in the realm of the movie there is no problem there. I guess what I'm getting at is that Terminator Salvation is a good movie on its own merits, if people could only judge it as such.

Star Trek
Star Trek(2009)

It really is as good as everyone is saying it is. It really makes the 2 hours go by quick. Abrams did a fantastic job of making the nerdiest of nerdy properties into something that was accessible to everyone without pooping on what had been done before. It's easy to underestimate how difficult of a job that really is. The banter between Spock and Kirk was definitely the highlight of the entire movie, as it really served as the preliminary conflict that, only when resolved, allowed the crew to do their thing against the bad guys. Basically, everything in the movie delivered, and it all resulted in a quality summer movie that all future summer reboots and remakes should look at as a template.

Bella (Beauty)

As contradictory as it sounds, Bella was, in a way, an ambitious mumblecore movie. There was a definite emotional impact at the end, but I am sure that it could've been maximized if the flashbacks were more evenly scattered throughout the film and the focus was more consistent. I couldn't help but find the main female character kind of annoying also. All of that said, however, Bella is still a pretty good indie flick that has flown well under the radar.

The Truman Show

I absolutely loved this movie. It has to be one of the most tragic stories ever told. Everything in this movie is perfect, in my opinion. To be honest, I'm finding it hard to dote on this movie effectively (because it leaves you with so much to think about?). Let it be said though that after watching the Truman Show, there will be a lot to think about. I credit that to everyone involved who made the movie seem so real that I could picture something like that existing.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Ugh... I can't believe I did it...
First off, in my defense, I didn't actively seek the opportunity to watch the abomination that is Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but it my roommates were watching it and I happened to walk in the door as it was playing. Like a fool, I sat down. I might have been one of the bigger Paul Blart haters out there when this movie was in theaters. Upon seeing the movie, my prejudices became well-founded as the movie is an absolute mess. Really, there is no fault of Kevin James who actually is kind of funny (although he's funnier in absolutely every other role that he's been in). The fault lies in the plot and the pacing. They try to make the defacto climax of Blart saving the mall take up over half of the movie, which made the said climax painstakingly boring as we see Blart taking out bad guys one by one for about an hour until he gets to the "boss" who he defeats faster than the henchmen. While writing that down, it doesn't seem to be too bad, but it is. If someone is making a movie in Hollywood they should follow conventions if they can't break the mold effectively. To everybody reading this, go see Observe and Report.

Eagle Eye
Eagle Eye(2008)

Basically this movie was 2 hours of nonstop tension, plain and simple. I almost wish that they used a different frame for the tension than a government/terrorism plot, but things did converge rather nicely without any "what is going on" moments of confusion. The concept of a mysterious telephone call forcing you to do stuff that you don't want to do is very creepy, rivaled only by the extensive surveillance that the movie portrays, which is basically a reality (minus the huge computer program that can access everything at once).

Hairspray
Hairspray(2007)

After seeing pieces of this movie about a million times I finally saw the whole package and was impressed (I think it helps not watching it in a dorm room full of girls rambunctiously singing along to the lyrics that I had never heard before). The performances were all pretty good, especially Seaweed and Michelle Pfeiffer. The racial commentary was very well done with the exception of the painfully pace-destroying equality march that brings the movie to a grinding halt to ham-fistedly beat us over the head with a message that was being handled quite nicely already. PS- I hope people jump off the "I Hate Zac Efron" bandwagon real soon, because he's pretty talented and he' moving on to bigger and better things than High School Musical.

Mean Girls
Mean Girls(2004)
½

I had forgotten how good Mean Girls really is. The script is really clever (a product of pre-superstardom Tina Fey) and avoids pratfalls of other high school movies. As caricaturized as the characters were, I felt like everybody's action made sense within the confines of those characters, grounding the super-bitchiness in a "real" world instead of forcing it. Really, I just straight-up liked the movie on all cylinders.

An American Carol

Probably the only thing I enjoyed about this movie was that it defied Hollywood liberal-ese, and provided a dose of conservativism that is all too often ignored. However, they are soooooo conservative, and ham-handedly so, that the messages of the film border on dangerous regardless of your ideological views. It's been about a week since i watched so my examples may not be perfect, but war isn't simply justified in certain instances but is glorified without regards to situations that may rationalize war as opposed to those that don't. Also, it seems ignorant of the liberal viewpoint, breaking them down into stereotypes so cartoonish and lacking any bearing in reality that I can't imagine this movie being persuasive to any group because conservatives are the only ones who would watch this thing and they already believe the BS that it is spitting. If the filmmakers would have distinguished the viewpoints in a more subtle way and portrayed the opposition (liberals) as real rational humans, than this could've been a decent and important film instead of an Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans for the political set.

X-Men Origins - Wolverine

So I think this movie is unfairly being criticized by just about every critic and fanboy. It's definitely not perfect, but I feel as though the X-Men title has given people reason to point out inadequacies that are only inadequacies in relation to the vast comic book history of Wolverine as a character. So what if these characters shouldn't have been around in the time period of the movie? This is the only chance that we get of seeing Gambit and pals for the next couple years until the inevitable franchise reboot, so it can be reasonably determined that gauging these characters popularities in this movie will be a good thing in determining whether or not they will show up in future X-Men films. Not bad, eh? And since the movie itself fits pretty well within the realm of summer movie, brainless action, I think that it should be regarded in equal esteem to similar movies without people crying foul due to minor quibbles that are distracting from the slightly above average nature of the movie. At least this wasn't another X3, where all of these characters were introduced and then turned into dust, nullifying the point of introducing them and didn't even provide a good movie. Even Deadpool, was handled okay-ly. *SPOILER* I was most nervous about him, and despite the fusing together of the mouth to prevent his talking I was content with his forced manifestation of multiple superpowers as it made sense within the context of the movie.

Basically what I'm trying to say is, X-Men Origins was not a f*** up. It was decent overall and I am just grateful that it washed my mouth of the crappy taste that was X-Men 3. Could it have been better? Yes, but likely only in ways that would hurt its box office take and, I love the X-Men too much to see such a promising franchise be snuffed out for the next 10 years.

Waltz with Bashir
½

Waltz with Bashir is engrossing literally for its entire runtime. Starting out with a bang as animated dogs are racing through city streets, it doesn't let up. While the animation has a lot to do with that, and WwB has received appropriate acclaim in that regard, the stories accompanying the animated recreations are what carry the narrat... I mean documentary. Despite being a documentary, it is not unbelievable that I would have confused it for a drama had I known nothing going in. While I feel that my lack of knowledge about the movie's subject matter prevented me from wholly understanding and appreciating everything that was done here, quite possibly the best thing about the movie is that it made me want to learn more about the inhumanity and struggles that drive the film.

Quiz Show
Quiz Show(1994)
½

A rock solid movie that takes a pretty objective look at corruption. It's pretty surprising that it doesn't seem to pass judgment on anybody, despite all of the ethically shady behavior that permeates the entire movie. Rob Morrow was phenomenal as Dick Goodwin, and really outshines any of the other heavyweight actors that are in the film. I can't say that the film doesn't drag a little in the middle (which may have been a side effect of watching the film for only about 15-20 minutes per session in a class), but it did little to put me off.

Modern Love Is Automatic

As the first reviewer, a part of me hates to give this a bad rating but... I disliked this movie quite a bit. The premise and the promotional material had me anticipating this movie quite a bit while I was at SXSW, but it failed to meet my expectations on just about every level. It's been a few weeks now since I saw it, but the movie was outright boring. It feels as if the plot just treads water and the characters just tread water and it never really ended up anywhere. The main character is so unattached that, while it may have been played for laughs (??? I'm not sure if it was...), she cam across as unhuman instead of a bored human. You would think that the moonlighting as a dominatrix bit was chosen as an outlet for her monotonous life and thus would change her just a little bit, but it really doesn't. The hard rock music was grating during the transitions. I did, however, on the positive side, like the color palette that was used--but that's like enjoying the wrapping paper on a terrible Christmas gift, it doesn't really change much.

RocknRolla
RocknRolla(2008)
½

I have big time respect for what Guy Ritchie does flawlessly in this and his other movies. It's easy to underestimate how hard it is to create so many plot strands and still tie everything up in a logical way, but it can't be easy to do. Guy Ritchie makes it look easy, though, and RocknRolla is a fine example.

Choke
Choke(2008)

Absolutely nothing about this film blew me away, yet I find it passable none the less. The first half is an excessive sex romp in order to establish Sam Rockwell's character as a sex addict, which although it could be said to have "served a purpose," also wore out its welcome big time. The 2nd half is quite a bit better, though, as internal conflict is the focus rather than shallow character establishment. The way Rockwell's character handles himself, and the changes that he undergoes by the end are all satisfying and realistic at the same time which helped to tidily wrap up an otherwise sloppy story. Rockwell aside, I also really liked Kelly MacDonald as the "doctor" who looks after Rockwell's mother.

Time Chasers
Time Chasers(1994)
½

The movie is just plain awful! The Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary made it an absolute gem though. I suppose it would fall in the laughably bad category without the hilarious commentary, but it'll probably be a movie that I never forget with the help of the sarcastic and cynical view that the 3000 commentary provided.

Twilight
Twilight(2008)
½

I feel like I have more credibility as a cinema major/respectable movie-watcher before I watch movies that have a bad rap. I liked Twilight. This will come as a surprise to many of my friends (and, indeed, to myself) because I badmouthed this movie as much as the next person. I enjoyed it, though, despite being wholly indifferent to the book on the whole. The cinematography and locations were beautiful. Kristen Stewart is honestly a fantastic actress to pull off such a dull, one-dimensional, poorly written(?) character--this diagnosis has nothing to do with the fact that I have a crush on her like 99% of women have a crush on Robert Pattinson, she really is a skilled actress. Otherwise, the movie gets overall passing marks for staying faithful to the book while making it less... something. Less stupid, maybe? That may not be fair, but there was definitely less eye-rolling on my part while watching the movie than when I read the book. Overall, Twilight was not bad but was enjoyable on the whole, and I am looking forward to watching the next when.

Pickpocket
Pickpocket(1959)
½

Pickpocket is very straightforward and, while it is better than being dull or plodding, tends to be a bit too lean, especially when the two main characters are so interesting. The actually scenes of thievery are exhilarating but after we discovered how good he was at it, there was never any danger. Minor gripes aside, Pickpocket is quality overall and is really a joy to watch.

The Silence of the Lambs

I want to preface this by saying that I have seen The Silence of the Lambs before now, it's just been so long that I couldn't remember more than the base story of it. I watched it again, however, and was amazed by how good it was. It's a really short 2 hours and despite its content feels neither like a police (FBI anyway) procedural nor a horror but I guess it transcends both of those to a point where it really is unique in terms of genre. Obviously, enough has been said about Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, and their superb performances do indeed hold up. I love the gender dynamic that is represented by Clarice Starling--especially when it is she, who is slightly disrespected by her peers throughout the whole movie, who kills Buffalo Bill (is that a spoiler alert??). That said, I think that Buffalo Bill is scarier as a villain than is Hannibal Lecter, who I perceived to understand at least a certain amount of respect for humans who deserve it. Whatevs, it's a truly great movie no matter how you slice it.

The Unborn
The Unborn(2009)

I had pretty high hopes for the Unborn based off of the creepy promotional material that suggested a rated R-like horror at a PG-13 rating and also the fact that star Odette Yustman is absolutely beautiful. That said, the Unborn suffered from not creating a good horror "atmosphere" in the beginning of he film, putting in extraneous scenes with stereotyped teenage conversation and one of the most pointless sex scenes ever. When the movie gets going, though, it's definitely above average for a current horror film, but I can only imagine how much better it would've been if we felt a sense of foreboding continuously from the getgo. The plot is a tad convoluted and I was shocked at the body count that was racked up to save this girl from being driven deathly insane. 10 people die, a young girl lives. Fair Trade? I still enjoyed the movie on the whole and there are a handful of creepy images that separate themselves from the norm. Plus, Odette Yustman was, as expected, a feast for the eyes.

The Haunting in Connecticut
½

There is very little (read: almost nothing) that Haunting in Connecticut did that had not been done in other movies before it. It is a cookie-cutter film that relies on obnoxious music to tell you when to be scared. The production values are good and I love me some Elias Koteas, but neither of those two rights prevent Haunting in Connecticut from being anything but wrong.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
½

Ingenious in its stupidity, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the sum of its parts, with the parts all being brilliant on their own merit.

Titanic
Titanic(1997)

You know, it's really too bad that Titanic was so successful at the box office (and it was soooo successful), because it has achieved a cliche, almost resentful aura around it that is entirely undeserved. It utilized cutting edge visual effects, stars arguably the best actors of their generation, is directed by maybe one of the top 10 directors of all time, and won a crapton of awards, all of which should seemingly point to a film that is remembered as a classic. Instead because it made $600 million people actually underestimate how good it actually is. I don't underestimate that. I thought Titanic was magical and awe-inspiring. An inherently tragic event is maximized and made relatable to an audience through a timeless Romeo/Juliet love story. It's not cliche, it's just beautiful.

Awaydays
Awaydays(2009)
½

The accents were very very thick in this one. After the 10-15 minute "learning curve" where I adjusted myself to the speech patterns, I settled in and enjoyed the movie for the most part. Telling the story of a young guy who, wanting to have a peer group to belong to, joins a gang with the help of a friend--only to alienate his friend and become alienated from the gang. Awaydays is a pretty good self-destruction story as you can't help but want to shake the main character for making stupid choice after stupid choice. There are times when the film grows a little dull, and later on in the movie when tensions arise between the main character (I can't really remember his name) and both his friend and the gang, I couldn't tell when he was on good terms or bad terms with them. Overall, though, Awaydays is fairly solid.

Me and Orson Welles

I will preface this by saying that I am on the "Zac Efron hater-wagon" in that I strongly dislike Zac Efron. However, although I would've like to see Emile Hirsch in his role, Efron won a few points on my likability scale with this movie. He doesn't bat his eyes at the camera or cause girls to faint or anything like that. Instead he's just a confused kid who gets an awesome opportunity, then loses it because of a misunderstood "love." Now that my Zac Efron analysis is out of the way... The movie was phenomenal. It's all about Orson Welles's pre-War of the Worlds/Citizen Kane stage play of Caesar. Of course the entire movie hinges on the performance of Christian McKay as Orson Welles and he absolutely nails it. After only a couple of minutes, I just accepted him as Orson Welles and, for a few minutes after the film, his portrayal would pop into my mind when I thought of the Orson Welles. It was that good. Hopefully the Academy will take note when the film is released in October.

Zift
Zift(2008)

I loved Zift! This is the kind of stylized, gritty, and intelligent action movie that I wish had its own genre name so that I could then crown that genre as my favorite genre. Zift was just plain cool. It's a little bit like the original Crank, in that the man is living out his final night and needs to solve a problem first, but without the ridiculousness. I really liked how they found ways to intersperse some cool verbal stories into the narrative. I liked the cinematography. I pretty much liked everything about it.

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle
½

All while I was watching The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, I was unsure about two things: whether I understood the symbolism/allegory and whether if I did understand, if I actually liked it. Both of these uncertainties were appeased during the Q + A that followed the film (God bless SXSW) when various comments by the director, while not responding exactly to my concerns, helped me to piece together what the film was saying. What I've come up with is that the movie is anti-abortion with a twist: putting men in the position of having to decide whether or not to keep their "baby." In its own trippy way, the movie portrays a group of three men who conceive and undergo the processes of pregnancy after eating experimental cookies. The movie is definitely as weird as it sounds, but by distancing myself in time from actually watching the movie, I have come to respect it for everything that it is.

Lesbian Vampire Killers
½

Clearly inspired by Edgar Wright "ode/spoof" movies, Lesbian Vampire Killers doesn't quite pull off the desired effect. For some reason, though, I still found myself enjoying the movie overall. Maybe it's because I like every single word present in the title, but maybe because the movie is concise. Once the group get out into the woods, nary a minute passes when there's not a lesbian vampire trying to "convert" the women and kill the men. That said, the vampires never seem very threatening as they seem to explode into white goo when someone just looks at them wrong... So, while I have counteracted every positive point in this movie with a negative one, I suppose I can conclude that, while many movies these days are trying to create a campy, low-budget feel on purpose, Lesbian Vampire Killers succeed in actually making the movie convincingly campy (inconsistencies, etc.) without the feeling that it is done on purpose. If that makes any sense at all...

The Slammin' Salmon
½

Had a surprising amount of laughs throughout the whole thing, but they all come quite cheap. While this normally wouldn't be such a bad thing, the brand of comedy on display in Slammin' Salmon seems straight up outdated since the Judd Apatow revolution of a few years ago. Really, that's a shame, because, while I like most all Apatow-influenced movies better than this one, I feel like there should be room in movie culture for multiple definitions of funny. A laugh is a laugh, even if it's stupid.

Metropolis
Metropolis(1927)

Oh how I love Metropolis. I was lucky enough to see it for the first time at SXSW as it was scored by a live band in real-time. That special touch turned what I'm sure would've been a brilliant film into an absolutely spectacular one. After watching it, I started kicking myself for never having seen it earlier. Part Marxist commentary on the nature of the working-class and part commentary on the group-think, mob-like mentality (and dare I say stupidity?) of that same group of workers, Metropolis is rightly considered a classic.

Monsters from the Id

I was totally digging on this movie for the longest time, as it was chronically the parallels between sci-fi science and real-life science during the 1950s. I loved seeing clips of old sci-fi movies that I had never gotten a chance to see before and learning how the goofy technologies in those movies were very similar to present-day not-so-goofy technologies. About 2/3 of the way through, however, this documentary became a shameless public service announcement crying out to the world that we are in need of more scientists or our world will crumble into the dark ages. The message is all right and good and everything, but I felt that there was a better place for it to be spread than in an otherwise fun documentary.

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker was a very solid movie. Solid is the best word I can use to describe it because, while it didn't exactly blow me away (no pun intended...), it definitely hit on all cylinders without falling short in any aspect. I imagine that if I was a fan of conventional (albeit superior) war movies, my opinion would be much more favorable but, as it stands, I can only respect the technical aspects and reflect on my just-higher-than-moderate enjoyment of the film.

We Live in Public
½

We Live in Public was a very good documentary focusing on the rise and fall of internet mogul Josh Harris. We see how he revolutionized the internet with a series of web-shows that catered to individual audiences. We see how he spent his money on a demented social experiment that should never have been allowed to get off the ground. We see him desperately try to catch lightning in a bottle a second time with a self-focused social experiment. We see his downfall. It is all an immensely interesting story to be told and it left me wondering how the heck I never heard about this guy before watching the documentary. His social experiments were ingenious, I suppose, even though I disagree with his treatment of human beings as lab mice. Such behavior just goes to show how the rich play by a different set of rules. The documentary is very good at showing the ins and outs of Harris's life, especially with limited access to one-on-one interviews.

Observe and Report

Have you ever wanted to see a funny version of Taxi Driver? Of course you have! Observe and Report hearkens the return of the outright bastard protagonist. Nowhere in the movie do we particularly like Seth Rogan's character (although we do feel sympathy at times), and we get to see him become more and more delusional as the movie unwinds. Of course, the character study of an increasingly insane security guard also has its share of laughs, coming from the entire cast (Michael Pena, the Yuan twins, and the Indian guy who loves Chik-fil-a). Observe and Report really is a refreshing movie to see. So refreshing, in fact, that I worry that the general public won't understand its beauty.

Drag Me to Hell

Drag Me to Hell had a lot of things going for it throughout its runtime. I was loving the "jump in your seat" scares that were going on, the kitschy vibe it gave off while still taking itself seriously overall, and the plot which couldn't be less similar than the run-of-the-mill crap horror movies that keep getting released. That said, I feel like the ending lacked substance and, while I am beginning to like it the more I think about it, still left a feeling of what could have been sitting in my stomach.

Adventureland

Definitely one of the highlights of SXSW, Adventureland was a major crowd pleaser (evident by the HUGE line to get into the theater, of which less than half could actually fit). Before I knew anything about the movie, Adventureland held a nostalgic allure to me because of the identically named theme park in Des Moines where I have visited many a summer. The movie, itself, thrives on such a nostalgia (albeit of a more general sort) for the 1980s. What is refreshing is that the 1980s in Adventureland isn't the 1980s mockery that we have become used to in the past 10 years since Vh1 aired I Love the 80s. Instead, the 1980s in the film feels real which is very cool. As far as the story goes, it is really interesting that the publicity material is marketing Adventureland as "from the director of Superbad" because, although it IS from the director of Superbad, there are very few similarities between the two movies. Those looking for Superbad-esque sexually-driven humor will be disappointed because the love and sexuality in Adventureland (which drives the plot) creates a decidedly uncomedic vibe, although the comedy that does exist makes the most of its short screentime (I'm looking at you Bill Hader and funny-looking kid from the Verizon Rollover minutes commercials!). Overall, Adventureland is a perfect mixture of sweet and funny.

...on a side note, I am starting to adore the non-Twilight version of Kristen Stewart after this and Into the Wild.

Pontypool
Pontypool(2009)

Pontypool is a cinematic tease. It lures you in with a cool concept (zombie outbreak that prevents three radio station workers from leaving the confines of their station) and a high quality first 2/3 of the movie. Then it betrays you in a way that leaves you all the more disappointed than if it was bad the whole way through. In trying to put a fresh spin on the zombie genre (including a different way of becoming infected, although I don't want to give away too much) but does so in an ineffective way that becomes extremely convoluted without providing any substance to clarify. The acting was good, but not good enough to overcome the bummer of a resolution.

Moon
Moon(2009)

Totally fantastic film carried entirely 100% by the performance of Sam Rockwell. Sure the plot is intelligent and surprisingly original for the well-worn scifi thriller genre, but it is Sam Rockwell that hits it out of the park. I fear in writing this review that I will end up divulging minor spoilers, so I will keep it brief, but all you need to know is that Moon is THE dark, sci-fi movie to see of the past 15-20 years. It pays tribute without being shameless, it projects a mega budget despite not having one, and it poses questions that reflect a possibly not-to-distant reality including the conquest of space by private corporations. See it.

Ong Bak 2
Ong Bak 2(2009)
½

Luckily, after a 20 hour car ride in which I got little to no sleep, THIS was the movie that I chose to watch at midnight the following night. Plot is clearly an afterthought in Ong Bak 2, literally serving only as a device to segue into the next action scene. So, while I was super-exhausted and felt myself succumb to a 15-20 minute snooze during the early-middle part of the movie, I missed absolutely nothing. Surprisingly I mean that in a good way. Tony Jaa is straight up inhuman in his ass-kickery, with fight choreography that looks downright impossible, and is made all the more awesome by the fact that he choreographed and directed it all too! Also, if you haven't seen the first Ong Bak, don't worry about it, Ong Bak 2 can be enjoyed nonetheless. However, it will undoubtedly make you wonder why you missed the first film in the first place.

I Love You, Man
½

So pretty much everybody uses the word "bromance" when describing this movie, and for good reason (obviously), but using such a goofy word suggests that I Love You, Man is some kind of obnoxious, testosterone-fueled vulgarity fest or something. It's not. In the same mold as Judd Apatow movies, and luckily most other comedies from the past few years, this movie is about as sweet as they come and, despite the primary comedic focus on Paul Rudd's man-date quest to find a best man, the heart of the film comes from his and his wife's (Rashida Jones) commitment to each other. So while that may sound sappier than it really is, it is important nonetheless to realize that while I Love You, Man is hilarious (and VERY hilarious, at that), it is more than the high-concept plot outline would suggest.

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)

I realize that "purists" seem to be hating on the movie a little bit ("Ahh! They tinkered with the ending! Ahh!") but Watchmen is a darned good film. For all of the backstory that must be given during the exposition, Watchmen does so in the least obtrusive and effective way possible so that when the primary action kicks in during the second act, everyone knows what they need to know in order to follow and understand everything. What is striking about Watchmen, though, is the visuals. For some reason, watching it just felt like I was watching something completely different--yet I cannot place what it was that gave me that feeling. The violence is delightfully over the top, the use of bright colors separated itself from the blatant Dark Knight wannabes that are sure to come soon, and the characters were the characters that existed within the comics. For whatever minor changes were made (and none of them bothered me in the slightest) from the source material, the characters were supremely faithful. Night Owl is the contradictory coward/over-eager hero. Comedian is a bastard. Dr. Manhattan is only in the slightest way still human. And Rorshach is Clay Aiken mixed with Clint Eastwood. Humor aside, Jackie Earle Haley was perfect as Rorshach. Along with everyone else, the characters alone carried the weight of Watchmen for me, with the visuals and everything else being the icing on the cake. My only minor complaint is the questionable use of popular music throughout, which I felt needlessly tacked on (I'm looking at you "99 Zig Luftballoons"). That single visible fault is easily forgotten, though, as I was absorbed into the fictional reality in which the gang of "superheroes" inhibit.

Audition (偮ishon)

It definitely wasn't the torture-porn that I thought it would be, so I ended up liking it a lot better than I anticipated. There was a lot of good things going for it. I liked the dad's relationship with his son (although it wasn't explored very much), the cool color filterings that show up when Aoyama starts to get weird vibes about his "girlfriend," and the crazy imagery in the second half that seems just dreamlike enough to give you some pause as to whether it was all in his head. However, despite its effectiveness in developing characters, I consider the exposition to be about 20 minutes too long; and the ending was a bit rushed and could have had just a bit of closure (especially for the guy in the sack).

Happy-Go-Lucky
½

Happy-Go-Lucky is definitely satisfying. All of the performances are good, starting with Sally Hawkins (of course) but also including the bigot driving instructor who really stole every scene he was in. The script to the movie was tight, with every little cute/funny moment hitting its target with accuracy and every touching/deep moment hitting its mark as well. Overall, Happy-Go-Lucky shows you that it is possible to be unflappably optimistic when the world has become so pessimistic. I enjoy that after everything that happened to Hawkins's Poppy, she didn't change too much but maintained her positive outlook. While she definitely bordered on annoying, she is clearly happy with her life until people start suggesting that she shouldn't be. She just shrugs off the haters and keeps doing her thing, though. I like that.

Doomsday
Doomsday(2008)
½

It was definitely "balls-to-the-wall" if I've ever seen such a thing. I got the feeling that Doomsday was a project that was oh-so-close to winding up in the lap of Uwe Boll but, luckily, did not. Doomsday, as it stands un-Boll-ized, is a well-executed Escape from New York for today's metalheads and action-junkies. There is very little substance to the movie, even though it tries, but the whole thing works to a degree on a primal level where I just love to see decapitations and explosions.

Slumdog Millionaire

To be absolutely honest, I wanted to be disappointed by this movie. I was sure that it was going to be good but I felt like the hype-factor was starting to get out of control. I made no secrets in sharing my biased opinion that Curious Case of Benjamin Button should be winning all of the awards over Slumdog but, after actually seeing the movie and making a true comparison, Slumdog Millionaire is undeniable as a crowd-pleaser. The whole movie is just so satisfying, rewarding, emotional, stirring, and whatever else adjective you want to add. It reminded me of a City of God for romantics who enjoy happy endings. That description alone describes a darn near perfect movie. Slumdog is that. There's no shame in walking out of a theater feeling good about life, which is exactly how I walked out of the theater. I will now be rooting for Slumdog Millionaire to win as many Oscars as possible later tonight and will do so with the confidence that it is truly the best movie of 2008 (besides the Dark Knight, but still...).

Coraline
Coraline(2009)
½

It was definitely very very good, but I couldn't help getting the feeling that it was something of a mishmash of existing stories with a gothic twist on them. That said, Coraline is beautiful and engaging and has a little something for all audiences.

L'ann嶪 derni鋨e  Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad)
½

This movie is challenging to say the least. I had to hold off judgment for a few hours after leaving the theater to truly appreciate what I had just seen. While I'm not generally a fan of the "you figure it out" type of movies, after reading some theories about possible ways that it all fits together, I was able to create my own analysis of the film. Last Year at Marienbad is utterly beautiful in its own right, however, and can be appreciated by a deep thinker or the aestheticist.

Peur(s) du Noir (Fear(s) of the Dark)

I was fascinated and definitely creeped out by Fear(s). Avoiding the nigh-inescapable fate of anthology movies where there are always a couple week segments, Fear(s) takes the two weakest (although not weak, but rather unsustainable for long periods) segments and intersperses them between the 4 stronger tentpole segments. Of the primary four, there is no weakest link. All are visual eye-candy and provide a detached form of horror that exemplifies the term "unsettling."

A Beautiful Mind
½

If nothing else, A Beautiful Mind was well-acted. The story was certainly compelling, and was made all the moreso because it is a true story. What I especially liked is how Nash never truly overcomes his disability but is forced merely to ignore the visions that had previously threatened everything he held dear in life.

Changeling
Changeling(2008)
½

The first half of Changeling is frustrating in the best way, as I literally wanted to punch about 8 corrupt city officials in the face for their ignorant and pompous handling of case of Christina Collins's missing son. As I did not know much (read: anything) about the case before watching the movie, the direction that it all went in was, to say the least, shocking to me. Overall, though, as the second half serves as a victory over corruption, I found myself relatively satisfied at the punishment of the individuals who were responsible for almost a year's worth of emotional torture of Collins and for a true (and unresolved) story, the movie wraps things up pretty well on a bittersweet note that I suspect left more room for optimism than the real-life events ever did. Angelina Jolie's performance was effective, but playing a overly distraught mother really doesn't give her much to do besides unleash her bottled-up anger and sorrow at different times. Overall, Changeling struck me as an enthralling unresolved real-life investigative film that was reminiscent of Fincher's Zodiac in its careful and methodical execution.

JCVD (Van Dammage)

First off, I totally wish they would've used this film's subtitle: Van Dammage as its primary title instead of JCVD. Anyway, JCVD is fantastic. I wouldn't call it a comeback film for Van Damme, as a saving face movie that effectively deconstructs the one-dimensionality that we all construct for genre stars. At once conforming to those exact genre conventions while also providing insight into the "real life" struggles of Van Damme, the whole thing works as persuaso-entertainment so that we fall in love with Van Damme the ass-kicking individual, instead of Van Damme from "Bloodsport," the ass-kicking character. I should also mention that it is really funny and heartfelt as Van Damme exposes himself to self-ridicule and a 4th-wall breaking direct address to the audience about the struggles of his past.

Los Cronocr璥enes (Timecrimes)
½

A surprising, tragic, and unexpectedly fresh take on time travel, Timecrimes is a very ambitious film that does exceptionally well in hiding its low-budget means. The three stages of the film center around Hector as he 1) fatefully makes his way to a time machine, 2) ends up back in time and makes sure Hector 1 gets into the time machine, and 3) tries to prevent the whole situation from happening at all. The segments don't really work together as much as they provide information that leads to the next, coming to a crescendo and the unquestionable climax of the movie in part 3. Everything is tightly written and, despite the overarching theme of the inevitability of a past that has already happened, Timecrimes deftly allows room for hope and dread as Hector tries to change the unchangeable. Good luck finding this in theaters (unless you visit the wonderful Bijou at the University of Iowa campus) but should be a must-see for sci-fi, thriller, indie, and foreign film lovers upon its dvd release.

La Jet嶪 (The Pier)

This is bloody fantastic! For those (like myself) who did not know, the equally awesome 12 Monkeys was a remake of this classic short film. La Jetee tells the story of a post-WW3 underground society as they experiment in sending someone back, then forth, in time to undo the catastrophe that prevents their presence on the surface. As if that wasn't cool enough, La Jetee makes use of a really interesting, and surprisingly effective, technique of using only still images to tell the ambitious story and having no actual dialogue but only an omniscient narrator. It really makes it feel like you are watching the most awesome episode of Reading Rainbow ever, with the still pictures serving as the pages of a book. An overall great movie and, at only 28 minutes, should interest even the most ADD-addled soul.

Pineapple Express
½

Pineapple Express just works. Stoners thrown into an extreme action-movie template plot puts a fresh spin on the stoner movie and the action movie. Everyone is funny (like, honestly, I can't think of a single character who didn't elicit chuckles) but I must say that Rogan's teenage girlfriend's dad was the funniest in his limited time. "If he is not here in 5 minutes, I'm going to start eating my food. Then I'm going to get up and go check my email." I also like that James Franco is spreading out his dramatic wings by playing different characters like this one and his character in Milk, which combine to testify to his chops.

Sid and Nancy
½

This movie is all "so what?" all the time. We are simply shown stuff. This is Sid being chums with his bandmates. This is Sid meeting Nancy. This is Nancy introducing Sid to drugs--Johnny doesn't like that much. That's basically the way the entire movie plays out. There is a lack of depth to the characters actions that I can only guess came from the filmmakers' desire to honor the idolized figure without condoning him. What results is awfully boring as nobody changes throughout the entire film, there is little sympathy created for the characters, and everyone is just stupid oblivious to the world around them. Alas, the performances were outstanding and I do call myself a Sex Pistols fan, so I can gloss over some of the ineptitudes of the movie--but I shouldn't have had to.

Heavenly Creatures

Meh, it was immensely disturbing to say the least but despite Kate Winslet's phenomenal (although not exactly 14-year old) performance and Peter Jackson's pretty cool visuals, I just wasn't taken with that taken with Heavenly Creatures. It's kind of like some peoples' problem with Into the Wild (those people not being me), we basically just watched some delusional young people get fed up with the unchangeable machine of society. Sure life is unfair, but seeing these girls be, at once, so proud and pissed off about being misunderstood was a little grating after about an hour.

The Painted Veil

It's not difficult to see what attracted perennially outstanding Naomi Watts and Edward Norton to this movie. In a different era, the Painted Veil would have had Oscar written all over it. Alas, times have changed, and the "love against all odds" story is less cool than the antihero-focused films. Oh well, it's a good movie in its own right, made all the better by Watts and Norton.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Really Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a premise more awkward than funny (although awkward often is mistaken as "funny" today) but the specific moments within the film turn out to be absolutely hilarious. What results is really bittersweet--reflected perfectly by Jason Segel's Peter--in way that is very similar to the two upper-tier Apatow movies that are ACTUALLY Apatow movies, Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin.

Valkyrie
Valkyrie(2008)
½

It's a thriller, pure and simple. I know that the assassination plot on Hitler did not work and everything, but Valkyrie made me wonder if maybe it would this time. Stupid, I know, but that small speck of wonder made the movie really tense as you want everything to work out and get really nervous when the smallest things go wrong, leading to the ending that we expect but don't want to see. Tom Cruise is also great and I really hope that people can look past his personal life to enjoy his movies again. It's kind of stupid that his offscreen antics alienated people so much in the first place, since really, since we only know him as an actor and should judge him as such. In that regard he still rocks.

Annie Hall
Annie Hall(1977)

I did not expect to enjoy Annie Hall. I wouldn't say I didn't want to like it, but I had a hard time bringing myself to watch it. I was surprised, then, that I liked it as much as I did. I expected a fairly color-by-numbers, albeit exceptional, romantic comedy but Annie Hall was more clever with good situational comedy, metafiction, and the same kind of protagonist self-destruction that must be a New York thing since Woody Allen does it here while Scorcese is the master of self-destruction. Overall, it's not really a movie that I get in a tizzy about and rush to Amazon to buy, but I'm really glad I watched it.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2)

Vastly superior to its predecessor (which suffered from "kill them and they multiply" syndrome) in just about every way, Hellboy 2 is a flatout great movie. Sort of lost in the shuffle when it was released right around TDK time this summer, it stands up as one of my favorites of the prolific summer season, and is better than Iron Man in my opinion. Guillermo Del Toro makes absolutely everything beautiful in this movie and the characters are well-rounded and fully developed--resulting in an entertaining and quality sequel.

North by Northwest

Really, I'm sold on Hitchcock, Grant, and to a lesser extent Eva Marie Saint. North By Northwest simply needed to not disappoint me to be a great film in my eyes. Disappoint it did not. Despite its status as an iconic movie, all of the surprises hit hard and I legitimately had no idea what was going to happen. It's movies like this that age so very well that make me mad at people who "don't like old movies." People should be required to watch this and a handful of others before they make such an ignorant claim.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This movie was about as close to perfect as you can get. How do you make a movie about the beauty of life? I guess you just make a character who ages backwards and look at the ups and downs, missed opportunities, and regrets of his entire life. The whole thing turns out to be the most beautiful and life-affirming movie I have ever seen. People can complain about the runtime, but we went through 80 years of a man's extraordinary life, and there was nothing boring about it. To grossly simplify the movie for those who are on the edge about whether to see it or not (there is no question that you should, by the way), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is like a vastly superior, less bogged down by pop culture, not as blatantly patriotic version of Forrest Gump. Brad Pitt>Tom Hanks. David Fincher>Robert Zemeckis. Benjamin Button>Forrest Gump.

Tropic Thunder
½

I really had to reel in my expectations for this, since I heard some bad buzz from friends, but it was more or less what I wanted it to be. The comedy certainly misfired at times, but the whole thing was just ridiculous enough that the gags themselves were of little importance.

Peter Pan
Peter Pan(1953)
½

Well, I definitely noticed the creepy "come away with me, children" aspect to it this time, after well over 10 years, but like all previous-generation Disney movies, the sheer charm is undeniable. 2D animation just has a better feel to it, in my opinion, and despite the well-known story adaptation formula (some may call it bastardization *cough* Pocahontas *cough*) Disney movies are always quality for those with a heart in their body.

The Spirit
The Spirit(2008)

So let's put it this way: as a viewer, you'll take the Spirit exactly what you expect from it. How did you feel about the trailer? That's exactly how you'll feel about the movie. (Not really rocket science) I expected a toned-down Sin City, not as well-made since it's directed by a non-director, but still high on spectacle and cool-factor. That's exactly what I took out of it. Sure it's loony, pseudo-funny, etc. but that's what camp is. The Spirit is all camp, with the only weakness possibly being that some of the actors weren't in on the joke. However, Samuel L. Jackson IS in on the joke (isn't he always?) and his crazy egg-hating performance is pretty awesome if you're into that--I am. The Spirit was awesome.

Dark City
Dark City(1998)
½

I didn't see this one coming. In my film classes, I have read about "edge of construct" films and Dark City is hands down the best of this mini-genre. The Matrix is great and all, probably a better overall movie than Dark City, but Dark City has such a way of keeping all of the big ideas contained yet followable, which was something that gave the Matrix problems. Really, Dark City just worked on all levels for what it wanted to do.

The Dirty Dozen

I am impressed! Going into the Dirty Dozen, I was a bit wary of the 2.5 hour runtime, the "war movie" genre, and frankly the lame dvd cover art. However, it was awesome! It had a very exploitation, $1 dvd at Wal-Mart feel to it (I mean that in the best way possible) that makes sense considering Tarantino (obsessed with that kind of stuff) is said to be making Inglorious Basterds with the same feel to it. Anyway, the film was awesome, Lee Marvin was just plain cool, and the war games and finale scenes are worth the price of admission alone. My only very very very minor gripe is that I didn't really get to learn all of, or even most of, the dozen's names so that when some of them died it lessened the impact. I'm going to attribute that to my first-time viewing of the movie and was very inconsequential anyway.

American History X
½

I have a lot of feelings about this movie that I am having a difficult time expressing. I was so immersed in it for so long, but I just felt empty at the end. The aspects of hate and race relations had a clearly optimistic outlook through the whole thing until, ironically, right after Derek successfully releases Danny from his neo-Nazi loyalties. After that, we see Derek be manipulated by the good guys to "infiltrate" the skinhead gang after he had just successfully, and painfully, burned that bridge. What is that supposed to say? It didn't go anywhere and it just felt like an unfair punishment for a guy that is trying to make a difference on his own terms. And then there is the ending... It's hard to talk about without spoiling it, but it left me more befuddled than awed. It just didn't feel motivated, and I don't exactly buy the "that's the way it's supposed to be" because within the movie itself, the hate all stems from somewhere. All of the neo-Nazi disciples are brainwashed in their hate by others; with the ending--there was not even a minor hint at this, or any other greater motivation (race didn't even seem to be a huge factor, only disrespect). Overall, though, the movie was fantastic. I can respect everything that it did, even if I didn't really comprehend the relevance of the finale. Edward Norton is one of the best actors of this generation. He essentially plays two antithetical parts in American History X and accomplishes the feat of making it believable that they come from within the same person. Well done.

The Third Man
½

So I know I reviewed this before but... I really liked this movie. What really makes it stand out is how all of the characters were superbly developed. It's most interesting how we already seem to know so much about Orson Welles's character before he is revealed through third-person characterization that, when we finally see the character, everything that we have learned about him to that point all just seems to fit perfectly. The cinematography was really good (I especially like the huge shadows on the wall of the characters during chase sequences). Joseph Cotton is awesome, and it's a pity that Orson Welles seems to get most of the praise in the acting department. Overall, the Third Man is undoubtedly the best noir film (a genre that's purely average in my opinion) that I have seen.

La Fille Coup嶪 en Deux (The Girl Cut in Two) (A Girl Cut in Two)
½

I honestly don't know what I thought of Girl Cut in Two. I hated pretty much all of the characters but they felt real in a way that kept me interested. I was fairly bored, and kind of annoyed, by the first half of the film but really enjoyed the second half. I guess I just don't know. I was frustrated that she didn't just choose another guy entirely, I guess. What it boils down to is a question of what drives someone to love someone. Gabrielle has a very very strange drive that borders on masochism. I suppose there must be some people like that out there... make for an interesting, but not really entertaining or overly enjoyable movie.

MirrorMask
MirrorMask(2005)
½

If nothing else, this movie was different. It was refreshing to see a newish spin on an the children's fantasy movie. The dream landscape world is just plain bizarre, as a dream landscape most definitely should be. The lead plays her part very well and kind of gave off a young Helena Bonham Carter vibe (ironic because her character's name is Helena). Overall, this movie is just plain imaginative and, armed with a PG rating, outshines most (non Pizar) children's movies in recent memory.

Sunshine
Sunshine(2007)

Easily my favorite Boyle film. It is all to regrettable that Sunshine flew so far beneath the radar upon its release, because it is a high-quality film that is much more ambitious than the 28 ____ Later movies. Chris Evans does a great job, which surprised the heck out of me since I had only seen him in the Fantastic 4 movies and Not Another Teen Movie, but boy can act. Everyone else does awesome too, of course, but really it's the cinematography and the script that steal the show. The two have a perfect marriage as the cinematography is always appropriate to the events happening in the script, which itself is a 2001-esque outer-space magnum opus... only HAL is called Icharus and is really quite kind to the humans. Anyway, to end my rambling, Sunshine is amazing.

Hitman
Hitman(2007)
½

I really enjoyed Hitman despite only buying/watching it on a "it's on super-sale" whim. The plot is quite complex, almost to a point of comprehension difficulty, but it was just plain fun to watch. Plus, I am totally digging on Olga Kurylenko lately, which bumps up this rating by at least half a star.

Stalag 17
Stalag 17(1953)
½

More quality from Mr. Wilder. It's truly amazing how well each character is developed when there are so many characters to follow.

The Ten
The Ten(2007)
½

Boy oh boy did this movie fall apart at the seams. The first 5 stories had me getting so weak that I was giddy. The brand of funny was right up my alley, it was downright ridiculous. "Honor thy father and mother" was especially funny. Here's the lowdown- two black teens confront their white mother about who their real father is (their white "father" has just passed away). Her answer? Arnold Schwarzenegger. The boys want to meet him, but since he is a big-time politician, the best she can do is hire an Arnold-impersonator to bond with them. Hilarity ensues. Sadly, after the overall quality of the 1st five commandments, the last five fall completely flat. I was very very disappointed. Sex jokes run rampant, potty humor is resorted to, etc. Because of the second half's utter meltdown, I have a hard time recommending the whole film to anybody. However, if the clips be on youtube I would definitely recommend checking out some of the Commandments to see for yourself.

Standard Operating Procedure
½

I just plain didn't enjoy this. Thought-provoking? Maybe, but the interviews tend to muddy things up by giving ridiculous justifications and excuses for their unjustifiable and inexcusable actions. I realize that there are other forces at play and a bunch of other crap that goes on remains unpunished, but you'd think more than just the one guy (Javale? I don't remember his name) would come clean and admit that what they did was monstrous. I just found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by the sheer stupidity of some of their soundbites ("I only smiled and gave the thumbs up while posing next to a beaten dead prisoner because that's just how I pose for pictures," "I got 8 months for throwing a Nerf ball at a pile of naked prisoners. That just humiliates me," "My husband got ten years in prison just for following orders.") Of course my complaints are fairly superficial and I do realize the importance of the film as documentary, but that doesn't mean that I have to rate it highly in spite of myself.

Quantum of Solace

I must be in the minority, but I thought Quantum of Solace was everything Casino Royale was and more. The stakes of the plot were much higher. Bond was twice the badass because he's on a "mission." There was a foot chase, car chase, boat chase, AND a plane chase. Olga Kurylenko was reliant on Bond but wasn't too reliant, making her one of the stronger Bond girls. Olga Kurylenko was gorgeous. As a heterosexual male, I'll admit even Daniel Craig was gorgeous. Mathieu Amalric was a menacing villain without resorting to props or camp. And maybe the one thing that I liked most about Quantum is that Bond gets himself out of all the trouble that he gets into, unlike in Casino Royale when he was saved during the infamous "ball-whipping" scene at the last minute. Of course in celebrating Quantum of Solace, I definitely am not discounting the greatness of Casino Royale or anything, I just can't understand why people almost unanimously prefer it to this newer installment.

Speed
Speed(1994)

It's ironic that I am reviewing this film immediately after reviewing the polar opposite type of movie in Le Samourai. Whereas that movie was effective in packing a punch without the noise and spectacle of modern action movies, Speed embodies the noise and spectacle of modern action movies that diehard film snobs decry (as a cinema student I guess I'm supposed to hate comic book movies and Michael Bay?). Anyway, Speed works. I don't know what it is but the whole "complication-solution-complication-solution..." of the plot with the one huge looming problem just makes it all work. The music fuels the adrenaline for the viewer to a point where I found myself losing my cool a bit and wanting to just yell out advice to the characters on the screen. Sure, on one hand I'm ashamed for liking the movie, but on the other hand "so what?" It'll be a problem when I'm crowning newer, flash-in-the-pan action movies as masterpieces, but I'm cool with digging on Speed.

Le samoura
Le samoura(1967)
½

My viewing of this film should be taken with a grain of salt because I missed bits and pieces of it due to my own pathetic "I have a hard time staying awake when I watch movies in the dark" nature. That said, this film was amazing. There's a whole aura of the mundane that it generates in spades, and it's refreshing to see in a genre movie that could easily have gone the way of other "shoot 'em and get away with it" movies. Despite it being mundane, the plot of the movie is effective at serving the attention-grabbing role, as it is tight and moves along at an appropriate clip.

Ne le Dis  Personne (Tell No One)

I got absolutely caught up in this movie like few other movies I can think of. I'm not sure if all of the pieces are there for the audience to put the whole picture together, but it was intense and satisfying to watch regardless. The payoff is good, the acting is good, the emotion is good. This is just a fantastic thriller that demands repeat viewings; a demand which I will have no problems obliging.

Far From Heaven

I like the critique of the close-minded and artificial 1950s and I felt emotional connections to Julianne Moore's and Dennis Haysbert's characters, but Far From Heaven didn't really capture my interest. The visuals were all really effective, with the bold and meticulous use of colors and whatnot. The performances were... hard to judge because of the "gee golly" nature of the dialogue which reflects the supposed harmless nostalgia that shows like "Leave it to Beaver" have created for the era. So, all in all, I'd say I liked the components of the film but it didn't exactly do anything that made me look at it and truly recognize it as great.

Naked Lunch
Naked Lunch(1991)
½

This film is all about the experience. There is sense to be made from the images on the screen, but that is less important than the way that it envelopes you and sends you on a trip right next to the main character. If that, and some grotesque images, sounds like something right up your alley, check it out. I'm not so sure if I liked it or not, however, but it was definitely something to behold.

Let the Right One In

Haunting. Chilly. Creepy. Romantic? Let the Right One in can check all of those qualifiers off on a theoretical list of positive qualities. This movie doesn't offer any "jump in your seat" scary bits but it has a constant brooding quality to it that ebbs and flows throughout the events of the film, leading up to the "I can't believe that just happened" bizarre climax. Add in a dash of romance (vampire/human romance, no less!) and you can do no wrong watching this movie with that special someone, instead of some sappy dreck like Nights in Rodanthe or something.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
½

My favorite Kevin Smith movie, supplanting Clerks (*blasphemy!*), Zack and Miri Make a Porno (I'm going to continue using the entire title as a petty protest against "the man") is very funny. It is crude, in a 40 Year Old Virgin taken to the next level way, but it doesn't seem as if the titular porno is the driving focus of the movie. Really, it is just a vehicle for exploring the effect of sex on relationships. Zack and Miri Make a Porno's conclusion? Sex is not so crippling on relationships as people seem to believe. Of course this reading is not of much importance because Zack and Miri Make a Porno is just plain fun and funny to watch. There is the obligatory "taken a step to far" gag, similar to the Clerks 2 donkey f---ing, but I didn't mind it as much since it wasn't a main focal point of the plot like it was in Clerks 2. Anyway, on the whole everyone should see this movie, if for no other reason than to kick High School Musical 3's arse at the box office.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
½

Absolutely, delightfully bizarre. I just don't know what to say about it. It's oddly enjoyable to see literally nothing that is by-the-books conventional. The music is good, the humor is good, Meat Loaf is good, Rocky Horror is very good.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning
½

This straight-to-dvd sequel really does no worse than some theater cartoons nowadays. It's okay but nothing special which, in itself, is pretty good for its dvd-only release.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I'm giving this one a 4 mostly out of respect rather than enjoyment. I really liked the multiple understandable elements of 2001: the birth of man, the discovery of the moon monolith, and the Jupiter mission. However, there was lot of stuff that I absolutely could not make any sense of. The easiest thing that comes to mind is the "light show" thing that happens at the end, followed by Bowman's aging in a strange room. What does it mean??? It was interesting to watch (Bowman aging in the room moreso than the exhausting light show) but the movie was long enough already that by that point I just wasn't up for coming to any profound interpretations of experimental choice. 2001 is definitely a movie that you have to "be in the mood" to watch for a second or third viewing, but I think that everyone should see it at least once.

Double Indemnity

It was a very good movie, probably one of the best of the noir genre. However, personally I just don't care incredibly much about that genre because there seems to be little variation in plots other than a tweak here and change there. Still, I will give respect where respect is due and recognize Double Indemnity for its tight plot and the suspense that it builds. I just cannot call it "perfect" because of my general feelings about movies of the type.

Fah talai jone (Tears of the Black Tiger)
½

Absolutely bizarre. Tears of the Black Tiger is a Western melodrama with as much blood as Kill Bill, the dialogue of a grindhouse film, and the irreverence of a spoof movie (not that Scary Movie crap, but real spoof movies). Everything is over the top: the music, the sets, the love story, the violence, etc. which makes for a unique guilty pleasure-esque movie that isn't a "guilty" pleasure at all.

Guys and Dolls

I was hella impressed with this movie. At risk of oversimplifying how good this movie really is, for everybody, I would say that Guys and Dolls is, as far as classic Hollywood musicals go, a man's musical. You've got gangsters. You've got Marlon Brando. You don't got excessive, or in man speak off-putting, musical numbers. Maybe I'm a bit off base with that assertion though.

Regardless, Guys and Dolls was a terrific musical, nay a terrific movie. The performances were great (Sinatra + Brando = Duh) and the musical numbers were satisfying. The only gripe is that it's 2.5 hours long and there probably was some fat that could've been cut off and maybe reallocated to the ending scene which is quite abrupt. Of course, I'm only mentioning that one negative for parity's sake; Guys and Dolls is really a fantastic film.

The Notorious Bettie Page
½

This movie was uneven on the whole (Ex: Bettie Page seemed famous to the public only when it was convenient and vice versa, and her juggling of boyfriends in NY and Miami was just left to stew) but the subject matter of the Notorious Bettie Page is rather interesting, so its narrative problems are somewhat redeemed. Watching the film, it's absolutely mindblowing to see how much pornography has changed in the 50ish years since Bettie Page ruled the scene.

Anastasia
Anastasia(1997)
½

I couldn't care less about historic accuracy in this movie, which seems to be what quite a few people have against it (Pocahontas anyone?). I really enjoyed the music ("Life is a Road" is one of my top 5 favorite songs of all time) and it really is top notch for animated movies of this "type". I didn't like the villain very much and the contrived short-lived splitup of Dmitri and Anastasia was a bit, well... contrived. On the whole, though, Anastasia is very good for what it is, which is most certainly a compliment.

The Apartment
½

The Apartment works really well as a romance, a cautionary tale of ambition, and a look at corporate ethics. Jack Lemmon is very good, as are the other principle characters and everything develops smoothly with nary a hiccup or a tread of water. Better than Sunset Blvd? I say "yes".

Salt of the Earth
½

Meh. The social content and the background of the film's release is certainly interesting enough, but I just didn't find the movie to be that good. The sound was awful, and I'm not even somebody who usually picks up on sound dynamics. I guess I just didn't enjoy myself watching this movie, but I understand that it can't be written off completely solely for the fact that it has such significance in the history of controversial film.

Do the Right Thing

I am kind of baffled by this movie. The way people talk about it, it's a straightforward anti-racism, "black power," movie. I just didn't come away with it agreeing with that simple definition and I began to wonder what exactly Spike Lee was trying to say about race relations. For the longest time, the film shows (presumably, for I don't really know) real life in an urban neighborhood as everyone gets in a hussy when they even imagine the slightest trace of disrespect. This quest for respect achieved by disrespecting then morphs into a constructive look at race relations where racism is definitely present (often simmering under the surface) but the main characters (Mookie, Sal, etc.) put themselves above it and... I don't know, it felt like there were a bunch of messages being bandied about and maybe I just didn't "get it" but I felt like there was a 180 degree turn when Sal is demonized by the neighborhood that he was a part of for 25 years just because a cop who happened to be white killed Radio Raheem. The misdirected anger and violence, surprisingly led by Mookie and even Mother Sister, felt, to me anyway, like a contradiction of sorts from everything else that happened to that point in the movie. All of my personal confusion aside, the visual style of the movie is very impressive, the movie is often entertaining even when I couldn't understand motivations, and I really liked the MLK quote that preceded the credits.

A Woman Is a Woman (Une femme est une femme)

This film is honestly like nothing I have ever seen. It is the first French New Wave film that I have been exposed to, and to say the least I am intrigued. The filmmaking style is refreshingly different from that which I am used to but at times left me scratching my head. I will admit that I may not have "gotten" this movie (I'm assuming the primary underlying commentary was about the difference in love between the genders, but I can't be sure that it is so simple) but it was charmingly enjoyable in addition to being refreshing. Anna Karina is especially enjoyable to watch as she gives off a Holly Golightly-esque frustrating charisma. (I originally gave this a 3.5, but it has stuck with me for a few weeks and I realized that I was crazy and that it warrants a higher rating.)

Dead Man
Dead Man(1995)

After watching the first half hour of this movie (a segment which warrants a 5 star rating) I was very pleased with the pacing and the entertainment value of the movie. Then, things just started plodding along and repeating itself until it was a chore to finish the movie. While that's definitely a shame, on the whole the movie is definitely worth watching.

Singin' in the Rain

I really liked this. There's really nothing to complain about in Singin' in the Rain. The leads are fantastic and their dancing and singing and all make me nostalgic for an era that I never even experienced.

Bringing Up Baby
½

Agh! This movie was Meet the Parents-esque painful. It was a swell movie and everything, and I understand why people like it, but the humor made me more uncomfortable and sympathetic and just plain frustrated than anything else. David Huxley gets screwed over big-time, and I just had a hard time laughing about it. I'll admit some parts were funny, but on the whole I just couldn't get over how painful it was. I really liked Katharine Hepburn (her laugh was probably one of the funniest things in the movie for me, and I mean that in a good way) and Cary Grant was exasperatedly charming in a way that only Cary Grant could be. I really wish I had liked the movie more, but sadly it just wasn't there for me.

Trouble in Paradise

This film really gets by on its charm. Every actor delivers a crowd-pleasing performance and it just feels good to watch everyone do their thing. That said, everything else about Trouble in Paradise works very well also. There is no dead weight in the movie at all, timing in at just 83 minutes and it really adds to the quality to not have the action linger too long on any one thing. Despite being fairly predictable throughout the bulk of the movie (not in a bad way at all), I really didn't know how it was going to turn out at the very end. Needless to say, it ended well, just like it began.

L.A. Confidential
½

Gritty and noir-y, LA Confidential hits all the right notes. As the plot unfolds, we are clued in to new information little by little, at a very comfortable pace so that everything adds up perfectly but we still feel a sense of accomplishment for figuring everything out. The acting performances are all strong (they should be...look at the cast!) to complete a tidy and entertaining package.

Burn After Reading

Another movie with the Coen Bros' stamp of awesome. Burn After Reading is the story of two hapless Hard Bodies Gym employees who get in way over their heads when they find "some spy sh--" in the locker room. The plot is complicated yet presented in a way that is easy to follow. After watching this, I felt the same way that I did after seeing Big Lebowski or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, where I have to sit there for a couple minutes and wrap my head around everything that happened before I get the "Eureka!" moment where it all makes sense. I liked the ending, where everything is resolved and nothing is resolved at the same time and I also loved the jarring and shocking moments that would be funny if they weren't so...graphically violent. The humor is ever-present, which is really the trait that is played on in the commercials ("OMG, Brad Pitt sure looks goofy!"). All of the actors do a great job, but I especially liked George Clooney and JK Simmons. Overall, everything about this movie just worked, when it would be so easy for it not to, making it all the more satisfying in the end.

Sunset Boulevard

I have great respect for this film and everything, and part of its allure and "greatness" is really what turns me off of it. The whole unsettling vibe that it gives off just gave me a more or less uneasy feeling the whole time and the experience was made less enjoyable (again, only in my "watching a movie for entertainment first, additional subtext second" mindset) by Gloria Swanson's sharp voice and facial overacting. Of course this isn't to say that I disliked Sunset Boulevard. On the contrary, I enjoyed it a fair deal but my nagging problems with it diminished its overall impact.

The Graduate
The Graduate(1967)

This movie did a bunch of interesting things technically, as Dustin Hoffman would literally "walk" through one scene to the next. It also does a great job of capturing the listlessness that I can imagine people feel after college and the whole movie has a "what next?" vibe to it that really comes to a crescendo in the final shot of the film where after the two romantic interests make their getaway on the bus, the scene lingers after the initial ecstasy of spontaneity until we see the averting eyes and deep sighs of the two characters who, after such a daring exhibition of their love, have little to actually say to each other and you can almost read their thoughts as they reveal doubtful looks and, again, the overall "what next?" vibe that oozes all over the film.

The Scarlet Empress
½

I watched this for my film analysis class and was very surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I'll admit I don't know hardly anything about Catherine the Great but the story is fluid and her transformation from young, innocent girl to power-hungry empress is very believable. I think it warrants comparisons to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (or very possibly to any Marie Antoinette movie, but I've only seen the Sofia Coppola one) in that it takes a naive character and gives her great power, along with responsibility (here's to you Uncle Ben!), in a land where she knows little to nothing of the customs. The dialogue was hilarious at times, and I suspect that it was somewhat intentional because the actors tended to ham up their delivery at times. Also, it seemed as if Russians were portrayed as Satanists, which was curious, because the Russian castle had a bunch of weird sacrilegious statuary and such. It was kind of disconcerting, but it got the job done of going out there and saying "these Russians are terrible people" throughout the movie when the action that supports the claim doesn't surface explicitly until the 3rd act.

Goldfinger
Goldfinger(1964)

So this is the first pre-Pierce Brosnan Bond movie that I have really "seen" (I watched others with my dad when I was too young to understand what was going on) and I must say I am impressed, but in a different way than I expected. It feels almost like a campy exploitation spy movie than the penultimate, big-budget, classic spy movie. That said it was interesting and had the unintentional (or was it?) humor mixed in which made a pretty darn enjoyable movie. If nothing else, it makes me want to catch up on my Bond movies immediately. (Tidbit: the actress who plays Pussy Galore has an even cooler name in real life: Honor Blackman. I think I'll name my daughter Honor...)

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)

So watching this movie for a second time really improves it 8-fold. The ending just plain blows your mind (like a magic trick, eh?) the first time but can be unfolded effortlessly upon a second viewing. The obsession that drives the two main characters clearly serves as the driving point of the movie, and really the basics don't get much more complicated than that, but the elaborate schemes and sacrifices that the two men make for the craft and personal quest of oneupsmanship make the Prestige a step above the rest.

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)

So, upon a second viewing I came away with a bit more from Citizen Kane than I did in my 1st "2.5 star worthy" viewing. Really, I should've respected the movie based on Orson Welles acting performance alone, but when you factor in the standards and benchmarks and all that it set for films made later, as well as some aspects that, even today, still maintain some novelty, Citizen Kane justly deserves some of the praise that it receives. Best movie ever? No. Top 50? Probably.

The Man Who Wasn't There
½

While there was certainly nothing wrong, per se, with this movie, it just didn't excite me or warrant heavy praise in my opinion. The plot is pretty solid, involving a man ultimately paying for his misdeeds after several twists and turns. The distinctive Coen flare of playing with cliches like a yoyo master plays with a yoyo (skillfully) is definitely present, for instance Tony Shalhoub is a lawyer who is definitely a "lawyer" and so forth with the other characters. However, I was fairly disappointed with Billy Bob as I feel that he just kind of went through the motions as a depressed dude, rather than adding any real depth. Overall, The Man Who Wasn't There is a fairly solid movie that really does no wrong, but it has no "wow" factor and I can't imagine it will require or inspire repeated viewings.

Be Kind Rewind

The pacing started off a little slow, at first leaving me with an uncertain feeling about the movie as a whole. As soon as the "sweding" begins, though, Be Kind Rewind is very strong and really quite inspirational. Very few laugh out loud moments, but I guess you could say it's a "cute" movie. I liked Mos Def a lot.

In Bruges
In Bruges(2008)

This movie deserves more recognition than it has seemingly received. Like all British/UK crime movies, it reminds me of Lock Stock, Layer Cake, and Snatch which is in no way an insult. But out of those movies, I'd go so far as to say that I enjoyed In Bruges even more. The plot isn't overly complicated as it is in those movies and the humor hits home every time. Add in the strong performances and a poetic ending, and In Bruges is a must-see.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
½

The third installment of the Mummy really fits about on par with the third Indiana Jones. If I had to choose one movie over the other, I'd choose The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor any day. Brendan Fraser does his best Brendan Fraser impression and Jet Li suffers what is likely the most awesome climactical death of all-time. Really though, The Mummy 3 knows well enough not to take itself too seriously and delivers a crapton of cool action and effects that gloss over some of its other weaknesses. Also, there was this cool part where a resurrected, stone version of Jet Li pulls off his face and throws it at Brendan Fraser's screen son. It's hilarious.

The Air I Breathe
½

This movie flew WAY below the radar when it was released in theaters (apparently on Jan 25, 08 according to Flixster) which is quite unfortunate because it is an emotional ensemble piece that is on par with or superior than the recent critical darlings, Crash and Babel. The Air I Breathe consists of four stories, each focusing on one of four emotions: happiness, pleasure, sorrow, and love. The predictable kicker is that each of these stories present a case in which these emotions are achieved by people in unconventional and dramatic ways. For instance, one man achieves happiness by unsuccessfully committing a bank robbery, love is shown by a man saving the life of his best friend's wife whom he secretly loves. Everything is pulled off very well and although there are some shaky areas in the plot, they do very little in the way of diminishing the impact of this really good, criminally unknown movie.

Mamma Mia!
Mamma Mia!(2008)

The whole time I was watching this movie I kept alternating between liking it and disliking it until the end in which everything fit together like a perfect puzzle as everyone gets what they truly desire and everything is soo happy. I actually kind of dug that, because after watching everyone being kind of miserable (albeit in a somewhat happy-go-lucky way)through most of the running time, a happy ending was the only way I would've been satisfied instead of extremely frustrated. As far as the musical numbers go, a few work really well while most others don't. As far as the characters go, they were about what I expected which is not necessarily a good thing. I'm awfully tired of movies like this (I've seen too many of them) in which there is that middle-aged comic relief female best friend who's so obnoxious and sex crazed. It annoys me like none other but in the theater that I watched this in (probably 95% females over age 40) that cliche character got most of the laughs *Sigh*. Luckily every weakness that this movie had I expected somewhat going in so I really rolled with it more than I might've if I had been anticipating the movie. Also, I should say that I was very very charmed by Amanda Seyfried (of Mean Girls and Veronica Mars "fame") as Sophie. And so dawns a new movie crush for Zane Umsted...

Pi
Pi(1998)
½

Now, I'm thinking that maybe I just didn't "understand" this movie or something, but I was a bit underwhelmed. I liked the whole David Lynchian surreal "is it real or a hallucination" type of stuff but, pardon my pun, the math just didn't add up for me as far as the story goes. I will admit, that it was fairly enjoyable despite that and it deserves kudos for that reason. However, there were things that were supposed to be intuitive or something that I didn't catch on to and made things confusing as the movie progressed.

Saturday Night Fever

It's a bit of a shame that this movie is remembered mostly for it's electrifying dance sequences and dated clothes. The dance sequences WERE awesome, but Saturday Night Fever also quite a bit more. Tony is a selfish, vain, shallow prick. After a series of events he realizes that isn't the way to live life. I just simplified the storyline big time, but it is really something to witness the gradual transformation.

Looney Tunes: Back in Action
½

Movies like these are difficult for me to find an appropriate ranking for. On the one hand, Looney Tunes: Back in Action is a terrible terrible movie. But on the other hand, it amused me to no end by the sheer ridiculousness and the slight bastardization of classic characters (and Brendan Fraser). I will give it the "average" rating as a means of balancing the two sides of my feelings about the movie. "Let's do some drills"

Adaptation
Adaptation(2002)

This movie is really quite brilliant. An adaptation of a novel (sort of) that focuses more on the screenwriter's challenge in adapting the novel. I, for the life of me, cannot think of a more original movie idea. Of course the originality would be moot if the idea was not well executed. But it is. It really is. I liked Nicolas Cage in it, which is a feat. Plus I got so invested in everything that happened that I really wanted to know more about these characters and what parts of the movie were "real" (the titular adaptation is of a nonfiction book so numerous characters are real people) and which events were Hollywoodized (Donald's contribution to the script, according to the movie). I realize that this review makes little sense to those who haven't yet seen the movie, but hopefully that serves as encouragement to go out and watch this truly unique film.

The Dark Knight

This is not a "comic book" movie. Calling it that... simplifying it to that label would be demeaning to what is really really the best film that I have ever seen and without a doubt one of the best movies ever made. The Dark Knight transcends the "comic book" genre absolutely. Heck, I am a HUGE Batman fan, but if you replaced the character with someone else, or even the Joker's character for that matter, I would still have a hard time denying the sheer magnitude of this movie. It made me feel emotions that I have never felt before in a movie theater. I was downright nervous, tense, and worried for the vast majority of the movie. The sense of foreboding, doom, and uncertainty (made possible by Heath Ledger's downright brilliant final performance as the unpredictable, insane Joker) felt real. I am not being melodramatic either, that is really how I felt watching this movie. It engrosses you in a way that you almost don't want to be engrossed, but once the credits begin to roll and you are released from it's spell I can attest that the first thought that will flow through your brain will be "that was awesome." Not awesome in the "cool" meaning, but awesome as in "something that inspires awe."

Catwoman
Catwoman(2004)
½

So I had heard all of the terrible terrible terrible things about this movie which more or less add up to the following: it sucks. But I was in Gamestop the other day and saw that they had a Buy 2 Get 3 free deal on used dvds. I picked out 4 that I wanted and struggled to find that 5th and final free dvd. Then I saw Catwoman, and stupid ole me thought, "what the heck, how bad can it be, right?" Catwoman is a terrible terrible movie that I am now cursed to own until I can find some poor sap to take it off my hands. Sure there were some redeemable qualities to the film, but aside from the cool aerial shots, all of them come from the unintentionally hilarious bits and little viewer jokes that my brother and I cracked while watching a very bad movie.

Batman Gotham Knight

This was everything that I was looking for to whet my appetite for the Dark Knight (as if it needed whetting). It takes what the Animatrix did years earlier and sculpts it to the Batman universe, with similarly fantastic results. Since the style of the shorts are very Japanese, it gives a cool alternaBatman vibe that is more or less unprecedented with such an iconic American character. Each short is of high quality and they make an outstanding collection.

Army of the dead
½

This seems like a movie where the filmmakers said "let's try to make it as bad as possible to gain a cult following! It's all the rage!" So, while it might have been amusing had it's total badness been unintentional and therefore genuine, it is instead just stupid. I'll admit that I laughed at some of the bad dialogue, but I just couldn't appreciate the low-budget schlockiness because it seemed so carefully created.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)

I don't know what I can possibly say to describe how much of a crowd-pleaser this movie is. It is hands down the most charming/sweet/cute/whatever movie that you will ever see. I cannot imagine a heartless b@$t@rd who can tell me with a straight face that he/she thought Wall-E was "stupid." I am not a fan of Pixar (having never seen Ratatouille or Finding Nemo) but this movie most definitely will be seen as their cream of the crop. It has allegorical substance that is lacking in all of Pixar films that I have seen (and I imagine there's nothing extremely profound in the two that I haven't) and Wall-E doesn't rely on celebrity voices for the audience to laugh at and connect to. In fact, Wall-E relies on very few human voices at all. The long long gaps between dialogue (other than the robotic-speak of Wall-E and his new friend Eve) really allows you to appreciate everything that the movie is, especially in the earlier stages of the film. It doesn't exactly tell you how a Wal-Mart-esque department store began to dominate the lives of everyone in the world, or how human's yearning for excess led to their downfall. Instead it lets you see this more or less for yourself with a huge number of "Buy N Large" (the Wal-Mart type store) billboards and branch stores/banks/train stations etc. and the massive piles of discarded items left for Wall-E to clean up. The second half of the film is where the conflict begins though, as Wall-E and Eve board the spaceship where humans retreated to after leaving Earth, and while it doesn't have the majestic feel of the earlier portion of the film, it works as a 2001:the Space Odyssey type of story about the power of Artificial Intelligence. Throughout the movie, though, in both segments, Wall-E never loses its charm.

Hancock
Hancock(2008)

I was pleseantly surprised by this movie, although that by no means makes it classic or anything. I feel that Hancock stands apart from typical summer movie fare in that it is (or at least starts out as) a rather original idea that is not based on a comic book, old movie franchise, etc. And it really answers the question that many people, including myself, think about while watching high-destruction action movies, "who is going to pay for the major bridge that the good guy collapsed to stop the bad guys?" When he movie focuses on stuff like this and when you see a wino with superpowers become a real superhero, Hancock works well. When his movie-obligatory weakness and origin is revealed, I felt kind of cheated, though. I won't go into any spoilers about what this weakness is but I will say that it just felt tacked on so that the bad guys could have some chance of putting Hancock against the ropes before he ultimately saves the day. And, although the weakness is rather goofy and contrived, I feel that the movie handles it as well as they could have, but it still feels rather weird. I also was unsure how the bad guys even learned of the weakness in the first place when devising a plan to destroy Hancock. All of this complaining, though, is taking away from the fact that I really enjoyed Hancock and applaud it for being something at least mildly different from other summer movies.

Wanted
Wanted(2008)
½

I "Wanted" so much more from this movie...

...umm... so I was less than impressed by Wanted, a movie which I eagerly anticipated because of the genius of the premise of the graphic novel on which it was based: a legion of super-villains have exterminated the world's super-heroes and rule the world (albeit, unseen) with crime and violence. I knew that the plot would be adjusted and that the characters wouldn't really be "villains" or "super" because that wouldn't fly with the public. But I didn't think they would change everything, dumb it down a lot and keep only the Wesley Gibson in the cubicled office faithful to the comic. This would be forgivable if the rest of the movie was awesome (Batman Begins is not the picture of faithfulness but it makes it work because it is as good as the source material) but Wanted lacks. It's awesome in a "Holy S-word that was sweet seeing a train fall down a long way and he shot the glass and fell through it and they bend bullets a lot and shoot bullets with other bullets" way, but not in a "that's a great movie" way. Although I can't exactly pinpoint why it's not a quality movie, if I had to say something about it, it would just be that, when faced with a question of "original ideas and slightly less bullet-curving action, or recycled action devices but a crapton of bullet-curving action?" they always chose the latter, rather than coming to a good balance of both. I imagine that upon multiple viewings, I will enjoy the film more because I'll force myself to think of it separate from the graphic novel, but I don't think it'll ever be more than a good movie, which is a huge shame and a waste of potential (because the source material was sooo good).

Kung Fu Panda

Very good for a children's movie (which don't often do it for me). The one thing that I'd like to clarify, though: kung fu is much cooler in live-action. That said, in live action you could never see a praying mantis kick the crap out of a huge panda, so we'll call it okay. Kung Fu Panda was surprisingly funny in my opinion and I give it props for steering clear of fart jokes.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
½

This is one of those movies where desperate characters get into desperate situations in their desperation and everything goes to crap. I like to call these "snowball" movies, because just when things start to get kind of bad, they get worse, and worse like a snowball rolling down a hill getting bigger and bigger. So now that we have established Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (BtDKYD from here on out) as a snowball movie, it should be noted that it is just about the best in the small subgenre of snowballs. All of the characters are developed and you can really sympathize with everyone, from the heartless bastards to the adulterous wife to the grieving murderous father. The way the story is told, following different points of view through different events before during and after a robbery gone bad (to say the least), is handled very well and each "chapter" goes somewhere, rather than just treading water. BtDKYD is a tight, well made movie that surprisingly and unfortunately went under the radar in a 2007 in which dozens of quality films were released.

The Bodyguard
½

This is the worst Sonny Chiba movie ever! Chiba's dubbed voice was totally lame, there was a disappointing lack of action, and the plot was stupid even as far as Sonny Chiba/exploitation martial arts films go. If you are looking for a martial arts movie to watch, make it something else, like The Street Fighter or The Executioner (both starring Chiba).

The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk delivers where Ang Lee's Hulk failed by giving viewers what they want: action. I'm not saying I disliked the earlier, Eric Bana-starring movie. In fact I probably enjoy it more than most people, but the current model is far superior in all ways, especially in the "comic book movie" category. Of course, my comparison to the previous film is more or less immaterial, as The Incredible Hulk succeeded in minimizing references to events in the prior film, which were mentioned only sporadically throughout. Anyway, The Incredible Hulk is fantastic. Edward Norton is fantastic. This movie, coupled with Iron Man, makes me really excited about the direction that Marvel comics movies are headed in, both with the Avengers foreshadowing, as well as the superior quality of these compared to earlier efforts (as far back as Daredevil and Elektra, and as recent as Ghost Rider and Spider-Man 3).

Speed Racer
Speed Racer(2008)

I went into this thinking it would be too much of a good thing and that I would bleed from the eyeballs because all of the technocolor imagery would be too much for my little corneas (or whatever...) to handle. Instead, Speed Racer was just plain cool. I expected it to be cool, but it was f-ing COOL, man! I am searching for other adjectives to describe it, but cool is the one that keeps popping up. You have never seen anything like this movie. It is a cartoon acted out by real people. It is a video game acted out by real people. And it works. A lot of the criticism for this movie comes from the cheesy dialogue and line delivery or the relentless frenetic imagery. My two statements above serve as an explanation for those criticisms and I really wonder what, if they didn't enjoy this movie, did they expect to enjoy in a Speed Racer movie?? I'm no expert on the cartoons, but from what I know of them, this movie captured skillfully. The plot really was there, although likely over the head of the target children audience, and it wasn't all that bad. Only by taking the quirks and unconventialities in stride, can one hope to enjoy this movie. I did, and I found it bloody brilliant. My favorite movie so far of 2008 (until July 18 anyway).

Southland Tales

Southland Tales is something of a beautiful mess. I firmly believe that nobody but director Richard Kelly can truly "understand" everything that is going on and what the heck it all means, but I enjoyed watching and trying to come up with a conclusion. The movie pretty much supposes a future (the present...2008) where all of America and the world's looming problems implode and what happens? The apocalypse. The end of the world. Ultimate destruction of everything that we know. The two points, worldy society issues and apocalypse, connected by a scifi driving plot which remains hidden until over halfway through the runtime. While, understandably, the ambitions of such a premise lacks the tight, tied up conclusiveness and user-friendliness of most movies, it holds some sort of allure that prevented me from being bored or annoyed or overly confused. I like that it is a futuristic, political commentary, scifi film that shows real problems literally in a future world rather than relying on allegory and symbolism like most films in the "scifi commentary" genre. The major thing I am curious about stems from one of the special features I watched on the dvd in which Richard Kelly continuously (annoyingly so) mentions that "Southland Tales is a comedy. It's a comedy. Blah blah blah." It may be funny and bizarre at times, but I think he is reaching for the out of reach cookie jar if he wants to consider it a comedy, and it makes me wonder why he even cares. But, that said, I don't think you need to fully understand this movie to enjoy it, you should simply go with the flow, taking away key points while respecting its uniqueness.

The Proposition
½

I have seen a rash of very good westerns that have been released recently (the last few years) which really challenges the whole "Westerns are dead" theory. The Proposition focuses mainly on the f-ed upness of the law enforcement process of the time (late 1800s) in which most Westerns take place. It all just works, the actors fit their characters perfectly, the script is simple overall, but its parts are complex. Ranks up there with the other "new-Westerns" like 3:10 to Yuma and Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (I love typing that whole title).

The Darjeeling Limited

While I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, it seemed as if it was treading water for the longest time, and with only a 91 minute runtime, that's not really ideal. Otherwise, when stuff happens it's just great. The Wes Anderson quirks are there and the deadpan delivery of every single line, regardless of how dramatic is present. Whether or not that is your thing would pretty much be an indication as to whether or not you would enjoy this movie.

Hellboy
Hellboy(2004)

Perfect for what it is, an superhero action movie. It is refreshing when compared to the usual and more conventional superhero fare. It's more like Indiana Jones (with supernatural characters) than Spider-Man.

Raising Arizona

This movie was frakkin awesome. It's hard to remember the last time Nic Cage was in a good movie. The Coen brothers rock.

The Orphanage
½

The most chilling, terrifying, creepy movie I have ever seen, the Orphanage plays with your emotion as if it was a toy. Not only is fear elicited during the film, though, but genuine feelings of sadness and, ultimately, relief and happiness. It is not often that a "horror" film can transcend its genre and become capable of inducing a wide variety of reactions throughout its running time, and in subtitles to boot. The Orphanage can do it all.

Superbad
Superbad(2007)
½

Superbad is Supergood!! Haha, get it?? Anyway...this movie was just what you'd expect from the Judd Apatow team. Crude humor without seeming raunchy. I'm totally McLovin it!

Across the Universe
½

This is, without a doubt, the most aesthetic movie I have ever seen. Although the music is obviously the selling point of the film, I believe I could have watched it on mute and still have been interested. Ranging from the bizarre to the heartbreaking back to the bizarre, this film does the Beatles, and the late 60s, proud. If I had to find one problem with the movie, it's that sometimes there are jumps in the narrative that aren't fully developed (probably due to the song by song development of the movie). Overall, though, this film stands as one of my favorite romances and musicals, on par with Moulin Rouge.

Knocked Up
Knocked Up(2007)
½

It's Ill-larious. In that it's so funny it make you ill.

Cach
Cach(2005)
½

The one word I can think of to describe this movie: taut. It keeps you curious throughout the whole 2 hours and, because it doesn't have a distinct resolution (although it is implied), it will keep you curious for long afterwards. Cache also has one of the most unexpected, shocking scenes that I have ever watched in a movie. A fantastic film.

Dark Days
Dark Days(2000)
½

What a harrowing dose of reality this movie is... Dark Days lets you see life through the eyes of a group of homeless men living in the subway tunnels of New York City. These men (and a couple women), uneducated and unable to find jobs, have erected a crude city below the city, where they live in houses, have electricity and visit regularly with their neighbors. What I particularly enjoy about this documentary is the fact that there are no talking heads telling you their opinions about homeless people but instead there are interviews with the homeless people as they let the camera follow them through their everyday lives, which surprisingly are not as empty as most people believe. I also really like seeing the conclusion of the movie which shows how the government is working to help people in these kinds of situations (albeit under heavy pressure from human rights groups).

GoodFellas
GoodFellas(1990)
½

Shows how the mob works and how easy it is to get in over your head. Also shows how bad drugs can screw someone up.

The Boondock Saints
½

You'd think there'd be more movies about regular dudes who take the law into their own hands. But this is one of the only ones I can think of.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
½

I really dig this movie. I like how it's based on the odyssey, I like the music, I like how George Clooney keeps saying "We're in a tight spot" when they are about to get captured, etc. It really peeved me off though when the vhs I was watching (from the lovely WB library) crapped out so I missed the last 10 minutes or so. I don't know if they got hanged or not. Stupid vhs...I'm glad it's a dead technology.

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2(2004)
½

Better than the first, and the first was pretty good.

The Hudsucker Proxy
½

This movie rocks. I had seen it a long time ago, when I was a little child and I remember thinking it was pretty sweet. I've been watching a lot of Coen brothers' movies lately, so when I saw this at the mall today I knew I had to see it again. You know what? It's awesomer than before. I like when the janitor and Moses the clock runner guy fight. It's the best.

Corky Romano
Corky Romano(2001)

"I'm just gonna go make some toaster streudal. Everyone wants? I assume everyone wants." That right there is why I love this movie.

Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Probably not as funny as it was in 1964, but still pretty good. "You can't fight in here. This is the war room!"

Closer
Closer(2004)

What a harrowing and depressing look at love. I really enjoyed the segmented narrative, especially how you never knew immediately how much time had passed since the previous scene. The whole yo-yo of love is definitely interesting, although it tends to lose steam towards the end (but doesn't quite lose all of its muster). The performances were good but everyone is a bit of a dickhead, though. Jude Law plays...Jude Law. Clive Owen plays awesome. Natalie Portman plays a stripper. And Julia Roberts didn't annoy me. Good work guys!

Psycho
Psycho(1960)
½

This film completely caught me by surprise. Although it is often ranked as one of the greatest films of all time, I am always the most nervous to watch the "classic" movies because I am afraid of being disappointed. Psycho did not disappoint me at all. Norman Bates is hands down the most interesting character I have ever seen in a movie. Also, despite its iconic status, the ending to the film had never been spoiled for me and, although I kind of had an idea how it would end, I was still "on the edge of my seat" throughout the whole thing.

Office Space
Office Space(1999)

Pretty darned funny. I kinda hated the part where Jennifer Anistion and Ron Livingston broke up over a misunderstanding, though. I hate when that happens in movies. I think that in real life he would find out it was a different Lumberg. That kind of stuff bugs me. Funny movie, though.

Apocalypse Now

This movie deserves all of the praise that it gets, which is untrue for most of the older movies that critics seem to love. It really shows how uncontrolled the Vietnam War really was. Sweeto.

The Warriors
The Warriors(1979)

This movie is the 80s before the 80s. The feel of the movie reminded me of Escape from New York, which is totally cool. Everything is over the top in the best way. This is the rare movie where I don't care about character's motivations or anything like that, I just go with the flow, don't take it very seriously, and enjoy myself while watching.

The Ladykillers
½

Kept me in the dark about where it was going to end up. Pretty funny in a dark way. Another brilliant Coen bros. movie.

Layer Cake
Layer Cake(2005)

A very exciting movie to watch, directed very stylishly. I think the plot was overly complex, though. It was difficult to follow all of the double and triple crosses and other stuff. By paying close attention, though, you can really enjoy the movie. I'm pretty stoked that the director, Matthew Vaughn, is slated to direct Thor.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull(1980)

Painful to watch because it besically just shows a man mentally unravelling. Brilliantly acted and awesome boxing scenes though. Every time I watch it I like it more and more.

Lucky Number Slevin

I wasn't expecting too much and it exceeded my low expectations. A lot of the dialogue was really cheesy. It still made Josh Hartnett almost seem cool.

The Science of Sleep

I enjoyed the craziness and imagination of the movie, but I didn't really sympathize with Stephane at all. He's needy, jealous, and self-centered. Those kinds of behaviors cannot realistically all be attributed to his dream-reality problem.

Stardust
Stardust(2007)

A very good movie, effective at keeping you interested from beginning to end. The only minor complaint I have about the movie was the slight misunderstanding between Yvenne (I think that's how you spell her name) and the innkeeper that leads her to believe that Tristen was not actually in love with her. Other than that minor quibble, a fantastic movie!

Black Snake Moan

Really good. I went into it thinking that it'd be really sexually graphic due to the plot outline that I'd heard for it (a nymphomaniac gets chained to a radiator until she changes her ways), but that's not really what the movie was "about." Instead, Black Snake Moan is more about healing and redemption. Technically, Lazarus didn't even cure Rae (the nympho), but it could be said that she had more of an effect on him than he did on her.

Once
Once(2007)

A very bittersweet romantic musical that really plays on the viewers emotions. I really enjoyed the music and the interactions between the two characters but it seemed to plod for a little while, as the music over entirely while pointless visuals graced the screen. This only happens twice, though: when "the guy" is singing and home-videos portray his reminiscence about his ex-girlfriend, and when "the guy," "the girl," and the studio band go to the beach and mess around as music plays in the background. Don't let those minor flaws (in my mind anyway) discourage you from seeing the film, though, because it is touching in a way that very few films are and presents love in a very realistic and unsure sort of way.

Death Proof
Death Proof(2007)

Definitely the lesser good of the two Grindhouse movies, but it still is a pretty awesome movie. One thing that irked me was how it stopped being all scratchy and grindhousey once the second half started. Really good, though.

Enchanted
Enchanted(2007)

So I know that this movie isn't the ultimate man movie (evident by the fact that my two brothers and I were the only guys in the theater) but it is really good. Amy Adams is GORGEOUS, James Marsden is HILARIOUS, and Patrick Dempsey is LESS D-BAGGY than I had expected. Enchanted is done entirely tongue-in-cheek which makes the plot seem clever rather than over-simplistic or stupid. It had a bit of a lull in the middle, highlighted by a cliche shopping montage, but ignoring that, it was a pretty sweet movie.

Juno
Juno(2007)

I really really enjoyed this movie: the plot, the characters, just about everything. The one weakness that started to kind of bug me was just how unrealistically clever everyone was. I can just imagine the screenwriter, Diablo Cody, sitting at her little typewriter looking very pleased with herself for the witty comebacks and everything that she wrote into the script. Other than that minormajor quibble, I enjoyed this movie a great deal and feel it deserves the majority of the praise that it is receiving. It's good to see an original, not stupid comedy doing well at the box office too. Kudos to Juno for showing the American public what a good comedy should be (although, all too recently, Wild Hogs was a $100 million grosser)!

The Emperor's New Groove
½

I really like this one. Makes me yearn for the days of 2d Disney animation. Kronk (I think that's his name) is sweet.

Edward Scissorhands
½

Good, but maybe oversentimental at times. Anthony Michael Hall is a dickweed.

Elf
Elf(2003)
½

Brimming with holiday cheer. Plus Zooey Deschanel is so cute. She's not hot or anything, but I'm still attracted. I don't know what it is.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

It was pretty good, but I feel that the crazy all on green screen idea took away from the movie as a whole. There were plenty of times when you noticed the fakeness of the actors' interaction with their environment. Still, it was successful at bringing a 1930s era Superman cartoon feel to it.

Serendipity
Serendipity(2001)

About as unique of a romantic comedy as you will find (considering romantic comedies are often not unique). A love story where the characters only interact for the first 20 minutes of the movie. I don't know, theres just nothing to not like about this movie: it's clever, the characters are likeable enought, etc. but there's nothing that really makes it an AWESOME romantic comedy in the vain of Love Actually, which I contend is the greatest romantic comedy ever.

Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon: Do you like apples?
Thug from Bar: Uh...yeah.
Matt Damon: Well I got her number. How do you like those apples?!

OOO, burn!

Run Lola Run
Run Lola Run(1999)
½

Very good as far as fast-paced actioners go, but I couldn't help but think that maybe the movie would've been better if the different scenarios differed more extremely from the getgo, rather than be the same general thing with varying degrees of change. I could be totally wrong though. My minor quibble is not what caused Run Lola Run to be a 4 rather than a 5, though. It was very good in its own right, but it just didn't reach "that level" for me.

Army of Darkness
½

It's Ill-arious. Bruce Campbell is the king of cheese.

The Butterfly Effect

This movie is something else. I wish I had magical journals, but...I don't.

The Color of Money

The three stars of this movie? That would be Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, and Tom Cruise's unibrow. Forest Whitaker is in it for a bit part. Overall, just an average Scorcese movie which equals a very good movie.

Blood Simple
Blood Simple(1984)
½

A very suspenseful movie that plays off of major misunderstandings, something that usually drives me nuts in movies but doesn't in this one. A very good first movie by the Coens.

Panic Room
Panic Room(2002)

It was better than I remember it being back when it first came out. I wish Forret Whitaker didn't get caught because he really wasn't a bad dude, he just got caught up with the wrong people. The ending was a little lame now that I think of it.

The Thing
The Thing(1982)
½

Despite the looming threat of an alien being that possesses the ability to tap into your brain and absorb the bodily information necessary to transform into any human it chooses, the intended terrifying element of this movie is paranoia. When nobody can be trusted and everyone is on edge, violence is inescapable. The fact that it takes place in the isolated wasteland of Antarctica merely adds to the "chilling" nature of the film (pun intended, thank you very much).

Mean Streets
Mean Streets(1973)

It's not my favorite Scorcese film, but it's a Scorcese film none the less. Still rocks the house.

Carlito's Way
½

There's very little to separate this film from the other films in the "crime drama" genre. That's not saying it's bad however. I enjoyed it quite a bit and never lost interest. One HUGE problem with the film, though, is the first scene which tells the audience exactly what is going to happen at the emotional climax. That was really off-putting and I'd highly recommend skipping that first scene and watching it after the movie instead of before.

Miracle on 34th Street

This movie is everything that is right about old movies. The overacting by the child actors, the comical caricatures of characters like the psychiatrist, and the shots of bewildered faces at various times during the Santa Claus trial make this movie loveably cheesy. A holiday classic!

The Producers
½

Before I begin, it should be noted that I missed the first 10-15 minutes of the movie. That said, I really enjoyed the movie, although I felt it was held back by the overdone "broadwayness" of it (overacting, exaggerated facial expressions, etc) and Matthew Broderick's shameless Gene Wilder impersonation. Overall, though, these things seem to work and make for a really good musical.

Snakes on a Plane
½

Thinking back, probably not as cool as I thought it was.

Babel
Babel(2006)
½

Each of the mini-stories is very effective at telling a dramatic and compelling story, but they are in no ways entertaining. I really enjoyed taking a look at "real" lives of characters with different backgrounds, though, even if watching them was a painful experience. This movie was not meant to be entertaining, though, and was not meant to be easy to watch, but was meant to be "real". Thusly, it accomplishes its goal very effectively and is entrancing despite its 2 1/2 hr run time.

The Host
The Host(2007)
½

I was very disappointed that I had to watch this movie with dubbing rather than subtitles because my dvd player is messed up. While I still enjoyed the movie I can't help but feel that it would've been much better because, during dramatic bits, it is difficult to take the situation seriously when the voices are very obnoxious and ill-fitting to the characters. Anyway....still a good movie.

The Pursuit of Happyness

Pretty sad movie. It sucks just watching bad things happen to a guy for 2 hours before something good happens.

Shoot 'Em Up
Shoot 'Em Up(2007)
½

This movie is one of those "violence for the sake of violence" type movies that various groups rally against. However, it is all done in a completely tongue in cheek kind of way and because all of the characters take themselves soo seriously, the audience begins to not take them seriously, softening the impact of the violent gun battles. Plus all of this fighting is done to save a baby, so people would be heartless to disapprove, right? The movie is less than an hour and a half, yet it feels very long because the plot is so shaky that it almost collapses under the heavy gun action sequences. If you ever need a shot of testosterone, yet hate needles, you should watch this movie. (that last quote should be put on the dvd case...)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
½

I enjoy this movie for what it is, yet I yearn for what it isn't. I'm no big Indy-buff, and have not seen the previous three movies in a long time, but I know that the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was very very different from the tried and true formula of those movies. For the first half hour of the movie, I could just see Steven Spielberg standing in front of me telling me, "this movie takes place in the 50s. If you don't believe me listen to this: "You Ain't Nuthin But a Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley. Or look! That fellow is a 50s greaser! And that man is a 50s preppy guy! And this is the atomic family living in their 50s home with the 50s Cold War era fear of atomic warfare! It's the 50s! It is! It is!" But, in a way, I suppose I found that funny. And I will never forget that it takes place in the 50s. And then there is the "vibe" of the movie, which felt more like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow than Raiders of the Lost Ark. And then there is the supernatural, funky, extraterrestrial stuff. Everything was just a bit weird to me about this movie, but I was definitely engaged the whole time and thought, "that was AWESOME!" multiple times, so why am I complaining? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a good movie. Hooray.

Hustle & Flow
½

Terrence Howard is phenomenal, out of his mind brilliant in this movie.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

This movie was really overdone and cheesy at some parts. For example: when the other schools enter the great hall and have extravagant dance routines. I can just imagine the kids going to summer school spending hours and hours practicing just for that. Also, Dumbledore tells all of the students that Voldemort is back after he killed Cedric, but in the 5th movie everybody thinks that Harry is just making it all up. By reading this, you'd think I hated the movie, but it was overall very entertaining.

Walk the Line
½

Good performances but a slightly boring movie. I find myself telling Johnny Cash to get over the stupid drug addiction. How hard can it be, right? Another thing that ruined it for me was that I read that he got back into the drugs after the time period in the movie. That kind of ruins it.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
½

It was enjoyable enough to watch, but is easily one of the weaker in the series.

Bring It On
Bring It On(2000)
½

I legitimately enjoy this movie. Granted I haven't seen it in a while, but it's a girl movie that I don't find myself wondering what girls like about it. I actually understand.

Secret Window

So this was one of those movies where I was kind of paying attention but mostly wasn't. But it was pretty good despite some of the minor plot devices I may have missed.

Daredevil
Daredevil(2003)

There are many good things about this movie and maybe just as many bad things. Overall it's ok, but since it's a superhero movie it's better than ok in my book.

Patch Adams
Patch Adams(1998)

A feel good movie. Fun fact: I watched it at Religious Ed one night.

All the President's Men
½

I became really enthralled by this movie, as the whole Watergate scandal develops through the eyes of Woodward and Bernstein. The problem with the film is, though, that since it was released so close to the actual events, they didn't do a very good job fully informing the audience who the names that were being bandied about were. So now, over 30 years later, I had difficulty following the whodunnit type of stuff. Also, the ending does seem a little rushed which is again likely due to everyone at the time of release already knowing the events that the movie shows scrolling across the typewriter.

Underworld
Underworld(2003)

I like the lighting in this movie where everything either looks pale white, blue, or black. It's pretty sweet.

Frailty
Frailty(2002)

Although I really enjoyed the flashback story about the father and two sons and how creepy it was because of the lack of emotion the father showed when talking about "killing demons," I found the segments set in the present to be extremely uninteresting and the ending was not as surprising as it thought it was. Still pretty good and very creepy/weird.

Angel Heart
Angel Heart(1987)

The plot seemed rather formulaic, save for the "twist" ending, which was fairly easy to predict beforehand, thanks to a crapton of obvious clues. I absolutely loved Mickey Rourke's performance, though, and am a bit peeved as I am writing this review and seeing the Angel Heart dvd cover on the lefthand side of my screen which relegates him to a small head shot in the background, while Robert DeNiro dominates. Anyway, I digress... Angel Heart is a good detective-noir that brings something extra to the table with its religious and supernatural aspects and is worth seeing for Mickey Rourke, if nothing else.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape
½

It is difficult to rate this movie without considering the significance of its existence. sex, lies, and videotape single-handedly birthed the indie-revival of the early to mid-90s. While, in my opinion, it is not as good as some of those movies which would follow in its footsteps (Clerks, Reservoir Dogs) it is still a good movie.




(...i think i'm getting worse and worse at writing reviews...)

The Mighty Ducks
½

OOOH YEAH!!! EMILIOOOO!!

Superman II
Superman II(1981)
½

Better than the first, but only slightly. Holds up as one of my favorite superhero movies.

Misery
Misery(1990)

It was pretty fun to watch Kathy Bates all psycho and stuff, but it's not a movie that I would call "one of my favorites".

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
½

This movie was immensely disturbing. I cannot say that it is an enjoyable experience to watch, but the performances are great and the plot is intriguing, to say the least. It is just plain painful though...

Clerks II
Clerks II(2006)
½

Kinky Kelly really freaked me out and almost ruined an otherwise awesome movie.

Charlotte's Web

Wilbur's voice kinda started to annoy me after a while. He has a little whiny 6 year old boy voice once he's a grown pig. What the heck? Good movie though, I'm a HUGE Dakota Fanning fan (sarcasm implied).

High School Musical 2

It's really hard to hate this movie, considering it's just innocent tween inspired entertainment. The characters are all total cliche and you can probably find similar storylines in a number od other movies, but the songs are catchy and the dancing is pretty cool. Whatever it takes to make kids not consider musicals to be "gay."

Mickey's Christmas Carol

Very charming. I love the tiny Tim in this one. It was waaay too short though. It seemed like it was only 10 minutes long, which is a shame, because I would've watched it for, like, an hour and a half.

Smithereens
Smithereens(1982)

This is the ultimate "nice guys finish last" story. The main character, a completely self-absorbed impoverished woman named Wren, consistently makes bad choices about men. She bull-headedly pursues a punk rocker who treats her like a disposable object, while only occasionally showing her anything that even resembles affection. As she chases this punk, she blatantly ignores the "good guy" who really likes her, but reaches a point where he realizes that she is a lost cause and will never be satisfied with him.

The Secret Garden

Well it's no "A Little Princess" but it's still decent. What really surprises me about some of these early to mid 90s children (girl) movies is how depressing they are if you really think about it. Something really really sad happens at the beginning and then things just become less depressing at the end, not really better or even the same as they were before it all goes to crap in the first 10 minutes. Just an observation...

Newsies
Newsies(1992)
½

Full of cliche (ah...the good ole underdog story!) but does what all Disney movies are meant to do: charm the audience. And anyone who reads my reviews knows how highly I respect Christian Bale...

The Wedding Singer
½

Just another Adam Sandler movie, about just as good as the others. And Billy Idol.

Batman Forever
½

The beginning of a crapward spiral of the Batman franchise. Not terrible, I guess, but not too good.

Scooby-Doo
Scooby-Doo(2002)
½

Surprisingly good. I used to have this on VHS and tried to watch it every day. I think I got to about 8 days. Maybe I shouldn't be telling people this...

The Lost World - Jurassic Park
½

So as an 8 year old I adored this movie, but as an 18 year old it annoyed the heck out of me. It seemed as if the whole first 1 hour and 40 minutes was just treading water until the plot allowed for a T Rex to be brought into San Diego. That part is fun to watch and all, but it is not worth a fairly dull rest of the movie. And a lot of the plot devices throughout the movie were highly unbelievable which tends to bug me a lot. I don't know, I suppose if the first movie wasn't so good, I'd enjoy this one more because there was some pretty cool stuff. But the first one WAS good and I WAS expecting this one to deliver, so it remains a well below average sequal.

Hitch
Hitch(2005)

I don't know about this one...there was some good things about it but it is awfully hard for a movie to convince us that Will Smith is romantically awkward, especially when his character gives romantic advice to others.

Chasing Amy
Chasing Amy(1997)
½

It was a pretty good idea, but only decent execution. The dialogue, which is delivered very woodeny so that you know you are watching something that people have rehearsed, relies much too much on sexual "omg, a straight dude's in love with a lesbian! Is she a virgin if she's never done it with a dude?!" Kinda holds the movie back. Holden's big solution to his friend and girlfriend problem is just plain stupid in myopinion, also. Jay and Silent Bob kicked arse, though, as they always do and I enjoyed the whole 1 year later thing at the end, it was a good way to wrap it up.

Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa(2006)
½

Not near as bad as I thought it would be. I'd actually recommend it.

King Corn
King Corn(2007)

After seeing a string of a couple awesome documentaries, I was slightly disappointed in this one. It wasn't bad, but it didn't do anything to really draw me in. I'm much more conscious about the corn products I am consuming, but they didn't really raise any eyebrows by saying anything that I didn't already know.

Quiet City
Quiet City(2007)
½

This movie will not be appreciated by everyone, and I'm not even sure that I appreciated it. Quiet City isn't really about anything, it's just a 78 minute look into a weekend in the lives of 2 twentysomethings in New York. They hang out, go to a friend's house, hang out, go to an art exhibit, go to a party, and then go their separate ways. That sounds ridiculously boring, and at times it is, but there is something endearing about a movie that is not about the fantastic and the amazing and the outstanding, but is just about the realistic nice little events and coincidences in life that never fail to put a smile on your face. Of course, there is a reason that the fantastic reigns supreme in movies: people don't want to see everyday monotony on screen, which is really what Quiet City boils down to.

Frosty Returns

Well this one was not as good as the original due to the animation which is very crudely drawn. The plot is actually kind of interesting though, and the songs are alright. I like when the old evil guy sings a "bling bling" type song about all of his cool stuff he's going to buy when he becomes king. It put a permanent smile on my face.

Fantastic Four
½

There are three scenes that single-handedly (or triple-handedly) drop this movie a few stars, and they all involve the Human Torch. 1. the extended, ridiculous, pointless snowboarding scene. 2. the extended, ridiculous, pointless dirtbiking scene. 3. the extended, ridiculous, pointless "messing around with the Thing" scene. Otherwise it is really a decent movie in my mind, albeit I tend to really enjoy superhero movies and Jessica Alba.

Red Eye
Red Eye(2005)

It's laughable. I hope it wasn't supposed to be 100% serious.

Jurassic Park III

A movie that succeeds only in being the worst of the franchise. So the plot is...a boy goes parasailing in restricted waters near an island that is known to contain maneating dinosaurs. Things go wrong. They get stranded. Boy's parents kidnap dinosaur expert and go to the island looking for the boy. A bunch of people die, but the boy and the stars of the cast live. Yay! Tea Leoni drove me absolutely NUTS! So did that Billy guy. Also, the T-Rex fan in me was uber PO'ed that in this movie, there conveniently happens to be a dinosaur bigger than the T-Rex who succeeds in embarrassing and killing him. THE T-REX IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE BIGGEST AND MOST DANGEROUS DINOSAUR!!! They never should've messed with that...Also, all of the dinosaurs are reddish in this movie, and have hair type stuff on their head. WTH?! Oh yeah, also when Grant calls Ellie she immediately employs the entire US armed forces to commence a rescue. I think a big boat would have sufficed... Anyway, to end my rant, this movie was watchable only because there were a lot of cool dinosaurs in it. Other than that, it was pretty lousy.

I Know What You Did Last Summer
½

Middle-school Zane liked this a lot, but I can only imagine that it is not as good as me-from-the-past thought.

Eurotrip
Eurotrip(2003)

A forgettable teen sex comedy. I don't really know what to say about it. It's funny enough, but not so much that it puts it on a higher level.

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider(2007)

This was really bad. When Nic Cage goes to jail all of the other inmates just all of a sudden start kicking the crap out of him. Why would anybody do that? It's stupid. That's just one example. But I'm a sucker for superhero films and Eva Mendes is still pretty pretty.

Ladder 49
Ladder 49(2004)

Capitalizes on America's emotions following 9/11. It's not as much of a tribute as it is a vulture.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
½

I was very disappointed by this movie. I'm a huge Oldboy fan and expected this to be almost as good as that. It just seemed unrealistic. I can't imagine anyone being so unsympathetic towards human life, even as he found out that Ryu wasn't directly responsibly for his daughter's death. It's called Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but I felt no sympathy for him, instead I hated him for being inhumane and unsympathetic.

Dude, Where's My Car?

The ultimate stoner movie, of my generation anyway, it's not really about anything which adds to its charm (I'm not sure if that's really the right word, but I could think of nothing better...)

Carrie
Carrie(1976)
½

I don't really see what makes this a classic. Sure everyone remembers the "don't mess with the weird girl" message, but it's not a masterpiece or anything.

American Pie
American Pie(1999)

In and of itself, this movie is okay, but the fact that it has defined teen movies for my generation, spawning many atrocious movies that have come since.

Man With a Movie Camera
½

In my opinion, this film is merely a time capsule for average life at the time it was filmed. I don't see any inherent genius or anything. In fact, I believe that a documentary about the film with actual clips would be much more intriguing.

Fun With Dick and Jane
½

Oh Jim Carrey, do you even remember when you were funny?

Saw III
Saw III(2006)
½

The end is frustrating. Super frustrating. Plus the whole idea of the Saw movies is kind of losing it's novelty.

Anger Management

There comes a time in movies like this, where things aren't funny anymore, you just start to feel bad. This movie brings that to a level unmatched by any other movie.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I was pretty frustrated with the way the movie turned out. I really enjoyed the first half where everything was developing, but what it developed into left something to be desired. It's not the actually primary events that annoyed me, it was more like the throw-away plot devices that helped it get there. Why did Mrs. Lovett take the boy (who I thought was pretty annoying) down to the pie room? Did she think that would put the boy at ease, seeing a bunch of mutilated human bodies, considering that he had his suspicions about Mr. Todd anyway? And why exactly did he have such suspicions of wrongdoing about Mr. Todd anyway? And why did the old woman (who turns out to be Sweeney's wife) have the ability to see evil in seemingly ordinary smoke billowing out of a chimney? There are a lot of "why"s in this movie that just seem awfully unrealistic (beyond normal "suspension of disbelief") and serve to unravel the promise that movie held for me, both in my anticipation and the quality of the beginning. Also the lack of resolution in the "Johanna situation" as the movie ends abruptly failed to wrap things up in a way that could possibly redeem the movie. So while I really want to like Sweeney Todd, there are too many little and not so little hangups that prevent me from doing so in more than a neutral way. Pity...

The Bourne Ultimatum

Action with a purpose. And it's not a George Clooney "listen to me as I hate on the government in a movie" type of purpose either. I really liked the movie, as I did the whole series, because it gives us method for madness. And while the whole story isn't really so original (Jessica Alba was Jason Bourne in the forgettable scifi series, "Dark Angel") there's a sense of something that I can't exactly place that is added to the well-done action aspects that make the Bourne movies exceptional. Maybe it's the indestructability of Jason Bourne, where the movie doesn't feel obligated to always have him get his butt kicked for a while and only when it looks like he's going to lose he starts kicking th other guy's butt. You always know Jason Bourne is going to win, because he was trained to be a cold, calculating, perfect assassin. That's refreshing.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)

This surpassed my high expectations and stands as one of my favorite superhero movies ever (after Batman Begins and possibly Superman 2...). Although I had doubts about Robert Downey Jr (not because of talent or anything, I absolutely love him, but because of his age) he pulls off Tony Stark rather well. The attention to detail of Iron Man really prevented it from falling prey to the plot contrivances and after-thought motivations and whatnot of other, lesser-quality, superhero movies (Fantastic Four, X-Men 3, etc.). Plus the success of the film looks as if it may lead to a Marvel Renaissance of sorts, with an Avengers movie in the works and, hopefully, more well-made Marvel movies.

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai)

Seven Samurai is like Home Alone but instead of Macauly Culkin defending his house, you have seven samurai and about 100 people defending a village. Instead of "Wet Bandits" you have normal (and more vicious) bandits. Otherwise, same story: good guys come up with intricate plans to save something (a village instead of a house) from intruders. Oh yeah, Seven Samurai is awesome and epic and near perfect where Home Alone is not so much.

Space Jam
Space Jam(1996)

The nostalgia alone makes this movie special in my heart. The sheer lunacy of the premise makes it funny. The freshness of Michael Jordan on the cover of the VHS make it classy.

Throne of Blood

So I don't know anything about Macbeth, but I adored this movie. Washizu is a commander of a fortress outside of the Spider's Web castle who meets an "evil spirit" that fortells that he will become lord of the Spider's Web castle. Washizu proceeds to assure that this prophecy will come true no matter what the cost (at first only due to the urgings of his manipulative wife), raising questions about the legitimacy of the actual prophecy. Throne of Blood is a great character study and a good example of the old adage: power corrupts (although in this case, it is more suitably "promise of power corrupts").

The Matrix Revolutions

Give peace a chance!
I don't understand what people don't like about this. "Oh. It's too different from the original vision of the Matrix." Well that's to bad. You cannot judge a sequel on the merits of the original. So don't. The Matrix Revolutions is a phenomenal movie, no matter what your friends say. Everything laid out in the previous films (mostly Reloaded) is handled adequately and is wrapped up nicely. The action is out of this world (in the Matrix, perhaps?) awesome. The final fight between Neo and Smith was so outstanding that I am having trouble thinking of a better fight scene in any movie that I have ever seen. Revolutions only about 60% action, though. The underlying themes of humanity are still there and possibly even moreso than in Reloaded. Facing the risk of sounding too giddy about this movie, I will end my incessant praise for Revolutions and stop scolding those who dislike it (Maybe they have become too cool for it? Maybe they think the Matrix has "sold out"? It's a movie! It's supposed to make money! The first one wasn't an indie by any means anyway! Get over yourselves!). Anyway, my few gripes about this movie: It is awfully segmented, with a large portion of time spent with Zion, then with Neo. It would've been cool/more involving to find a way to intersperse the parts better; there is another rave/trance scene. That's it. The Matrix Revolutions is not as good as the original, I'll say that much, but I think it is closer to the original's quality than many think and is a fine bookend to a fantastic trilogy. Plus I think that JK Rowling ripped this off a bit to finish up the Harry Potter series. A train station between worlds?? Harry and Voldemort as the "same but opposite" (Neo vs. Smith)???

(I'm sorry if I offended anyone who dislikes the film. Wait... you know what? Actually I'm not...)

The Animatrix

This was really a great compilation. There was no inherent "weak link" in the Animatrix although the segments that stand out as the best are definitely "The Second Renaissance Parts I and II" which show, through news segments and a documentary-ish feel, how the world became controlled by the machines. The Animatrix is perfect for an extra serving of the Matrix to whet fans' appettite and, as a whole, is just as good as the movies themselves.

The Matrix Reloaded
½

No it's not as good as the first, but how could it be? The Matrix Reloaded is about as good as I could've expected. There is some stupid extraneous stuff that clutters the movie a bit without doing much (just about everything in Zion, especially the techno/trance/sex montage) and there is much more of a focus on action. Despite this, the focus is still on the problems laid out in the first movie: the agents, the machines, the matrix. Some questions are answered (albeit not many) while some are frustratingly put off for the final installment. Overall, Reloaded is a much better than average movie that only suffers because it cannot live up to the quality of the first, which should not be held against it.

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Alfonso Cuaron got it right. He made a teen sex comedy, a road movie, and a coming of age story all rolled into one. And it works, very well. The cinematography is fantastic, like Cuaron's other work in Children of Men and Prisoner of Azkaban, and the thematic elements of the movie beg for interpretation of the film's underlying meaning. The one thing that hold's Y Tu Mama Tambien (in a way) is its sexuality. I, myself, had no problem with it, and it was necessary to shape the characters and the narrative. However, I cannot imagine that I would be comfortable watching this movie with anybody for fear of an awkward feel in the room on par with when I watched Boogie Nights with my little brother.

Amores Perros
½

I watched this film for a class, so perhaps my pre-viewing reading assignments skew my opinion of it, but I really enjoyed it despite missing the first (and most people say the best) chapter. So I can only imagine that I will enjoy Amores Perros even more on a second viewing.

Kandahar: Le soleil derri鋨e la lune
½

It's a well-done movie that is especially effective at giving American audiences a taste of Afghani culture. I can imagine respecting this movie a lot more had there not been so many other worldly films that have been released since Kandahar. But, that being the case, I was not particularly impressed with Kandahar.

Shall We Dance? (Shall We Dansu?)

I was very charmed by this movie. The kooky (although stock) characters were funny and the plot was certainly better than American "dance" movies (if you can call "stomping the yard" dancing), but I think most of my enjoyment came merely from the fact that it was Japanese, rather than out of the merit of the film itself. It is for that reason that I will not see the Richard Gere remake.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

What makes this movie truly exceptional is the absolutely perfect chemistry between Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Because of this, the quality of the movie as a whole transcends the plot, which is good but not great.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I've said this before, but it deserves to be reiterated: 2007 is the best year ever in terms of cinema. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly could easily have been my favorite film of the year, but because of other masterpieces I have seen from 2007, it will likely get lost in the shuffle of my memory. At least I will always have this review to remind me of how great it was.

Diving Bell is a masterful true story portrait of a man named Jean-Do who, after a spinal malfunction (I didn't catch the name), becomes completely paralyzed save for his left eye. This handicap, called being "locked in" your own body, forces Jean-Do to reflect on his life. Although he may have felt happy as he was living his life, being confined in his own body gives him the chance to consider whether or not he lived life to the fullest. He contemplates his decisions concerning women that he loves/loved, his relationships with his children and his father, and the dreams that he left unfulfilled. He accomplishes one of these dreams by writing a book through a very patient translator (he can only communicate one letter at a time through blinking) about his life and experience being "locked in". The movie is cinematically fascinating, with about one half being shown through Jean-Do's sole eye of the world and the rest emitting a experimental sort of vibe that meshes well with the nature of the film.

The Celebration (Festen)
½

I was very surprised by how much I liked this film. This was the second dogme 95 movie I've seen and I absolutely hated the first, Julien Donkey-Boy, so I had low expectation for films in the movement. This was totally different than JD-B, though. A movie about the ultimate (and not stereotypically so) dysfunctional family whose big, dirty secret is let out in a big way at the patriarch's birthday gala event. Overall grand movie.

Saw IV
Saw IV(2007)

The dreaded half-star...
I could find very little (aka zero) redeeming qualities for this movie. I don't know what it accomplishes. I could rant and rave about everything that is wrong with this movie and how it makes me sick that people pay $8 to see this in theaters, but my disgust for this film is too incoherent and PO'ed to be put into words. I regret watching it, but I guess I have no one to blame but myself. And the filmmakers.

The editing was...interesting. I can't tell if I liked it or not. Probably not.

Julien Donkey-Boy

I'm just not feeling the whole minimalist, dogma 95 deal. If these people have such contempt for modern filmmaking, why do they make films? Why not go paint something? This could've been a good, interesting movie but because of the snobby "low production values as a way of sticking it to the man" vibe I got from it, I just couldn't take it, which is a shame.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

"I expected applause."
Despite the title of the film, Robert Ford was no coward. Instead he was a meek and attention-hungry child in a man's body and with a man's responsibilities. He was by no means in the wrong for killing Jesse James (who, to be fair, was merely biding his time before killing Ford) and did not deserve the $hitstorm that he received upon doing the deed. The tension that the movie builds and builds upon between Jesse and Robert is so great that there is more dramatic tension in one scene than many movies have throughout their running time. The movie never makes it clear, however, who the hero is: Jesse James or Robert Ford. James is an outlaw bandit but is portrayed as charming, Robert Ford is in cahoots with James and, stemming from that relationship has killed two men (before he kills James) but has mostly good intentions. No matter which particular character one chooses to side with, it is impossible to not feel for Robert Ford as he is at first celebrated and then widely maligned and ridiculed for bringing the most notorious criminal to justice.

I'm Not There

I continue to be impressed with the films of 2007! I began watching I'm Not There expecting it to be weird, but to more or less chronicle Bob Dylan's career. What it does instead (and what took me half the movie to understand and respect) is play out 6 different Dylan situations that are, within the film, completely separate from each other. What results is a far more interesting, far quirkier, far less self-serious, version of Babel and Crash. In essence, it was what I have been looking for since watching both of those movies, as well as "by the book" biopics like Walk the Line.

Showgirls
Showgirls(1995)
½

So I had previously given this film 2.5 stars and had written a mercilessly negative review. Upon further thought and some followup reading about the nuances (who knew?) of Showgirls, I am replacing my previous rating with one that I feel is more fair.

Showgirls is NC-17 and therefore contains a LOT of sex and nudity. Alright, cool, that's great. But why? I now have an answer to that question. What I failed to understand before was that Showgirls was intended to be a satire of America's sexual attitudes and tendency to exploit sexuality for entertainment. This is epitomized by Nomi's "ascension" from employment at a seedy strip joint to a "classy" nude stage show. There are numerous other examples of satire of issues such as race, stardom, etc. that I also overlooked. What really throws off a casual viewer of Showgirls and blinds them from seeing "the picture" is the subtlety (again, who knew?) of the satirical elements. In most satires, sarcasm, irony, and tongue in cheek run rampant making the "real" meaning obvious. Showgirls does no do that, which is frustratingly original. If I can assume that other viewers will overlook these satirical elements like I had until following up on the film, I believe it's safe to say that Showgirls puts too much faith in its audience, and suffers the consequences.

Cinema Paradiso (Nuovo Cinema Paradiso)

What an enjoyable, sweet movie. I enjoyed the first part the most, when Toto is so enchanted by films. The rest of Cinema Paradiso is not too bad either, though, as you witness Toto grow up and become isolated from his "dead end" town.

Am幨ie
Am幨ie(2001)

A happy little movie that helps me "put a smile on". The characters are very unique, the romance is very unique, the cinematography is...very French. I like how bizarre things were despite it not being a "bizarre movie" per se. Amelie is a movie that, if done in the wrong hands, could be one of those pretentious indie quirky movies where nothing really happens and the characters are all whiny and everything is a mess. Luckily it wasn't, and instead is a refreshing movie about just being nice to people.

Beowulf
Beowulf(2007)
½

This movie was pretty good. While I feel it is safe to say that it isn't really a cinematic masterpiece, it is an all out testosterone trip. Plus it's all in cgi, which is really cool in some parts but really freakin creepy in other parts. I've never read the epic poem or whatever, so I can't compare it to that. The part I enjoyed the most was when Beowulf was eaten by a sea monster then cuts open the monster's eye from the inside, climbs out of the eye wound, stands on the monsters head, throws his arms in the air victoriously and yells his own name loudly. It was hysterical.

The Sweet Hereafter

I found myself really enjoying this movie. My attention did not shift, my thoughts did not wander although it seems like a movie where that may happen. The Sweet Hereafter tells the story of a town awash with grief after a school bus "accident" kills a significant number of the town's children. It is told mostly from the point of view of a lawyer as he approaches the various family's in hopes of persuading them to file a major lawsuit against the manufacturers of the bus. The characters in The Sweet Hereafter were complex and real which was both refreshing and a problem. Real, complex people are difficult to understand. Thusly, although I understood the movie, I found myself unsure what was going on amongst the characters as silent battles were waged and seemingly rash actions were taken. I would venture to guess that upon a second viewing (if I get the chance, it's not exactly a Spielberg movie in terms of wide popularity...) I will come away with a better understanding of the nuances and intricacies of the characters that provide for the film's focus.

28 Days Later
½

I went into this expecting it to be scary, because that's what the dvd cover said. Well, it was hardly scary but it was pretty good, with the whole aspect of morals when the world goes to hell. Surprisingly, the movie is a lot less exciting when the zombies are ever-present and is more exciting when Cillian Murphy goes psycho and kills all of the rapist soldiers.

Resident Evil: Extinction
½

I have never seen the first couple movies of the franchise, so I really don't know how this compares, but after watching this frustratingly mind numbing movie I am more than uninterested in watching the first two. It just seems like the plot was made up entirely of plot devices, as if the movie was made with only an ending in mind (which sets up for another sequal, by the way) and just put in other stuff to get the audience to that point. It's always cool to see zombies get killed, but there comes a point where more is needed to make a movie interesting.

Michael Clayton

What kind of people want to be lawyers? Michael Clayton shows a world where lawyers are so immoral that when one of them has an epiphany about the wrongness of his profession, he is seen no longer as a person, but as a liability to his firm. The lack of morals does not stop there, though, as a mega-incorporation stoops to killing (sometimes unsuccessfully) to remove all obstacles that get in their way. Luckily, though, there is Michael Clayton who, more or less, rights all of the wrongs mentioned above. This movie was much better than I had expected. It was constantly being described as a "legal thriller" which sounded very uninteresting to me. Needless to say, I am glad I gave it a chance. George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson give fantastic performances, though I was not that blown away by Tilda Swinton (what was so special about her performance that it warranted an Oscar?). I also greatly enjoyed the script. An example of the depth of the script is when Michael Clayton sees the horses and spontaneously stops his car to see them. At that moment, he realizes the beauty of nature and how that nature is being compromised by a company which is being protected by his firm. He doesn't say what he is feeling through dialogue, but you can see it all through the wordless scene.

Into the Wild

My favorite movie ever! I had been looking forward to this movie for a long time before watching it in hopes that it would really speak to my desire for adventure. Not only did it deliver in that regard, in a way that I never could've imagined, but it also gave me a new outlook on life. Christopher McCandless, alias "Alexander Supertramp," embarks on his adventure to escape what he feels are trappings of human society: materialism, status, greedy priorities, and the generic cookie-cutter structure of life. The movie portrays Alexander Supertramp at once as a pioneer and as a naive headstrong young man, and Emile Hirsch is pitch perfect in playing the complex role. As Alex begins to starve once reaching "the wild" of Alaska, you see the extent of Hirsch's transformation into the role to a point where he could be referred to as "Chrisian Bale Version 2.0" in terms of his extreme weightloss. Hirsch is not the only noteworthy performance, however. All of the supporting turns, including Catherine Keener, Hal Holbrook, and Vince Vaughn, are also emotionally engaging and give further depth to the movie. It is also worth noting that the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder is phenomenal, both in the movie and in its own regards. Into the Wild is, in my opinion, the ultimate counter-culture film despite it being released in the wrong decade and is the best, deepest, most thought-provoking film that I have ever seen.

Atonement
Atonement(2007)

Although the first half was much better than the second, in my opinion, the whole movie does very well of keeping the audience "in it." I really like how they would do "mini-flashbacks" to show multiple perspectives of events that otherwise would be unexplained. The ending was in no way disappointing, although it was definitely not the conclusion we would hope for.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
½

A really really good movie. Possibly the best children's movie of all time. 25 years later, it still holds up and is as emotionally powerful as it was upon its release (I assume anyway...). Vintage Spielberg.

The Last of the Mohicans
½

Maybe I'm just not a big fan of period epics or something, but The Last of the Mohicans did not impress me very much at all. It certainly wasn't bad, but there was nothing that stood out in my mind. Absolutely nothing. It seemed as if it just told a basic story in a basic way. Of course, there was nothing wrong with it but still...

Flashdance
Flashdance(1983)

Holy S-word! I actually enjoyed Flashdance! Even though it suffered from a bunch of stuff that usually irks me in other movies (stupid misunderstandings, cliche, unnecessary scenes, cliche, and cliche) I just laughed it all off for some unknown reason. And by laughing off all of the really cheesy bits, you have yourself one huge laugh-fest, because that's all Flashdance is: cheese. That said, I really did get goosebumps in the final dance performance...so it must've done some dramatic things right. And Jennifer Beals is pretty, except for the big hair...

The Protector (Tom yum goong) (Warrior King)
½

A sort of modern day Sonny Chiba type gritty martial arts movie. Like many of Chiba's movies, it involves a reluctant hero who becomes entwined in some kind of organized crime racket led by caricatures who employ highly unskilled martial artists who are easily disposed by the aforementioned hero (be it Chiba or Tony Jaa). While my basic plot description may sound like a bad thing I can assure you that it is not. While there is no deep thinking involved, questionable dialogue, underutilized characters, and other contrivances, it is sheer entertainment while being much better than American "sheer entertainment" movies like Transformers (which I think I hate, by the way...)

Paper Moon
Paper Moon(1973)

I had never heard of this movie before I watched it but am glad that I gave it a chance. I really enjoyed Ryan O'Neal as Moses the lowlife con-man. He was pigheaded at times (most of the time), but he still made the character relatable and sympathetic. I also enjoyed the 30s Depression-era feel of it, which was done very convincingly.

Equilibrium
Equilibrium(2002)
½

I think that all of the comparisons between Equilibrium and the Matrix should stop. They are two separate movies that share a few commonalities. That's it. While the Matrix was undoubtedly better than Equilibrium, it is still a very good film. I tend to be a fan of any Christian Bale movie, and this was no different. It was a very interesting 1984-Faranheit 451 type of idea, with more heavy gunplay (or "gun-kata") I was a bit let down by the ending reveal of "father" (which I had predicted well before the "surprise!" moment) and the subsequent final gun battle which was much to complicated and kind of stupid. Other than that, though...rock on Equilibrium. Rock on.

Jaws
Jaws(1975)

I imagine this movie would be MUCH better had I seen it when it was new. But much of the elements that made it so outstanding when it was released have been copied and even done much better in the 30ish years since. No matter who you are, though, this movie demands respect and is very good on its own merit, even today. Just not great.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

A quality movie about a group of lowlifes who, after a high stakes card game goes awry, scramble to find $500,000 to pay off a major debt. Although there are many facets to the plot, it is not too difficult to follow along. Also, it's funny. Also, it has Jason Statham. Also, everyone has British accents!

Paris Je T'aime

A nearly flawless collection of "short stories" about the complexities of love. I found there to be no weak chapter in the film, although there were some I enjoyed much more than others. The true standout shorts, for me, was the bizarre Elijah Wood vampire romance and the story of the child with mime parents.

The Eye
The Eye(2008)

If one were to walk into this movie with low expectations, they are likely to be more or less satisfied. The dialogue is absolutely terrible oft-times and, as much as I love to look at her, Jessica Alba is, frankly, a terrible actress. But the idea is fairly interesting (attribute that to the Japanese) and there are a few "jump out of nowhere" type scares.

Rambo III
Rambo III(1988)

Balls out action. Explosions, rippling muscles, and testosterone run rampant in this film. And that's a good thing. Kind of unfortunate that it was dedicated to all of the courageous Afghanis or whatnot.

The Illusionist

I don't understand why this movie is constantly compared to the Prestige. Aside from both having magicians and being set in the same time period, the plot really bears no similarities. Both are fantastic films, though. The Illusionist is a very well-made movie with Norton, Giamatti, and Rufus Sewell all giving great performances.

There Will Be Blood

There was so much to this movie that the 2 hour 38 minute run time seems to fly by. In fact, the movie was so layered and multidimensional that about halfway through I thought to myself, "I can't wait to watch this again." Daniel Plainview is hands down one of the most disturbing characters ever to grace the big screen, and is played to perfection by Daniel Day-Lewis. Plainview is so absorbed in his own life that he disregards every single person he comes into contact with as scum to be done away with. The few people who stand a legitimate shot at helping the man (Eli, HW, and Henry) are only ruined by the man they attempt to save from ruin. I cannot say enough about this film. Perfection.

Bonnie and Clyde
½

This movie really is definitive of its era. I can imagine it being shocking at the time. *gasp* Sympathizing with criminals!! Scandalous! People getting shot in the face!! *double gasp* I thought Blanche was unbearably annoying, though. Like, she was so annoying that I could not tolerate any scene in which she was seen, heard, or even mentioned. I was legitimately surprised to see a little Gene Wilder action in the middle of the movie, by the way. Oh yeah, Faye Dunaway was gorgeous.

Domino
Domino(2005)

Disjointed, frenetic, epilleptic, or whatever you want to call it...but I still enjoyed it. A more or less basic action movie with nauseatingly quick cuts that, in my opinion, made it pretty cool. The plot is a little bit suspect, though, and I was not sure what was going on for about the last twenty minutes but all of this stuff aside, Domino can be summed up in an equation: mindless action + heavy stylization + Keira Knightley = definitely worth watching.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)
½

I don't know what to say about this. It really epitomizes the brainless summer action movie. Sure, it was pretty entertaining for the most part...but would be much more entertaining if the dialogue wasn't terrible. While there were other weaknesses to the movie, none was as noticeable or annoying as the cheesy dialogue. Shia LaBeouf should be nominated for an Oscar just for making some of his lines seem halfway intelligent and convincing.

Idiocracy
Idiocracy(2006)

While Idiocracy is a good movie, I get the feeling it could've been much much better. It is an original idea as far as comedies go, but the execution keeps it from elevating from "slightly better than run of the mill" comedy to clever social commentary.

Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines
½

I wish this movie was not widely dismissed as a crap follow up to two great movies. Terminator 3 is really not so bad, and in my opinion is better than the first film. There are a lot more schlocky and stupid lines of dialogue in this movie than the first two, but that is really my only problem with it. The T-X is also arguably underutilized, but it doesn't really detract from anything. I get the feeling that if James Cameron had directed this film, Terminator 3 would be considered a worthy movie in the Terminator trilogy, rather than the bastard stepchild.

Bedazzled
Bedazzled(2000)

Really good. The devil is hot! This has been a guilty pleasure of mine since like 5th or 6th grade.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

This is an almost flawless movie that really expands and improves upon the original. While "The Terminator" was more or less a chase movie, T2 is so much more. Granted, a lot of the cool stuff that happens in T2 was not possible in 1984 when "The Terminator" was made because of the vast difference in movie technology.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)

Undoubtedly my favorite western that I have ever seen (although I have not seen many). Christian Bale delivers once again as a rancher who, after a series of events, finds himself escorting a criminal to a train station. What I enjoyed the most was the gradual change in Russell Crowe's character. Over the course of the movie, he becomes less and less of a heartless bastard and begins to respect Dan Evan's (Christian Bale) way of life.

The Terminator
½

Schwarzenegger delivers in the role that made him an icon. It is undoubtedly frightening to consider a remorseless, invincible killing machine who cannot and will not stop until it kills its target. Despite the scary-movie potential, James Cameron turns the movie into a thoughtful action film that holds up very well after 24 years and countless cgi developments.

Vacancy
Vacancy(2007)
½

This movie is not quite scary enough to overcome an extreme lack of plot.

Little Giants

Full of children's movie cliches, Little Giants is still an entertaining movie to watch and is likely to be enjoyable for all people who watched dozens of movies similar to this during their childhood.

Rescue Dawn
Rescue Dawn(2007)

A fantastic film that seems almost real (probably due to the fact that it is based off of a true story and is filmed by talented documentarian Werner Herzog). Christian Bale never fails to amaze me. He may possibly be the best actor of his generation and one of the most versatile actors of all-time.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)
½

Okay, so this movie is not that good, especially when comparing it to the much better first 2 Spider-Man movies. It does not, however, "suck" like Charles Barkley says it does, it merely "disappoints." The trouble with Spider-Man 3 is they knew it is likely to be the last Spider-Man movie in a while so they tried to cram it full of stuff that should have been spread out in multiple movies. They never should've made Harry such a dickhead (because his butler, Bernard could've told him a long time ago that papa Osborne died of his own hand), not do the whole Hobgoblin thing, should've made Sandman more of badarse, and should've given Venom more time to be awesome. If they did all of that stuff, everyone would be talking about how awesome Spider-Man 3 is instead of how bad it is. If only...

Apocalypto
Apocalypto(2006)
½

Well I'm certainly glad I finally gave this movie a try. Despite all of the reviews saying it was nothing but a bunch of natives killing each other, I thought there was a great deal more to it. It does portray violence among these native people in Central America, but it does not portray them as savages. I very good movie.

Hard Candy
Hard Candy(2006)

I just don't know what to think about this movie. If anything, it kind of makes you feel bad for a pedophile. Kind of... Yikes... I really didn't like it. The acting and whatnot was okay, but I just can't get over it. Nobody deserves what Haylee did to this Geoff guy, no matter what. It makes me feel the way I feel when I watch "To Catch a Predator" where you know the people are sick and perverted and stuff, but it should definitely not be handled the way it's being handled. I really don't know what to say... This movie is certainly not for everybody. In fact, it's probably not for many people...

Jurassic Park

This movie is AWESOME! I'm trying to think of weaknesses and am struggling...I guess I wish Samuel L Jackson didn't die, but that is the only problem with this movie. Other than that, it is total 90s awesome. Jeff Goldblum is the man, by the way.

Marie Antoinette

Well if this movie has nothing else going for it, it does have an EXCELLENT soundtrack. But I think it has other stuff going for it, so there's always that. I really like the costumes, the scenery, etc. But I also like how it kind of looks at, realistically, how a rebellious and self-absorbed teenager would act when thrown into the situation of becoming queen. In a way it's almost like the movie, Pleasantville: A teenager with 21st century materialism and behaviors is stuck in the 18th century and her lifestyle rubs off on the other people. To be honest, I don't care if it's not historically accurate, I still think it's a good movie. It does end up feeling kind of long, but I still really enjoyed it.

Crank
Crank(2006)

This movie is absolutely INSANE! I expected just a run of the mill crazy action movie, but I got a just plain CRAZY ACTION MOVIE! There are a lot of frenetic cuts and everything that just give the movie an aura of adrenaline.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

It was actually better than I expected, but my expectations were rather low. There is just too much stupid nonsensical and grossly unrealistic solutions to all of the "Great American Secrets."

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

My all-time favorite Christmas movie. I really like the naivete of all the Rankin/Bass movies as well as the crude animation. I think that is what gives them their charm. And Rudolph has more charm than any of them. Plus there are anti-racism overtones.

No Country for Old Men

Absolutely fantastic. There is so much to this movie, which could have turned into an average chase movie. Karma, greed, and the reality of violence all factor in to the experience. It slowed down a smidge at about the hour and a half mark, only to pick it up again for the controversial ending. By far the best Coen brothers movie, although very different from the others. I'm crossing my fingers for a Best Picture.

Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump(1994)
½

People who don't love this movie are not only soulless, but they're anti-American!

Frosty the Snowman
½

I love this! There are so many things about it that seem really naive, but in a good way. I love the evil magician, especially when he falls and all of his magical items pop out! Hahaha...whew!

The Muppet Christmas Carol

One of the most charming Christmas movies I have ever seen. The only low point to the movie is the slow ballad that Scrooge's former flame sings when she breaks his cold, uncaring heart. Everything else is AWESOME!

The Breakfast Club
½

Okay, so until last night I had never actually seen the Breakfast Club in its entirety, instead only seeing bits and pieces on tv every now and then. Really, though, this movie is a classic as far as teen films go. The Breakfast Club pokes fun at other teen movies' reliance on cliches by setting up stereotypical characters, then infusing multiple dimensions to their personalities. I like it!

King Kong
King Kong(2005)
½

I had never seen the old movies before I watched this one, which I think helped the moviegoing experience. I just remember leaving the theater with (almost) a tear in my eye, thinking about how crappy humans are to kill such a majestic creature...

The Ring
The Ring(2002)
½

This was a pretty scary movie if you want it to be. I've seen it twice...the first time in a group where we decided to point out all of the plot contrivances and cheesy stupid type stuff. But the second time I watched it, without snarky comments, I got pretty creeped out.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
½

I really like the Lord of the Rings movies when I can find four friggin hours to sit down and watch them...which is pretty hard to do. So, all in all, it is merely the length that holds back these otherwise awesome movies, and the Return of the King is the worst culprit.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Used to be one of my favorites and is probably still pretty funny now, too, although it has been a while since I've seen it. I remember that when I used to watch it as a child I didn't really understand the whole "she is really a he" thing, which made the end kind of confusing to me. "LACES OUT, DAN!"

Wedding Crashers

I liked this movie okay, but when movies get overhyped and quoted a lot, I tend to think less of them. Plus, it seemed like everyone I talked to during this movie's heyday liked it better than the 40 year old Virgin. I just can't respect that.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Okay so this movie kind of just plain peeved me off. I did not enjoy over 2 hours of a brooding Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker whining about how crappy he gets treated by other Jedi when he is super powerful. And then just because he doesn't get everything he wants he freaks out and starts killing his former allies who rescued him from a crappy life on Tatooine only ten or so years ago.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
½

Obviously the best in the trilogy because it didn't try to be anything too special. The last two became more and more spectacle, less and less make sense but this movie was adept at doing both.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

This is the ultimate popcorn movie. Despite it's laughably unrealistic plot and characters, sometimes it's just cool to see people get shot at and watch stuff blow up.

Bruce Almighty

It's a fun movie to watch. It is strange to think that only 4 years ago, Jim Carrey was the marquee name and Steve Carell was a nobody. The times are a-changin.

Rocky
Rocky(1976)

Although there are tons of rags to riches boxing movies, this one still remains as one of the greater ones.

Gladiator
Gladiator(2000)
½

This movie was a tad long, but it kept me interested the whole time. I could've done with less incestuous brother-sister royal strife but, when intermixed with a crapton of action, made for a good balance.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated
½

Well I really enjoyed the subject matter of this movie and walked away from it with some (but not too much) hatred for the mpaa. I agree that movies should have warnings of their subject matter so that people don't just walk in to see a movie and realize that it's lewd or ultraviolent. But other than that, the mpaa is total BS. Towards the end I was kind of annoyed by the "re-enactments" which seemed awfully onesided, but I suppose if they had wanted to the mpaa could've agreed to being recorded and supply the film with their own rebuttals. Oh! Another thing, I think it is ridiculous that precedents are not allowed when a film appeals their rating. So stupid...

Snatch
Snatch(2001)

I was a little worried that the plot would be too convoluted and hard to follow, so I watched it with the subtitles. I'm glad I did, because it really made the movie easy to keep up with and it added to what turned out to be an awesome movie in a similar vein as Layer Cake, etc. I wish Benicio Del Toro was in it more, though, for he is the man.

Zodiac
Zodiac(2007)
½

This movie was much too long and especially drags toward the middle. But if you can stick it out, it is an excellent movie, especially toward the end. Just make sure you get that far without nodding off...

Reign Over Me
½

This movie was really touching. It got me vulnerable at parts. There was, however, quite a lull for a bit where it seems like it's just treading water. I adore Don Cheadle, though. He is the MAN!

We Are the Strange
½

Holy f-word! This IS the weirdest movie ever. There will be no discussion about this topic. It is kind of interesting to watch but it is most certainly not for everyone. In fact it's probably not for many people...

The Corporation
½

Even though I agree with many of the points this documentary is trying to make, the heavyhandedness and self-rightesousness with which the interviewed experts spout off facts and anecdotes really annoyed me. I am bothered when documentaries try to prove a point but do not utilize interviews from the side they are repeatedly bashing. It would be much more convincing if there had been interviews of McDonalds or Wal-Mart people as well as complete left wing anti-corporation people. The strongest argument is one that addresses both sides but still makes a strong point. Also, the images and video clips were awfully scatterbrained, distracting from many of the voiceover interviews.

About a Boy
About a Boy(2002)
½

I enjoyed this movie a lot. I don't really know what to say about it, but it was really good. It is the rare chick-flick that isn't really a romance, more like just a relationship movie. I don't know if that makes sense...

Dead Silence
Dead Silence(2007)
½

Alright, so the movie itself is just plain ridiculous, no doubt about that. But when it wasn't being held back by crappy dialogue and questionable character motives, this movie was uber uber creepy. Mary Shaw with the screwed up face freaked me out every time she showed up. Half of the other stuff was really scary too. I like it better than the Saw movies, which may not really say much, but still...

Hide and Seek
½

This was seriously probably the scariest movie I have seen. I don't know if it's just because of the environment I was watching it in or what, but I was jumping at every part that the makers wanted me to jump at. I can't think of many movies that I can say that about.

The Exorcist
The Exorcist(1973)
½

Pretty creepy, most definitely. Luckily, I'm Catholic so I should have nothing to worried about. That's what I tell myself anyway...

The Shining
The Shining(1980)
½

I actually like Stephen King's book better, although that's not to say I did not like the movie, which was f-ing creepy despite many liberties taken with the story.

The Usual Suspects

Keeps you guessing until the huge twist at the end. Would've been better if my mom didn't spoil the ending.

Planet Terror (Grindhouse Presents: Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror)

This movie is everything that is right with movies. Uber entertaining all the way through, humorous, Marley Shelton, zombies, and more! I wish I didn't have to see "melting manhood" as I call it, though. Plus I hate Quentin Tarantino the actor. He should stay behind the camera in my opinion.

Monsters, Inc.
½

This movie is just another Pixar movie, definitely not the best but probably not the worst. In these movies there are a bunch of "oh that conveniently moves the plot" or "luckily that happened, or else things would be too easy for the good guys" moments. That kind of stuff tends to annoy me after a while.

Rash獽on
Rash獽on(1951)
½

This movie surpassed my expectations. It is the first Kurosawa film that I have seen and the fact that it was made 57 years ago makes it all the more impressive. When I watched Hero for the first time, the flashback to tell a story that affects the present seemed monumental. But this film does it earlier. It also raises questions about the dishonesty and selfishness of mankind in the sake of self-preservation. I did notice, however, that in the fighting scenes, the people tripped and fell down a lot. Weird.