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Rating History

Mamma Mia!
Mamma Mia! (2008)
8 years ago via Flixster

I'm giving this one 3.5 stars, but really, it's completely unrateable - as I said over and over again when I first watched it, it's either the best movie I've ever seen or the worst.

DO NOT watch this if you don't like musicals or think you're too smart to enjoy a silly movie. Also, don't watch this if you're looking for any sort of story or coherence, or you're expecting to pick a movie apart. That will just spoil it.

That being said, Mamma Mia! is a sunny, sotted mess of a movie that can't help but make you laugh, whether for the right or the wrong reasons. It's absolutely atrociously choreographed and a completely ridiculous movie that doesn't even try to be remotely realistic - Meryl Streep as the mother of a 20-year-old conceived in the Summer of Flower Power, all while talking about the Internets, anyone? - but it IS gosh-darn entertaining. A review I read somewhere described this as a screechy hen night, while another said it was like being very, very drunk. I agree with both of those, especially when you get to the scenes where Donna (Streep) and her Dynamos prance and pose in turquoise boas, psychedelic jumpsuits and cowboy boots (oh those boots!)

The best thing about this movie is that it doesn't try whatsoever to take itself seriously; I mean, the ridiculousness of the chorus popping up and facing the camera each time someone starts singing, or Meryl Streep drunkenly asking the audience if they want an encore in the closing credits, is rather charming in the way your man-eating grandma is charming after a few drinks - it's funny, although it can get a bit embarrassing too. I felt especially uncomfortable to see a skeletal Christine Baranski, so wonderful in Chicago and "Cybill," hamming it up as a cougar in a plunging dress who charms a rather girly, short bartender dude in "Does Your Mother Know?" but at least she's having fun, I suppose...?

Indeed, everyone's having a gay old time here (sometimes literally!), and it's rather refreshing to see the usually stiff-upper-lip Brits Julie Walters and Colin Firth don their dancing shoes and act mad for a bit. Walters, especially, is hysterically awesome in her spiky-haired, spunky role, although she doesn't get to sing much.

Then there's Streep, of course; I wouldn't say this is a fantastic role for her, but it is a bit of a treat to see her do the splits in mid-air and have a bit of fun, although she gets a bit maudlin in "The Winner Takes It All," and I was a little scared of her when she popped on screen with full Tammy Faye Bakker-style makeup. Still, she's entertaining to watch, and I can't complain about her.

I can, however, complain about poor Pierce Brosnan, who although is still yummy after all these years ruined the effect every time he opened his mouth. It would have been alright if he'd ended up singing a bunch of silly songs, but unfortunately he got stuck with the earnest torch songs that really suffered from his weak, old-man singing voice. Absolutely awful. He seems out of place in a cast full of silly hippies behaving badly, but I suppose somebody's got to do it?

On the other side of the spectrum is the delightful Amanda Seyfried, whose voice is just a pleasure to listen to. Her role is a bit thankless because really, the focus isn't on her despite the fact that she's on the poster, but she's pleasant to watch and she has a good amount of energy onscreen. Quite a different role from her ditzy weather-forecasting Karen in Mean Girls.

I'd probably be able to watch this many, many times, but it's definitely not for everyone. A lot of fun!

The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)
8 years ago via Flixster

I was amazed at how modern this film was despite being made half a century ago; The 400 Blows is a delicate portrayal of troubled youth and its rare joys, elevated by the performance of its magnetic lead, Jean-Pierre Leaud as Antoine Doinel. For his young age in this movie, Leaud is wonderfully adult, and you see him growing up before your eyes in a spectacular nuanced performance, especially in that scene where he's talking to the psychologist about his past. Magnificent. And the famous final scenes of the movie as Antoine escapes from the camp are absolutely stunning, or in the words of another critic, "indelible." This movie reminds me a little of Bunuel's Los Olvidados in its portrayal of kids slipping through the cracks, but I feel ...Blows is definitely more delicate in its treatment of the subject, and is something many will identify with. Probably my only problem with it is that it seems so unfinished, which is why I'm excited to see the rest of the Antoine Doinel series. Beautiful work.

UPDATE: I saw it again on the big screen last night, and while I fell asleep (again!) near the beginning, the movie is far from boring, and in fact seemed to gain more magic in this viewing, with Truffaut's direction helping to bring out all of Antoine's varied emotions - I especially love the scene where he peers out through the bars of the police car as tears streak down his face, looking as if he's seeing his city for the first - and last - time. The scene does infinitely more to convey the regret and clarity a prisoner must feel as he leaves the world he knows, than any monologue or other device.

It's a remarkably sympathetic, realistic movie, and portrayals are well-rounded - even Antoine's parents are seen as human beings capable of joy, even as they neglect him. But of course, Léaud is the star of the show, and he's a delight to watch with both his mischievousness and forlornness coming across clearly in his performance.

The last third is the best part of the movie, in my opinion, but now that I've Wikipedia-ed it, I love the fact that Truffaut pays homage to film in this movie, especially with that aerial shot of the boys escaping their gym teacher in the streets of Paris, which is just lovely and whimsical.

Well worth watching again and again; it gets better with every viewing =)

My Blueberry Nights
8 years ago via Flixster

Oh dear. I was expecting a dreadful movie after all the terrible reviews I read, and I'm afraid my fears were rather well-founded.

I so wanted to love this. But it was just dreadfully unmemorable and boring. Nothing goes on, and not in a good way, since while we're being bored by the nothing going on, there's nothing on screen either to occupy us visually, whether it be those closeups or gorgeous colours that WKW employed so well in In the Mood For Love, or in the characters' mannerisms.

Poor WKW. Whereas his direction works so well in the Asian milieu that he belongs in, in English, with confused non-Asian actors, his work falters and becomes something only somewhat pleasant to look at. And it's not even a particularly beautiful movie - there is WAY too much use of slow motion here, for no particular reason, every scene with no dialogue is shot with slo-mo, which I suppose was to convey the languidness that WKW usually does so well. But instead, we had a movie which seems awkwardly paced and boring, with little time dedicated to fleshing out characters and too much time dedicated to Rachel Weisz's histrionic flouncing about.

It's an odd movie which doesn't offer much to a viewer - at the end, we still don't know anything about Norah Jones's Elizabeth (through no fault of her own; she's green but moderately appealing, although she's no Faye Wong), and the only other vaguely interesting character, David Strathairn's cop, is confined to a sad little caricature, overshadowed by the horrible performance of Rachel Weisz.

The resolutions, if you can call them that, are clumsy and trite; we don't really care about Rachel Weisz's supposed grief, or Natalie Portman's contrived regret, or really, even about Elizabeth and Jude Law's character getting together. The movie lurches forward in starts and stops, and what was so delicately handled in past movies - the quiet grief, the lonely crying, the forlorn looks - is just maudlin and hamfisted here. Maybe the actors weren't used to working with a guy as improvisational as WKW, infamous for shooting without a script. But just as likely, WKW has lost touch with his sense of pace and timing and realness, which makes me really sad.

This movie also solidifies for me the idea that Natalie Portman really isn't a good actor, despite early reports attesting to that fact. Her carefree gambler is irritating and callous, and I felt no affinity for her, and the scene at the end in the hospital is just cheesy. Rachel Weisz is even worse, but at least she has the benefit of looking really good, I guess, albeit drunken and shrill.

Also, I actually LAUGHED when I heard the familiar strains of Yumeji's theme in a different instrument, which I'm pretty sure isn't the effect that WKW was going for. I mean, c'mon! It was a pretty important scene too, I think, establishing Elizabeth's relationship with Jude Law's character, but it just gave me the icky sensation that WKW was trying to replicate the beauty, nostalgia and magic of In the Mood For Love, but instead it fails miserably and in fact makes a mockery of it.


Hancock (2008)
8 years ago via Flixster

This is a really, really weird movie, with schizophrenic twists and a message that seems really confused.

I really don't know what the filmmakers were trying to say here - Hancock is a mess of a movie that first appears to be trying to elicit sympathy for the main character's loneliness, and then seems to somewhat discard the value of relationships towards the end. I guess it's kind of an interesting story, what with this guy's rise to grace and his relationship with Jason Bateman's Ray, but it's confusing especially towards the end of the movie.

Charlize Theron's Mary, in particular, is especially schizophrenic, (SPOILER ALERT!) between being angry at Hancock and hating him, and loving him in that hospital scene. It's really freaking odd.

The movie is pretty funny in places, I guess, but even its humour becomes repetitive and trite, especially with the whole a**hole thing. OK, I get it, being called that makes you mad and want to beat people up, especially if they call you that three times, but seriously? Do you need to beat it into my head?

I also don't get the ending. (SPOILER ALERT!) I mean, what's up with Ray getting back to being all lovey-dovey with Mary again after obviously seeing that she isn't over her ex, with whom she has a very very long, tumultuous and passionate relationship with? It's not explained at all.

I was also pretty annoyed with the handheld camerawork, which is fine for a TV show like The Office or Arrested Development but really gets old fast when it's used in a movie. It's a minor annoyance, but it sure didn't help me enjoy this movie more.

I don't know, I think this was a pretty bad movie. I agree that it has a fairly interesting premise, and Hancock's aloneness poses a thought-provoking question about human relationships, but it isn't explained well, especially when all is suddenly fine at the end when we see that he is meant to be alone anyway.


WALL-E (2008)
8 years ago via Flixster

WALL-E is possibly the best animated feature I have ever seen.

Just a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the loss of 2D animation, and I was definitely not interested in seeing this movie. But I'm glad I did, as this movie, while deceptively simple in its story and premise, contains a wealth of poignancy and complexity in the interactions of WALL-E and his EVE.

You all know the story - humans destroy the planet with their compulsive materialism - but I don't think that's the important message in this movie. It's odd that a non-speaking little garbage compacting robot is more human than all the people in this movie, and the first half of the film is touching in its portrayal of WALL-E as the last man standing in a forgotten, dusty planet, even though he's a robot. The little touches are astounding, from WALL-E hanging up his tracks before turning off for the night, to his admonishment and worry over his cockroach pal, to his glowing "eyes" as he watches the Hello, Dolly video over and over again. WALL-E is the ultimate pack rat, something I can relate to, especially as the little robot treasures the old things of a forgotten age, you feel nostalgic for a time that's still here.

Because of the lack of dialogue, the first half of WALL-E is all the more stunning in its lonely portrayal of a defiantly happy little robot - this, I believe, is what I Am Legend could have been, although admittedly the latter movie had a grimmer tone to it. You see the end of the world in a starker way here, especially when WALL-E is painstakingly building his massive towers of garbage, and when he desperately tries to find love with EVE even as she's in hibernate mode or whatever.

Despite this dystopian view, WALL-E is still incredibly optimistic for the future of humanity. I love the closing credits where WALL-E and his gang of robots are shown in hieroglyphics to be teaching the world to live again. And even apart from the message, WALL-E is a lovely movie, with the balletic space dance between WALL-E and EVE and EVE's whirling through the air following her first appearance on earth coming to mind as spectacular examples of this movie's beauty.

I haven't even gotten to EVE yet! What a wonderfully thought out character; I'd read somewhere that EVE had no emotions, unlike WALL-E, but I would hotly disagree with that assessment - EVE is possibly even more human than WALL-E, with her angry kicking things around after failing to find what she's looking for on Earth, the evident frustration in her "voice" as WALL-E does something silly again, and (SPOILER ALERT!) her frantic rebuilding of a broken WALL-E, whom she's obviously come to care about.

EVE's interactions with WALL-E are really touching, and it's a pas de deux that may rival some of the greatest love stories out there.

You also have to love the minor characters like that cleaning robot and the crazy hyper robot who beats up all of the security guard robots, all of whom add humour to a movie, which while having a dark message, is still light and entertaining and often hilarious.

I couldn't really find any flaws with this movie; even the human parts fit wonderfully with the robot stories, and you're rooting for the captain all the way even though he's been shown to be somewhat of a simpleton throughout the movie.

As well, you can't go wrong with a Thomas Newman score. Man, I love that guy! The music for this movie is sometimes otherworldly, sometimes cute and tinkly, but always appropriate, adding to an already well-crafted atmosphere.

Fantastic movie, and well worth watching again.