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Rating History

Inside Llewyn Davis
4 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Even when they aren't making all-time classics, films by the brothers Coen are still entertaining or interesting, well "Inside Llewyn Davis" is the first I would categorize as boring. Given their previous affinity shown for 1930s bluegrass music in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" it should come as no surprise that they have a similar affection for 1950s & '60s pre-Dylan folk music which takes center stage throughout this film, I would say nearly a dozen songs are performed to near completion. That's an awful lot of music to sit through in any movie if you're not as enamored as the filmmakers, I find it pleasant but also pretty dull. Similarly, the story of Llewyn Davis is also fairly inconsequential as he reaches a crossroads in his life, to try and press on as a folk musician or find a more steady income. This is a film about missed opportunities and unfortunate timing, but the Coen's screenplay lacks the arresting, unforgettable scenes we are accustomed to experiencing. Same goes for the absence of memorable oddball side characters, only an elevator conductor and John Goodman as a pompous, insulting asshole stand out, while Carey Mulligan scores a few points with her acidic tone towards Llewyn.

Tropic Thunder
4 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

"Everybody knows you never go full retard."

The more I see Ben Stiller, the more I realize he usually plays the same way in every comedy and there's definitely diminishing returns. Basically he's playing 'Zoolander: Soldier Of Fortune' which is how unbelievably dense this character is. If you want to see how you can vary your comedy persona, look no further than co-star Robert Downey Jr who is flat-out hilarious with every line he speaks as an Australian 5-time Oscar winner known for extreme method acting, in this case undergoing controversial pigment-alteration therapy so he could play a black soldier in a fact-based war movie! His performance alone makes this worth watching, because without him there's a steep decline. Jack Black is a funny guy, but he's not funny here. Danny McBride can be funny but he doesn't have a very big role (which in truth is the best way to use Danny McBride). Only Tom Cruise - yes, Tom Cruise! - approaches the same level of hilarity as a balding, heavyset , ill-tempered movie producer with incredibly hairy arms. The sharpest comedian of them all is Steve Coogan who exits early, but not before he gives the best fatal motivational speech since Samuel L Jackson in "Deep Blue Sea".

Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak (2015)
4 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Superior ghost story in which writer/director Guillermo del Toro wisely uses the ghosts for creepy effect instead of making them the stars of the show. That top billing goes to Annendale Hall, a decrepit estate filled with character, from the cracked ceiling that allows leaves or snow to fall into the entry hall to the groaning pipes that emit red water until they clear their throats, this is one of filmdom's greatest set interiors in recent years. For the human actors, I'm not big on Mia Wasikowska but she performs capably, and even her fans will submit that the real star is Jessica Chastain breaking away from type as a raven haired scheming mystery woman, sister to the enterprising Tom Hiddleston. Some genuine chills and a quality mystery make this superior to del Toro's "Devil's Backbone" and yes, also "Pan's Labyrinth".

Liar Liar
Liar Liar (1997)
4 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

"You're silly."
"You know, some people make a pretty good living acting that way."

Love him or hate him, you've got to give Jim Carrey points for effort. No actor really earns millions of dollars for a few weeks' work, but Jim and Jackie Chan are the two who deserve it the most.

Spy
Spy (2015)
4 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Finally, an American action/comedy that gets the tone just about right, not too serious and not too silly (well, almost.) Melissa McCarthy shows she can pull her weight in a lead role, and speaking of which what a relief that we are spared from enduring a parade of fat jokes - imagine that, you can still be funny without taking cheap shots! Hats off to Paul Feig! Rated a hard 'R' for language, would be a close call who has the highest number of fucks:wordcount ratio, McCarthy or Rose Byrne in a cracking portrayal as the Eva Green-like evil uberbitch. Not to be outdone either in the expletive arena is Jason Statham, hilariously lampooning his own action hero persona as a spy who has killed a thousand enemies, lost and re-attached several of his own limbs, and died several times. There are a few drawbacks, particularly how McCarthy is established as a shy presence who can be overwhelmed by a situation, but almost immediately transforms into a deadly weapon more skilled than dozens of highly paid and experienced killers even though her last taste of field training was 10 years ago. The number of laughs I got allowed me to ignore such missteps, resulting in a jolly romp superior to the passable but inferior "Get Smart" I watched earlier this year.