dotlogue's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Two Days, One Night

A simple concept for a film that beautifully and heart-breakingly opens up the complications of human relationships, work, and compassion. It's a stripper down neo-realist film that bursts with such incredible authenticity that I had to remind myself several times this was not a movie. This is what movies should do. Marion Cottiliard is incredible as well.

The Imposter
The Imposter(2012)

I recommend taking my five star rating at face value and see this without reading this review. I don't believe there are spoilers, but the less you know the better. It's an incredible documentary that deftly plays the audience with ostensible transparency and openness, and all the while building tension and suspense. Then there is what seems to be the prestige, and you think the trick is over, but then the lights flicker off and on and there is another big reveal followed by mystery. One of the best movies I've seen in awhile.

Detour
Detour(1945)

This is one of my favorite film noirs. A low-budget B movie with all the pulp, grit, and ugliness that embodied film noir. It was made on such a cheap budget, the car used in the movie is actually the director's car. It was the first B movie to make it on the Library of Congress Registry list, and it was also the first "noir" inducted.

The Asphalt Jungle

This is a fantastic film noir full of shady characters, corrupt cops, and lawyers. Sam Jaffe plays Doc Reidenscheider, a smallish but shrewd looking crook just released after spending 7 years in prison. He meets with a bookie who arranges a meeting with a corrupt lawyer played by Louis Calhern to see if he will fence this well-planned score. Doc has a plan for a jewlery heist that involves a driver, a safecracker and a hooligan. After reaching an agrement with the lawyer, Emmerich, Doc uses his bookie to find the men for the job. Sterling Hayden plays Dix Handley who is hemorrhaging money from betting on horses that he gets from robbing banks. He has plans to return to Kentucky with his girl to rescue a horse farm that his father lost during the Depression. After all the members are recruited for the job, they are ready to go. The heist goes down and there is a great, seven minute part of the job in complete silence. Unfortunately, the safecracker's explosives on the safe sets off other alarms in banks in the area. This alerts the police, and when Dix punches a security cop, he drops the gun and shoots the safecracker in the gut as they are leaving. Now they police are after them, but things are still going okay. Emmerich the attorney has hired an private detective to collect on his debts because he too, like Dix, is flat broke. He has no way to fence the deal he promised to fence. Instead of fessing up, he plans a double cross with his private detective. The gang overpower the dick and he's killed in a short fight. At this point everyone has to split up. Doc starts to head north to Cleveland, the safecracker is dying from his wound and Dix is leaving for Kentucky with his girl, having been wounded by a gunshot wound. Doc takes a cab to get out of town, but on the way they stop at a restaurant. There he gets entranced by a young girl dancing to the jukebox. As he leers on, he continues to feed her money for the jukebox to keep dancing. During this time the police find him and arrest him outside. Dix and his girl make it to Kentucky. Dix stumbles out of his car into a horse pasture, only to collapse and die from his wounds.

Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim(2013)

This was just a fun movie. It was like reliving those moments when I was a kid, playing in a pool or bathtub, with boats, action figures and other toys. Except now that kid is an adult director, Guillermo del Toro, who finally has the budget to make a monster movie he had probably been dreaming of since he first watched Harryhausen's work in the movies. Try not to think too much about this one, though, it's all about the monsters and robots clashing across the bathtub of the Pacific Ocean and the coastal cities. Try and see it in IMAX if you can.

Laura
Laura(1944)

When you mix a standard murder mystery with the obsession of three men, you get a classic film noir like Laura. Dana Andrews plays Mark McPherson, a NY Police detective investigating the brutal murder of a beautiful and successful executive, Laura Hunt, played by Gene Tierney. As he investigates two other men in her life, her mentor and a newspaper columnist, Waldo Lydecker, played by Clifton Webb, and her socialite fiance, Shelby Carpenter, a very young Vincent Price, he finds himself drawn to this dead woman. As he investigates her apartment, he becomes intrigued with a large painting of Laura hanging in the center of the room. Through his investigation, interviews, and spending time in Laura's apartment, he gradually falls in love and becomes obsessed with finding who murdered her. And while it seems like this will play out a regular mystery, things take a left turn and things are not entirely what we think. Also of note is the beautiful score by Bernard Hermann, especially the Laura suite and theme.

Double Indemnity

The most exciting and tense movie you will see involving insurance. Well, insurance, deception, femme fatales, and murder. It's Billy Wilder's masterpiece, Double Indemnity. This is my favorite film noir. It begins with Walter Neff, an insurance salesman, entering his work building and stumbling into a chair to record his story for his friend and co-worker, Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson. Basically, it began as an innocent visit to discuss insurance with a Mr. Dietrichson at his home, but when he's not there, he meets Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, his sultry and flirtatious wife. Eventually, she talks Walter into murdering her husband and making it look like an accident in order to claim a large amount of money. This movie is in incredibly sexy for a movie made in 1944. With the beginning sequence between MacMurray and Stanwyck, the banter is slightly comical, fast and filled with innuendo. The cinematography is top notch as well. Great use of shadows and lighting, as well as different angles, doorwarys, etc. Great movie.

42
42(2013)

It doesn't break any ground, but it's a decent film about Jackie's career from the minors to the big leagues.

Blast of Silence
½

Allen Baron wrote, directed and starred as Frank Bono in this low-budget film noir about a few days in the life of hired killer as he researches, plans and assassinates his target. This was shot on location in New York during Christmas. The festive, tranquil and social nature of Christmas contrasts with Frank's lonely life. The voice over narration in this could sound campy to contemporary audiences, and at first I hated it, but over time it worked for me. Lionel Standard does an effective job as the second person narration. It reminded me of the cliche images of a devil on the shoulder; his voice continues to remind him of what he is, a killer. This is despite his attempt to form relationships with people from his childhood that he runs into. In fact, he endeavors to leave the life for a woman after this last job. Unfortunately, as is the case with many film noirs, things don't go as smoothly. There is a great opening shot of a train coming out of a tunnel that is paired with Lionel's narration about Frank's birth (complete with a baby crying and then smacked) into the rough world of this film. There are a few other amazing sequences that really set this movie apart as a film noir, and as Allen Baron as an auteur director. At the time some thought he would be the next Orson Welles, but unfortunately this movie was not given good billing or even advertised much at all. Since Criterion released a restored version with a featurette, the movie has seen a surge of popularity.

Red
Red(2010)

Based on a graphic novel of the same name, this over-the-top action thriller involves retired CIA, KGB and other paramilitary types who are involved in a nefarious plot to take out all the surviving members of a former elite squad. It's the A-Team with Centrum Silver. And probably not as entertaining. I enjoyed the movie the way I enjoy watching a TBS late night Resident Evil marathon. I would never pay to watch it, but it's still mindless fun. Ridiculous and mindless fun. Really. Don't apply Bourne Identity or current military type rules to this movie or else you will be unable to appreciate how insanely ridiculous it all really is.

The Killing
The Killing(1956)
½

Sterling Hayden as Johnny Clay leads this amazing cast in one of the best heist films out there and quite honestly, probably one of Kubrick's most entertaining and most cohesive films ever. Johhny is an ex-con who has a big plan for a major racetrack heist. He enlists the help of track ticket sellers, a former pugilist, an marksman with a Joker-smile, a track bartender, corrupt cop and more for a daylight heist. And because I believe a good heist film is not worth watching if things go according to plan, this one does not displease. The plan goes south in a way that places this film firmly in the film noir canon. I've seen this movie around three times now and it gets better every time. Every one is fun to watch, from Sterling's tough guy, no nonsense persona to Marie Windsor's classic femme fatale and her doting and weak husband played by Elisha Cook Jr. Brilliant film.

In a Lonely Place

Quite a disturbing and thoughtful portrayal of screenwriter named Dixon Steele, played deftly by Bogart. His career is not what it used to be. And when the movie begins, he is now more popular as tabloid fodder for his fights and drunken carousing. One night he takes a naive woman home to "read" to him about a book he has been asked to adapt. She leaves and is later found murdered in a canyon. Steele is quickly a suspect, and in the course of the investigation he meets Laurel Gray, a neighbor, and an upcoming starlet as well. As the investigation continues, Steele is zeroed on in as the prime suspect, and yet his relationship with Gray blossoms. The movie plays with the trappings of noir by setting us up for expectations of femme fatales, psychotic sociopaths, and our usual expectations when we watch this type of movie. Ray's direction of Bogart and Grahame is excellent, especially when he plays on the themes of love, sex and murder. A great movie.

The Heat
The Heat(2013)
½

A buddy cop movie with many of the standard buddy cop cliches. Sandra Bullock is a tightly wound and smarmy FBI agent who is disliked by most of her co-workers, not really because she's a woman, but because she is socially inept and mainly interested in advanced her career. That being said, she's good at her job and cares about what she does. Melissa McCarthy is Shannon Mullins, a Boston cop with incredible street smarts, a potty mouth, and is also not liked by her peers. It's a funny movie that could have been better and funnier, but it was decent enough. My wife and I had fun didn't want the almost two hours back after it was over. One more thing, Melissa McCarthy is dangerous of playing a type in every single movie. She is funny in this role, which if you've seen Bridesmaids or possibly Identity Theft, you will know the type. I think she is good at this. She is good at playing this type, but I hope she doesn't get locked into it because I think she has more depth than that.

The Wolf Man
The Wolf Man(1941)
½

As a horror-movie connoisseur, I don't feel like my knowledge or depth of the genre would be complete without watching the older horror films. While some hold up well over time, like The Haunting, Black Sabbath, Carnival of Souls, and The Uninvited, others don't seem to play well with more modern audiences. Well, I should say, they don't play as well as horror movies. They have lost their ability to frighten or make us jump because of outdated effects or over-acting. For example, I enjoyed Dracula with Bela Lugosi, but it was laughable at times and incredibly choppy at times. The Wolf Man falls into this category for me. I enjoyed the atmospherics, Lone Chaney's performance, but it fell flat as an effective genre movie. It seemed more like a time capsule than a living breathing beast.

The Snowtown Murders
½

I've seen a good deal of Aussie flicks, and I'm beginning to think they don't think too highly of themselves as a country or culture. While this is a well-told story about some of the worst serial killings in Australian, it also paints a particularly bleak picture of Australia, or at least this area of Australia. Unlike most serial killer movies, though, this really delves into the psyche of a young boy, Jamie, who falls under the influence and leading of said serial killer, John Bunting. It explores what happens to some children in the absence of a father figure who also happen to live around drug abuse and without many opportunities. It's a deeply unsettling story that doesn't really pull any punches. I left the movie saddened by Jamie's predicament and how things might have been different for him in his life.

Life of Pi
Life of Pi(2012)

While thin on story, it was an unusually exquisite movie. It defines the reasons movies should be made for the big screen and for 3D, which I'm not generally a fan of but this was worth e extra cost of seeing it in 3D. Simply beautiful and a joy to watch.

Sinister
Sinister(2012)
½

Effective, frightening film about a true crime writer that gets pulled too far into the research of his new book after discovering a box of Super 8 home movies in the attic of his family's new home. A good example of a movie that shows little and creates mood and fear successfully.

Zero Dark Thirty
½

The movie begins with FAA recordings of control tower and pilots talking during the attacks on 9/11. It's an effective prologue to a story that started that blue-sky day. A story that evolved into a grueling narrative about our country's response to an attack on the United States. Jessica Chastain is a new but highly vaunted CIA agent tasked with finding Bin Laden. She joins a group of operatives located in Pakistan. It is there we see the Bush-era interrogation and torture tactics used, and we see her struggle with these methods while also employing them at certain times. Surprisingly, this is not an action-thriller, as you might expect. It's a drama with plenty of suspenseful moments. We follow Chastain's character as she grows from a new, idealistic agent into a hardened and tired wolf who has pursued her prey over rocky slopes, through caves and into many traps. Bigelow's direction is focused and the editing is tight. In some ways I felt like Bigelow sees herself as Chastain's character. A woman in a largely male-dominated world. Yet she doesn't want special treatment. And I don't think Bigelow wants or needs special treatment. I don't know that I would trust this material in anyone else's hands. After seeing Hurt Locker, it's clear she knows how to direct drama and crisis. This is a great movie, but not for the reasons I expected it to be. The final scene of the Seal Team raiding Bin Laden's compound is not loud and bombastic. Other times special forces are portrayed as superhuman men, but in this movie they are clearly regular humans who just know how to operate in crisis better than most. It's amazing to me the level of patience of CIA Agents like Chastain's character and the others, as well as the military. We get the impression they rush in and do things sloppily. And while that has happened, this movie demonstrates how patient and dogged they were in their pursuit. And maybe that's why we have so much respect for them. After the loss of colleagues, failures and false leads, they continue pursuing. And they are patient. And it doesn't end with a bang, it ends with silence

Hoop Dreams
Hoop Dreams(1994)

Recently rewatched this gem with my wife. It's such a great story. The film follows two high school basketball players growing up in the south side of Chicago as they work towards being in the NBA. Definitely check this one out.

Les MisÚrables
½

This was a pretty good film based on an excellent musical and story. At first I was visually amazed with the opening sequence of the prisoners hauling in a boat from port. I was thinking, this is what musical to movie translations should be. I also thought the same during the brothel/hotel scenes. But for some reason, the cinematographer/director started doing these close shots of each actor or actress while singing. Instead of using the background or the people in the rest of the area, the camera just centered the character, and in some cases did the 2/3rds method, but I was kinda bored with the visual aspects of the movie. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and most of the male actors were great. They really captivating their scenes. The women, however, were weak and almost annoying at times. I know this sounds cold, but I was pretty happy when Fantine died. Anne Hathaway's portrayal was over done. And like I said earlier, the camera just kept her within a tight shot the whole time. Overall, it was a good movie and I am pretty sure it will be up for several oscar nominations. I would like to see the staged musical again.

25th Hour
25th Hour(2003)
½

Most Spike Lee movies are an education for me. I feel like I'm being exposed to a world that seems so different from my own. Yet now I feel like I live a little bit closer to that world at times, but in 25th Hour I still feel so distant from this world, but I still care so much about the people and lives that inhabit this part of New York soon after 9/11. There are events that leave you changed forever, even if they don't directly impact you. For Monty Brogan (Ed Norton), it will be the beginning of his 7 year prison term that starts within 25 hours of when the film begins. For his two best friends, father and girlfriend, it will be the loss of the Monty they know. And all the while the movie takes this journey, the fresh devastation of 9/11 is an unmistakable theme. Everyone who lived in the vast, magnificent city (that I've still never been to) were changed so dramatically. And you get the sense in the movie that this cloud of sadness, loss and despair fills these characters lives, all the way down to the lighting used. I find the beginning shots of the city to be very reminiscent of Woody Allen's beginning to Manhattan, but almost like an antonym to those scenes. Instead of loud, celebratory brass instruments highlighting the city in glorious black and white, in 25th Hour, we get ground swelling surges of symphonic swells that fill the audience with a sense of dread. Ed Norton's performance carries the burdens of his own mistakes so well. The rest of the performance are stellar as well. It does move slowly at times, so don't expect a fast paced movie. Instead you should expect to reflect on it quite often after your viewing.

The Atomic Cafe

This is a darkly funny and often scary look at first twenty years of the nuclear age. The filmmakers took archival government footage of alleged information on atomic bombs, their effects and what to do in case of a nuclear attack. While I think it is heavy handed at times, it's just plain entertaining to see what was being shown to people in America, what was possible even believed by the American people and how much was probably hidden. Some of it was quite shocking at times, like soldiers asked to patrol ground zero right after a bomb was tested only 150-200 yards from their shallow trenches. Or the feeble instructions for people to simply duck and cover, as if that was an effective way to shield them from a nuclear blast. I was surprised they didn't do more with the Cuban Missile Crisis or interviews with Oppenheimer or some of the scientists. It was nice to see Ward Cleaver show up, though!

Young Frankenstein

On the suggestion of @FilmScene Podcast, I checked this out from the library. While it's not my favorite Mel Brooks movie, it definitely has some great moments. Young Dr. Frankenstein (not pronounced the same as his grandfather, Victor's last name) is a well-known scientist and professor at an esteemed university in America. It is discovered that he inherits his grandfather's castle in Transylvania. Filmed in glorious black & white, and hammed up with overacting and a blaring score, this is a great send up of the classic monster genre of the 1950s. Gene Wilder is a perfect fit for the young scientist unwilling to accept his destiny. In my opinion, though, Mary Feldman's performance as his assistant Igor steals the show...that is until Peter Boyle shows up. I highly recommend this, especially if you enjoyed Blazing Saddles or The Producers. Fun and great Halloween movie that I think is relatively safe for kids, too.

Everything Must Go

A slow-moving drama-comedy about a middle-aged who lost his job and wife in one day. Will Farrell plays the protagonist who was a great salesman but horrible husband as a result of a his alcoholism. After he is locked out of his house with all of that he owns on his front lawn, he is forced to reevaluate his life, choices and relationships. It is a saccharine movie with some pod performances. If it's on tv, or if you have Netflix, it's a decent film.

Bernie
Bernie(2012)

Half-documentary, half-comedy drama, this is quite a surprising gem directed by Richard Linklater (sp?). Jack Black is restrained and utterly sincere in the title role of Bernie Tiede, an assistant coroner in a small Texas town where everyone loves him. He teaches Sunday School, takes care of elderly women in the community, participates in the local theatre and generally brings joy and happiness to a community. Then he befriends an unloveable and alienated widow in the town played by Shirley MacLaine. Their relationship baffles and worries the town, until one day she disappears. Very funny and sweet movie. The town itself is a great character.

12 Angry Men (Twelve Angry Men)

This is such a great film. I don't know if I can add much else to what's already been said of this amazing courtroom drama. Great performances, camera-work and dialogue.

Kill List
Kill List(2012)
½

Atmospheric, moody and nightmarish are good ways to describe this film. So are the words: muddled, unfocused and incoherent. It is definitely an art house horror film, but it does not succeed in the same way that Lynch's Blue Velvet succeeds. I wanted to like this film, but by the end I just wanted it to be over. It starts out in Lynchian's Lost Highway territory and then ends up in Wicker Man (1973) land. And I'm not entirely sure how or why. Some of the critical feedback suggested that even though the critics had no idea what was going on, they still enjoyed it, if enjoy is the right word. I did not. I think it's partly because I didn't like or care for any of the characters. Sure, it has a shocker ending, but of course I saw that coming. A shocker ending is usually more effective if you care about what happens to the characters. I didn't.

Chronicle
Chronicle(2012)

This is a great surprise. It's a great super hero origin story told through found footage. I really like the messiness of it all...not in terms of directing and writing, but the way it shows how messy life would be if someone, especially teenagers, got super powers. The found footage approach is a great way to personalize their struggles as they try to cope with their new lives.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

This movie is a mystery to me. It's incredibly dark and difficult to handle in spots, but at the same time it is beautifully filmed, capturing amazing colors, angles and such humanity. I have seen the second act of Park's Vengeance trilogy, Oldboy, but this one seemed to have more life and vitality to it. I need to rewatch Oldboy again because I think there are some amazing camera shots in that as well, but it's been awhile. It's hard to watch this series because it seems to begin in the second half of any Shakespeare tragedy, but not the high tragedies like King Lear or Richard 3, more like Coriolanus or Titus Andronicus. Yet I think Park succeeds in showing us more humanity in his films than Shakespeare did with his lesser tragedies. I know that's a bold statement. And I am not comparing Park's works with King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, et al, but Park's skillful art in these films seem to take dark themes and grotesque images from Bill's lesser tragedies and elevate them into a higher art form.

The Dark Knight Rises

This is a satisfying third act to the Dark Knight trilogy. It's loud, portentous and hopeful at the same time. Nolan knows how to create a trilogy without pandering to his audience. I found the new characters of Selina Kyle and John Blake to be almost more interesting than the villain. Commissioner Gordon emerges as a political animal who makes mistakes but still is trying to do the right thing. And most importantly, the Dark Knight rises, but not before an hour of his own personal reckoning.

The Chaser (Chugyeogja)
½

An excellent movie with incredibly complex characters that are likeable in their unlikeability. I mean, the hero is the epitome of an antihero, or possibly uber antihero. How else do you explain a former cop now street pimp who is trying to find out what has been happening to his girls. There is a great tension between Jung-Ho, the former cop, and his buddies who are still on the police force, as well as the complex relationship Jung-Ho has with his "girls" and his assistant/side-kick. I underestimated his side-kick initially as a goofy almost comedic relief character, but there is even more depth to his role in the movie. This was a very noirish film. I really enjoyed it and found it grittier than most stylized Hollywood crime movies.

The Grey
The Grey(2012)

A great Jack Londenesque type of story that relies heavily on Liam Neeson's acting chops to move this movie from direct to DVD territory into serious cinema. I enjoyed the flick, even though it felt derivative at times. I also enjoyed the supporting cast.

Tower Heist
Tower Heist(2011)

A decent comedy where I felt Eddie Murphy was severely unused.

I Saw the Devil

An incredibly dark and sad film that exemplifies Nietzche's saying, "Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.". A well acted movie that I can't really recommend due to the difficult material. In some ways it's a Charles Bronson Death Wish type of movie without the catharsis.

The Woman in Black
½

If you enjoy spooky movies that can tell intriguing stories and also make you jump, this is one for you. Hammer films have made another sure-to-be classic horror that is strongly reminiscent of The Changeling (George C. Scott version) and The Innocents. Incredibly moody with wonderful acting by Radcliffe and the supporting cast. I must admit, if I had seen more Harry Potter movies, I suppose I couldn't have gotten as invested in Radcliffe's character, but fortunately I've only seen two and was never that fond of them. I felt like some of the finer points were a bit muddled, some unanswered questions, etc., but I was willing to give it a pass because I enjoyed the old school, classic feel of the movie.

The Way We Get By

This is a beautiful and simple movie about ordinary heroes. This is a wonderful movie about a group Bangor, Maine residents welcome over 700,000 American troops going to and returning from Afghanistan and/or Iraq. The movie focuses on Bill Knight, Joan Guadet and Jerry Mundy. Regardless of the time or their various handicaps, they take time out of their days to welcome the troops through one of the busiest military interchanges entering into and leaving the United States. This is either the last stop as the troops head out of the country, or the first place they get to before they head home. This is not a political movie. It's a beautiful movie about life, death, people, relationships and a great movie to watch on Memorial Day weekend.

The Cabin in the Woods

A fun, innovative take on an overdone horror movie cliche (creepy cabin in the woods), but it's so much more. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have created a teen horror movie that is turned on its head, and then turned on its head yet again. This is definitely going to be considered one of the great horror satires, along with Scream and Shaun of the Dead. As with those movies, I found myself laughing at the cliches, awkward moments and of course, just great dialogue. While in some ways it was an indictment against your cookie-cutter horror movies, it was also a more effective tool of condemning a culture obsessed with violence and gore. I haven't read Hunger Games, but I saw the movie and thought it didn't really seem to challenge the status quo of that society it existed within or at least provide a stronger statement against a voyeuristic culture. I think Cabin in the Woods was far more effective as a social commentary in this vein. At the same time, don't see this movie for its satire or social commentary, in many ways it is a teen horror movie.

Drive
Drive(2011)

Great noirish flick with a strong feel of the 80's, especially early Michael Mann. As always Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks give above par performances. The Use of neon and dark colors imbued the film with a sense of style and the soundtrack offered a backdrop that tied it all together. There were some scenes when the techno 80's music blared so loudly it seemed too much, but it was perfect for a movie that was like a cool music video. Really enjoyed this flick.

Attack the Block

Great flick. A blend of an old-school alien/monster invasion movie with a touch of the 80's teens save the world theme. I also think it even has a social commentary as well. Well acted with people I cared for. I found it quite humorous as well at times.

The Tree of Life

Okay I could remove all my cinematic expectations when watching Malick's films, but I still ask for plot and story and possibly a screenplay that introduces character names, etc. This movie had some amazing visuals and was incredibly ambitious in scope. I loved the poetic dialogue and discussions between man and the Creator, but I really felt like I missed out on an ending. At times I felt like needed commentary or annotation. As I said, beautiful movie and over all a true movie about life. Well let me say that it seemed true to the experience of a middle-age white male growing up in America.

The Artist
The Artist(2011)

It's a great and bold idea to make a (mostly) silent film about the end of the silent film era. I thought the story was sweet and charming, but nothing entirely novel. In fact, I think if it had been told with sound it wouldn't probably have all the accolades. The movie itself seemed to have a shtick and the shtick was being a silent film. With that being said, I enjoyed the film overall.

War Horse
War Horse(2011)
½

Overall I felt there were many cliches in this film in terms of trials, tribulations and so forth. The whole emblem of the flag tied to the horse in the beginning comes nicely full circle. Each character story line has some sense of closure (albeit tragic at times), but it's all wrapped up just too nicely at times for my tastes. I loved Joey. How can you not? I felt like the actors were underused with the exception of Peter Mullan, Emily Watson and Tom Hiddleston. To me what makes a good animal flick is the pathos that we see in the people who interact in his life. And I just found it lacking. I will say, the movie's soundtrack and huge, wide-angle lens camera shots made me feel like I was watching a 1940s or 1950s movie. The color saturation in the shots in England, especially the ending shot, reminded me of some of the shots in Gone with the Wind. That's not an insult, just an observation. Really quite beautiful if not a bit overdone. It did seem to carry on with the theme of paying homage to film as many other movies nominated this year have done. My wife leaned over to me at one point and said, "This movie would suck without the music." I don't think that's far from the truth, but that is very reminiscent of the golden age of cinema as well, I suppose.

Midnight in Paris
½

From the beginning of shots of Paris, I felt that this was Woody Allen's "Manhattan" for Paris. However, while Manhattan took us on a tour of the current people and places (now the past), Midnight in Paris wasn't in love with the current city inasmuch as everything and everyone who once existed there. In fact, you get this wonderful tour of the Lost Generation in the 1920s viz. a time travelling classic Peugeot (sp). And of course Allen incorporates his love of jazz through the entire soundtrack, as well as some classic Cole Porter tunes. As an English major, I felt like I was watching a wax museum with a pulse. Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Bunuel, Dali (or as its said in the movie DALI!!!!), and so on. Owen Wilson's impersonation of a young Woody Allen is pretty good as well, without losing himself in his neurotic mannerisms and psychobabble. This movie proved Allen still has it, and apparently Paris is his new muse.

The Money Pit
½

Good for anyone shopping for a new home.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Should be called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Obnoxious. It was overly sentimental and the main young boy was annoying at times. However, there were a few touching moments and effective portrayals by Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Max Von Sydow.

Meek's Cutoff

Probably the most realistic portrayal of families on the Oregon Trail I've ever seen. Their life was miserable, arduous and seemingly futile at times. Unlike the viewers of the movie, there was at least a resolve to their journey - they died or they made it to their destination. I am not saying a movie has to have a clearly defined ending (e.g. No Country for Old Men), but I hated it that I wanted all of them to die of dysentery or a massacre. So I guess the movie was effective in that I felt like I was living the Oregon Trail experience. It also made me miss playing the game on a Commodore 64.

Dark Days
Dark Days(2000)
½

An unsettling documentary about a group of people dwelling beneath New York City. While I was moved and affected by their stories and situations, I could not overlook Singer's excellent cinematography, especially when considering he was filming in a difficult environment and only used black and white for the final product. It could be because I love the genre, but the lights, darks and shadow-play reminded me a lot of film noir. Very well done. Gritty but not nihilistic.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
½

Relentless and well-staged and shot action sequences made this one of my favorite movies of the year. Brad Bird proved he can make great action sequences in the animated world with The Incredibles. And his formula seems to work for this movie as well. Loved it.

The Descendants

While I do think Payne seems to not like the people in his movies that much, he does know how to make a movie populated with real people who have real issues. I have to give this movie praise for how it dealt with the death and dying.

Rio Bravo
Rio Bravo(1959)

Great, larger than life western. I wasn't sure about Dean Martin in the role, but he really pulls it off. Ricky Nelson's young but disciplined sharp shooter is great as well. Very good movie.

The Devil Came on Horseback

This is a heart-breaking, difficult documentary on the tragedy in Darfur. If you would prefer to remain ignorant of tragedies and difficulties that happen in other places in the world, do not watch this movie. If you want to be unsettled and possibly moved to compassion, and hopefully action, this is a great movie to start with. Brian Steidle's unflinching gaze up on the brutality and evil in Sudan, as well as completely honest and vulnerable responses to it all make this a hard movie to watch and not to watch at the same time. You can turn this movie off when it's finished and go back to your life, but you can't forget this movie, and it won't let you forget this is still happening.

Hail the Conquering Hero
½

Great screwball comedy starring Eddie Bracken. I just dig Preston Sturges and this is one of his good ones.

Superfly
Superfly(1972)
½

So this is a black exploitation flick. Wow. Pretty good movie. Great soundtrack.

Source Code
Source Code(2011)

This was much better than I expected. It was directed by Duncan Jones, the same director of Moon.

Monsters
Monsters(2010)

Basically this is Frank Capra's It Happened One Night meets a creature feature. Despite it being about monstrous aliens that are wreaking havoc within an isolated zone between Mexico and United States, it's a quiet and subtle film. You could almost remove the aliens and just have the two characters on this journey together from somewhere in Mexico back to the States, but the aliens serve as an interesting backdrop. I guess that's my only complaint. They are almost too much of a backdrop. They affect the characters, their environment, they disrupt their travels, terrorize their friends, and so on, but we are not ever given too much explanation into what will happen to them or where they are from or just a larger picture. In this way it's pretty innovative, I guess, but it bugged me a bit too.

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)

Franco gives a stellar performance. This movie reminded me of Touching the Void and Into the Wild. Both movies feature someone who overcame very difficult circumstances, but unlike McClandiss in Into the Wild, Ralston was given a second chance at integrating with society. I love Danny Boyle's magical realism touches throughout the movie too. He really knows how to bring out the emotion in events.

The Life of Emile Zola

Great biopic of the French writer Emile Zola. A good portion of the film is also devoted to the infamous Dreyfus Affair in France.

Night and the City

This movie is ever reason I love film noir - the lighting, the framing and composition of shots, the seedy, underground characters and that sense of impending doom. Basically, Richard Widmark plays a hustler who decides to set up a wrestling bout. He manages to get a famous Greek wrestler to agree to a fight with a local fighter. The only problem is, he ends up creating a house of cards and when it all collapses he manages to bring the London bridges crashing down on himself. Great flick.

The Other Guys

This was much funnier than I expected. Will Ferrell, of course, makes the movie for the most part, but the banter between him and Mark Wahlberg is pretty funny as well. Just a goofy, fun movie.

Despicable Me

This was a cute film, but not a great film. I didn't find myself laughing much, but I was entertained for the most part.

Exit Through The Gift Shop
½

I really had no interest in seeing this, but it made some end of year lists by some critics I respect. I ended up really enjoying this documentary about the lives of street artists. Or was it a mockumentary? Or was it a documentary about an obsessed French filmmaker? Or was this all planned by the subversive street artist, Banksy? I really didn't know what to make up this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I am still not sure what was real or staged all by Banksy. I honestly think it was a mixture of both. Great and fun movie, though.

Sweetgrass
Sweetgrass(2009)
½

This is a beautiful and gritty documentary about cowboys herding sheep one last time through Beartooth Mountains of Montana. It's really a meditation film that removes the romanticism of the cowboy life. There is this great scene where one of the sheepherders is on top of a ridge talking on his cell phone to his mom. He curses up a storm and complains about his bad leg and his severely wounded sheepdog. And at times he breaks down into tears. After the conversation is over, he walks off the ridge with his dog and starts cursing the sheep that are ambling out of a dale.

I'm Still Here
½

This is definitely one of Joaquin's best acting performances.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)

Great western. An awesome reflection on mercy, grace and wrath, and how sometimes they are not all that dissimilar.

Salt
Salt(2010)
½

Fun movie. Thin on plot and character development. Try not to think about it too much and just enjoy the action and Angelina Jolie.

Winter's Bone

This is a truly authentic film about life in the Ozarks. Well, I can't say that from experience, but having visited the area and seen shacks and homes similar to the ones in the film, I imagine it's a pretty realistic portrayal. That doesn't necessarily make a good film, though. Jennifer Lawrence's character is the oldest daughter in a family of three. Since her father is gone and her mother mentally gone, she is left to raise her two siblings. Jennifer's performance is natural and without pretense. I also really enjoyed John Hawkes' portrayal of the father's brother, Teardrop. This is not a film for the lighthearted. It's difficult to watch in a few parts, but the cinematography is great and the music is a darker version of the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

Date Night
Date Night(2010)

Some fun scenes, likable characters, and good fish-out-of-the-water humor. If not for Fey and Carrell, this would not even be worth watching, though.

Predators
Predators(2010)
½

I liked this more than I thought I would. There were some nice twists, and the action was aplenty. Pretty good mindless sci-fi flick.