Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in December.
- Movies watched – 22
- Movies that were new to me – 12
- Middling Bond Movies – 4
- Monthly Masterpieces – It’s a Wonderful Life, Destry Rides Again, Full Moon in Paris
- Premium Rush (2012) – Gordon-Levitt’s character is kind of a douche who never gets his comeuppance, but, character development isn’t really the point of this white knuckle chase film. It is rather surprising how exciting a movie about people chasing each other on bicycles can be.
- Justice League: Doom (2012) – These Justice League cartoons can be kind of fun really, especially since they play things pretty straight. It’s just too bad pretty much everything that happens in this is so lazily unbelievable that it never really manages to pull you in.
- Lincoln (2012) – DDL is, as you may have guessed, quite brilliant, and the central story of the political battle to pass the 13th amendment is actually pretty entertaining. Still, I have to admit, I find the hero worship and constant speeches a little suspect, with more than bit of the reek of right wing totalitarian apologism.
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) – This actually holds up better to a second viewing than I thought it would. Maybe it is because I didn’t have to suffer through 3D, or maybe because it really isn’t all that bad, you know, for a bloated Hollywood blockbuster.
- Jack Reacher (2012) – Sure, Cruise is smarmy and half the size the protagonist should have been–which makes it even more impressive that he manages to win me over in the title role. Overall, a far better film than I thought it would be: slow paced, smart, surprisingly faithful to the book and the character, and with some nice supporting actors, especially Herzog as the villain.
- Lifeboat (1944) – Excellent Hitchcock study of the group dynamic of a lifeboat full of shipwreck survivors and their Nazi prisoner/companion. It goes without saying that the master easily overcomes any possible obstacles in making a single set movie.
- China Seas (1935) – Fun little South China Seas romp full of big storms, pirates and another slutty Jean Harlow, rakish Clark Gable pairing. Not one of the best films of the 30s, but a lot of fun anyway.
- Christmas Vacation (1989) – A strange movie, full of episodic and supremely quotable comedy set pieces and dominated by Randy Quaid’s cousin Eddie. The fact that it holds up to so many repeat viewings year after year is just a testament to how well it works.
- Goldeneye (1995) – Brosnan’s first outing probably shows him in as good a form as he would ever be in, and he really does have a nice mixture of cocky humor and dark, cruel charm–it’s just too bad he looks like he has perpetual coffee breath and the body of a 12 year old girl. A couple of great set pieces and a nice finale round out a movie that ultimately is just a bit too unfocused to care much about.
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – God, angels, and trying to save the world, against all odds, add up to one of my favorite movies. Maybe it’s the real human darkness in Stewart’s performance, or maybe, it’s just that, despite all the christian bullshit, Capra captures something quintessentially human in the story of George Bailey’s life.
- Pitch Perfect (2012) – Pretty funny a cappella fighting movie about the usual team of misfits making it to the “finals.” Anna Kendrick is great as usual, but so are most all of the supporting characters–it’s just too bad I hate this kind of music so much.
- Music and Lyrics (2007) – You’ve seen Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore play these roles before, but the above average script (full of plenty of clever one liners) kicks this into the “one of the good ones” rank. The opening “Pop Goes My Heart” music video is particularly great.
- A View to a Kill (1985) – Supposedly the worst Moore Bond (this or The Spy Who Loved Me), but it’s actually not as bad as you might remember. Plenty of silliness, but Grace Jones makes a memorably charismatic villain, and the Golden Gate Bridge finale is actually kind of cool.
- Octopussy (1983) – I’ve always kind of liked this Roger Moore Bond better than his other outings. I can’t quite put my finger on it, probably it’s just that the action scenes actually have some life to them, and the silliness is toned down a bit.
- Cars (2006) – You know the drill with these movies: I complain about all the juvenile characters and shoehorned in jokes for “the parents,” while ignoring the fact that the movie is entertaining anyway. And really, it is fine, but if I’m going to waste my time with a movie, I’d just as soon do it with a rom com.
- Anna Karenina (2012) – The script is a kind of mix of realism and stylized theatrical devices that actually works very well and keeps the whole movie full of creative and interesting surprises. Story is a bit of a bummer (says the guy who didn’t know anything about it going in to the movie), but it is otherwise a very well done adaptation.
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) – It seems like it’s more fashionable to hate on this film now that the afterglow of the original trilogy’s praise has faded a bit. But it’s better than you might have heard–I mean, it’s still full of superfluous bloated Hollywood excess, but no worse than the original trilogy at the end of the day.
- Destry Rides Again (1939) – Classic Western that ends up basically being a blueprint for all the genre’s most pure elements. Every element fires on all cylinders, reminding you that Stagecoach isn’t the only western masterpiece of 1939.
- For Your Eyes Only (1981) – Roger Moore tries to get serious, and perhaps goes a bit too far as the film often verges on being boring. Also, his advanced age is finally catching up to him as the nubile young Bond girls seemed awfully mismatched as love interests.
- Bull Durham (1988) – Nice baseball romance movie anchored around a strong performance by Costner. It succumbs to a bit of Saranden’s character’s tediously overblown reverence for baseball, but overall it is really pretty good.
- Vamps (2012) – The team that brought you Clueless brings you a movie about cutesy vampires. I didn’t feel like anything really gells in this film except for Silverstone’s charming screen presence, though I’ll admit I became slightly more invested (from “not at all” during the first half) by the end of the film.
- Full Moon in Paris (1984) – Supposedly Rohmer’s worst film, and while that may be true, this is still about as brilliant and breathtaking as cinema gets. Nobody but Rohmer could imbue a simple tale like this with such complexity and insight into human interaction.