Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in February.
- Movies watched – 26
- Movies that were new to me – 22
- Shitty best picture nominees – 4
- Monthly Masterpieces – A Tale of Winter
- The Green Berets (1968) – On the surface this is just a below average and disjointed war movie with a lead who is far too old for his part. But when you add in the way it uses WW2 war film tropes to propagandize the Vietnam War, it becomes a much more unsettling experience.
- Take Shelter (2011) – At times the “this is about America, RIGHT NOW” references seem a bit obvious, but that is really my only complaint. Otherwise, fine performances all around, along with the very palpable sense of dread, makes this a film that really sticks with you.
- Pigs is Pigs (1914) – Really pretty decent silent comedy short from an actor (John Bunny) I wasn’t familiar with. The unique use of mailed letters as intertitles works pretty well all things considered.
- Way Down East (1920) – One of Griffith’s finest films about a naive girl who is rather laboriously tricked into getting knocked up out of wedlock. All these years later and the final ice flow sequence still astonishes.
- Spies (1928) – This ended up having about an hour cut out of it compared to the last version of this film that I saw. And, even at 80 minutes, it still drags–though maybe I’m just pissed because almost all of Fritz Rasp’s parts were cut out.
- Sugar Daddies (1927) – As Laurel and Hardy films go, this is pretty par for the course. Which is to say, there are funny bits, the leads are fine, but none of it is nearly as clever as Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd on their worst days.
- Trip to the Moon (1902) – The new color print of this classic is really very impressive in that it makes the surreal dreamlike quality of the story even more pronounced. As populist a choice as it is, this is still one of my favorite Melies films.
- He Did and He Didn’t (1916) – Quite entertaining Arbuckle short even if it doesn’t seem quite as funny as his best work. Good direction, and Al Saint John falling over every obstacle on the set is always good for a few chuckles.
- Monte Cristo (1922) – Pretty sluggish version of the Count of Monte Cristo. Nothing in particular is poorly done, but you will still find yourself waiting for it to be over long before the third act.
- The Wishing Ring (1914) – Simple story about a silly delinquent college kid and the girl he falls for. This would be a rather slight affair except Tourneur fills it with very nice visual touches.
- The Clinging Vine (1926) – The bizarrely butch protagonist is tough to get used to at first, but she cleans up pretty well and ends up being quite intelligently likable despite a somewhat problematic storyline. Even better is the supporting cast, full of great character actors all almost stealing the show from each other.
- The Descendants (2011) – A bit more sentimental (if such a word could be applied to Payne) than Payne’s normal work, but still with a dark edge that makes it all hold together. Not a masterpiece, but still a solid film with more insight into human interaction than you usually get in theaters these days.
- Shame (2011) – Pretty brutal movie about a severely unhappy man who has a lot of sex but enjoys none of it. The muted direction that is full of long takes perfectly complements Fassbender’s searing performance.
- Warhorse (2011) – Spielberg goes for Oscar glory with this movie about a horse and the slow witted man-child who loves it. If sentimental pathos-laden bullshit like that is your cup of tea, you’ll love Warhorse.
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) – Tough for me to fairly evaluate a movie that constantly screams “I am a very important movie about 9-11!!!” Factor in the most annoying kid of all time and you’ve got a movie that was easily the biggest waste of my life this month.
- Hugo (2011) – Not necessarily a bad film, but I really don’t see what the fuss is all about. Had this been directed by a no-name I suspect it would have been received for what it is: a kid’s film that most kids will be bored with.
- The Help (2011) – Honestly, this is a fairly entertaining story about a plucky white girl helping the poor black folk of her home town. It’s just too bad that nothing can keep the white guilt pandering from showing through the seams of this one.
- Until the Light Takes Us (2008) – Decent documentary about the Norwegian black metal scene. It really doesn’t have much to say, but Fenriz’s “nice guy” and Count Grishnakh’s frighteningly insane nationalist cult leader personality manage to carry the film.
- Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011) – On the surface this is just a chronicle of the weeks before Justin Bieber’s big show in Madison Square Garden. Thankfully it is actually pretty well done, and shows enough of the “real” soulless and spoiled Bieber (along with the frightening fans) that it makes up for all the horrible music.
- She’s Out of My League (2010) – A copycat of the Judd Apatow formula with somewhat below average results. Still, the lead and his Disney obsessed buddy are interesting enough to save the film from its more uninspired moments.
- One for the Money (2012) – I really don’t see what all the complaints are about. Sure, maybe it only plays like a slightly better and longer episode of Monk or something, but it is not at all deserving of its 3% rotten rating.
- Just Wright (2010) – Common and Queen Latifah (when she isn’t being a crazy sports fan/stalker) are so endearing it is kind of hard to fault this for actually using lines like “you are just Wright for me.” If nothing else, it thankfully abandons the ham-handed commentary on race that was found in the director’s previous film Something New.
- Moneyball (2011) – I could give a shit about baseball, but this actually managed to draw me in and make me interested in what could have been a very dry story. Though, I wonder why they (according to the internet) made up Jonah Hill’s character, since it ends up looking like Brad Pitt’s character steals all the dude’s ideas.
- The Artist (2011) – A fine film that manages to tell a simple story in a compelling way that against all odds never seems too sentimental. Of course, the biggest problem with the film is the simplicity of the story, and by the end of the movie I will probably feel like you have just watched a whole lot of nothing.
- A Tale of Winter (1992) – It is strange that some of my favorite Rohmer films feature some of his most annoying female protagonists. Even more astonishing is the fact that this one theoretically has a storyline as ludicrous as Serendipity–and yet it is another of his many masterpieces nonetheless.
- Haywire (2012) – The lead just barely manages to hold her own with the real actors, but she does well enough I was able to buy it. The story itself is not all that compelling, but the main girl believably kicking ass got me through the movie anyway.