Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in January.
- Movies watched – 37
- Movies that were new to me – 33
- Romantic Comedies – 14ish
- Monthly Masterpieces – Army of Shadows
- Hitch (2005) – Though this has a bit of trouble juggling the multiple story lines without the seams showing, Smith and James are charming enough it hardly matters. Lots of funny moments, and it manages to be crowd pleasing with only a bit of pandering.
- Rumor Has It (2005) – Despite the scattered good moments, no one in this film really seems to command much sympathy from the audience. In the end it is all a little too self-aware of its own premise to really work.
- The American (2010) – Nice and restrained assassin movie about a very closed-off man who wants a bit of human closeness nonetheless. If I have a complaint it is that the final sequence has been done so many times that it feels a little stale.
- Laws of Attraction (2004) – The strange screwball atmosphere and wandering script are ultimately rather off-putting despite some nice bits. Still, Moore and Brosnan are quite good and there are some amusing supporting performances from Posey and Sheen.
- Let Me In (2010) – The cinematography and atmosphere are really stunning in this brilliant story of vampire love and subconscious manipulation. It is just as good, if not better than the original, but having been remade so soon after the Swedish version it feels a bit redundant nonetheless.
- The Town (2010) – This is pretty standard stuff, but well done and with some quite good set-piece action sequences. The acting is good too even though something about Affleck just kind of makes you want to roll your eyes.
- The King’s Speech (2010) – I’d say it is a triumph on some level if only because it is such a blatant Oscar bait story about something I have zero interest in and I still found myself drawn into it. Also, I find it a bit rich that everyone gives rom coms shit for being formulaic, but I’ve heard few similar complaints about this enjoyably predictable movie.
- 127 Hours (2010) – I suppose my vote is still out since this is pretty much a music video styled film where you wait around for 90 minutes for a horrifying arm amputation scene. Of course, Danny Boyle is pretty creative for a flashy director, and I guess the story is fairly compelling for something that I have no desire to watch again.
- Winter’s Bone (2010) – This hillbilly noir succeeds almost entirely on the strength of the production design that turns the Ozark backwoods into a nightmarish mythical land of rednecks and flipper babies. The great performances and strong script don’t hurt either.
- Must Love Dogs (2005) – The script is a little too impressed with its own dialog for my tastes, but luckily Cusack is there to rise above the smarm and hold everything together. Not that Diane Lane is completely without her own charms of course.
- Under Siege (1992) – A lot of good action and an impressive cast, but it is let down by some stupid dialog and camera work that makes the whole thing look like it is filmed on video for some reason. The cake scene at least holds up pretty well.
- The Other Guys (2010) – There are some genuinely clever jokes, but like many Will Ferrell vehicles, there is a lot of nonsense masquerading as clever jokes as well. Good stuff, but not quite up there in the top tier of dude comedies.
- City Island (2009) – This is pretty damn good for an “outsider teaches troubled family how to live and love again” movie. Parts of it are a bit too precious, but otherwise it is mostly pretty clever and quite a lot of fun.
- The Matchmaker (1997) – This is a decent rom com, even though it pretty much falls right into all the precious “O’Irish” cliches I’m sure the screenwriter thought he was cleverly sidestepping. Also, Garafolo is a bit too bitchy in this to really be likeable–not that I blame her considering the people she has to interact with.
- Army of Shadows (1969) – Melville’s French resistance epic is stylistically indistinguishable from his gangster masterpieces, and equally brilliant. Also, I always call Clouzot the most nihilistic French director, but, I’m honestly considering giving the crown to Melville.
- Trash Humpers (2009) – For a movie I considered bailing on repeated times as I watched it, I actually ended up rather liking it. It is nowhere nearly as great as Korine’s (already flawed) debut Gummo, but there are some nice scattered images throughout and there is no denying that the man knows how to edit.
- Life or Something Like It (2002) – Jolie tries to struggle through this contrived mess on the strength of her bizarre beauty alone, and unfortunately doesn’t quite make it. Besides, any story that depends on magic to set up the plot is already on thin ice in my book, thus there is no way a film this weak could have possibly worked anyway.
- Cyrus (2010) – This is pretty great, though also awfully uncomfortable–primarily because of Jonah Hill’s chilling performance (though all the leads are pretty brilliant, especially Reilly). Best of all, you feel like you learn something about human interaction by the time it was over, which is far more than most movies can say.
- Tron (1982) – Granted, the story is stupid bordering on ridiculous, but the primitive computer graphics actually create a fairly compelling visual experience. Probably a waste of your time, but worth checking out anyway for the atmosphere and cybercharm.
- Tron: Legacy (2010) – Thankfully it eschews attempting to make sense of the nonsense of the story and explains just enough to keep the viewer from completely losing suspension of disbelief. What is left is a rather impressive bit of epic cyperpunk atmosphere…with an equally badass soundtrack.
- Paperback Hero (1999) – Solid rom com with an early (starmaking?) turn from Hugh Jackman. It would have been nice to see a bit more fallout from the revelation of his secret identity, but overall it is really quite charming.
- Never Been Kissed (1999) – Barrymore overplays the klutzy dweeb bit, and the love interest turns out to be a creepy dude who the movie tries way too hard to present as Mister Awesome. I was hoping for a cute rom com, but didn’t find much at all to recommend in this one.
- The Green Hornet (2011) – The plot is pretty haphazard, but people don’t watch Judd Apatow style films (which, with the Rogen script, this definitely was) for the plot, but rather the low-key buddy buddy charm. There are problems (Rogen needs to bring it down a bit) but overall it is quite funny and a lot of fun (Kato practically steals the movie too).
- The Secret of My Success (1987) – This story of getting filthy rich by your own ingenuity and bootstraps is undoubtedly every douchebag yuppie’s favorite movie of all time. I guess it’s a testament to Michael J. Fox’s performance that he actually comes off as fairly likable in this one.
- The Sign of Four (1987) – Brett’s histrionics make for a strange Sherlock Holmes if you are used to Basil Rathbone’s more measured arrogance like I am. Still, he is kind of growing on me, it is just too bad that this particular story doesn’t afford him more time to jump to awesome deductions.
- The Fighter (2010) – Aside from the interesting family dynamic, there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen a hundred times before. Not that I was expecting anything else, and the performances are all quite good, so as by the numbers boxing biopics go, this one is watchable enough.
- Dial M for Murder (1954) – The single set isn’t used as creatively as in Rope, but this is still a lot of fun, mostly because of the elaborately set up mystery with the keys. The boyfriend is rather bland, but the husband is an amusingly blasé villian.
- True Grit (2010) – This is a massive improvement on the flawed original in pretty much every way. The Coen Brothers have been playing it straight more often these days, and it is thrilling to see them use their considerable talents to make this film that is, in every sense, a classic western.
- Easy A (2010) – One of the good smart teen rom-coms like Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You. Lots of stuff to like in this one, from the great lead and often quite funny script to the very satisfying Christianity bashing.
- Only You (1994) – The script thankfully plays with the serendipity premise rather than caters to it, and Robert Downey Jr. somehow makes stalking adorable. If I have a complaint it is that Tomei is a bit dense with the fate stuff through most of this for you to really root for her, not that she could ever be unlikeable.
- Kate and Leopold (2001) – This is manufactured Hollywood fluff, but there are enough scenes that capitalized on the fish out of water premise to make it enjoyable anyway. Also, I think Meg Ryan did something to her lips.
- Chances Are (1989) – A nice turn from Robert Downey Jr. can’t save this one from the creepy premise of a dude who gets reincarnated and dates his daughter. The 80’s B-movie amateur hour factor is also a little high for my liking.
- Zombieland (2009) – Considering I could give a shit about zombie movies, the fact that I really rather enjoyed this says something I guess. The script is pretty clever, and the quirky interactions of the cast are actually quite heartwarming.
- Someone Like You (2001) – Pretty slick, but the appealing/attractive leads carry the day. Still pretty standard, but probably better than average if formulaic romantic comedies are your thing.
- The Gangster (1947) – Well done B movie that is one of the early “sympathetic” gangster films. There are a lot of nice touches, though the side stories that are meant to contrast and intersect with the gangster’s life feel a bit out of place.
- Inception (2010) – The second time around confirmed my suspicions: overlong and not nearly as brilliant as it thinks it is. Still a fair amount of cool stuff, but I found myself checking the run time more than I was ooing and ahing.
- Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) – It kind of plays like a B movie White Heat–which isn’t such a bad thing. However, Cagney really steals the show (along with a nice turn from Ward Bond) and makes the rest of the film suffer in comparison.
The unfortunate thing about Paperback Hero is that Hugh Jackman never unleashed his Wolverine powers in the bar scene, however the “drink flip” was pretty badass. I’m sure if I want to watch any more romantic comedies sober, they are as dry as a nun’s gusset.