Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in December.
- Kids (1995) – Really impressive naturalistic performances do a lot to sell this sensationalized story of kids gone wild that is sure to leave a bad taste in your mouth. An impressive bit of filmmaking even with the suspicion of more than a few cheap gut punches from the script.
- Trainspotting (1996) – Danny Boyle has always been one of the few directors that I feel can get away with this kind of overly-stylized filmmaking. A bummer of a movie as you watch a group of characters unable to keep from perpetually circling the drain, but an exhilarating bit of filmmaking nonetheless.
- Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972) – Possibly the best of Woody’s “early funny stuff,” this consistently inventive set of short films is really quite hilarious throughout (especially the final one). Also, they all happen to be fine examples of filmmaking as well.
- The Makeover (2013) – Sure, I couldn’t tell if the trailer was a parody trailer or not, but thankfully this reverse Pygmallion turns out to be a real movie (if Hallmark made for tv movies can be considered real movies). Julia Stiles’ character is unfortunately kind of unlikable, but otherwise, this is just good old fashioned rom com fun.
- Zero Dark Thirty (2012) -Excellent, almost documentary style, story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. It doesn’t seem to take sides on any of the controversial issues, rather just presents the details as they supposedly happened and lets the viewer decide for themselves whether treating other humans like animals is justified.
- Life of Pi (2012) – Bullshit movie where the most sycophantically cloying interviewer in the world questions the grown-up protagonist about his bullshit religious propaganda story, that, in the bullshit ending, is supposed to make you believe a bunch of bullshit. At least the lifeboat scenes are pretty.
- Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Fun, crowd pleasing movie about two insane people who fall in love. If I have an issue with this, it is that it seems to suggest that true love makes you not be crazy anymore, which would be fine in a dumb rom com, but not in a movie that is pretending to be better than that.
- Jackie Brown (1997) – Tarantino should probably try more adaptations, as this really feels pretty lean and focused compared to his other work. Or, as lean and focused as the convoluted Elmor Leonard short story it is based on can be anyway.
- Amour (2012) – Haneke knocks another one out of the park while proving that he is probably the best living director in the world right now. Somehow (considering the gut punch subject matter), this doesn’t feel quite as pessimistic as many of his earlier films, but it is just as intelligent and rewarding of an experience.
- The Warriors (1979) – Fantastic, super tense chase film about a bunch of dudes being forced to “bop” their way across 3 burroughs of rival gangs. Dripping with machismo, Hills lean direction makes this one of the great action films–a real classic.
- Dredd 3D (2012) – Karl Urban scowls his way through a futuristic dystopia and sells the one liners better than Arnold in his prime. The decision to just make it a “day in the life of” film rather than the usual origin story superhero flick really helps this one stand heads and shoulders above its competition.
- Street of Crocodiles (1987) – Brilliant bit of stop motion animation that is full of creepy dolls, urban decay and Freudian sexual references. Like all good experimental narrative filmmaking, the plot defies explanation, but remains remarkably coherent anyway.
- Les Escargots (1965) – Pretty wild bit of 60s French animation that never loses its ability to surprise. Some of the segments don’t seem as entertaining as others, but it is still consistently inventive throughout.
- Easy Street (1917) – Not as funny as the other Chaplin Mutuals, yet this seems to get most of the publicity due to its social conscience elements. Still, it’s a good site better than the latter day “batting his eyes at blind girls” Chaplin persona.
- The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) -Very minor John Wayne B-film about early frontier shenanigans. Aside from some nice cinematography (and The Duke), there’s not much to recommend here in a movie that had me checking my watch to see when it was going to be over after only about 10 minutes into it.
- Barbarella (1968) – Ridiculously over the top “sci-fi” tale full of all manner of 60s psychedelic nonsense. I have to admit it actually has a few redeeming qualities, but at the end of the day the main draw is still just Jane Fonda’s ass.
- Storytelling (2001) – Two short films about the usual Solondz cadre of miserable humans. Still good stuff, though I feel like the second film wanders a bit and doesn’t quite match the first one in terms of quality.
- Happiness (1998) – A powerful bit of filmmaking that hides deliciously a sordid drama in an almost comedic veneer. It’s like a Rhomer film, if Rohmer could only see the worst in people, and yet it somehow never feels like it’s taking cheap shots either.
- Bourne Legacy (2012) – I didn’t remember enough of the earlier movies, or the Bourne universe to really care about the interstitial bits, but as a spy actioneer, this hits the right buttons. Some of the science seems a bit implausible, but the strong central performances will keep your interest.
- Django Unchained (2012) – Overlong and full of superfluous bits, but still quit a bit of fun. Also, Tarantino, thankfully, seems to be attempting to (at least partially) restrain his worst impulses when it comes to excessive dialog.
- Looper (2012) – Pretty slick (in an entertaining way) Sci-Fi time travel flick that has enough interesting stuff to maintain interest. Still, I can’t help feeling like it is a bit too impressed with its own time travel shenanigans for its own good.