Sunday, April 20, 2008

Flick the Button

Big backlog, so I'll try to be brief.

1.  Grandma's Boy:  Got some moments, but just felt like it could've been a little funnier.  Overall the cast was funny and all of them deserve more and better roles.  But there are too many stretches without laughs, or just non sequiturs pretending to be gags.  Note: I agree completely with the IMDB featured comment, "This film would have sucked had Sandler been in it." You're Fired.

2.  Across the Universe: Enjoyable and occasionally brilliant.  Not every number works, but a few of them are fantastic.  Taymor is a visionary who doesn't need to prove it on the silver screen, but I also got the feeling like she could make a revelation of a film.  It's like I want to praise the heights this film hits, but I also think it could've been a classic.  Great art direction.  Pretty decent acting from the leads, though the supporting acting is so-so.  I liked it, but I also really like the Beatles.  Steak Knives.

3.  No End In Sight: Important for someone who hasn't been paying attention to the Iraq war for the last 5 years, but little new information.  Strong editing and interviewing skills, but not all that groundbreaking.  Seemed like a decent Frontline special.  You're Fired.

4.  The Brave One: Clean and well made, but ultimately empty.  Probably a bit too straight-forward.  Terrence Howard was pretty good though.  You're Fired.

5.  Gone Baby Gone: Surprisingly, this was really good.  In fact, I think I might've liked it better than (the natural comparison) Mystic River.  Casey Affleck is fantastic.  The rest of the cast, especially the bit players, was outstanding - maybe the best ensemble for a movie I've seen all year.  Amy Ryan got all the attention, but it's really Casey Affleck that stole the show.  The kind of movie that made me want to read the book - and that's a high compliment.  Not afraid to say it, Cadillac.

6.  Shoot 'Em Up:  As a comedy, it could use more laughs.  As a thriller, it could use less ridiculousness.  Or just more of everything.  I think it's just shy of being a parody, but it also has some hilarious moments, primarily skydive fighting.  If this were more ridiculous, I'd probably watch it again, but it isn't, so I won't.  You're Fired.

7.  3:10 to Yuma (2007):  I like westerns.  I like Bale and Crowe (and Ben Foster too).  I like Elmore Leonard.  But there was something a little too slick about this for me to really love it, though I did like it OK.  I think I'd have liked it more had it been grittier.  Or maybe it just doesn't compare to the great Westerns too favorably.  Maybe I'm being too critical.  Probably, because I did like it.  Steak Knives.

8.  Michael Clayton: One of my favorites of the last year.  White collar Bourne Identity - and I really appreciate the way Tony Gilroy thinks and writes.  Excellent acting, fine direction, great pacing.  Cadillac.

9.  Sunshine (2007): Alternated between beautiful visuals and epileptic chopping.  Alternated between psychological drama projected onto an eternal and universal canvas and goofy ripoff of Event Horizon (which at least knew it was ridiculous).  A movie needs to figure out what it wants to be.  This didn't.  I did kind of like the final scene though. You're Fired.

10.  American Gangster: Tried too hard to be good.  Watching some movies, you can just envision the pitch that got it started.  With this, it was "a new Scarface, big, badass".  OK, that's fine if they want to make that, but it didn't turn out to be great.  It feels about an hour too long.  Denzel Washington is kind of a ham.  An indulgent film.  You're Fired.

11.  The Lives of Others: A solid moral drama.  Finely acted and directed.  The pacing of the film matches plodding bureaucracy, and that works.  As far as Communist-era East German-set films go, I preferred Good Bye Lenin!, but this was pretty good too.  Steak Knives.

12. Layer Cake:  My mistake here was in reading the book first.  The book is richer, twistier, makes more sense (and less - it's written in cockney), and has a better ending.  I'm not really in a position to tell you how good the movie is on its own, because I can't think about the movie without comparing it to the book.  You might like the movie a lot (and there are some scenes that are great).  For me, you're fired - read the book.

13. No Country For Old Men: Again, I read the book first, but here it's a little different.  The book and the film are pretty much identical.  Almost word for word.  And I appreciate that.  The film matches the book in power, vivid imagery, and how indelible it is.  It's a classic film that stands up next to a classic novel.  The Coen Brothers have done better, and so has Cormac McCarthy, but nobody else could've done this novel better.  Cadillac.

14. Into the Wild: Again, I read the book first.  Here, the book/film issue worked somewhere between the previous two.  What was good was the scenery and cinematography - works much better on film than in Krakauer's news-reporting, little describing style.  What was missing was (and I shouldn't be surprised because it's Sean Penn) the humor.  I really got the sense in the book that McCandless was an interesting, positive, sort of infectious character once he hit the road.    That only shined through in too-brief moments in the film (talking to an apple, "I'm fuckin' hungry!").  Maybe that's Hirsch's fault, but I sense that it's Penn's fingerprints that made the character just too morose.  Also - for a movie that relied on bit players he meets on the way, it seemed like the supporting cast was terribly underused (especially Galifianakis).  You're Fired.

15. Pirates of the Caribbean - At World's End:  Oh Lord.  Three scenes that were cool (multiple Sparrows, battle in the whirlpool, umm... make that two).  150 scenes that sucked or were terribly annoying.  This movie felt interminable.  Get to the point.  Everything that made me hate the second one was back.  Everything that made the first one good was completely absent (except that one scene with the multiple Sparrows).  Seemed like a massive waste of filmstock and resources.  Jeez.  This sucked.  You're Fired.

16. Fracture: I figured out all the twists way early on.  We never found out why Gosling spoke with a southern accent, though, and that was the most interesting mystery.  Throw-away movie that I'd have forgotten completely if I hadn't watched it yesterday. You're Fired.

17.  Mad Men - Season One:  An exceptional television program which I highly recommend to everyone I know.  Seriously, this is one of the best-written TV shows I've ever watched and the acting, style, etc. all works great.  NOTE: AMC IS RESHOWING THE FIRST SEASON STARTING TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT.  WATCH THIS!  I THINK IT'S ON "ON-DEMAND" TOO.  WATCH IT!

I'm pretty sure I've forgotten a bunch of movies, but if I can't remember them, they sucked.