Monthly Movie Journal: March 2011
First Time Views
Watched for the first time and in its entirety.
1304 6.3 6.61. Due Date (2010)
Started the month off with a dud. By month's end I'm pretty sure I won't remember a scrap of dialogue or be able to fully describe a single sequence from this highly inconsequential buddy flick/road-comedy/snore-fest/instant 'bro' classic.
If you like to watch dogs masturbate, Downey Jr. act like a dick, and Zach Galifanakis lean on his tired, wobbly comic crutch, then this might be for you. If you like funny and inspired comedies with a coherent identity that works, then don't waste your time.
761 5.2 5.52. Dark Water (2005)
Great cast, solid cinematography, and some surprisingly dark material are all at play in this unsung horror/thriller. And yet, even with these ingredients, the film never quite makes good on its promise.
Worth a look for the avid horror fan, (Or Jennifer Connelly fan for that matter) but not something to go out of your way for otherwise.
1728 7.4 7.53. Pi (1998)
Been meaning to watch this one for a very long time now. Happy I finally caught up with it. A fascinating and bold film to say the least. And probably one I'll revisit down the road.
If you don't like B&W films, close shots, spastic sound editing, interesting camera work, industrial-techno type music, or being asked to think by somewhat experimental films, then stay away.
But if all that sounds interesting to you, check it out. Here's a great review if you want to learn more:
674 7.6 7.84. The King of Comedy (1982)
571 6.5 6.55. Night Watch (2004)
At once a visual feast and a compelling, engaging story that breathes new life to the clssic theme of good vs. evil. This movie oozes style and confidence and the story is as fascinating as it is entertaining.
It's far more than your average vampire film, as it calls to mind biblical allegory and world political tensions. The kind of movie that makes me grin with excitement, even as it stumbled a bit in its direction and pacing. This is what "cool" meets "remarkable" meets "vampires" looks like.
Can't wait to watch the sequel!
Currently streaming on NetFlix
855 7 7.16. My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Meh. Short of River Pheonix's performance there wasn't much here I truly enjoyed. Definately comes as a disappointment, especially considering how impressed and taken I was by Drugstore Cowboy.
And the Shakespeare stuff didn't work for me at all. Oh, and Keanu Reeves just can't act.
658 8 8.17. Paris, Texas (1984)
Mesmerizing indie-drama/western/character-study/American culture meditation of a film. This movie is very deliberately paced, but the story action and non-action are equally compelling, due to fine performances, fantastic cinematography, and a stand-out musical score. This is an exploration of loneliness and loss that works better as a fable than as a realistic unfolding of events.
Maybe worth noting, maybe not...
Paris, Texas (1983)
52 6.8 7.38. Box of Moonlight (Box of Moon Light) (1996)
"Blend equal parts Richard Linklater and Kevin Smith, add a soupçon of Jim Jarmusch and baste liberally with the Coen brothers, and you have DiCillo, albeit without quite the distinctive genius of any of the other five. Now, with his third and most ambitious film, a sweet, rambling road-to-nowhere opus called Box of Moonlight, DiCillo sheds the black leather jacket and reveals himself to be his own man -- and that man is Frank Capra. I don't mean to be snide: Like Capra, DiCillo is a skilled and honest craftsman, respectful of his materials and the audience, seeking to cloak his conventional moralizing in carefully constructed, non-assaultive entertainment. Faced with the collection of cynics, hacks and morons who make most movies, I'll take that any day and feel grateful."
"The convention of the charming eccentric who changes the life of a strait-laced protagonist has evolved into a movie formula that tends to err on the side of the ridiculously heartwarming. But Tom DiCillo's Box of Moonlight manages to be both sweet and bittersweet. It is a movie of deeply felt sentiments that never crosses over into sentimentality. Thanks to a touchingly open performance by John Turturro as Al Fountain, the film's hero, Box of Moonlight is at once low-key and quirky, a movie of found comedy and genuine emotion."
969 8.1 8.19. In the Mood for Love (2000)
Never seen a Kar Wai Wong film before, so wasn't sure what to expect going into this one. Taken in its individual parts (performance, cinematography, music, etc.) I found a lot to enjoy and marvel at. Yet somehow, by the end I was left vaguely disappointed and without many intense feelings one way or the other. I blame the final 25 minutes or so of the film for much of that, which seemed to rub much of the shimmer from the brilliance I saw in the first half.
1370 7.5 7.710. Lost Highway (1997)
Yep... this is definately a David Lynch film. And I don't think I've enjoyed one of his movies as much upon my FIRST viewing of it since Blue Velvet. Maybe I'm learning how to view his work with less frustration, or maybe I caught this one at just the right mood. Either way, I dug this film-- liked the look of it, liked the performances all the way through, liked the noir-ish mystique, like the sad, haunting, unsettling feeling underlying it all, and, even more, I like the manageability I found with this film, so far as attempting to interpret it and constructing some sense out of it all.
In fact, my biggest complaint deals with what I found to be the least Lynch-esque aspect of the film. That being the use of popular music (ESPECIALLY Rammstein and Marilyn Manson) in the film. To me it just felt silly and forced and disrupted both the mood of the movie and the otherwise fine musical score.
Where I see what all the fuss is about.
317 7.6 7.911. Wait Until Dark (1967)
This is a strong contender for best 1960's film I've seen that nobody talks about. The plot asks us to suspend our disbelief here and there, but once I met the movie on its terms I was helpless against its greatness.
Glad I didn't wait until someone finally told me to see it. If you haven't watched it yet, get out of the dark!
869 8.2 8.412. The Third Man (1949)
I've got nothing but mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, it's a visual marvel, especially for its time. On the other, well-- and please forgive me for saying so-- it's kind of a bore. The story starts fresh and captivating enough. For the first 25 or 30 minutes I was sure I would love it. But by the end I grew tired of countless narrative corners that I could pretty well see around. And I grew tired of waiting for Joseph Cotton to become a first-rate leading man. ((Psst! It never happens!)
One thing, however, I did feel without a doubt, is just how compelling an actor and screen-presence Orson Welles truly is. If you can watch this movie all the way through without the sense by the end that you're really just waiting for Orson Welles to show up on screen again then your either a far more patient and appreciative film-noir fan than I, or, more likely, a big fat liar.
1589 8.2 8.413. Some Like It Hot (1959)
Foreign Language Find of the Month
In order to expand my horizons, satisfy my desire for discovery, and approach a film with zero to little expectation-- all at once!
153 7.5 7.614. The Girl on the Bridge (1999)
Fantastic, playful, perceptive, and thoughtful are all words that come to mind. Droll humor pervades one life or death situation after another- whether it be attempted suicide or knife-throwing, circus act theatrics.
Shot in gorgeous black & white, punctuated by a splashy and engaging musical score, and emboldended by two fine performances from our central characters, this film begs to be watched. I was more than happy to comply.
At the Movies
Movies I shelled out $9.50 to watch on the big screen.
1028 6.6 7.115. The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
While I'm a bit more sympathetic to the film than the review below would suggest, I can't help but agree with just about everything here:
But then again, quality theatrical releases in February/March are pretty tough to come by. So if you insist on heading out to the movies, you could easily do worse.
178 5.9 6.316. Cedar Rapids (2011)
Cedar Rapids has become something of an indie-comedy darling among many major critics. Most applaud the sweet-- if not entirely innocent-- core beneath the veneer of raunchy humor, explicit drug use, and often sophmoric comic hijinks.
Trailer for Cedar Rapids
I agree that the movie benefits from the sympathetic approach to its socially arrested characters. Ultimately we do feel that the movie LIKES these people, and they're not merely comic devices there to be laughed at with derision. Ed Helms does a fine job in a movie that depends largely on our response to his character.
But in many ways I think the movie suffers from an identity crisis. Its so called sweetness is a little hard to revel in when our lead has his lips around a crack pipe, for example. And the humor often depends on our appreciation for say, a shirtless and drunk John C. Reily, rather than smart and insightful writing. There are some funny moments here that had me laughing. But the movie miscues too often to get any kind of enthusiastic recommendation from me.
12 7.8 6.617. Today's Special (2009)
Caught this tasty little number at my local Indie/Art movie theater. Purley enjoyable at gut-level. There are no real surprises here in a story that experienced movie goers will feel pretty familiar with, but it doesn't matter. It's a perfect blend of humor and heart and one of the strongest casted films I've seen in a long time. Every performance is strong, and even the most minor characters are a joy to watch.
While I didn't absolutely LOVE it, I feel it's one of the safest recommendations I've ever seen-- it's just that easy to like in a way that seems universally appealing. So whoever you are, if you happen upon this film, give it a try because it's worth a look. Trust me.
11 9 718. A Matter of Size (2009)
Trailer for A Matter of Size
Pretty faithful trailer for a pretty fun and often touching movie. I saw this as part of the Jewish Film Festival currently happening around my town, knowing NOTHING about it going in, but was very pleased that I took a chance on it. I heard something about Israeli movie/sumo wrestling and just had to find out for myself.
Great performances everywhere, engaging characters, and a nice blend of comedy and substance. Give it a look if you get a chance!
324 6.9 6.819. Howl (2010)
Second Viewing; special screening as part of a local Jewish Film Festival
An excellent look at Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems from a few different angles. James Franco is amazing as Ginsberg, and recitations of the main poem are set to some of the most beautiful and amazing animation I've ever seen. I really enjoyed it & plan on watching it again, though I couldn't help but feel that people with no appreciation of poetry probably wouldn't make it through the entire film (their loss).
I'll only add that this may be my favorite film of 2010. If you're interested you can see my original reaction here.
Usually old favorites, but sometimes an attempt to re-watch a film with a different mind-set or motive.
4920 8.4 8.820. Inception (2010)
I still love the ideas, love the visuals, and love Leo's performace. And I've now pretty well settled on my own interpretation of *what happens*. This movie deserves most of the hype it's received regarding it's ambition-- in both a visual and conceptual sense.
But I've gotta say Inception gets bogged down quite a bit by tiresome and all but intrusive action sequences and hand-to-hand/gun-to-gun fight scenes. Most particularly in the final act.
Also, a part of me still wished the film took a more aggressive line toward hard Sci-Fi. A deeper investigation/revelation of the technology at work would've been interesting. A more imaginative backdrop for the ideas and philosphies behind extraction/inception could've served the film better, I think.
Instead Nolan tries to court all audiences at once with a modern-day drama dressed up in sci-fi trimmings and action-blockbuster ribbons and bows. And I guess it worked pretty damn well for him in the end.
But I'm not ready to call it a masterpiece. The entire supporting cast reeks of standard-fare summer blockbuster and the film itself never quite achieves its own new and bold identity.
Finally, I dare you to watch this movie again and tell me that Joseph Gordon Levitt isn't Keanu Reeves through and through. And trust me... it wasn't a realization I relished. I hope we see a different side of him in the upcoming Batman movie.
2594 8.2 8.421. Oldboy (2003)
What a stunning film and rewarding rewatch!
1024 5.8 6.322. Knight and Day (2010)
Yep. Still think it's a shamelessly fun, silly, and joyful good time. Call it a guily pleasure, but I'm still not ready to apologize for liking this one.
Check out my original reaction if you like-- Though I'll admit the movie is not without its flaws, I still stand behind every word of it:
657 5.4 5.623. Piranha (2010)
1191 8.5 8.524. M (1931)
1232 8.2 8.525. Vincent (1982)
Fantasic and fun little six minute short anmation piece from the delightfully gothic mind of Tim Burton. Vincent Price narrates the film. My girlfriend had never seen it, and it was nice to visit it again after many many years.
Give it a look- it's posted via youtube link straight from this site!
540 6.9 7.326. Frankenweenie (1984)
Again, my girlfriend hadn't seen this before, so we kept the early Burton train rolling. It's a charming 25 or so minute short film that's worth a look, especially if your a fan of Tim Burton. Shelly Duvall and Daniel Stern co-star, as well as that kid for The Neverending story.
It's definately cheese, but at 25 minutes, it's harmless cheese. Also availiable via youtube.
Back on the Shelf
Mission Aborted: Films I gave up on for one reason or another.
Films I hope to watch by month's end. Based largely on theatrical release dates, friend's recommendations, and personal sense of impulse and/or duty. The goal of course is to not let too many of these titles pile up from month to month!
Month in Review
395 7.3 7.443. The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)
My Quick Pick Six:
Good: The Girl on the Bridge / Wait Until Dark
Bad: Due Date / Kabluey (couldn't even finish)
Wierd: Lost Highway / Pi
15 6.7 6.444. Surprise Cinema (2000)
Biggest pleasant surprise of the month has to be
Night Watch, though it's sequel contends for biggest disappointment in a long time.
3 8 6.245. Looking Back (1969)
March was something of a cranky, impatient movie month for me evident by the number of movies I gave up on and the relatively few titles I watched for the first time. I found myself retreating back to movies I've already seen and enjoyed far more often than I'm prone to do.
Luckily much of the new-to-me stuff that I actually stuck with I really enjoyed. And the Jewish Film Festival at the end of the month was a big highlight that also helped me indulge my love for going to the movie theater.
While I didn't manage to work in any documentaries this month, I feel I partly compensated by catching up with a number of older titles that I've been meaning to see for a long time.
Breakdowns for Personal Reference:
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