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Added by Xanadon't on 5 Jan 2012 10:44
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January Movie Journal - Xanadon't

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Mixed bag from the last couple years


Netflix Instant

Fun movie that turns both "vacation-horror" and "teen-scream horror" on its head. It gets by largely on the comedic ability of these two guys above (especially the fella on the right) and a surprisingly clever script. Most of this feels very fresh, funny, bloody, and playful, though the film kind of paints itself into a corner by the end and the magic is lost. But there's no reason any horror fan should put this one off.
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People who added this item 1885 Average listal rating (1282 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.6


Redbox Rental

Every plot-point of the film was telegraphed from miles away, and the characters are poorly written with very little development. It's a good thing most of the visuals were excellent, because this movie didn't have anything else going for it.

In many ways this felt like Splice all over again.

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People who added this item 1022 Average listal rating (608 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.1


Redbox Rental

George Clooney, Paul Giamatti, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei. With a cast this strong you're not likely to find The Ides of March a total waste of time- even if that's exactly what you consider politics to be. And indeed a number of the performances here are pretty great, even if the film itself shies away from greatness at every turn. That's not to say the film isn't good. It is. But nothing more or less.

Ryan Gosling delivers yet another strong 2011 performance (and it's a lead performance really), proving that he's among the very top actors of his generation. But for my money, Hoffman edges out everyone. If there's a supporting actor nominated from this film, I'd say he's most deserving. And of course Paul Giamatti once again does a terrific job at being so fucking GIAMATTI!

www.dcpierson.com/archives/000790.html Click on it!

As many of you may already have heard, this "inside" look at the fucked up circus of a game called American Politics isn't anything startlingly fresh. But for anyone with a lack knowledge about modern political processes or in need of a good dose of political cynicism (which I highly recommend, I've been taking it for years!) this is an easy, slick, pretty-to-look-at way to get up to speed.

See lotr23's review
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People who added this item 97 Average listal rating (54 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.6


Netflix Instant

Okay, I'm not going to call this a masterpiece or anything. But this movie was significantly better than I would've ever guessed. Sam Rockwell flexes some comedic muscle here, but the script allows him room for some surprisingly compelling dramatic work as well. On the surface, this looks like a predictable, bland, throw-away teen sports comedy. But it's got enough of its own identity to keep me quite entertained. I'm giving it a 7/10, but if judged within its genre it's more like an 8.5 Give it a look if you're in the mood for something light that won't completely insult your intelligence every chance it gets.
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People who added this item 661 Average listal rating (422 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 5.9


I skipped 2 through 4, so why'd I bother with this one? I don't know. The various Rube Goldberg machines of sadism combined with bland acting was just too much for my nerves.

And gee, I can't tell- was this movie released to theaters in 3D? I won't be going back to see what I've missed over the years.
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Retro Titles

Catching up with the ones I missed
People who added this item 106 Average listal rating (61 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.7


Netflix Instant

Parker Posey plays a crazy (and I mean crazy) quick-quipping, dangerous, smart-ass seductress with serious issues. And I can't imagine anyone that could've done it better. The "indie queen" is one of a kind, though that may make some hate her as much as it continues to make me surprised at how much I like her.

The House of Yes is an adaptation of a stage play that treads some pretty "far out there" ground. It's an alarmingly black comedy that's at once as irreverent toward the JFK assassination as it is flippant about incest between (twin) siblings. Not everyone will be able to accept the premise of the film, let alone its colorful attitudes. But there's something strangely stirring in its fucked up story and there's at least the illusion of some big and complex ideas going on about forbidden love, social elitism, and obsessive idolatry. And there's probably all sorts of ways that this work harkens back toward Greek tragic literature too. In the end I thought it a film that is every bit as interesting as it can be off-putting. Give it a look if you're in the mood for something a bit different.
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People who added this item 1262 Average listal rating (781 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.7


Blu Ray purchase

One of the more over-rated films of the last 5 years, as far as I can tell. Sure, it is a very compelling story, and Casey Afleck does a pretty good job in the lead role. And I really, really respected the fact that this movie wrestles with a number of ethical questions and situations. But my oh my does this movie have some problems. I love the ethical morality mess at the heart of the story, but there's no excuse for the complete structural messes that bog down the film. And I'm sorry, but the final 15 minutes are so entirely preposterous that I no longer felt there was anything at stake. I simply couldn't buy into the "dilemmas" at hand.
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People who added this item 28 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 6.3
Ethan Frome (1993)
Netflix Instant

There's just something I love about this deliciously bleak story. Definitely not the casting choices I would've picked (for both Mattie and "flashback" Ethan) in this film adaptation of Edith Wharton's early 20th century novel, but oh well. The film didn't disappoint me, though I'm a bit surprised that this is the only adaptation out there.
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Netflix Mail

David Lynch goes "wholesome" in this compelling story of a 73 year-old man on a mission aboard a riding lawnmower. With a trailer hitched up to his John Deere, he also has a lifetime of memories, life-lessons, and regrets in tow.

The photography captures the simple beauties of the Midwest plains and open roads, while a phenomenal score mesmerizes with somber violins and therapeutic guitar. But the central performance from Richard Farnsworth (in his final feature film) is what really anchors our viewership. He says more with his eyes than most actors can with their entire body. And his speech is thoughtful and deliberate, sincere and confident, though it runs at a pace no faster than his green ride-a-along. It's the kind of performance you don't forget.
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People who added this item 256 Average listal rating (89 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.4


Netflix Instant

Like me you might find the excessively drab and dreary photography (concerning both landscapes and interior settings) bothersome, but once you get a full grasp of the material at hand it will all make horrific sense.
This one's about as emotionally bleak and hopeless as they come.

2 hours after credit-roll and I'm still not at all sure that the below rating won't change, nor can I guess just which direction it might swing.

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People who added this item 1279 Average listal rating (704 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.5


Netflix Mail

I'd heard for some time that this is a highly controversial film, but to be honest I didn't find anything in it to be overly shocking or boundary-pushing. I mean, it's dark, yes, and like so many of Almodovar's films it runs the gamut as far as its exploration of sexuality and the blurry, even fluid, boundaries therein.

This one's a bit of a stranger and darker jigsaw puzzle than much of his other work. And it's pretty satisfying how everything finds a way of shaping up in unexpected fashions.
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Classics Corner

Where I see what all the fuss is about
People who added this item 198 Average listal rating (114 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.2


DVD box-set purchase

Elizabeth Taylor is radiant in that young Elizabeth Taylor way, Joan Bennett is naturally warm and dignified, and Spenser Tracy is very likable as he does most of the film's heavy lifting and provides the vast majority of the film's humor. But it's a pretty light movie that commits the sin of becoming too overly sentimental too often. Still, there's a lot to be said from the production stand-point, particularly in its attention to detail with big, busy set-pieces. And the story moves along briskly and our characters feel remarkably real and fully developed.
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People who added this item 356 Average listal rating (228 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7


Netflix Instant

This is pretty fluffy stuff, and if someone wanted to read it as being pretty darn sexist, I wouldn't argue. But much of it's in good fun, and there are some sterling moments of comedy scattered throughout. With a less solid trio of leading ladies, this film would no doubt be long forgotten about. But gotta say that Marilyn Monroe's performance really does command attention here. I'm not a huge Monroe fan, but here she's very likeable in her own mysterious way
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Foreign Language Film of the Month

People who added this item 1388 Average listal rating (795 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 7.9


Anyone that has been paying attention to my journals lately has likely noticed that Pedro Almodovar has been coming up a lot in the past few months. Simply put, between his treatment of theme, unconventional subject matter, and entirely singular style and approach to story telling, there just isn't anyone quite like him making movies.

Fantastic performances by the entire cast, most notable Cecilia Roth's turn as the grieving mother compelled to revisit a path that she was so eager to leave behind. As with all of Almodovar's work that I've seen, colorful characters and scenery abound in this neatly crafted tale of loss and entanglement, and a well-measured dose of comic relief keeps us entertained as well as moved.
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Indie as f**k pick of the month

Super-indie and actually pretty good
People who added this item 19 Average listal rating (10 ratings) 4.9 IMDB Rating 0


Netflix Instant

Because hopefully there's still a little bit of Scotty left in all of us.

Give it a try sometime.
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At the Movies

Caught these on the big screen
People who added this item 1992 Average listal rating (1210 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 7.8


If you've seen the original, there's really no compelling reason to run out and see this. It's a remake made almost exclusively for the subtitle-phobic. It's too long and methodical and intricate and dark for the "I wanna see stuff blown up good" crowd. And it doesn't add anything in terms of style or subtext or (imaginary) David Fincher brilliance that will wow any "art" audience that has seen the original. In fact, the most notable thing present is the crazy-cool title sequence (which I somehow suspect Trent Reznor had as much or more to do with than Fincher).

If you haven't seen the Swedish film, go ahead and give it a look. There's nothing really wrong with the film and we're dealing with largely competent, sometimes impressive film-making here (well, aside from the fact that nobody seems to know what the hell kind of accent the characters should be speaking in) But I've seen enough to know not to bother with Fincher's follow-ups.
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People who added this item 1178 Average listal rating (714 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.1


Great performances, great score, wonderfully shot. But the plot is terribly convoluted. And it's one of those films where I'm never comfortable that I have a clear idea of just what exactly the hell is going on. Who is this person exactly in relation to that person. What does this person "know" about that person. And is what they "know" even true? Or isn't it? Gah. Maybe I'm too dumb to fully appreciate this cold-war "thriller".

See Review by SJMJ91 here
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People who added this item 444 Average listal rating (283 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.5
Contraband (2012)


Carnage. Carnage is the movie I wanted to see! But thanks to my own carelessness I arrived to the theater long after the aforementioned film was underway, but wouldn't you know it, just in time for this clunker.

Self-recognition is woefully low on this film's list of strengths. It's ordinary when it's at its best, but clumsy, predictable, and wrongly convinced of its own credibility as a gritty crime movie when it's at its worst. Which is a significant chunk of the time.

Sadly, none of the performances ever do much to save the day. Mark Whalberg is actually stronger than anyone else here, if that's any indication of what we're dealing with. Kate Beckinsale fans can take this one off. She operates in three modes: angry, frightened, and frightened AND angry. Really, she's nothing more than a plot device that's never give any characterization of her own. And as for Gioviani Ribisi, well, I challenge you to find a less annoying and pathetic villain this year.

Hmm. Suddenly those 2 stars feel generous.
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People who added this item 968 Average listal rating (614 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.2
Carnage (2011)


A somewhat overly pedantic film that ultimately doesn't say anything we don't already know somehow manages to impress due to perfect casting and tightly controlled and precise direction. The film hits a few lulls, but there was always a series of exchanges/highlights in performance to pull the movie through and keep me engaged. In the end, the "self-identification via personal possession" critique proved more interesting than the "transparent facade of human civility" critique. And as the unconscious, deep resentments that lie within each character unfold the movie becomes more uncomfortable and more powerful. This is a vicious little movie that I admired more than I actually enjoyed.
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People who added this item 504 Average listal rating (333 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 5.8
Haywire (2011)


Steven Soderbergh dishes up an impressive achievement in style in this Pretty Girl Kicks Peoples' Asses Revenge Film. The retro musical score is perfect and the location shooting combined with Soderbergh's eye for color and screen composition make this an extremely welcome "art-house sensibility" approach to the summer-blockbuster-friendly genre. And my oh my, is his approach to the action sequences and hand-to-hand combat sequences ever refreshing. Contemporary films of this ilk are usually riddled with hyper-kinetic editing, dizzying camera treatments, and tons of post-production tuning. But here we're treated by being allowed to actually see what the fuck is going on as the characters engage in violent and intense scuffles, fist-fights, and alley-way warfare.

Gina Carano isn't much of an actress but that's okay. Her extraordinary mixed martial arts skills are why she's here, and neither her performance in that respect, nor the film's ability to capture her impressive ability ever disappoints on that front. And with a strong cast of supporting actors and a long stretches inherent to the plot that don't call for a tremendous amount of dialogue from her, Carano's sub-stellar vocal acting never becomes too large an issue. (It should be noted that when she's silent she DOES convey emotion with surprising and very convincing aptitude)



If the film has one glaring problem that holds it back from greatness (even if it's only genre-confined greatness) it's the fact that Ewen McGregor is utterly miscast. And his haircut is so bad it's actually offensive.

But as far as sheer big-screen entertainment goes, this is far better than early-in-the-year releases almost ever offer.
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People who added this item 890 Average listal rating (588 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 6.8
The Grey (2011)


Given the somewhat dismal state that indie film-making has been stuck in recently, I for one have been pleased with the recent arrival of these Multi-plex/art-house hybrids (see above entry). Sure this is in some ways a paint-by-numbers survival tale. And sure it's in some ways Jaws with wolves. But The Grey rises above lazy-handed dismissal by asking big questions. And while it doesn't give these questions a full 5-course treatment, I was happy to discover that the film answers them in a well-measured, thoughtful, and consistent way- and in a manner that may not please all audience members.

In the grand scheme of things, this film worked for me. It worked as a horror film, it worked as a gritty survival tale, it worked as a Liam Neeson action vehicle, it worked as a beautifully shot location piece. And goddammit if that wasn't the most intense plane-crash scene I've ever seen. And goddammit if that wasn't the most stressful, upsetting, maddening drowning scene I've ever seen. Even if you don't thing that the sum is greater than its parts (though I do) well, they are some pretty great parts going on here.

Oh, and if you're still not sold on seeing it just pretend the title is Liam Punches a Wolf, if that helps.
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People who added this item 1521 Average listal rating (907 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.9
The Artist (2011)


In all likelihood, The Artist will be accepting an Oscar for Best Picture in just a few weeks. So, is it in fact the "best" film of 2011? Well no, it's not. Not by any measure I can think of, except for perhaps in terms of ambitious novelty. But it wouldn't be a terribly offensive choice for Best Picture either, I suppose. It's most certainly a crowd-pleaser (and in my experience at the theater it's a movie that makes audiences pleased with themselves as much or more than with the actual film) and packs a hefty dose of charm. The leaders are likeable, charismatic, and all around very good in their roles. So is the dog, for that matter. It's definitely an admirable accomplishment to create a silent-film that endears itself to audiences so well.

On the technical side of things The Artist is a lovely and elegant film that can't really be faulted. But I think it's fair to criticize the film- if not for it's sheer fluff-factor- than at least for its somewhat unimaginative and heavy-handed approach to story. The director seems to feel a need to hold his audience's hand every step of the way, lest we forget for a second the exact simple ways the characters are defined. We observe something about a character's nature/motivation. And then we observe the same thing 10 more times. In effect, the middle portion of the film, though peppered with moments of amusement, plods along in this manner, one cement-soled lace-up oxford in front of the other. But on the bright side, since the plot allows our mind to take a vacation, we're allowed to give full attention to picking out visual references to Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, and no doubt myriad other classics, while we perk our ears and try to figure just which Hitchcock film we're hearing.



When everything is said and done, the The Artist's biggest dares are in format- most everything contained therein can be described as "pleasant" and "charming" and "harmless". Fortunately it's a film that plays to our love of cinema and enough of that same love held by the film-makers shines through too.
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Small Screen Stand-outs

I've watched fewer television programs in the past decade than 99% of Americans, so generally it's got to be something pretty noteworthy in order to hold my attention.
People who added this item 1941 Average listal rating (1120 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 9.2


jaytoast rental

A fantastic retooling of Doyle's beloved stories/characters set in 21st Century London. This is really brilliant stuff- the writing, acting, style, camera work, production value- everything- is top-notch. Season One runs a mere 3 episodes, but they're roughly 90 minutes a piece, making for 270 minutes of Grade A entertainment. Like leagues of others, I'll be anxiously awaiting season two, due out later this year.
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Back on the Shelf

Movies I gave up on early, often because I'm a moody bastard
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Rewatched

Often old favorites, but sometimes an effort to revisit a film from a new perspective
People who added this item 4636 Average listal rating (2846 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.3


My girlfriend got me a Blu Ray player for Christmas, along with a badass edition of Taxi Driver. It's the first film I watched in 2012 and that's fucking awesome.
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I'm beginning to think this is the Coen brothers' best film to date. Even if Fargo remains my personal favorite.
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People who added this item 1811 Average listal rating (1169 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.4


Felt like something mindless and fun. A top notch cast elevates this above the less than fantastic material.
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People who added this item 2158 Average listal rating (1413 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.7


Very rarely has my opinion of a film ever changed so much between a first and second viewing. The strengths of this film far out-weigh its missteps here and there. And I think I now have a better appreciation for Woody Allen's depiction of the 1920's artists.
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Good Intentions

A few of the films on my "to do" list

Well, I managed to keep a film journal running all last year. And it turned out to be quite a lot of fun. So happy New Year to you all and let's see what 2012 has in store.

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Film Journal Archive, 2012 - Xanadon't (12 lists)
list by Xanadon't
Published 6 years, 8 months ago



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