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Free Samples (2012)
Yes, it's another movie that cost $20 to make, about a twentysomething who has no idea what to do with her life other than be bitter and complain about menial things. If you've followed my journals before, then you already know you're gonna encounter this kind of movie in them more often than in other people's journals. I'm just naturally drawn to movies like this. I see them and they go straight to the top of my queue. Help me stop.
Okay, more seriously- Free Samples passed the time and it's got more going for it than it doesn't. If this isn't your cup of tea, you needn't bother, but if you've got the same problem I do, then yes, maybe give it a shot.
Over twenty years after its release, this movie has lost none of its potency as a grade-A thriller. It's the kind of movie you encounter while flipping channels and you simply have to leave it on, which is exactly what happened to me. I've seen it countless times, and I was probably too young to see it the first time I saw it, as a result of which Anthony Hopkins' performance still terrifies me to this day. But the benefit of seeing it today, as a more "mature" person/movie-watcher, is that I found myself really impressed with a lot of the nuances of what Jodie Foster does here. Like they say, sometimes playing 'normal' is harder, and I don't think it's unwarranted to say that she acts her ass off in The Silence of the Lambs.
Is it just me, or do they not make movies like this anymore?
Iron Man 3 (2013)
After last year, I definitely got a little bit scared that The Avengers set the bar too high and that all these upcoming "single superhero" movies would have a hard time surpassing it. I know Iron Man 3 is only the first of those, but it certainly seems that my fear may have been confirmed. Don't get me wrong- the movie's reasonably entertaining, and Robert Downey, Jr. is still the best at mixing charisma, humor and cockiness. Unfortunately, the central villain is a Ken doll- he has very little personality and is overall pretty uninteresting. An actress as talented as Rebecca Hall is given the chance to play a character with a potentially fascinating moral conflict, but the movie ends up handling her character too haphazardly. Most disappointingly, the climax goes on for too long (and it's not unwarranted to eventually start growing weary of iron man suits popping up out of the blue to save the day).
When it comes down to it, I think that almost all of the things that made me really like the first two Iron Man films are still present in this one. It just feels like the "game has changed", so to speak, ever since The Avengers was released, and maybe that's what accentuates the flaws more this time around. I do have a lot of faith in the Thor sequel, though.
The First Time (2013)
Don't you love it when you find a new movie that you can call a favorite? This is the kind of film that makes me think that it's definitely worth it to give a shot to "unlikely" candidates sometimes.
My thanks go out yet again to Mackenzi for another worthy recommendation that I may never have seen otherwise. I can't say I necessarily "bought into"/was interested in the scientific commentary that's at work here, but in terms of everything else it did, it definitely worked for me.
John Dies at the End (2012)
"When you listen to a song on the radio, where is the song?"
Attention to all filmmakers who think that all movies about "big ideas" and parallel universes have to be obtuse and boring, and can't be freakishly entertaining and have a fantastic sense of humor: see this movie, yo. John Dies at the End is a triumph because it does everything right- it penetrates the dark depths into which our minds and our dreams can take us... but it does so with a constantly solid dose of humor... and yet the comedy never takes over too much to the point of making the suspense vanish or of getting us to stop caring about the fate of the characters. The fact that Chase Williamson and Paul Giamatti are among the few people who obviously consider it important to act your ass off even in a movie in which most audience members "don't care about the acting" is just an added bonus and yet another reason to see this. What a purely awesome film.
Robot & Frank (2012)
The idea is very interesting... the execution? Sometimes yes, sometimes not. There are lot of funny and/or heart-warming things you could do with the premise of an old guy having a robot as a companion, but it occurs to me that kleptomania wasn't the best choice for that, at least when the approach is as dour as the one they chose to take here.
The Third Man (1949)
I can't cease to be amazed at how hard some of these films had to work to 'conceal' what they were trying to suggest in order to not receive a can of whoop-ass from censors. As if the sociopolitical context in The Third Man weren't sufficiently complex, the interpersonal dynamics between the characters make it all the more dark and fascinating. In the particular case of this movie, I'm also amazed at how, in 2013, I could be so profoundly struck by how great a 1949 film looks and sounds. This is one of those classics you really can't miss, and I feel like giving you any more details about it would take away from what you might get from experiencing it.
How to Survive a Plague (2013)
Just think- if today's fight for equality were every bit as fierce and loud as the fight that's depicted in this documentary, what would happen? Then again, I suppose it makes sense that people are more likely to kick and scream for their lives than for their civil rights.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't flow quite as nicely and nimbly as the 2009 original, but it still does a very good job at offering what's expected by those who, like me, loved the original: a heavy dose of entertainment and tight pants. Most importantly, though, this movie is very diligent about constantly inserting comedic relief into its frames, so that the experience is enjoyable even for those of us who normally get either bored or stressed out by protracted action sequences. By the way, Benedict Cumberbatch is one of those faces you know you've "seen in a lot of movies" but this is the first time I can tell you I won't forget him- he's terrific. The only flaw in the original 2009 film was the villain, so if anything can be said about Star Trek Into Darkness, it's that that flaw has certainly been corrected thanks to Cumberbatch's rendition. While I enjoyed the original more because I found it to be better-paced, I still think this franchise is well worth continuing to follow.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
The Place Beyond the Pines is very blatantly and purposely divided into three parts. The bad news is that I only liked two of the film's three parts. The good news is that the part I didn't like was the middle act, which means that the movie starts things well and ends things just as well. There are two reasons why I'm not a fan of the middle act. First, police corruption is considerably less interesting to me than what the movie chooses to explore in the other two acts. But second and perhaps most importantly, since each act is led by a different actor, this is the kind of movie in which the varying levels of acting talent are blatantly noticeable- and in the case of this film, it's impossible not to notice that Bradley Cooper is a considerably less talented actor than both Ryan Gosling and Dane Dehaan. It's simple: when Cooper is on screen, everything feels very flat and straightforward, but when either Gosling or Dehaan are on screen, the frames frequently sizzle with searing intensity. That comes as no surprise as far as Gosling is concerned, and as for Dehaan, it makes me look forward to Kill Your Darlings with a lot more seriousness now. I'm sorry to say it, but it's because of Bradley Cooper's character, because of his limited acting talent, and because of the blandness of the segment of the film in which he takes center stage that Pines loses a lot of the steam and intensity that could've made it even better than it is. But it's still a fine follow-up to the magnificent Blue Valentine, and it's hard not to be intrigued by what ideas or subjects this director may choose to tackle next.
Black Rock (2013)
I obviously loved what Mark Duplass and his wifey accomplished together as co-stars in The Puffy Chair, and I've supported and really enjoyed a lot of the projects they've worked on in the years since then. Unfortunately, I can't say it looks like the suspense thriller is their area of expertise. Black Rock gets off to a good start as far as setting up its characters and back stories (which are things we already know Duplass and Aselton have no problem accomplishing), but after that, the film is nothing but lame, lifeless chase sequences. It's got a moment or two, but it's overall pretty unsatisfying, and it doesn't help that Lake Bell exaggerates her wide-eyed stares so much and that Kate Bosworth is still as bad as she was in Superman Returns and 21.
I found myself thinking I could've shot these chase and fight sequences with my friends over a weekend without even trying too hard to come up with anything good, and it's not unwarranted to think that this is essentially what they did here.
Towelhead is a fine examination of the loss of innocence by being pulled and pushed in all sorts of directions and by different people, all at once. It's too bad that the performances feel so studied and the lines of dialogue so rehearsed- it renders artificial what could've otherwise been great and poignant.
Sex. Empty blather. Empty blather. Empty blather. Sex. Empty blather. Empty blather. Empty blather.
I will say that the actors make the character interactions all feel really genuine and effortless- it's just too bad that the interactions themselves are so empty and uninteresting.
Before Sunrise (1995)
"Sometimes I dream about being a good father and a good husband. And sometimes it feels really close... but then other times it seems silly, like it would ruin my whole life. And it's not just a fear of commitment or that I'm incapable of caring or loving. Because I can. It's just that, if I'm totally honest with myself, I think I'd rather die knowing that I was really good at something."
This is my dream movie. Nothing has ever even come close to reaching the astronomical levels of intellectual and emotional stimulation contained in every frame of Before Sunrise. I should really be grateful. What were the chances that someone would actually make my dream movie? Even more amazingly, you know how with your favorite movies you sometimes find yourself wishing you could spend even more time with the characters, and you wish the movie didn't end where it did? What were the chances that I'd be granted that wish, too? I can't ask for more than that.
Before Sunset (2004)
"You know, it's not even that. I was... I was fine... until I read your fucking book. It stirred shit up, you know? It reminded me how genuinely romantic I was. How I had so much hope in things, and now it’s like... I don’t believe in anything that relates to love. I don’t feel things for people anymore. In a way, I put all my romanticism into that one night and I was never able to feel all this again. Like, somehow this night took things away from me and I expressed them to you, and you took them with you. It made me feel cold, like love wasn’t for me. You know what? Reality and love are almost contradictory for me."
When she tells him the list of songs that he can choose for her to play, and she ends the list by nonchalantly saying "a waltz...", we not only know what his selection will be, but it's also easy to predict what the waltz will be about. It's beautiful. Before Sunset doesn't offer the never-ending amount of joy of its predecessor, but it rattles and overwhelms me every bit as much.
Only the Young (2012)
The last 15 minutes of Only the Young are so raw, human and affecting that it made it worth it for me to have waited till then, even if I'll admit that there were several times before those last 15 minutes that I found myself considering shutting it off due to how aimless it felt. One of those rare cases in which the ending makes up for most of a movie's prior deficiencies.
Snow White (2012)
An extraordinarily entertaining, visually splendid and relentlessly innovative adaptation. And if you're thinking "Oh no, another modern silent black-and-white movie", you need to keep in mind that, as good as The Artist was, this is about five times better, and I'm not exaggerating. Based on my knowledge of the Snow White story, I found myself predicting every once in a while what would happen, but the film would constantly swerve towards an immensely more interesting direction. Not to be missed. Maribel Verdú clearly had a blast in her role.
More about perfume than about murder, this film frequently feels pretty silly, and while I'm not opposed to sympathizing with psychopaths, the lead character here is largely impenetrable and therefore impossible to have many feelings for him (whether good or bad). Still, for a two-and-a-half hour movie, I can't say there was a dull moment to be found here.
Forget Me Not (2011)
Forget Me Not starts off feeling like one of those by-the-numbers horror movies in which twentysomethings are gonna be killed one-by-one by a supernatural force. But once the first person is killed, we discover that there's a very interesting twist here that gives the movie an added amount of insight and emotional weight. Unfortunately, as people continue to die, this "twist" is handled more and more sloppily, to the point of frustration. It's too bad because, in better hands, this may have actually made for a really cool horror movie. Cody Linley's got his share of humorous moments during the second half of the movie that made it okay to sit through the entire thing, but aside from that, everything and everyone else is pretty unremarkable.
I don't normally watch a sequel if I haven't seen the film(s) that preceded it, but Yossi came highly recommended. To give you an idea of how much I liked it, as soon as I was done watching it, I added the first film to one of the highest spots on my Netflix queue. Rarely have I encountered a protagonist who portrays tentativeness and self-image issues so flawlessly. The direction that Yossi eventually takes may feel like a fantasy of sorts, and while a lot of people may argue that it's a bad idea to cling to fantasies, I think there are times at which it can be really healthy to embrace them, which is exactly what I found myself doing here. Not that it was hard to do so.
V/H/S 2 is divided into four segments. It's pretty simple: the first two are good, and the other two aren't. I'm the kind of person who prefers it when the best is saved for last, and I suspect I may have reacted better to this movie if it had done so.
The first segment is scary as all fuck without ever feeling over-the-top, and the second segment is gory bliss that's sure to please zombie lovers. The third segment goes on for too long and shows too much- the idea with horror is that the less you show, the more effectively scary it is, but they do the opposite here. (In addition to that, subtitles aren't a very good idea in a found footage film, because they severely lessen the feeling of verisimilitude.) By the fourth and final segment, it feels like the movie has run out of ideas, and to make matters worse, much like the last segment of the original V/H/S, it's shaky-cam galore. The less said about the lame way in which things are wrapped up at the end, the better, and don't even get me started on the annoying music and editing of the end credits.
So, with that said, I guess this feels like half of a good horror film. Those first two segments work very nicely on their own, but I can't say I cared for the rest of the movie, though it's certainly a slight improvement on the original.
Now You See Me (2013)
You go into a movie like Now You See Me expecting preposterous things to happen and hoping that you'll at least be able to have a fun Saturday afternoon with those preposterous things. And that's indeed what happened for most of the movie... until the "final twist", which is beyond preposterous, even by the standards of a movie like this one. No suspension of disbelief will be enough to buy the film's last-minute reveal, and what makes it increasingly worse is that it's also the kind of twist that feels like it almost renders the entire film moot. So, what I'd tell you is that I did have a good time, but that I also walked out feeling like the experience was a bit pointless. If that makes sense.
The Return (2020)
Not a movie I felt too strongly about one way or another. It felt as if it it kept moving along without ever taking off, and then, in the last ten minutes, it takes off a little bit, but by that point, it feels like it's too late, and the fact that I wasn't invested in the characters by that point made it pretty hard for me to be affected by what was taking place. It's not the first time that I feel this way about a movie that many regard as a crazy-great work of art. It's the kind of movie that makes me wonder what I'm missing or what I'm not seeing or not feeling that so many others caught, saw and/or felt. But that's just how it goes sometimes.
A Royal Affair (2012)
Put this one on exclusively so that my mom would be able to see it while I did something else. I started watching it and would occasionally tell myself "oh, I'll just watch a few more minutes and then leave," which of course never happened.
This is as good as a 1990 American film about a murder trial can probably be in 2013 for someone who's seen a fair share of episodes of "The Practice" and "Law & Order". Which means that it passed the time but didn't really offer any surprises or anything to be dazzled by.
Watching Disconnect is fairly similar to being taken to a huge dumpster. It makes you acutely aware that there's a lot of junk in today's world and that something should be done about it. But there's nothing pleasant about having that junk thrown forcibly in your face, which is exactly what Disconnect does, as it practically grabs you and yells "The Internet is destroying people and their ability to relate to one another!" for its entire running time. I appreciate the strength of the performances, particularly by some of the child actors, but every idea and emotion is underlined and highlighted, to the point that I frequently felt that I had no business watching this in a theater and that this should've been a cable release. To make matters worse, the film features an ill-advised slow-motion sequence that's one of the most laughable in recent memory and makes the movie lose a lot of its seriousness and credibility- not a good thing if you're trying to make a film about important contemporary social issues.
Before Midnight (2013)
I don't know what expectations I had for Before Midnight. What I can tell you is that they were exceeded violently... and somehow, "violently" just seems like the most appropriate word, because this isn't just a case of expectations being exceeded. It's a case of expectations being exceeded in a different way than I thought they were going to be exceeded. Where Before Sunrise and Before Sunset offered emotional and intellectual bliss, Before Midnight offers something that's a lot more direct, raw and personal, and therefore, much more difficult to handle. It's as if, in the first two movies, these two characters were mere observers of life, and in this one, they're helplessly at its mercy.
The conversations are still about important, profound subjects, but the difference is that they no longer center around hypotheticals or around other people's stories. It's about them. This makes the experience more painful and discomforting than any of the other two films. It makes me question whether my reason for loving the first two was due to the satisfaction I got from experiencing so much greatness without there being a lot at stake. The immense amount of talent is still the same: the script is an absolute jewel, the chemistry between the leads is a million times better than that of any other two characters in cinematic history, the locations are terrific, and Ethan Hawke gives the best performance of his career. It's the same greatness, the same talent, the same style and storytelling structure, but instead of being used to give the viewer the "safe and distant" joy of the first two movies, it's used to drag you right into the bittersweetness.
The first two movies made me smile like an idiot and they made me think about a lot of "ideas". This one caused all sorts of feelings of apprehension, and it hit me really hard in the sense of making me think about what it means for the years to pass by. Before Midnight is a masterpiece in every sense, just not the masterpiece I was expecting. And I'm still wondering whether or not it's the one I needed. It probably is, but it might take some time for me to accept it and to understand why.
I'm allowed to indulge every once in a while in something I would've loved when I was 12, right? It felt like something I should do, especially after Before Midnight made me question so many things about... adulthood and all that other stuff. Anyway, this was fun for a quiet Friday night after a long week.
Double Indemnity (1952)
Double Indemnity is engrossing throughout and, happily, it avoids getting too caught up in romantic melodrama, and instead keeps that at a minimum. I liked this less than the other Billy Wilder films I've seen (namely, The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard and Some Like It Hot), but enough to still want to continue checking out the rest of his work. There's something that feels a little bit "off" to me about the ending, and I think it has something to do with the sudden disappearance of a character who I thought would end up being of more importance during the film's last act. Still, this one keeps you on your toes and is solid in nearly every respect. It occurs to me that maybe it should've been titled The End of the Line.
Very difficult to top as the best straight-up comedy of 2013, the fiercely hilarious This is the End is courtesy of a team of people who obviously know everything there is to know about comedic timing, pop culture references and anything else that you need to have audiences rolling on the floor. A mixture of awesome elements- like Neapolitan ice cream.
Like I always say, comedies are the hardest movies to review, because you may find something funny that I don't (and viceversa) and there's no arguing that'll ever resolve that. In this case, if you were a fan of the likes of Superbad, Pineapple Express and 21 Jump Street, then that's a pretty good indicator that you'll like this. I'm surprised that, of all people, Jay Baruchel was selected as the protagonist and, even moreso, that he holds his own so well. I could've done without some of the piss and semen-related gags, but well, it's inevitable that they were gonna take place, and none of them is so bad to the point of ruining things. This movie isn't about a bunch of dudes who turned on a camera and just played themselves. Line delivery and comedic timing aren't easy tasks and they're accomplished marvelously well here. Kudos to these guys for knowing how to make people laugh and for obviously having so much fun in the process of doing so. Oh, but I was so disappointed that there wasn't a Hell scene after the credits. :)
The Story of Luke (2013)
Seth Green's supporting presence ruins what could've otherwise been a funny/heart-breaking story about one of those characters who eventually grows on you. Lou Taylor Pucci may have found exactly the type of role he was born to play (and if, by some miracle, he happens to read this, I hope he won't take that the wrong way). Unfortunately, every time Green shows up, it's like having someone screech at you while you're trying to enjoy yourself, so he makes it impossible to appreciate the movie as much as it might deserve to be appreciated.
The Kings of Summer (2013)
This is one of the worst independent efforts I've sat through in years. The positive reviews don't just confuse me- they appall me. There's not an ounce of truth in The Kings of Summer. Everything feels... not just fake and fabricated... but fucking phony.
I don't normally talk about stuff like this when reviewing movies because I don't consider myself to know much about this subject, but I absolutely despised the way in which this film was shot. I hated every shameless zoom-in, every ridiculous slow-motion sequence and every gag-inducing dream sequence, some of which felt straight out of the Cartoon Network.
The three teenaged protagonists aren't unlikable per se, but they're simply not worth caring about one way or another. The same can't be said for the adult characters, whose lines of dialogue are atrociously bad. And I'm not one to exaggerate when it comes to these things. There about four or five scenes involving the adult characters that are painfully bad, and not even in the funny way.
If you follow me on here, you probably know I'm a strong supporter of indie cinema. But that doesn't mean I'll blindly give my good graces to anything made on a low budget. If it sucks, it sucks. And this sucked.
World War Z (2013)
Nothing you haven't seen before, but it's moderately entertaining, and fortunately, it saves the best for last- some of the early action sequences feel too scattershot, but the climactic scenes correct that problem for the most part.
The Secret Life of Words (2005)
It has its share of melodramatic moments, but it's easy to forgive them considering the supremely devastating revelation that comes along near the end. Also, as always, Sarah Polley's performance is extraordinary- nowadays this girl is as great a director as she was an actress back when she starred in more movies.
Behind the Candelabra (2013)
Okay, so I liked it, and yes, it does everything that a biopic is "supposed" to do. But I continue to ask (and I'm wondering whether I'm just never gonna get an answer to this question): Where is the Steven Soderbergh who directed Sex, Lies and Videotape? The guy makes two movies a year, but he can't have one of them come even close to his fantastic first effort?
Spring Breakers (2013)
It's impossible for me to give a negative rating to this film. Spring Breakers has a lot of positive attributes... they're just... scattered. This is never a consistently good movie. But there's greatness in lapses here. The movie has two segments that are absolutely brilliant, both in a technical sense and in the sense of the commentary that's made through them. The first one is edited to perfection and will make even someone who considers themselves "super open-minded" question how unprejudiced they really are. The second one features one of the best song selections ever- not necessarily because the song is good, but for other reasons that go straight to the heart of what Spring Breakers wants to do and tries to do. James Franco's performance is as audacious as it gets, but that wasn't a surprise for me.
What I'm conflicted about is this- 80% of the movie's visuals are all about people in skimpy bathing suits partying and doing crazy shit. So, you would think this would be one of the most annoying movies to watch ever. Yet there's something about the use of color in this movie that makes a lot of the moments... striking and appealing, even if the stuff that's actually happening on screen isn't interesting in the least bit. It's a mixed feeling, I suppose.
All this said, and those two segments aside, the movie feels pretty shallow and sometimes downright arbitrary and repetitive. (The repetitiveness is obviously on purpose, but that doesn't make it any less annoying nor does it mean that it was a smart idea.) When all is said and done, even if the aim is to be critical, if your ultimate criticism is that we live in a world that's full of self-centered, horrible people, that's not exactly an insight, is it?
So, I watched 30 movies during the first two months of the year... and then in the next two months, I only watched 28 movies... I sure hope this doesn't turn into a pattern. But it's possible that it'll happen, seeing as there is actually only one movie that I currently care about making sure I get into this journal. So, perhaps my concern over making that happen will distract me from anything else. I'll try not to let it happen. And here's hoping it's a good summer at the movies. :)
9 votes2013 Movie Journals (7 lists)
list by lotr23
Published 9 years ago
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