Monthly Movie Journal: December 2011
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Mixed bag from the last couple years
Our Idiot Brother (2011)
Far from great and insightful comedy, but this could've been a whole lot worse. It'll pass the time.
Interesting enough documentary, but music lovers and casual listeners alike will likely be a bit disappointed.
The Future (2011)
Too much of this felt like quirk for quirk's sake alone. One of the more frustrating experiences of the year. And I fucking hated everybody (talking cat included) in this movie.
Straw Dogs (2011)
A surprisingly decent first half that, while far from perfect, manages to exude a real sense of danger and tension eventually gives way to the film's second half which is utter garbage.
8.3 IMDb rating, huh? Clearly I missed something.
But I will say that this movie was by many accounts... decent.
Catching up with the ones I missed
Kinda like Searching for Bobby Fischer except I liked the Bobby Fischer movie.
Geoffery Rush gives what looks like an exhausting performance, as a child phenom turned schizophrenic.
This movie has some strengths, but much of it is terribly ordinary and static feeling.
There's one Great short film in the bunch, and one or two interesting ones. The rest... well I'd never sit through them again.
I'm not surprised that this is Quentin Tarantino's expressed "favorite movie". But I'm also not surprised that it's NOT mine. I liked it, but certainly not a "My gawd, why the hell did it take me eleven years to watch this??" moment.
Where I see what all the fuss is about
First half is near brilliant so far as 1950's romantic comedies go. But eventually the antics get a bit tiresome to the point where our leads seem to just be going through the motions. Still, it's got enough charms and a certain edge to it that makes it worthwhile.
Documentary of the Month
Watched this one the evening after learning of Christopher Hitchens death, which seemed kind of fitting to me. While they were vastly different writers that took on vastly different causes and cultures, there seems to be an essential similarity in the fiery, passionate, trouble-making spirit of their work and approach to life.
Very very good documentary that I've been meaning to watch since its release and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest.
At the Movies
Watched on the big screen
Toy Story Toons: Small Fry (2011)
An entertaining short with some really good laughs, though a couple jokes missed their mark. Good for what it was, but nothing spectacular. I loved the support group characters.
Bursting with infectious fun and energy, there's little not to like here. Sure, a few scenes don't quite work, but the vast majority does, and in big, happy doses.
Jason Segel and Amy Adams pair up well together and are about as purely likeable as one could ever imagine. They're delightfully over-the-top, funny, and just damn pleasant to watch. If you can't enjoy this, I can't help you.
The Descendants (2011)
Clooney will no doubt receive a nomination for his work here, and while it could be argued that he deserves one, I'll be a bit disappointed if he wins. More impressive perhaps is the strikingly natural and wide-ranged performance from Shailene Woodley as his troubled, defiant, but ultimately brave and keenly aware 17 year-old daughter.
Like all of director Payne's films this one is slightly off-center, and blissfully shrugs off convention while never straying too far from what mass audiences would deem "normal". And like Payne's other films, most of this works pretty well here, though "greatness" never quite comes close enough to hit with a stone, even if you've got a strong arm.
Some great looking visuals and a gutsy performance from Dunst aren't enough to make Lars von Trier's smug, sadistic sermonizing palatable.
Young Adult (2011)
A vicious and bitterly funny movie about broken people that bucks conventions at just about every opportunity. Charlize Theron gives a fearless and pretty masterful performance and Patton Oswalt offers up one of the finer supporting roles of the year. Many people will struggle to like this film, so unlikeable is its lead character. But others like myself will find something quietly special in its stubborn gaze at unlikely movie characters.
Take Shelter (2011)
Much of this film is nothing less than brilliant. And yet, I don't know that I loved it. Some of this is because I'm still not entirely sure how I choose to read this complex, troubling film. And I just don't know about that ending.
My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Michelle Williams turns in an Oscar worthy performance. She really captures the mystique, charm, and complexity of Monroe with tremendous and uncanny ability. Eddie Redmayne is excellent as well, enchanted and lost in her spell. Indeed, one of the films biggest strengths is the way it universally invites us to ponder those early moments and meetings with our past love interests and relive the sensations of being helpless against their charms, utterly spellbound, impossibly lost in a sea of infatuation.
Watched this one essentially by accident, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law share a sensational chemistry on screen (and I'm by no means an avid fan of either of them, particularly Law). There's much in the way of gay subtext at work throughout the movie, a fact that I found not only interesting, but one that actually contributed to my overall enjoyment of the film.
Guy Richie never lets us forget that he's the one at the helm, a fact that will play better for some than for others. But a good deal of the style and action sequences are a lot of fun, and there are moments that approach the "visual spectacular". In the end we have a fun movie with a brain, and most of this works better than any comic-book hero film to hit screens in recent years.
Make Way for the Mini-series!
Not often, but this one has grabbed my attention
Really nothing to fault if this kind of thing is your cup of tea (or glass of whiskey, if you'd rather).
Back on the Shelf
Movies I started but didn't complete for some reason or another. Although the fact that I've been a moody bitch lately accounts for more than one of these instances.
Friends with Benefits (2011)
Not sure what was going on in my life that I found myself so charmed by this movie when I first caught it in theaters. But I've returned to my senses (and am back to normal and healthy level of cynicism) and, while I can still clearly see what I liked so much about this movie the first go-round, I now see that it's hardly anything special.
I could watch this all day, but then again I love Wes Anderson's style and sense of humor. This blows the railroad ties off your average, shabby, dimly lit indie-dramedy, while still providing plenty of quirk.
The photography and camera work are fantastic, the colors vivid and rich, and Anderson's use of music is always terrific. Doesn't hurt that I like the entire cast and everybody here breathes life into their character.
Total Recall (1990)
I was a bit surprised how well a re-watch held up here. It had been YEARS since I've seen this, so it was nice to find out that it wasn't simply an Arnold vehicle, but actually worked at times as thoughtful sci-fi.
Shaped by theatrical/DVD release dates, listal member recommendations, Netflix schedules, and just whatever.
Yay! I've stuck with this list series for an entire year! With any luck I'll close 2011 out on a high note.
Thanks to all of you that have been reading, voting, and commenting. It's been fun!
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