It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, 2010)
A film like this is never going to achieve “greatness” as such. It’s too light, too fluff, too simple, and features its fair share of mental ward clichées. That said, taken for what it is, it’s still very enjoyable. The subject of depression is handled tactfully, and the film treats its characters with respect while still finding the comedy in them. Zach Galifianakis is impressive in his substantial supporting part, showing some unexpected depth in his acting, and he quietly steals the show here. I’m not sure if this film has enough substance to stay in my mind for all that long, but now in its immediate aftermath, I find myself very fond of it.
Dark Shadows (Tim Burton, 2012)
Very, very, very… okay. This is one of those typical Tim Burton films one will no doubt think of the next time one throws around the term “typical Tim Burton film”. I do wonder what my feelings of it had been had I never seen a Burton movie before. As it is, it’s hard not to feel that this is a somewhat lazy effort that brings little new to the table, but at the same time, it’s still a pretty good time. It’s a fun story that offers its share of laughters, so it earns a passing grade. But man, wouldn’t it be cool if Burton tried another Ed Wood or Big Fish or something next time? This tune we know by now.
Men in Black III (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012)
Mostly pointless, and not particularly funny.
About a Boy (Chris & Paul Weitz, 2002)
Having recently read the Nick Hornby novel upon which this film is based, I went into the movie with the following mindset: “Ugh, I’m never reading a book before watching the film again. I’m sure this one will be okay-ish, but I’ll just be annoyed at everything that’s left out or changed. I already know I won’t like it better than the novel.” While that last sentence might hold true, the film About a Boy came damn close. The story has a good flow to it, and the tone and humor of the novel is kept intact. The plot is kept mostly the same, but the climax is brand new and works like a charm, carefully walking that balance between feel-good and overbearing mush. The two lead actors are key. Nicholas Hoult does a better job than most child actors, and Hugh Grant puts in what might be the best performance I’ve seen from him. Rock-solid movie.
Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
About time I got around to knocking this one off my List of Shame. It’s always a tad awkward to watch one of these films that have been heavily canonized as one of the all-time greats. It’s hard not to end up going “Yeah, this was very good, but it wasn’t that great.” I did really like this one. It’s a fascinating look at the rise and fall of a gangster, and it’s the fall in particular that really grabbed me. What was most surprising was how fast the minutes went by. It certainly didn’t feel as long as it was. So yeah. This was very good. But… it wasn’t that great.
The Spanish Prisoner (David Mamet, 1997)
A thriller that starts out feeling very Mamet, but as it moves along it becomes quite Hitchcock, to the point where it seems remarkable that it was made as recently as 1997. The movie is clever and has twists and turns a-plenty, and is thus the kind of film that seems destined for a future rewatch filled with “Oh I see what you did there!” reactions from me. Very fun.
Monsters (Gareth Edwards, 2010)
I appreciate the concept of a monster movie where the action and monsters are kept to a minimum and mostly as an off-screen threat, thus putting the focus on the human characters and ther interactions with one another. However, for this to fully work, the characters have to be somewhat interesting. The ones in Monsters aren’t, really. This causes some lulls where the film gets close to losing my attention. Still, it’s not too bad, and the climax is very well-handled.
Watching the Detectives (Paul Soter, 2007)
A romantic comedy about a film fanatic (Cillian Murphy) whose life is shaken up by a care-free prankster (Lucy Liu). With the viewpoint character being into movies, there’s a fair amount of film referencing going on, which is always fun. It’s arguably the strongest point in the movie’s favor. The plot is fairly standard romcom stuff. I would wager that how much one enjoys this film is largely related to how one responds to Liu’s character. I feel that she goes a bit too far in her antics to be entirely likeable. Another issue is the ending, which arrives a bit too soon and leaves you without any real conclusion. Fortunately, the two leads have good enough chemistry with one another to make this a decent watch, though perhaps not an all that memorable one.
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
A beautifully shot film that tells a sweet, if light, story. I liked this one, but for each film of his I see, my suspicion that I’ll never fall head over heels in love with Wes Anderson’s work grows ever stronger.