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Monthly Report: May + June 2013

I didn’t do a Monthly Report last month. The reason why is that the number of new movies I saw in May was a less-than-impressive 1, and making a blog post on just that seemed silly. Fortunately, June proved a bit more fruitful. My movie interest is perking up again, it would seem. It’s just a shame that these two months didn’t have more really great films to offer than they did, but what can you do.

Breakdown (Jonathan Mostow, 1997)
Solid thriller, albeit with no real stand-out quality. Nothing worth going out of your way to check out.
3/5

Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, 2012)
Zzzzzzzzz…
1/5

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End of Watch (David Ayer, 2012)
The story is barely there. Just two cops doing their thing, presented partially found footage style that adds little to the proceedings. What makes the movie work is the convincing performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, as well as the many brief yet poignant insights into what it’s like to be a police. The movie manages to take familiar situations and tropes and show them in a way that make the implications of them really sink in for the first time. If that makes sense. This one’s worth checking out.
4/5

Kung Fu Dunk (Yen-ping Chu, 2008)
I was hoping for something similar to Shaolin Soccer. This one kind of was, only not as good. One problem was that the martial arts stuff felt shoehorned in and not played to full comedic effect. Even worse was the way too mushy and overly long ending. The early goings of the film did offer some giggles, but not enough to outweigh the bad.
2/5

Descent (Talia Lugacy, 2007)
Not to be confused with spelunking horror film The Descent. This is one of those movies that’s more interesting to think about afterwards than it is to actually watch. In its effort to keep the effects of rape “real”, it internalizes everything to too high a degree. The result is a viewing experience that keeps the viewer at too much of a distance. There are some interesting directorial choices here, and Rosario Dawson‘s performance is a strong one – that her character’s motives are kept somewhat in the dark seems to be the director’s choice – but once you realize what the movie is going for, you realize that it’s not enough to sustain its running time.
2/5

For a Good Time, Call… (Jamie Travis, 2012)
Not all chick flicks are bad. This one kind of is though, or at the very least “meh.” It’s generally a bad sign that when the end credits start rolling, you realize that nothing has really happened. Nothing has changed, there has been no real character growth, and there have been no laughs either – although some of the cameos are smirk-worthy. This film is also proof that dirty language alone is not enough to spice up a film.
2/5

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Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2010)
A movie very much about its story. It’s full of intrigue and is told well – dual timelines can be tricky, but are pulled off without a hitch here – and I found myself more and more hooked as it went along. Sprinkled in are scenes of stark emotions and shocking violence, almost like interpunctuation. Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a tale with plenty of unexpected turns.
4/5

Hit and Run (David Palmer & Dax Shepard, 2012)
I really liked the dialogue here. The conversations and arguements, particularly the ones between Shepard and Kristen Bell – fiances in real life – had a way of drifting from the personal to the general that I dug like hell. Like, they’d start talking about who’s right, then it becomes about what’s right, then they take themselves out of it completely and try to see everything from the outside looking in. It’s hard to describe properly, but it stood out to me as something movies rarely do. The fact that it’s the same kind of conversations I often end up in myself might have something to do with my fondness for it here. Anyway, the rest of the film was cool too, with a story that hasn’t been done to death and fun characters. Could have done with tighter action scenes, perhaps.
4/5

The Dictator (Larry Charles, 2012)
Nowhere near as good as Borat or Bruno. Felt more like an excuse for Sacha Baron Cohen to try out a new accent for 80 minutes. I did like the helicopter scene and the climax, though.
2/5

A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001)
I’m not convinced the movie need to go on for as long as it did; the ending did drag a bit. Overall, though, this was a fascinating story, helped along by two great performances by Russell Crowe (never better) and Jennifer Connelly.
4/5

Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010)
This was fine. The acting is decent enough – I was particularly impressed by Andrew Garfield – and the story is a cool and unique one. I would highly recommend reading the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro instead, though. That one is superb.
3/5

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Kiss Me (Alexandra-Therese Keining, 2011)
Not as good as that other Swedish movie about lesbians, but still fairly decent. As much of an infidelity drama as a gay romance, this one struggles a bit with an occasionally flat story – remove the homosexuality and marvel at how humdrum the whole thing would seem – but the two leads (Ruth Vega Fernandez and Liv Mjönes) have good enough chemistry and put in strong enough performances to carry the film to a passing grade.
3/5

eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)
I don’t get it.
2/5

Carnage (Roman Polanski, 2011)
Just four talented actors doing what they do best, with Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly in particular providing stand-out turns. The end felt a bit abrupt, but then it always seemed to be headed that way, so it’s not a huge drawback.
4/5

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh, 2012)
Cool and clever film through which I was never sure what was going to happen next. Strong cast too. After In Bruges and this one, McDonagh is certainly a director to keep a close eye on.
4/5

The Campaign (Jay Roach, 2012)
Not the most subtle of satires I’ve seen, to say the least. There are some funny scenes here and there, but a lot of the humor just feels forced and hamfisted. I’m a fan of both Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, but neither manages to do much with what they’re given here. The ending is really damn weak, too.
2/5

Total # of new films seen: 16
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the months: Seven Psychopaths
Worst film of the months: Cosmopolis

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Posted by on 1 July, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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Monthly Report: November 2012

Color me shocked that I almost tied last month’s movie tally this month. October felt very movie-heavy. November, by comparison, just kind of drifted by, but I apparently watched a lot of stuff regardless. Not that I’m complaining. I got some good watching done, knocking off a couple more from my 2011 Must-See list, as well as some classics that I should have watched a long time ago. Yeah, November was a good month indeed.

Neds (Peter Mullan, 2010)
Set in Glasgow in the 1970s, Neds follows a boy during his growing-up phase, from promising smart kid to trouble-making delinquent. The transition is presented in an engaging fashion and, for the most part, shows a believable trajectory. Some well-timed humor makes for a welcome addition in the early goings as well. The problem is that it all gets a repetitive, with the second half of the film treading water rather than breaking new ground. Some more time could have been spent fine-tuning it in the cutting room. It’s a slightly better film than Mullan’s previous effort The Magdalene Sisters, though.
3/5

Rampart (Oren Moverman, 2011)
Hard-hitting character study of one rotten L.A. cop, expertly portrayed by a rarely-better Woody Harrelson. He and Oren Moverman make for one hell of a team, judging by this and their previous collaboration The Messenger. Moverman does great work here, utilizing colors and camera angles in striking ways that really make the film come alive. And this is only his second film. I’m eagerly anticipating what he’ll come up with next.
4/5

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Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)
I’m a major fan of Jason Reitman. That Young Adult is probably his weakest film to date has more to do with the awesomeness of Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, than with any supposed lack of quality in this latest effort. Because Young Adult is really good. It’s a brisk and fun look at an interesting woman – Charlize Theron‘s Mavis – who’s possibly be the best-written character Diablo Cody has provided cinema with. The film might not tell a story we haven’t heard before, and it could have done with a bit more narrative muscle, but, in the end, this is Jason Reitman. And Jason Reitman makes damn fine films.
4/5

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Posted by on 1 December, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2001

Time to set the time machine to 2001, a year that like many others had a great deal of great films to offer. There’s a nice mix to be had with this list, I think. Sure, it leans slightly towards comedy as my lists tend do – although there’s nothing here that i’d classify strictly as a laugh-out-loud type of movie – but there is some international variety. USA, France, Spain and Norway are all represented in one way or another.

I don’t normally do honorable mentions for these lists, but I do need to give a shout-out to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The trilogy as a whole is a remarkably ambitious cinematic accomplishment which does such a great job of bringing the world of the novels to life. Both The Two Towers and The Return of the King barely missed out on spots on their respective year lists. The Fellowship of the Ring – my personal favorite of the three – was sitting at #9 on this list at first draft. Then along came a movie I hadn’t seen before (#7), and Fellowship got bumped down. And then I realized a teriffic film I thought belonged to 2000 was actually released in 2001 (#2), and just like that, Fellowship dropped off. So an honorable mention goes out to that film and, by extension, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

On to the list proper. As always, this is 2001 as listed on IMDB to avoid confusion with international release dates.

10 – HUMAN NATURE (Michel Gondry)

“Remember: when in doubt, don’t ever do what you really want to do.”

The most overlooked of the films written by Charlie Kaufman, Human Nature is a movie of many questions about – of course – human nature. What’s fun is the strange ways in which it goes about asking them. The central characters are a scientist (Tim Robbins) trying to teach mice to have a formal dinner, a man (Rhys Ifans) who grew up in the wilderness thinking himself to be an ape, and a woman (Patricia Arquette) who voluntarily abandoned civilization as an adult due to feeling out of place because of her thick body hair. This story proves to be a good fit for Michel Gondry, here making his feature film debut and immediately establishing his unique style – how many directors would go with a sudden Disney-esque song number in a film like this? Human Nature is both funny and thought-provoking, and it deserves more attention than it tends to get.

9 – A KNIGHT’S TALE (Brian Helgeland)

“Now that I got their attention, you go and win their hearts.”

Wikipedia describes this as an action-adventure film. This is false. A Knight’s Tale is very much a sports movie, with all the familiar story elements and tropes associated with the genre. It just so happens to take place in medieval times, with the sport in question being jousting. What makes the film stand out even more is the anachronistic music. Here we have a dance scene in at the royal court set to David Bowie’s “Golden Years”, and joust audiences clapping along to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”. Heath Ledger makes for an effective protagonist, Shannyn Sossamon is as radiant as ever as his love interest, and Paul Bettany and Alan Tyduk as comedic sidekicks take turns to steal the movie. Often hilarious, always feel-good. A Knight’s Tale never fails to put a smile on my face.

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Posted by on 25 January, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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