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Monthly Report: June 2012

June turned out to be a month of solid movies for me. Very… even. The vast majority ended up in the 3-4 score range. There were perhaps some films I had higher hopes for than that, but c’est la vie.

Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
It’s not Alien, but it’s a more than adequate tribute to it that manages to bring up some interesting ideas. There are a couple of scenes that have really stuck with me since I saw it, and Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender are both great. My full review is available here.
4/5

Eat Sleep Die (Gabriela Pichler, 2012)
It’s rare for a Swedish film to accurately capture the way Swedes talk in real life. This one manages this perfectly. The story of 20-year-old Rasa (Nermina Lukac) who finds herself unemployed is a straight-forward one, but thanks to the characters and the down-to-earth nature of the material, it commands your attention more and more for each passing minute. There’s some real humor to be had here, the kind that’s funny because it’s true. I saw this at a cast screening, so the release is still some months away. Make sure to see it when you get the chance.
4/5

High Tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003)
A nice and simple premise sets the stage for a deadly cat-and-mouse game as a young woman (Cécile De France) tries to save her friend from a demented killer. This one took me by surprise with the frightening atmosphere it manages to pull off, often through the use of bloody violence. So often in horror films, gore is used for its own sake. Not so here. This is blood and murder to make you scared and worrying for the protagonist. The ending has apparently divided people on whether it’s good or bad. I wasn’t a big fan of it myself, and it’s the main reason why this one doesn’t cruise on to a full 5. I’d still call it the best horror film I’ve seen in quite a while.
4/5

Fast Times as Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
I feel like I’m missing out on some of the appeal of this one by not having seen it when I was younger. Nonetheless, this is a pretty decent high school flick. It didn’t make me laugh as much as it was hoping for, but there are some scenes of unexpected heartfeltness and maturity. If the movie isn’t quite as good as I had been led to believe, the same certainly can’t be said of Sean Penn as surfer/stoner Spicoli. He absolutely nails the part. I was also taken by Jennifer Jason Leigh‘s performance as curious Stacy.
3/5

Red State (Kevin Smith, 2011)
Easily the best-acted Kevin Smith movie I’ve seen, and I’ve seen most of them. John Goodman, Melissa Leo and Michael Parks all put forth impressive showings. The film is very different from Smith’s usual fare in terms of content, yet some things remain the same. For instance, Smith remains better at writing than at directing. The dialogue is as compelling and snappy as ever – though less comedic than usual – but the pacing of the film is kind of awkward. Not his best work, but an interesting step in a different direction.
3/5

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (Gareth Carrivick, 2009)
Very self-aware British time travel comedy that keeps throwing surprises at you while still retaining an effective sense of humor. I like how it starts out narrow and “small” only to gradually widen its scope. Fans of the genre should definitely check this one out.
4/5

Turn Me On, Dammit! (Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, 2011)
Norwegian coming-of-age story about teenager Alma (Helene Bergsholm) and her struggling with ostracism and her sexual awakening. The film does a fine job of evoking small-town life, at times reminding me of Lukas Moodysson‘s Show Me Love in this regard. Compared to a lot of teen dramas of this sort, this one maintains a very low-key tone for the most part, something I found perhaps more interesting than effective. The story is compelling and held my interest throughout, although the ending ties things up a bit too nicely. It’s an okay movie overall, but I wish it had dug a bit deeper emotionally.
3/5

Rock of Ages (Adam Shankman, 2012)
This glossy musical succeeds and fails in roughly equal measures. I had a good time on average, thanks to the nice song numbers and Tom Cruise‘s superb performance, but I can fully sympathize with those who are put off by the wafer-thin story and the lack of an edge. My full review is available here.
3/5

Super (James Gunn, 2010)
I did not expect this film to be as violent as it was. Compared to other self-aware superhero films like Kickass and Defendor, this one comes up a bit short. It strives for a darker story, but its handling of its rough scenes are hit-or-miss. There’s a certain unevenness to its tone. Even so, it is reasonably entertaining, and Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page and Kevin Bacon (why did I ever hate this guy?) all put in fine efforts on the acting side.
3/5

Hot Tub Time Machine (Steve Pink, 2010)
Not God-awful, but certainly not very good either. There are some laughs to be had here, but for the most part, the comedy here is lame and obvious. It’s also a case of wasted opportunity, as there is certainly a lot of humor that could be mined from having people revisit the 80s. None of it is taken advantage of here, sadly enough. I’m probably forgetting something, but off the top of my head, I’d say this could be the worst time travel movie I’ve ever seen.
2/5

The Grudge (Takashi Shimizu, 2004)
For clarity, this would be the English language remake. A solid effort in the horror genre, with appropriate creepiness and a strong climax. It has some problems, however. The pacing gets a bit too hectic, for one. The jump scares become repetitive after a while. The story isn’t very original, and the non-chronological way of telling it adds little to the proceedings. These issues may sound big, but the movie still succeeds at being scary, so they’re largely forgivable.
3/5

Total # of new films seen: 11
Average score: 3.3 / 5
Best film of the month: High Tension
Worst film of the month: Hot Tub Time Machine

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Posted by on 1 July, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1998

You know the drill by now. These are my 10 favorite movies of 1998, going by release year listed on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Dark City, The Interview, Rushmore, Run Lola Run, There’s Something About Mary

10 – FOLLOWING (Christopher Nolan)

“You take it away to show them what they had.”

Before there were the multi-million dollar blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Inception, there was Following. Nolan’s first film was made on a budget of $6000, shot in black & white and with no bells and whistles. The story thus becomes the focal point, and it’s a good one indeed. Telling the non-chronological tale of a writer (Jeremy Theobald) who after following people on the streets eventually finds himself led into a world of crime, this neo-noir is filled with twists, turns and intrigue. Not quite a masterpiece or anything, but definitely well worth checking out to see where the seeds for Memento were planted.

9 – THE CELEBRATION (FESTEN, Thomas Vinterberg)

“Here’s to the man who killed my sister. To a murderer.”

The Celebration is perhaps most significant for being the first (and, alongside Lars Von Trier‘s The Idiots, arguably the most well-known) movie of the Dogme 95 movement, a philosophy that emphasises realism throughout the whole film production and was started in reaction to big costly Hollywood fare. However, it’s also a captivating film in its own right, showing the dark secrets hidden away beneath the facades of a wealthy family. It’s a fitting subject matter for the style, which all leads to some chillingly stark scenes and moments. A powerful film.

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Posted by on 29 March, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2000

The 10 movies on this list might not average out as the best movie year of all time or anything, but it is extremely top-heavy. The top three films here are ones I really truly adore for different reasons, and would all have a good shot at making the grade were I to compilea Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time list. They’re that good, and they’re all from the same year.

As this list series of mine now gets set to leave the aughts and head into the 90s, we’re entering years where more films I saw for the first time back in the day will show up more. As I talked about in my post on how I became a movie lover, the 2000s were largely a dead zone for me in terms of film-watching, and the majority had to be caught up with in the last few years. I watched more movies in the 90s, many of which still hold up to this day. This presents interesting dilemmas with determining how much of my appreciation for these films is due to nostalgia. In some cases, just remembering the films can be tricky. For instance, #8 on this list is a film I think I saw in theater at the time and later bought on VHS (remember those?), but I haven’t seen it in over 10 years. Can I be certain that #8 is the right spot for it on this list? Sure I can. My memories of the film places it above #9 and below #7 at this moment in time. Opinions and likings always change, sometime from day to day. But this list reflects what I feel today. And today, I look back on #8 very fondly indeed.

Note: This list goes by the release years listed on IMDB.

10 – BEST IN SHOW (Christopher Guest)

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

All of Christopher Guest‘s mockumentaries are worth seeing, but Best in Show is the sharpest one in my book. This film revolves around a dog show, and we are introduced to a number of the off-beat characters who compete in it. It’s a laugh riot, and since most of it is improvised, the whole movie is imbued with a fairly naturalistic feel. Cast stand-out: Fred Willard as a spectacularly incompetent commentator.

9 – CAST AWAY (Robert Zemeckis)

“Hello! Anybody?”

The opening part does drag a bit, and while I personally love the ending, some have decried it as being overly melodramatic. What most everyone agree on is that the middle part, the real meat of the movie, is superb. It’s just Tom Hanks being forced to survive on a desert island by himself. It takes skillful hands both behind and in front of the camera to keep things interesting despite only having one character on screen, and Robert Zemeckis and Hanks pull it off masterfully. Cast Away also accomplishes the significant feat of making audiences care deeply about… a volleyball.

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Posted by on 8 February, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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