Thursday, November 8, 2012

Movie Guy: Playing Catch-up

I've been experiencing some buggy hardware issues, so that's why I haven't updated in a week or so. Now the movies that I've watched since I started doing these "movie guy" posts has grown such that it would take up several blog posts at five or six movies per post to get us up to speed. (I really do watch quite a few movies.)
So, instead, I thought I'd just try a rapid-fire approach to catch up. Strap in.

The Lorax (2012)
Cute. Funny. Kind of a re-telling and a sequel of the original story. Never really bought Danny Devito as the voice of the Lorax, though. Too streetwise. Not "mystical" enough. Still, worth a look.

The Samaritan (2012)
"I am the Lorax, I speak for the - hey!
Wrong caption!"
Samuel L. Jackson is always intriguing. This story has kind of a strange premise with a very icky plot twist in the first act that oddly becomes the MacGuffin of the whole film. Then it ends with an equally strange denouement. I kind of wish I could "unsee" this except for the performance of the very watchable Ruth Negga.

Catch-22 (1970)
Released the same year as the better-known anti-war, satirical black comedy M*A*S*H, Mike Nichols's film of Joseph Heller's novel is far more satrical, decidedly blacker, and pulls no punches in its lambasting of the American war machine. Maybe not for all tastes, but I think it's an important film.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Love. Love. Love this. A smart, touching look at the effects of war on veterans returning home. See this. Really.

That's My Boy (2012)
I like Adam Sandler films, but probably not for the reasons that most people do. His raunchy, frequently sophomoric humor is what draws audiences to his movies, but what really sells the story is the heart injected into these films - some more than others. This movie is all raunch and no heart, and the R rating is simply an excuse to push the envelope for crude humor and f-bombs. Disappointing.

Jack and Jill (2012)
Also not great, but definitely better than the above Happy Madison production. What is essentially an excuse for Sandler to run around in drag is actually a nice story - if somewhat disjointed - about the importance of family. Pacino steals the show as himself. If you don't spend much on this movie, you may find it worth the price.

The Great Rupert (1950)
Fluff, but good fluff featuring Jimmy Durante and a stop-motion dancing squirrel.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and Mirror Mirror (2012)
"I am smiling."
Leave it to Hollywood to make two big budget adaptations of this Grimm fairy tale in the same year. How does one not put them up against one another for comparison?
Mirror Mirror has the good sense not to take itself too seriously. Huntsman is just dreary. Lily Collins is a delightful Snow White. Kristen Stewart is, well, she's riding on the Twilight wave. She's not a bad actress, really, but she has a limited range. Aloof to morose. This does not make for a charming princess. Huntsman's dwarves are more famous actors "shrunk" to dwarf size, while Mirror made use of some of Hollywood's best diminutive actors. I think I preferred the latter interpretation. Honestly, the saving grace of Huntsman is Chris Hemsworth, and, frankly, if you want to see Chris Hemsworth, The Avengers holds up to multiple viewings.
If you see only one Snow White adaptation this year, see Mirror Mirror. If you see two, see Mirror Mirror twice.

At War With the Army (1950)
Mostly just a vehicle for Dean Martin's singing and Jerry Lewis's screwball antics this film manages to take some very clever pokes at military life. Fun.

I Don't Know How She Does It (2011)
A filmed treatise in defense of the working mother, this got blasted by critics. My long-standing crush on Sarah Jessica Parker notwithstanding, I'm going to have to disagree with this film's detractors. I liked it.

Albert Nobbs (2011)
Yeah, this should really be hotter.
Great performance by Close. Great make-up. Dull, depressing film. I would have liked it better if there were more revelations about the title character's motivations, but he/she remains tragically enigmatic.

The Flying Deuces (1939)
Laurel and Hardy silliness just as it is supposed to be.

John Carter (2012)
Silly, but not in a good way. If Disney really is going to give us the next installment of the Star Wars franchise, I hope that they won't be using this as a model for galactic storytelling.

Puss In Boots (2011)
Fun and funny. Maybe not quite on par with the best of the Shrek movies, but that's a pretty high bar.

Wanderlust (2012)
This movie had potential but devolved into gross-out humor implausible character development. Too bad.

The Mighty Macs (2012)
I will admit that my main reason for watching this movie was Carla Gugino, and - from a getting-to-watch-Carla-Gugino perspective - I wasn't disappointed. However, this (based on a) true story of a struggling Catholic college's girls' basketball team having a Cinderella-story season would probably have been a better film if it focused a little more on the athletes' stories and a little less on Gugino as their coach. Comes across as a little hollow.

Actually, never mind.
I loved this movie.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
I wanted to watch this again to see if I could put my finger on just where this movie went off the rails, and I think it just suffers from the problem of "too much." Too much mugging from director Favreau as Stark's intrepid bodyguard. Too many daddy issues. Too many villains, or, really, just too many foils, since not all of them turn out to be villains. It's not a bad superhero movie, I think it just tried to cover too many storylines.

Contraband (2012)
This movie lifts the premise of Gone in 60 Seconds and transfers it from grand theft auto to international smuggling, then makes it more violent and more salacious, and that's really just about it. Not a terrible movie, just not very original. So much so that I'm not even going to feel guilty about throwing out a two-word spoiler about one surprise in this story: Jackson Pollock.

The Interview (1998)
Very moody, clever film. Hugo Weaving (sporting his actual Australian accent) is a man dragged into an interrogation room to answer for a crime he didn't commit. Or did he? I found this film to be very Hitchcockian in both its storytelling and camera work. Good film.

Syriana (2005)
If you are dependent on foreign oil (and, guess what? You are), then you should see this film. It's well-made and eye-opening.

A Thousand Words (2012) 
When I saw the trailer for this film, I said, "I already saw that. It was called Liar Liar." Well, the trailer may not have done full justice to the movie, but, mostly, I was right. The heart of this film is a powerful story about forgiveness, but the filmmakers are too timid to stick with that for very long, preferring to make use of Murphy's comic mugging. Call me an idealist, but I think that Hollywood fails when it underestimates its audience.

Big Miracle (2012)
"Phoooone hoooome."
"Yeah, you're hilarious, Shamu."
I thought that this was going to be a homogenized, light-hearted tale based very loosely on the true plight of three whales trapped in a frozen inlet in Alaska in the late 1980s. Actually, it's a reasonably accurate recounting of the story with multi-dimensional characters. Good family movie. Just be aware: if you'll recall, this story didn't have a completely happy Hollywood ending, so younger audience members may find parts of the movie a bit upsetting.

The Inspector General (1949)
Danny Kaye was inarguably a very funny, very talented performer. What he needed, in my opinion, is a director to rein him in so that his facial mugging and other physical bits don't become tedious. On this film, he did not have that.

So, there you go: 24 movies in one blog entry. We're all caught up now.

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