Monday, December 28, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odysey - Part XVIII

Ponyo (2008)
The latest offering from Hayao Miyazaki is very cute and charming with plenty of memorable characters, and while the visuals are not as opulent as Spirited Away (2001) or Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), they are still quite lovely.

Public Enemies (2009)
Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are both quite good as they face off against each other, but I had a hard time keeping track of all the supporting characters and the best parts of the movie were the closeups of Myrna Loy from Manhattan Melodrama (1934).

Star Trek (2009)
This was a whole lot of fun with a great cast, especially Simon Pegg as a very funny Scotty, with the only real complaint I can come up with is that they sacrificed a bit too much of the philosophical musings that are is signature of Star Trek in favor of more action (and a few too many lens flares).

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
This is a pleasant little movie featuring Cary Grant, who is endearing as always, and David Niven as a frustrated bishop who gets an unexpected answer to his prayers.

Alien Trespass (2009)
While I applaud their efforts to recreate a B-movie from the 1950s, the sexuality, the obvious use of CG, and the fact that it was in color instead of black and white kept taking me out of the moment and kept it from being an effective homage, but never funny enough to work as a parody.

The Paradine Case (1947)
This courtroom drama never really gets going in the courtroom scenes; what makes the film interesting is how it focuses on how the trial affects all the people involved.

All That Jazz (1979)
This unorthodox musical (it is almost half an hour into the film before someone on screen sings something and is firmly rated R) tells the story of a celebrated Broadway director and choreographer who is working himself to death, and becomes more and more abstract as the film progresses, taking the movie musical into some interesting new places.

Mystery, Alaska (1999)
While the idea of a small-town hockey team taking on an NHL team is a fun idea, what elevates this film over most of the rest of the sports movies out there is the attention it gives to the characters and how the big game affects the whole town.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
The action is mindless, the characters are shallow, the dialog is flat, the villain is too comical to be taken seriously, the robot assistant is annoying as all get out, the big effects set-pieces are unconvincing, and its single redeeming attribute, a song on the soundtrack from They Might Be Giants, lasts only a few seconds, making this movie every bit as dumb as I though it would be.

Nothing Sacred (1937)
Carole Lombard is very funny in her only Technicolor appearance as a woman who is incorrectly diagnosed with terminal radium poisoning, and only learns this fact after a reporter for a major New York newspaper decides to write a series of public interest articles on her tragic story.

Coming up next: more hockey and an unconventional ghost story.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XVII

Following (1998)
The directorial debut from Christopher Nolan tells an interesting story that keeps its audience guessing until the very end with his signature nonlinear storytelling out in full force.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
The beginning is loud, confusing, and overblown, and the ending drags on too long with far too many explosions, but the second act works for the most part with the Transformers actually getting more developed characters this time around.

Sense and Sensibility (1995)
It was pleasant enough, but a bit of a disappointment since I rather enjoyed Pride and Prejudice (2005).

At the Circus (1939)
This time around the Marx Brothers play detective in this fun romp that has several wonderfully comic scenes.

Murder at the Vanities (1934)
The film cuts between a murder investigation backstage at a theatre which is rather entertaining and the on stage musical numbers that are obviously inspired by the Ziegfeld follies and surprisingly racy.

San Diego I Love You (1944)
This funny movie about an amateur inventor and his slightly overzealous daughter and their move to San Diego to get funding for one of his inventions is highlighted by a wonderful cameo by Buster Keaton (in which he actually smiles!).

Cavalcade (1933)
Much like Cimarron (1931) and Giant (1956), Cavalcade tries to tell the story of a geographical region through the lens of one family, and just like the former two films, ends up being tedious and far too long (though there were two very memorable moments).

Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
James Cagney defines charismatic evil as a gangster just released from prison who becomes an idol for a group of neighborhood kids, much to the chagrin of his childhood friend and local priest.

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
This is a little less dumb than How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and Buster Keaton’s supporting role is actually funny this time around, taking advantage of his talent for physical comedy instead of ignoring them.

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
The scenes with Percy as the Pimpernel and as the upper class twit are both loads of fun, but the rest of the movie drags and could have benefitted from losing half an hour or more of run time.

Coming up next: television translated to the big screen and an unorthodox musical.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XVI

Okay, so I'm way behind on my movie odyssey posting. So in the interest of catching up so this doesn't drag too far into 2010, I'm switching to 10 per post instead of my normal 5. Enjoy.

Up (2009)
This is a wonderful tale about friendship and adventure found in unexpected places, full of emotional highs and lows, and even when something happened exactly as I predicted, it still provoked an emotional response.

Das Experiment (2001)
This is a grim tale about a psychology experiment in which volunteers play the roles of prison guards and inmates that gets out of hand and was inspired by an actual experiment.

Sleuth (2007)
This remake took almost everything that was visually interesting from the original and threw it out the window along with most of the compelling elements of the plot and replaced them with a visually boring set, copious amounts of profanity, and a homoerotic ending that came completely out of nowhere and made absolutely no sense.

The Brothers Bloom (2008)
This con man romp from the director of Brick (2005) is a lot of fun with several interesting characters including Bang Bang, a cute explosives expert who never bothers to talk.

Ace in the Hole (1951)
This heartbreaking indictment of sensationalist journalism features an excellent performance by Kirk Douglas who stars as newspaper reporter who manufactures a human interest story that captures the imagination of the nation, and then does whatever he can to make the publicity wave last as long as possible, no matter what happens to anyone else.

Wings (1927)
I really wanted to like this film that was the first winner of the Best Picture Oscar, but the aerial dogfights were not very thrilling and an overlong sequence where one hotshot pilot gets drunk for the first time grew tedious very quickly.

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
This charming, quiet comedy is almost a silent film and is full of memorable characters and amusing recurring jokes that force the audience to pay attention since so many of them are very subtle.

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Stunning photography and a powerful performance by Maria Falconetti make this a must-see for cinephiles but should probably be avoided by people who haven’t seen many silent films.

The Simpsons Movie (2007)
It is funny and feels like a long episode, but doesn’t break any new ground.

I.Q. (1994)
This is a cute movie about intelligent people being foolishly in love and a wonderful posse of elderly scientists led by Albert Einstein which reminded me (favorably) of Ball of Fire (1941).

Coming up next: my final best picture winner.