Saturday, December 3, 2011

My 2011 Movie Odyssey - Part IV

Ooh! Blog posts two days in a row! I'm going crazy! (Or something.)

When Worlds Collide (1951)
In a precursor to Deep Impact, a rogue planet is on a collision course with Earth. The only way for the human race to survive is to build a space ark and be off Earth when the planets collide. What follows is an interesting and at times intense story of human ingenuity and survival, with both the best and worst of humanity on display.

127 Hours (2010)
James Franco does a one man show through most of the movie as a hiker who gets his arm trapped by a boulder and has to cut it off in order to get free. Franco does an admirable job carrying the movie and the amputation scene is fittingly unsettling. The only real flaw in the film are the occasional dream sequences featuring other people; they break the tone of isolation that is one of the film's strongest features. (It also contains what may be my favorite burp in movie history.)

eXistenZ (1999)
This movie tries to keep the audience guessing as to what is reality and what is not, but I stopped caring about half-way in and the ending left me extremely dissatisfied.

Aeon Flux (2005)
The story is rather silly, but the fight scenes are choreographed well and it has an interesting look.

Unknown (2006)
Five men wake up in a warehouse all suffering from amnesia. It's fascinating to watch as they try to figure out who they are and why they are there, and which of them are the good guys and which are the bad guys. There are a few flashback scenes and a few flash sideways, but the bulk of the movie (and all of the interesting stuff) takes place within the warehouse.

Hercules (1983)
I remember seeing the ending of a Hercules movie some time ago that featured as its climax Hercules going into space and turning into bad animation to defeat the bad guy. It was really bad and I was interested in seeing the whole thing. I hoped this would be it, but sadly it wasn't. Fortunately, it was as bad as I remembered the other one being. Lou Ferrigno stars as the worst Hercules I've ever seen. From the neck down he actually looks like Hercules should look, but his face is too soft to be convincing as a hardened warrior. Add to that wooden acting and only one facial expression of dull bemusement and Ferrigno brings the world of beefy action stars to a new low. Herc fights ridiculous, laser-shooting mechanical monsters, travels from one place to another for no apparent reason, duels King Minos with a light saber, and gets huge. The screenplay has no narrative cohesion with things happening merely due to the screenwriter's whim. This is the worst Hercules movie I've seen. (And it has a sequel!)

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
The first half of the movie tells the tale of Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows. While there's nothing bad about it I found the whole thing rather flat. Things get much better in the second half, which tells the tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It is dark, atmospheric, a little scary, and very entertaining.

Winter’s Bone (2010)
High schooler Ree has to make sure her father makes a scheduled court date so the family won't lose their house in an isolated Ozark community. Jennifer Lawrence puts in a strong performance as Ree, as she tries her best to keep her family together. What I found most fascinating about this movie is more about what isn't there. There are big things going on with drug dealing but we see almost none of it. Instead, the filmmakers take a minor character from a film noir and make her the hero of her own little story.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008)
This Korean re-imagining of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is wild and full of energy. However, I never really latched on to any of the characters and the ending was unsatisfactory. Recommended mostly for fans of Asian cinema and spaghetti westerns.

Tron: Legacy (2010)
I love the 1982 original and was really looking forward to the second chapter of the Tron saga. Unfortunately, the whole thing fell rather flat. The messianic themes of the original are replaced with eastern mysticism. The action sequences were overblown and many felt like they existed just to throw flashy imagery at the audience. In many ways, Tron: Legacy reminds me of The Matrix Reloaded in that it took the unique, original vision of its precursor and expanded it but did it in a way that made everything more muddled and far less interesting. And CG young Jeff Bridges just looked wrong.

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