There is some wonderful use of shadows, but the movie really wishes it was a silent film and the story is confusing.
Gran Torino (2008)
Humor can come from a lot of places. It happens when people say funny things (like Groucho and Chico Marx), it happens when people do funny things (like Harpo Marx), and it happens when funny things happen to someone (like Bringing Up Baby). Humor also can happen on a more subtler level when you get folks just being folks (like most of Garrison Keilor’s Lake Wobegon stories). There is plenty of this final kind of humor in Gran Torino. Not to say that it’s a comedy since the movie deals with some serious subject matter as Walt (played by Clint Eastwood) tries to keep his next-door neighbors from getting caught up in a destructive gang world. But I was surprised at how much I laughed as set-in-his-ways Walt was continually nudged out of his comfort zone. I loved watching the characters interact with each other, especially the scenes of Walt teaching his neighbor how to be a man. (There is a disappointing dearth of scenes like this in movies today, though that’s a rant for another day.) And I loved the ending. Too often a movie like this may end up with an ending that is either too contrived to be believable or too convenient to be satisfactory, but this ending feels so right I can’t come up with a better one. Every once in a while a movie comes along that completely surprises me with how much I like it; this is one of those.
There are some striking visuals in this silent movie as a woman tries to convince Death to return her beloved to her.
Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
Called the first Soviet science fiction film, I was interested to check it out. It starts out promising enough as a scientist tries to build a rocket to fly to Mars. But by the time he gets to Mars and starts a Communist revolution there, I had lost all interest in the movie. The visuals are interesting only in a “this is what Russians in 1924 thought futuristic and exotic looked like” way as they look rather silly today.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
I just couldn’t get over how bad the scientists were in this film. First they start off making rash assumptions and promises due to incomplete research. Then, when one of them gets exposed to the airborne version of the “make monkeys smarter” drug, do they put him in quarantine, or at least under observation? No. He just continues on his merry way. And then when he start showing unusual symptoms, does he go to a doctor or tell the other scientists? No. Instead, he tries to continue on his merry way, and is ultimately responsible for the future destruction of the human race. There are some fun action sequences and Andy Serkis’s motion capture performance as the main ape is very good, but the poor science just reeked of sloppy storytelling.
Source Code (2011)
Time travel stories can be really tricky. This one mostly works though the ending was too convenient.
The Last Unicorn (1982)
I’m glad I read the book before I watched the movie, as I’m not sure I would have liked it as much had I not known the kind of story it was trying to tell.
Strange Days (1995)
While some of the science fiction ideas were interesting, the movie goes into some really dark and gruesome places.
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
I really liked this story about a man who tries to defy fate to be with the woman he loves. I liked how simple and subtle most of the effects were and it asks some interesting questions about the nature of free will and even God. I also liked how it ties in neatly with Tolkien’s concept of the music of the Ainur from the Silmarillion.
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)
How is it that a movie can be as inept as this one is in every single aspect possible? The acting is flat, the dialog is clunky at best, the sound is worse than most student films, and the effects are less convincing than the grasshoppers-on-a-postcard shots from Beginning of the End. The story is the illegitimate child of The Birds and An Inconvenient Truth. And for some reason, all the birds explode when they run into things. I have a hard time coming up with the worst scene in the movie. It could be the one where our heroes defend themselves from hovering CG birds by randomly waving around coat hangers. It could be the one where the protagonist extolls the benefits of solar panels (or as he calls them, “sorpaos”). It might be the scene where our heroes walk out of a screening of An Inconvenient Truth and one of them says, “That was a really good movie. I’m going to buy a hybrid now.” But my vote probably has to go to all the scenes devoted to either parking or cautiously pulling into traffic. No other film I have seen has devoted so much time to these two activities that are marginally more entertaining than watching paint dry.
I'm almost done with 2011!