Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday, 2/19/10

Finally, some good movies.

Shutter Island - 3 1/2 stars

I really enjoyed this. The movie looks incredible, and the performances are great. Within the first 10 minutes, I was loving it. Sometimes you can just tell when you are watching a movie directed by a master filmmaker. It looked like Scorsese was trying to make the movie look like it was filmed back in the 50s (except it was in color). The score was over the top dramatic, which in the hands of a lesser director would have been lame. But Scorsese knows exactly what he's doing. You know some bad stuff is going to happen on this island.

I only have a few complaints. One is that the great Max von Sydow was not in it enough. I wish he had like 10 more scenes. The other is the movie is too long. Its 2 hours and 20 minutes, and it could have easily lost a half hour. There are a lot of dream sequences and flashbacks, and those should have been shortened.

Some people will not like the ending. I had no problem with it. It's the type of movie that you have to see twice, because the second time you will see a different movie. I can't wait to see it again.

The Last Station - 3 stars

Christopher Plummer plays Leo Tolstoy and Helen Mirren plays his wife. They are both nominated for Academy Awards for their performances. Tolstoy is close to death and wants to give the copyrights for his books away. He says his work belongs to all of Russia, and his wife is scared to death of that. She thinks that if that happens, she and their children will starve to death after he is gone. Paul Giamatti plays Vladimir Chertkov, the leader of Tolstoy's philosophical / religious movement, and the one trying to persuade Tolstoy to give his copyrights away.

James McAvoy plays Valentin Bulgakov, a naive young man who goes to serve as Tolstoy's secretary / personal assistant. He is a huge follower of Tolstoy's teachings, which include sexual abstinence. Which means that not only is he a virgin, but as the movie progresses he will fall in love and lose his innocence. Throughout the movie Bulgakov is torn in two directions. Chertkov warns him to beware of Mrs. Tolstoy, and Mrs. Tolstoy is trying to convince him that Chertkov is an evil man who just wants Tolstoy's fortunes for himself.

I liked the movie, and it made me want to learn more about Tolstoy. I knew he was a great author, but I had no idea that he created a movement with many followers, or that his philosophies would influence Gandhi.

Oscar Shorts

I have only seen a couple of the shorts. I liked Instead of Abracadabra, a Swedish movie about a Napolean Dynamite - like guy who wants to be a magician. He puts his mom in a box, plunges a sword into the box, and what happens is pretty much every magician's worst nightmare. Kavi is about a boy born into slavery in India, and it was also very good.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Friday, 2/12/10

A lot of bad movies today.

Police, Adjective - didn't see

The Wolfman - 2 stars

I had high hopes for this, and it let me down. Benicio Del Toro is usually a good actor, but he doesn't really do much emoting in this movie. His performance rubbed off on Anthony Hopkins because he looks bored the entire time.

The movie will make you jump, but that's easy. Any movie can do that. There are many scenes of a character walking, and the music stops and it gets all quiet, you know something is going to jump out any second now, and ... bam! The wolf comes out of nowhere, slashes with his claws, and a head or an arm goes flying. This happens a lot. There is even one of those dream sequences where something happens, then he wakes up, but he isn't really awake yet, he is still dreaming.

The movie really didn't make me care about any of the characters. Once Del Toro knows he is a werewolf, I didn't really feel sorry for him. The movie didn't scare me, and it didn't make me laugh either. When the wolf isn't on screen, I was bored. There is nothing memorable in this movie. It's unnecessary and forgettable.

Then only good thing about it was Hugo Weaving. I love listening to the way he draws out his words and speaks so precisely. It made me want to go watch The Matrix again.

Valentine's Day - 1 1/2 stars

This movie has about 20 different storylines going on at the same time. Every part is played by a big movie star, and that's a good thing because its the only way we can keep track of who is who. I think I laughed 3 or 4 times, and the rest of the time I was smacking my head in disbelief.

One thing I hated was Anne Hathaway's storyline. I can believe her character would take a job as a phone sex operator, but I don't believe she would be 'on call' 24 hours a day. She takes a call in the morning, right after leaving Topher Grace's apartment. She takes a call in the middle of the day while she is at her day job (she even takes a call on her office phone). She also gets a call while she is out on a date. I have to believe that phone sex workers are scheduled, so they don't have to be on call like a heart surgeon. How does she expect to hold down her day job if she is getting these calls every hour?

By far the worst thing about the movie is Taylor Swift's performance. She can't act to save her life. She should never act in a movie ever again.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief - 1 star

This movie was just idiotic. I wanted to walk out so bad in the first 20 minutes. Its like it was written by a 7th grader. Everything about this movie sucks. The book series its based on might be a decent fantasy book, but if its anything like the movie, it should only be read by elementary school students. There are so many good fantasy series out there but they keep making movies out of these horrible books. Or at least they make horrible movies out of these books. We should feel really lucky we got good movies out of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Frozen good, Paris bad

Frozen - 3 stars

Simple enough setup: 3 college kids get stuck on a ski lift. They are halfway up the mountain, the staff turns off the lift, turns out the lights and goes home. To make matters worse, it's Sunday night and the resort doesn't open again until Saturday. Of course they don't have their cell phones. If they wait it out, they will freeze to death.

This was a very effective thriller. I will definitely think about it next time I am taking a ski lift up the mountain.

From Paris With Love - 1 star

Lame and boring. John Travolta shows up 20 minutes in and he injects some life into the movie for 5 or 10 minutes. Then everything he is doing gets old and tired. The movie didn't make any sense, and the fight scenes were edited so badly that you couldn't tell what was happening. There is no reason to see this movie.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Friday, 2/4/10

Crazy Heart - 3 stars

Jeff Bridges is always good. I don't think this is his best performances, but if it's the one that gets him an Oscar, that's fine with me. He plays a has-been country singer named Bad Blake, who is also an alcoholic. As the movie opens, we see him pull into a bowling alley where he is performing that night. But his star has fallen so low that they don't even give him a bar tab. I wonder what his guarantee is.

He was once a successful singer, and he still has fans, but they like him 20 years ago. Just like a lot of hair metal bands from the 80s that once played stadiums, he is now playing bars and bowling alleys, performing to people who loved his songs when they were younger. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a reporter who falls in love with him way too quickly. That was my biggest complaint about the movie. I didn't believe that a girl like that would suddenly fall for an alcoholic who is old enough to be her grandfather. But she does, and their relationship is a big part of the movie.

Another story concerns Bad's former protege, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell). Tommy learned everything from Bad, and now Tommy is the one playing stadiums. You might expect Tommy to be some kind of a jerk and the antagonist of the movie, but he is actually very appreciative of what Bad Blake did for his career. One of the best parts of the movie is when Blake gets a chance to open for Tommy.

I liked the movie, I liked the performances (Robert Duvall is great in this too), and I liked the music. Recommended.

Frozen - didn't see

Broken Embraces - didn't see

Dear John - 3 stars

It's a common myth that guys don't like chick flicks. Well, what I don't like is a chick flick that has badly drawn characters and a predictable story. But I do like a movie that has the opposite. And in this movie, the characters are good and I didn't know where the story was going. It has a few minor twists. Not Sixth Sense twists, just small surprises in the story that I didn't see coming and appreciated.

John (the very bland Channing Tatum) is a soldier. He meets Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) in the summer of 2001 while he is on leave. They fall in love, but he has to go back and finish his tour. His tour will be over sometime in the fall, and then they will be together. Unless of course some big national tragedy happens or something ...

John's father is played by the great Richard Jenkins. At first we think his father is just shy, but Savannah figures out that his father has autism. I loved Jenkins in The Visitor, but I think this performance may be a better one. Some of the scenes between John and his father are really touching.

I liked this movie a lot more than I thought they would. The story was engaging and the performances were good. Even Channing Tatum. He may be a good actor, but he is very boring.

From Paris With Love - review to come