Saturday, January 5, 2013

Movie review roundup

My boys are old enough that I've begun catching up on movies I missed.  Here's brief reviews of movies I watched in 2012 (or tried to watch) and haven't already written about.

1. The Hunger Games: Is there better praise than to say I hope Gary Ross directs the new Star Wars movies?  Great performances, great costumes, great sets, great movie.

2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: I'm a sucker for happy love stories and had an enormous lump in my throat by the end of this one.  In fact, Maggie Smith's character arc following her personal growth from useless racist to loving, competent executive was absurd, but I fell for it, too.

3. Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol. There's a fine line between an inventive, thrilling, light-hearted adventure and a cartoon, and this movie is more like a Three Stooges episode than a thriller. Other than the brief moments when Josh Holloway and Léa Seydoux were on the screen, I didn't enjoy a single moment.

4. District 9: One of the best movies I watched all year.  Exciting, funny, thought-provoking, and featuring tremendous design.  Relatedly, if you've never seen it, here's the Halo short film Neill Blomkamp directed.

5. Let the Right One In: Depraved and disturbing (and tediously slow-moving). I stopped watching after 40 minutes or so, after the bully whips the main character, because I didn't like the direction the movie was going.  I then read the Wikipedia entry, which just confirmed that I made the right choice.

6.  Cloverfield:  Unwatchable.


7.  Viva Riva: A solid crime drama that owes a lot of its value to the freshness of its setting in the modern day Congo.   One or two reversals of fortune too many, though.

8.  13 Assassins: Another movie that I turned off after about 20 minutes on account of grotesque violence.

9.  No Country for Old Men: I tried reading the book years ago, and only made it a few pages before deciding I hated the writing style too much to continue.  But the movie was riveting throughout.  (The fact that I enjoyed this movie just shows how disturbing the violence was in 13 Assassins and Let the Right One In.)

10.  Hot Tub Time Machine: Boring and unfunny.  I only made it about halfway through.  Maybe you'll like it more if you think drug use is hilarious?

11.  Knowing: This movie has three incredible disaster scenes (the plane, the forest fire, the subway (dramatically superior to the one in Skyfall)).  Otherwise, it's pretty bad, especially the last 30 minutes.

12.  Prometheus: Let's remake Alien with beautiful, stupid people!  In a morbid sort of way, I kind of like the idea that the Aliens were created by muscle-head space bros incompetently playing with a chemistry set.  And that the space bros are angry at us because we killed Jesus, who was a space bro.

13.  Paranormal Activity: Great slow build with creepy chills expertly mixed in frequently enough to keep tension high.  It also had a solid payoff, although the characters' final decision to stay in the house seemed moronic.  I wonder how much of the movie's success is owed to the lead's cleavage.

14.  Paranormal Activity 2: Nothing happens for the first 60 minutes, and when it does, the action is more slapstick than creepy.  The night vision concept was totally wasted.  And the wise Latina housekeeper trope was embarrassing.  The shots of the pool cleaner were the only thing I liked.  So, I guess my review is, "there should have been more pool cleaner."

18 comments:

  1. Fantastic.
    You should review more movies.

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  2. I was riveted by Javier Bardem's bad guy (Chigurh) in "No Country..." The scene in the little convenience store had me clinging to the edge of the sofa in a cold sweat!

    Felt much the same as you about many of these movies.

    By the way, for a more cerebral hard science sci-fi, try "Moon." And I thoroughly enjoyed the director (Duncan Jones) follow-up "Source Code" which did a good job of skirting the line between a glossy Hollywood sci-fi movie and something of a more indy vibe.

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    1. Source Code's on my list. I mentioned Moon earlier today. Good, but not a classic.

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  3. I can't understand how you can describe a subtle and poetic movie like "Let the Right One In" as more violent, depraved and disturbing than "No Country for Old Men" (which, btw, I deeply enjoyed). Can you elaborate a little more on that? And did you watch the swedish orignal or the american remake?

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    1. The original.

      Let the Right One In features children torturing other children and encourages you to root for two budding young serial killers. I didn't find it subtle at all.

      No Country for Old Men is about adults hurting other adults. And it doesn't encourage you to root for Chigurh. It's more like a horror film where you're hoping someone will find a way to stop him. A lot like The Terminator.

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    2. Let the Right One In is like watching a movie called "Columbine" and getting excited that the shooters will "win."

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    3. I entirely respect your point of view, but where you see two young budding serial killers, I see a neogothic love story between two marginalized beings. It's a sort of fairy tale, an allegory of the hardships "different" people must endure every day (even to the point of pushing themselves to commit unspeakable deeds) and, as such (and as a narrative work), it's meant to develop this theme in a dramatic fashion. It's not like "Hansel and Gretel" advocates in any way cooking old ladies in the oven.:)

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    4. I have to agree with Rikpro. Also, if you watched the whole movie, you see how the boy is really just the new old man. He is charged with protecting and feeding her. It is a love relationship that cannot be consummated and will eventually end like everything else.

      P.S. I love McCarthy's writing style.

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  4. 13 Assassins tried to be "12 Samurai-esque" but other than the admirable motives of the main characters it devolves into a literal bloodbath by the end of the film with little in terms of a redeeming story unless you love the violent revenge and poetic tragedy of Tarantino's films.

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  5. "The Art of District 9: Weta Workshop" is a gorgeous book. Shows so many of the alternate ideas and explains why they went in certain directions.

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  6. Though I didn't see it, my wife claims The Hunger Games to be one of the worst adaptions she's ever seen. Most of her friends who also read the book agree. Given that, and how much I love Star Wars, I don't think I'd want him directing SW. But then I should probably see the movie first to judge for myself!

    In other news, I love your capsule review style. Do more! Do more!

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    1. She's wrong.

      (I read all three books before seeing the movie.)

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    2. Never read the books, but the movie was nearly unwatchable. My entire family, age 10, 14 and my wife, all read the books and loved them, and said the movie was barely related to the books, in style or content.

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    3. We'll have to agree to disagree on that one then. The movie was exactly how I pictured the book, and I didn't remember a single significant omission or addition.

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  7. Please don't become i09 and Kotaku. Post cool stuff, don't give "clever" reviews.

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  8. @John, to your earlier comment, I think my wife agrees with Tony (she didn't like Ross' style of directing). As I said though, I'll have to check the movie out for myself. I rather liked his other films (Pleasantville, esp.) so I'm hoping it's just a difference of appreciation.

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  9. I know the movie is really old and I probably should've seen it by now too, but did John just spoil Paranormal Activity for me? I'm thinking you might have. Dammit...

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  10. I don't think I even hint how it ends? Just that I liked how it ended?

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