Saturday, April 21, 2007


I'm going to try something new by listing the last ten movies I have seen in order of how I would rank them on a top ten list. I've got twenty titles on my list since my last review so I'll post two separate lists. After the date of release is the number of stars awarded by allmovie (out of five).

THE DEPARTED (2006 ****1/2) This is far from the best Scorcese film but that bar is set so high that this still ranks as one of the better films in recent years. I think the Nicholson part would have been better if it was underplayed a little rather than having Jack chewing scenery and beating his chest every time we saw him. I never believed that such a fellow would have taken DiCaprio under his wing so quickly and trusted him so completely even when confronted with insubordination. I did like the DiCaprio character which reminded me of
Johnny Depp in DONNIE BRASCO, but with added duress. It was nice to see the character played as scared and vulnerable at times despite the rough exterior. Matt Damon played his guy as smart yet insidious and did his usual stand-up job. I could have done with less of the girlfriend as such things tend to drag down guy movies. All in all, fairly riveting.

VOLVER (2006 ****) There's nothing not to like about a movie like this - it's got just enough story to tell and mixes in some nice performances and a little light comedy. Penepole Cruz has always struck me as a bombshell but here she is convincing as a small-town put-upon wife whose beauty doesn't inform her character in the least. I had no idea what the movie was about when I saw it the night before the Oscars. Once there was a body to hide, I expected the cops to show up and engage our heroine in a cat-and-mouse battle of wits, but it didn't become that at all - in fact, the cops never even showed up and the louse of a husband wasn't even missed, allowing the story to go its own way. It was fun and efficient European storytelling which is enjoyable and refreshing.

MAD MAX (1979 ****) I'd never seen any of the Max films so I started with this one. I'm sure it's lost some of its luster with time but it's still a fun little ride. I can't think of an earlier post-apocolyptic film although there is never any mention of how the world came to be such a wasteland. Gibson plays sort of an Eastwoodesque antihero out for vengeance. There are some good stunts and a memorable finale.

LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998 ***1/2) This film is a good example of a director so in love with directing that he does whimsical things with the camera for no apparent reason other than to take the viewer out of the story. It's a fun enough plot in the British crime caper mode but take my advice, don't even bother watching without the subtitles, even though they purportedly speak our language. I was frustrated with the story for the first half until it redeemed itself pretty well in the second half. Still, although it has earned some sort of cult following, there are just too many films to recommend over this one if British crime capers are your thing.

BABEL (2006 ****) I probably would have liked this film more if I hadn't already seen two previous efforts from the director which employed similar storytelling technique. I enjoyed AMORES PERROS and I absolutely loved 21 GRAMS. I also very much enjoyed another director's film called CRASH just last year which made BABEL feel like a global retread of that great LA-based Oscar winner. CRASH ultimately made me feel good whereas BABEL was just a bummer through and through. The storylines centered around miscommunication but I didn't really care for any of the characters except for the Hispanic housemaid. I did appreciate seeing the muff of the Japanese girl but couldn't fully enjoy it since she was so messed up in the head. Overall, I have to say this one was wildly overrated.

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING (2005 ***1/2) The story was firing on all cylanders for awhile but ultimately left me unsatisfied. I love black comedy - I was hooked and reeled in and laughing out loud until the umpteenth meeting of the alcohol, firearms, and tobacco lobbyists. It was funny at first that all the death merchants met regularly for drinks but it grew stale by the third meeting and by the fifth meeting they could have just skipped the drinks and began beating a dead horse. It's really a lost opportunity for a great character study since Aaron Eckhart nailed the melding of smarmy and charming in his tobacco lobbyist - if only the story was a little tighter and more satisfying this would go down as a great American comedy instead of a near miss.

HAPPY FEET (2006 ****) I saw this one with the kids on IMAX which really made it an event. I absolutely adore George Miller's BABE 2: PIG IN THE CITY - so I was really looking forward to seeing this one. I know the world fell in love with this movie, but I will admit to being underwhelmed. The song and dance routines just reminded me of how much I enjoyed MOULIN ROUGE and how that's all I can think about whenever someone sings a modern pop song to express their innermost desires. The penguins just reminded me how much I enjoyed MARCH OF THE PENGUINS and hated MADAGASCAR and made me wonder why penguins outnumber horses in the movies nowadays. Once the obligatory Robin Williams character appeared, my tolerance was already strained but when the human characters showed up and turned the film into Greenpeace propoganda, I was committing to a thumbs down.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006 ***1/2) Tom summed it up well with his review. Ignoring the politics and reviewing the film, I will say that the personal background into Gore's life which served to attempt to elevate him to demagogue status didn't play very well, though it was interesting to take a political message and disguise it as a pseudo-biography. I will admit that the slide show itself was great. Disregarding the bad science, the slides and Gore's presentation of the information was really engaging. I have sat through scores of PowerPoint slideshows in my A/V career, and the best presenters could be interesting regardless of the subject matter - it was certainly no chore to sit through Gore's rant which is interesting considering how passionless he was by comparison as a presidential candidate. Kudos also to the novel closing credits which I have already seen parodied more than once - I doubt we will ever again see Best Original Song awarded to a documentary's credit sequence.

WORLD TRADE CENTER (2006 ***1/2) Not much to say about this one as I remember very little beyond having to endure two talking heads poking out of rubble for over an hour.

WITH SIX YOU GET EGGROLL (1968/**) One of the great joys in my life currently is watching old Brady Bunch episodes with my kids. Mason identifies with Bobby while Cadence sees herself in Marcia. My favorite was always Peter. The first time around, I identified with the kids in this series and I always liked the parents; this time I can watch as a parent and realize what good kids they have. So I rented this film as an extention of Brady night to show the kids where the idea came from. The film began charming enough but just got more and more dreadful as it went along. I felt so guilty for making them sit through this stinker that I ended the night with a three-parter of the Brady kids battling taboo in Hawaii.

1 comment:

Tom said...

I haven't seen Eggroll, but always enjoy the underrated Brian Keith. Sorry to hear it's no good.

World Trade Center seemed tedious so I didn't bother. Babel looked like torture too. I might try it at some point.

I'll see Volver by my next Reviews post.

Your Departed review reminded me to rent Infernal Affairs. Scorsese seems to be making films now that could be made by anyone. Barry Levinson could have directed The Departed or The Aviator, but no one else could have directed GOODFELLAS or TAXI DRIVER.

I read THANK YOU FOR SMOKING years ago and I think that Reitman showed real competence with the material. The book was interesting and funny, but centered too much on the kidnapping whereas the film just used it as a plot point. The ending is kind of weak which is also a problem with the book. I could see Reitman following his father's footsteps in having a solid Hollywood career.

I saw Ritchie's film SNATCH first and then LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS which seemed to be the same style all over again. Tarantino has influenced a bunch of younger filmmakers and much of what was interesting about this new edgy style has simply become a subgenre with 9/10 of it being more annoying than entertaining.

Post a Comment