cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Devil in a Blue Dress )

Rise of the Planet of the Apes )

The Guard )

Drive )

Beauty and the Beast )

101 Dalmations )

The Searchers )

50/50 )

That gets me caught up through September. Now to see how many horror movies I can knock off my queue in October.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 77: Slap Shot
How have I been a fan of both hockey and movies for so long without having seen this movie? Very fun, especially Paul Newman's performance. It didn't seem like his typical role, but he definitely embraced the part and made his character someone you wanted to cheer for, even when he's being less than scrupulous with everyone around him.

Movie 78: 1984
Every time I watch this I'm impressed at what a solid adaptation it is. The movie's not slavishly devoted to the novel, but it sticks close enough to get Orwell's points across. Often there are atmospheric touches that manage in a few seconds to illustrate an idea that took multiple pages of text.

Movie 79: Captain America: The First Avenger
For a movie that has "The First Avenger" in the title, this felt more like its own movie than most of the recent Marvel films (Iron Man 2 especially felt like thin story strung between character introductions for next year's Avengers). It was a lot like watching an old WWII movie, the only difference being that the main character happened to have super powers. Within the parameters of the comic book world it was set in the movie managed to portray war realistically - Captain American couldn't save everyone, people still die in battle, but on the other hand he wasn't the only one getting anything done. So often in superhero movies there's the hero and then there's everyone else waiting around to get saved. Here the soldiers he's fighting along side hold their own, often more impressively than the hero, since they aren't genetically enhanced. A very entertaining movie, and the first one that, based on watching it, actually has me interested in seeing Avengers next year.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
There's a lot of them.

X-Men: First Class )

Midnight in Paris )

Super 8 )

Kung Fu Panda 2 )

Cars 2 )

Toy Story 2 )

The Thing )

Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party )

The Tree of Life )

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop )

Wet Hot American Summer )

The Last House on the Left )

Escape From New York )

Batman: Under the Red Hood )

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 )

Maybe if I updated this thing more often I wouldn't have to rack my brain (and netflix activity) to remember what I'd been watching.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Remember when I said was going to keep track of the movies I saw this year, then didn't write about any for two months straight? Well as hard as it will be to believe for anyone who's met me, I didn't actually go two months without watching a movie. But I want to get to the one I saw this afternoon, so here's a shortened version of what I've watched since March:

Movie 53: Source Code
Not on par with Moon, but between the two films Duncan Jones is definitely a director whose work I will seek out. Some of the most thoughtful sci-fi being made today.

Movie 54: The Tin Drum
Watched this for a paper in my Communication Law class. I'd seen it before, and liked it then, but was so young I completely missed the allegory for the effects of WWII on the citizens of Germany. Not that it was a big part of the movie or anything, just the ENTIRE PLOT.

Movie 55: Banned in Oklahoma
Documentary about the legal controversy stirred up in Oklahoma when a judge labeled it obscene almost 20 years after its release. Even though I agree with the stance the filmmakers took, I would have liked to have seen a less one-sided take on the issue.

Movie 56: Super
This is the movie last year's Kick-Ass wants to be when it grows up, an dark examination of what real-world masked crime fighters would be like that doesn't turn into a generic comic book movie in the third act.

Movie 57: Hanna
Thoroughly entertaining action movie that succeeds because it doesn't try to be anything more than what it is: a fun brain-under-the-seat movie.

Movie 58: Monsters
Impressive monster movie done on a shoestring budget, but the middle drags a little.

Movie 59: Enter the Void
Gaspar Noé really likes tracking shots and strobe effects. Not as disturbing as Irreversible, but also not as interesting or effective.

Movie 60: Bridesmaids
It needed some editing - there are scenes that go a little too long and hurt the pacing - but it's still the funniest movie I've seen all year.

Movie 61: 13 Assassins
This is the one that inspired me to get back to writing about movies as I see them. 13 Assassins currently holds the title for best movie I've seen this year. It stays true to its samurai movie roots (comparisons to The Seven Samurai are all but inevitable) while never seeming old fashioned or outdated. There are a few definite Takashi Miike touches, but the violence and bloodshed are surprisingly toned down compared to his other films. The first two acts could have easily felt like they were just there to set up the finale, but the characters and situations are so well developed that it's almost as interesting as a political drama as it is an action movie. But as good as the first two thirds of the film are, the real reason to see this is the battle at the end, where the titular assassins face off against an army. It goes from extremely fun action to gritty realism to high drama in turns, and every tonal shift is perfectly timed and executed. If you enjoy a good samurai movie (or a good western, since the two genres borrow so heavily from each other), I highly, highly recommend seeking this one out.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 49: Four Lions
I heard/read a lot of reviews saying this was an entertaining comedy despite it's subject matter, and decided to give it a try. Turns out I have trouble finding suicide bombers funny. There are humorous bits, especially in the first half where the movie concentrates on the ineptitude of these would-be terrorists, but the rest of the movie, the last half hour especially, plays out like an exercise in bad taste with little to redeem itself.

Movie 50: Paul
Watching this I was happy to see that Simon Pegg's writing holds up without Edgar Wright's direction. Greg Mottola does a fine job directing, but the screenplay by Pegg and Nick Frost is the reason to see this movie. Funny, smart, and loaded with references to sci-fi movies of the 70s and 80s, this is a movie written for people who grew up on the likes of Star Wars and Alien. It's not on the same level as Shaun of the Dead, but I got more of the inside jokes and was thoroughly entertained from start to finish.

Movie 51: Ink
It's a little too stylized, there are plot elements that aren't explained well enough, and it's 30 minutes in before there's a clear story to follow, but it's still fun to watch and nice to see something shot in Denver get a decent national, if direct to DVD, release. And while there's flashy effects used when they're not needed, when the visuals work, they really work. Especially striking is a sequence building up to the climax, where we see two perspectives of the same event edited together in a way that makes them both more exciting. The "I've worked with that guy" factor was an added bonus.

Movie 52: American Grindhouse
An interesting documentary that uses "grindhouse" to classify any exploitation cinema. I think that's casting a little too wide of a net, but as a look at the history of the genre it did a good job highlighting important films going back to the silent era and providing a context for how and why these movies were made.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 46: Rango
The story's a little thin at times (especially the parts not taken directly from Chinatown), but the animation, humor, characters, and movie references more than make up for it. Very entertaining from start to finish.

Movie 47: Easy A
I was curious about this but missed it in theaters last year. It was funnier than the marketing made it look, and Emma Stone consistently gives strong performances, but the writing is clumsy in its attempts to make a light teen comedy about topics including prostitution, adultery, and sexual assault. Taken more seriously it could have worked well, but as it was it didn't quite work.

Movie 48: The Killer Inside Me
A standard noir detective story told from the killer's point of view. Casey Affleck gives one of his best performances as the affable sociopath, and the movie has a lot of great scenes. Unfortunately they're too far apart and everything in between tend to drag. With some tighter editing and about 20 fewer minutes this would have been excellent; instead it's got a lot going for it but not enough to work as a whole.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 45: Toy Story
Watched this over the weekend with Audrey. It's interesting seeing how much better Pixar has gotten over the past decade and a half, while simultaneously being impressed at a level of storytelling and visual composition that still exceeds the vast majority of family entertainment.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 44: Another Year
Exactly what it says on the poster: the movie follows a year in the lives of an old married couple and their friends and family. The couple in question is my new answer to "what do you want to be when you grow up?": they're happy, stable, and still very much in love after 30 or 40 years together. The drama and conflict is in the lives of those around them, while they continue living their lives, helping wherever they can but knowing where to draw the line. There's no major event to make this seem like anything other than just another year, but by the end of it you are invested in all the characters and want the best for them.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 33: Day & Night
This was still attached to Toy Story 3, along with a trailer for Tangled (which is apparently coming soon to theaters). Still entertaining, but starting not to hold up after multiple viewings.

Movie 34: Toy Story 3
This one, on the other hand, is still wonderful. The series goes out on a high note, and I look forward to watching them with my daughter (knowing the viewing habits of kids, probably many, many times).

Movie 35: 127 Hours
The first time I saw this I was the only one in the theater. Watching with a crowd definitely enhances the experience. Still love the editing and sound design, especially during the amputation scene. I've seen more graphic imagery in movies (shot some, too), but the way this is cut together makes the scene more visceral than the sum of its shots.

Movie 36: The Kids Are All Right
I'd forgotten how sharp the writing is in this, with a lot of subtle self-referential dialogue and foreshadowing that went mostly unnoticed the first time I saw it.

Movie 37: True Grit
Another one that was better the second time around. I definitely prefer it to the John Wayne version, but their approaches to the material are so vastly different it's almost apples and oranges.

Movie 38: The Fighter
A really good movie, and my least favorite of the ten. Which is a sign that the Academy managed to get this ten nominee thing right after only two tries.

Movie 39: Winter's Bone
John Hawks needs to play more creepy, potentially violent criminals. Jennifer Lawrence and Debra Granik just plain need to make more movies.

Movie 40: Black Swan
Still my favorite of the year. Most of the elements are done better by other nominees, but the effect of the film as a whole had even more of an impact the second time.

Movie 41: Inception
For a summer action movie the characters spend a lot of time talking and explaining things to each other. Also, the music and sound design that were so highly praised when it first came out don't really have as much impact the second time around. All that said, still a fun and well-made movie.

Movie 42: The Social Network
There were speaker issues in here at the start of Toy Story (21 hours ago as I type this), and I wonder if they never got resolved. The score of this film was less impressive than I remember too, which makes me wonder if that's what happened to Inception. Sleep deprivation may have me rambling about AMC's surround sound instead of rambling about the movie in question, but I'm not sure what to add to one of the most discussed movies of 2010, except to say that Jesse Eisenberg has perfected playing "young man quietly pissed off at the world".


Movie 43: The King's Speech
Two things I noticed this time that I hadn't the first time around: There are several instances of the "have a disagreement, stop working together, make amends, resume working together" cycle, which bordered on repetive toward the end (I had also been in the theater for 23 hours at that point, so my patience may have been slightly less than the average viewer). And it's a sports movie, complete with training montage, only instead of athletic competition it's public speaking (much like The Social Network is a rock n' roll movie with web design instead of music). Neither of which make it a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 32: Restrepo
Very straightforward look at a year with soldiers in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. I appreciated the concentration on the soldiers and what they were doing and going through, with no mention of any of the politics surrounding the war. They're there to do a job, and it's an extremely difficult and dangerous job, and that's more than enough to make a compelling movie. One of the complaints I've had about other documentaries was avoided here: in most the talking head interviews the camera stayed tight on the soldiers' faces, with no cutaways and a solid black background. Hearing what they're saying, and seeing them say it, is often more powerful than just listening to voiceover.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 28: The Confession
Beautifully shot story of a Catholic kid who, nervous about not having anything to confess at his first confession, plays a prank that has unintended consequences. There's a lot to like about it, including effective performances and incredible cinematography & editing, but the pacing dragged a little and the ending didn't have the impact the filmmakers seemed to be going for.

Movie 29: The Crush
Another film about a school kid taking things too far; this time it's his desire to win the heart of his teacher, away from her fiancé. At first I was worried that the ending was too heavily foreshadowed, then it went in a different direction that came off as forced and contrived. The flat performance of the lead actor doesn't help either. There was a good idea in there, but the execution was lacking.

Movie 30: God of Love
A dart-throwing crooner is granted Cupid-like powers, which he uses to try wooing his drummer. Combined with the black & white cinematography this could have come off as a pretentious art film, but it's so absurdly funny that it's instead enjoyable from start to finish. The characters and situations more than make up for the story's lack of surprises.

Movie 31: Wish 143
A dying teen tries to use his Make-a-Wish to lose his virginity. The movie does a good job developing its main character instead of defining him by his disease, but it has trouble finding a balance between humor and pathos. Both are done well, but the transition between the two is often jarring.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 23: Killing in the Name
After losing family members to a suicide bomber, a man begins a mission to convince Muslim terrorists that what they're doing goes against the teachings of their faith. At times depressing (the most effective argument seems not to be that killing innocent people is wrong, but that it's wrong when some those other people are Muslims), and at times infuriating (one of the interview subjects is an unapologetic recruiter for al-Qaeda), it manages to put a human face on the people affected by the violence most of us only see in the news.

Movie 24: Sun Come Up
Follows the residents of Carteret, who are looking for somewhere to relocate as their island is swallowed by rising ocean levels. Without ever being preachy, the film touches on issues of personal and social responsibility, community identity, and well-meaning but ineffective government intervention. Where it falls short is the decision to subtitle everything, even when subjects are speaking English. I see this a lot when filmmakers assume someone's accent is too thick for the average moviegoer to understand; that's rarely the case, and it's definitely not true here. It's a minor quibble, but it provides a constant distraction from an otherwise well-made documentary.

Movie 25: The Warriors of Qiugang
A small village in China bands together to try to get their government to either clean up or close down a local factory that has polluted their air, water, and land. A great story of what people can and can't accomplish when taking on someone more powerful. The villagers are powerful and moving when discussing their situation, but the gravity of the situation is diluted by computer graphics and animations that don't fit with the rest of the movie.

Movie 26: Poster Girl
Sgt. Robynn Murray, an Iraq War veteran, struggles to overcome her PTSD. It's a fairly straightforward story, but the emotional highs and lows make Sgt. Murray's journey much more gripping than it would seem on paper. While the subjects of the three documentaries that preceded this tended to keep themselves composed on camera, Sgt. Murray has no such filters; everything she's feeling is right there on the surface. Because her struggles aren't hidden, the feeling of victory when she makes advances in dealing with her PTSD has a much bigger impact.

Movie 27: Strangers No More
A year at a Tel Aviv school that teaches the children of refugees. Shorts International, the company that distributes these theatrically, was smart to put this last in the program. While the other four look at terrible situations and end on only slightly optimistic notes, this one had me smiling from start to finish. Watching children go from looking lost and alone to finding confidence and strength in a few short months is a joyful experience. The film occasionally missteps, most notably by intercutting stock footage into interviews with the kids, when their presence on camera is much more effective than what the filmmakers cut away to. Thankfully this is largely limited to the beginning of the movie, letting the rest of the story be dominated by the victories in the present rather than the struggles in the past.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 22: I Am Love
Tilda Swinton is quickly becoming one of those actresses I will watch in just about anything (even when she's clumsily shoehorned into Narnia movies). She's great here as the wife and mother of an upper-class Italian family. While the family is the focus of the movie, there is plenty of attention paid to their servants, providing an interesting contrast (Swinton's character acts as the audience's bridge between the two worlds; at times it seems she's closer to the head maid than to most of her family). The movie starts and finishes strong, bookended with two dinner parties and the repercussions of what happens at them, but the middle gets a little muddled. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just doesn't live up to what comes before and after. Still, a visually beautiful film with an interesting story and great performances throughout.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 15: Madagascar: A Journey Diary
Exactly what it says on the tin. The novelty of the various animation styles wears off a few minutes in, and after that you're just watching someone else's vacation, with no real story or reason to care what's happening.

Movie 16: Let's Pollute
Cheerful propaganda-style cartoon satirically encouraging you to pollute as much as possible. Amusing for almost a full minute before you get tired of having the message repeatedly driven in with a sledgehammer.

Movie 17: The Gruffalo
A very nice and amusing adaptation of a children's book about a mouse bluffing his way out of getting eaten by various predators. Nice animation style, good voice work, and all-around fun to watch.

Movie 18: The Lost Thing
Wonderfully strange story about a man finding something inexplicable on the beach. The story's pretty straightforward, but the look of the film is like Dr. Seuss and Salvador Dali had designed Terry Gilliam's Brazil, with refreshingly original results.

Movie 19: Day & Night
If you saw Toy Story 3 in the theater, you saw this short before it. Very nice mix of CG and hand-drawn styles, telling a fun little story while having a blast with the medium.

Movie 20: Urs
Now we're into the ones that didn't get nominated, but were thrown in so the program would be long enough to justify the ticket price. Predictable attempt at emotional manipulation, well animated but without any real substance to back it up.

Movie 21: The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger
Just the opposite of Urs, this one had a really entertaining story but was dragged down by terrible animation.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 14: Animal Kingdom
A little slow to get going, but once it does it's a riveting story of a young man getting tangled up in the battle between his family of criminals and the police. Jackie Weaver steals every scene she's in as the family's matriarch, and Ben Mendelsohn is effectively disturbing as her dangerously off-balance son. One of the really interesting things here is how the violence is handled - there's rarely any build-up, it's not lingered on, and the action itself is shot in a very matter-of-fact manner: no dramatic music or camera angles, no slow-motion, nothing to add any emphasis to what's happening beyond how the characters and story are affected. It's refreshing when a crime movie doesn't feel the need to rely on spectacle to engage its audience.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 13: Gasland
Interesting look at the effects of lack of regulation in the natural gas industry. The filmmaker is clearly not coming at the subject from an objective standpoint, but he makes a point of at least trying to get both sides of the story. It's the writer/director's first feature, and he has a few missteps (he puts too much of himself in, when the people he's interviewing are much more effective, and the first ten minutes or so suffer the Michael Bay syndrome of too many fast edits and whip pans; thankfully that pace doesn't persist for the full movie, and it quickly settles into a more watchable rhythm), but on the whole it was well enough made that I found myself interested in a subject I hadn't really been aware of before popping in the DVD (the "one man crew" feel of it also had me missing the documentary work I'd done back in San Diego, but that's another subject).
cwfilmbuff: (plate)
Movie 12: The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)
I hear a lot about how this stands out as a traditionally animated film compared to the computer animated features that are the norm, but I think it's more interesting to compare it to Sylvain Chomet's previous film, Belleville Rendezvous. While the basic art style is the same, and both tell their stories with a minimum of dialogue, the calm, deliberate pace of The Illusionist is a stark contrast to Belleville's manic energy. This is a movie of quiet moments, most shared between only a handful or people so that we, as the audience, feel like we're being treated to something the rest of the busy, fast-paced world is missing out on. These moments, like the characters, the English and Scottish countrysides, and the movie as a whole, are beautiful for their simplicity. The fact that the title character is being crowded out of his profession by louder, more attention-grabbing entertainers gives the film a sense of pathos that, while sad, is wholly satisfying.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 11: The King's Speech
Great movie with great acting all around. Writer David Seidler does a great job of making potentially dry subject matter entertaining, and director Tom Hooper keeps a movie that is literally about people talking visually interesting. The unconventional framing and heavy use of narrow depth of field could have come off as gimmicky or amateurish, but neither technique was overused, and in every case it added something to the shot. The filmmaking here was much more innovative than I expected, and it makes me want to seek out more of Hooper's work.
cwfilmbuff: (movies)
Movie 10: Dogtooth
All I knew about this going in was that it involved a family whose children had been completely isolated from the outside world. I'm glad I went in with such a blank slate, because it made every new surreal, absurd, shocking, creepy, and disturbing development that much more effective. It left me trying to absorb what I had just seen, and I'm still mulling it over several hours later, but I know it's one of the most original movies I've seen in the past year.

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Chris

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