Saturday, September 16, 2006

Movie Review Thread

Darren had a great idea -- keep track of all the movies watched in a year and do little blurbs about them. I figure I'm not all that great at keeping with long term writing commitments, so I'll try it out for the rest of 2006 and see what happens. So let's start it off.

The Last Kiss (8/10): Zach Braff is a wonderful actor... when playing the one type of role he is good at. And that is the lost, longing, and conflicted late 20's new millennium type of guy. He does it again here as he struggles to see his future with the woman he is having a baby with. Along with his heady emotional situation, the side plots of 4 other relationships around him going through changes as well, some cataclysmic, some small, open up a lot of perspectives on modern day relationships.

Ash Wednesday (5/10): A great cast can't save what is, ultimately, a very boring plot. Ed Burns, Frodo... err, I mean Elijah Wood, and Rosario Dawson all put on great performances, but the story of a brother trying to keep the secret of his brother being alive when thought to have been killed in a mob related killing is not exactly all that interesting.

The 40 Year Old Virgin (8/10): Steve Carell is one heck of a funny guy. From his start on The Daily Show to bit pieces in Anchorman and other modern comedies to his leading role on the TV show, The Office, he knows how to entertain. Sure, this movie has some schmaltz to it, but it doesn't keep this movie from being hilarious. If anything, see it for the "You know how I know you're gay..." scene.

Jackass Number Two (8.5/10): How can you not laugh your ass off at 90 minutes of guys doing ridiculous crap, beating the hell out of each other, and all in all just getting hurt in hilarious ways? I know I couldn't stop myself from constantly laughing... and laughing... and cringing... and then laughing some more. If this movie were graded simply on laughs per minute, it would be an 11 out of 10.

Steamboy (6/10): I had some really high hopes for this movie, but it was weighed down by an overly heavy-handed theme that was beaten into your head repeatedly. Yes, I get it, technology should be used to help mankind, not used for wars and conquest. The animation was phenomenal, however. There are some great battle scenes and lots of nice steampunk imagery.

Inside Man (8.5/10): What surprised me most about this movie is that it was a Spike Lee joint. Instead of having a heavy-handed race relations message, like most Spike Lee movies do, we're presented with a clever heist flick that has a few race related nuggets tossed in here and there. As a "how are they going to pull this off?" heist movie, I was definitely interested all the way through, however, there is one glaring flaw - you never know how the "criminals" know the information they do. The whole heist revolves around a secret piece of knowledge that only one man knows. How the criminals also know this information is never touched upon and leaves an empty hole that I wish were filled. If you ignore that one piece of lacking information, this was a supremely enjoyable heist movie.

V for Vendetta (8.5/10): The graphic novel was a phenomenal read so I was really worried the movie wouldn't hold up, but it did. With a focus more on mystery, contemplation, and mood than on action and explosions, you couldn't help but be drawn in to the discontent of the time, the political commentary on the current state of things, the struggles of Evey, and the ideological push of V. The only weak point of the movie is the climax, where things get a tad bit over the top, but beyond this, V for Vendetta is a superbly good movie.

Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (8/10): What a wonderfully cute movie. I had never watched any Wallace & Gromit before seeing this, so I might have missed out on some of the inside jokes geared towards long time fans, but with being said, this was still funny as all get out, in that British dry humor sort of way. A lot of the comedy comes from quirks and oddities relating to particular situations throughout the movie as opposed to the usual set-up, delivery, punchline type of humor present in the majority of today's comedies. This is a great movie for all ages.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (7.5/10): I think I might have enjoyed this film even more than I already did if I were on some sort of mind altering drug. The imagery, the dialogue, and the scenes were all wonderfully drug induced, but the plot... well, was there really one? If it wasn't for Benicio Del Toro and Johnny Depp being as phenomenal as they were, I don't think this would have been that interesting of a movie. Yes, it gives a wonderful glimpse into Hunter S. Thompson's drug filled life, but beyond that there isn't much to take away from it. Still, a great flick to watch at least once.

Nacho Libre (5.5/10): You know, I thought for sure I'd get into this movie considering it's Jack Black and a Napoleon Dynamite styled script combined into one. However, there just weren't enough interesting and funny moments. Yes, there were some truly hilarious moments, but a lot of the movie was pretty middling and kept me at an arm's length from the characters since they were so stereotypical, even with Black injecting his patented humor into some of the scenes. I would only recommend this to die hard Black fans or people looking for a non-offensive comedy for the wee ones to watch.

Over the Hedge (6.5/10): For animated CGI fare, this movie wasn't that bad. The previews made it out to be a little more funny than it actually was, but I'm sure the target audience of kids didn't notice as there was plenty to keep them interested. The story is your run of the mill "evil character redeems himself after the people he tries to screw become his friends" plot, but there are enough clever one liners and colorful animation to keep you from nodding off. The voice work was pretty tame as I was expecting a lot more from the colorful cast (William Shatner, Steve Carell, Eugene Levy). Watch with your girlfriend or kids and you'll be fine.

Monster House (6.5/10): Another animated CGI movie, but this one had a slightly more adult tone to it. The animation also wasn't the standard CGI type, but instead had a definite claymation feel to it, which was refreshing. There were some definitely funny one-liners and some great tension building moments, but what brings this movie down is the ending. I found myself hoping for more creativity towards the end, especially since the house monster was so concerned with only being seen by kids that the tossing out of that convention at the end really turned me off. Otherwise, this was an acceptably done film that was entertaining enough.

Cold Creek Manor (3.5/10): Talk about a slow ass moving movie. I have no problem with slow paced, pot-boiling mysteries, but this movie went absolutely nowhere for the first 80 minutes. The "mystery" about Stephen Dorff's character also isn't that much of a mystery and even the most obtuse viewer will be able to pick out the end ages before it is revealed. There isn't really a good reason for anyone to watch this film as all of the performances are pretty average as well. Well, I suppose if you were having trouble falling asleep this would be a good movie to flip on, but that should be about it.

Waiting (8/10): I know that not many people will enjoy this movie since it is basically a very low budget, potty humor, stupid type of comedy, but Ryan Reynolds is just too hilarious. Combine that with the "penis showing game" and some pretty decently funny dialog and you have the ingredients for a cult classic comedy. Being that I've probably watching this movie 5 or 6 times now and haven't gotten sick of it says something. Watch it for the dumb humor. Watch it for Reynolds. Watch it if you've ever worked at a restaurant. Then you'll really enjoy it.

Casino Royale (9/10): Before seeing this movie, I considered Pierce Brosnan the epitome of James Bond. He was sly, sexy, smart, witty, and able to be violent when he needed to be. Seeing the trailers for Casino Royale had me fearing for the Bond property as I didn't think Daniel Craig could be a good James Bond. He'd been great in every movie I'd seen him in, but I couldn't picture him as Bond. Then I saw Casino Royale. I now wholeheartedly endorse his portrayal of Bond. Hearkening back to the Sean Connery days of Bond, we see Craig portraying a Bond that is ruthless, brutal, and even a little sloppy. Heck, he even shows some emotional attachment (which plays a definite role in the plot). To top off Craig's performance, the story was involving with only a little bit of a lull in the latter third of the movie. That and there were some great action set pieces. Do yourself a favor and toss out your preconceptions about Bond and just go see this.

The Jerk (5.5/10): I know, I know, everyone says this is a classic and is Steve Martin's best work and is hilarious and should be seen by everyone. Well, besides having a few great scenes and a couple of memorable lines, the rest of the movie just wasn't all that awesome. Maybe it is because I am the next generation looking back on one of the last generation's cult favorites, but as a comedy it was a little too slow and as a simple drama it wasn't very interesting. I would suggest having one of your friends who probably loves this movie to death quote some of the key lines to you instead of watching the whole movie. Or if you do have time, I suppose you could watch it as it is a classic, but don't get your hopes too high.

Deja Vu (3/10): Don't worry, I knew what I was getting into before I went to this movie. With it being a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, you can't expect too much, especially when it comes to having a plot that makes sense. My first beef with this movie is actually Denzel Washington. Does he ever change his character type? He's the exact same character in just about every movie he is in. Look at Man on Fire and Inside Job and Out of Time and Training Day and just about any other action movie he is in. It's lazy acting if you ask me. My second beef with the movie is the lame goose of a plot device in the time machine that lets the team solving the crime see into the past and then, with a little more juice, lets them send notes and people into the past. Lastly, there are way too many small details that are just annoying. For example, in one scene a woman is doused in some type of accelerate (probably gasoline or kerosene). When she is saved from an explosion the flames are all around her, but she doesn't start on fire. It's the small details like that which can kill an otherwise dumb, but enjoyable, movie.

School of Rock (6/10): Jack Black, I now firmly believe, works best in a supporting role as opposed to a leading role. In High Fidelity he was hilarious. In King Kong and Orange County he was pretty atrocious. Here, in School of Rock, he's merely ok. The movie felt like it was simply a vehicle for him to do his crazy "doodley dooto schmichticky walloo" make up crap and words on the spot schtick. I'm sure I'm not exactly the target demographic for this type of movie, which I realize, and even so it did have a few moments that were chuckle worthy. Overall, it's a movie that requires you to turn your brain off, give in to Black's patented combination of quirky improvisation and bad acting, and just watch.

Good Night, and Good Luck (9/10): Truthfully, I thought this film would be ok and nothing more. After seeing it, I can't help but be thankful that my preconceptions of the movie were extremely off target. What was most striking about the film was the relevancy of the material. If you substitute the word "communist" with "terrorist" and McCarthy with Bush (and his regime), you have a very potent similarity to today's political environment in the United States. The acting was also superb. George Clooney and David Strathairn was spot on. The only drawback that I felt was present in the movie was that the subplot involving Patricia Clarkson's and Robert Downey Jr.'s characters felt tacked on and superfluous. Beyond that, Good Night, and Good Luck was a masterpiece.

A Scanner Darkly (8/10): I really didn't know what to expect going in to this, but what little I did expect, I definitely didn't get, and that was a good thing. Instead of being a hard sci-fi type of film, this movie dealt more with drugs, the concept of reality, and the darkness that can be found on both the "good" and "bad" sides of any conflict. Admittedly, this is a movie that is hard to get a full experience from in one viewing, so my one time through I no doubt missed a few things. That being said, the underlying themes, as often disconnected as they seem, come together nicely in the end to give the viewer a full picture of what is actually going on in the larger scope of things. The performances from all involved were also quite good, especially Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey, Jr. Even Keanu Reeves was passable.

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