Full UK Review, Part II: Movies

July 17, 2009 in Movie Reviews

let_the_right_one_in_poster

Let the Right One In: one of the best films I watched in the UK

One thing I did a lot of in the UK was watch movies.  Lots and lots of movies.  80 exactly, in fact.  The majority are quite new, but there are some slightly older ones in there.

Here’s the full list, roughly in reverse order from most recently watched (from Flixter, don’t think I missed any):

Terminator Salvation, The Echelon Conspiracy, Tyson, Spring Breakdown,  Drag Me to Hell, Coraline, Role Models, Angels and Demons, Star Trek, Fast and Furious, The Covenant, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Marley & Me, Australia, Dragonball: Evolution, Seven Pounds, Friday the 13th, The Haunting in Connecticut, Knowing, Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa, An Inconvenient Truth, The Uninvited, Watchmen, Valkyrie, The Unborn, Push, RocknRolla, Let the Right One In, City of Ember, Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans, Rachel Getting Married, Doubt, Milk, Three Kings, W, Revolutionary Road, Leatherheads, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Bangkok Dangerous, Body of Lies, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, My Best Friend’s Girl, Gran Torino, The Break-Up, Saw V, WALL-E, Ghost Town, Starship Troopers: Maruader, Slumdog Millionaire, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, The Wrestler, In Bruges, Twilight, Babylon AD, Death Race, Pineapple Express, Be Kind Rewind, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Transporter 3, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Changeling, Lakeview Terrace, Resident Evil: Degeneration, Max Payne, Burn After Reading, Hoop Dreams, Meet Dave, Eden Lake, Quantum of Solace, Step Brothers, The Nanny Diaries, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, There Will Be Blood, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Lost In Translation, The Dark, Mirrors.

Man, I saw a lot of crap movies!

Favourite dozen from this list (not necessarily the ‘best’ from a strict objective viewpoint, just what I liked the most):

(1) The Wrestler; (2) Let the Right One In; (3) Gran Torino; (4) There Will Be Blood; (5) Star Trek; (6) Changeling; (7) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; (8) Revolutionary Road; (9) Pineapple Express; (10) Burn After Reading; (11) Hoop Dreams; (12) Slumdog Millionaire.

Bottom half-dozen (crappiest first):

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Resident Evil: Degeneration - pure crap

(1) Resident Evil: Degeneration; (2) Starship Troopers: Marauder; (3) Transporter 3; (4) The Covenant; (5) Dragonball: Evolution; (6) Meet Dave.

Surprisingly the shit list was a lot easier to come up with.

Oscars/Golden Globes Film Reviews Part III

February 21, 2009 in Movie Reviews

I’ve done it.  I finally managed to watch all the Oscar/Golden Globe nominated films I could possibly get to before the Oscar ceremony on Sunday!

Here’s the third instalment of my short Flixter film reviews and possibly the best of the lot!  The first instalment can be found here (Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler, The Reader, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, In Bruges, Pineapple Express, Burn After Reading, Tropic Thunder, Changeling, Mamma Mia, The Dark Knight and Kung Fu Panda) and the second here (WALL-E and Gran Torino).

Again, ratings are out of 5 stars.

rachel-getting-married1Rachel Getting Married (3.5 stars)

Years of suppressed family emotions explode around a family wedding. Well-written script with some clever dialogue and witty interactions, even though this type of drama would not be everyone’s cup of tea. A remarkable performance by Anne Hathway (I didn’t know she could act this well) and a solid supporting cast. Not all of it worked but enough of it did.

doubt1Doubt (3.5 stars)

Extraordinary performances all round (Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman as always, but Amy Adams really stole the show as the doubting nun), but it was an obvious play adaptation with lots and lots of talking. The characters were extremely well defined, though I couldn’t help but feel there was a certain clunkiness in the way things panned out. Not to take away too much from this film because it tackles many of the themes very cleverly through subtle actions and explosive dialogue.  Doubt is indeed an apt title for this film.

milkMilk (4 stars)

True story about the first openly gay public official in America.  Pretty incredible movie and a ridiculously superb performance by Sean Penn. It was entertaining, informative, frightening and enlightening all at the same time. Hard to believe it was only 30 years ago that this happened in our world. I particularly liked the ending where they showed the real life counterparts of the actors.

revolutionary-roadRevolutionary Road (4 stars)

It’s hard to know where to begin with a movie that explores the essence of life, love, marriage, children, work, dreams, hopes and reality. It is so rare to see such a brutal, honest, emotional portrayal of suburban and married life, no matter what era. Granted, some people won’t get it for one reason or another, but those that do will find a story that will resonate with them for a long time. All performances are outstanding – I know Kate Winslet has gotten all the attention for this role and The Reader, but Leonardo DiCaprio is really her equal in this film, and it’s a shame he didn’t get the same recognition. Michael Shannon was also brilliant and stole every scene he was in.

benjamin-buttonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button (4.5 stars)

A strange premise but an ultimately rewarding film. The make up and special effects are the best I’ve ever seen, both the ageing and the de-ageing stuff is just phenomenal. The film works not really as a running narrative but rather as a series of moments, like its tagline. I found it very captivating to go through the journey of life with this bizarre character, through his ups and downs, flaws and all. There are some minor problems and it is a tad too long, plus Brad Pitt wasn’t truly able to capture the nuances of the ageing process (he acted like the way he looked rather than the age he was) – however, I think when it’s all said and done this is one of the more memorable movies in recent years.

*     *     *

NB: Just a few words about my rating and review system.  First and foremost, they are taken directly from Flixter, so are always short.  I don’t like to discuss too much plot in my reviews because I think it ruins a movie.  Which is why (even though I can’t help but watch them) I generally dislike previews because they tend to give away too much by revealing the best bits and almost always contain spoilers.  I also hate long reviews that reveal too much plot (this happens a lot these days in reviews I read) – what’s the point of telling everyone what the entire film is about?  With my ratings, they are out of 5 and are entirely subjective, always decided on the spot based on gut instinct after viewing.  I never re-adjust a rating afterward and I don’t compare them to previous ratings – hence two films can have the same rating but I may think one is better than the other.  Also, I tend to find there is a significant difference between 2.5 stars (below average) and 3 stars (good) and 3.5 stars (pretty good) and 4 stars (excellent), more so than other half-star differences.

Lastly, the only 5 star film reviewed in these 3 posts is The Wrestler, which I think is the best film I’ve seen so far this year.  For the Best Picture Oscar nominees, The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are tied with 4.5 stars, but I think the latter is the film I prefer.  Though it is a moot point anyway since Slumdog Millionaire is going to win!

Update: Golden Globe Film Reviews

January 23, 2009 in Movie Reviews

I did a post not long ago reviewing the films that were nominated for the Golden Globes.  I guess I should now also be adding the Oscar nominated films to that list.

Since that post, I’ve seen a couple more: WALL-E and Gran Torino (the latter was not nominated at the Oscars though).  See the short reviews (from Flixter) below (ratings out of 5):

walleWALL-E (3.5 stars)

 A very different animated film. I suppose it was well done, with amazing visuals (but nothing revoluntionary) and incredibly little dialogue, instead preferring to rely on the simplicity of the story, the cuteness of the characters and scattered humour to keep audiences interested. It also had a strong message about the environment and inactivity. But at the end of the day, it was still just another animated film. It certainly had its moments, but it’s going to take much much more for these types of films to seriously impress me (I should mention I’m not usually a big fan of animated films).

gran-torinoGran Torino (4.5 stars)

 The story of an angry, racist, lonely old man and his relationship with his Hmong (Asian) neighbours. It was far from a perfect film – parts of it were stereotypical and heavy-handed, and some scenes lacked effectiveness. Nevertheless, it’s a film that moved me for one reason or another, and it’s a film that is likely to resonate with a lot of viewers long after the final scene. It touches on many important themes – life, death, family, loneliness, religion, racism, prejudice, redemption – and also presents the stark reality that a lot of youths are facing in America these days (and not necessarily just the minorities). In particular, I think it had just the right dosage of humour and the final resolution was also very well done.

I’ve still got plenty more to get through, including Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, Doubt, Rachel Getting Married, Defiance – just to name a few.  I’m trying to get to them as soon as I can…

 
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