Massive List o’ Mini Reviews

Little Miss SunshineI’m finally up to date with my big list of movie reviews. I just saw Fearless this week.

August

Little Miss Sunshine – 7.5/10 – It’s a wacky family roadtrip flick, kind of Vacation meets The Family Stone. There’s a lot of truth in the script and performances (Greg Kinnear and Steve Carell are particularly good), and the film has both hilarious and heart-breaking moments. I found that there was a real shift in tone in the third act of Little Miss Sunshine, and that was a bit unsettling. Still, a great, small summer movie.

September

The Illusionist – 5/10 – A careless period piece starring great actors. I could watch Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti say prime numbers to one another, and that’s what redeems this film. I say ‘careless’ because the plot was predictable, the accents were only vaguely Germanic, and the dialogue was full of anachronisms. It also irked me that a number of the magic tricks were rendered with CG as opposed to mechanical solutions. This felt like cheating, and most of the tricks were doable the old-fasioned way (especially with the aid of editing). Jessica Biel has a peculiar beauty, and her work wasn’t nearly as intolerable as I’ve found it in other films.

Accepted – 3/10 – It’s an innocuous, only slightly funny teen movie. It couldn’t decide if it wanted to be American Pie or The Breakfast Club, and didn’t take a single risk in the plot. I liked the premise (slacker high school grads invent their own college) but it was executed in a profoundly ordinary way. Justin Long will be eternally known as “that guy in the Apple ads”.

Trust the Man – 6/10 – What a waste of a great cast. David Duchovny, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gillenhaal and Julianne Moore are really fine actors, but they had a particularly average script. They play New Yorkers struggling with neuroticism (the women) and Peter Pan complexes (the men). There’s some interesting themes here (has feminism emasculated men?), but director Bart Freundlich opted for site gags and a fairytale ending.

The Last Kiss – 7/10 – It’s rare that I’m surprised by a film’s tone, but that was the case with The Last Kiss. Zach Braff (of Scrubs and Garden State fame) stars in a film that’s much more serious than I originally thought. In many ways, the movie feels like Garden State five years later, when Largeman and Sam are considering having kids and settling down. The OC’s Rachel Bilson is undeniably hot, but she struggled in her performance as the young vixen (where’s Anna Paquin when you need her?). Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson are fantastic as baby boomer parents with some unresolved issues.

The Black Dahlia – 3/10 – Why is Hollywood so in love with itself? LA Confidential, Hollywoodland, Mullholand Drive–the movies about the movies are coming fast and furious. This one was a dreadful, messy, inscrutable charcteriture of the excellent LA Confidential. Scarlett Johannson is mediocre at the best of times, but she was pretty awful in this movie. Aaron Eckhart seemed to be starring in a movie all by himself, and Hilary Swank looked a bit uncomfortable playing a character at the top-end of the social scale for a change.

October

The Departed – 9/10 – Martin Scorsese reminds us that he’s one of the best directors on the planet, and probably the best at telling violent stories. The cast is huge, and provide great performances from top to bottom. Scorsese shoots Jack Nicholson mostly in shadow for the first five minutes of the film, as if encouraging the audience to forget what they know about the iconic actor. Nicholson offers an Oscar quality performance, and Dicaprio’s work isn’t far behind. Scorsese keeps the plot moving and manages the ensemble effortlessly–we’re never unclear about characters loyalties or plot developments. More people are shot in the head in this movie than any film in recent memory. Definitely one of the top five films I’ve seen this year.

Fearless – 6.5/10 – Jet Li’s last Wushu martial arts epic! That’s a lot of qualifiers, but never mind. I’ve always enjoyed Li’s boyish quality and apparent humility onscreen. He’s never going to win any Oscars, and he knows it. This film plays to his strengths, with extraordinary fight sequences and a minimum of emoting. The setting–turn of the century China–is gorgeous. Sure, it follows the conventions of martial arts movies popular in the West, but there are worse ways to spent two hours and ten bucks.

3 comments

  1. I’m surprised you disliked the Illusionist. I actually really enjoyed it. I’m a little biased though, because my boyfriend is a magician (as in, that’s his profession, not his hobby) and so we always like to see the films about magic. Our biggest beef with it is that they gave away the secret to a well-known effect. That’s a big no-no in magic circles. But I didn’t find the script predictable.

    Having said that though, I don’t really analyze films. I just go to escape for a couple of hours and be entertained.

  2. “Site gags”: is that a synonym for situation comedies?

    I also have to guess that a “charcteriture” is sold at a charcuterie, but since you’re referring to an andouillette of a movie, that seems appropriate.

    I give this review collection 6/10, after docking -2 for spelling (I was generous: wasn’t Maggie Gillenhaal in
    “Secretari”?)

    Ahem. That said, Hollywood has a pathetic obsession with itself, and always has: “Singin’ in the Rain,” was all about the silent-to-talkies transition. A disproportionate number of films are about films and filming. Then again, a disproportionate number of Shakespeare plays have segments dealing with plays and actors.

    There’s an understandable bias here: people who make movies like movies, and people who watch movies like movies. Synergy!

    -RjC, amateur pedant

  3. I’m looking forward to “The Departed”. I hope both Leo and Scorscese win; both of them are underrated and both deserve Oscars.

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