Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best of 2012!

Here are my favorites of the year, in what I *think* is actually ranking order.  So click on the links below, and read!  Learn!  Enjoy the fruits of my year-long labor!

These rankings are all really close - these are all movies that I really enjoyed, and all were rated an 8.5 or a 9 out of 10 on my scale.  It's completely possible that if asked to pick/rank my 10 favorites tomorrow, I'd come up with a completely different list.  I reserve the right to re-do this list in the event that I see additional movies from 2012. Which brings me to my next note.....

I only included movies that were released in 2012.  There were several movies from prior to 2012 that would've made the cut, but I wanted to stick to new films for this list.

1. The Grey
2. Sleepwalk With Me
3. The Sessions
4. Headhunters
5. Compliance
6. Looper
7. Silver Linings Playbook
8. The Cabin in the Woods
9. Argo
10. Missed Connections

Honorable Mentions:
Pitch Perfect
21 Jump Street

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Higher Ground


Well, friends and imaginary readers, we've come to the end of 2012 and thus ends my year-long project of movie reviews.  I bring you my final review for the year: Higher Ground, directed by and starring Vera Farmiga as Corinne Walker, a member of a fundamentalist Christian community who begins to question her own faith.  After becoming pregnant and marrying very young, Corinne and her husband embrace religion after a bus crash almost kills them and their infant daughter.  They enter the fold of a community that's not quite a cult, but is close.  Through the ensuing years, her faith begins to falter, and Corinne eventually must decide whether to stay a part of the community, or leave.  I thought Higher Ground was sort of a quiet little movie about one woman's struggle, but it was an interesting story with good actors.    7 out of 10.

It's been a fun year, albeit frustrating at times.  I'm not going to lie; I'm looking forward to a movie just being a movie, and not a writing assignment.  But I've enjoyed trying to think more critically about the films that I've watched.  Still to come - my best of 2012 list, to wrap up the year.  Happy 2013 :-)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sound of My Voice

Brit Marling - who wrote and starred in Another Earth, which I really enjoyed earlier this year - strikes again with Sound of My Voice!  This film centers upon Peter and Lorna, a couple of wannabe documentary filmmakers, as they infiltrate a local "cult" led by a Maggie (played by Marling), a young women who claims to come from the future.  Their motives start out as investigatory and expository, but they morph into something else, eventually causing a rift between the couple, and having much larger potential consequences. 

Sound of My Voice was a well-done film, with an interesting story that keeps you guessing until the very end.  Is Maggie really from the future?  Or is she just a fraud?  The ending was a tad abrupt and left me wanting a bit more, even though it does provide some answers.  I really enjoyed Sound of My Voice and I hope Brit Marling keeps coming out with more films.  8.5 out of 10.

My Name Is Joe


Joe is a rough-around-the edges recovering alcoholic with a troubled past.  Almost a year clean, he manages a young men's soccer team and does what he can to scrape by in his depressed neighborhood in Glasgow.  He gets a new lease on life when he becomes romantically involved with Sarah, a kind-hearted social worker/nurse.  But Joe's helpful nature gets him into trouble with the local mob (not really a mob but I don't know what else to call it) and he finds that perhaps he has not been so successful in shedding the demons of his past.  My Name is Joe was a really good film, although it was very depressing.  I was really rooting for Joe, as he was such a genuinely kind person.  I could see his fall from grace coming, but that didn't make it any less sad when it happened.  I guess this is fairly typical from director Ken Loach.  This was a moving story with great acting.  8 out of 10.

Monday, December 24, 2012

This Is 40

I'd been seeing previews for This Is 40 for ages, it seems, and I was really looking forward to it.  I am a big fan of *most* of Judd Apatow's work and I thought the characters of Debbie and Pete were funny in their debut in Knocked Up.  And I tend to like Paul Rudd in just about everything he does.  I had already seen that This Is 40 was getting pretty lukewarm reviews, but I went in with an open mind and a forgiving outlook - sort of expecting that it wouldn't be a "great" film but still expecting to enjoy it.  I mean, heck, I gave American Reunion a 7/10 earlier this year mainly because I had a soft spot for the class of 1999.

Unfortunately, the lukewarm reviews were right: This Is 40 just wasn't very good.  I think the biggest issue is that it's severely lacking in the plot area.  The basic plot is that Debbie and Pete are both turning 40 in what seems like the longest week ever known to mankind.  But while the actual plot was lacking, there were WAY too many unnecessary subplots - e.g. Debbie thinks one of her employees is stealing from her store; Debbie and Pete both face issues with their dads; one of their daughters has raging hormones; Pete has high cholesterol but refuses to stop eating cupcakes (side note - maybe that would be more believable on a less fit-looking man).  Supposedly the family is struggling financially, but it's difficult to feel much pity when they're driving around in a Lexus and BMW, living in a mansion that costs probably $2 million, and going on impromptu romantic getaways to Laguna Beach in the middle of the week. Which reminds me - for a couple that claims not to be having much sex, they sure seem to have a lot of it to me.

Another issue is the acting.  I don't think Leslie Mann is a good enough actress to pull off a leading role like this.  She strikes me as a bit "one note" - I think she's much better in smaller, memorable supporting roles (I remember feeling the same way about Andy Samberg when I watched him in Celeste and Jesse Forever a few months back).  I thought the Apatow girls were pretty limited in their acting abilities as well.  I mean, I get it, they're Judd Apatow's real life family, but they're just not that great of actresses.

I have seen a lot of mediocre movies that start off as enjoyable and then just lose steam as the movie progresses.  This Is 40 isn't one of them.  From pretty much the very beginning, it established itself as a mediocre movie.  And while there were some genuinely funny moments sprinkled throughout, it just wasn't very funny on the whole.  Maybe I've outgrown hemorrhoid and colonoscopy humor.  I'm actually surprised that This Is 40 is hovering around 50% on the "tomatometer" - I'd expect even lower.  I almost feel guilty writing such a bad review because I really do appreciate Judd Apatow's work and will almost certainly continue to watch it in the future.  But the bottom line is that this is a not very good film about not very likeable people.  Better luck next time, Judd.  4 out of 10.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook

You know what?  Today is December 21, and all year I have been torturing myself to come up with suitable synopses in my movie reviews.  In the review I just wrote, I used the "official" synopsis instead - I don't know why it took me so long to think of that.  I could have saved myself a lot of grief this year!  On that note:

Life doesn't always go according to plan. Pat Solatano has lost everything - his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother and father after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat's parents want is for him to get back on his feet - and to share their family's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he'll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

I really liked it.  I thought Bradley Cooper was great and I found it refreshing to see him in a likeable role.  It was funny in a quirky way, and I think the comedy held through to the very end.  The characters of Pat and Tiffany were both flawed but I really liked them together and was rooting for them to get together.  And also (!!!) Silver Linings Playbook is kind of a dance movie in disguise, which automatically gets it points in my book, as anyone who knows me can vouch that "dance" is my favorite genre of movie.  Overall, really enjoyable.  8.5 out of 10.

John Dies at the End


We caught a special showing John Dies at the End, the new movie from the director of Bubba Ho-Tep (which I watched a few months back); it will be officially released early next year.  It's a horror comedy, I guess?  The plot is hard to describe - so I'm just going to paste the same synopsis that I keep seeing online:

It's a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. On the street they call it Soy Sauce, and users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John and David, a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Can these two stop the oncoming horror in time to save humanity? No. No, they can't.

John Dies is every bit as strange as it sounds, and quite honestly I'm *still* not even sure of a lot of the otherworldly details.  At first, it was striking me as sort of Ghostbusters meets Dude Where's My Car, but then it just kept getting more bizarre and my comparisons didn't really hold past the first 15 minutes.

I can see John Dies being a cult classic for fans of the genre, but it didn't really do it for me.  There were definitely some funny moments and some scary moments but overall I thought it was silly and rather confusing.  5.5 out of 10.