Saturday, December 29, 2012
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Hitchcock tells the story of the conception and filming of Psycho in 1959, with a focus on the somewhat discontent relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma. Honestly, I don't have that much to say about it because I didn't really like it that much. Neither the acting nor the directing were bad, but I was just left with an overwhelming feeling of "so what?" after the movie was over. Maybe Hitchcock film buffs will like it more than I did, or who knows, maybe they'll like it less since they may have a more critical eye for the factual details. Either way, from me, Hitchcock gets a big fat 5 out of 10.
Somehow, I've made it to the ripe old age of 31 without seeing It's A Wonderful Life. Well, actually, it's not all that shocking if you think about it - I'm not really a Christmas person, and I tend to avoid "old" movies (much to my husband's chagrin/hatred).
But I went, and it was good. A charming story of an extraordinarily kind man who spent his life doing good for others, often at the expense of his own wants and needs - until he reaches the end of his rope one snowy Christmas Eve, and those friends and neighbors he'd been helping all along get to support HIM for once. Very enjoyable, and there were lots of happy tears from me at the end. 8 out of 10.
Friday, December 7, 2012
A hockey comedy starring Stifler? Yeah, didn't think this would be my cup of tea. But my husband suggested Goon to me when I was leaving on a trip and looking for airplane entertainment. He predicted I'd give it an 8, and that I might even cry.
Seann William Scott plays Doug "The Thug" Glatt - a mild-mannered dude of slightly less-than-average intelligence, with ham-size fists that can crack skulls. He works as a bouncer in Boston, until one night he attends a hockey game and lands on TV after punching out a player during the game (but for good reason! The player used a homophobic slur!). The footage impresses a local hockey coach, who invites Doug to come join the team, never minding the fact that Doug doesn't know how to skate. He does well and ends up being recruited as an "enforcer" on the Halifax Highlanders - where fame and fights await him.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Goon, given my lack of interest in and knowledge of hockey. It held my interest the whole way through. I kind of loved the character of Doug and I thought Scott played him perfectly. The character was extremely sensitive - despite his hockey successes he was still yearning for approval from his very traditional parents. My heart broke for him when he presented his mother with the "game puck" (is that what it's called?) and she left it on the table :( :( :( I also found him utterly charming in his courting of a young woman, played by Alison Pill.
I will say, however, that Goon is pretty gory. I found myself trying to shield my screen from other people on the plane, lest they see me watching a movie with copious amounts of blood falling in slow-motion onto the ice. But hey, I guess that's what happens in hockey.
Anyway, the hubs was right - I'm giving Goon an 8 out of 10. I didn't actually cry but I'll admit that I came pretty darn close!
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass star as Iris and Jack, respectively, in Your Sister's Sister, which was directed by Lynn Shelton, who brought us Humpday, which I watched a few months back and very much enjoyed. The film opens at a memorial party one year after Jack's brother's / Iris's ex-boyfriend's death. Jack is having some issues coping, and Iris suggests that he head to her family's cabin to take some time for himself and heal. Jack takes her advice but when he arrives at the cabin he finds Iris's sister, Hannah - a lesbian who has just broken up with her girlfriend of seven years and who has also come to the cabin to get her head together. Jack and Hannah drink a bit too much and end up in bed together - and then Iris shows up in the morning to surprise Jack, having realized that she is in love with him.
I feel like this description sounds convoluted, but it's really not. I quite liked Your Sister's Sister. The dialogue was all improvised and the leading actors had an easy interplay that was enjoyable to watch. It all felt very natural. It was funny and touching and the characters were relatable. It was nothing earth shattering, but Your Sister's Sister is a solid, toned down romantic comedy that's well worth a watch. 7.5 out of 10.
Pi is a teenage boy traveling from India to Canada with his family and his family's zoo animals, when the ship sinks, and Pi finds himself lost at sea in a lifeboat with only a Bengal tiger for company. Pi and the tiger reach a shaky detente during the year or more they spend at sea together. Strangely, I don't have that much to say about Life of Pi, although I didn't dislike it. I thought it was shot beautifully, and the CGI effects were very well done. I just sort of expected *more* - like, I thought there would be more to the story than there actually was. I can recognize Life of Pi as a quality film, but it just didn't blow me away. 7 out of 10.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
As we headed off to the movies last night, I remembered that last year on the night before Thanksgiving, we saw The Muppets. This year, we saw The Sessions. Very different movies - but both were excellent!
The Sessions is the mostly true story of Mark O'Brien, a severely disabled polio survivor who sets out who sets out to lose his virginity as an adult. Mark can only move his head, and he spends the bulk of his days and nights in an iron lung contraption. With the off-the-record blessing of his Catholic priest and the aid of his caretaker, Mark hires a Cheryl, sexual surrogate (played by Helen Hunt). What follows is raw, tender, and funny. Mark is successful at losing his virginity, but both he and Cheryl get more than they bargained for in the process, as a bond is formed between them. Mark and Cheryl's relationship mostly stays within their professional bounds, and it gives Mark the tools he needs to confidently live and love in the world.
I thought The Sessions was great - it was raw, tender, and funny. Mark's character is humorously self-deprecating, and I loved the scenes between him and his priest and caretakers. Cheryl's character had a lot of depth. The bond between the two of them seemed genuine and real. As the credits rolled, tears were streaming down my face - so much so that I started laughing at myself for crying and then did a really attractive crying/laughing hybrid that involved a lot of snorting. Good times. 9 out of 10.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Meh. I'm kind of not even sure what to say about Cloud Atlas. It's sort of a sprawling story spanning from 1849 through 2312 (I think?) about the interconnectedness of human lives. I'll just say that it didn't really do it for me, at all. I thought it tried to be too deep, and largely I just found it boring. And? At 2:43, I couldn't wait for it to be over - there were several times I thought it was ending, but then it just kept going. Not that I think it was necessarily a "bad" movie but just very much not for me. I gotta go with my gut here - 4 out of 10.
Hello I Must Be Going (heretofore referred to as "Hello") stars Melanie Lynskey as Amy, a 30-something woman who's going through a divorce, and has moved back in with her parents. She's having a rough time of it, until she begins an unconventional summer romance with Jeremy, the 19-year old stepson of her father's potential client - a client who, if successfully wooed, will allow Amy's father to retire and travel the world with Melanie's somewhat shallow mother.
I thought Hello was funny, sad, and touching all at the same time. Lynskey was perfect as self-deprecating Amy and I enjoyed watching her chemistry with Jeremy (played by Christopher Abbott - it drove me crazy trying to figure out what I recognized him from, and I felt a lot more at ease when it hit me that he plays Marnie's boyfriend in Girls). Throughout the movie, it feels like you're watching her come back to life. No big complaints from me - I'll give it an 8 out of 10.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
We went to see Skyfall on Friday night. It was a long week and I hadn't slept very well, and I drank a couple of pints before the movie started. All this is to say, I fell asleep during the movie, probably for a good 30% chunk of it. So, I'll refrain from rating this one, but just wanted to include it on here in the spirit of including every movie I "watched" this year. The husband really liked it, though!
Thursday, November 8, 2012
In Flight, Denzel Washington plays Captain Whip Whittaker, a highly skilled pilot whose personal life is in shambles, mostly due to his penchant for booze and coke. On a routine flight from Orlando to Atlanta, the plane malfunctions and Whip must execute a death-defying crash landing in an open field. Nearly everyone on board survives. At first Whip is hailed as a hero, but then more and more suspicious information is uncovered concerning his activities in the night and morning leading up to the crash landing.
I have mixed feelings about Flight - I was completely with it until about 15 minutes before the end. I thought Denzel Washington did a great job playing Whip. I felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions, watching his attempts to put down the bottle and get his life back under control.
But about 15 minutes before the end, Flight just totally lost me. For a story about a complex character, I felt it ended by being tied up a bit too neatly for my liking. The ending felt cliched to me. I also felt like the movie struggled a bit with not knowing what it wanted to be. It was primarily a drama but there were some comical scenes that mostly felt out of place.
Overall, not bad a bad watch, if you can ignore the cliched ending. 6 out of 10.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
V/H/S was a fun scary movie to cap off the month. 6 out of 10.
Damsels just didn't really do it for me. I felt like all of the characters were completely improbable and caricature-like. Watching Damsels, I sort of felt like it was all based on some inside joke that I wasn't party to. I just didn't get what it was trying to "be." I guess I have a hard time enjoying a movie when there's no one I can relate to.
So, sorry Whit. I still love your earlier movies! 5 out of 10.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Last weekend PJ and I attended a 24-hour horror movie marathon at a local movie theater. Well, for braver souls it was a 24-hour marathon; for us it was more like 11 hours. After 11 hours packed in the middle of a row without much of a view of the screen, and after consuming a sub sandwich, Junior Mints, popcorn, soft pretzel with cheese, and Twizzlers....well, let's just say it was time to go home. As I said to PJ when we were leaving, I couldn't even fathom sitting there for 14 more hours. Here are VERY brief recaps and ratings of the films we saw.
The Abominable Dr. Phibes - A doctor returns from the dead to seek revenge on the nine doctors he thought were responsible for killing his wife. Creepy and pretty gross. 6 out of 10.
White Zombie - A young man wants a beautiful young bride for himself....but instead, she just turns into an emotionless zombie. I actually feel like I missed big chunks of this movie because the sound quality was so poor, but from what I saw I'll give it a 6 out of 10.
Something Wicked This Way Comes - A demonic circus comes to town, and its diabolical proprietor wants two young boys to join him. Kinda boring, I thought. 5 out of 10.
Phantom of the Paradise - After record producer Swan steals his music and his woman, a disfigured composer returns to seek vengeance on Swan's Paradise music club and on Swan himself. Probably my favorite of the day - the story was compelling and the film was pretty funny. The music was catchy, too! 7.5 out of 10.
Kill List - I actually slept through a big chunk of this because I couldn't really see and was sick of moving my head around based on how the big guy in front of me was sitting. But from what I did see, a professional hitman leaves his tumultuous family life to take care of what should be an easy hit list, but it's not so easy. Strange film and I wish I'd stayed awake for it, because the ending part didn't make much sense to me! I will refrain from rating, since I didn't see the whole thing.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
I get really scared at scary movies. When we watched Paranormal Activity a couple of years ago, I read a bunch of spoilers online beforehand and then insisted on keeping the lights on while watching it. So after the reading a couple of review snippets, I was pretty scared to see Sinister, to say the least. So we decided to go to a daytime showing, in a dine-in theater (I thought the waiters walking around would lighten any especially scary or tense moments).
Sinister centers on a crime writer (played by Ethan Hawke) who moves his family into a house where the prior occupants have recently been massacred, and the youngest daughter gone missing. Ellison (the dad) discovers some film reels in the attic, and soon after, strange things begin happening. His kids experience bouts of sleepwalking and night terrors, and Ellison hears noises in the attic, and no matter what he does, he just can't get rid of those film reels. Basically, something SINISTER is going on (in case you were wondering where the title came from. I'm here to help, you know?). Ellison struggles to make sense of the past and present.
I thought Sinister was just OK, and moreover, it wasn't THAT scary. There were some decidedly creepy moments but the whole film felt like it was building up to something that never really arrived. Well, it does sort of arrive at the very, very end, but it's really brief, and it's kind of like, "That's it?" It wasn't terrible but I just felt like it didn't really deliver. 5.5 out of 10.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
Argo is the true story of the risky operation to save six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. As the American embassy was being stormed by militant Iranians, the six American embassy workers managed to slip out unseen and took refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the CIA specialist who hatches the crazy plan to get the Americans home from Iran - pretend to be a movie crew scouting locations to film in Tehran. He enlists the help of a makeup artist (John Goodman) and a producer (Alan Arkin) to find a real script (a cheesy science-fiction epic called Argo), draw up storyboards, and basically make the whole thing appear legit.
I thought Argo was excellent. It was serious subject matter but the parts involving the prep work of Argo were very funny. Starting from when Mendez went to Iran to put his plan into action (probably a little bit before the halfway point of the film), I was completely enrapt. The tone and feel were unbelievably tense. And the ending had me literally on the edge of my seat - (hint: there IS a happy ending!). Stick around for the credits, there's some really good stuff! 8.5 out of 10.
Friday, October 12, 2012
This one has been on the "to be watched" pile for as long as the "to be watched" pile has existed. Well, it's one of my husband's favorites but I had never seen it, so it was actually in the "Movies that PJ wants Abbie to watch" pile. We even have an enormous poster of it in our bedroom, so it was time to give it a shot. PJ guaranteed that I'd give it an 8.
And? He was right. Ryan O'Neal stars as Moses Pray, a traveling scam artist of sorts. He finds an unlikely partner in crime in Addie, played by Tatum O'Neal, a 9-year old whose mother has just died, who may or may not have been his daughter. The plot didn't necessarily appeal to me, but I actually really liked it. Their interplay was charming and funny to watch, and Tatum O'Neal was just hilarious. I refuse to spend anymore time reviewing a classic. So - 8 out of 10.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Despite making fun of it when we saw the trailer, the hubs agreed to see Pitch Perfect with me if it was over 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. Well, my friends, it is currently at a very respectable 76%! Bam. We went on opening night, in a completely packed theater. We were a good 10 to 15 years older than most of the crowd, which was also skewed heavily on the female side. But you know what? I kind of loved it, which was only in small part due to the large beers I'd consumed before the movie.
Anna Kendrick plays Beca, an "alternative" college freshman who aspires to be a DJ, yet finds herself a member of the Bellas, her college's only all female a cappella group. The Bellas fell short in the nationals last year, and are extra determined to shine this year. Good thing they have young Beca to help guide them in a new, fresh direction ;) I won't bore you with too much of the plot, because let's face it, the plot actually had very little bearing on my immense enjoyment of Pitch Perfect.
Basically, Pitch Perfect was just really, really fun to watch. I loved the dancing and the singing. It made me wish I could go back in time to my freshman year of college (holy crap, that was 13 years ago) and join one of the campus a cappella groups. Apart from the music, I absolutely loved Rebel Wilson in her role as Fat Amy - pretty much everything she did and said cracked me up. Hana Mae Lee is was also hilarious as Lilly - a very soft-spoken yet deranged member of the Bellas.
I would say that Pitch Perfect is to the a cappella world what Bring It On was to the cheerleading world in the late 90's - cheesy as all heck, but lots of fun to watch. 8 out of 10!
Straight-laced Lauren has just been dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her job, and needs a new place to live. Fun-loving Katie lives in a fabulous apartment but is a little strapped for cash, and needs a roommate. Perfect, right? Except Katie is working as a phone sex operator, but not making much money at it. In exchange for a break on her half of the rent, Lauren gets on board and vows to help Katie turn a profit. So they strike out together in the phone sex business, and turn a profit they do - and become the best of friends in the process, learning about themselves and each other as they go.
I thought For a Good Time, Call... was a fun and cute. It remained funny throughout and there were some absolutely hilarious moments involving the phone sex business. But at its core, I thought it was a sort of adorable story about female friendship. It was fun to watch Lauren's and Katie's transformations - Lauren loosens up and sheds her prissy demeanor, and Katie lets her guard down and admits some vulnerability. All in all - a lighthearted, consistently funny story about the friendship between two young women trying to make a living. 7.5 out of 10.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Looper is a thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a "looper" - an assassin who is hired to kill people from the future, who get sent back in time by the mob to meet their demise. One day, his target is a future version of himself (Bruce Willis). I don't think I'm giving away too much by telling you that, but that's all I'll say.
It was very good, but MAN was it complicated. I felt like my brain was in overdrive the entire time, and I needed several hours afterwards to continue to process it. Even now, the next day, I will think that I grasp everything and then I'll get confused again. My husband claims some of the time travel details were flawed, but I think the flaws are more with me. JGL was great, as per usual, even though his prosthetic Bruce Willis-esque eyebrows were a creepy.
I actually kind of want to see Looper again to see if I can make more sense out of it. But for now, I'll give it an 8.5 out of 10.
I feel like I'd been hearing about Bachelorette for ages, and I really wanted to see it. We thought it would finally be coming to Columbus this weekend but it turned out to have been last weekend, so we'd missed it. But lo and behold! It was available On Demand, which we almost never even look it. So, yay!
Except it wasn't very good. Bachelorette is the story of three women serving as bridesmaids in the wedding of an old "friend" from high school whom they used to ridicule. When they stain and rip the bride's dress the night before the wedding, they set off across the city to fix it, and a variety of hijinks ensue.
I feel like Bachelorette suffered from not knowing what it wanted to be. It seemed like it was trying to be a mean-spirited dark comedy and a touching story about friends at the same time, and it didn't really pull off being either. It had a great cast and some funny moments but overall, it wasn't very funny and it wasn't touching at all - and the parts that were intended to be touching were almost laughable. Pretty much all of the characters were terrible people so it was hard to care very much about any of them. I'd wait until this one comes out on TV. 5 out of 10.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Wow, what a movie. All I knew going into this movie is that it had something to do with someone calling a fast food restaurant with some strange demands and was based on a true story. And I knew that the reviews, while mostly positive, had also been somewhat polarizing. This review is probably going to contain some spoilers, so if you want to go into seeing Compliance cold, then read no further.
Sandra is a harried, middle-aged manager of a fast food restaurant. She is already having a rough day - the restaurant is out of pickles, she's expecting a visit from quality control, and someone left the freezer door open the night before, resulting in $1500 of spoiled bacon. The Friday shift begins normally enough, but just as the restaurant begins getting slammed, Sandra receives a phone call from "Officer Daniels." Officer Daniels claims that he has someone with him claiming that the young blonde girl at the front register stole money from her purse, and that the cashier is also part of a much larger investigation. Sandra pulls Becky (the only cashier who fits the description) into the back office. Over the phone, Officer Daniels gives Sandra orders to search Becky's belongings for the stolen money. She finds nothing. Over the rest of the evening, Officer Daniels walks Sandra, Becky, and a rotating cast of Becky's coworkers through more investigation - each step more invasive than the last. Eventually, the investigation goes too far and it becomes clear that they've been duped.
The progression of Sandra's character was fascinating for me to watch. When the movie begins, she seems to be struggling for control and respect. When she first brings Becky into the investigation, you can tell she feels terrible about what she's doing. But Officer Daniels knows what buttons to push - he is quick to praise Sandra's willingness to help and to show sympathy for her plight as an overworked restaurant manager. As Compliance progresses, you can see Sandra becoming stronger and more powerful. She begins to take it as a given that Becky actually stole something, and becomes much less sympathetic to young Becky.
The other interesting part for me was to try to put myself in the character of Sandra. It is easy to sit in the audience and say, "OMG, he is so obviously tricking her, I would never fall for that." But most people have an innate trust for figures of authority, and you can sort of see why she goes along with it. So maybe I would react the same way if it were me, although I'd really hope not.
I do see why the reviews have been polarizing, and I also understand why some people have walked out of the screenings. It is rough to watch. At one point I turned to my husband and said, "How much longer is this going to go on?" But the ability to polarize its viewers just means that Compliance was an effective movie. When it ended, I felt like I had been put through the wringer - I sort of felt like I had been part of the interrogation. Personally, I thought it was very powerful and thought-provoking. I actually woke up this morning still thinking about it. Which reminds me, Compliance WAS based on true events - I need to Google what actually happened. Okay, enough rambling. 9 out of 10.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Sleepwalk With Me is the autobiographical story of comedian Mike Birbiglia as he gets off to a start in the comedy business. When the film opens, he's working as a bartender in a comedy club and has just moved in with his longtime girlfriend. As the film progresses, he gets hooked up with a promoter and his career begins to take off (though not without a rough - yet hilarious - start), at the same time that his relationship begins to fail. While all of this is going on, he starts experiencing scary bouts of sleepwalking. Yet, he choose to ignore both the failing relationship and the sleepwalking much longer than he should.
In a nutshell, I loved it. I was not familiar with Mike Birbiglia's work (although I'd seem in several smaller roles without realizing it) but now I'd like to read his book after seeing the movie. The cast was excellent and just about anyone who's anyone in the comedy business today has a cameo (even the late great Mitch Hedberg - holla!). The story was fascinating, funny and touching all at the same time. Go see it! This is definitely one of the year's best, in my opinion. 9 out of 10.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
When fall rolls around, I feel like watching scary movies more often than I do the rest of the year. Last night we watched Damien: Omen II. We watched the original awhile back (probably around last Halloween). The original The Omen is the story of a young boy who is the devil, and Damien: Omen II picks back up with young Damien as a 12-year old boy living with his uncle in Chicago. He lives a mostly normal life and attends boarding school and appears not to know of his true identity. He learns who he is, while many of those around him meet their untimely demise.
I always struggle reviewing movies that are older than I am, because there's nothing I can say that hasn't been said before. So I'll just say it was a decent scary movie that at times felt like a Final Destination movie due to the creative and terrible ways in which some of those people die. Not life-changing by any means but a fun movie to watch on a fall evening. 6 out of 10.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
After watching Humpday, a touching comedy about two straight men who want to make a gay porn together, my husband thought Sleeping Dogs Lie would make a good follow-up, as it has a similar tone.
Amy has a secret. A secret involving something she did to her dog one lonely, boring college night. And no, she didn't kill the dog. I'll let you find out for yourself, should you choose to watch it. But let's just say what she did was pretty shocking. Amy is recently engaged and her fiance keeps pressuring her to tell him something she's never told anyone before....and eventually, she caves and tells him what she did. But can their relationship be saved after that?
All in all, I thought it was a cute, funny movie that explores the question of just how much you should tell your partner. And as it turns out, sometimes it's best to let sleeping dogs lie. 7 out of 10.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
Our criteria for choosing a movie was last night was as follows: not too long, relatively recent, and something neither of us had seen. 2009's Humpday fit the bill quite nicely. Ben and Andrew are college friends who have gone in different directions in their lives. Ben is married and on the baby train, and Andrew has been traveling the world making art. Then one night, Andrew shows up at Ben's door in the middle of the night. They reunite and get wasted with some new friends and in the process, somehow decide that they should star in a gay porno together. For the artistic merit, of course.
It sounds really silly, but I kind of loved it. It was funny all the way through, and all of the main characters (Ben, Andrew, and Ben's wife, Anna) were likeable, mostly reasonable human beings, which I find kind of rare in movies. Anna isn't thrilled about the idea but she gives Ben her blessing in a way that seems almost logical. You can't really tell if they're going to go through with their plan - and personally, I kind of wanted them to, but kind of didn't. As I commented to my husband when it was over, I found it somewhat amazing that we had just watched a movie that was about two straight guys wanting to make a gay porno together that managed to be funny and downright heartwarming at the same time.
Well worth a watch. 8/10.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Celeste and Jesse Forever is one of those movies that I thought I was going to love. It had all the right ingredients - quirky romantic comedy with a fun cast (Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina) but I just didn't love it.
Jones and Samberg star as Celeste and Jesse, a 30-ish couple who are divorcing but still act as if they're married. Celeste's career is taking off and Jesse's is not, but they still spend all of their time together and frequently lapse into their private jokes and schticks. Jesse sort of wants to get back together but Celeste doesn't, and then maybe Celeste starts to change her mind, but it's too late - Jesse has moved on and can't really look back.
The plot and the cast certainly had potential, but it just kinda fell flat for me. I didn't hate it by any means and it did have some funny moments, but I found the character of Celeste to be sort of pretentious and unlikeable, even though I think she was supposed to be quirky. Also, I just don't think Andy Samberg is great as leading actor; he's much better in SNL and small roles. Andplusalso, there was a bizarre subplot involving Celeste and the young pop star (played by Emma Roberts) that her company is promoting, which in my opinion felt out of place and completely unbelievable.
All in all, I'd save your money and wait until this one comes out on HBO. I'm actually kind of surprised that it's been getting mostly good reviews from critics. From me, it gets a 5.5 out of 10.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Premium Rush is sort of a bike messenger action movie, which didn't really appeal to me. But it was getting good reviews, so the hubs and I gave it a shot last night. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in as Wilee, a bike messenger who is called upon to deliver a highly mysterious and valuable document, and finds himself pursued across New York City by a crooked police detective who wants the item for itself. It was fun and fast-paced. Plus, I could watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt ride a bike all day long. I just think he is so adorable! The movie did feel a bit targeted to teenagers - which is probably to be expected, since it is rated PG-13.
Side note - Gordon-Levitt's character is a law school graduate who doesn't want the buttoned-up, 9-5 lifestyle. He prefers the adrenaline rush of riding a bike with no brakes instead. As a fellow law school graduate who had a quarter-life crisis during law school where I decided I wanted to work with my hands instead of my brain, I totally get it. Not that I've ever created anything with my hands in my life, but I'm just saying.....I get it.
And another side note - if you happen to be in the Columbus area, check out the new dine-in theaters at Easton. We saw the movie in one of these theaters last night and I really liked it. The seats are groups of two, and you actually reserve your seats in advance. You can order food, drinks and snacks right from your seat. The food was pretty good, too. Prices are a *little* high for what you get, but it's a fun way to do dinner and see a movie all at the same time. We'd definitely go back.
Back to the subject - Premium Rush gets a 7.5 from me. It's worth seeing for the adorableness that is Joseph Gordon-Levitt alone.
Love and Human Remains
Watched this a couple of weeks ago. I'd never heard of it but my husband remembered loving it about 20 years ago, so we gave it a shot. I guess I'd say it was about two sexually ambiguous roommates seeking love and happiness in a city with a serial killer of women on the loose. It was OK, but it didn't really do much for me, and, of course, it's been a while since I watched it so my memory isn't the greatest. I'll give it a 6/10.
Watched this a couple of weeks ago. I'd never heard of it but my husband remembered loving it about 20 years ago, so we gave it a shot. I guess I'd say it was about two sexually ambiguous roommates seeking love and happiness in a city with a serial killer of women on the loose. It was OK, but it didn't really do much for me, and, of course, it's been a while since I watched it so my memory isn't the greatest. I'll give it a 6/10.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
French film about a wealthy quadriplegic (Philippe) who hires a young ex-con from the projects (Driss) to be his live-in caretaker. Supposedly based on a true story, the men become close friends. Philippe learns to enjoy life and love a bit more, and Driss matures and expands his cultural horizons.
I found The Intouchables very enjoyable to watch. There was lots of irreverent humor, and I found it a joy to watch the friendship grow between Philippe and Driss. I also loved the character of Driss and found him quite charming. However, there was a subplot involving Driss's troubled family life, and I found this aspect of the film lacking. It felt like the issues were never fully explained, so I didn't really care about it. Also, I wanted to know how Philippe managed to stay so wealthy, what with not being able to work, yet requiring round-the-clock care from several live-in aides. Not that it really mattered, but I was curious.
So - not perfect, but very enjoyable to watch nonetheless. 7.5 out of 10.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
I kinda missed the boat on The Hunger Games when it came out months ago. I hadn't read the books and I was mildly interested in seeing it, but not interested enough to battle the droves of people that were packing the theaters. But last night we discovered that it was still playing at our local dollar theater so we figured what the heck. By the way, "dollar theater" is a bit of a misnomer - Friday and Saturday night showings actually cost $2.50. The horror!
Anyway, I am sure everyone knows this by now, but The Hunger Games takes place in a futuristic nation where each of the Capitol's 12 districts must send forth one teenage girl and boy ("tributes") to fight to the death in the televised hunger games. From the moment of selection, 23 of the tributes will be dead in a matter of two weeks, while the lone winner will be lavished with riches. Our heroine is Katniss, from depressed District 12, who volunteers herself as a tribute after her younger sister's name is drawn from the lottery system. Along with Peeta, the male selection from District 12, Katniss is whisked off to the lavish Capitol for training and competition.
I knew The Hunger Games had gotten pretty good reviews, but I was honestly surprised at how much I liked it. I was enrapt throughout the entire 2:20 runtime. I loved Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. The acting was good and the story was entertaining, and all in all, I found it extremely enjoyable. 8 out of 10.
To preface this review, let me explain that the way my husband and I typically choose movies to watch at home involves him making a preliminary selection of 3-5 movies, and I pick which one to watch. Bubba Ho-Tep had been in his preliminary selections pretty much nonstop for the last six months. I never chose it - it just sounded stupid to me. Finally, last Thursday night, I realized it was never going to go away until we watched it, so in my words, "we should just get it over with." So Bubba Ho-Tep it was.
In a nutshell, Bubba Ho-Tep is about two brave old men (played by Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis), who may or may not be Elvis and JFK,who take down the ancient Egyptian mummy who has been attacking the souls of the poor folks at their old age home. And you know what? It was pretty stupid, but it was also entertaining and kinda touching. 6.5 out of 10.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Not entirely surprisingly, I didn't love The Dark Knight Rises. Really, I just think this kind of movie isn't for me. Sorry, America. I haven't seen Batman Begins and I hardly remember The Dark Knight. In general, I just don't have a great track record with comic- or superhero-based movies. So let's just chalk this up to me not being the intended audience.
I feel like everyone knows this already, but TDKR follows Bruce Wayne as he emerges from his reclusive existence of the past eight years to save the city of Gotham from the underground terrorist villain Bane and his henchmen.
I did stay mostly interested during the two hour and 45-minute runtime, and I thought there were some very cool visual effects. Although, I found it too loud at times and with far too much gun violence. I found Bane difficult to understand. I also had a hard time keeping all the bad guys straight. Like I said, this is an issue with me and not with the movie. I think knowing the origins would have helped but I probably wouldn't have wanted to watch the earlier movies.
In a nutshell, just not my cup of tea. Sorry, America. 6 out of 10.
I'd read this book, by Russell Banks, a couple of years ago, and pretty much forgotten about it until I read the description on the back of this DVD and thought it sounded familiar. The Sweet Hereafter explores the aftereffects of a tragic schoolbus accident on a small Canadian town. The film focuses on several of the affected families before and after the accident, as well as the professional and personal struggles of the lawyer who comes to town to file suit against the bus company.
It was very good. The whole movie had a bleak feel to it, with lots of snow and ice and gray skies throughout. The families' grief felt very believable. There were really no unlikeable characters; no one was perfect, but everyone coped the best they know how - including the lawyer himself. I found the bus driver's story especially touching. A sweet woman, she loved the kids she drove to school every day and kept talking about them in the present tense even after they were gone.
A very sad movie, but well done. 8 out of 10.
Sunday, July 22, 2012
I just thought it was OK. I thought there were too many story lines happening, with no intersection among them. The story about the suddenly-famous middle-aged man could have been removed entirely. And I found that it dragged on too long at the end - it could have ended probably 20 minutes earlier than it did, without really changing any of the stories' conclusions. I wanted to like it because it's Woody Allen, but it was just too busy and too much. 5.5 out of 10.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
I thought I was really going to like this one. I like Sarah Polley (the director), I like the title (it's a Leonard Cohen song), I like Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, it's been getting good reviews from critics, and besides - look how cute that poster is!
Take This Waltz is about Margot (Williams), a 28-year old loosely employed freelance writer, who lives with her husband Lou (Rogen), a cookbook writer who writes solely about chicken. Despite the fact that neither of them appears to work very hard or make much money, they live in a lovely home in Toronto. On a flight one day, Margot meets Daniel, who happens to be her neighbor. Daniel is a rickshaw driver and artist who doesn't display his work - don't even get me started on how HE can afford his house in the city. Margot and Daniel fall in love. But will the new love hold up? Or will the new simply become old?
The thing about this movie is, I just found Margot so unlikeable that it killed the movie for me. She baby-talks ("I WUV WU!"). She's needy and clingy. She's neurotic, to the point where she needs a wheelchair in airports to make it to connecting flights. She's bossy. She pees in swimming pools. She's a tease. My husband and I were seriously wondering if she was mentally disabled. I think we are supposed to find her neuroses adorable, but instead, I just wanted to smack her.
Maybe Take This Waltz would be a different movie if the central character were written differently, but as currently written, I found it unfathomable that not one, but two men were completely smitten by this awful woman. 4 out of 10 - although I will say it was kind of fun making fun of Margot while watching. And I've been enjoying saying "I wuv wu" to my husband ever since.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
An early-ish film from Steven Soderbergh, The Limey is about a mysterious and dangerous British man travels to Los Angeles to avenge his daughter's death. It was well-made, but just didn't really do it for me. I didn't dislike it, exactly, but found it somewhat slow and a bit hard to get into - although it wasn't boring, either. 6 out of 10.
A trio of magazine employees do a story on a guy who placed a Craigslist ad looking for a partner in time travel. In working on the story, they all manage to grow as individuals. And besides, this guy can't really travel through time.....can he?
Safety is a quirky romantic comedy of sorts, except I don't think the romantic aspects were all that important. I guess, then, it's just a quirky comedy. And a quiet one, funny in its own way.
I thought this was a different, cute movie, and very enjoyable to watch. 8 out of 10.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I actually didn't know what Magic Mike was until a couple of days before I came out. I had heard of the title, and for the life of me couldn't figure out why every girl I knew on Facebook was freaking out a bit. In case you don't know, Magic Mike is NOT about a rapper. To the contrary, it's about a struggling young man named Adam who befriends a male stripper (Channing Tatum) and is taken under his wing.
It was decent. The first half was full of stripping and elaborate dances, and there were lots of laughs. My husband claims there wasn't anything inherently funny about the stripping, but I'm sorry, show me a shirtless Matthew McConaughey in assless chaps, and I will laugh every single time. Side note: do you know how hard it is to spell "McConaughey"? I do now.
The second half of the movie, the tone seemed to change. There were a few early references to the strip club's owner screwing the guys out of their fair share, and to drug use, but those two themes held center stage in the latter half of the movie, and everything felt a lot more serious. I felt like they could have been built up more, but the way the movie played out, it seemed like they came out of nowhere. Also, I felt like the clientele at the strip club were way too female and attractive, and the strippers were way too straight.
Overall, it was a fun movie with serious undertones that was not without its share of flaws. Worth a watch if you're into assless chaps. 7 out of 10.
Headhunters is a really smart Norwegian thriller. Roger Brown is a man used to living above his means, who supplements his lifestyle by stealing art. His gallery-owner wife introduces him to a man in possession of an extremely valuable piece of art, and Roger risks it all to get to it.
The plot doesn't sound all that interesting to me, and so Headhunters is one of those movies I wasn't all that pumped about seeing beforehand. But, it was really, really good. It was mysterious and suspenseful with good twists and turns. I also appreciated that everything was explained pretty explicitly by the end of the film, but not in a dumbed-down way. Headhunters was definitely the strongest of our weekend movie bonanza. 8.5 out of 10.
In case you somehow haven't heard of it, Ted is the story of a naughty living teddybear. John, Ted's owner, is trying to move on with his life with his girlfriend, but Ted just keeps bringing him back down.
Ted was mostly enjoyable - sometimes funny, sometimes stupid, and chock-full of fart jokes (which happens to be a bonus in my mind). Like so many comedies do, it struggled to keep up the funny pace of the first half of the movie, so it seemed to drag a bit in the second half. Regardless, all in all, it's worth seeing if you're into dumb comedies. 6 out of 10.
Friday, June 29, 2012
British thriller about a group of mountain climbers who discover a young girl buried underground and take it upon themselves to rescue her - while being pursued by the girl's kidnappers. Let's just say their rescue attempts don't go so well, and leave it at that.
I thought A Lonely Place to Die was a well-made thriller, and it kept me on the edge of my seat with lots of tension-filled scenes. I sort of equate it with Eden Lake, which I watched a few months back - people doing things in the wilderness who get in over their heads. And same as with Eden Lake, I am comforted by the fact that I am not an outdoorsy person, so the chances that I will discover a young girl buried underground whilst hiking on a mountain are pretty slim. And if, by some chance, I should find myself in that situation, I now know that I should probably just leave there. Just kidding. Maybe. 8 out of 10.
I have seen probably half of Wes Anderson's earlier movies (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox). Okay, maybe that's more like 2/3 - the only ones I appear to have missed were Bottle Rocket and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Okay, now that I've given more details than anyone cares to know about my personal history with Wes Anderson films, I'll say that I bring up the fact that I've seen a number of his earlier films only to say that I'm actually not a *huge* fan of his work. I have mildly enjoyed most of what I've seen (and I've probably enjoyed Darjeeling and Mr. Fox the most), but I seem to always have the general feeling that the movies are trying too hard to be quirky.
Moonrise Kingdom takes place in the summer of 1965 - 12-year old Sam and Suzy (and Suzy's kitten, in what was, in my opinion, a show-stealing role) run away together on a small New England island. All the while, they're pursued by a motley search party of adults - Suzy's parents, Sam's camp counselor, and the police chief, who may or may not be having an affair with Suzy's mom.
I liked Moonrise Kingdom but I didn't love it. I thought it was a cute, nice movie. The 12-year old stars did a really good job and were fun to watch. And while I felt it had some of the trademark Wes Anderson trying-too-hard quirkiness, it seemed to have less than his other movies. And in all seriousness, bonus points for basically the third biggest part being an adorable kitten. 6.5 out of 10.