Resolution update: movies edition

26 May

37891096.jpgPart four of my ongoing 50 movies/25 books in one year quest. I believe I’m at 23 movies/11 books, for those of you keeping score.

Lucky Number Slevin

A fast-paced pseudo-serious mystery that plays like a cross between Snatch and The Usual Suspects. Not as good as either of those, but a suitable player in the genre.

Grade: B

Eastern Promises

A dark, hard-to-follow drama about the Russian mob starring Viggo Mortenson, a man who is on “the list” of many a randy female despite looking like a homeless meth addict. In one scene, Vigs beats the tar out of some dude in a locker room shower while naked, which made my girlfriend pant like she was in heat. Anyway, the movie was enjoyable. Getting my girlfriend to stop licking the TV screen… not so much.

Grade: B

Me and You and Everyone We Know

A quirky indie film that employs the “Grand Hotel” formula to weave plotlines of about a dozen random people – most situated in the same neighborhood – into one story. There’re a few kids, a few weirdo adults, single people and families alike. While I won’t claim this movie is for everyone – those of you not into those eccentric “nothing actually happens” movies should probably steer clear – I found the messages of family, adolescence and individuality to be entertaining throughout. Damn funny, at times.

Grade: B+

My Kid Could Paint That

A documentary about a six-year-old prodigy whose paintings are sold for thousands of dollars, though at the height of her popularity, a controversy erupts when people question whether the paintings were actually created by the child’s fledging painter of a dad. The movie is like a super interesting, extended Dateline segment that may or may not cause you to repeatedly shout at your television, “who the fuck cares who painted it?” while simultaneously laughing at the pretentiousness of arty folk.

Grade: B

Into the Wild

I was excited to see this film after hearing about the true story upon which it’s based. My expectations may have been a bit lofty, because I was sorely underwhelmed. Not at the story itself, which is fascinating, but at the movie. Specifically: Sean Penn’s direction, which is so scattershot and unfocused I could never really tell what was going on or who the important people were in this kid’s life. Too much time is spent in one location, not enough in another, the pace was so plodding I was actually thinking, “come on, just die already,” and in one part, during a music montage – this is where I absolutely gave up on the film – the lead character actually looks directly into the camera and makes some weird face, in some sort of strange breaking-the-fourth-wall decision that made it look like I was watching a music video or something, instead of a tragic story. It’s too bad, really, because this could have been an excellent film. Sean Penn should never be allowed to direct again.

Grade: C- 

La Vie En Rose

Before the film I hadn’t heard of Edith Piaf, and afterwards I almost came to care a little bit about her existence, which is saying something, I suppose. La Vie is a traditional biopic made unique with its time-period jumps, but beyond that it’s mostly by-the-book. A perfectly average movie.

Grade: C

Atonement

Shorter, more modern and more complex than what I expected when I heard “epic war drama.” The most memorable aspect of the film, in my opinion, was the costuming and set design. Very ambitious sets. Visually striking.

Grade: B

Idiocracy

Great premise, flawed execution. Idiocracy’s premise involves an Average Joe accidentally transported 500 years in the future, where the culture has become so increasingly stupid (due to all the current idiots having way more children than the smart ones) he is the smartest man on the planet. There are so many options for biting social commentary, but the movie just never takes off. The characters are too stupid to be considered believable, there is no underlying message, and too often the movie falls into over-the-top slapstick. This is one of those movies where talking about the movie is more enjoyable than actually watching it. Too bad.

Grade: C-

There Will Be Blood

A sprawling epic of an oil man gone bad; sort of a blue-collar Citizen Kane. Blood features spellbinding performances (which you already know) and illuminating scenery, but the film goes on a bit long and delays a bit too much in pointing the film in a discernible direction for me to consider it a classic. Still great though, and a must-rent.

Grade: B+

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I wasn’t surprised at how funny the movie was – that was a given, considering the cast, premise and trailer– but I was surprised at how real this movie felt. I’ll credit the script for making Forgetting Sarah a well-rounded comedy that goes beyond simple gags. The break-up and resulting depression isn’t glossed over; flashbacks to the relationship’s better times and gratuitous shots of Segel’s character crying make us well aware that this shit really hurts. The new boyfriend isn’t your typical clichéd cartoonish douchebag, he’s actually a normal guy with solid outlooks and cool sense of humor. The ex-girlfriend isn’t an evil shrew, she’s well-meaning but confused and misguided. And, best yet, the protagonist isn’t the perfect victim, he’s flawed and imperfect and stupid (at times) as well. Totally full of laughs, but the best part was that it was also full of authenticity.

Grade: A-

Death at a Funeral

One of those extended gag movies where something goes wrong, and it keeps escalating because none of the characters possess a shred of common sense, which means shit keeps getting worse and worse and you want to scream at the characters to stop being so stupid, that if any one of them had a functioning brain cell this whole scenario would’ve been resolved long ago … but in an inoffensive, lighthearted, occasionally funny way. Definitely worth the rental.

Grade: B

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