Jan 5, 2009

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Doubt - Holy balls this was good.  This is based on a play, nominally about an accussation of molestation in a 1960s catholic school.  It has absolutely amazingly incredible performances from Phillip Seymour Hoffman (the accused) and Meryl Streep (the accuser).  The moments between them are just astounding and completely worth seeing the movie by themselves.  The rest of the movie is still very good.  I left the movie thinking it was one of the best things ever.  Over the past day the shine has worn off a bit.  I think the performance of the 3rd lead is just good.  She serves a purpose, sort of an innocence, and also a stand-in for the audience being tugged between these two powerful forces.  Unfortunately that makes her one-dimensional, gives her little personality.  Plus, some of the other performances aren't great, but they hardly matter with Hoffman & Streep anyway.  Oh, the mother of the boy is great though.  The main themes are pressed upon you very strongly.  But it's done very well, so it doesn't feel forced, except a tiny tiny bit at the end.  Moreover, there's themes throughout that aren't at the fore-front, but are important.  It's really a very good movie, it's not tops for me this year, but the two lead performances might be.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons - Hm, well, it's a good movie, but it's defintely not amazing, it has a lot of things wrong with it.  The digital effects, as amazingly beyond they are what we've had in the past, are still not good enough, because it's a drama.  If you had those effects in a scifi or a fantasy, they'd blow my mind.  But in this serious drama, they are still untrue, and distracting.  Both at the beginning and end of his life, they take me out of the movie and seem cheesy.  Also, the context of the movie is hit and miss.  They are very much in the context of society in world war I and II.  But then all of a sudden they COMPLTELY lose track of society.  No mention of civil rights (despite the 3rd most important character being black), no mention of vietnam, despite the last two wars, no mention of anything after 1945, until the end.  It was odd to me.  The acting is fine, I think Cate Blanchet is very unattractive in ths movie, but whatevs, I'm sure other people disagree with me, she did fine.  Although old lady her was bad, I didn't like hearing her talk.  Oh, also, try not to think of the fantasy of the movie, cuz it doesn't work.  Why is he born small but old?  Why does he get young like that?  Why does puberty happen like that?  It's not consitent, and it doesn't work, I tried to ignore it, but it's constantly asking you to rethink it when you try to reconcile the year and their ages.  This sounds like I hated it, I didn't.  There is a charm to his life that is interesting, but not three hours interesting.  It's good, it's good, it's just barely good enough. 

Lions for Lambs - Well, this is a nice idea of a movie.  I love the stucture.  It parallelizes three stories: a reporter interviewing the ambitious warmongering senator, 2 hurt and trapped soldiers in Afghanistan, and a politcal professor talking with a disallusioned student, with flashes to the education of the 2 soliders.  I think the strucutre works really well, espeically involving the soldiers.  The politician part of it is strange, I get the idea, it's really separate from the rest and it's at a higher level, which is cool, but not smoothly implemented.  The story is effective, I think.  The points are... not genius.  That's the trouble with a war-time movie, by the time you finish making it, everyone has already said what you have to say.  So unfortunately the script comes off a little naive.  But, the structure is so nice that it delivers the relatively straightforward message in an effective way.  I like it, it's just dated already, which is rough.  average movie.

The Sea Inside - What a sad sad movie.  It's a based-on-a-true-story of a Spanish man who has been a qudarapalegic for most of his life and wants to die, but can't legally.  Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men, which is why I rented this) is the lead, and he is amazing.  Most of the movie he uses only his face, of course, and it's amazing to watch.  The only time he fails is when the script fails, which is a bit of humor that felt very weird to me.  Its not just that it's not particularly funny, it just feels funny.  But then, that is part of his character too, so I guess it all worth it.  There are many good performances here, not a single person is the weak link.  There was a few moments in the film that I really appreciated the choices they made in not saying things.  They left stuff to implication, not that it was hard to figure out, just that they didn't feel the need to say it, which so many movies would.  You hear from multiple sides, though the film obviously believes one way.  And though there was really no new point of view, it's all been said before, I thought they were all fascinating anyway.  You even get very effective side stories that manage to find importance amongst all the high drama.  It's a very good, very sad movie.

Seven Pounds - Hey, this was better than I thought!  I'm not sure why I thought what I thought.  When I saw the trailer some time ago I thought it looked good, but recently my interest in it evaporated.  So it was actually good.  It's kind of half a mystery, so I can't talk about the plot much, but Will Smith is a man on a mission involving several strangers.  Despite half the world saying the ending is so obvious by the first 5 minutes, I didn't understand until much later on.  Will Smith really does quite a good job, he is a man defined by struggle and frustration and regret, and it totally comes through.  Other people do quite respectable jobs as well.  The script is good enough, nothing amazing.  The ending is very powerful, it's an amazing set of choices that happen, it really affected me.  I watched this on the same day as The Sea Inside, so two crying movies in a row!  Anyway, I wouldn't necessarily rush out to see it, espeically given the torrent of oscar movies, most of which I still haven't seen.  But it's defintely worth a rental someday.

Mamma Mia - Wow this was not a good movie at all.   I don't know if it was the movie, or if the musical was bad too, but yikes.  It was so freakin' girly, there was so god damn much prancing and screaming, the young ones really said "oh my god!!!!"  With the two triplets of girls/women it was like Yaya sisterhood and traveling pants combined into one Super Awful movie.  Seriously, this movie was gayer than Rent, and Rent was about AIDS.  The music isn't really for me, but that wasn't my problem.  The singing was in general mediocre to bad (ahem, Pierce Brosnan), but even that could be forgiven if it was set up well.  The best musical adaptations do interesting things with their set pieces, their transitions between real life and song, their choreography if it applies, etc.  This movie did virtually none of that.  There were exactly two cool moments in the whole movie: dudes dancing in flippers, and parallel triplets talking on beds.  To be fair, the plot was actually kind of shakespearian, like a comedy with lots of miscommunication or mistaken identity (kind of) type stuff, but oh well, it didn't work.  sucky movie.

Speed Racer - This movie was a surprising amount of fun.  It's not amazing, but it was defintely fun to watch the races, and the story/acting served their purpose.  It's certainly visually distinct, but I don't really appreciate what they wanted to do artistically.  When things are moving fast, it looks fairly fantastic, the races are cool and the "car fu" is great to watch.  When things move slow they look a lot cheesier.  I understand it's supposed to be a big cartoon, but sometimes the backgrounds looked like a 3DMax scene overlayed with car stickers.  In addition, they did this flattening of the field thing (I watched the making of) where everything is in focus at once, characters, foreground, background, and it looks like a cartoon.  Which is true, and I didn't have a problem with it, EXCEPT when they used people as wipes.  Ugh, it looked horrible.  I know it was on purpose, I know they thought they were doing something cool, but it just wasn't, it was horribly cheesy and they used it way too often.  But, really, except for that nothing bothered me about the movie, and a good portion of the rest was good, so why not?  fun movie.

Karla - Well this was a creepy movie.  On first blush it's annoying, cuz it's the redhead from that 70s show trying to prove that she can be dark and edgy, which all sitcom actresses do.  But then it's just a creepy movie about some horrible people.  I guess it's a true story which, as always, makes it kind of more interesting.  I'd say the actors do an okay job, the script isn't bad.  I don't feel like it's a good movie, but it's an okay true crime movie.  Tells the story, creeps you out, shocks you a little bit with the epilogue at the end, cuz it kind of totally invalidates the whole movie.  Not sure what that was about, but it was obviously on purpose, so ok.  Not stand-out, but it's a decent movie.

Kung Fu Panda- This was surprisingly good.  When I saw the trailers I thought it was going to be awful, so it took me a while to get to it, but I kept hearing it was good.  It's verrrrry slapsticky.  Pretty much every joke in the movie is a fat joke or a fall over joke or a punching joke.  There's no depth or cleverness to it.  Yet, I kept laughing!  I kept thinking to myself I should be over this, I shouldn't still think this is funny after an hour and a half, but I did!  The choreography, to my uneducated eye, seemed very well done.  It reminded me of Avatar, like maybe real fighters drew this stuff up, cuz it was very convincing.  I don't think it's a classic animation, I don't think it will be one of those I watch more than once, but it was certainly worth the once.

Hard Eight - Huh.  Well, this is a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, who made Magnolia (meh) and There Will Be Blood (wahoo!) and others.  It certainly feels like it, it's kind of... bland, but in a dramatic way.  Bland is the wrong word, people move around with silence a lot, they stare at each other a lot, they speak slowly and distinctly at each other, and it's all very drawn out.  But it is good, it's tense and enjoyable to watch.  And though its slow, it's a "slow burn" with a dramatic unraveling of the events.  Philip Baker Hall is pretty fantastic, Reily and Paltrow are good, Jackson has the problem that he's kind of playing the same character, even if he does a fine job of it.  I should probably rewatch Magnolia someday, maybe I'd like it after being hardened to his style a bit.

Triplettes de Belleville - What a weird little effin' movie.  It's a french animation, done largely with an aeon flux exaggerated humanity style, but the other half is this old timey, dour faced, ridiculously obesely proportioned characters, it's very strange to watch.  It's mostly without dialogue, and what there is in in French, and my DVD didn't want to show subtitles.  But it's really amazing to watch, it's just so weird.  It's sad and fascinating and sweet.  Then it kind of turns into a different movie in the second half.  It gets this quirky level of action, it has a fantastic chase scene that is slow and clunky and deliberate and ridiculous.  The style moves around a bit, and I noticed in the credits that many different studios worked on different scenes.  In particular there's some 3D in the middle that completely takes you out of the movie (even though there's 3D throughout, but only as part of the scene, not as the whole thing).  But besides that there's really nothing wrong with it, it's really great.

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