Just some Cliff’s Notes here about the past year of movies.
Over the holidays, I caught up with a couple movies I haven’t had the chances to review, plus I am updating my Best of 2011 list. My new Top 10 won’t necessarily be the everybody’s Top Movies of 2011, but rather the ones I felt connected to. Hopefully that will be of some benefit to you, because some will soon be coming out On Demand, or for purchase/rental.
The Artist: A beautifully filmed homage to film before talking came around. It’s silent, black and white and is like nothing else I saw this past year. It’s also my pick for Best Oscar winner.
War Horse: Not a fan. A sweeping cinematographic drama about the life of a horse, with the backdrop of World War I. Could a horse stop trench warfare between the English and the Germans? I don’t think so.
Tree Of Life: Finally caught it On Demand. A rather existential story on the subject of life, nature and being human. It was brilliant, but maybe too broad for the average viewer.
The Muppets:Jason Segel deserves credit for this revival. The new songs tasted sweet as I relived some nice childhood memories, but I prefer more Muppets, less humans in my Muppet movies.
The Best of 2011
(That is to say, the movies that had the biggest impact on me)
#10 - Melancholia – A happy tale of the complete destruction of the earth. For better or worse, I can’t get Kirsten Dunst’s latest out of my head.
#9 - Super 8 - It’s simply the ET of the new generation.
#8 - Tucker & Dale vs Evil – This low budget, under the radar spoof of slasher flicks was too fun to ignore.
#7 - The Descendants – George Clooney makes you remember that good people can still make good decisions. I missed a lot of this one because it was set in Hawaii and shot a several locations that I was at in September. I was daydreaming too much.
#6 – Beginners – A beautiful story about coming to terms with the life you have. Also, there’s a talking dog.
#5 - My Week With Marilyn – Michelle Williams pulls off the trick where you don’t see the actress and only her character. She did it the best this year.
#4 - Tree Of Life – The universe in a nutshell. Is that even possible?
#3 - 50/50 – This Joseph Gordon Levitt funny film about getting cancer perhaps drew the most emotion from me.
#2 - Midnight In Paris – A superb work from Woody Allen about passion for Paris. I was day dreaming again about the setting, but at least I paid close attention to the plot.
#1 - The Artist – It is like nothing else I saw in 2011. It answers the question: Can you watch 1h40 long film where no one talks? Yes. Art comes in many beautiful forms.
Looking through glassy eyes, itâs hard to find focus, even if your intentions were to have a good time. Itâs the same story for Johnny Deppâs toast to Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary. The heart is in the right place, but this one stumbles around a little too much.
The film is based on the long lost novel of the same name that Thompson wrote in the 1960âs, but didnât publish until 1998. Depp supposedly found the material amongst Thompsonâs things and has since been key in getting the film produced.
The story involves journalist Paul Kemp (Depp) who takes a job at the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. His sleazy editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) immediately sets the tone of the film by asking Kemp if heâs drunk and how much he drinks. Kemp replies in a Thompson-esque voice âThe high end of social.â
From there, Kemp is wooed by Sanderson, (Aaron Eckhart) a developer who has plans to get rich by developing the lush island. Itâs Sandersonâs attempt to control the media in his favor.
The film is somewhat autobiographical because Thompson did apply at the San Juan Star, but didnât get the job. Itâs completely autobiographical in regards to how Depp, for a second time, entertains by channeling Thompson. Itâs a treat to hear the witty dialogue come rolling off his mumbling tongue.
Another standout is Sandersonâs fiancee', played by the luscious Amber Heard. Her character Chenault is like a beautiful tidal wave. Sheâs literally the girl that talks you into speed racing the brand new car youâve just been given by daddy.
If there was a main point, itâs how Kemp tries to use his righteous journalistic integrity to save the people of Puerto Rico from a greedy American developer. Still this is more of a rum fueled exercise in functional alcoholism. I feel like they touched on everything that Thompson was, but didnât deliver that gonzo element.
Packed with plenty of gotcha moments, Paranormal Activity 3 will make you jump several times. The problem is, we already know the formula and that takes a lot of the frightful edge away.
Set in 1988, we again get a home video obsessed guy who must catch on VHS, the things in his home that are going bump in the night. The added twist of the backstory of the original Katie from Paranormal Activity 1 is a wasted point.
To set up the scary faux-documentary, weâre to believe that were looking back on real archival footage. Dennis, a wedding videographer, has moved in with hot 80âs mom Julie. They live a happy life with Julieâs two daughters Katie and Kristi. One night, Dennis accidentally catches Kristiâs imaginary friend Toby on camera and becomes infatuated. Things escalate poorly for the family.
With just a few exceptions, I almost never recommend the 3rd chapter in a film franchise. That rule is still in effect here. I will admit to jumping several times. Thatâs the point of watching a movie like this.
In fact, based on this movie, PA1 makes much less sense. SPOILER AHEAD: In this film, young Katie from 1988 befriends the mysterious demon. Are we to assume that her demon friend is the same one that possesses Katie from 2009? The older Katie is more a victim of her boyfriendâs misguided actions. Did the demon and Katieâs relationship mean nothing all those years?
There was something fun I took away from this film. It was in the technical use of a surveillance style point of view, where the camera pans back and forth. I am a lover of puzzles where you have to figure out the difference between two pictures. In this case, the viewerâs perspective pans to the left, so look for the thing that sticks out in the frame. Pan to the right, then back to the left and see whatâs spookily changed. I am a film technique lover, so I actually enjoyed this.
Still, would you go see a movie based on someoneâs thrill that the camera panned back & forth? I donât think so. Thatâs something for movie nerds like me.
The bottom line is, you will be scared with PA3, even if itâs for the lack of creativity.
Itâs not like the world was begging for a remake of the 1982 John Carpenter film, but in the world of sci-fi horror, itâs not a grave mistake to bring this pronoun of a story back.
The Thing (2011) is set in 1982. Confused yet? Graduate student Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited by a Norwegian scientist for her necropsy skills to a base in the Antarctic. There she and a team of about a dozen recover an alien creature thatâs been frozen in the ice. It comes back to life and possesses the power to morph into itâs victim to conceal itâs own identity. Itâs a similar plotline to the 1982 version with some detail changes.
Note: The 1982 John Carpenter was a remake of a 1951 movie The Thing From Another World, which was also based on a short story.
There are a few fright factors that work in this movie. The toothy creature is quite gruesome and disgusting, but in a fun scary movie way. Since it also has the ability to hide itself within the group of survivors, paranoia drives the suspense.
One semi-intense moment involves a tooth check of the humans to determine if anyone has been body snatched. The imperfectness of the life and death test ratchets up the intensity mid way through and was enough to keep my interest going.Â Thereâs also a nice dark ending to look forward to.
Where The Thing doesnât work, is how it all plays out. This is a run of the mill, scary things jump from the shadows movie. The little soldiers fall one by one, building up to a final showdown. The redeeming factor is that creepy aliens are sci-fi gold and itâs fun to watch these kind of scary movies.
Logically speaking, you could easily shred the movie. Why would the alien reveal itself one person at a time? Why would the alien have teeth like the Sarlacc Pit? Why does an Antarctic base have military grade flame throwers? Thatâs all beside the point.
This is more about a good run-for-your-life gore festival. So, was the remake necessary? No. Is it mindless escapism? Yes. More please.
George Clooney delivers what is a really weighty political thriller in his new work The Ides Of March, or as I like to call it "How to become cynical with the political process in one hour and forty-one minutes."
The film is a fictional account of a Democratic presidential primary, set in current times, but makes use of the real news media. Is it a metaphor that the real media Is following a fake election? Probably not.
Ryan Gosling, or as I like to call him âthe new George Clooneyâ plays Stephen Myers , a likable, suave and idealistic top political staffer for Democratic presidential candidate Governor Mike Morris ( Clooney). Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the campaign manager. Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) i s the rival democratic candidate campaign manager as both side battleÂ in the Ohio primary.
After Tom tries to recruit Stephen to the other side, a series of events that includes more cruel intentioned double crossings and back stabbings than one could imagine happens. At times, The Ides of March becomes the type of political thriller that only happens in movies, because the details of the misdoings are just too juicy.
Clooney directs and writes the screenplay for the film that also credits Leo DiCaprio with Executive producer credits. With DiCaprio playing J. Edgar Hoover in âJ. Edgar,â due out in November, this creates a little buzz. In all though, the story in The Ides of March is strong and the cast all equally deliver command performances.
The good thing about this production is that it is not really a partisan movie. Iâm not sure anybody comes out looking good. This is more about strategy and the thrill of the game. I donât think anyone is going to be surprised by the dark secrets that lurk in our political process, I just hope that someday I donât become as cynical as some of these characters.
I have a list of certain actors and actresses that I will see any movie they are part of, simply because they are in it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is now on that list.
Is latest work 50/50 is based on the true story of a man who is diagnosed with cancer, but still manages to keep his sense of humor. Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is a 20 something employee at a Seattle NPR radio station when he is told that the ache in his back is actually a cancerous tumor. The story revolves around Adam and his friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) and how they find the lighter side of cancer.
From the moment Adam is delivered the news from his cold-hearted masochistic doctor, he tries to keep composure while his world spirals. This all sounds like a major downer, and it is. The magic of this movie is itâs ability to balance the gut wrenching reality with the comic musings between Kyle & Adam. Kyle for one, continually tries to use his friendâs diagnosis as a successful pick up line.
Anjelica Houston plays Adamâs overbearing mother who sports a very distracting wig throughout the film. Sheâs not only dealing with a son who doesnât want to talk to her, but also a husband whoâs dementia makes him unable to talk to her. Anna Kendrick is Adamâs green psychiatrist that walks the doctor-patient relationship line.
It takes a serious moment in ones life to fully recognize who you are. This is a heartening story of friendship, trust and fighting for your life. For sure on my top 10 list of the year.
I find Levitt to be one of the more impressive and busy actors out there today. He stole many a scene from Leo DiCaprio in Inception and was brilliant in 500 Days Of Summer. I even liked his days as the snarky teen Tommy in the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun. He brings out the human nature of his characters and does the basics well, such as getting you to like him.
The story is based on events from the life of screenwriter Will Reiser, who manages to reach into his emotional core and beautifully put words to his experience. Reiser is alive and in remission today.