Monday, March 30, 2009

Movie Rundown - March 16 to March 29

Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price (***)
A documentary about Wal-Mart, pretty self-explanatory. The problem with this movie is that it's both played out and done with a kind of one-sides zeal that made me kind of dislike it. Yes, we know Wal-Mart is evil. But there are only so many stories of small store owners nobly carrying on that I can stomach before I'm ready to just go do something else that doesn't aim for cheap populism. That said, Wal-Mart is evil. And this movie will give you bunches-o-reasons why.

Let the Right One In (****)
This is the kind of vampire story the world needs. None of that stupid girl-fantasy with a bunch of sparky nancy boys frolicking around, none of Anne Rice emo-fests of immortal rock gods of questionable sexual orientation. This. A story about a developing friendship between a loner and a young vampire girl. With all the mystery and violence that entails. It had a very fairy-tale quality, both magical and dark. I couldn't recommend it more.

Duplicity (***)
This is a fun spy movie starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. I mostly went because of my Clive Owen fanboyism. It's a great movie, with the typical spy/heist slickness applied to corporate espionage. The movie lives and dies by its characters, because modern movies of this type are pretty common. I think that it was done really well, but it wasn't particularly groundbreaking. If you're a fan of this type of movie, go see it. But it's not necessary to go out of your way.

Ghostbusters (****)
It's Ghostbusters. If you haven't seen it, shame on you. If you have, then you know it's awesome. If you don't think it's awesome, let me know because I've never met an actual FREAK before.

Also, Ghostbusters is better than the sequel. That is all.

Monsters Vs. Aliens (***)
Okay, let me be up front about this. I like animated movies. And I like 3D. So I really liked this movie more than three stars. The characters were good, the animation was gorgeous (the retro futurism look went off better than Incredibles, IMO), and the jokes were by and large well done. That said, I recognize that this movie has a stupid story, and would almost have been better if it eliminated the villain and all. It's good. Better than Bolt, even. But I know that most people would never give it more than an average pass. I recognize that.

But if you like movies like this, it's worth it.

Easy Virtue (*****)
This was the obsession of Elizabeth for the past few months, and I finally decided to just up and watch it. This is a period film about a young British man (Ben Barnes) bringing his spirited American wife (Jessica Biel) to meet his stuffy, high class family. Wackiness ensues. At first, I wasn't sure what I thought of this movie. I went back and forth between great and meh, but it finally resolved itself in the last third as stupendous. There's something about the quality of the story that I felt was very empowering and emotional without pandering.

The film won't find its way to the US until May, but if you get a chance to watch it, I highly recommend it. It's fantastic. Also, it has amazing music.

Rachel Getting Married (***)
Okay, this one is an issue. You see, this movie is complicated for me. The first half of the movie was nearly painful to watch, reminding me of people in my life I'd met who were portrayed with all the honesty of a great film. I didn't want to watch it. It made me squirm uncomfortably. But then, somewhere around the halfway mark, it seemed that it was tired of being interesting and tried to fix all the problems raised in the first half. It doesn't, thankfully, but it all seemed a little pat and soft. Anne Hathaway is great, but I wish that she was given a more consistent movie to be great in.

Time Bandits (****)
Okay. So part three of the vague "imagination trilogy" of Terry Gilliam films (others are Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen). And put together in order of their production, they all flow pretty well. This one is about a young boy who wants to escape his boring, suburbian parents. It just so happens that some time travelling dwarves show up and take him on a journey through the ages with a map they stole from the Supreme Being, robbing historical eras of riches.

The three movies put together are about the freeing ability of imagination, of the power of the individual and their fantasies. And the death of magic in the age of reason. Of the three, Baron Munchausen is still the best, by far, but Time Bandits is really good, with interesting pieces and some great ideas. It all kind of shakes apart with a non-ending straight out of Gilliam's Monty Python days, but the rest of it is evocative and solid.

The Illusionist (***)
So, The Illusionist. When this movie came out, I was more interested in The Prestige because it was directed by Christopher Nolan, and never got around to seeing this one. Now that I have, I'm left a little perplexed. It's a great film, with some amazing ideas and a good sense of mystery about the magician, as opposed to the 'behind the curtain' nature of the Prestige.

I was really liking this film, too. The dynamics between the characters were interesting, and the casting was absolutely fantastic. But the ending absolutely spoiled it for me. I had ideas of where it was going, and there were multiple ways they could take it that I could accept. But in the end, it went for the crazy twist that was so lazy and bereft of emotion that the cleverness of turning the story on its ear was completely wasted. It took a great film and knocked it all down to an average film, though it's very pretty.

Still, it's a shame. The problem with those types of endings is that they run the risk of betraying the audience's experience of the film. It has to be done with a certain amount of grace and respect for the viewer. This movie, instead, just hits you over the head with it. Disappointing.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (****)
A French musical from 1964, this is a technicolor dream of a film about two young lovers and the twists and turns their lives make. It's one of the strangest musicals I've ever seen, particularly in how pedestrian it is. It goes out of its way to play upon cliche and the story is well-tread ground, but it's done in a way that keeps it all interesting.

One of the strangest things is that the film doesn't really have 'songs', so much. It's done in what's almost an operatic style, with trivial dialogue all being sung to the music. It doesn't feel wrong, but it is different than the Broadway style musicals that are rife in the genre. It's a breath of fresh air to have a musical that just happens to have everyone singing. It elevates the story into a place that is greater than the sum of its parts, I think. Well-recommended.


And that's it. Not sure what's up for the next week, and I'll be busy with the impending Script Frenzy, but I'll try to post one of these at least every two weeks in the next month, if not every week.


ditty said...

I'm surprised you didn't have the same sort of issue with Duplicity's ending as you did with The Illusionist. Maybe because with a film like Duplicity you expect to have those sorts of twists? Either way, the ending of Duplicity left me a little cold. I don't disagree about The Illusionist, though.

Literary Rock Star said...

I think the difference was that for Duplicity I go in expecting the twist. If it doesn't happen, I'll be bitterly disappointed.

Also, there was that dynamic of these comedic schemers. It's just an old school story element that they end how they began. It's like the Marx Brothers or Pinky and the Brain. No matter how good their scheme, at the end of the day they have nobody but each other. Which is why I thought that it was perfectly suited for it.

Which I suppose means it's a terrible romantic comedy.