171. Toy Story 3 [B+]
172. Harold and Kumar go to White Castle [B+]
173. Crazy Heart [B+]
174. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder [C+]
175. Southern Comfort [C-]
176. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay [C-]
177. Infernal Affairs [B+]
Toy Story 3: I liked it, but I don't think it's the best film of the year. The opening short was very creative, though. And the mix of darkness and sentimentalism in the ending is done well, which is a relief. The ending is much more satisfying than the ending of Wall-E
, though Toy Story 3
a whole is never quite as satisfying as the first two acts of that Pixar movie. I still need to see Up
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle: At times, it's over the top, but for the most part it is a pretty clever comedy about race relations (also, pot and hamburgers). Far more intelligent than the premise would suggest, and the two leads (Kal Penn and John Cho) have terrific chemistry with each other.
Crazy Heart: I've put off watching this one for a while, since I'm not very enamored by country music, but it turns out my fears were unwarranted. Bridges is terrific--for once, the Academy got it right (though the underlying motivation of voters was probably to award a performer long deserving of recognition, his performance is terrific--and that includes the songs, too). Better yet, it never devolves into a young babe saves/inspires older man into improving himself narrative. 'Bad' has problems, and the film never shies away from them to give him a false sense of redemption.
Starship Troopers 3: As promised, it's better that the last sequel by a wide mark, but it's still nowhere near as good as the original. The satire is much more present, at least, though it's still not as pervasive as in the first film (we get a number of great FedNet scenes, though). The effects also fall short--several digital backdrops and most of the visual effects of spacecraft make the whole affair feel like cutscenes from a late 90s videogame than an actual movie. On the other hand, 'It's a Good Day to Die' is so catchy that if I heard it in another context I might confuse it as an actual propaganda song along the lines of 'I'm Proud to be an American' and other jingoistic crap. Casper Van Diem fits right back into his role (he's aged, but not dramatically), though the rest of the cast is pretty hit or miss.
Southern Comfort: It's pretty obvious this action movie made in 1981 (but set in 1973) is channeling a Vietman allegory, but, with the exception of the last twenty minutes, it's just too preposterous to be taken seriously. In the film, a platoon of Louisiana National Guardsmen (led by Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe, who would reunited with director Walter Hill in 'Deadwood' decades later) go into the bayou and fuck up just about everything they do. It's no wonder a bunch of Cajuns open fire on them, after they steal their boats and fire machine guns at them [they're blanks, but c'mon]. Next, they capture and torture a Cajun who probably doesn't have anything to do with the ones they fought with, and then one of the guardsmen paints a cross on his chest and blows up the guy's house. Earlier in the movie, the platoon’s token Mexican opened fire (blanks again) on a superior officer in a crowed training area—yet somehow, the platoon is still cleared to go on. As they slosh through the swamp shouting orders about stealth (even the soundtrack can't cover up how much noise they're making) my attention wandered. The last twenty minutes, when the last two survivors end up in a Cajun town and become consumed with paranoia are filled with terrific suspense, though. It's just a bit much to slog through the first 80 minutes to get there, though.
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guntanamo Bay: The best part of the film is the flashback scene to Harold and Kumar in college, but the rest of the movie is so preposterously ungrounded in reality that it just isn't as funny as its predecessor. Penn and Cho still have wonderful chemistry, but having their characters smoke up with George W. Bush and almost get raped in Guantanamo Bay don't work. Neil Patrick Harris returns, and then is killed (until the credits fix that) in a moment that should be as funny as a certain scene in Burn After Reading
, but is directed so unevenly that it falls flat. I hope the third movie gets smaller, not bigger, because these characters don't work on such a broad campus.
Infernal Affairs: I saw this film earlier in the year, but I'm always happy to return to it when the opportunity presents itself. It's still miles about the American remake which shan't be named, but I've seen it enough times (ten times?) that the cracks are starting to show. The music, for instance, is far too heavy handed when its trying to sell sentiment. And the American movie posters that fill the frame when two leads play a cat and mouse game are distracting. Still, it's a strong movie. It's just no longer one of my top ten.