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TV & Media Non-Trek television, movies, books, music, etc.

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Old November 6 2011, 08:08 PM   #841
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

I saw TipToes last year. I rather enjoyed it as a novelty almost arthouse type film. It's an easy watch film and this is the first I've heard about the director or others involved not liking it.
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Old November 7 2011, 12:44 AM   #842
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

170. Winchester ’73 (B-)

An acceptable Anthony Mann-directed Western, with good performances by Jimmy Stewart (in a slightly darker role than usual) and Dan Duryea, but never one that greatly surprised me. Okay, when Rock Hudson showed up as an "Indian" I was surprised, but not in a good way.

171. Best Worst Movie (B+)

This documentary is a hilarious, if at times hard to watch (due to the people involved -- a few of them genuinely appear to be crazy), look at the cast and crew of the infamous Troll 2 twenty years after the film's release. It doesn't uncover any profound truths, but is entertaining and well made.

172. Ministry of Fear (C+)

An absolute mess of a movie, complete with a totally incoherent first act and a hilariously tacked on happy ending, but due to Fritz Lang's direction and decent performances it's never an unwatchable mess. Like most of Lang's Hollywood films, it's budget is a little thin at times and not exactly filled with A-Listers, but it gets the job done.

178 movies this year.
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Old November 7 2011, 05:12 AM   #843
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

27. Ministry of Fear (1944) The Cake is not a lie.
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Old November 8 2011, 04:23 AM   #844
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

173. Saint (B)

An odd Dutch slasher film from director Dick Maas, who is apparently quite famous in the Netherlands, but is almost unknown here in the states. The killer here is St. Nicholas, complete with the trappings of the holidays, and although it never exceeds the expectations one has for a horror film like this, I felt it met them. At times, it might be a little too dark (a bunch of children are seemingly slaughtered in the finale, for little reason that I can see -- it doesn't even work as shock value, as everything is kept at arm's length), but for the most part the movie realizes that the tone should be firmly tongue in cheek.

174. Winnebago Man (A-)

I still think this is one of the best documentary features I've seen in a while, although the impact is slightly less effective upon second viewing. For one thing, I was more aware of some selective editing, especially near the end, to make the central figure a little more sympathetic. Still, the film's exploration of internet celebrity, and the unintended or unwanted consequences that come with that, is fascinating, and Jack Rebney (the legendary "Winnebago Man") couldn't be a better foil for the director.

175. Jackie Brown (A)

I'm a big fan of Inglourious Basterds, but other than that movie, I think this might be Quentin Tarantino's sharpest work. It's certainly the most sedate film he's written and directed, and the cast -- rounded out by a number of veterans who wouldn't be starring in a heist movie if anyone else was behind it -- is excellent. On Blu-Ray, the film looks terrific, although the only new special feature is a rather boring panel of film critics who discuss the film and its effect (or lack thereof) upon the film industry. It's a shame a label like Criterion hasn't been able to get their hands on the filmmaker's work, but alas.

176. The Return of the Pink Panther (B-)

Probably on par with Seller's first Closseau film, this one is never as finely tuned as A Shot in the Dark. For one thing, Closseau couldn't have less to do with the plot for much of the time, which means that Christopher Plummer (like David Niven before him) is really the protagonist here. This is also when Seller's accent starts to get quite ridiculous, which is good for a few gags, but I imagine will become tiresome if I stick to the series through the end of it.

177. Carnage (B)

Roman Polanski's new film, a comedy adapted from the play "Gods of Carnage," takes a while to find its footing, but once it does, it's hilarious, dramatic, and filled with energy. For the first 20 or 30 minutes, though, much like the characters, it's a bit awkward, and one starts to wonder how the film will justify keeping them all in the same apartment for the entire 80 minute running time (except for the credits). Once the characters (played by a superb cast -- Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz [getting better and better at an American accent], and John C. O'Reilly) start to get agitated (and intoxicated), though, everything takes off. Who knew that these actors would be doing barf jokes -- or that they would be so effective, for that matter. Like much of Polanski's more recent work, this won't go down as one of his best films, but it's worth seeing nonetheless.

178. V For Vendetta (C+)

The politics are simplistic, the characters two-dimensional, the action ludicrous, and Evey's (Natalie Portman) belief in V's cause utterly unbelievable, given his actions, but it's not a bad movie... It is well produced, and the cast is good. It's just too bad that a more literal adaptation of Moore's work wasn't made, but it's not surprising that it wasn't.

And with that, I'm finally caught up with all the films I've seen this year.
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Old November 8 2011, 05:28 AM   #845
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011


150. Ben-Hur (B+)
151. Only Angels Have Wings (B)
152. Midnight Cowboy (B-)
153. Holiday (B+)
154. Modern Times (A+)
155. Singin' in the Rain (A)
156. A Star Is Born (1976) (C+)
157. A Star Is Born (1954) (A-)

I was planning to watch the original 1937 film with this, but the only copy I could find has the picture quality of a mediocre VHS tape, so I didn't bother. This is one of those Hollywood perennials (we're apparently going to be getting a new Clint Eastwood-directed version starring Beyonce in 2013, which sounds like such a change of pace for Clint that I'm interested to see it), and has been unofficially remade many times more (including in the upcoming The Artist, from the looks of the trailer). Contrary to my original intent, I watched the Barbra Streisand version first, because mom wanted to watch it. The Judy Garland one is a superior film in all but one respect (well, maybe one and a half), so the ended up working reasonably well.

One of them major influences of the Garland version was to add music the equation, something both the Streisand one and (one imagines) the Beyonce one being mooted use too. The "half" thing I mention is that Streisand's actually has at least one rather memorable song on it ("Evergreen", which won the Oscar that year). Garland can definitely sing, but all the songs in her version (and there are a lot of them; honestly, they could have stood to be trimmed) kind of go in one ear and out the other, though some of the performances themselves are memorable on film.

The other thing more credible in the 1976 version is the descent of Norman. Other than being introduced drunk (which is memorable), James Mason's Norman Maine seems pretty normal and functional right up until his allegedly intolerable behaviour leads to the termination of his contract; Kris Kristofferson's John Norman at least is show constantly indulging in unreliable behaviour. 1954's Maine's fall seems kind of unsupported, and it happens way, way too fast (there's a particularly ridiculous line where a delivery guy calls him "Mr. Lester" at the door, as if he wasn't like the biggest star in Hollywood until about a year earlier).

Otherwise, though, the 1954 version blows the 1976 one out of the water. Better director, better actors, better aesthetic, better script, better supporting characters (though neither movie has many of them, to be honest, which is particularly noticeable in the Garland film, which is 3 hours long). There are some really wonderful scenes with Garland (though the fate of Maine seems uncomfortably parallel with the road she would eventually travel), particularly her slow breakdown describing how it feels to watch Maine's decline. However, while most of the reviews I've seen of this film talk up Garland's performance to the moon, I was at least as taken with James Mason. Notwithstanding the reservations I have with his plot, Mason's performance is incredible, pitch-perfect in every scene.
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Old November 10 2011, 03:52 PM   #846
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

Morning Glory: It stars Rachel McAdams who just got a badly needed job as a producer of a morning news program and Harrison Ford as a crabby News Anchor who misses his glory days and thinks his new position on the morning show is beneath him. Both are really good and fun to watch. The cast also includes Diane Keaton and Jeff Goldblum.

From Prada to Nada: Another Camilla Belle movie that didn't get a wide release and I can see why. It was billed as a comedy but wasn't funny and it just didn't have the look and feel of a major motion picture. I get the sense that the end product didn't turn out as intended. Camilla Belle looked like she had either a lot of makeup or a spray-on tan and sure enough, a segment in the Bonus Features confirmed that she did have a spray-on tan. Alexa Vega was also there, all grown up and playing a ditzy tight skirt-wearing Beverly Hills hottie. Quite a change from her Spy Kids days.
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Old November 10 2011, 05:26 PM   #847
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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Another excellent Clint Eastwood western, his last in the 1970's, based off the book The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales by Forrest Carter. The story follows Josey Wales, a former Confederate bushwhacker, as he makes his way to Texas being chased by Union Red Boots. The action is great and there is a good deal of comedy mixed in, revolving around the character Lone Waite, but it works well and isn't forced.

Ben-Hur (1959)

An excellent example of the 1950's biblical/historical epic though it is rife with inaccuracies. Two examples: no Roman ship was oared by slaves, the Romans wanted to live through the battle and you needed excellent rowers to have a chance, and the Emperor Tiberius was secluded on the island of Capri in the era the film took place in leaving Aelius Sejanus in charge. That said, the production values are excellent and Charlton Heston put in a great performance. Unfortunately the Christian elements do feel as though they were placed in as an after thought which is not the case with the original book.
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Old November 10 2011, 10:16 PM   #848
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179. Tootsie (C)

I can't understand why this movie was nominated for so many Academy Awards after it was released. Compared to, say, Mrs. Doubtfire, which I see dumped on as being light weight, I can't really say that Tootsie is particularly smarter. Almost all of the humor is predicated on Dustin Hoffman dressing up as a woman, which is good for a few laughs, but is hardly enough to sustain a movie for almost two hours. And, for something that's trying hard to make a feminist statement, it seems a little backwards that it takes a man pretending to be a woman to fight all of the sexism in the workplace (and in the writing) on the soap opera that Hoffman's feminine alter ego, Dorothy Michaels, ends up on.

Bill Murray is pretty funny, in a supporting role as Hoffman's roommate, I suppose. Otherwise, its rather unremarkable as a film. The music, heavy on the synthesizer, has dated badly, and visually it's never more than workmanlike in its approach. Pollack is good as Hoffman's agent, though. I might like him more as an actor than a director here, to be honest.

180. IMPOLEX (C-)

An independent film from Alex Ross Perry, a young, New York City-based filmmaker, this one doesn't really work, but I shouldn't be too hard on it. It is, after all, a debut feature. It's nominally a period piece set just after the second world war, about a soldier sent out to recover bombs that failed to detonate, but that turns out to be a pretty thin backbone. The biggest problems are the production values (at the level of a student film) and the acting (mostly terrible, seemingly deliberately so). Perry seems intent on letting his actors perform with such awkwardness in delivery that the whole film is oddly distant. Still, it has its moments, including an excellent monologue near the end about waiting for your loved ones to come home from war. That moment really does work. It's a shame the rest of the movie doesn't. Perry has a new feature out this year, The Color Wheel, which I haven't seen but am curious about.
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Old November 11 2011, 06:12 AM   #849
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011


150. Ben-Hur (B+)
151. Only Angels Have Wings (B)
152. Midnight Cowboy (B-)
153. Holiday (B+)
154. Modern Times (A+)
155. Singin' in the Rain (A)
156. A Star Is Born (1976) (C-)
157. A Star Is Born (1954) (A-)
158. Time Bandits (C)

One of Terry Gilliam's first non-Python features, made while the troupe was still making its own films (albeit on its last legs). Aims to be a children's film, and I suspect I'd have liked it more if I'd seen it at that age; but the time adventure format feels flat. None of the vignettes really click (there's a particularly listless visit to Sherwood Forest that features the least engaging John Cleese appearance I've ever seen), and the protagonists remain generic and unmemorable. Because it's a Gilliam production it has a more cynical, darker edge than most children's films, and a memorable design aesthetic, but it never comes together.

159. Kagemusha (B)

Late period Kurosawa, where things were starting to get really depressing. Superbly costumed and art-directed, like all his films, but this ultimately feels like a three-hour test run for Ran five years later, which addressed very similar subject matter far more effectively. The aforementioned three-hour running time is overly generous by a good amount, and could have been trimmed easily without losing anything. For much of the length the film lacks any real sense of narrative momentum, which it gathers up in the final half-hour or so. As an aside, I hadn't realized when I bought this that it was a story about many of the same people from James Clavell's Shogun.
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Old November 11 2011, 07:15 AM   #850
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181. Tyrannosaur (A)

Actor turned first-time director Paddy Considine delivers an outstanding debut feature. Peter Mullan stars as Joseph, an aging man who lives in a crummy neighborhood, spends most of his time drinking, and has a really short temper. Olivia Colman plays a religious woman named Hannah, who works in a thrift shop that Joseph runs into after getting in a bar room brawl. Both characters wind up living through some astonishingly brutal violence in the film -- it is certainly not for the faint of heart -- but it is also never exploitative. Over time, an unlikely bond grows between the two characters, but it doesn't go in places one might expect. The film is very well acted from the two leads (as well as a number of supporting parts), cinematic in its direction, and gripping from beginning to end.
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Old November 11 2011, 09:55 PM   #851
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160. Immortals (C+)

First time in years that I've gone to see a movie that's been getting bad reviews - not because I expected it to be good in spite of them, but because I like Greek myths and the visuals looked interesting. And indeed they are; if we could get Tarsem Singh a good story to go with them he might amount to something. Though a real Freida Pinto nude scene would have at least bumped it into the B-range.

Discussed more thoroughly here.
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Old November 11 2011, 10:01 PM   #852
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I watched both Green Hornet and Paul this week, thanks to Netflix. Green Hornet was mostly awful; Paul was outstanding.
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Old November 12 2011, 03:39 AM   #853
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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)

Probably the best Irwin Allen film that I've seen. The plot is complete hokum and the special effects are excellent. It was great to see Walter Pidgeon, Forbidden Planet is probably my favorite film, and Michael Ansara though I felt his role was superfluous. Like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea this film features its own fight with a giant squid though I believe the former looked better on screen. I know they made a television series based on the film, I'll probably check it out.
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Old November 13 2011, 03:27 AM   #854
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160. Immortals (C+)
161. J. Edgar (B)

Clint Eastwood's latest has been attracting middling reviews (it's actually in the negative on RT right now; but Ebert and Berardinelli, my two faves, both liked it), but I don't think it deserves quite that level of criticism. There are certainly problems: the structure of Dustin Lance Black's screenplay is messy and not especially well-constructed (though I can see what he was going for), and some of the age makeup on Armie Hammer is really bad (balanced by some truly excellent makeup on Leonardo DiCaprio). DiCaprio is the movie's main selling point - given the reception, this is now looking unlikely to be the film that finally gets him that Oscar, but if it had it would be a deserving win. It's the best male lead performance I've seen so far this year (though with the proviso that Pitt in Moneyball is the only other one I've yet seen). Eastwood steadfastly refuses to take on this material as a polemic for either side (as opposed to what, say, Oliver Stone would probably do with this concept), which I think is admirable.
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Old November 13 2011, 04:09 PM   #855
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

^^^
Glad to see your grade and write up for J.Edgar as it's on my list to see.
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