Reviews

Dec 18, 2009 movies:

The Wrestler: A+

Wow. Mickey Rourke is phenomenal. He just chews up every scene of this film as he plays a past-his-prime wrestler “Randy the Ram” who now works small venues and lives paycheck to paycheck. The tone of the movie is just great. They make it serious without being heavy, emotional without being melodramatic. Marisa Tomei puts in a great performance as a stripper fancied by Randy who doesn’t want to cross the customer-client line. There are some good scenes with Ram and his estranged daughter. I was worried that these would get cheesy, but they play it properly. And the actual wrestling scenes are extremely well done. Rourke appears to do a lot of his own stunts here, and he’s gotten hugely buff and learned a lot of actual wrestling moves. He does a spectacular job playing the part of a participant in a very demanding “sport.” I was extremely impressed with this movie.

Bruno: B+

This movie has been talked to death. I missed it in the theater and finally got a chance to see it on Netflix. It’s not as good as Borat, but it is so over-the-top offensive that I laughed out loud many times. And that’s not something I can say about many current films. So I give it a lot of points for that. Also, wow, Sacha Baron Cohen really goes the distance with this character. He literally puts his life in danger several times, such as getting nude and hitting on hunters armed with loaded guns in the South, and completely insulting a terrorist leader in Jordan, and wearing provocative clothing in an extremely conservative Hassidic Jewish community leading to townspeople literally chasing after him in the streets with rocks. He could literally die doing this stuff.

The best scene in the movie is when Bruno is faking that he’s trying to film a TV show starring young children. He brings in a bunch of parents who want to audition their children (ages 3-6 or so) to participate. The parents are so desperate to get their kid famous that they agree to the most ridiculous things Bruno asks. He tells one mom that her daughter is too fat and would need to get liposuction to lose 10 pounds, and she doesn’t even hesitate to agree. Another parent agrees to put his baby in acid, and another agrees to dress her baby in Nazi gear and act out an offensive anti-Semitic scene. It really makes a point, if such a thing can be done in a movie this profoundly stupid.

It’s not as good as Borat. But I found it interesting, and though some parts aren’t great, it did get belly laughs out of me.

Nov 4, 2009 movies:

Boy A: A-

I enjoyed this one. It’s about a British teen who committed a horrible crime when he was very young, so he was locked up in prison for most of a decade. Now he’s paid his debt to society, is finally let out, and is trying to become a normal person again. He has a kindly older caseworker walking him through all the steps of getting his new name and identity and so on. He gets a job, a girl, and is trying not to let anyone know his horrible secret from his past. Drama ensues.

It’s an interesting movie with good acting and good pacing to the story. And I’m a sucker for those Irish accents. I found this one very enjoyable.

Oct 30, 2009 movies:

Cabaret: B

I was forced by a friend to watch this. It’s a very famous film from the early 70s about a cabaret dancer (Liza Minnelli) and the gentleman living with her (the guy who plays Basil Exposition in Austin Powers, lulz) and their various misadventures. It takes place in the late 1930s in Germany, so there are various Nazi themes in the background as the plot unfolds.

This one isn’t really my kind of movie; it’s basically a musical. But I did appreciate it. I can see why it won Liza the Best Actress Oscar that year, though I think it’s more for her wonderful singing than for her mediocre acting. As my friend put it, “It’s okay that she acts badly because that’s her character. Her character is phony and bad at hiding it.” Okay, then. This is the same philosophy that caused somebody to say, “Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t act. He just stands there and reads his lines in a monotone like a giant musclebound robot. Hey, wait a minute…”

Anyway, this one was enjoyable enough that it deserves a look so you can put it into perspective among the influential and noteworthy films from the past. It was better than I thought it’d be, and I like some of the things they say about the rise of Nazi Germany; it’s done in a subtle way, not beaten over your head as it would be in most films today.

Oct 13, 2009 movies:

From Dusk Till Dawn: C+

This is a very affectionate C+. What a hilarious and delightful mess of a movie. Quentin Tarantino wrote and appears in this one, also produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez, with whom Tarantino would later collaborate on the “Grindhouse” double feature (which I never saw). The plot is ludicrous: Two criminals (George Clooney and Tarantino himself) kidnap a family (Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, and some Asian kid) and take them to Mexico to a bar. Then all of the patrons of the bar turn out to be zombie vampires, so they have to fight them off with shotguns and crosses and stakes and garlic and so on. WHAT? It’s ridiculous and gory and profane and a ton of fun to watch. You kind of have to turn your brain off, though. And your sense of decency.

August 29, 2009 movies:

Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves: B+

The classic from the early 90s starring Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, and others. It has its flaws, but I have so much nostalgia for this one. Saw it in the theater when I was young, and I really liked it. I am a sucker for Robin Hood stories; the Disney cartoon fox one is a personal favorite as well. And Alan Rickman makes a great Sheriff of Nottingham, all sneering and lewd and killing on whims. He’s great. Costner is kind of leaden here as Robin Hood, but it fits the part. This one’s fun.

Aug 13, 2009 movies:

The Terminator: A+

I like the first one MUCH better than the more hyped and generally more highly rated T2. It’s just more understated, more real. You genuinely feel like this thing could come after you and try to kill you; it’s wonderfully haunting. T2 feels like a big-budget action picture; the villain, though deadly, is bland and boring. You never really think the protagonists will die in T2. In Terminator 1, they don’t have an Arnold to protect them. They have a crappy gun with a few bullets in it, and Arnold is right behind them trying to kill them! That’s scary. The one thing that dates this one is the now-hilarious spooky 80s synthesizer music that plays in the background of some scenes. Ah well.

Aug 11, 2009 movies:

The Visitor: A

Richard Jenkins (from the “that guy” hall of fame) stars as an aging professor who’s lonely and bored with life until he meets an unlikely couple of young foreigners who enter his life and change his perspective on everything. Some drama ensues when it turns out they’re here illegally and may be in trouble for that. It’s a bittersweet story about friendship, trying new things, changing one’s perspective, and so on. I really like watching the Jenkins character as he ventures into very uncertain (for him) territory such as a concert or an outdoor drum playing jam session, where he never would have ventured before meeting his new friends. A nice and understated film, with a great indie feel and solid acting.

July 19, 2009 movies:

Hancock: D

This movie sucked and isn’t worth wasting words on. I hate Will Smith. He never plays a character; he is always playing Will Smith. The movie is dumb and predictable and doesn’t make any sense. I don’t find myself caring about any of the characters. I like Jason Bateman from Arrested Development, but his bland straight-man character kind of grates on me here. And Charlize Theron is beautiful, but her acting in this one, P.U. Blech. Next film please.

July 17, 2009 movies:

Grosse Pointe Blank: B+

A hitman (John Cusack) goes to his 10-year high school reunion. Oh, and his ex-girlfriend is there and sexual tension ensues. That’s about it. It’s decent because of Cusack, but the premise is a little stupid, and the ending is pretty awful. Cusack and Minnie Driver are good here, but I definitely can’t give an A to a movie that gives so much screen time to his talentless sister, Joan Cusack, who needs to DIAF.

Sneakers: A

A great early-90s movie about a group of computer hackers who find themselves in over their head as they discover a box that can break all of the government’s top security codes. This one has an all-star cast including Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, James Earl Jones, and others. It’s great. I really like this one. It’s got some intense and thrilling moments of sneaking around and breaking in/out of places and so on, but it’s also got a light tone and just the right amount of comedy in it. A lot of fun to watch.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: A+

One of the best movies of all time. Stars Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst (rowr), David Cross and others. Really makes you think about love and the mistakes we all make. Anybody who has fallen hard in love and screwed it all up, this movie will tug at your emotions for 2 solid hours. Phenomenal; see it immediately if you have not already.

Swingers: A-

A great understated indie comedy about a guy who’s down on his luck and can’t get over his ex (Jon Favreau) and his playa friend who seems to have all the luck with the ladies (Vince Vaughn) and their various adventures together trying to go out and meet girls. Great guy movie.

May 2, 2009 movies:

A Few Good Men: B+

You can’t handle the truth! I recently rewatched Aaron Sorkin’s 1992 drama about a pair of marines accused of killing an officer and their lawyer (Tom Cruise)’s investigation of the case. It’s a classic and very rewatchable. But the climactic scene ticks me off, and I can’t totally forgive it. Spoiler ahead.

They call Colonel Jessop (Jack Nicholson) to the stand and basically agitate him to the point that he confesses that he caused the death, clearing the name of the officers. But, this is completely implausible! Nicholson would never just go up on the witness stand and then crack after a little bit of prodding, sentencing himself to a prison term just so he could upbraid Tom Cruise. Ridiculous endings like this ruin movies for me. Very strong until this part, but then the writers really let it fall apart.

Jan 4, 2009 movies:

Curious Case of Benjamin Button: D-

Ripoff of Forrest Gump by same writer. Way too long; boring. Wooden acting. Many implausible plot points. Very sloppy ending. I’d go into detail, but this review excellently sums up why this movie sucks:

http://dglee.blogspot.com/2008/12/movie-review-curious-case-of-benjamin.html

Oct 23, 2008 movies:

No Country for Old Men: A

A Texas man’s man discovers some loot left over from a drug deal gone bad, then spends the rest of the movie running from the maniacial killer who’s trying to get it back, all while followed by some Texas cops led by Tommy Lee Jones. Great dialogue; great acting by Josh Brolin and Jones and whoever the creepy villain guy was. Some really nice west Texas scenery. They maintained a nice sense of suspense throughout and made the killer really seem like a scary mofo. I also like how they ended it; not very “Hollywood,” and that’s a good thing.

It had tons of gory murders and killing and blood spurting out of people. I wasn’t bothered too much by that, but some have said the movie is gratuitously violent. Highly recommended, if you can stomach people getting shot in the head and such.

Oct 4, 2008 movies:

Thank You for Smoking: C-

A dark comedy from the perspective of a tobacco lobbyist, played by Aaron Eckhart. Has some clever/funny moments but ultimately mediocre and forgettable. Eckhart (who goes on to play Two-Face in The Dark Knight) is very strong though and can really carry a movie. -1 for Katie Holmes being in this.

No End in Sight: B+

A scathing documentary about the Iraq War and how badly it’s been F’ed up. Makes you almost sick to your stomach to watch, because it points out so many grievous errors that seem like they should have been prevented even without 20/20 hindsight. I haven’t done the fact-checking to decide how much it is accurate vs. biased, but it’s kind of like the Michael Jackson – little boy stuff: If even 1/2 of it is true, hoo boy.

Religulous: C

Bill Maher’s documentary criticizing religion. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I enjoyed laughing at some of the ridiculous people he interviews in the movie. I liked it more when he was being funny (1st half of the movie) rather than preachy and condescending (2nd half).

Mar 29, 2008 movies:

Transformers: D-

This was an awful, vapid movie that basically urinated all over my precious childhood Transformer memories. It almost doesn’t deserve analysis. Too long, written by an 11-year-old, way too much focus on moronic human characters, crap popcorn entertainment. I do not get off on these movies that are all SFX and explosions with idiotic characters and no plot. Why do they have to throw in the way-too-attractive girl character who happens to also be really smart? Ooh, she’s smart AND pretty! Defying the stereotype! And Transformers has not one, but TWO of them? One of them even fakes an awful Aussie accent through the whole movie. And this movie has the kid from Good Burger and Rodney Mack in it! WTF?! And there’s a ton of product placement: HP, Panasonic, GM vehicles. Argh. I hate you, Michael Bay.

The only reason Transformers doesn’t get an F is because they got the original voice of Optimus Prime back. But that’s basically the only thing whatsoever that I liked about this film.

Dec 31, 2007 movies:

The Lives of Others: A+
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_lives_of_others/

WOW. This movie is phenomenal. It’s about East German Stasi security police who spy on people they suspect of being on the side of the West Germans, and one particular Stasi officer’s crisis of conscience as he’s forced to help them spy on and bring down an influential West German writer. The plot, acting, writing, direction, pacing, music, camera work, … every single thing about this movie is spectacular. It’s intelligent and keeps you guessing, with plenty of twists along the way. I give this my absolute highest rating. See this movie.

Perfume: Story of a Murderer: C+

It’s about a French dude who has a super shnozz and becomes a perfumer obsessed with capturing everything’s smell, so he decides to start murdering girls to make a perfume out of them.

The movie is too long (2h30m) and not perfectly cast (Dustin Hoffman plays the most Jewish French perfume master you will ever see). Also, everybody has British accents even though much of the movie takes place in France; that annoyed me.

But it does have several things going for it. The tone of the movie is really good, the music sets the right mood, it’s well shot, and it doesn’t have lots of CGI crap sfx. They also use that big runtime to let the characters breathe and build up revery for perfume-making and for this guy’s super smell and his various obsessions. Without a lot of that, you wouldn’t really buy into the ending.

Oh, and the ending. I don’t like to give spoilers, but it’s pretty hot and has boobs in it. Overall, flawed but interesting.

Wayne’s World: A-
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/waynes_world/

This movie is anything but new, being released in 1992. But I recently rented it with a friend (and then forgot to return it to Scarecrow before leaving on my vacation — shit), so here I am.

A truly great comedy is rewatchable. Borat is a wonderful comedy, but I have trouble watching it more than two or three times, because the pace is a bit slow if you know what the jokes are going to be. I hate saying that, because I love Borat so much.

But by contrast, Wayne’s World is one of those movies you can dust off once or twice a year and still get a laugh out of it. This is Mike Myers and Dana Carvey at the top of their respective games, before Myers went all Shrek 3 on us and Carvey went … nowhere. My favorite character is Ed O’Neill (Al Bundy) as the psycho diner owner.

“Why is it that if you kill a man in the heat of battle, it’s called heroic; but if you kill a man in the heat of passion, it’s called murder?” — Ed O’Neill

Dec 18, 2007 movies:

Sherrybaby: B+

I have always liked Maggie Gyllenhaal, and in this one she plays a single mom who’s been in prison and on drugs, has neglected her young daughter, and is trying to get her life back together. I think I liked this movie a little more than it deserves, because it strongly reminded me of the struggles of my old friend Ursula, who has gone through almost exactly this set of stuff. Maggie even kind of looks like Ursula the way they did her up. It was kind of eerie. Anyway, the movie is slightly over-emotional, but that fits the subject matter. It has a strong lead performance by Gyllenhaal and never quite slows down enough to be boring. There’s a singing scene that almost lost me, but it is short and better than I expected. Solid work.

Oct 9, 2007 movies:

For Your Consideration: B+
I like Christopher Guest, and this one (like his other mockumentaries, such as This Is Spinal Tap and Best in Show) had several moments that busted me up. Not a spectacular film and some gags fell flat, but I solidly enjoyed it. Some great send-ups of Hollywood and all its head-up-its-ass pompousness.

Sep 15, 2007 movies:

Hot Fuzz: C-
I may have had too high of hopes for this one after loving Shaun of the Dead so much. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t all that funny. Parody by itself doesn’t work for me; you have to have actual jokes, too. Too many stretches of this one were pseudo-serious and actually focused on the movie’s (largely uninteresting) plot. By the end of the movie, they seem to have almost given up on the jokes altogether. I love the folks involved in this movie, and Brit-com usually slays me, but I was hoping for better here.

Knocked Up: B+
Pretty funny at times, but like the other Judd Apatow movies, it kind of becomes unfunny about halfway in and settles into resolving its plot. I got some good belly laughs out of it, and it was worth seeing. Probably better than Superbad overall. I got the Netflix unrated version, so I got to see the baby’s head “crowning” (poking out of the mommy’s hooha). Great.

Sep 15, 2007 movies:

The Italian Job: D-
Caught this one for the first time on Tivo. What a steaming pile of shit. Mark Wahlberg and Ed Norton usually make for a good watch, and hey, it’s got the Aeon Flux girl in it. But the movie is written by an 11-year old, and it has that bald dude who’s in all those terrible action B-movies such as “War” with Jet Li, and that guy is terrible. The plot has holes more gaping than the goatse man’s, the writing is terrible, and every scene is just an excuse to show a Mini Cooper (buy one today!) doing something “cool” like driving down stairs or off a conveniently-placed ramp. A shameless, crappy guy movie. Avoid.

The King of Kong: A
Saw this in the theater. A great documentary! The unintentional comedy rating is off the charts here. Look especially for the guy who talks about all the “DDG” (drop dead gorgeous) ladies who will be at the video game finals. LMAO! A must-see.

Sep 15, 2007 movies:

Amelie: A-
Great movie, well shot, well acted. A wonderful Frenchiness to it all. However, I’m concerned about the message this movie gives to young girls. “Mess with your man’s head, send him on wild goose chases and scavenger hunts. That’s how to land him.” Bleh. Don’t listen, girls! If you like us, just freaking say so.

Sep 4, 2007 movies:

Superbad: B+
Really funny for the first 20 minutes or so, but it sort of coasts another 65 minutes to its end. I didn’t really like the cop characters or the whole Mclovin joke, which was completely played out by the trailers and wasn’t that funny to begin with. Good dialogue and pretty decent acting from the young leads. But I still like 40 Year Old Virgin much better. I still haven’t seen Knocked Up…

Sep 2, 2007 movies:

Idocracy: F
This movie was absolutely fucking terrible. I’m upset about it. It’s made by Mike Judge of Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, and King of the Hill fame. It is the least funny “comedy” I have seen in years. Absolutely dreadful. Avoid at all costs. I really don’t understand the 67% fresh rating it got on RT:

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/idiocracy/

Sep 1, 2007 movie reviews:

I’ve been doing the Netflix thing a lot lately, especially since my surgery. I thought I might post extremely short reviews of some movies I’ve been watching:

Zodiac: B+
Good acting, well filmed and directed; solid story and characters. I love David Fincher and Jake Gyllenhaal. I hate Robert Downey Jr for some reason. Good movie, but probably not enough twists and action for me to want to see it a lot of times.

Napoleon Dynamite: A
I don’t care that it’s overdone. I love it.

Capote: B
Great performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, but it’s not a story I was very interested in. A bit overdramatic.

The Queen: Incomplete
I put this in the queue because it was supposedly good and won awards. I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I hate everything about the British royal family. I sent it back without even putting it in the player.

Lost in Translation: A+
I adore this movie. The mood it sets is phenomenal. And who’s sexier than Scarlett Johansson is in this flick? Schwing.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: A+
You’ve already seen it, so you already know why it is great. Women also love this movie. Don’t watch it with an ex unless you want a really awkward evening.

The Lookout: D+
Ugh. An overwrought, badly written piece of crud. Corny lines and characters, a predictable plot, and they ripped off Memento without any of the excitement or charm. Avoid this movie. Why did my man Richard Roeper say this was an “instant masterpiece?”

Scarface: B-
Good I guess, but why were these gangster movies so popular? They all have basically the same plot. And actors doing over-the-top fake accents always bother me, even if it is Pacino.

3 thoughts on “Reviews

  1. Marty Stepp Post author

    I have only seen bits and pieces. Isn’t that the one with Carey Elwes as Robin, and Dave Chapelle is in it, and Patrick Stewart is King Richard? Hah. Casting win.

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