Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie Review Backlog

So having been burned out at the beginning of the year with non-stop Oscar anticipation and borderline required viewing, my January & February reviews have become a bit backed up. I'm not going to do absolutely complete reviews but since I mainly do these things to keep track in my own head, I figured some catch-up was in order.

First up:

He's Just Not That Into You:
There is little surprising about this predictable romantic comedy, yet I went to see it twice.
I don't know if that was because I found the story so absorbing or because I find Bradley Cooper
and Justin Long so ridiculously adorable (I'm pretty sure we all know the answer to this one) but
in all reality the story isn't that bad. He's Just Not That Into You seems to imagine itself to be
the American version of Love Actually; it's not that good. There are plot twists that most thinking
people should see coming a mile away but don't let the transparency keep you from what turns out
to be kind of a fun ride.

This is the story of 9 people (4 guys and 5 girls) whose lives are criss-crossing and whose coupling is
a combination of happenstance and careful audience manipulation. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Connolly
are the married couple renovating a townhouse; Kevin Connelly and Scarlett Johansson are the on-again-off-again
couple whose off-again streak seems to be longer than usual these days; Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston are
the live-ins with no engagment in sight, much to Aniston's dismay (oddly enough Ben Affleck seems to have a
problem with commitment. I know, so unlike a man, right?!); while Justin Long and Ginnifer Goodwin
are the central force around which our other stories orbit, as the resident singles looking for (or purposefully
avoiding) love; while Drew Barrymore is the hapless single with no luck in sight.

I know I'm referring to all of these people by their real names instead of their character names, but that's
my biggest issue with this movie. The characters are such caricatures of themselves and some of the cast
is so famous that its kind of difficult to separate the two. In particular, Ginnifer Goodwin's character became slightly
annoying (around the 2 minute mark) and increasingly annoying until about 2/3 of the way through you go
"oh I feel really bad for her, that was extremely harsh" (an idea which is made all the more acknowledged when the
mainly female audience goes "ooohhh..." as if to say "been there felt like that"). She's like a comic book character
trying to be a real girl. She does EVERY WRONG thing possible, until she starts to be that person that
the audience is talking back to on screen ("don't do THAT"..."what...why would she say/think that?") or maybe it was just
me not wanting to see a little piece of myself in her desperation.

All in all though, it's a pretty satisfying movie, especially on those nights when you're sitting at home
drowning your sorrows in ice cream and debating whether or not to Facebook stalk that dude that you
met at that party that one time who think might or might not have been into you.

Overall 3 out of 5 voicemails (that you know you've listened to a MILLION times)

Second Up:

The International:

I'm pretty heavily into conspiracy theory movies, and I tend to lean towards believing the conspiracy
most of the time. That being said, I was predisposed to like this one; the only thing is I didn't love it.
I mean, it's no JFK, but it is a pretty solid film. Clive Owen is reliable as always, playing an Interpol
agent trying to bring down THE world banking conglomerate. Along for the ride is Naomi Watts,
whose talents I think go slightly to waste in the sidekick role.

It's a well-cast action/thriller that has the misfortune of being released in February. In the case of the
film calendar, I would normally say that anything released between January and April will probably
be nothing to remember, and this one will be forgotten as well, which is a shame. I tend to think
that this film hits a little closer to home about the state of the world than most people would like to
think, but whether or not people agree with the premise, this one is definitely worth a rent when it comes
out on dvd.

Overall 3 out of 5 car chase scenes

Next on this Movie Train:

Friday the 13th:
I don't think that I would call myself a "fan" of the slasher genre, but I do recognize that it's had quite an impact on
my generation, as long with undergoing some pretty severe changes in the last decade or so. With that being
said, I'm trying to give some credit to those originators of the genre (mainly Friday the 13th and Halloween, I still refuse
to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre since I'm pretty sure Leatherface would give me nightmares for years to come).
I'm also usually dubious about remakes which really makes this a double whammy of "should be crap".

So I went into this none too hopeful. To my surprise, it wasn't crap. The casting is decent and it's close
enough to the spirit of the original that there is little to bicker about. I feel as if the changes made
actually enhance the story a bit (knowing how Jason's been living, where he got his mask, the fact that
he doesn't move like a constipated zombie anymore) and make it a more complete vision.

The plot is thin, as these usually are, with teenagers congregating for no reason except to make it easier
for Jason to kill as many as possible with as little effort as needed. But with that being said, there
still manages to be a few surprises and scares. While there is some slashing going on, the character of Jason
has become so iconic and nostalgic that this feels more like old-school horror than new-school torture-porn; an
homage to the 80s.

It's nothing groundbreaking, and it's not even completely original, but it's more enjoyable than a remake
should be.

Overall: 3 out of 5 hockey sticks to go with that mask.

Last stop on the Movie Express:

Let The Right One In:

This was one that I wanted to see when it was released last year, alas, it took until February for
a theater around here to actually play this fantastic and fantastically foreign film. This is the story of
a lonely boy, Oskar, who is bullied at school, and neglected at home. He lives in a stark white world
with little to occupy his time except thoughts of revenge on the bullies that are the bane of his
school existence.
That is until a mysterious girl shows up on his playground. There is something not entirely wrong but
not entirely right with Oskar's new playmate, Eli. She only comes around to hang out at night and there
is cardboard over windows, but despite all of her oddities, Oskar finds himself unable to ignore
her; as the audience, we're under her spell too.
I don't want to give too much away, for anyone who doesn't know the plot line, but suffice it to say
that despite any ideas you might have about this movie, it will go against everything you're thinking.
This is a movie that is simple and simply amazing. It's a technical masterpiece, with not a single shot
going to waste. Even the barren Swedish winter takes on a beauty and the cinematography should
have been far more celebrated than it was this year in the film industry. The tension is razor sharp,
and it juxtaposes flawlessly with the simple, innocent love shared between the two young leads.
It really is all about the two young leads who are endearing, terrifying, sympathetic and never out
of their depth. I find very little to complain about with this one, in fact maybe nothing, with the exception
of CGI cats.

4.5 out of 5













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