There comes a time in everyone’s life where the sun, the beach, and enjoying the outdoors takes precedent whenever one feels they have an hour or two to spare. Such has been the case for me over the last few months, even if Chicago, and its often unmerciful weather, has attempted to hijack a weekend or two with its northerly wintry winds and stray summer showers. For these reasons, and maybe a couple of others I will not get into right now, I have abandoned my blog yet again.
During the past 3 slow months worth of blogging, I have seen many different films that have not enjoyed the benefit of a review. To try to catch up I offer a long collection of small reviews of most of the films I have watched in the last three months that did not get a review until now. A total of 24 films, a couple of which will get longer in-depth reviews. The highlights of the list are Weekend and Sunshine, both very different but very pleasant surprises.
I apologize in advance if this gets a little long. Enjoy:
The French Connection (1971)
Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey
Director: William Friedkin
Writers: Ernest Tidyman, Robin Moore (original novel), Howard Hanks
Rating: 3.5/5 (good)
Starring Gene Hackman in a now famous role as tough cop Jimmy Doyle, The French Connection is an intense thriller that takes place in the harsh New York winter of 1970.
Most of the success of the film is due to its intensity and realism, displaying some of the most exciting chase sequences ever put on film. These have surprisingly lost little of their power over time, feeling current even today (minus antiquated vehicles and fashion). The cast is also excellent, further enriching the well-crafted dynamic between cops, informants, low-lives and criminals. I just wish the film had focused less on the details and intricacies of case-solving and criminal chasing and more on character-building.
These are statistics, for as poor as they may seem, that are probably too flattering for the movie industry. Once you consider the fact that I tend to avoid films that seem a complete waste of my time (for audiences and critics alike), then you realize that even after you try to be selective, Hollywood makes sure that you’ll end up regretting your decision to sit and watch a movie.
Due to the unstoppable decay in the quality of films Hollywood puts out and my limited movie-goer budget, I have only sat in front of a big theater screen 6 times this year, spending around 6$ every time (and that is after a 5$ discount I get). The rest of the films released in 2011 I have rented, mostly from RedBox, which is where I have found the true garbage of Hollywood due to the tempting 1$ per night deal.
For my IMDB challenge, I usually resort to Netflix in the form of their instant online offerings or the one-at-a-time USPS movie rental that costs me 8.99 $ a month.
All in all, I probably spend 17 to 20 dollars a month in movies (monthly Netflix at 8.99$ + RedBox at 1$ for 2 to 4 movies a month + Movie Theater at 6$ for one film per month). The number goes up to around 105 to 120 $ for the first six months of the year. However, these numbers tend to be considerably higher as the movie offerings in the summer (blockbuster season) and Christmas (Oscar-worthy season) seem more appetizing and I find myself in the theater a bit more often.
Here is a quick recount of the movies I have seen this year starting from the worst and leaving the best for last (I may be missing one or two forgettable films). This could get long, so bear with me.
Just Go With It (Redbox rental – 1$): out the window goes my so-called “selective” nature on a night of boredom. Mind you, I would never pay to go into a movie theater if I see the name “Adam Sandler” associated with a film at any level. His movies have gone from the somewhat bad (earlier in his career) to the disgraceful status as of late. That his films do well at the box office is yet another testament to the poor taste of the average movie-goer (who is not to be confused with the avid movie-connoisseur). In any case, Sandler and his co-star Jennifer Anniston match perfectly in making horrible cinema with dumb-down plots, unfunny jokes, poor acting and a complete lack in making works or art.
Rating: 1 out of 5 (horrible)
I am Number Four (Redbox rental – 1$): In this case I was searching for a guilty-pleasure type movie and what I found was yet another mediocre film filled with gorgeous young Hollywood characters (not to say actors). Number Four is mildly entertaining here and there, but the concept is poor (not to say stupid), the effects are not convincing (not to say stupid), the acting is flat (not to say awful), the dialogue is pedestrian (not to say stupid) and the plot is a bunch of stuff put together by the minds of one or two nerds without much imagination and nothing better do.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 (very bad)
The Roommate (Redbox rental – 1$): some of you might have started to notice a pattern. Most of the movies that seem to be falling in the bad category come directly from RedBox and its tempting 1$ rental scheme. The Roommate starring Minka Kelly and Gossip-girl turned movie star Leighton Meester is wildly uncreative. I mean, how many times do we have to see films of young women going psycho-stalker for love, for acceptance or for friendship? There are elements that are acceptable in this film, like the explosions of violence and sexuality convincingly displayed by Meester. Besides all that, the cast surrounding the famous Gossip girl is flat-out awful, only servicing the film with their pretty faces and youthful exuberance.
Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)
The Green Hornet (Redbox rental – 1$): Another comedy by a slimmed-down Seth Rogen on a remake of the tv series that famously starred Bruce Lee as Kato, now played by Jay Chou. The biggest pleasure we can find in this movie is not in the dumb-down storyline and lackluster performances of big names like Cameron Diaz, but rather on the larger-than life role of the fabulous Christoph Waltz as the evil Chudnofsky. Everything else about this film is subpar and it would also be a waste of time to tell you precisely why that is.
Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)
Little Fockers (Redbox – 1$): The third installment of the famous pairing of Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro. All of the joys of the first two are now reused in this one with a bit less of the disaster-prone quality of Stiller and more of the obnoxious paranoia of an increasingly unlikable Jack (De Niro’s character). What seemed like comedic before, now seems repetitive and not very funny. The script seems to have been put together in about 5 seconds in detriment of less screen time for the always entertaining Barbra Streissand and Dustin Hoffman.
Rating: 2 out of 5 (bad)
Paul (Theater – 6$): It seemed like a risk to watch a movie about a rather common-looking Alien with human-like demeanor voiced by Seth Rogen. The risk proved true at times, but not at others. It is really not Rogen’s fault that he’s been so overexposed (although he should start saying no to scripts) instead it is a far too common problem in Hollywood to cash in on once cool and different actors/comedians and shove them down audiences throats so often that the effectiveness of films like Paul is significantly reduced. As for everything else, the movie resorted to the typical formula of road trip buddy type movie but with a slightly more nerdy, awkward and British pairing than we are used to seeing.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)
Insidious (Theather – 6$): Here is perhaps the best half hour to 45 minutes of film I have seen this year. Sadly, the movie didn’t know what to do with itself and it ended up ruining everything it had built so wonderfully at the beginning. The last half was as bad as the first half was suspenseful and incredibly terrifying. Once we begin to see what is truly happening and the film begins to take itself too seriously, we’re lost in a pointless and unsophisticated back-story that makes everything rather comical and unimpressive.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)
Thor (Theather – 6$): When it comes to superheros, Hollywood has been able to find ways, for years now, to profit from the inventive minds of the people at Marvel and other comic book publishers. Thor is yet another installment that follows the never-ending formula of the powerful brat that needs to learn within less than two hours of film how to become a great man and, in the process, fall in love with a girl he just met. Taking out the very unoriginal premise and the unconvincing twists that the story tries to provide, there are moments of humor and entertainment in Thor that make up for a good part of the absurdity.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (average)
Gnomeo & Juliet (RedBox – 1$): I had the feeling that this animated movie worked within all the expected parameters of a typical family film. It took a common story of the seemingly doomed and tragic romance and adapted it to a setting that we haven’t seen before: the garden gnome world. The film offers some clever humor and it manages to make fun of itself quite often, but it never tries to fully defy the expectations and go off the script to give us something truly original.
Rating: 3 out 5 (above average)
Kaboom (Theater – 6$): An indie film about a group of young students at a college where strange things happen. Kaboom is fresh, sexy and exciting for most of its running time, or until the mystery surrounding the group starts to take over the film. The cast was surprisingly apt and the stars were successful, for most of the time, to walk the fine line between characters that belong in comedic parodies and realism. As the movie progresses, so does the strange mystery and with that the movie loses its freshness and its grip, leaving me with the feeling they were trying to rush to an odd conclusion.
Rating: 3 out of 5 (above average)
Super 8 (Theater – 6$): The childish and innocent quality of Super 8 is the movie’s most interesting aspect. The young teenagers embodied their character with ability and talent. Their relationships are convincing, real and entertaining. A good part of the audience probably felt more identified than the rest as the movie tries to capture, rather successfully, the feel of suburban America in the late 70s to early 80s. As long as the movie focused on the talented Hollywood bunch it assembled, the film remained magical and untouchable. The movie loses its character as more stuff happens and we discover more and more about the mystery. Once again, director J.J. Abrams builds up our expectations too high to then be unable to match them with a rather tacky and expected ending.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (good)
Rango (Theater – 6$): Rango was a true piece of originality that is defined within the ancient formulas of Hollywood. We have a guy who does not know exactly what he is or where he belongs, faith has it that he is put in a very difficult situation, and when faced with adversity, our hero rises to the challenge unexpectedly and heroically. However, Rango gives us a richly detailed set of characters, an ever-formidable and complex central character voiced by Johnny Depp, and a context that feels familiar yet fresh and surprisingly beautiful. In many ways it is an animated Western that takes cues from all sorts of pop culture sources, which most of the time are effective comedic relief in a movie filled with adventure, political undertone and extremely detailed characterization.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (great)
Bridesmaids (Theater – 6$): I’ll keep it simple for what is the best movie I have seen this year. This is a incredibly hilarious film with jokes that feel modern, that don’t seem forced, and that stick every single time. There were entire scenes that had me laughing uncontrollably, and even after the movie had ended. The audience sitting with me in the theater applauded and seemed genuinely happier coming out than when they came in. This is what comedy is truly about. Bridesmaids sticks to the formula just enough to make it familiar, but it remains always clever and unpredictable in the direction and tone of its humor.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (excellent, a masterpiece of comedy, comfortably in my own personal TOP 250 films of all-time).