Here are some movies I’ve seen, and what I thought of them. The short version: it’s been a good year for action flicks, and some of the films released over the last few weeks have been top notch.
Critics: Unpredictable and complex.
Me: Had its moments, could be edited into a decent film. Too bad it wasn’t. What’s with the Golden Globe nods?
* Borat: CLOAFMBGNOK
Critics: Base, but endlessly amusing.
Me: Not! One note, and not a particularly great one. Amusing in places, but easily forgettable.
Critics: Makes NASCAR cute.
Me: Would love to like this, but didn’t. Boring.
* Casino Royale
Critics: Best Bond since Thunderball.
Me: Best Bond ever. And thank god for fight scenes that look reasonably real, mated with “le parkour” that stretches belief. Ditch the Texas Holdem’.
* Children of Men
Critics: “…may be something of a bummer, but its the kind of glorious bummer that lifts you to the rafters.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Me: This is one of those pieces of fiction that really allows for us to more easily see reality. It’s hard to see the treatment of refugees here and not be reminded of our own xenophobia, and the acceptance of authoritarianism as part of our everyday existence. But more importantly, this is a really well shot, engaging chase film.
* Clerks II
Critics: As good, and as bad, as the original.
Me: This is like a lot of the action movies on this list: but the dialog is the action sequence. Some of these are really good, and some are not so great. The plot is just there as a conveyance for the dialog. Same can be said of the characters. Still a fun movie to watch, but not Chasing Amy.
Critics: Mindless entertainment.
Me: But delivers well. Had low expectations for this one, and was pleasantly surprised. Great action B-movie.
* Curse of the Golden Flower
Critics: Not sure whether this is intended to be taken seriously–but probably not
Me: Beautiful looking, and the story was nearly there, but not quite.
* The Departed
Critics: Best Scorsese since Goodfellas.
Me: Nicely put-together little crime story. Feels a little too rote in places, but charming nonetheless.
* The Devil Wears Prada
Critics: Sharp and funny.
Me: Soulless and superficial–satire failed to come through. Guess you had to have read the book.
* District B13
Critics: Adrenaline rush, though it doesn’t make sense.
Me: Excellent heart-in-your throat action flick.
* Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Critics: Random races chained together: blah.
Me: Random races chained together. OK. Needed less dialogue, and there wasn’t much as it was.
Critics: Corny, predictable, but well done.
Me: Outstanding: Jet Li at his best. Not the perfect MA film, but right up there.
* Grizzly Man
Critics: “A brilliant portrait of adventure, activism, obsession and potential madness that ranks among helmer Werner Herzog’s strongest work.” – Scott Foundas, and he’s not alone.
Me: Just grizzly. Not watchable, despite the bears. Herzog should do Hasselhoff next.
* The Illusionist
Critics: Pleasant, but not too deep.
Me: Liked how it fit together. A little claustrophobic in places, but good storytelling. Giamatti is excellent, as is Norton.
* An Inconvenient Truth
Critics: Amazingly powerful talk.
Me: Wow. Only wish I could put together something this engaging in my own talks. Just excellent, and well captured on film.
* The Lake House
Critics: Way too much disbelief in need of suspending.
Me: See Nacho Libre. (No, not literally.)
* Little Miss Sunshine
Critics: Sweet and scrappy little film.
Me: Really funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Maybe the best of the year.
* Lucky Number Slevin
Critics: Too smart for its own good and not very believable.
Me: Thought this came together really well. Hard-boiled in the reflexive sort of way. Charming.
* Marie Antoinette
Critics: They walked out at Cannes, US critics were kinder.
Me: You’re only as good as your last film. What’s with the sneakers? What a waste of a set.
* Mission Impossible III
Critics: Highly improbable.
Me: Why are you doing that. It doesn’t make sense. Quit it.
* My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Critics: Uma is hot, but film is formulaic.
Me: Uma is hot, at least it’s better than Superman Returns.
* Nacho Libre
Critics: Campy, but not in a good way.
Me: Bad enough to not watch on an airplane.
* Nanny McPhee
Critics: Mixed reviews: some said it was too “mechanical.”
Me: Surely no Lemony Snicket but a nice little film.
* Pan’s Labyrinth
Critics: “t’s not only one of the great fantasy pictures but one of the great end-of-childhood elegies.” -Stephanie Zacharek, Salon
Me: Really very good film. I approve. Shows that the worst horrors are not in our imaginations. Though I never though fauns were quite so into hierarchies and rules.
* Pirates of the Caribbean: DMC
Critics: As good as the first one.
* The Prestige
Critics: Absorbing and twisty.
Me: What twist? Can you telegraph it any more(?). Not Nolan’s best, I think. It had a few moments, but I’m ready for the next Batman. Second best 19th century magician rivals movie this year. Worth it to see Bowie as Tesla, though.
* The Protector
Critics: “The elephants featured in The Protector have more personality than the star, which is a real problem.” – Jeff Vice
Me: If you are already a Jaa fan, or if you don’t know Jaa, but liked Jet Li, Jackie Chan, or Bruce Lee, this is the movie to see. Not much plot, but does a great job at connecting some virtuosi fight scenes.
* Pursuit of Happyness
Critics: Earnest but unremarkable.
Me: Wanted to like this film, and it had some moments. Big fan of Smith, but it was pretty saccharine and easily forgettable.
* The Queen
Critics: Adored it.
Me: Thought it was slow and boring, though the acting was good, and the composition was good, and the Corgis were cute, it wasn’t enough to get me interested.
* A Scanner Darkly
Critics: True to Dick.
Me: Made me motion sick. Less than good.
Critics: Doesn’t really come together.
Me: Amazingly forgettable; I almost forgot to include it here.
* Stranger Than Fiction
Critics: Mostly positive, some say it is over-self-important.
Me: Was worried because it was so over-advertised, but really liked this a lot. Wish they had gone with the “French ending” (by cutting the last 5-10 minutes) and there were some more interesting ways they could have taken the ending without lopping it off. But it was very good.
* Superman Returns
Critics: As good as Spiderman 2 and Batman Begins.
Me: Wish he hadn’t.
* Thank you for smoking
Critics: Smart satire.
* Who Killed the Electric Car?
Critics: Exciting story of the auto industry.
Me: Feels unbalanced in places, but still tells an undertold story very well.
* X-Men: The Last Stand
Critics: Talky. Overkill. Flashy.
Me: It’s really OK, if this is the last one, after-credits epilogue notwithstanding.
* V for Vendetta
Critics: Beautiful nonsense.
Me: The visuals really are striking, and it is an entertaining film. Not the best, but looking forward to seeing it again.
Critics: “You do not want to miss this one.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Me: I like Almodovar’s other films, but really enjoyed this one especially. Never thought much of Cruz until this movie.