Omnibus Film Review: latter part of 06

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.

* Babel

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.

* Cars

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.

* Crank

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.

* Fearless

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.
Me: Not.

* 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.

* Scoop

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.
Me: Agreed.

* 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.

* Volver

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.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 12/31/2006 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    you see lots of films.

    glad to see someone else saw – and enjoyed – volver.

    under the right conditions, A Scanner Darkly is pretty amazing.

  2. Posted 1/1/2007 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Yeah! I loved Volver! But then I also loved Babel.
    Happy New Year, Alex!

  3. Posted 1/1/2007 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    You get what you deserve when you go see some of these films. (MI3? Puh-LEEZE!) My review of your reviews.

    Babel? If I’m going to pay $10 for a ticket and another $10 for 75 cents worth of popcorn and soda, the damned movie better be three hours.

    Borat? I’d sniff at it take the high road like you did, except I was too busy ROFL and at times almost PMP.

    Cars? You actually went to see that? Huh.

    Casino Royale? Am I the only person who missed this on the big screen?

    Clerks II? Did Leonardo make a Mona Lisa II? I gave it a pass.

    Departed? Jack: Go take a workshop with Johnny Depp and get yourself another character. Matt: Never thought I’d see the day when Leonardo Decaprio would act the pants off of you.

    Devil Wears Prada? This review would be dead on except Meryl Street somehow makes it work. (Where is A Prairie Home Companion on this list, by the way?)

    Illusionist? Yeah, you got it about right.

    An Inconvenient Truth? A rapturous sermon for the choir.

    Little Miss Sunshine? Documentaries about my family always make me squirm.

    Lucky Number Slevin? I know I saw it. Why can’t I remember anything except the weird, pseudo-70s set decor?

    Marie Antoinette? Kirsten Dunst is hot.

    Pirates II? Yarrgh.

    The Queen? Adored it.

    A Scanner Darkly? Alex, you’re just plain wrong about this one.

    Superman Returns? Good call to set it in the milleu of the original Superman flicks. But man, what was with the plot, or more specifically, the lack thereof? Lex Luthor’s making a new continent! EVERYBODY PANIC!

    V is for Vendetta? B is for Blah.

  4. Posted 1/30/2007 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Wow– you are like my distant twin when it comes to movies. I haven’t seen all of them, but your reviews are almost identical with my feelings except in two cases– A Scanner Darkly, which I didn’t think was great, but wasn’t bad either… and The Departed, which was OK, but WAY too long with WAY too much Jack Nicholson channeling The Joker…

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