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Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Man, July really flew! I can’t say that I missed it much; it was too hot to do much of anything. I will be happy to see some nice days in the ’80s, good for getting outdoors and stretching limbs. Hopefully we’ll get a few of those in August.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching a few movies.

Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead4 stars—this documentary started out rather badly with some terribly annoying animations that insulted my intelligence. Fortunately, they didn’t last long, and the story emerged of one man’s 60-day “fast” of consuming nothing but a green juice made from blended fruits and vegetables. He miraculously transforms and loses his mysterious illness. The second part of the movie runs more like an episode of The Biggest Loser, when the transformed man convinces a heavily obese truck driver to try to juice regimen, with good results. Overall, it was quite interesting. Even though I’m not thoroughly compelled to fast on green juice any time soon, there are some very convincing arguments for eating lots (and lots) of vegetables.

The Good Heart4.5 Stars—This movie had its flaws, but they were minor compared to the greatness of the story. You find yourself rooting for the crabby old man with the heart disease, even as you hate him for his meanness. The movie flows more like a novel than any other movie I’ve seen, with its character development, inclusion of cameo personalities (especially the animals), and the somewhat melodramatic but convincing drama of it all. Of all the movies I watched in July, this is the one I would recommend before all the others.

In the Realms of the Unreal4 Stars—I had seen this documentary before, but found it just as engrossing the second time around. It tells the story of a solitary old janitor in Chicago who dies shortly after his landlord discovers a wealth of intricate artwork and a 10,000-page novel that he has written in his lonely apartment. Dakota Fanning does not make for the best narrator, but the movie does a good job of keeping the subject matter interesting through animations of this true outsider artist’s extensive works.

The Fighting Seabees2 Stars—I’m willing to make concessions for old movies, but this one just didn’t have any of the redeeming class or humor that many other classics have. The ridiculous love story was the crowning setback, though the rest of the story wasn’t terribly interesting either. Feel free to skip this one!

X-Men: First Class2 Stars—I wasn’t expecting this movie to be much good, but it was actually less than entertaining. I like the X-Men series as a whole, and I appreciate the fact that this was a part of that bigger story, but this one just doesn’t come close to cutting it for me. Besides, there seemed to be a highly unnecessary amount of gratuitous strip-club scenes, which weren’t particularly appropriate for the two adolescents we had in tow.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine3.5 Stars—Contrarily, I wasn’t expecting much at all from this X-Men spinoff, but it ended up being quite good. At least, as far as comic book-based action flicks are concerned.

The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter3.5 Stars—This documentary is quite thorough, and admittedly very interesting due to the subject matter. However, it is extremely hard to follow whatever theme the director was going for—I never did understand what the whole “six degrees” thing was about. And there is a ton of added information that is completely irrelevant to the topic, which only confused me further. As far as documentary making goes, this director could use a little help.

The Orphanage2.5 Stars—I give this 2.5 stars mainly for the creepiness of the masked children involved, and the actual cleverness of the solution to the mystery near the end. And also because I prefer scary movies that aren’t very scary.

The King’s Speech4 Stars—This is a gorgeously made, glossy film that deserves every inch of the Best Picture it was awarded. However, such an expensive film also deserves a certain amount of criticism. I felt that the art direction in the movie was a tad too obvious—yes, I get it, someone is very proud of that artfully distressed wall used incessantly as a backdrop in every way possible in Logue’s office. I got tired of thinking about how good it looked in every shot. Otherwise, quite a good Hollywood drama.

Watership Down2.5 Stars—I enjoyed the animation style, but I think this story has way, way more potential than what this film did for it. I would love to see this one redone in a less Cliff-Notes style.

The Way We Get By4 Stars—This is a documentary about old people who find their purpose in their late lives by greeting soldiers at the airport as they return from their tours of duty overseas. It’s charming and heartfelt, and doesn’t lose focus of the elderly personalities it is striving to capture. I braced myself for those depressing informative captions they always put at the end of documentaries, because I was sure it was going to tell me about who died and whatnot, but the captions were quite pleasant, like the rest of the movie.

This Is England4 Stars—I don’t know why I thought this movie was going to be cute and charming, kind of like Son of Rambow—the first 20 minutes or so kind of is. But then it just gets more and more tense and violent as the story wears on. The cinematography is beautiful, and the story is unique and compelling—my only complaint is that there are no subtitles, and it’s really freaking hard to follow the story line when you can’t figure out what anyone is saying. Even if they are speaking English.

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I’m shocked that June is already past. It seems like just last week I was writing about the small selection of movies we had watched in May. According to my further lack of movie-watching activity, it would seem that June was an even busier and more preoccupied month for me. I blame this on starting a new job, blogging, getting back into yoga twice a week, lots of ebay selling, and pickles.

Perhaps my goal for July should be to slow down and take it easier—to have better movie recommendations to make come August 1st. 🙂

Here’s last month’s selections, and my thoughts on each.

Pumping Iron—3.5 Stars—for a documentary about body-building made back in Arnold’s prime (1977), this movie was pretty decent. It shows the grace and poise of bodybuilding, as well as the brute force and fierce competition. It kept my interest and makes Arnold look kind of like a jerk, so I’ll give it a 3.5.

Paperboys—2.5 Stars—This is one of the most mediocre documentaries I’ve seen. It was short, which was nice, but didn’t really have much of a point to it. We met and learned about several adolescent boys who were still practicing the dying art of newspaper delivery in the year 2000. It had potential, as far as documentary subjects are concerned, but ended up being less than insightful.

The Thing—3.5 Stars—This was actually one of the best movies I watched in June. I was expecting a totally cheesy ’80s flick complete with bad acting and campy special effects, but I was pleasantly surprised with a movie that was actually quite well made. I thought the ending was anti-climactic, but it was an enjoyable watch overall. I may have to get in another John Carpenter movie this month. Any suggestions?

Highlander—3 Stars—I’ve been trying to convince Jeff that the television series is way better than the movie version. Perhaps you all can help me out on that one. As it is, I have to give this movie 3 stars for its originality as far as the sci-fi genre is concerned.

Touching The Void—3.5 Stars—I’ve been spoiled by watching tv shows like “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”, so this survivalist documentary fell a bit flat for me. It was very a very interesting story, and an amazing feat of survival, but lacked the sensationalism I’ve come to expect from the telling of such a story. I can’t really blame the movie for that one, though.

Dogtooth—1 Star—I am very open minded when it comes to film appreciation—but I disliked this movie very much. Then again, I think that the movie is supposed to be disturbing, so I’m tempted to give it more credit for that. But I won’t. Don’t watch it, please.

Miller’s Crossing—3 Stars—Truth be told, we didn’t quite finish this one. It wasn’t that it was a bad movie, it’s just that we watched only half of it one night, then forgot about it for about two weeks til we finally just sent it back. I guess that says more about how we liked the movie than any star rating could.

After the Wedding—4 Stars—This was a good drama. I would say it’s not excellent, but it’s worth a watch. I vaguely remember that there was something that I felt critical about, but I can’t remember it now, so I guess it wasn’t horrible.

So there you have it: my highly mediocre movie-going experience as of late. We’re kicking off July with The King’s Speech, so I’m expecting great things this month.

Now to update my queue…any recommendations???

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Movies have always been a big part of my life. As a child I had my favorite animated films from which I can still recite entire scenes by memory. Also as a child, we’d often gather around the tv with a big roasting pan full of popcorn and some classic war movies. Some of my most vivid memories include perusing the VHS stock at the local video store (they gave out free popcorn and had a sign that read “park in rear,” which I thought was funny).

Movie marathons were a big part of my adolescent years. My sisters and I would raid Blockbuster every other night for an entire summer, bringing home three or four movies at a time and staying up all night to watch them. While living with my best friend’s family during high school, we would find devious ways to get our fill of all the movies that were forbidden to us (which was anything harder than a PG, and even some PGs too). There was always that need to see, and hear, and experience those other worlds. And sometimes there was that need to experience it for 6-8 hours in a row.

In order to have a successful movie marathon, you need to plan to watch at least three movies. Otherwise it’s just a plain old Movie Night. To keep things interesting, it’s important to mix your genres. As young girls, we’d typically choose a drama, an animated flick, and a romantic comedy of some sort. Sometimes we’d throw in some action or a war movie for variety. It’s important to watch a serious movie first, so that it can be followed by something upbeat. Half way through the third movie, it’s okay to start nodding off. Especially if it’s a romantic comedy.

These days I still have the energy and attention span for the occasional movie marathon. Things have changed, though. Instead of drama, Disney, chick flick, I end up with something more like documentary, foreign film, indie flick. And instead of the tactile experience of stocking up at the video store, I just watch whatever came in a little red envelope in the mail that day, or whatever is streaming online. And as an adult I get more excited about eating junk food for a few hours than the actual movie watching (oddly enough). No, movie marathons won’t ever be quite what they used to be.

But they are still fun, even if I do end up falling asleep before 10.

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With the work of gardening, cooking, blogging, reading, and enjoying nice weather when it happens, we haven’t had the chance to watch as many movies lately as we usually do. These are our May selections, accompanied by my moderately harsh criticisms. (Stars given are out of 5 total, btw.)

***

Dear Zachary—5 Stars—Wow. Just…Wow. This could easily be the most gut-wrenching and heart-breaking documentary I have ever seen. Of all these movies, this is the one you should watch. Keep the tissues handy.

127 Hours—3.5 Stars—This movie was surprisingly entertaining. In fact, I think that was one of its drawbacks for me. I was hoping to get more of a stuck-in-a-canyon-going-out-of-my-mind kind of feeling. A little more tediousness, please.

Kick-Ass—2 Stars—I was only mildly entertained by this movie. It’s meant to be completely over the top, but it just didn’t do it for me.

Before The Rain—3.5 Stars—This movie starts out really cool, but then switches gears into something far less interesting. And, I get the whole “circle is not round” theme, but I don’t think that justifies a cyclical time frame that just doesn’t make sense.

All the Days Before Tomorrow—1 Star—The description sounded really cute, but it ended up being dreadfully obnoxious. The characters were extremely annoying. The lack of story bored us. And the worst part? nobody changed. We celebrated when it ended.

The Twilight Zone Season 1—4.5 Stars—An oldie but a goodie. We’re only about 12 or so episodes into the first season, but they are strangely addictive. The cinematography can’t be beat, and I like the short-story feel and ’50s morality. Plus, it’s been making us have the strangest dreams.

Good Neighbors, Season 1—3.5 Stars—I’m not big on ’70s British comedies, but this one is pretty cute. Just when you think the husband is being a complete ass, his wife yells at him. While somewhat satisfying, this can get old, so I don’t know if I will bother to rent the next season.

The Pleasure of Being Robbed—3 Stars—This artsy movie follows a pick-pocket through NYC on her daily routine. It’s somewhat interesting, definitely very indie, and the main character is endearing. Unfortunately it lacks much of a story and gets tedious.

Billy Elliot—4 Stars—I love this movie for the soundtrack more than anything else. The story is cute too. I’ve seen this enough times that I should really own it by now.

The Shining—4.5 Stars—Not my favorite Kubrick, but definitely a good one (aren’t they all?). And I sometimes relate to certain scenes when anyone distracts me while I’m trying to blog 🙂

Deliverance—4.5 Stars—One of the rare occurrences when I like a movie more than the book. That says a great deal for any movie.

***

June starts off with a movie marathon tonight, so be sure to check back for this month’s reviews! Happy June everyone!

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My Affair With Netflix

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One year ago I was introduced to the world of Netflix. I was skeptical at first, and out of curiosity one day got on the site just to see if they would have anything worthwhile. Within minutes I was signed up with my own account, already clicking “Add to Queue” repeatedly and anticipating my first arrivals. I was just too impatient to wait, and started devouring some films that were available for viewing online. Pure joy.

Since then Netflix has gotten $224.55 from me. And since then I have seen 114 films on my account. At less than $2 per movie, I’d say that, if nothing else, Netflix is a deal. But, for someone like me, who loves movies and film, it amounts to a great deal more. It’s instant access to some pretty darn obscure films. It’s exposure to actors and directors and genres that I never knew existed. It’s Christmas, several times a week, delivered right into your mailbox and waiting to be unwrapped when you get home from a long day. It is, in two words, Pure Awesomeness. And, to indulge myself in honor of my one-year anniversary with one of the latest loves of my life (that would be you, Netflix), I have compiled a list of short reviews of every Netflix movie I have seen on my OWN account since the day I handed over my debit card number. I don’t expect anyone to read through all of these, but hopefully I will be able to share some small part of the wonderful and frequent cinematic discoveries that I have made in these past twelve months. Enjoy, as I did!

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My Netflix Queue, in Roughly Chronological Order, Starting September of 2008.

Alice—7.5 stars—It’s not for everyone, but I have a soft spot for creepy ass short-stop animation. This one certainly fits the bill, and almost a year later I can still recall some pretty vivid images from this film. I could see myself watching it again and bumping it up a star or two.

Confessions of a Superhero—9 stars—This is a funny, sad, and intriguing documentary about people who dress up as superheroes and pose with tourists for money. Superman takes the cake in this one. It’s a hilarious film, but sobering in many aspects. It is unique and excellent as far as documentary is concerned.

Hell House—6.5 stars—This documentary focuses on a “haunted house” that is orchestrated each year by a Christian church who acts out scenes of sins that are sure to send a person to hell. You can just imagine. It’s entertaining, and you will enjoy it more if you like to be disgusted by religious fundamentalists. However, there is something about the quality of the documentary that keeps me from giving it more stars…maybe it is the exploitative aspect of the film, or the simple fact that I can’t really remember whether I liked it that well or not.

Dan In Real Life—1 star—I hated this movie so much that I became violent. If you don’t believe me ask my ex. J Maybe I’m too much of a prude to appreciate it, but it wasn’t funny, it was just creepy and pathetic. And no verisimilitude whatsoever.

I’m Not There—9.5 stars—I knew virtually nothing about Dylan before I saw this movie. Maybe that’s why I loved it so much. This movie won’t give you much in the way of bibliographical facts, but it will give you a fantastic insight into the many aspects of this man’s personality.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill—9 stars—Clearly my taste in films is biased…anything having to do with animals will inevitably gain more stars. This one is a bit slow, but it’s cute and quaint, and was delightful and entertaining to watch (for me anyway). There are some parts of it that are not quite fully fleshed out, though I don’t mind being allowed to formulate my own opinion about a couple of the people in this doc. Also, anthropomorphism always irritates me, but here it’s just so dang cute that it can’t be avoided.

King of Kong—9 stars—I’ve seen this a few times, and it’s a win every time! You will definitely get sucked into the story of the protagonist, whether you are aware of the gaming world or not. It’s funny, it’s real (oh so real), and the villain is just too good. If you want a thoroughly entertaining documentary to waste two hours of your time, this is it.

Stone Reader—9 stars—It seems that I am biased toward documentaries as well. But this one is about BOOKS. Not only that, it’s about literature. It’s about people who love literature and words and language. It’s discussions of a literary nature, with a background story of investigation and finding a skilled author who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. And it has lots of books in it.

(more…)

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