Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Movies - The Middle

All right - I spoke too soon with my bottom 10. I saw War Horse today, and I thought it was pretty crappy. I think it's because I'm not refined enough to spot an amazing horse when I see one. And everyone in the movie sees the horse and remarks that it's an amazing horse. And the camera lingers on the people looking at the horse. Picture any Spielberg movie and you know it exactly. The camera pans across or up the expressions of those watching the amazing horse. And yes, I know I used the phrase "amazing horse" many, many times. So did the movie. And this is what I kept thinking:

Something else I forgot yesterday when I wrote about Sherlock Holmes is my recommendation for some good Sherlock.Check out the BBC Sherlock, which takes in modern times. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch, who was in both movies I saw today, and Martin Freeman, who was Tim in the BBC Office and will be Bilbo Baggins in a year. It's really good, and the second season starts tomorrow - if you live in the UK. We yanks have to wait until May.

So here's everything else I saw this year, with some brief comments about them. These are in chronological order of my viewing.

Blue Valentine
It cuts back and forth between the beginning and end of this couple’s relationship. It’s all about Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, who are both great. You love the couple as the fall in love. You hate the couple as they fall out of love.

Barney’s Version
I watched this because I’m a Paul Giamatti  fan. The smaller pictures that he makes often have interesting scripts and/or ideas, even when I don’t like them. Cold Souls is an example. This one was pretty good.

Rabbit Hole
Emotional and difficult. Meh.

The Illusionist 
A movie that I think I might enjoy more if I had known more about Jacques Tati. I think it’s the kind of movie that I would probably appreciate more on repeated viewings.

Cedar Rapids
Some funny stuff. Worth a rental.

What was the last Pixar movie that didn’t win Best Animated Feature? Cars. With Cars II as this year’s Pixar movie (and it wasn’t very good), Rango has a good chance of winning. It was lots of fun and a decent story, too.

Adjustment Bureau
I liked this quite a bit. I thought the idea was all right, and I stayed interested all the way through. Check it out.

Cool nerd humor - fun.

The Lincoln Lawyer
I was surprised that I actually liked it, and possibly more surprised that I actually went to see a Matthew McConaughey movie. Not a bad plot with some decent twists.

Source Code
I would like watching this as a double feature with Adjustment Bureau. Cool idea nicely done. Biggest problem? The trailer gives too much away. However, not everything.

The Conspirator
I was hoping for a cool Lincoln movie to offer for extra credit. It's not worth showing in class (and with Glory, I don't need another Civil War movie). It was all right, but I'm not sure there is really enough for a full feature film. A lot of the drama seemed forced.

Win Win
Another Paul Giamatti movie, and I liked this a lot more that Barney's Version. Good movie.

I liked it quite a bit. I thought the Asgard scenes looked great, and the casting of Thor and Loki were spot on.

Everything Must Go
Very cool little movie. Will Farrell is not typical Will Farrell, which is a good thing (unless it's Anchorman).

13 Assassins
Watch it for the last half, which is one long ass kicking. This is how to film action - actually have stars with skills instead of quick edits.

Way overrated, but still funny.

X-Men: First Class
Big surprise for me. Placing in the 60's was a great idea.Comic book movies taking place in their original time period worked twice this year.

Kung Fu Panda 2
Very forgettable.

Super 8
This was an homage to late 70s/early 80s Spielberg movies. The interactions among the kids reminded me of The Goonies, and to me that's a good thing. It's a cool, fun story.

The Beaver
Deals with depression in a different way, and I liked it. Somehow, Mel Gibson's recent shenanigans might have helped the movie.

The Art of Getting By
I accidentally saw this one (?), and it's not very good. But there were a few parts that felt very real to me, so I left it off my bottom 10. There's some potential that those involved can make a better movie.

The Trip
I liked it a lot. However, it's the edited version of a six episode BBC series. After watching it, it's easy to see that is how it's meant to be seen. I would recommend you wait until the series is available then watch in chunks.

Horrible Bosses
Silly, but there's some really funny stuff in it. The three leads are pretty good.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop
Really interesting to watch his interactions with fans, and more interesting to see him comment about them afterwards.

Really good movie about almost nothing. I wonder how much I liked it just because it focuses on the A's record win streak and I went to a couple of those game. Plus, this shows that I can like Brad Pitt movies.

Strange, and kind of cool. Watch it if you want to see something really different, and something you might not like.

Ides of March
I went to two Ryan Gosling movies in a row. Drive was better, but this was an interesting look at behind the scenes of politics. I didn't feel like it really went anywhere, though, and was unsatisfied with the third act.

Really good love letter to movies. Some really cool looks at how movies were made. It's the second best movie about early movies currently in theaters.

My Week with Marilyn
Michelle Williams is great. I liked this way to show a famous person - a week in her life - as opposed to the biopic.

Young Adult
Snappy dialogue and good ideas. Patton Oswalt is great and deserves an Oscar nom.

The Adventures of Tintin
It's fun and overall a big OK. Biggest disappointment? John Williams score should have been a lot more fun and identifiable. It's the type of movie that he should have nailed, giving a theme to the main characters that we could easily identify. The opening credits music was cool, though.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
This is a series that has actually gotten better. The first was OK, the second a disaster. The last two, however, have had some fun sequences. In this one, the fake wall down the corridor and the tower in Dubai stood out. Brad Bird is legit.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
I started reading the book a few weeks ago and I'm having trouble getting into it. The same with the movie. I liked the last half much more than the setup, so there's hope for my reading.

Tomorrow, I have three runners-up for the top 10 list, then I'll have the beginners of the list. See you in 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Quick thoughts about 2011

2011 will go down in history as the year that I was told by a coworker that a bowl of boiling water looked good, and not in a sarcastic/ironic/silly way. Seriously.

The funniest thing I saw in theaters this year wasn’t a movie. It was a Sprite commercial. If you go the movies half as much as I do, you might have seen this gem. In it, Drake is ready to record, but he’s “just not feelin’ it.” Because what he does requires raw emotion. The emotion you can only get… from Sprite. So after looking sad, he drinks some Sprite. The Sprite turns him into a robot, enters his body and rearranges his very DNA! After the Sprite surges through his body, Drake gets pissed at the microphone and yells into it, “Last name Evew, first name gweatest.” That’s what he was waiting for. That’s what we were all waiting for. And for the first few times I saw it, I didn’t even notice the funniest part, which is his lyric at the end “Like a sprained ankle I aint’ nothin to play with.” That’s hilarious.

So what was the worst song of 2011? If you said “Friday,” you’re wrong. It’s too funny and entertaining to be the worst. It’s actually a tie.  First is J. Cole’s “Work Out.” He makes the brilliant choice to not just sample, but totally incorporate Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” Take a bad song and make it shittier. Wasn’t that a discarded Beatles lyric? And then there’s this obnoxious four note auto-tuned “Doot doo doo doooooo” that repeats over and over. It makes my ears bleed MC Skat Kat’s blood. Interestingly, J. Cole’s beard is shaped like an hourglass that’s about to run out. It must be nice to have a career indicator on your face.

And the tie for worst song is Lil’ Wayne’s shitfest “How to Love.” My theory is that Lil’ Wayne must be a necrophiliac because his version of love is boring someone to death, apparently to make love to their bored ass. Seriously, someone forgot to wake him up for the first few minutes of the song. And then he gets excited for a few seconds as he repeats the word crook seemingly 27 times in a row. I yell at the radio for him to stop saying “crooks,” and then he falls back to sleep for the rest of the song. And we all learn how to love.

It’s funny because Drake, J. Cole, and Lil’ Wayne made an impacted ass load of money for that crap while the delicious bowl of boiling water got nothing but oatmeal dumped into it.

2011 Movies - the bottom 10

It's time to start writing about the 2011 movies. So first, for those of you new to this, here are the rules (and those of you not new, skip to the next paragraph). I see a lot of movies in the theaters. While I have my Netflix and big ass TV, it still doesn't compare to the theater experience. In 2010, I saw 58. As of this writing, I've seen 55, though I have one day left of 2011. Beginning on January 1 and continuing for 10 days (sequential days not guaranteed), I will countdown my 10 favorites. Before that, I want to briefly write about the rest of the movies I have seen.

Please feel free to disagree and tell me I'm wrong. If you liked a movie I hated, let me know. If you hated a movie I liked, tell me why. One request - please comment publicly instead of emailing me. Even if you are anonymous, that's cool.

Today I'm going to write about the bottom of my list. These are the movies that I didn't care for. It's in the order that I saw them, with the exception of the worst which I saved for the end.

Another Year was an Oscar contender for Best Original Screenplay. The screenplay put me to sleep. Literally. I fell asleep at points in the theater. And for those who know me, sleeping isn't easy. I suppose I should buy this movie to cure my insomnia.

Biutiful was an Oscar contender for Best Foreign Film and Best Actor for Javier Bardem. He was very good, but the movie was just too long at 148 minutes. Cut out at least half an hour and I might have better things to say.

Here's what The Hangover Part II felt like. As a teacher, I occasionally assign projects. The idea is that the crappy kids will do some of the reading and learn some stuff, then apply it to the poster/brochure/whatever. And a few of the kids actually do the work beforehand. But most of them don't. They just goof off until the last minute then throw together some kind of crappy art type thing that is maybe related to the topic. Their focus was on the art, and it shows little to know new knowledge gained. And this is why I rarely give these projects. But I still do, and that's why I have a pile of half-assed (though I doubt it's even that much) Lewis and Clark posters in my classroom. I'll get nothing new from looking at most of them, and the kids learned nothing new from making them. And when I actually grade them next week, it will be a lot like watching The Hangover Part II.

The Green Lantern was just a disappointment all around. Here's a character whose powers have been begging for a big budget release ever since CGI became legit. And what did we get instead? Ryan Reynolds doing a bad impersonation of The Greatest American Hero while learning to fly and a villain that actually looks worse than Spawn's Malebolgia. The best thing I can say about it is that it set up a pretty good idea for a sequel, but only if it's make by completely different people.

I liked a lot of Crazy, Stupid, Love. But a few things really rubbed me the wrong way. From a movie point of view, it lacks focus. It's trying to do too many things, both in plot and in tone. From a real point of view, I don't like the way it approaches some of the relationships that cross inappropriate age differences. There are ways that can be handled, and I thought they hit them in the wrong tone.

Our Idiot Brother has a simple sin. The main character, the title character, isn't too interesting, and therefore the things that happen to him aren't too interesting. I forgot too much of this too quickly.

Like Crazy is the second movie with "crazy" in the title, and I didn't care for either. Someone does something stupid - the character needs to return to England before her visa expires, and simply decides to ignore it - and then is shocked! to learn that her action has consequences. Duh. And then, it becomes obvious that this isn't a very good couple and they shouldn't be trying to get together anyway. And finally, I don't like Anton Yelchin. I don't think he's particularly talented, and I'm disappointed that he will be playing Odd Thomas.

Shame is an NC-17 movie about a sex addict. And it's rather dull.  Who would have thought? Not only that, but it's a movie devoid of any happiness, brightness, or optimism of any kind. Throughout, I couldn't help but think of American Psycho, as it felt like that movie without the killing. Michael Fassbender even looks like Christian Bale in scenes.

I liked the first Sherlock Holmes, but the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, hit all the wrong notes. Just because the movie has the word shadows in the title doesn't mean that it needed to be filmed in them. It was a very dark movie - not the tone, but the lighting sucked. Here's a great opportunity to comment about the craptacular shaky cam once again. As soon as the movie shifts to a fight scene, in comes the shaky cam and the hyper editing. Has anyone ever been to a movie and walked out wishing that it had more shaky cam? No. Never.

I saved the worst for last, and it's one I'm seeing on a lot of top 10 lists. I'm telling you that the emperor has no clothes. The Tree of Life is stinky shit with a piece of corn sticking out of it. Yes, it looks pretty. But that's about it. It's one of those movies that has no real point or message so that "the viewer can decide for themselves." No. It means nothing. Sean Penn basically says the same thing. The actual story, involving Brad Pitt as an angry dad in the 50s wasn't interesting or new. While I like Brad Pitt in some movies, he has actually been in three of my least favorite movies of the past few years with this one, Babel, and The Crappy Crap of Benjamin Buttons.

So that's my bottom 10 for the year. The only one I would consider rethinking is Crazy, Stupid, Love. But I would love to discuss/argue Tree of Life with someone who liked it.

Tomorrow, I'll list the movies that didn't make the top or the bottom of the list and briefly discuss some.