Friday, December 30, 2011

So Much To Do...

You know how it goes.

I started this blog while my wife was pregnant with our first child. Some form of movie website had been in the recesses of my mind for many years and I always intended to get it going once I moved back to The States. Knowing that it would be unlikely after my son was born that I would ever find the time to start this project, I decided to get into the habit early.

My goal was to write a review for every movie I watched whether it be in the cinema, on DVD, illegal download or in-flight movie (I've reviewed all such examples) and whether it was a film with which I was intimately familiar, a classic I was revisiting or coming to for the first time or an altogether new movie. In all this time, after 221 posted reviews, the number of films I've watched without reviewing is probably about a dozen. I'm proud of that.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Young Adult Movie Review

What happens to the prom queen and most popular girl in school 20 years after graduation? Does she become successful, remain confident, popular and beautiful? The truth is they go on to lead varied lives just like anyone else. Like the vast majority of humanity I’m sure they turn out ordinary. It may be comforting for those of us who were on the outside looking in to that level of popularity to think that the gorgeous girl who never gave a moment’s notice is now alone and wallowing in self pity. To a certain extent, that’s what Young Adult is about.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Descendants Movie Review

As a writer and director, Alexander Payne is out to show that Hollywood studios can produce small character-driven dramas that are also successful. As a screenwriter he’s one of the great contemporary satirists, having given the great social commentary pieces Citizen Ruth and Election followed up by the equally impressive, though less satirical, more dramatic About Schmidt and Sideways. He comes back to us now after a lengthy break from feature film directing with The Descendants.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Love Actually Movie Review: A New Perennial Christmas Classic

Released in the United States one week after Elf, a film I think should become a holiday classic, Love Actually warmed audiences' hearts and for many has become perennial viewing at this time of year. It’s easy to see why as I found it thoroughly enjoyable in the cinema in November, 2003, and still find it emotionally fulfilling eight years later. At the time I might have written it off as high-end fluff that I fell for at a time when I was returning from the emotional high of three months backpacking Europe, a trip during which I saw London for the first time. So watching the movie, I experienced nostalgic excitement over seeing that skyline again, for recognizing Heathrow airport, for hearing those London accents. It turns out, however, that the film has a lot more to offer. It has staying power built on a witty script by Richard Curtis, who also directs with a light touch, keeping more than a dozen major characters suspended over two hours bringing everyone’s story into resolve in the final scenes and brief coda.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Elf Movie Review: A Modern Christmas Classic

Jon Favreau wanted his Christmas comedy Elf to become a Christmas classic. Actually I’m kind of surprised it hasn’t yet. It has all the elements needed to establish it firmly in the canon. The reason I say Favreau wanted that is because it looks like he went out of his way to give it the look and feel of other classic holiday fare from both film and television. In this unusual and often uproarious story of a human raised by North Pole elves who goes to New York City seeking out his real father, Favreau’s direction keeps the comedy coming at consistent intervals while also injecting the right amount of sentiment. He never pushes the sappy stuff too hard, but it’s strong enough to give you a good feeling. David Berenbaum’s screenplay deserves credit for the straightforward plotting, some damn good jokes and an appropriate level of holiday spiritedness.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Moulin Rouge! Movie Review: Ten Years Later, It Still Does It

“Love Is Like Oxygen.” “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.” Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong.” “All You Need Is Love.” At least that’s what pop music tells us as well as Christian, the young penniless Bohemian writer looking for truth, beauty, freedom and love in turn of the twentieth century Paris in Baz Luhrmann’s kinetic marvel Moulin Rouge! It’s ten years ago this month I first saw this movie on DVD and shortly thereafter I sought it out in the one Manhattan theater that was still showing it. It simply astounded me even though I fully expected to be repelled by it. I’m not a fan of musicals in general, but it quickly became, along with West Side Story, one of only two examples of the genre I truly adore and landed on my list of favorite films of the first decade of the 21st century.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hugo Movie Review

This review is based on the 3D version of the film. As this is only the second film I’ve seen in the contemporary 3D style I don’t feel I’m familiar enough with its uses and implementations to 100% accurately judge whether it’s any good or not. However, I have taken the liberty of commenting on my reaction to the 3D as I believe it is the critic’s duty to report his response to a film as completely as possible.

When I read that Martin Scorsese was going to make his next film in 3D and it was also going to be an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s children’s picture novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, my first reaction was to be simply dumbfounded. Why would the director of so many dark and violent films that deeply explore the human condition venture into such new territory? And why would the man who still insists on using film stock, a man who supremely values film history, shoot in 3D? Surely this must have been some kind of total commercial sellout. Well, the final judgment is yet to be determined as it often takes years for the critical and audience response to render a final verdict on a piece of pop culture’s place in the canon, but after seeing it I can say it makes a lot more sense now that Scorsese was drawn to this particular story and this particular use of 3D technology to make Hugo.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

25 Years Ago This Month: December 1986

In December 1986 I was heavy into my obsession with G.I. Joe action figures and the cartoon series used to promote the Kenner line of toys, so with the approach of my ninth Christmas I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of several new figures and vehicles to complement my growing collection. As such I was hardly aware of, let alone interested in, any of the films released to cinemas that month, although three would become staple viewing on cable television during the following two years and one later became a preferred film during my young adolescence.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bridesmaids Movie Review

Bridesmaids tries desperately to be the female answer to the glut of bromance comedies in recent years that have generated laughs through scatological humor and over-the-top situational comedy. Just so you know it’s in the same vein, Bridesmaids is even produced by Judd Apatow, the father of the bromance comedy. Where this sub-genre trades in male stereotypes of masculinity and fear of commitment, Bridesmaids goes just as far with equivalent female stereotypes: backstabbing; jealousy; in-fighting; insecurity. Perhaps it’s my male perspective, but I just didn’t find this to be fertile ground for great comedy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Melancholia Movie Review

Leave it Lars von Trier to start a film with the apocalypse. As a mysterious planet roughly the size of Jupiter hurtles towards Earth in the opening montage of Melancholia, scenes on the ground involving Justine and Claire are almost frozen in time using super slow motion photography to create an otherworldly effect as if we’re watching paintings in motion. Then we see our beautiful blue planet swallowed up by the massive celestial object looming over it. The world ceases to exist in that moment.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Week With Marilyn Movie Review

Has there ever been a movie star like Marilyn Monroe? My lifetime doesn’t come anywhere close to any time that she was alive so it’s hard to fully understand the attention that she drew and the madness of her celebrity. All I know is what’s been written about those times and what little I’ve seen of documentary footage of her in crowds. Is it anything like the fervor exhibited over a sighting of Leo, George or Brad? I think there’s a great difference between the way we viewed celebrities then and now. The rarity of bearing witness to something in the private life of a celebrity then is nothing compared to the ubiquity of celebrity gossip, sightings, paparazzi photos and such today. We didn’t know (or feel like we know) celebrities then like we do now. Marilyn’s popularity, however, was about much more than public interest in a movie star. She had qualities most women would have died for: she was beautiful, voluptuous, dazzling, sexy and sultry. She was a true classic star, a fact that Simon Curtis’s debut feature My Week With Marilyn is acutely aware of.