Archive for January, 2009

The holiday movie roundup, part 2…

January 31, 2009

So I never got around to finishing my reviews of all the stuff I saw at Christmas.  And seeing how it’s practically February, the Oscar nominations are already out, and I no longer care to write about these movies, here are my reviews in a nutshell:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Watchable, but grossly overrated.  No life-changing message, just Brad Pitt as a dude who ages backwards and doesn’t learn anything.  13 Oscar nominations?  Really?  I hate films that tell you it’s a good movie as opposed to being a good movie.

Doubt: Great acting, kinda’ dull everything else.  Meryl Streep is great as the nun hell-bent on exposing Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s priest as the pedophile she suspects he might be.  Amy Adams and Viola Davis give great supporting turns as a naive nun and the mother of a troubled student, respectively.  All four deserve their Oscar nominations.

Now, let’s move on.

The holiday movie roundup, part 1

January 3, 2009

This post is what happens when you see too many movies in a really short time span and are so busy with other things (including my new blog, City of Champion) that you just can’t give each film the review it deserves.

SEVEN POUNDS

The trailer for this film is very cryptic–it doesn’t really tell you what the movie is about.  Usually that’s a good thing, because most movies are ruined because the trailer tells too much.  But in this case, Seven Pounds is a confusing film–it’s 90% first act, zero second act and 10% third act.  It’s frustrating because the audience is in the dark about what is going on the entire length of the film, until the end when everything is revealed.  The story is rather simple, but the execution is muddled and not enjoyable to watch.  The entire film is a downer, even the ending (which is supposed to make you feel good).

What’s good about it? Rosario Dawson’s performance as an artist waiting for a heart transplant is effective.

What’s bad about it? If your idea of a good movie is watching Will Smith cry and writhe in anguish, hoo-boy, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Perfect for: fans of depressing movies.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

Keanu Reeves stars as a dude who looks human but is clearly not.  Yeah, there’s a stretch.

This lame remake of the 1951 Sci-Fi classic (which I admittedly have not seen) has aliens landing in New York City (of course!), primed to destroy mankind in order to save the earth from pollution.  (The same kind of thing was done in last summer’s The Happening and it didn’t work so well there, either.)  Jennifer Connelly co-stars as a widowed scientist who helps Reeves escape from the evil military people who are trying their darndest to protect the country.

What’s good about it? It’s not boring.

What’s bad about it? The special effects are so-so.  Reeves is terrible (as usual), as is Jaden Smith (Will Smith’s son), who plays a bratty tween.  (Something tells me there’s not much acting in his performance.)

Perfect for: Keanu Reeves fans.

MARLEY & ME

Watching Marley & Me, I realized that there is an art to making a broad, crowd-pleasing film.  Director David Frankel (who directed 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada) has crafted a film that is nearly perfect in terms of pacing and accessibility.  Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston have genuine chemistry.  I’ve never said this before (and hopefully never again), but you’ll laugh, you’ll cry.

What’s good about it? See above paragraph.

What’s bad about it? If you hate crying in movies, stay away.

VALKYRIE

There was a lot of negative buzz surrounding Valkyrie (it originally was slated to come out this past summer, then it was pushed back to February 2009, the bumped up to Christmas 2008…oh, and it stars the poster boy for Hollywood eccentrics, Tom Cruise), but the good thing is that the movie itself is actually good.  Really good.

In this World War II-era thriller, Tom Cruise (in a winningly low-key performance) stars as Claus von Stauffenberg, a colonel in the German army who plots to kill Hitler and stage a military coup.  It’s a great edge-of-your-seat movie, expertly directed by Bryan Singer (who directed Superman Returns, X-Men and The Usual Suspects).

What’s good about it? SPOILER ALERT: The events of this true story take place in the summer of 1944, and Hitler didn’t die until 1945.  (It’s history, kids.  Look it up.)  But even with that knowledge, I could not stop asking, how does this end? A good indicator of a good film is when you know the ending and you still wonder what’s going to happen.

What’s bad about it? SPOILER ALERT: Hitler wins.

Perfect for: Anyone looking for a good thriller.  And anyone wondering if Tom Cruise is still worth seeing in a movie.