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November 29th, 2009


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11:23 pm - What's! On! My! DVR!
Almost five months after my last batch of capsule movie reviews, I have finished watching the next batch. As before, you guys voted on your favorites, so it's time to hear what I think of them!

Shoot 'Em Up: In the first five minutes of this movie, Clive Owen KILLS A MAN WITH A CARROT. And it only gets more awesome from there. In fact, THERE IS MUCH MORE CARROT-ASSISTED MAYHEM IN STORE. As if he is trying to balance out Children of Men, in which he protects a baby without ever shooting a gun, Clive Owen protects a baby by shooting lots and lots of guns. With strings, with carrots, while having sex, in the sky, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. This is a gleefully over-the-top send-up of action movies that hates physics so very hard. The movie logic is hilarious and the one-liners are ridiculous. I was laughing my ass off. "Violence is one of the most fun things to watch," says Paul Giamatti, delivering the meta statement of the movie. Obviously, it is not for everyone, but I kind of want to buy the DVD and show it to everyone I know to watch their incredulous reactions. This is THE MOST AMAZING MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN. A+++

A Fish Called Wanda: The description promised a "Pythonesque farce laced with puns and in-jokes," but I only counted 1 in-joke and 0 puns. IMDb identified a couple more in-jokes and perhaps a pun. It is a very funny movie but not as unrelentlessly hilarious as I had been led to believe by its esteemed reputation. I thought it was going to be a wacky, zany romp, but it's more of an offbeat comedy. Kevin Kline is fantastic, however. The general plot is about goons trying to get their hands on some stolen diamonds, but the movie is more concerned with putting characters in ridiculous and awkward situations. Some of the funniest scenes in the movie, though, involve animal deaths, so be wary! But if you can laugh about such things, enjoy Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis and John Cleese and Michael Palin, and/or find foreign languages incredibly erotic, this is the film for you! B+

Black Sheep: After the terrible disappointment that was Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, I wanted a silly horror movie that was actually entertaining, and New Zealand delivered. An ovinophobic farm boy and a cute hippie environmentalist are terrorized by KILLER MUTANT SHEEP. You'll never not be afraid of sheep again! Also, if you're bitten by a killer mutant sheep—you guessed it—YOU BECOME A WERESHEEP. It's both silly and exciting without being particularly scary. It's also very bloody and gory; a lot of people get their entrails ripped out. And their limbs ripped off. And such. There's no CGI: it's all makeup and prosthetics, but it's Weta, so it's good makeup and prosthetics. It's a very solid B-movie, but I want to give it bonus points for the special effects. B/B+

Shadow of the Vampire: What if Max Schreck really were a vampire? It's a great idea for a movie, but this one doesn't really deliver on that premise. John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe give impressive performances, for sure, but the movie is sort of...mundane. It's actually more interesting as a look at silent filmmaking and the director Murnau's obsession with creating a film for the ages than as a vampire film. Schreck does do some funny vampire stuff, but there isn't a lot of bang or pizzazz in the venture. The last twenty minutes do take it up a notch, thankfully. B-/B

The Omen: Don't you hate it when your son turns out to be the Antichrist? Gregory Peck sure does! It's strange to finally watch this movie now because it's the template for so many supernatural/religious thrillers after it. It's hard to see it in the context of its time, apart from all the following imitators. Even in context, though, the constant rising music and chanting is a little over-the-top and hokey, but that doesn't take away from the freaky and unnverving tone that pervades throughout, starting from the very first death. smonsterbites refers to the Omen series as 1001 Freaky Ways to Die, and she's not wrong. It's a creepy little classic horror flick, and I do have to give it props for That Scene. Oh, you know the one I'm talking about. B+

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days: It's Romania in 1987, and under a Communist regime, the black market is booming. Cigarettes, soap...abortions. In this excellent film, a woman helps her roommate get an abortion, and we follow them through all the steps it takes, from securing the hotel room, meeting the abortionist, negotiating the price, performing the procedure, and disposing of the fetus. The majority of the film is composed of shots where the camera doesn't move for minutes, but it's far more effective and compelling than Michael Haneke's bullshit since the director actually sympathizes with his characters. I would normally hate this technique but it really works. I loved the very natural dialogue in every scene, which made the characters and their emotions feel very real. The movie is very low-key yet still tense; it's not boring even though it really should be. And even though it's depicting a very specific moment and place in history where illegal abortions were necessary, it makes me think of the abortion debate in this country and what women would have to do—and already do in some cases—were there no legal options. It is not a fun, happy, or enjoyable movie, but it's a good, important one. B+/A-

Michael Clayton: Michael Clayton is a "fixer." Apparently he fixes things when a giant law firm's clients get themselves into sticky situations, except he doesn't seem to do much of anything or have any real talents. His latest case leads him to a corporate conspiracy, which ought to have made for an exciting movie. But I didn't really care about any of the characters or their stupid problems. I think this is the most boring "thriller" I've ever seen. At least there's an explosion and a David Zayas scene. C+/B-

The Night of the Hunter: In contrast, here's a thriller that's actually creepy and suspenseful! Even though it does have its slow spots. All I really ever knew about this movie was that Robert Mitchum had LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles. I don't think I even knew that he was a widow-killin' preacher. But he is, and he really wants $10,000—which must have been worth a lot more in 1955, for all the effort he goes to for it—from this family. Oh, the two kids know where it is, and he'll do anything to get his hands on it. He makes a great villain because of how damn nice he is, couching all his motives in the whims of the Lord. The real villain here is Southern fundamentalism! I thought the second half was much weaker than the first and introduced some bizarre theme about the endurance of children or something, and while it's true that the children do endure, you don't need to tell me all about it, Lillian Gish. A-

Be Kind Rewind: Jack Black accidentally magnetizes all the tapes in a video store, so he and Mos Def "Swede" a bunch of films, making hilarious low-low-budget remakes. Instead of complaining to the Better Business Bureau, the customers love them, demand more, and eventually help shoot them. The film requires some suspension of disbelief in that you have to go with the idea that a video store still exists and people care about it, and it's perhaps a little rosy-eyed in its depiction of the small-town community. And there's a small romantic subplot that doesn't go anywhere. But I loved the movie and found it hilarious and endearing. It celebrates both the art of filmmaking and the power of fiction. For anyone who loves movies, marvels at movie magic, and appreciates the way that movies bring people together, it's a winner. A-

Edward Scissorhands: I don't know how I've managed not to see this movie, given that I am generally a Tim Burton fan, but I'm very glad to have finally seen it. As you all surely know, it's the lovely, funny, sad tale of a freakish, scarred man with scissors for hands who is brought down from his lonely, isolated castle into pastel-colored suburbia. He proves to be quite the artist with his blades, which initially makes him a big hit with the residents. But of course that can't last. There is a strong fairy-tale vibe—given that the story is being told by an old woman to her granddaughter—which is needed to handwave the fact that Edward isn't immediately considered a repulsive threat. There is also a strong autobiographical vibe, as if Tim Burton is trying to—initially—paint the world he wished he lived in, where the freaks are embraced for their freakishness. It's a wonderful little movie, and as for any emotional reactions I may have had at the end, shut up, I had something in my eye. A

The Deer Hunter: It's a three-hour Vietnam War movie where only half an hour actually qualifies as a war movie. It could have stood to be at least a half hour shorter; a great deal of the first hour is spent on a main character's wedding, which is supposed to acquaint us with the characters and the community, but it just goes on for far too long. When the movie finally gets to the first of the famous Russian roulette scenes, it gets more interesting and tense. If you like watching people blow their heads off, this is the movie for you! Russian roulette is a metaphor, you guys! Like deer hunting! Or something. It's hard to track the characters' emotional journeys, and I feel like a lot of the drama is unearned, as if the director just took the fact that, uh, war is horrible, duh, for granted. It was cool to see Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep from thirty years ago (Meryl Streep was pretty!), though, and the final Russian roulette scene is quite affecting, unearned or not. C+/B-

Almost Famous: Cameron Crowe had quite the exciting adolescence! Patrick Fugit plays a fictionalized version named William Miller, who gets to live the dream and accompany fictional rock band Stillwater on tour, courtesy of Rolling Stone. He befriends Billy Crudup, the guitarist with mystique, but not so much Jason Lee, the lead singer. Kate Hudson, before she began starring in insipid romantic comedies, plays a groupie Band-Aid and the object of both Billys' affections. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Jack Black playing a rock critic who advises William in his burgeoning career. Frances McDormand is the overbearing mother who freaks everyone out, and Zooey Deschanel is the rebellious sister. And, yes, Anna Paquin is in Almost Famous. It's obviously a great movie for any music fan, but a lot of the character interactions and dynamics can be appreciated by anyone. Throughout the movie, characters keep secrets and tell secrets until PSH delivers one of many great lines: "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Even though it didn't end exactly like I thought it would, I felt so satisfied when the credits began to roll, and I love feeling like that at the end of a movie. A

I'm sorry if I hated something you loved or loved something you hated! Here is what the future holds. I should note that I get the majority of my recommendations from Jandy's Film on TV alerts, which I highly recommend. What should I look forward to most?

Poll #1492212 Thank you, TCM and IFC and Encore

Which movies can't you wait to hear my thoughts on?

Double Indemnity
1(2.9%)
Before Sunrise
0(0.0%)
Before Sunset
0(0.0%)
What's Up, Tiger Lily?
0(0.0%)
Once Upon a Time in the West
0(0.0%)
Manhattan
0(0.0%)
The Lives of Others
1(2.9%)
Crimes and Misdemeanors
0(0.0%)
Dial M for Murder
0(0.0%)
Primer
1(2.9%)
The Shop Around the Corner
0(0.0%)
The Station Agent
2(5.9%)

Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied
Current Music: Filter - God Damn Me

(38 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:wee_warrior
Date:November 30th, 2009 07:55 am (UTC)
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it's far more effective and compelling than Michael Haneke's bullshit

Seriously, I think I love you. In a non-stalkery, respectful way of course.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
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I never did get around to writing an entire post dedicated to how much I hated Caché just to make sure no one else wasted their time on that movie. Funny Games wasn't as bad, but still.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 04:02 pm (UTC)
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Wasn't it great?
Yes!

I was kind of embarrassed about how teen angsty it was and how much I'd liked it.
Heh. I am still teen angsty!

I not-so-secretly hope you hate Manhattan, because I haaaaated that movie and then everyone made me feel bad about it.
Oooh. We shall see.
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From:trailer_spot
Date:November 30th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
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re Michael Clayton: I think this is the most boring "thriller" I've ever seen.
That may explain your disappointment. For me it's mainly a drama about a man whose life is totally messed up. And because of the final scene in the cab it was my favourite movie of that year. Rarely have I been hit by a scene like this. But since I was probably one of those people who nudged you seeing it, I'm really really sorry, I apologise unreservedly. I offer a complete and utter retraction. The imputation was totally without basis in fact, and was in no way fair comment, and was motivated purely by malice, and I deeply regret any distress that my comments may have caused you, or your family, and I hereby undertake not to repeat any such slander at any time in the future. ;)

Since you mention "Caché". I too was a quite upset when I left the theatre. Nevertheless, it's probably the movie I talked with the most people about here on LJ. And I have a feeling Haneke would be very pleased about that result.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
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For me it's mainly a drama about a man whose life is totally messed up.
I just didn't care about any of the characters' stupid problems. I actually knew going in that it was not really as exciting as it promised to be, but I didn't connect with the movie at all.

And because of the final scene in the cab it was my favourite movie of that year.
That was an interesting scene, and I think I would have liked it if I had been into the rest of the movie.

Since you mention "Caché". I too was a quite upset when I left the theatre. Nevertheless, it's probably the movie I talked with the most people about here on LJ. And I have a feeling Haneke would be very pleased about that result.
Ha. WHATEVER, HANEKE.
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From:erinkayehashet
Date:November 30th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
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Wow, I liked Almost Famous, but it's been awhile since I've seen it and I forgot all those people were in it!
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
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I know! As I was watching the opening credits, I exclaimed, "Wow, what a cast!"
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From:cofax7
Date:November 30th, 2009 05:10 pm (UTC)
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Hah, Meryl Streep is still pretty!

Also, Michael Clayton was great because of the acting more than anything else. Tilda Swinton was amazing. And I liked the fucked-up family dynamics, which seemed really believable. Also, much of the storyline--well, the business with the agribusiness and the secret reports--was based on a true story. But it's not a thriller the way one usually thinks of them, so if you went in expecting that, it would be a disappointment, I guess.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
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Hah, Meryl Streep is still pretty!
Yes, but in a different way! She has aged well, for sure.

Also, Michael Clayton was great because of the acting more than anything else. Tilda Swinton was amazing. And I liked the fucked-up family dynamics, which seemed really believable. Also, much of the storyline--well, the business with the agribusiness and the secret reports--was based on a true story. But it's not a thriller the way one usually thinks of them, so if you went in expecting that, it would be a disappointment, I guess.
I think I did know that it wasn't really a thriller like the marketing made it seem and that the acting was the great part, but I don't know, I was really tired and didn't connect with the story or characters. I found it hard to follow, and "I'm a corporate stooge, here is my angst," didn't resonate with me.
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From:the_narration
Date:November 30th, 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
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Shoot 'Em Up is so much epic, over the top, crazy fun.

Whenever I hear someone discussing The Deer Hunter, usually main point of note will be the fact that it was the first movie about Vietnam, as opposed to other famous Vietnam movies like Apocalypse Now and Platoon where people will talk about how powerful a cinematic experience the film is.

The film requires some suspension of disbelief in that you have to go with the idea that a video store still exists and people care about it...
You would totally not say that if you lived in Seattle's U-District. Scarecrow Video is much beloved here. Netflix ain't got shit compared to Scarecrow.

I have not seen anything on your poll, although Primer has been sitting on my hard drive for well over a year now waiting for me to watch it.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
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Shoot 'Em Up is so much epic, over the top, crazy fun.
It totally is! I think I may buy the DVD on Amazon Marketplace for, like, four bucks with shipping. I think I am really interested in the commentary!

Whenever I hear someone discussing The Deer Hunter, usually main point of note will be the fact that it was the first movie about Vietnam, as opposed to other famous Vietnam movies like Apocalypse Now and Platoon where people will talk about how powerful a cinematic experience the film is.
Oh, interesting! That explains its legacy a bit better.

You would totally not say that if you lived in Seattle's U-District. Scarecrow Video is much beloved here.
Heh. Cool.

I have not seen anything on your poll, although Primer has been sitting on my hard drive for well over a year now waiting for me to watch it.
Well, you should watch it soon so we can talk about it!
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From:duchessdogberry
Date:November 30th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
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If you like Almost Famous, I highly recommend finding Untitled: The Bootleg Cut and watching the extended version of the film. And then watching the extended version with the commentary that has not just Cameron Crowe and people involved with the film- but his mother sits in on the commentary as well.

I love that movie an insane amount and Crowe has never made anything else that can compare to it.

And PSH played Lester Bangs so much like the real Lester Bangs that it freaked Cameron Crowe out, apparently.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
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So the real Lester Bangs is also like Jack Black, is he? Heh.

I do want to watch Untitled now! And the commentary with his mother sounds amusing. I will put it on my Wishlist!

Or not. I see what you mean about "finding."

Edited at 2009-11-30 06:24 pm (UTC)
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From:etherealclarity
Date:November 30th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
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Agree totally with your assessments of Almost Famous and Edward Scissorhands, but Be Kind Rewind? I really really WANTED to like that movie, but it had some really bizarre and unlikable things about it that ultimately had me giving it something closer to a C+ or a B-.

For your next batch of movies... I haven't seen any of them, but Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are both on my Netflix queue.
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From:sterope
Date:November 30th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
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Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus was SO disappointing! I was super excited to see it, but really all anyone needed to see of it was shown in the trailer. Black Sheep was pretty amusing, but it still wasn't as hilarious as I'd hoped. I just recently watched Before Sunrise/Sunset. They're fantastic.
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From:hecubot
Date:November 30th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
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Here's Lester Bangs.

Science Fiction writer Bruce Sterline wrote a story that imagined that both Lester and the underground cartoonist Dori Seda had both avoided their early, untimely deaths and got together. It was sweet.

I think your enthusiasm for Shoot 'Em Up got me to watch it with Emmett. For which we thank you.

Note: Young Meryl Streep is also in Manhattan.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC)
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Here's Lester Bangs.
He wore that shirt in the movie!

I think your enthusiasm for Shoot 'Em Up got me to watch it with Emmett. For which we thank you.
Hee, awesome! You're quite welcome.

Note: Young Meryl Streep is also in Manhattan.
Oh, cool!
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From:homegoddess
Date:November 30th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
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I've only seen two of the films you wrote about, but I've seen five of the ones you're going to see. Just saw Dial M for Murder last week. It's my dad's favorite movie. I enjoyed it, but it's not one of my favorite Hitchcock films. If you like The Shop Around the Corner, watch Ninotchka and To Be or Not to Be. Those are my favorite Ernst Lubitsch films. Looks like a mini Woody Allen festival. Have you seen Annie Hall? That might be my all time favorite movie.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:November 30th, 2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
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I love Annie Hall, and I am generally a Woody Allen fan, so I'm excited about those. I also love Hitchcock.

Which of the ones I wrote about have you seen?
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From:miniglik
Date:November 30th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
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I remember the Shoot Em Up play-by-play. Both terrifying and beautiful, that.
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From:rachelmanija
Date:December 1st, 2009 12:50 am (UTC)
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Double Indemnity is fantastic, and Before Sunrise is very you. They'd be my top picks.

The Deer Hunter probably didn't age well.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 12:59 am (UTC)
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Before Sunrise is very you.
Hee. It seems very me. I've been wanting to see it for ages.
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From:incidentist
Date:December 1st, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
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If you decide to go on a Woody Allen kick, let me know. I'll bring popcorn.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
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Sweet! Maybe we could do a threefer one weekend, as long as you don't mind breaks between each movie for me to write my review.
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From:ethanvahlere
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
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I've seen all the ones you saw except Black Sheep - for some reason, I never got around to that. Maybe because it looked like a one-joke movie?

I guess I should see Shoot 'Em Up again, since everyone else seems to love it. To me, it was like being with an obnoxious cousin who told bad jokes and then said, "Why aren't you laughing? IT'S FUNNY!" Whereas I didn't like The Omen, even though it's well-made, because I have a prejudice against movies with the devil in them, unless they have a sense of humor about them. And while I liked the premise of Be Kind Rewind, I just found it too self-consciously whimsical.

I can understand you finding Shadow of the Vampire meh (it helps if you see it as a satire on Method acting), cause while I like it, the whole "the camera is a vampire" thing is kind of pretentious. I am sorry you didn't like Michael Clayton. I agree with trailer_spot about it being a drama as much as a thriller. As far as the angst factor goes, this is a guy who's been shoveling other people's shit for so long he doesn't quite know which way is up anymore. And Tilda Swinton, I think, was amazing, because she didn't play the typical faceless, or sneering, corporate villain - everything she did was based on fear of her boss finding out, which is something you don't normally see in that kind of movie.

I'm glad you didn't like The Deer Hunter - I cannot understand how that won Best Picture. Except for some of the acting, I hate everything about that movie. Among other things, until the Russian roulette sequences, it's just plain boring (not to mention horribly racist).

I'm glad to hear you liked Almost Famous (I own the "Untitled" cut as well - does Netflix have it? They have a couple scenes from that version of YouTube as well), Edward Scissorhands, A Fish Called Wanda (even though I liked it more than you did), Night of the Hunter (although I agree the end is overdone), and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (I can understand how you feel about the camera not moving, even if I don't necessarily agree, but it certainly paid off here, especially in that scene at the family dinner. Also, one of the things that impressed me most about the movie is how you never see an authority figure above a policeman - who doesn't turn out to be a bad guy - yet you're convincingly immersed in how repressive that time must have been).

The only film on your "to-see" list I didn't like was What's Up, Tiger Lily?, and I didn't really hate it, I just find it somewhat dated. And while I liked Primer, I have to admit while I could follow the math, the science had me lost. Finally, while I like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Dial M for Murder, I don't love them. The rest of the films on your list I loved.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:December 1st, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
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Maybe because it looked like a one-joke movie?
Oh, it has many jokes! I was sufficiently entertained.

I guess I should see Shoot 'Em Up again, since everyone else seems to love it. To me, it was like being with an obnoxious cousin who told bad jokes and then said, "Why aren't you laughing? IT'S FUNNY!"
Like I said, it's not for everyone. If you didn't like it the first time, I doubt you'd like it on a second viewing. Just not your thing.

(it helps if you see it as a satire on Method acting)
Yeah, that bit of it is amusing. The filmmaking aspect of the movie was more entertaining than the vampire part.

And Tilda Swinton, I think, was amazing, because she didn't play the typical faceless, or sneering, corporate villain - everything she did was based on fear of her boss finding out, which is something you don't normally see in that kind of movie.
I was so confused that she was the "bad guy"! It was hard to get a read on her.

Among other things, until the Russian roulette sequences, it's just plain boring (not to mention horribly racist).
There is one black person in the movie, and he drives a cab. And, yeah, the first hour is so boring.

especially in that scene at the family dinner
Oh man, that scene. It just went on and on and on and ON...and, again, unlike Haneke's bullshit, it actually worked and made you feel appropriately uncomfortable and impatient and, man, just watching that poor woman's face the whole way through. I didn't think it could go on longer, and then it did! And I don't know, I would normally hate that, but by that time, I was so into the movie. I really liked the movie, but I docked it points for the subplot with the woman and her boyfriend because it didn't seem to really pay off or go anywhere; it functioned more as a plot contrivance. It added to the character somewhat, but I don't know, something about that story didn't gel for me.

Also, one of the things that impressed me most about the movie is how you never see an authority figure above a policeman - who doesn't turn out to be a bad guy - yet you're convincingly immersed in how repressive that time must have been
Ooh, I didn't notice that, but you're right.

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