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
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?
Which movies can't you wait to hear my thoughts on?
What's Up, Tiger Lily?
Once Upon a Time in the West
The Lives of Others
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Dial M for Murder
The Shop Around the Corner
The Station Agent