The Movie Year in Review (The Final Third)

Back in April, I posted mini-reviews of all the 2011 films I’d seen up to that point. You can read that here. In August, I posted the second part. You can read that here. This is the third part. For reminder purposes…

I try to see everything that comes out. I believe that if you love movies, you should be open to seeing anything and believe you can get something out of any movie. You never know when a terrible movie will have something to teach you (however minor), even if it’s what not to do. Also, since I have this wonderful narcissism enabler, why wouldn’t I post what I thought of all the films I saw for people to read?

Not to mention, in like a week, I’m going to post the official Year in Review articles, where I go over everything. Back in January, I previewed what I thought I’d think about all the movies, as they were scheduled at that time. I’ll compare what I thought I’d think with what I actually thought, as well as what films changed dates, weren’t released at all, and what have you. These reviews are easy reference for that. I just posted them throughout the year because it was more topical to post them around when the films were released.

The articles were broken up as such: the first one detailed every film I saw between January and April, and the second one detailed all the films I saw between May and August. This one will be every film from September until now, as well as whatever films throughout the year I hadn’t seen and watched during that time period.

Like always, the way we’re gonna do this is, first I’ll tell you which films from the year I have not seen. It used to be separated into films I haven’t seen that I had no plans on seeing, and films I hadn’t seen that I may or may not see (and my desire to see said films). Now, since the year’s basically over, we’re just going to detail the films I haven’t seen. Anything I want to see an haven’t, if not seen by the time the Year in Review articles go up, well, I’m shit out of luck for reviewing them, now, aren’t I?

Though, since there are two weekends left in the year, there are films coming out that I can’t possibly have seen yet. Those films I’ll list as films that are coming out, and if I see them between now and the end of the year, I’ll detail that in the Year in Review articles.

So, first, here are the films from 2011 (wide (or major) releases only. I’ll include the limited releases in the Year in Review articles) that I haven’t seen (between January and now):

  • Barney’s Version — I have it, but I haven’t actually watched it yet. Technically it’s a 2010 film anyway, so I don’t feel so bad about not seeing it. You’d think the deadline of this article would be enough to get me to see it. That should tell you how much of a fuck I give about this one.
  • The Rite — Yeah, I’m gonna be honest. I just didn’t want to see it.
  • Sanctum — I never had any desire, interest or plan to see this. Really didn’t.
  • The Eagle — I couldn’t bring myself to sit through the tedium that I knew this would be.
  • Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Technically a wide release. Must be mentioned. But you’re high if you think I’d ever see this.
  • Beastly — Yeah, no.
  • Mars Needs Moms — Don’t worry, America didn’t see this one either.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 — Didn’t see the first one, not gonna see this one. Leaving it to the kids.
  • Insidious — Hate horror movies. Won’t see this. Don’t care.
  • Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family — Fucking really?
  • African Cats — No. Just no.
  • Dylan Dog: Dead of Night — I thought I’d give it a shot. I was wrong. Never got around to it. Don’t feel too bad about it.
  • Prom — There is not enough liquor in the universe to get me to see this.
  • Jumping the Broom — Never gonna happen.
  • Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer — Wide release. Kids movie. Never gonna see it. Do not care, do not care.
  • The Art of Getting By — Yeah, it was pretty minor, and I just didn’t care enough to extend the effort.
  • Final Destination 5 — Haven’t seen any one since the first one. Won’t be starting now.
  • Glee: The 3D Concert Movie — Technically a wide release, so I have to mention it. I will not be mentioning it on the final Year in Review articles next week. Nor did I ever have any interest in seeing this movie.
  • Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark — Don’t do horror movies, do not care.
  • Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star — The movie’s grossed about $2.5 million domestically. No one saw it. I feel no guilt.
  • Creature — I don’t know what this is. But it got a wide release, so I mention it. It’s a horror movie though, so I’ll never see this.
  • Anonymous — I just couldn’t find it. That’s really what it comes down to. I was really interested in seeing it, but the studio’s decision to suddenly pull it and release it in like twelve theaters made this almost impossible for anyone to see. So I guess I’ll have to see it when it shows up on Netflix.
  • Margaret — This barely got any kind of release and is nearly impossible to find. I tried. I’d liked to have seen this (and Montana).
  • Dirty Girl — Never got around to seeing this. I was interested for about three weeks, then completely forgot to seek this one out. Oh well. Maybe I’ll see it in the future.
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I — I was never going to see this one. I still haven’t finished watching the first one. I won’t say I’ll never watch them, just because, imagine the entertainment, but, no, haven’t seen it.
  • The Double — I didn’t know what this was until I saw the trailer that gave pretty much everything away. Then I really lost any interest I could have possibly had. So, haven’t seen it. Probably won’t.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked — My rule for Unforgivables is no sequels (or squeakuels), and I honestly haven’t seen any film in this series (maybe like, twenty minutes of the first one), so I feel no need to see this, especially if we can all agree it sucks and if I can’t make it Unforgivable.
  • Arthur Christmas — Just couldn’t find it in time. Oh well. (This is me, not getting bent out of shape about it.) This is one of those films I’ll feel I should see, until I don’t. And then I’ll forget about it and will never see it until someone I trust is like, “You should probably check it out.” And then I will. Either way — I haven’t seen this.
  • Shame — Been really trying to see this, and haven’t. I will see it at some point, hopefully by the time those year-end articles go up. Not making any promises, but I’d really like to.
  • The Sitter — Another one, I just haven’t seen it yet. I will see it at some point, the question of when. I have ten days before the Ratings article goes up for this last crop of films, and then fifteen days until the Top Tens list goes up. Ideally, I’d like to see all of these last six films by then.
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows — It just came out on Friday. I’m now in Los Angeles. I make it a rule that I don’t go see blockbusters the first weekend (unless it’s at midnight, or at a theater I know won’t be crowded as fuck). So I wasn’t going to see this before this specific article went up. Ten days from now, yeah, I’ll wager that I’ve seen this.
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol — Another one. 400 screens this weekend before the wide release on Wednesday. Technically, it’s out, and could have gone in this article. But I really wanted no part of this movie in its opening weekend. Give me the ten days on this. It doesn’t need to go in this article.
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — Odds are I’m probably seeing this as this article goes up. Don’t worry, it will be seen by the time the next set of articles go up.
  • My Week with Marilyn — I’ll see this before the year’s out. I might also be seeing this as you read this.

And here are the films that are still to come out over the next two weeks:

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • We Bought a Zoo
  • The Darkest Hour
  • War Horse
  • The Iron Lady

Rest assured, I will see all of these movies by some point. (P.S. I’ve already seen the first 50 minutes of War Horse. Just sayin’.)

Now, here are all the films I’ve seen between the posting of the last article (which, now that I think about it, should totally have been called “The Movie Year in Reviews.” But, I guess that’s something I learned for next year):

(Note: The ratings are out of a Netflix rating system of 1-5 stars. I award half stars, though. Because I’m better.)

Country Strong — * * (2 stars)

Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha ha.

The Mechanic — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I misjudged this one. I ignored it in January, assuming it was gonna be some generic action movie, lots of scenes, no character development — I figured I could just skip it. But actually, this was pretty solid. No action scenes for about the first half of the film. It was very grounded. For the first thirty minutes, I thought I was potentially dealing with a 4-star film. But of course, some of what I expected started creeping in, and the movie fell back down. But still, I think it was about a 3.5. It was enjoyable enough. The action scenes at the end weren’t really enough to diminish my enjoyment of it. It’s somewhere between a 3 and a 3.5, but my misjudgment of it and my enjoyment of it leads me to give it a 3.5. This was actually very watchable.

Take Me Home Tonight — * * * (3 stars)

It was. Not particularly funny, not particularly dramatic. Just kind of there. I wasn’t bored, so, 3 stars.Not bad for a one-off.

Red Riding Hood — * ½ (1.5 stars)

This sucked. But didn’t we already know that? It almost definitely won’t be Unforgivable because — it was just bad. But yeah, this blew. I feel bad for ever putting it on. I should have just masturbated instead.

Kill the Irishman — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Liked it. Solid period piece, strong character work, lots of recognizable faces. Only downside was how badly it wanted to be Goodfellas. Or some sort of mafia picture. They lifted half the Italians from The Sopranos. Still though, strong film. Liked it a lot. Really solid.

Meek’s Cutoff — * * * (3 stars)

It looked gorgeous. Was kind of boring. Not for everyone. I’ll give it a three because I got through it. Won’t ever be seeing this again, though. I don’t consider this “high” filmmaking. It’s just letting a camera roll. Art house people will love it, and they can have it. Decent, but nothing special.

Henry’s Crime — * * * * (4 stars)

I had a feeling about this one from January. It just sounded interesting. Here’s the premise: Keanu Reeves is a dude with no ambitions. He is sleepwalking through life. One day, two guys show up and tell him they’re going to a softball game and need an extra guy. He goes along with it. They stop and rob a bank, telling him they’re stopping at the ATM. He is the only one caught. He goes to jail. While there, he meets James Caan, a dude who loves prison life and deliberately fucks up his parole so he can stay. Once out, Keanu decides, “If you did the time, why not do the crime?”, and decides to rob the bank. He convinces Caan to take his parole and rob the bank with him. Along the way, he meets Vera Farmiga, an actress. Her theater has an underground tunnel to the bank. Somehow, Keanu manages to get the lead role in the play they’re performing (because he’s the perfect mirror to everything). This movie is so funny, simply because Keanu’s character is a complete blank slate. People tell him to do things, and he does them. He’s not an actor, yet they see him as one because he just does what they tell him to do. No one but him could have played this part. It’s really great.

Last Night — * * * (3 stars)

This was a nice adult drama. Very low key, very much about the characters and performances. I liked it. Keira, Sam, Eva and Guillaume did a nice job. It’s a nice little intimate movie. (Though as a side note, not for this movie, but just in general — films like this, how exactly are we supposed to take them? Because they’re both realistic and “movie-d.” Everything is done very realistically, yet, the way the evenings play out would never happen in real life. So, as I watch this, I’m thrust into the realism of the situation, because that’s how they’re playing it, and I do, “But there’s clearly a plot here.” And yet, if I watch it as a “movie,” I’m constantly thinking, “But nothing’s really happening.” Is it just me? I want to be totally immersed in the situation, but I’m seeing the strings at work. And if I’m watching it as a nice manipulation of the strings, I’m thinking, “But you’re letting them wander too much amongst themselves.”)

Everything Must Go — * * * (3 stars)

Solid little film. Interesting in its own way. I wasn’t totally into it, but it was definitely worth watching. I enjoyed it. 3 stars. Maybe closer to 3.5. Somewhere in there.

The Tree of Life — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

What a gorgeous movie. It’s just beautiful. Definitely one of Malick’s best. Well — he’s only made five films. But this is like — second or third (depending on your personal preferences). Really strong, really gorgeous. I loved this one a lot. This man is a national treasure.

Midnight in Paris — * * * * (4 stars)

A Woody Allen film I liked? Can this be? It can. I really enjoyed this film. The first 15 minutes were rough, but once the fantasy took hold, I was hooked. I really enjoyed this. Owen Wilson (this is gonna be filled with things I wouldn’t normally say) is actually what this movie needed. His optimism works for this. It makes it seem a lot less Woody Allen. And that’s always a good thing. No neuroticism, no (real) intellectual arguments, and the ones that are there are spoken by historical figures. Plus the period aspect along with the fantasy really makes this delightful. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Beginners — * * * (3 stars)

It was okay. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. Got through it okay. Not sure what all the fuss was about. But, it was fine. (Shrug.)

Monte Carlo — * ½ (1.5 stars)

It was pretty terrible. It’s for teen girls, but even so, it was pretty bad. It wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t dramatic. It just kind of — was. It’s weird. Who thought this would be a good idea? I can’t say this was unexpected though. Whatever. We see it and we move on.

Another Earth — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

This is, hands down, one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Wow. Just, wow. The premise is amazing, and then the film brilliantly plays down the entire thing and focuses on this wonderful little story that manages to elicit such strong emotions. Everything about this film is just terrific. I really hope this makes my Top Ten list this year. I’m gonna be talking this one up for a while.

Attack the Block — * * * (3 stars)

I heard a lot of great things about this one — how fun of a theater experience it was, and all these great things. But it was one of those things where — I heard about it from people who would like that sort of thing, or knew the people behind it — people who would want to see it succeed or might be biased because their friends were involved with it. So I didn’t go see it in theaters and waited until it was on Netflix. And I have to say — I enjoyed it. It’s an enjoyable little film. Didn’t love it, but enjoyed it. I’m just not one of those “nerd cinema” people. I hate calling it nerd cinema because — I am very nerdy about cinema. But I’m talking about that nerd culture (or geek culture, whatever the people involved call it). I just don’t do sci-fi, comic books — I enjoy watching the movies, but they’re just not my kind of thing. Just not. So this, while it was enjoyable, was just a nice movie to watch one evening that I won’t see ever again. Enjoyable, though.

The Whistleblower — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Solid little film. One of those films that you think might be Oscar caliber that just isn’t. So you get a solid film that’s not quite there. Like The Conspirator. But, this is a good movie, I enjoyed it quite a bit. 3.5 stars.

The Guard — * * * (3 stars)

Didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. I expected a lot more out of it. I got decent. That’s all this is — decent. It wasn’t nearly as funny and Gleason wasn’t nearly as racist as I expected. It’s just — there, really. Okay. That’s it. Just okay.

30 Minutes or Less — * * * (3 stars)

I had high expectations for this back in January, and low expectations when it came out. The trailer wasn’t funny, and I don’t like Aziz Ansari. So I expected this to be shitty. I got generic. It’s just not memorable. You watch this and don’t remember anything about it. Plus, it’s really offensive. Like, some of the jokes in it are just unnecessarily mean for no reason. I don’t know — it’s like Pineapple Express. The mixture of action and comedy didn’t seem to work for me at all. It was short though, so that’s what led to me giving it three stars and not 2.5. Still though, not that great.

One Day — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Yeah, this film was just — there, for me. I never got engaged by anything that happened. I was mostly just bored. Not much happened, these people did things, and Anne Hathaway had a British accent. It wasn’t for me at all.

Our Idiot Brother — * * * * (4 stars)

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. From the start, I thought, ‘quirky independent comedy’ (apparently all independent movies must be quirky nowadays), 3 stars, 4 star cast. I was sold on the cast but not on the film. These independents — they just seem to have standard plots with unnecessary quirk, which makes most of them end up feeling flat. But here — I just got invested. Sure, some of the things that happened felt standard indie, but I just really enjoyed it. That’s what it was. It felt like a 4-star movie to me.

The Debt — * * (2 stars)

This was boring. I expected as much, when this got pushed from December. It was in Oscar territory, then got dumped in shitty September. The dead zone. Rightfully so. This was boring as shit. There’s nothing worth seeing here, not even the actors, which is strange, considering the cast. It really was just boring. Nothing interesting about it whatsoever.

Apollo 18 — * * (2 stars)

I hate these types of films. Found footage shit. You knew there were aliens. It’s always sci-fi. They always take it sci-fi. This was pretty boring, since they spent a good thirty minutes trying to make it look realistic. Motherfuckers, we know the genre by now, just get to the stuff happening. This was forgettable in every single way. No need for anyone to ever see this movie.

Shark Night 3D — * * (2 stars)

I thought this would be much, much better. I was very, very wrong. This sucked! It wasn’t campy! How are you gonna make a shark attack movie that’s not campy?! Why was there a plot? And why were people behind it? Couldn’t you have tried having fun with this? Even a little bit? Holy shit, this sucked. And don’t tempt me with all the titties, it was PG-13. Fuck you.

Straw Dogs — * * * (3 stars)

I made the mistake of watching the Peckinpah version directly before this one. It made this one’s inadequacies more pointed. Not that this was bad, it just — wasn’t as good as that one. Things felt more deliberate here. In the other one, things were more open-ended. This one felt like it wanted to do what the other one did, but not feel like it was doing the exact same thing, so they just tweaked certain things. And to me, the tweaking is what felt weird. (Like having Bosworth deliberately open the window and strip in front of the guys is much different from the original, where she just “happens” to let them see her. Or the scene with the cat that has an entire argument afterwards as opposed to the original, which has a few choice words that perfectly get the point across. I get what they were going for, but it just felt like it was trying to cater to people who would ask questions.) Everything feels like it’s leading toward something, where as the other one was a slow burn. Also Peckinpah’s editing is just so much better. Still, though, this isn’t bad. It’s just not the original at all.

Contagion — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Solid film. I wasn’t sure what to expect here. I knew it would be at least good, because it’s Soderbergh, and it’s this cast. They make good films. And I got about that. This was solid, but not spectacular. Easy to watch, does what it sets out to do, and that’s it, really. Nothing more, nothing less. I’d still rather watch Outbreak. I know it’s more fantastical, but it’s definitely more fun to watch. But this — 3.5 is right where it should be.

Warrior — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was actually a pretty solid film. I enjoyed it more as a 3-star movie, but it was well-done and all, so I gave it 3.5. It’s somewhere in between. The film itself was very watchable. I thought it would be throwaway, but it was better than that. I guess I give it the 3.5 because it didn’t get much notice, and it didn’t deserve to be totally written off the way it was. It’s worth a look.

Drive — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

Oh man. What a film. This is cinema, folks. From January until now, this is one of two films with a strong chance to make my Top Ten list. Last year I had at least four or five by this point. (Weird how I talked about how bad 2010 was, yet — 2011 might be worse.) But this film is just great from beginning to end. The opening sequence is perfect, and it just goes from there. Great all around. Not perfect (hence it not getting 5 stars), but really good. I loved this. So much.

I Don’t Know How She Does It — * * (2 stars)

I went into this fully expecting for it to be Unforgivable. Know what? It wasn’t. It was bad, don’t get me wrong. It was offensive, and pandering to housewives, but it wasn’t Unforgivable. It didn’t make me angry. It just simply wasn’t good. Which is the best compliment I can pay this movie. It’s not Unforgivable, it’s just bad.

Abduction — * * (2 stars)

This is a 2 ½ star movie bumped back to 2 stars because of some unfortunate lead casting. Taylor Lautner has no charisma, talent or appeal to speak of. The first fifteen minutes of the film are essentially pandering to tween girls who find him attractive, or whatever it is. And that made me think this would be Unforgivable. But, honestly, the rest of the film really isn’t that bad. It’s just a generic action-thriller. It’s a standard 2 ½ stars and a film no one will remember after seeing it. The only thing, though, is that the casting of Taylor Lautner docks the film a half-star. He’s really bad in it, and the casting of a stronger lead would have probably bumped it up to three stars. But no — they wanted the shirtless wonder. Too bad. This could have been decent.

Burke and Hare — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I quite enjoyed this. It was more like a 3-star movie, but the period nature made me bump it up an extra half-star. This is destined to be one of the hidden gems of the John Landis oeuvre. It’s really quite a lovely film.

Dolphin Tale — * * (2 stars)

God, I hated this. It was inevitable. If the film didn’t make any money, I’d have given it 2.5 stars and said, “Not for me, unassuming, whatever.” But it did make money. It made money and people loved it. And honestly, it just wasn’t that good. It wasn’t for me, but even films not for me I can at least enjoy on a certain level. This one I just didn’t like. At all. 2 stars, let’s just forget it even exists.

Moneyball — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

What a great film. This is pure cinema. A film about a topic and nothing more. I was worried about this one when I heard about it, because — how are you gonna make a film about sabermetrics? Yet, the concept is so simple that it just works. Utterly fascinating from beginning to end, and the reason it works is because all the baseball clips are archive footage from the actual events. I really like the way they structured this. And it works. I’m not sure how much it works if you don’t like baseball, but if you like cinema — this is a great film. And that’s all a person can ask for.

Red State — * * * * (4 stars)

I actually saw this back in March when they premiered it at Radio City Music Hall. For some reason I never wrote the review up back then. I also watched it again recently, so it still works. But, I really, really, liked this movie, and I think everyone should see it. I don’t want to go off on a whole “this movie rules” cocksucking extravaganza, but I think people should see it (it’s Watch Instant on Netflix, and less than 90 minutes long). I bet you that you’ll be surprised by it. Really strong film.

Killer Elite — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I quite enjoyed this. It was a solid period action film. I think what made it so good was how unassuming it was. It wasn’t trying anything, it just — was. Stathan, De Niro, Owen — really solid all around. Not terribly memorable, but definitely easy to watch. Good film.

Dream House — * * (2 stars)

I saw this one coming. They bumped it a few times. Lots of reshoots, Sheridan disowned the film, Craig and Weisz refused to do press for it. It blew. Really blew. Not sure what the problem was. I mean, I’m not sure why it was made in the first place, but, I don’t know what this could have been that the studio turned it into. But boy, was this not good. What a waste of talent across the board.

50/50 — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

I loved this one. It’s so wonderfully low key about everything. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, and it does a wonderful job of being what it is. It never felt forced, and never felt like it was doing the “movie” thing. And even when I did see some “movie” moments, they were quickly followed up by moments that were so genuine that it didn’t matter. This is a great film. It has a strong shot at making the Top Ten this year. We need to champion films like this.

What’s Your Number? — * (1 star)

Wow, this was awful. Like, really bad. Not sure if it’ll make the final ten for Unforgivable, but this is like — bottom 15. It was really awful.

Take Shelter — * * * * (4 stars)

Here’s a movie I knew nothing about at the beginning of the year. Then, come November, I knew vaguely of it, but not much at all. From what I knew, it was some sort of sci-fi movie about Michael Shannon protecting his movie from plagues or something. And that poster made me think, “Why the fuck is he getting awards buzz for this?” I imagine this is what it’s like to be a racist or gay-bashing conservative. Only knowing very little and basing an opinion on that without trying to look into it more. Anyway, I soon found out what it was about, and actually thought it would be something I want to see. So I did. And, it was pretty great. Normally, I’d go, “You kind of saw where it was heading pretty early on,” but, I think that’s the point. I’d have liked for the actual rapture to have happened at the end (what they did felt a little bit like an Inception ending, cheating to get the best of both worlds, but I’m cool with it), but what I got was a pretty solid film. So that’s cool. I liked it a lot. Shannon is great, as is Chastain. (Her and Fassbender are just having crazy good years.)

The Ides of March — * * * * (4 stars)

I almost went 4.5, but I felt 4 was the way to go. What I loved most about this film were two things: first, how non-political it really was. With Clooney involved, people would expect this to have a liberal slant. It doesn’t. The closest we get to George Clooney’s personal politics are when he’s making speeches and says what he’ll do. That said, the movie isn’t about him. It’s about Ryan Gosling. I liked how everyone assumed this was going to be Clooney attacking conservatives in some way, but instead it was a solid political thriller. The other thing I loved most about it was how 70s it was. I can count the number of films each year on one hand that have the balls to go out and out 70s with their endings. (I use 70s as a blanket term, but, if you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about.) No one does that. I love that this film had the balls to do that. It was perfect. Also the performances were great all around. This is definitely going to be in my top 15 films of the year.

Real Steel  * * * * (4 stars)

Loved this film. This is a film that is better than whatever you think about it beforehand. I guarantee you. It’s really great. It’s your standard father/son story, except the reason it surpasses the standard cliches there are because Hugh Jackman plays such a scumbag and because the kid is really good in the film. And then the fight scenes are really well done. Trust me on that. Even if you’re like, “Jesus, I know what’s gonna happen…”, once the robots start fighting, you’re totally invested. This is a great film, and definitely a film that surpassed any expectations I had. I really liked this one a lot.

Father of Invention — * * * (3 stars)

Entertaining. Mostly because of Spacey. Very much an independent movie, though. Follows standard progressions. Characters are also very stereotypical. Tries to be extra quirky when it shouldn’t. 3 stars. Not terrible.

Margin Call — * * * (3 stars)

Good. Decent. That’s really it. Watchable, not totally engaging. Just — there. I don’t really go for these sorts of things. So, I got through it, didn’t hate it, didn’t love it — it ended. 3 stars. You could do worse for 100 minutes. I say stick with Wall Street (or even Boiler Room), though.

Footloose — * * * (3 stars)

Yeah, it was entertaining. It’s more like a 3.5 star movie in terms of execution, but I only enjoyed it as a 3 star movie. 3 stars just felt right. It’s well-done and all, but I just didn’t care all that much. It was for this generation of kids. Which is cool and all. I prefer the old version (if any. It’s not like I watch the old version ever). And if you want rationalization as to why I docked the film a half-star after saying it was a 3.5 — how about the covers of all the old music? The “Holding Out for a Hero” cover was terrible, and the “Footloose” cover? Really?

The Thing — * * (2 stars)

Boy, was this unnecessary. Through and through. Maybe I’d have given this 2.5 stars, but it loses a half-star for many reasons. First was the fact that they spent $80 million on this. Then because they spent more money to go back and add CGI and reshoot stuff. And because they remade a film that didn’t need to be remade. They went and made it more action-heavy, which is not what the story requires, so they ruined a potentially good prequel sort of thing. They started as a prequel, then just followed the storyline of the original (which was actually a remake) exactly. Plus it was just boring, and obvious. I’m actually surprised it got two stars from me. But, we’ll call it 2. Although, if I hear from anyone (and that goes doubly for people over the age of 16) that this was better than Carpenter’s version and especially Hawks’s version — you’ll wake up with a shiv sticking out of your kidneys.

The Three Musketeers — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was very entertaining. I had a lot of fun here. It wasn’t without its problems, as most mainstream big-budget action movies (and Paul W.S. Anderson movies) are, but the period nature of it helped it overcome those. Very enjoyable, and it got shafted at the box office. People who give this a chance are going to be pleasantly surprised. You think it’s shitty. It’s actually enjoyable. 3.5 stars is exactly what this is. You might find it a 3, but still, you can’t deny that it’s a lot of fun.

Johnny English Reborn — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

I was never a fan of this series. The first one was 2.5 stars as well. I like Rowan Atkinson — I think the original Mr. Bean series is hysterically funny. But this set of movies — not that funny to me. It feels like watered down mainstream comedy. Not my thing. Utterly forgettable.

Trespass — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

This is one of those Nicolas Cage films that actually plays it straight. It’s weird to think that there’s an actor who surprises you by not doing something outlandish. But this is a straight home invasion thriller. There’s no part of it that’s overly interesting or new, even though it’s solidly made. It’s competent in every way, and it’s just not that interesting. Wasn’t bad enough to be a 2, but I didn’t enjoy it enough to be a 3. And there we have the intense scientific method behind my ratings. Seriously though — pretty generic. Even Cage. The last time I saw a Cage film that was as uninteresting as this — Bangkok Dangerous. Even Season of the Witch had the demon fight. This was just — there. Oh well, at least we had Drive Angry this year.

Paranormal Activity 3 — * * (2 stars)

It sucked.

(Admittedly, I am decidedly not the target audience for this film. I did not enjoy the first one, and thought the second was an insufferable bore. This was a natural extension of that. Some (idiots) may love these films. Well, you can have ’em.)

In Time — * * * * (4 stars)

I really enjoyed this film a lot. It’s more like a 3.5 star movie, but I had fun, and the concept is worth 4 stars. And since I had fun and enjoyed myself, I gave it 4 stars. I don’t really care that the structure was generic and all that, because to me, most films are of generic structure. To me what counts is an interesting concept, interesting execution, and something that will entertain me. This film has an interesting concept, was entertaining, and it’s the kind of concept that made me think about all the possibilities involved. To me, that’s all I want as a writer. You show me this universe and dangle the possibilities in front of me. Talk about what you’re interested in, but give me things to think about, and I’m happy. And this film did that. So I give it 4 stars.

The Rum Diary — * * * (3 stars)

Entertaining, but not great. I have to imagine we all saw this coming. They pushed this for over a year, and it just didn’t seem like something that could work. Fear and Loathing was great, but that had the benefit of Terry Gilliam, and the benefit of Johnny Depp not being Johnny Depp. Since Pirates, he’s not allowed to take chances, whether or his own accord or whatever. Not that he always did take chances, but Pirates itself was a huge chance, plus Fear and Loathing — that was a fucking chance. It takes balls for a leading man to do that. Now that he’s making $300 million, he hasn’t taken those chances. Sure, people will say Tim Burton movies, but even those — no. Not anymore. Even Burton’s gone mainstream. This just feels bland, but with some spices sprinkled on top. You know? It was entertaining and all, but, not to keep inviting this comparison to Fear and Loathing (but you kind of have to with Hunter’s works. Even Where the Buffalo Roam is the same), the other Thompson films felt like they had character from the inside. This just felt like they were — the spice analogy again. So, while I enjoyed this the one (and probably only) time I watched this — it was just okay.

Martha Marcy May Marlene — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I liked this. I thought it was really well-done, with a good central performance by Elizabeth Olsen. Above average, but not amazing. Hence the 3.5. I didn’t go apeshit over this like some people did. Still, though, very solid. One of the better small films of the year. (My favorites are still Another Earth and Like Crazy.)

Puss in Boots — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Not my thing at all. I liked the original Shrek film when it first came out, but by 2002 it was already dated. I can’t stand animated films using pop culture references. And then I completely stopped giving a shit by the time Shrek 2 came out. So this — the amount of a fuck I could not give about this film when I heard about it was just incredible. So I was never going to like this. That said — it was made well, and it looked spirited in its execution. I just didn’t give a shit about it. So 2.5.

Like Crazy — * * * * ½ (4.5 stars)

What a beautiful film. This is what independent movies should be. (This and Another Earth.) Films that take a small subject, and make it really interesting. Here’s a film where it doesn’t matter what happens — all that matters is these two people. The relationship in this film is dealt with in such a mature and realistic way, and the film manages to keep you interested throughout without any tricks, or “movie” plot points. (Though I will say, I’m not a fan of how low budget movies nowadays all seem to have to look like they were shot on a boat in choppy waters. Can’t we get a tripod in scenes where nobody’s doing anything? Do we need to get seasick watching somebody sit at a desk?) This is a beautiful film. One of the best of the year.

Tower Heist — * * * (3 stars)

What a surprise, an utterly forgettable Bret Ratner movie. Here’s a film that you can watch, won’t like, and won’t dislike, and when it’s over, you’ll move on, and forget about everything that happened within the span of it. That’s really all this is. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It just is. You can add your own editorial about Bret Ratner’s talent level and ability to continue making films later. For now — meh, it was okay.

A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

Here’s the deal with this one — we knew what we were getting. The first film was a lot of fun, and was actually kind of a good movie, in its own way. And the second one was — not as good. It was quite terrible, even. And this one — not great, but not terrible. 2.5 covers it. I got through it okay, but it wasn’t like it was anything great. Standard fare. Small film, accomplished what it set out to do. No complaints here.

Son of No One — * * * (3 stars)

Meh, it was okay. Standard cop thriller. I felt about this the way I felt about A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it, I got through it, and never really felt one way or another about it.

Melancholia — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

Gotta hand it to Lars von Trier — the man certainly does not settle with simplicity. All of his films are difficult in some way. Or maybe dense is the proper word. Here’s a film many people will not enjoy. They won’t get it, they’ll find it boring. But it’s — interesting. It’s simple, yet evocative — just a solid film. I don’t really know how to describe it. Most of his films are like that. It’s one of those things where I tell people — “just watch it.” I don’t describe von Trier films, I experience them. And this was an overall pleasant (in the sense of the film, not what happens in it) experience.

London Boulevard — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I was interested in this from the start. I loved William Monohan’s Departed script, and when I heard he was going to be making his directorial debut with a film that starred Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley and Ray Winstone, I said, “How could this possibly be bad?” I even read the script a year early, which I quite enjoyed. And when I saw the finished film — it was more or less what I read in the script. Maybe a bit flat. But maybe that was because I knew what was gonna happen. But it’s an enjoyable film. Definitely 3.5 stars. Pretty solid all around. Nothing spectacular, but solid. This will be a bit of a hidden gem, because I know almost no one will see it.

J. Edgar — * * * * (4 stars)

This is a solid film. Clint directed the hell out of it. It looks gorgeous, the sets and costumes are great, I even like how they colored it. Leo is fine, as is everyone else, and it’s utterly watchable. It’s a 4-star film. Really great. Only thing I’ll say against it is — it shouldn’t win a bunch of Oscars. Nominations are fine (unless they manage to take away a spot from someone deserving), but it shouldn’t win. But once you get past the Oscars of it all, it’s still a really good film.

Immortals — * * * (3 stars)

It looked great. And the fight scenes were badass and bloody. But there wasn’t much of a film here. I didn’t give a shit about anything that was going on. I was just watching, going, “Nice composition, great splash of color, great shot, great shot, nice kill — oh, look at Freida Pinto’s ass.” I was never engaged with the actual story. I was just watching the filmmaking. So 3 stars. This falls between Tarsem’s first movie, The Cell (with Jennifer Lopez. Yes. That one), and his second, The Fall. Okay, but I really just didn’t give a shit about anything that happened.

Jack and Jill — * (1 star)

It’s going to be Unforgivable. Just wait a few more days, you’ll hear all about it. Just know for now: this movie did not deserve the effort Al Pacino gave it.

Hugo — * * * * * (5 stars)

My jaw dropped from the very first image of the film. The 3D here is the best ever put to film. Better than Avatar. Scorsese has modeled a masterpiece with this film. Everything about this film is perfect. Aside from the stunning 3D, the film is a wonderful (and family-friendly) adventure, fun for everyone. It’s got a great cast of characters (many of whom have worked with Marty before. I don’t think there’s any fan of Scorsese’s who didn’t see this film and went “Hey, it’s Ray Winstone!” when he popped up). And most importantly — it’s about a love of cinema. This is perhaps the closest film Scorsese has ever made to his own sensibilities. It’s about preserving old cinema so everyone can enjoy it in the future. And what I love most about it is how it introduces children to the films of Georges Méliès. It introduces children to silent films! That’s so brilliant. This film will make my Top Ten list this year, and very likely will be in the top three. At worst it’ll be in the top five. It’s a masterpiece.

The Descendants — * * * * (4 stars)

I really liked this. Certain parts made me feel a little hesitant about it, but most of them disappeared by the midway point. This is a really good film. Thank god, too, because I fucking hated Sideways. At least I know that I like Payne’s stuff, except that film, rather than having to be hesitant for each one he does. Clooney is great here, as advertised, and the film basically works because of him. He pretty much has to do it all, and he does it well. (I had slight problems with the voiceover at the beginning, but I’ve made peace with that.) The real revelation here, though, for me, was Shailene Woodley. At first I was like, “Oh god, is this really how she’s playing it?”, but once Clooney tells her about the mother when she’s in the pool — holy shit. This girl deserves an Oscar nomination (and possibly a win, depending on the category, which looks to be horribly weak). On the whole, though, this was a really solid film, and is likely to be in my top 15 for the year.

Happy Feet Two — * * * (3 stars)

The first one was a very enjoyable little movie about being yourself. It also had a nice social commentary imbedded in it. It was a lot of fun. This one — it just felt like overkill. It looked gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t enjoy this one like I enjoyed the other one. This one just felt like regurgitation of all the stuff people liked in the first one without the heart and soul. I’m sure kids will enjoy it, but for me, it didn’t need to be made. (And it didn’t even capitalize on the one reason animated sequels are made — money. It’s not even gonna do close to what the first one did.) Kudos to Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, though. Their section of the film was awesome. (Also, good job, writers, for all the wordplay. “Goodbye, krill world,” was just a brilliant line.) And whoever got Damon to sing “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” — you’re a genius.

A Dangerous Method — * * * * (4 stars)

Wow. This — was a trip. I had a feeling from the opening shot, which is a sudden cut of Keira Knightley screaming and being held down in a carriage as she’s taken to a hospital. And it just goes from there. Fassbender does a solid, non-flashy job as Jung, while Mortensen gets to pop in and out as Freud. Both as interesting, but it’s Keira who steals this show. That’s a bold performance she gives here. Methinks there’s a nomination in her future. The film itself was very engaging, and very well done. It almost doesn’t feel like a Cronenberg movie. Almost. I really enjoyed it, though. Definitely one of the year’s better films.

The Muppets — * * * * (4 stars)

This was magical. I loved every minute of this. It was sweet, and fun, and had just enough references to what makes the Muppets ‘the Muppets’ to really make this feel special. You have to understand — a Muppet movie does not operate on the same scale as other movies do. Watch the original Muppet Movie from 1979 to see what I mean. This does a very good job of what it intended to do, which was make a Muppet movie for the youth of today. And it worked. I cried at least three times. It was beautiful. (Though the ending felt a bit — off.)

The Artist — * * * * * (5 stars)

There are no words to explain the joy I experienced while watching this film. It is perfect from beginning to end. From when I first heard about it, I’d pretty much penciled it in as a probable #1 film for me for the year. We’re way past that now. Now, I start campaigning to get this thing to win Best Picture. This is my personal choice for best film of the year. It’s gonna take a lot for anything to top this.

Rampart * * * * (4 stars)

This was really solid. Didn’t like it as much as The Messenger, but I did like it a lot. Woody Harrelson is great here, and it does a really good job of being what it wants to be. Solid film. Definitely not for everyone, though.

New Year’s Eve — * * ½ (2.5 stars)

My first instinct was to say, “This sucked.” But you know what? It’s like Valentine’s Day. That was a film that wasn’t that great. But there was enough of an ensemble, and it went by smoothly enough, to where it wasn’t so bad. I started this going, “Oh no.” But by 30 minutes in, it wasn’t horrible. Even if you think some parts are stupid, there are others that are okay, so really, while it’s not great, it’s not awful, people. It’s really not. I stand by this rating.

We Need To Talk About Kevin — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I liked this. It’s flawed, that’s for sure, but it’s not a bad movie by any stretch. It feels very indie, and the music choices just felt either unnecessary or on-the-nose. But Tilda Swinton does a good job here. That’s really what this is about.  It’s worth seeing for her performance (especially since she’s probably gonna get nominated for it). Solid film.

Young Adult — * * * * (4 stars)

The best compliment I can pay this movie is to say that a lot of people are not going to like it. Here’s a movie meant to be a hard, bitter pill to swallow. It doesn’t compromise, it doesn’t try to tie things up nicely, it just — does. And people, when they see this, are gonna be put off by it, and they’re gonna say they didn’t like it. And that’s why this film is so great. Because people are going to say it wasn’t good simply because it made them uncomfortable. Hell, I didn’t love the film. And yet I did. That’s it. I enjoyed the film, but when I got done, I didn’t say, “This is a top ten for the year for me.” Yet — that’s why it’s so good. This is one of the most solid films I’ve seen this year. And whenever I hear someone say it was bad and that they didn’t like it, that’s gonna let me know that this movie succeeded.

Friends with Kids — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

This was quite enjoyable. I know it won’t technically be released until 2012, but — I saw it. And it was pretty good. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than just okay, hence the rating. Check it out if you ever get the chance (and you will, in 2012).

Carnage — * * * * (4 stars)

I really enjoyed this one. A film directed by Roman Polanski and entirely reliant on performances by Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly is not exactly something that’s gonna struggle to be good. The fact that it’s based on a seemingly universally-beloved play also helps. And it’s also 75 minutes long, which also helps it. It does what it does and gets out. I respect that. But it’s very watchable and very entertaining. Some of the dialogue reeks of stage dialogue, but on the whole, it really works. The performances are pretty great, it’s thoroughly entertaining, and is, above all, great because it’s a film that adheres to what it needs to be (as opposed to the norm). It didn’t need to add another 15 minutes or cut between locations. I like that.

Albert Nobbs — * * * (3 stars)

The film was okay. Glenn Close plays a woman pretending to be a man. Oscar-type role. The film was okay. I suspect others will like this more than I did. I think a solid 3 stars ought to cover everything I feel about this one. Well-made, good performances, just not entirely interesting to me.

The Adventures of Tintin — * * * ½ (3.5 stars)

I’ll preface this by saying I was never a Tintin person. I honestly had no idea what Tintin even was until college, and even then it was just — I saw someone have a Tintin book and then found out it’s apparently a big deal. Still really have no clue what it is. So I was not as psyched about this film as some others were. I was much more interested in War Horse. But — the film itself was enjoyable. Very entertaining adventure film. Nothing spectacular, I felt, and there were a bit too many action scenes. But overall — enjoyable. The technology involved would bump this up to a 4-star film, but I only enjoyed it as a 3.5, so that’s what I give it.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close — * * * * (4 stars)

I liked this. I didn’t love it. It’s one of those films — much like Stephen Daldry’s other films — it feels like Oscar bait. The material is classy and strong, but it’s too classy, and too strong. Although, unlike all of Daldry’s other films, I more than just liked this one. I can’t stand 9/11 films, but this one, to me, worked for the most part. Because it deals with the day in a nice way. And the story of the kid going out to find meaning in the wake of his father’s death — it worked. It’s certainly not a Best Picture by any stretch of the imagination (which, given what this film was designed for, has to be brought up at this stage in the game. Next year, once this is all over, assuming it doesn’t win, my recollection will be solely about the film), but it’s a really solid film. The only things that bugged me about the film: first, the kid’s voiceover. Not that it was there. I was cool with it as a plot device. The kid’s voice was actually kind of annoying to me. I don’t know why. Normally I like child protagonists. This one just annoyed me a little. The second thing, which may tie into the first — why was he so savant? Why was he able to design these pop-up books that most adults wouldn’t be able to do? (There’s a little bit of this in Hugo too, but there, it’s fun and magical.) That just seemed weird, how he had all these crazy skills and knowledge of stuff. Other than that, though, I liked it. Max von Sydow was pretty great. Really solid overall.

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One response

  1. Michelle

    I saw ‘Another Earth’ and I loved it, too, so I’m really glad to read just how much you liked it. Amazing scene with a guy playing a saw – how many movies have that?! You can listen to the ethereal music from this scene on the composer’s website http://www.scottmunsonmusic.com/news/music-in-film-another-earth-soundtrack
    I think it deserves being on your Top Ten list.

    December 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm

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