Been a while since I updated here:
Saw In Theaters
Saw At Home
20. Chasing Amy – My first venture into the films of Kevin Smith. It’s ok. It’s got some great individual moments (basically, any time that Jason Lee is on screen), but there’s far too much speechifying. It seems like every other scene has one of our leads giving a 3 minute monologue. Some of those monologues work, but most of them don’t. The film is on much stronger ground when its having the characters play off one another. Generally speaking, Banky and Hooper are the best things about the movie (Lee has some fantastic reaction shots), and the scenes without them get far too overwrought.
21. Rango – I’d heard good things, and it lived up to them. It’s nothing groundbreaking, and you know where the story is going from the beginning, but it’s a lot of fun and the visual style is consistently interesting.
22. Howl’s Moving Castle – This one is really frustrating. The things I liked, I REALLY liked, but in other ways it really fell apart. Visually, it’s a stunning film. The opening shots of the castle appearing in the mist have you filled with a sense of wonder right from the start. It’s so visually inventive, there’s so much to love in every frame. On a narrative level, though, it’s got serious problems. It’s so disjointed and drawn in such broad strokes, it doesn’t connect on an emotional level. I had some similar problems with Akira, so maybe it’s just the way things are in anime, but I really needed the world to be fleshed out more. It feels like its missing a lot of connective tissue.
23. Crazy Stupid Love – I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. The cast is just full of charming, likeable people. Carell, Gosling and Stone are just delightful screen presences, and the scenes between Carell and Gosling in particular are great. Pretty light fare, but fun and enjoyable.
24. Moneyball – I really, really liked it. I have a soft spot for Brad Pitt, the guy is just so freaking charming. The whole film really rests entirely on him, and he turns in a great performance. It’s fun and witty, and doesn’t drag on or introduce unnecessary side plots (it could have easily gone there with Beane’s daughter, but wisely doesn’t). It’s really amazing that the source material turned out a movie this entertaining.
25. The Untouchables – Man, I miss Sean Connery. It had been a long time since I’d seen him in something, and he’s so freaking great in this movie. It’s a really good movie, one that I’ll probably rewatch a few more times to settle on how I really feel about it. The cast is unbelievable though, one of the best you’ll find.
26. The Cabin in the Woods – I don’t even like horror movies, but I sure did love this one. You already know I’m totally in the tank for Joss Whedon and his particular brand of witty dialogue, but this is also just an impeccably structured movie. Everything is revealed at just the right pace, and then that last act is just spectacular. Definitely a movie I want to own on DVD. Fran Kranz steals the show.
27. The Avengers – It’s everything I wanted it to be and more. Seriously, couldn’t be happier. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch, but as pure summer blockbuster action spectacle, it’s super-entertaining.
28. Adventureland – Loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. It’s delightfully understated and full of heart. The whole cast is terrific. In particular, Martin Starr is great, and Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig steal every scene they’re in. This really hit the sweet spot for me, I’ll definitely be revisiting this one.
29. Weird Science – Eh, it was ok. It is certainly very 80s. Enjoyable enough, I suppose, but not really for me.
30. El Bulli: Cooking In Progress – I love watching the process of high-level cooking and innovation. I love things like Iron Chef and the like, it fascinates me for whatever reason. This documentary, then, was super interesting for me, watching these chefs throw crazy ideas at the wall and see what sticks in order to produce a crazy, innovative menu at the best restaurant in the world. The montage of dishes at the end of the film is pretty stunning in just how unique and artistic they are.
31. Into The Abyss – A thoughtful look at inmates on death row, Werner Herzog gets some really powerful interviews and raises some important questions. The story here is less interesting than in Grizzly Man, but I like the way Herzog presents this more. He inserts himself into the narrative less, which lends to freer interviews and less heavy-handed moralizing. Though its clear what Herzog’s opinion on the death penalty is, he doesn’t pound it into the ground, and the audience gets to make up their own mind.
32. The Dark Knight Rises – It’s a hot mess, but it sure is entertaining. I mean, from a plotting standpoint, this thing is a total disaster. It’s all over the place and tries to do WAY too many things. That results in it being unfocused, muddled and lacking in proper character development. And yet, despite that, it’s hard not to admire the scope and ambition of the film, and there’s no denying that it is extremely entertaining. It’s sloppy, but the cast goes a long way towards pulling it off. I, for one, love Tom Hardy as Bane, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is probably my favorite actor working today. It’s Ann Hathaway that totally steals the movie though. Her Selina Kyle is absolutely perfect, and the movie really pops when she’s on screen.
33. Glengarry Glen Ross – It’s a classic for a reason. The cast is simply incredible, and they’re given such delicious dialogue to work with. Oh Al Pacino, where have you gone?
34. 30 For 30: Catching Hell – In the running for my favorite of the ESPN documentaries. I love the investigation into the concept of scapegoating in sports, our desire to have one thing, one person to place all the blame on. The story of Steve Bartman is a fascinating (and sad) one, and Alex Gibney’s forensic deconstruction of that night shines a whole new light on that fateful moment. A must-watch for sports fans.
35. 30 For 30: Once Brothers – Not one of the better 30 For 30s to me. The premise is interesting, and it is a powerful and not well known sports story. Sadly, it isn’t presented in a particularly interesting way, and it gets heavy-handed far too often. I loved seeing footage of that Yugoslavian national team though, and it gave me a new appreciation for Drazen Petrovich.
36. 30 For 30: Pony Excess – Loved it. Makes a great sister piece to “The U”. It isn’t quite as good as that film, but it is still hugely entertaining. Scandal, drama and big personalities make for a great documentary.
37. 30 For 30: Unguarded – It’s solid, but nothing special. Chris Herren has an amazing story, and one that is completely heartbreaking at times. Still, the framing device of intercutting with his talks at high schools/rehab groups is leaned on a little too heavily, with the result that the film feels kind of overly preachy.
38. Margin Call – You know, I really like Paul Bettany. I always forget about him, partly because he’s made a bunch of crappy movies where he’s the lead, but he’s really awesome in supporting roles. The whole cast is really excellent here, and the film manages to build a tense drama on material that could have been pretty bland.
39. The Raid: Redemption – I’m not one who is normally big into ridiculous action films. That said, holy crap this movie. Despite a super-simple premise, the movie is incredibly well-paced. For every crazy, over-the-top action sequence (and there are SO many of those), there’s time spent to let you breathe, and to let the tension and drama continue to build. And those action sequences…so good. The brutality of the action is really jarring.
40. Jiro Dreams of Sushi – I love watching TV shows and documentaries about food, I’m really a sucker for it. So, clearly I loved this movie. However, it’s about far more than just amazing sushi, it’s about a man who has dedicated his entire life to perfecting sushi, and what drives him to do so. It’s a fascinating look at a fascinating life.
41. Warrior – I had heard good things about this, but I wasn’t really expecting to love it. Silly me. This is probably the most pleasant surprise so far for me this year. Tom Hardy is just unbelievably magnetic here. Even without a lot of words, he brings this incredible physicality and presence to the role that sucks you in. The fight scenes are really well filmed, and the contrasting styles of Hardy and Edgerton are well set-up (Hardy’s lightning fast take-downs are just brutal). Loved this one so much.
42. Margaret – Probably the most fascinating movie I’ve seen all year. It’s kind of a mess, but miraculously it works. The main character is one of the most realistic feeling depictions of a high schooler ever put on screen. Anna Paquin is incredible playing a deeply flawed, and yet understandable, human being. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the film, but I’m still turning it over in my head four days later, and that’s a pretty good sign that it’s something special.
43. Chaplin – Robert Downey Jr. is unbelievable in this. Seriously. Un-be-lievable. The early scenes where he’s doing Chaplin’s drunk acting are a master class in physical comedy. The rest of the movie never quite captures the energy and joy of those early scenes, but it’s pretty great nonetheless.