June 30, 2012

GMC Day 30: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer



What a way to end the Great Movie Challenge! Considering all the other movies I watched that were classified as "thrillers," this was the first one that actually thrilled. (I'm not trying to get cute, I am so genuinely excited about this movie)

No, I didn't read the book. And no, I didn't watch the original Swedish version, so my view of it is not in comparison to either of those. I went in having no idea what the story was about, other than the fact that it involved some kind of crime. So everyone that wants to whine on and on about how it's "so much better in it's original form," we both know that you don't speak Swedish, so stop your thinly veiled pretentious bragging that you watched a foreign film. Good for you.

The movie is so fast paced and the acting by Rooney Mara is so superb - she scares the crap out of me. I'm curious to see what kind of part we'll see her in next. She was so good at her role I'm a little afraid she'll be pigeonholed into this intense, weird sort of girl from now on.

I've never really thought about the soundtrack to a movie before (except when filling out my Oscars ballot), but I found myself noticing that the music in this movie really set the tone. The scenes are dark, but manage to keep you just at the edge of knowing what's going to happen next.

My only regret is having watched it late at night, by myself. I was so amped up afterward I had to pace around my living room to slow my heart rate. I really thought I might have a panic attack while watching it. I imagine this is the feeling people like to get while watching horror movies (which I hate, btw). I'm not sure if my well-being can handle another thriller like this, but I'm glad I made it through this one.

Final word: Watch it immediately, if not sooner.

Even though the Great Movie Challenge is over, I will continue to review movies as I watch them, so keep checking back for new reviews! And if you have a movie suggestion you'd like to hear my thoughts on or think I might enjoy/not enjoy, just post a comment letting me know what to watch!

June 29, 2012

GMC Day 29: The Beaver (2011)

Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster



This movie is depressing. Which is fitting, I suppose, as it's a movie about depression. Mel Gibson looks absolutely horrible throughout the movie, which is good, since again, he's a man with severe depression. The Australian voice he adopts for the Beaver is really quite annoying and it sounds familiar, making me wonder if he's done it somewhere else before, but everything else about his part is really good. Perhaps because of his [very public] struggle with alcohol and the sort, it makes him all the more believable in this part.

This movie is about more than depression, though. It's about a messed up family (aren't they all?) and their attempt at connecting with each other. It's just done in a very odd way (which I suppose is a given, considering the hand puppet on the cover). I'm not sure what prompted someone to write this movie, because it's very creative in a way, yet very predictable and traditional in a lot of other ways.

Final word: A bit of a downer. Literally. Not for the masses.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 28, 2012

GMC Day 28: Albatross (2011)

random British twenty-somethings, Julia Ormond


Just when I lost faith that good indie movies existed...(I'm not actually sure this was an indie movie, but it felt like one, so I'm running with it)

This movie was so unexpectedly good. It has some legitimately funny parts, but is overall very sweet and a touch sad. I am absolutely in love with Jessica Brown Findlay, the lead character, who is apparently in Downton Abbey (am I the only person not watching that show?). She reminds me of a young and spunky (yes, I know that's a terrible word, but it works here) Drew Barrymore, but without the annoying lisp. I think she could qualify for a spot on that SNL segment, "getting quirky with Zooey Deschanel." Well, her character could. I don't know Jessica Brown Findlay as a person. (Though I must say, I really hate the use of the three names. Unless she's Hispanic or an assassin, there is really no excuse.)

I felt slightly uncomfortable the whole time, waiting for the inevitable, but it didn't feel predictable and boring like so many other movies. It was an easy watch, but not in the guilty-pleasure-Blue-Crush type of way. As in, you can be over the age of 16 still feel okay about telling your friends you watched it.

Final word: Enjoyable indie.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 27, 2012

GMC Day 27: J. Edgar (2011)

Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts



Why has Meryl Streep (often called the best actor of her generation) won three Oscars, yet Leo (often called the best actor of my generation) has none? Do you know who else has a Best Actor Oscar? Roberto Begnini. Yep, this guy. Yet Leo is 0-3. (I call him Leo. We're cool like that) It's rigged, I tell you. Meryl Streep can win for The Iron Lady (which was insanely boring, btw), but Leo can't even get a shout-out for a more entertaining biography? I use the term 'more entertaining' loosely here, as I'm not saying I really enjoyed it. I just enjoyed it more than The Iron Lady. I mean, no matter how well acted a part is, shouldn't the movie have to be good to earn recognition? Sort of like in sports how great athletes are told they can't be in the conversation of "greatest of all time" without winning a championship, even if they kill everyone on stats, but are stuck on a suck-y team that has no hope of ever winning.

But I digress. This movie reminded me a lot of another Leo movie, The Aviator. Another well acted biography about a person with an impressive life, but someone we don't really care about as a society. And really, if we didn't learn about them in school, are they worth sitting through a 2+ hour biographical movie?

There are some unexpected parts and themes, which make you wonder whether Hollywood took some liberties with the "biography" title, or whether J. Edgar's life was really that interesting. And I found the make-up 'transforming' the actors into old people to be a little weird, but I suppose that's always a difficult thing to do. Then again, they have an entire Oscar category dedicated to this, so maybe Sian Grigg & co. need to step their game up.

Final word: It was really good, once. 

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 26, 2012

GMC Day 26: The Ides of March (2011)

Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Paul Giamatti


Is there a person out there not currently in love with Ryan Gosling? Judging by the number of movies he has been in lately, it doesn't appear so. Pair him with George Clooney, the favorite for over 40's women, and the movie is practically Wild Things for women. Just kidding.

It is, however, like the movie version of a hot girl who also happens to be smart and athletic. In short, this movie has it all. It's interesting, it's dramatic, it's well acted, and you can't decide who to like or hate throughout. It makes you both love America and hate politics at the same time (if you don't already).

Here! A successful example of a cast full of famous people!! Katherine Fugate, take note!

The only downside to this movie for me is this new role Ryan Gosling seems to be taking on more frequently, which is the smooth-talking player-type. It's so opposite of everything I imagine him to be (from his Canadian upbringing to his sweet temperament in Lars and the Real Girl). And while I, too, appreciated him taking his shirt off in Crazy Stupid Love, I hope this isn't a persona he continues to portray. 

Final word: Rent it. Watch it. Talk about it.

Related: crappy movies with ensemble casts

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 25, 2012

GMC Day 25: Man on a Ledge (2012)

Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Ed Burns


I actually threw Ed Burn's name on the notable starring actors list as a joke. I mean, what is he even known for, other than being married to one of the most beautiful persons ever, Christy Turlington? Who is letting him continue to act in movies? Maybe he should do a rom-com with Katherine Heigl...

Regardless, the movie wasn't bad. It falls into that purgatory of 'entertaining enough to rent, not entertaining enough to own' sort of category. The plot was complex enough that I wasn't rolling my eyes throughout and kept me guessing, which is always a plus in an action movie.

I'm not a huge fan of Elizabeth Banks, or really anyone that appears in a Judd Apatow movie (I know, I know, there are people out there that love his movies - you are the people that allow him to continue his string of adults-acting-like-adolescents raunchy 'comedies'), so the fact that she doesn't ruin the movie with her presence is a triumph for me.

Final word: Not bad.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 24, 2012

GMC Day 24: Killer Elite (2011)

Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro, Clive Owen


Not to be confused with The Killer Elite, apparently, from 1975, as I discovered when trying to search for photos of the movie. Yet another "based on a true story" (does anyone write original screenplays anymore??), the movie is mostly entertaining, but also really difficult to believe at points. Which is weird for a "true story." Who knows, maybe the truth is stranger than fiction (that was an unintentional reference to the weird Will Ferrell movie).

It's not an instant classic, by any means, but I think Jason Statham at least atoned for making Crank 2.

Final word: It has a lot of good action, just don't think too hard about the plot.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 23, 2012

GMC Day 23: Shame (2011)

Carey Mulligan, Michael Fassbender



Does someone out there think Michael Fassbender is attractive? Because that might help explain why this movie was made. I mean, when is the last time you saw a movie rated NC-17?

Don't be fooled by the promise of nudity in this movie. There is a lot of nudity (full frontal for both), but it seems gratuitous in its context. It's as if the movie tries to be as taboo as possible (in the American market, anyway. Europeans would probably think nothing of it) without actually doing anything. It pretends to explore a deep sexual secret, but almost misleads you into thinking the movie is about something else taboo (uh...awkward tension between Sissy and Brandon, perhaps?)

Overall, the movie is just really weak. Its ending is another one of those, "Really??" moments. There are looooong periods of silence in which nothing much was happening (which seems to a staple of indie-type movies). I have to wonder if Carey Mulligan just needed the money or if she's trying to shed her 'good girl' image that invariably all cute girls in Hollywood feel compelled to do.

Final word: It grossed well less than its budget. And it's budget didn't even require clothing for the characters. I think that's an indication of something.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 22, 2012

GMC Day 22: The Tree of Life (2011)

Brad Pitt, Sean Penn



I went through a range of conflicting emotions that are hard to explain while watching this movie. It was wonderful, yet boring, yet interesting at the same time. It was tragically sad, but hopeful and beautiful all at the same time. I can't even decide whether I liked it or not.

I will say this: if you can get through the first 45 minutes of the film, which is basically a nature slide show set to choral music in an attempt to show the creation of the world, the movie really picks up from there.

The movie is largely silent and a good portion of it has only a whispering narrative. It's not for everyone. I, for one, don't mind whispering narratives. I find them soothing. It's one the reasons The New World is one of my favorite movies. But I understand how they can annoy the crap out of people and I have learned to stop recommending The New World to people, as no one else has told me they enjoyed it. 

Brad Pitt does an excellent job in the movie and it's nice to see someone that is generally loved portrayed as a character you find yourself disliking, but then sympathize with by the end. It reminds me of the character arc of Natalie Portman's character in The Other Boleyn Girl

There are obvious heavy religious themes running throughout the movie, but I didn't find they detracted from the storyline or made it too cheesy. The director definitely let the cinematographer run [a little too] wild with the long stretches of panoramic shots and artistic still shots, but I suppose it paid off since he got an Oscar nomination for it.

The only movie in recent history that comes to mind that compares to it is The Fountain. I found The Tree of Life to be better, but I think their artsy vibe and themes are comparable.

Final word: The movie is beautiful and certainly different, but I have no idea who I would recommend it to.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 21, 2012

GMC Day 21: We Bought a Zoo (2011)

Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson



The movie poster says it all: "from the director who brought you Jerry Maguire." 

I think Jerry Maguire is one of those movies you like in spite of the fact that it's sort of cheesy and really annoying at times. This movie does all that. But you can't help but like it. And while yes, this one is also "based on a true story," you can more easily see how this person's life is inspiring and exciting and actually movie worthy. The fact that it has a bunch of cool animals doesn't hurt either.

Final word: It's a family movie, through and through.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 20, 2012

GMC Day 20: The Rum Diary (2011)

Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi



This movie has no point! This movie has no point! This movie has no point!

I don't mean to freak out, but I need to desperately impress upon you the fact that this movie has no point. Literally. No. Point.

"Based on a true story," it's just a snapshot of like, a month of some guy's life. Seriously? Can I make a movie about my days spent blogging and doing dishes, cast Kate Winslet in it and call it a movie?

This movie has no freaking point!!

Final word: If you just want to watch Johnny Depp act drunk for 2+ hours, go rent The Pirates of the Caribbean. Any of them.

Great Movie Challenge update - It's clear that sheer quantity has done me no favors. I feel like I've wasted hours of my life watching crappy movies I wish I'd never seen. Ahem, above. I plan to devote my final 10 days to picking movies of quality. We'll see if I'm able.

June 19, 2012

GMC Day 19: Contagion (2011)

another dreaded "ensemble cast"


When this movie came out, my sister mentioned that Gwenyth Paltrow "looked like crap" on the movie poster (she's the one on the bottom right). I am here to tell you that it is not just on the poster. She looks like that throughout the movie as well. I understand that the movie is about people getting sick, but few things are less enticing than the image of someone spewing and hacking up all sorts of nastiness. Is this entertainment? Watching people get sick? I can see that every day on the MUNI.

Besides my dislike of the storyline, the film editor seems to have gotten a tad aggressive on the cutting floor. Scenes are choppy and characters are left underdeveloped because again, the movie is busy cramming in star cameos, trying not to leave anyone out. You're left asking, "Wait, what happened to so-and-so?" But you'll never know. Maybe that's how the movie got classified as a 'thriller.'

Oh, and the ending? Did you ever watch War of the Worlds, where everything is humming along and the director decided the movie was getting too long, so the movie ends abruptly with little explanation? Yep, it's kinda like that. But honestly, by then you won't even care.

Final word: If I told you "no" for every person who lasted less than five minutes in this movie, would it convince you?

Related: crappy movies with ensemble casts

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

GMC Day 19: A Little Bit of Heaven (2011)

Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal



I am a sucker. I saw this giant poster hanging in the window of Blockbuster and thought, 'Ooh, a new Kate Hudson movie I've never heard of!' What I should have been saying was 'Why have I never heard of this movie? It must be terrible.' Or even more accurately, 'It doesn't matter whether or not I've heard of it - it's probably terrible anyway.'

Yet again, I fought against my better judgement and rented this movie. It's a bit of a wonder how she keeps getting to make movies. And I say this as someone who has watched all her movies. I know it's my fault. It's people like me who keep watching them, that allow studios to believe she is a bankable actress. But her movies are terrible! Like an 80's musician with a one-hit wonder that continues to tour, Kate Hudson continues to land movies based on her amazing performance as Penny Lane in Almost Famous. That was 12 years ago.

[And as a side rant, what is it with Hollywood and their love for movies involving friendly ghosts? Did they learn nothing from the bomb that was Over Her Dead Body?]

The only positive takeaway from this movie is that Hollywood has finally progressed to presenting interracial romantic interests beyond simply black and white people. I don't want to get all political, but the lack of diverse representation in movies beyond the black and white is astounding, considering the actual makeup of the US population (22% Asian & Latino). I think they should make a movie about a love triangle between an Indian girl, a Mexican guy and a Chinese guy.

Final word: It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a Kate Hudson movie. Whether or not you'll like it depends on what you expect from that.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 18, 2012

GMC Day 18: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)

Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock



I don't know if movie studios have a job where someone is in charge of titling upcoming movies, but there should be. If this job already exists, then the person who named this movie should be fired. I mean, honestly.

When this movie was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, I figured it was just thrown in there because of the new 'we nominate 10 movies to seem more fair and draw more buzz for Hollywood' thing that's happening. Also, having two former Oscar winners in Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock probably made it seem like a more legitimate movie. But it looked stupid. 

Yet, I watched it. I guess I caved to the pressure of feeling like I should watch Oscar contending movies (exactly what Hollywood was conning me to do by nominating 10 movies!!). And guess what? I didn't hate it! In fact, there were even a couple moments where I found myself getting choked up.

I really hate the word "touching" when describing movies because it sounds creepy and evokes images of molesters, but in some ways, it's the right word for this movie. (not because there are molesters in the movie, because there aren't - just to be clear) In short, it's exactly the kind of movie the Oscars love. Take from that what you will.

Final word: It's quite sweet and little sad - overall a pleasant watch.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

GMC Day 18: Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

James McAvoy, Emily Blunt


It's never too early to begin indoctrinating your children into the works of Shakespeare, apparently. This movie is nothing new, as we've all seen the Romeo and Juliet story a thousand times in various forms. But have you ever seen them as gnomes? No? Well then you are in luck.

There's really nothing more to say about this movie. Sorry.

Final word: Like most every other non-Disney children's movie, it's not bad to sit through once, but hope your kids don't latch onto it as a favorite.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 17, 2012

GMC Day 17: Anonymous (2011)

Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave



Historical fiction is a tricky thing. Quite often, people confuse it as real history (see: 300). They don't seem to understand the difference between 'based on a true story' and a completely true story. So I'm sure plenty of people will walk away from this movie believing that Shakespeare is a credit-hogging fraud. It can't be helped, I suppose.

That said, this movie is highly, highly interesting. The story is so creative (what else would you expect from conspiracy theorists?) and the drama level runs so high throughout that you feel like you need a deep breath when the credits finally roll. I don't know what it is about the British, but they know how to put together a historical movie (both fiction and non-fiction)!!

Do I wish the people cast in the movie had been more attractive? Of course. But with the exception of Jude Law, you just need to sort of accept that movies starring British men are going to contain some wonky teeth and harshly angular features. But it's one of those things where the acting is so good you can overcome it. Sort of like how people with 'good personalities' can still get dates.

Final word: Provided you don't hate Shakespeare from years of being forced to read it in school, this is a must see.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 16, 2012

GMC Day 16: Unknown (2011)

Liam Neeson, January Jones


Everyone talked about how amazing Liam Neeson and the movie Taken was. They also talked about how disappointing Unknown was in comparison. But did I listen? No. Should I have? Yes. It seems "they" know what they are talking about.

So I rented Unknown. And the movie started so strong! I thought, 'they' must be wrong! This movie has me totally hooked! It's exciting, it's mysterious, I have no idea where this is going!

...and then I hit the second half of the movie. I found out where it was going and it wasn't good. I didn't know whether to laugh at it's ridiculousness or cry for the writers who thought the ending was appropriate. I'm sure it's difficult to write a whole script, but come on, it's only a 90 minute movie! 

Final word: This movie would have been better suited to just stop 45 minutes in and let our imaginations fill in the rest.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

GMC Day 16: Just Go With It (2011)

Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston



I think by this point, everyone knows how Adam Sandler movies go - they are either good, or really, really bad. (Proof: 50 First Dates and Happy Gilmore vs. The Waterboy and Little Nicky) Either way, you are assured of a couple things: an appearance by Rob Schneider, that annoying baby voice Sandler does, and possible busts of singing. 

This movie has none of those things. And just as surprising, it's pretty good. Jennifer Aniston doesn't have a great track record of movies (the next person who tries to convince me that Friends with Money was amazing needs to be injured in some tortuous way) and Brooklyn Decker's only claim to fame is marrying pro tennis player Andy Roddick. (You might be saying, but she got the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition! To which I'd reply, after she married Roddick. I doubt these two things are unrelated).

Now that I'm done bashing all the lead actors, I have to say the movie is pretty funny. There are some lines I even find myself looking for opportunities to quote. ("Daddy is my favorite adult!") Despite a rather ridiculous premise, and a terrible title, the plot doesn't have too many holes. And Nick Swardson might just be my new favorite Sandler sidekick. (and he's from Minnesota - represent!)

So what are the negatives of the movie? After all, it's not like we're talking about an Oscar-worthy movie here. My main complaint is with the wardrobe designer. Seriously. I'm nitpicking their outfits. Yes, Mona May, I'm talking to you. I looked her up because I just had to know who was responsible for making a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover model look like she had saggy boobs and wide hips. Because that's how she looks for the majority of the movie. And no, I am not just being a hater because she's hot. I will freely admit she's an attractive person. And her body is obviously good to be a swimsuit model. But Mona May did not do her justice, which is surprising since apparently this is the woman who dressed Alicia Silverstone in Clueless and Amy Adams in Enchanted (both great costumes! What happened? Drugs? Old age? A loss of touch with current trend and body shapes in general?). I mean, at one point, Jennifer Aniston is wearing a silk nightie out to dinner without a bra (this would be a bigger deal if she weren't basically famous for always nipping out on Friends) as if it were a dress. It's just awful. You really have to watch the movie to understand.

Final word: The wardrobe distractions aside, it's worth watching.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 15, 2012

GMC Day 15: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law


Another day, another movie with actors I love in bad movies.

I love Robert Downey Jr. I really do. I even sat through Home for the Holidays, which stars Holly Hunter and I believe I've addressed how I feel about her voice already. I kept watching Ally McBeal long after it stopped being good just because he was on it. I watched Charlie Bartlett for him, for God's sake! He's one of the all-time favorite actors and it doesn't hurt that he'd be on my ahem, 5 free people list.

With all that in mind, and the fact that I quite enjoyed the first Sherlock Holmes, this movie was disappointing at best. I don't understand why directors or studios or whoever is making these crappy sequels don't get that not every movie can be made into a franchise. Doesn't Hollywood just make one great movie anymore? Is everything entitled to a string of subsequent movies? (Judging from the recent Madagascar series an the fact that Shrek is making what, a fifth movie now, that answer is yes). 

The amount of slow-motion used in this movie is inexcusable. IMDB lists its running time at 129 minutes. I am convinced there is about 6 minutes of plot and 20 minutes of action, stretched into the 129 minutes by way of slow-motion technology. You know how movies overuse CGI to the point that you can't help but laugh? It's like that. 

And while I appreciate the fact that Holmes is supposed to be a super smart guy that's always thinking ahead, the way he is portrayed in the movie makes you wonder how he ever gets caught by the bad guys. His chess-strategy narrative sequences are hilarious in their ridiculousness. I've never actually read a Sherlock Holmes story, but I know the director had an "expert" review the movies to ensure accuracy. This makes me all the more convinced that I am better off skipping the books too. Sorry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Final word: If your eyes don't roll out of your head from this plot, well, good for you.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 14, 2012

GMC Day 14: Paul (2011)

Simon Pegg, Seth Rogan


Let's talk aliens. Everyone in this movie sorta looks like one. I suppose since it's a comedy, it's okay.

Simon Pegg is pretty funny and there are definitely laugh-out-loud moments throughout the movie. But that being said, there really isn't enough plot to fill the 104 minutes of running time. So what you're left with are crude jokes and the same unfunny "I'm so awkward" routine from Kristin Wiig that she does every week on Saturday Night Live and throughout Bridesmaids. (Yes, I am that person that hated Bridesmaids. Whoever compared it to The Hangover was clearly just trying to make a 'women can be just as funny as men' statement). 

What really kills the movie, though, is the voice of Paul (the alien). It's done by Seth Rogan. It's bad enough he can't act in person, but he can't even act through a voice, which is truly astounding. Why he was cast for his voice, which isn't exactly pleasant to listen to, I will never know. It's the worst voice casting in a movie since Holly Hunter as the mom in The Incredibles.

When the movie first came out and I saw the previews, I figured it would be lame. And it is. But like I said, there are funny parts. So in some ways, it exceeded my expectations. But that's really not saying much. Because in other ways, I regret having watched the whole thing.

Final word: I'm pretty sure this movie was meant to be watched in tandem with Half Baked if you know what I mean. So if you're stoned, go for it.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

GMC Day 14: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

The Rock, Michael Caine



Yes, I still referred to [Dwayne Johnson] as The Rock. Why? Because that's his name! To me, anyway.  Why you would ever revert back to the name Dwayne over something as awesome as "The Rock" is beyond me. But that's neither here nor there.

This movie sucks. It's short, it's to the point. It really does. I actually enjoyed the first Journey movie, once I accepted the fact that I wouldn't be able to punch the whiny little kid in the face no matter how much I wanted to. But this sequel (and I just knew it too - why did they have to go and create a sequel??) falls short on believable (if you can even say that about a fantasy-type movie) action and again, chemistry between actors. Poor little Vanessa Hudgens looks so far away from her Gabrielle Solis days in High School Musical (yes, my second reference to this movie in the blog thus far) and made me uncomfortable with her teensy tiny wardrobe. (I also realize how ridiculous this sounds, considering her not one, but two sets of leaked naked photos).

The only advantage this movie has over the first one is the fact that it doesn't star Brendan Fraser. But even that is little consolation, as The Rock in this movie is less like the badass in The Scorpion King and more like the waaaaay too family friendly Tooth Fairy of late. And Michael Caine? After doing Batman? Shame on you. Shame on all of you.

Final word: If you have a child under the age of 10, I'm sorry. You'll probably have to watch this for them.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 13, 2012

GMC Day 13: Never Let Me Go (2010)

Keira Knightly, Carey Mulligan


Did you ever see the movie The Island with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson? If so, you can go ahead and skip this movie. It's pretty much the same thing, except with British people (whoops, it seems Ewan McGregor is Scottish. Whatever, you know what I mean).

If not, what you will get is a wannabe depressing, not very creative sci-fi-ish movie in which there are so many plot holes you find yourself yelling at the characters through the screen instead of wondering what is going to happen next.

I chose this movie because my absolute favorite actress is Keira Knightly and I am also preferential toward Carrie Mulligan. However, the casting of Andrew Garfield as a guy both women are after is not only difficult to fathom, but unpleasant to look at scene after scene. I figure if a movie is going to have a crappy plot, it could at least have attractive people to look at. That's why pornography is a billion dollar industry, right?

Final word: Someone recommended this movie to me. I won't do you the same injustice.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

GMC Day 13: Jane Eyre (2011)

Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender


Ahhhh....a dark, tragic drama. My favorite. Like so many other movies, it doesn't quite live up to the imagery you create in your mind from reading the book, but it's wonderfully distressing in its own right. Yes, I called the movie distressing because when you watch it, it's like you can feel yourself getting an ulcer from the tension and sadness of Jane Eyre.

Turning classics into movies is always risky, but I actually think the casting was quite good. Mia Wasikowska's pale skin and mousy appearance make her a perfect fit for the slightly pathetic Jane. Michael Fassbender is great as Rochester because he just sort of looks like an a**hole already. Add in the bleak cinematography and melancholy music and voila! movie magic.

My main complaint is that the movie couldn't evoke the tears I remember shedding over the book, although that was so long ago perhaps I was less jaded then (As in, go figure a guy is misleading you! Why would you expect anything less??). And the ending is portrayed a bit perkier than I'd expect. But I imagine if I hadn't read the book that these two points wouldn't be an issue.

Final word: You've either got to love British costume dramas, or have a positive childhood memory of reading the book.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 12, 2012

GMC Day 12: This Means War (2012)

Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy


I don't find Chris Pine attractive. Nor Tom Hardy, the other main guy in the movie (who, by the way, was driving me crazy trying to place him until I figured out he was the guy from Inception). This is usually a requirement to enjoy a romantic comedy (I refuse to call it a rom-com), but not here. This movie is super cute, has actual comedy in it, and isn't completely predictable throughout (I have a major problem with predictable plots, in case you couldn't tell).

On an added note, I applaud Reese Witherspoon's ability to continue starring in romantic comedies at her age, with Hollywood's obsession with trying to force the next "it" girl on us. (Note to Hollywood: stop trying to make Katherine Heigel happen). Maybe if more romantic comedies were as enjoyable as this one, boyfriends wouldn't have to pretend to groan so much when their girlfriends drag them to watch. (FYI - guys, we're onto the fact that you also semi-enjoy these movies, but pretend not to in the name of appearing "masculine." They get your girlfriend/date all cheerful and love-dovey and they usually have some kind of nudity. Stop faking)

Final word: It's cute.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 11, 2012

GMC Day 11: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Gary Oldman, Colin Firth


I wanted to like this movie. I really did. It stars Colin Firth (someone Ricky Gervais called universally loved), other British people, a historical setting, and a mysterious plot. Combined with the excessive critical acclaim it received, it seemed like a sure thing.

But here's the thing about critical acclaim. Sometimes I'm convinced the critics wanted to like it just as much as I did, and rather than admit it was boring, they just passed it along to an unsuspecting public who claimed they liked it as well. And all along the way, anyone who didn't like it gets accused of not 'understanding' it or 'appreciating' it. (Notable examples of this: Syriana, Thank You for Smoking, Good Night and Good Luck).

So I'm going to go out on a limb by myself and say it: this movie is boring. So boring, in fact, I didn't even care who the spy was by the end. If you're going to call a movie a "thriller," there should be some actual thrills involved. I'm not saying they should resort to car chases and shoot-outs, but some kind, any kind, of action might have kept me fully awake and invested in the plot.

Final word: For a movie about "intrigue," it was less than intriguing. 

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

GMC Day 11: The Vow (2012)

Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams


I thought this was a Nicholas Sparks movie. It doesn't matter that it's not, however, since it plays out pretty much exactly like one. Call it 'counterfeit Nicholas Sparks.' I, for one, am generally anti-Nicholas Sparks (except The Notebook. I mean, you've got to be made of stone to not like that movie). It even stars the same people from other Nicholas Sparks movies!!

All that aside, this movie is pretty much exactly what you expect from a movie like this, if that makes any sense. It combines cheesy romantic gestures (that never happen in real life, btw), "real life" arguments to make relationships seem difficult, and dramatic kissing scenes that are supposed to show you how deeply a couple is in love. It's not as horrible as Dear John, but it's still difficult to buy Channing Tatum as a solid male lead in a dramatic movie. Especially when you think of the pairing of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in The Notebook. Tatum just lacks, well, acting skills. But who knows - they still let John Cena make movies, so maybe acting isn't a requirement to being an actor.

Final word: If, while watching 50 First Dates you ever said to yourself, "I wish this movie had more sappiness, less jokes, and more scenes with a naked Channing Tatum," then this is the movie for you.

Great Movie Challenge update - after the disappointment of the first 10 days, I have decided to devote the next 10 days to sheer quantity and challenge myself to watch as many movies as possible. Hence, there may be more than one movie review per day.

June 10, 2012

GMC Day 10: New Year's Eve (2011)

everyone in Hollywood, apparently


Oh, where to start, where to start. There's the name: New Year's Eve. I'm assuming this trend of naming movies after notable holidays came from that other ensemble movie, Valentine's Day, which stars many of the same people and follows the same predictable formula of trying to awkwardly pretend like everyone's storyline is somehow intertwined into an overarching theme while cramming in as many star cameos and possible. That makes a lot of sense, since I just looked it up and both movies share a director and writer. 

But however horrible you thought Valentine's Day was, New Year's Eve is exponentially worse. (If you liked Valentine's Day, well, then, you're probably one the people that propelled this idiotic movie to the $142M+ gross revenue it generated). Renting this movie felt like driving straight toward a cliff's edge and you know it's a terrible thing to do and you're probably going to die from it, yet you can't stop yourself. It was almost as if I could hear my future self screaming "Noooooooooooooooooooooo" as I handed the disc to the Blockbuster cashier to put under my account. And yet... I sat through it. All 118 minutes of it. Yes, this movie is two hours long. I have no idea how.

Look, I have nothing against ensemble casts as a rule (Love Actually probably makes my all-time Top 10 list), but why do directors think this is an excuse to just use as many famous people as they can pay to appear and think that's enough? I can't even dissect the plot because, well, there is no plot to dissect. But the love pairings! Oh the shame! I don't want to "spoil" the "surprise ending," but suffice it to say it is predictable, boring, and overall, just a train wreck of a movie. I just hope I can overcome the trauma to continue my movie challenge.

Final word: No matter how little you expect of this movie, it's still worse than that.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 9, 2012

GMC Day 9: Source Code (2011)

Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
I really didn't know what this movie was about, but enjoy a good action thriller now and again and people are always going on and on about how dreamy Jake Gyllenhaal's eyes are. So I gave it a shot.

It's certainly interesting (as I find most sci-fi-ish movies are, provided you don't think too long and hard about the particulars of the plot) and there is plenty of action and guessing, which is nice, since many movies can become so predictable. It's not amazing, but certainly made for a satisfying movie date night.

Final word: Unexpectedly entertaining.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 8, 2012

GMC Day 8: Young Adult (2011)

Charlize Theron, no one else worthy to note


I'd like to first address the genre of "dramedy," which is supposed to be one of those annoying made-up compound words combining 'drama' and 'comedy.' How, exactly can a movie be both a drama and a comedy? Either it's inherently funny or inherently serious. Just because a serious movie has a few funny parts doesn't make it also a comedy.

However, this movie has been labeled as such. And while it does have a few funny parts, it's inherently sad. And by sad, I mean depressing. And by depressing, I mean you feel so awkward and terrible for Charlize Theron's character because she is so pathetic that you almost can't help but understand her while pitying her at the same time. Growing up near the "mini apple" also makes me more acutely understand the almost ridiculous awe the townies in the movie have for those who actually leave their suburb and move to THE CITY. (cue oooohs and aaaaaahs) Perhaps if you don't grow up in a place where many people have never been anywhere this movie can seem campy and unbelievable, but I think the fact that it is so realistic in some ways almost makes it too difficult to watch.

That being said, I don't buy everything in the movie (anytime a movie summary mentions the words "unlikely friendship," it's almost a guarantee those scenes will have eye-rolling inducing moments. This movie is no exception). And the guy who plays Buddy, the love interest, has the acting skills of a rock. But who knows, maybe that was the point. I guess I've known plenty of people that have personalities akin to rocks as well.

Final word: I can't imagine a circumstance under which this is your first choice for a movie night, but if it's playing for free on HBO, by all means, watch it.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 7, 2012

GMC Day 7: Me and Orson Welles (2008)

Zac Efron, Claire Danes


I often pick movies based on the people in them. I freely admit it. So I chose this movie because yes, like a 16 year-old girl, I like Zac Efron. If you were wondering who the one person was that saw Charlie St. Cloud in the theater, it was me (and yes, it was as lame as you'd expect). Additionally, this movie got good reviews. Well, despite the fact that this is also a movie review site, I am starting to doubt the reliability of said reviews. I mean, were they just polling people endlessly until someone said something good about this movie that could be used in promotions?

Let's start with the miscasting. Zac Efron is supposed to be a high school-er. Again. It was semi-believable the first time he did it for High School Musical, but that was two years earlier. And he was already 19 at that point. But okay, I can live with it.

Then comes Claire Danes as his love interest. They have no chemistry. As in, none. It's almost as awkward as Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp in The Tourist. Okay, well, maybe that's a stretch. But it's definitely on par for uncomfortable pairings with Reese Witherspoon and that Twilight guy in Water for Elephants

But the most egregious casting is putting this guy in the title role of Orson Welles, who is supposed to be 22 in this movie. 22! FYI, this guy was born in 1973. That would make him 35 when this movie was made. That might not big deal if he looked like an Olsen twin, but this dude looks like he's been 40 all his life.

Beyond that, though, the movie is just kinda...blah. You don't laugh, you don't cry, and you almost don't even care what happens in the end. Not my idea of a watchable movie.

Oh, and IMDB says 'people who liked this also liked... An Education, The Ides of March, and A Single Man. Don't be fooled. This movie is not in their league. Their algorithms must be off.

Final word: Just say no.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 6, 2012

GMC Day 6: Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, et al


Uh, it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect. Stories about Pooh and friends, narrated by the guy who narrates all Winnie the Pooh cartoons. Owl is still pretentious, Rabbit is still a hater, Tigger is still obnoxious, Eeyore is still a downer, and Pooh is still hungry. The plot hasn't changed much since it started, folks.

Final word: If you don't like Winnie the Pooh, it's a pretty safe bet that you should avoid this movie.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 5, 2012

GMC Day 5: Perfect Sense (2011)

Ewan McGregor, Eva Green


Here is the movie tag line: "Without love, there is nothing." That, coupled with Ewan McGregor and the attractive Eva Green, convinced me to rent this. I should have done more research.

I understand the point of the movie (which I won't spoil for all of you dying to watch an apocalyptic-romance movie) and I even understand filmakers' need to hit you over the head with overly dramatic metaphors to get their point across. But when you finish watching this movie and stop to think about it, you can't help but be like, "WTF?!?"

It just feels like there was potential there to make something happen, but it didn't. The whole thing was just..odd. The perfect word to sum it up: odd.

Final word: The whole thing reads more as 'performance art' and less as 'movie I'd pay to see.'

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 4, 2012

GMC Day 4: Beginners (2010)

Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer


Okay, let's first get something out the way - this movie is not funny. At. All. In fact, it's a quite depressing. I mean, just look at the subject matter: a gay man who has lived the majority of his life in the closet. Yet, all the reviews - even the movie cover - have comments about how funny it is.

I rented this movie for two reasons: Ewan McGregor (yes, I love him too) and because it was supposed to be funny. It had a heavy indie movie vibe about it, complete with the casting of a French actress as the main love interest. Luckily, Melanie Laurent is cute because few things are more annoying and distracting in movies than improbable or flat out bad pairings of romantic interests.

Christopher Plummer did a nice job in his role and considering he was up against Jonah Hill for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, I can easily say I am relieved he won. And I didn't hate it, though that's not a total ringing endorsement. It was just a bit slow. And not funny.

Final word: It's not funny! But once you get past that, it's a pretty typical indie-type movie about love.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 3, 2012

GMC Day 3: The Conspirator (2010)

James McAvoy, Robin Wright



In order to like this movie, you probably have to enjoy history and/or be an avid Constitutionalist. That being said, I am both and enjoyed this movie immensely. It's super serious and well acted, but more importantly, it gets your blood boiling over the legal system and ignites fights in your household about what is fair and right (no? just me?).

In all fairness, I adore James McAvoy and have seen almost every single movie of his, so it's difficult for him to do wrong in my eyes (uh...minus Wanted). But the movie was so interesting and dramatic I think I would have liked it even if he hadn't been the main character.

In a way, it reminded me of There Will Be Blood, in that it completely captivated me throughout, yet I don't imagine myself ever watching it again. Part of being a great movie in my eyes is a re-watchability factor, and my only criticism of the movie is that it lacks this.

Final word: Makes for a stimulating movie night, followed by conversation, if that's what you're into.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here

June 2, 2012

GMC Day 2: The Descendants (2011)

George Clooney, that chick from The Secret Life of the American Teenager


Let's talk about Hollywood's infatuation with 'normal life' movies. I understand that the life of a movie star is so different from our own that it's actually unfathomable (as evidence by those idiotic "stars - they'e just like us!" segments in People or US Weekly or whatever), but just showing regular life events is not, in it of itself, a triumph. To me, this movie was The Kids are All Right all over again (ugh, don't get me started on my feelings about that movie). The plot does touch on a range of emotions, as promised, but it doesn't go deeply enough into them and I found the movie rather predictable.

Is the movie terrible? No. Is it worth all the Oscar buzz it got? Not by any means. Even in a lean year (and 2012 was), I can't believe anyone would consider this to be "best picture" worthy. It solicited a big, fat ehhhhhhhhh from me after watching it.

Final word: If you don't buy into the hype, you might not be as disappointed.

The Great Movie Challenge - read it from the beginning here.

June 1, 2012

GMC Day 1: The Debt (2010)

Helen Miren, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Worthington


I honestly had no idea what to expect. I don't remember seeing previews for this movie and I only picked it because I'm a fan of Helen Miren (isn't everyone??) and her face is on the cover. That being said, she really shouldn't be on the cover, considering she's in the movie for about 15 minutes.

Despite Helen Miren's sparse appearance in the movie, it's really quite good. I actually don't have anything snarky to say about it (which is unfortunate, given this blog name). One surprising upside was the showing of Sam Worthington, who played the lead in cinematic masterpieces like Avatar and Clash of the Titans. (okay, that was snarky) I wouldn't have taken him seriously as an actor, except that I couldn't identify who he was for the first half of the movie. So I suppose now I won't automatically discriminate against movies he is in.

Final word: Rent it. Watch it. Enjoy it.