Thursday, August 5, 2010

More movie reviews!

Three new ones for me - otherwise I've been introducing my roommates to some old faves.

The Thin Red Line
God, I love Terrence Malick. I've written before about how much I love the New World, and this one is just as good.

It astounds me that the dialogue surrounding the '98 Oscars was Saving Private Ryan vs. Shakespeare in Love. It clearly should have been The Thin Red Line vs. Shakespeare in Love. The Thin Red Line is altogether a more immersing, human, and haunting look at a soldier's experience in war.

Malick has an unbelievable gift for vignettes and he uses this technique to highlight a variety of soldier's stories. He shows an incredible range of experience, despite only focusing on one squadron and one battle.

Also, much like in the New World, he displays his incredible eye for capturing natural settings. He gazes at the world around him and lets the audience see what he feels.

(On this note - there is a brief, but incredible shot, of a Papuan or Tawny Frogmouth, the best bird EVER. Well done, sir.)

(See also this picture. And this one.)

Ahem. The acting is first rate all around, the battles are well shot and exhausting, and I found it more affecting than nearly any other war film I've seen.

5 out of 5 stars



Seriously, it is not possible not to watch this film and not fall in love with it. I had been craving it for a bit, and wanted my roommate to see it as well. Unfortunately, I brought up the Princess Bride as a reference, because who doesn't love the Princess Bride? Her, it turns out.

Anyways, I luckily discovered that Mark Strong is one of her favorite actors, so I was able to convince her to see it that way. Of course, she fell in love with it, too.

Probably the easiest description of the film is that it is like the Princess Bride, but for those averse to that particular fairytale, here goes. Stardust is about a boy who journeys into a magical kingdom to retrieve a fallen star in order to win the hand of the girl he is in love with and the star turns out to be Claire Danes. Also there are witches. And gay pirates. And one of the best sword fights, EVER. And since I am a total sucker for any movie with swashbuckling in it, I love this film.

Stardust is a fairytale, a coming of age story, and one of the best romances I've seen. (One of the few romances I enjoy without a tragic ending, actually.) There is enough of a Grimm's fairytale vibe to keep it from becoming sugary-sweet. Anyways, check it out. I'm certain you'll fall in love with it, too.

(Hey! It's on my top 100 films of the decade list!)

5 out of 5 stars


Seriously fun. One of the best comic book adaptations around, it is ridiculous, and over the top, and AWESOME. James McAvoy makes a great protagonist, Angelina Jolie is at her action figure best as a nearly mute assassin, and it might be my favorite role ever for Morgan Freeman.

(Also a top 100 honorable mention)

4 out of 5 stars

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Caught this again as a part of the Brattle's "best of the oughts" series. Robert Downey Jr. mostly does an excellent job, but I had forgotten about his character's casual homophobia and slight misogynistic tendencies, which I found a little disturbing. Val Kilmer is really good, though, and while I've never been a big fan of his, I'm glad he got a meaty part like this.

Overall, it's a slick caper romp through LA, and diverting enough. I happen to like the 4th-wall-breaking narration, mostly because Robert Downey Jr. is charming, but I also know it doesn't work for everybody.

3 out of 5 stars


Okay - maybe it was a bad idea to watch this right so soon after Wanted, which is fantastical. Salt is much more reality based and very cool for that, but not quite as thrilling or fun. Obviously, I love Angelina Jolie, and I think she does a great job here. However, the plot is pretty obvious. Salt (Jolie) works for the CIA. One day, a Russian spy comes in to defect and names her as a Russian mole. She goes on the run to try to clear her name and protect her family (I have to insert here that her husband is an arachnologist. An arachnologist as a major character in a summer blockbuster. AWESOME.)

Much of the film then becomes great action sequences mixed up with the intrigue of trying to figure out Salt's loyalties. The problem here is that every twist of the plot is really obvious. You can see each one coming from two miles away. Now, I still enjoy watching Angie and she carries the film beautifully. There just wasn't the tension of trying to figure anything out.

Additionally, Liev Schreiber is great. And I love the final fight scene, when Salt fights a man and they are both in white oxford shirts. I thought it was a nice nod to the fact that Salt was originally scripted to be a man.

3.5 out of 5 stars

28 Days Later
I went to a midnight screening of this at the Coolidge. I had forgotten how much I love this movie. It's so clever, so well directed. The pacing is perfect. The shots of a deserted London are still haunting (and completely astounding - I still can't get over the fact that they managed to film that). The music is perfect. The actors are perfect.

For those who have no idea what the film is about, a coma survivor wakes up 28 days into viral outbreak which has devastated the UK and possibly the entire world. Basically, it's a zombie movie. The virus turns those infected into brain-dead killing machines, and a single bite is enough to infect others. But 28 Days Later was really clever. Instead of having the normal, shuffling type of zombies (seen here), in this film they move like "rabid, caffeinated jackals" [EW], which is terrifying.

But it isn't constant scares, or all jump scares of zombies coming out of nowhere. There are psychological scares and philosophizing and a lot of character development and all around it is just really well crafted. And that's why it is also on my top 100 films of the decade.

Also - I did not know this, but about a month after the film came out, they added an alternate ending after the credits. I don't like it as much as the actual ending, but just so you know...

5 out of 5 stars.

The Shadow in the North
Oh my god. Where to begin? This was godawful. My roommate and I had watched The Ruby in the Smoke (the first Sally Lockheart mystery), and while it wasn't great (it seemed that they were jumping from plot point to plot point to wrap it all up in an hour and a half), it was at least entertaining enough that we decided to watch the sequel. The Shadow in the North, however, was baffling from the get-go. We were convinced that there had been a book in between the two that hadn't been filmed and that was why we were so lost, but we were wrong. This is the second book in the series - there is just a several year gap between the two stories and the movie doesn't do a very good job of trumpeting that fact.

Again, the plotting races along because the whole shebang has only an hour and a half to wrap up, which means that some characters are hardly given any time for developments, while others seem to be having vicious, bi-polar mood swings. Finally - and here there be spoilers - they kill off the main guy! Sally finally sleeps with the guys she's in love with - after spending the whole movie distancing herself from him and arguing with him, of course - and then he dies that same night! It was like a teen horror film came in to espouse the dangers of pre-marital sex. My roommate spent the next 15 minutes convinced it was all a dream, because clearly that hadn't just happened. Not to mention, Sally cries more over her dog's death than her fiance's!

Anyways, the whole thing is completely ridiculous, the plot is barely understandable, and a lot of actors I normally enjoy were completely wasted. It is unsurprising that the next 2 Sally Lockheart mysteries were never filmed.

1 out of 5 stars

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