Movie Reviews

Anvil!  The Story of Anvil (80 out of 100):  This is a documentary that came out earlier this year & is now on DVD.  I’m not that hard to please when it comes to documentaries.  I knew going into this one that I would enjoy it–underdog story, yes!  It’s about a heavy metal group that ALMOST made it.  I honestly thought it would mostly be making fun of aging rockers, but it took a really genuine tone & after it was over, I found it really inspiring.  They are artists, whether they “made it,” are making money off of it, or NOT.  They still must create art, and it’s incredibly admirable.  It can also be very depressing when you just want them to have success.  In the end, it shows how success can be defined in so many ways, though–a single concert in Japan with die-hard fans, a documentary that will hopefully get more people listening to their music, etc.  It also taught me: hire a decent tour manager.

A Single Man (75 out of 100):  I keep getting this mixed up with both A Serious Man and A Simple Plan; I am no good at movie titles.  This is the one with Colin Firth, and I LOVED his performance in it.  I wasn’t that excited to see it because it sounded like a real downer, but then I remember: those are my favorite kind of movies!  Not really, but I do like introspective, quiet films that deal more with feeling than action.  The movie itself was way too arty for its own good, and for good reason–it was directed by fashion designer Tom For & he wouldn’t let you forget it.  It was still pretty, though, and the acting was great all around–but it’s Firth’s performance that you will remember.  It’s a really truthful look at one’s attempts to deal with grief, and I would’ve LOVED to have seen a different ending to this….but oh well, I won’t ruin it for you.

Chipmunks II: The Squeakwal (40 out of 100)  Even though there will be 10 whole Oscar noms for best picture this year, I have to say that sadly, this movie will not be among the lucky 10.  I didn’t see the first one, but as you can expect, there wasn’t much I was behind on.  I just could never accept that the Chipmunks could go to high school with humans & that’s considered a normal thing (even if the Chipmunks are mega rock stars).  When I was a kid, I imagined it just being the Chipmunks and Dave in their own little world, so it was shocking seeing everyone else interact with them.  What I did LOVE, though, was anytime the Chipmunks or Chipettes would break into song.  I could not stop giggling I loved it so much.  Did I mention I was in a cover band when I was a kid & we only did covers of Chipmunk covers?  Oh wow–we were so deep back then!  I did love seeing this with my nephew Sam, though–but come on Sam, I really think you would’ve liked It’s Complicated a bit more.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? (45 out of 100)  No, of course you didn’t hear about them.  What a forgettable movie.  I love Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant (I find him incredibly HOT…especially in interviews where he totally makes fun of the art of acting), so I enjoyed it well enough.  Really, a movie like this hinges on the writing, though (well, I argue that every movie hinges on the writing, but that’s just me)–and some of it was funny but much of it was kind of mundane.  I have higher hopes for SJP in Sex and the City II (can’t wait!)

Up in the Air (89 out of 100)  I have loved the past two Jason Reitman movies (Juno, Thank You for Smoking), so I had really high hopes for this one, and the movie lived up to my own personal hype.  I like the way he makes movies–the way the writing, acting, music, look of the film—it all comes together  in a way that is unique and very current.  Umm, and George Clooney, you are soooo cute in this movie!  As you can tell by the previews, it’s mostly this battle of lone traveler vs. being grounded & surrounded by close friends/family.  The movie did a great job of exploring the pitfalls of living “up in the air,” though my one complaint was that it was a little simplistic–is it possible to move around and still find love in your life?  I think so…and maybe (I won’t spoil the end), that is what he was finding at the end…a compromise of sorts.  The actors were all great (Danny McBride, I love you in anything)–and what most surprised me was the great chemistry Clooney had with Vera Farmiga (terrific in this!)…an adult relationship that was totally funny, charming, and had depth.  Go see this movie.  I loved it, but that was a given…

The Blind Side (55 out of 100)  You know by watching the preview what happens in this movie.  The actors do a good enough job, but I wanted there to be a little more conflict in the film.  It’s a do-gooder who does good & then the movie is over.  There’s a tiny problem towards the end, but it’s nothing that really will tear the family apart.  It does make me laugh to see country music singers acting in movies, though.  Wow, you look different without your hat, Tim!  Sandra is sassy as usual, and the little white kid is super cute at first & then finally super annoying.  I liked seeing the true story pictures at the end, though–it was like “wow, this really did happen–and that woman looks like Sandra did!”

This Is It (80 out of 100)  I’m a huge fan of Michael Jackson, particularly of The Jackson Five.  When I discovered their music, I found something that could instantly bring me huge amounts of PURE JOY.  There are few musicians that do that for me, and even The Jackson Five is almost all Michael Jackson.  He’s amazing.  I’m a fan of him in later years, too, especially Man in the Mirror, Billy Jean, Thriller–they are so theatrical & wow–they’ve pepped up hundreds of runs I’ve been on.  I was excited to see this but also not expecting much quality-wise.  I was really impressed with how they put the film/documentary/rehearsal footage together in a way that allowed you to kind of experience the full concert.  Of course, the main drawback is that Jackson is never 100% on–but even Michael Jackson at 50% is completely captivating.  And all the footage of material that was going to play on the screen behind him–we got to see that footage come together & man, what a show that was going to be!  I think it’s pretty obvious that super stardom screws most people in the end, and it was completely sad to see this guy with such heart & TALENT leave the world so soon.

Precious (89 out of 100)

The September Issue (50 out of 100):  This is a documentary about the editor of vogue (Anna Wintour) putting together their biggest issue of the year, ummm, you’ve probably guessed this already–but it’s the September issue.  Anna is extremely private and kind of cold, so don’t come into this expecting some incredible revelations about her life or her feelings.  It’s mostly just her being impatient, busy, saying yes or no to things.  It made me wonder if they higher you rise in any given profession, does your ultimate job become lots of yes/no-ing?  There is a wonderful quote from her dad (also an editor) when he told Anna why he quit–he was just getting too angry at work…wasn’t that he was no longer interested/invested…but along with that, he was growing increasingly angry.  So she watches herself and her anger level, saying that when it’s too high she knows it’s time to go.  I’m stealing those words of wisdom.  The real star of the show here is Grace–Creative Art Director (or some title along those lines)–she’s willing to be a little more open, making for a much better subject.  It is here that we really witness the art involved in the pictures & how good she is at putting it all together.  To her, it is an art form & each picture means something to her–this is cool to see in an industry I thought would all be about money and celebrities and snobbery.  The documentary isn’t great, but it does offer some new insight into the fashion/magazine worlds.

Where the Wild Things Are (54 out of 100):  This was just a beautiful movie to watch–I loved how different it looked than anything I’ve ever seen & combined with the director Spike Jonze’s typically indie-cool music–I had these amazing high hopes of the story that was about to happen with these Wild Things.  But it’s the story that never comes….the one you continue to be patient enough to wait for & then still, nothing!  It manages to be an incredible downer, though, and I guess tries to make the point: don’t live your life being scared/resentful of change…I have no idea if this was even in the film, but it’s what I walked away with.  When reading the book as a kid, though, I saw the home of the Wild Things is being this place where your imagination could take flight & you could live entire lives outside of your “real one”–and come back home even more grateful for what’s really in front of you.  A celebration of imagination!  The look of the movie definitely gets this across, but instead of celebrating, these Wild Things are downright depressed–each with their unique personality that I guess are all parts of our main character Max’s sub-conscious (or am I being too deep with this?).  Dave Eggers, who started out as an amazing writer, but in my opinion has yet to captured the spirit/heart of his first novel (Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius)–he co-wrote this with the director & actually some of the one-liners are very witty…but as a whole, it never comes together for me.  Why couldn’t Max become a true king in this land?  A land where he makes big decisions, has power and attention and all the things he doesn’t have in real life, has non-stop fun, fantastical times–….instead, the Wild Things don’t take on this spirit with him…or they do for a moment & then the breakdown comes too soon and without any real reason (meaningless quarrels).  There is no journey here.  No big realization–except for Carol–the “monster version” of Max…who lets go of some of his anger & in turn, so does Max.  But where’s the joy, the spirit in this movie?  I was so bummed, given that the movie was so pretty to look at & the characters were decently developed & the kid playing Max was great…grrr!

Paranormal Activity (52 out of 100):  I can’t remember any horror movies that have actually scared me (except when I was a kid and everything scared me), so I don’t go in with that expectation to any scary movie.  It’s more about general enjoyment/being entertained & if the movie isn’t completely predictable, I’m happy with it.  The last scary movie I liked was 28 Days Later (or was that Sci Fi?).  I didn’t like Blair Witch, and Paranormal is another cheaply made “docu-style” horror movie.  I’m always kind of bitter watching cheap movies earn loads of money: why didn’t I think of that???  This didn’t feel like a movie, really–felt like something that could’ve been a TV movie & didn’t really scare me–but was more “creepy” and “unsettling.”  It did get at something that the gore-fest movies around today can’t seem to capture–building tension!  It was a slow build throughout the entire film, instead of today’s usual formula of a scare every few minutes.  I loved this pacing!  What I didn’t love so much was that this seemed to be the only thing the movie had going for it–if only the characters had been a little more likable or more developed (Hi, I’m a girl who has been chased by a demon most of my life, Hi I’m a boy who loves electronics!)…and a few more innovative creepy things happening (not to ruin anything, but the lengthy staring moments in the middle of the night were my personal favorites).  Some of it was just plain corny, and the ghost hunter guy cracked me up more than anything.  I would’ve loved to see them leave the house & have the demon follow them to another location–just to prove that this thing is more in the mind than in the house.  Although, hey, I guess that would’ve meant more $$$ and a bigger budget.  You can definitely wait for video to see this…even better that way, right before you go to bed (and preferably alone or even better with a boyfriend/girlfriend who has a demon-friend).  The best part of this experience was the vocal audience–“oooh, she’s doing that creepy staring thing again!!!”, etc.  I love that stuff.

Zombieland (42 out of 100):  I wasn’t expecting much from this movie.  I saw the preview and wasn’t terribly interested.  It looked pretty dumb, which can be funny–but not really my sense of humor (because I’m so smart, you know).  A couple of things it had going for it:  cameo by Bill Murray and Zombies in a theme park.  Bill Murray is one of my movie heroes…there’s not a film I don’t like him in, and I usually love him.  Unfortunately, he’s not starring in the movie.  Instead we get Woody H. who can be funny–but wasn’t given much of a character in this.  It seems like the writer(s) were thinking “ummm, let’s just get some people shooting zombies and make it zany”–instead of actually having some character development, a plot that has just a little bit of depth, and maybe some originality.  The entire story (sorry to ruin it for you) is : let’s go west to get away from the zombies.  And don’t forget: we need each other.  It just seemed like a lazy way to make a movie.  Shaun of the Dead…now there’s a funny zombie movie!

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