Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: Valkyrie (2008)

* * *

Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Tom Cruise

Valkyrie is one of those movies that seems to have had a pall pulled over it before it even got started. Instead of being buzzed about as "the serious movie about the 20 July plot" it was talked about as "the movie where Tom Cruise is an eye-patch wearing Nazi ("Ha" implied)." The very idea of it was met with hostility in Germany, where Scientology is looked upon less than kindly, and everywhere else it had to come up against the fact that over the course of the last decade, Tom Cruise' image has become almost unforgiveably ridiculous. I fully believe that if Valkyrie had come out in 1998 instead of 2008, it would have been a little more warmly received. 'Cause you know what? It's actually not a bad movie.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: The Tree of Life (2011)

* * * *

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken

Whatever else you can say about Terrence Malick, you certainly can't accuse him of compromising his artistic vision for the sake of making his work more commerically viable or more easily accessible. His latest film, the long-delayed The Tree of Life, is an almost defiantly personal film that seems to have been designed to be as divisive as possible. I liked it, I know a lot of people didn't; I think this is a film that is destined to inspire a lot of strong feelings (good and bad).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Bads

#5: Bad Boys

Without 1995's Bad Boys, the world might have been deprived of the cinematic prowess of Michael Bay. Oh, what a pleasant world that would have been.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everybody's Fine (2009)

* *

Director: Kirk Jones
Starring: Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale

To answer the question you haven't actually asked yet: yes, Everybody's Fine is as bland as its title. It's not a good movie, it's not a bad movie, it's just sort of there, inoffensive and somewhat uncertain as to what sort of movie it wants to be. It isn't without its redeeming features, but it's a wildly uneven effort.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Midnight In Paris (2011)

* * * 1/2

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard

These days, when Woody Allen is off, he tends to be way off. Fortunately, every once in a while, he's capable of being right on target and it's the fact that for every couple of clunkers there's a Vicky Cristina Barcelona or a Match Point that keeps us coming back. Midnight in Paris is one of his winners, a charming, magic realist comedy that just might be his best film since 1999's Sweet and Lowdown.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Worst Superhero Movies

#5: Judge Dredd

A bloated mess of a movie from a director perhaps best know for the sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer (not even the unnecessary original, but the completely unnecessary sequel). It is, possibly, worth watching just to hear Sylvester Stallone declare, "I am the law!"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Sunshine (1999)

* * *

Director: Istvan Szabo
Starring: Ralph Fiennes

Istvan Szabo's Sunshine, a sprawling and handsomely produced story about anti-Semitism in Hungary, comes so very close to being great that it's a shame when you get to the end and realize that it will have to settle for merely being good. It's a beautiful looking and often moving film, but it seems to run out of things to say before it's entirely finished saying them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Match Point (2005)

* * * 1/2

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode

"You have to learn to push the guilt under the rug and move on, otherwise it overwhelms you." Match Point is a meditation on morality, an examination of how far a person might go in an effort at self-preservation. It has the strange distinction of being the Woody Allen film most unlike other Woody Allen films, while at the same time borrowing quite heavily from one of his most celebrated films (Crimes and Misdemeanors). At the time of its release Allen called it his best film - I think that's an epic overstatement, though a case could definitely be made that it's his best movie of the last ten years.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Non-Review: He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

Director: Ken Kwapis
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly

Before getting started, I just want to make two things clear. First, I only watched this movie because it was on TV, there was nothing else on, and I was making dinner anyway so it was more background noise than anything else. Second, this will just be a few observations rather than a proper review because a) the plot and characters are so thin, and b) I find it hard to take a movie seriously when it rejects the very premise on which it is built, rendering each and every plot development moot.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Super 8 (2011)

* * * 1/2

Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Kyle Chandler, Ron Eldard

Summer movies tend to have a particularly short shelf life; they open big and then (and often immediately after opening weekend) fade away in favour of the next big thing. A lot of the time this fate is utterly deserved, but occasionally a movie comes along that merits staying power and could possibly continue to foster an audience throughout the summer and into the fall, the kind of movie that you might actually return to in later years. It's appropriate that Super 8 should be one of those movies, given that it's a throwback to late 70s/early 80s Spielberg movies, the kind made at a time before movies earned 60% of their box office on opening weekend.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday's Top 5... Movie Reboots

#5: The Sum of All Fears

I realize that I'm in the minority on this one, but I really liked the attempt at relaunching the Jack Ryan series with Ben Affleck. Seriously, check it out: it's actually a pretty good movie.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Canadian Film Review: Score: A Hockey Musical (2010)

* * *

Director: Michael McGowan
Starring: Noah Reid, Allie MacDonald, Stephen Hattie, Olivia Newton-John

Score: A Hockey Musical represents the big conundrum of Canadian cinema. It is said that the reason Canadians don't have more opportunity to see Canadian films is that when Canadian films are released, audiences don't go to see them. Score had what most Canadian films lack in that it was heavily promoted and had a really wide release. The problem? The promotion for it made it look unforgiveably cheesy, an amalgamation of what we would imagine people outside of Canada assume that Canadian film is all about, and audiences stayed away. Having now seen the film, I have to say that while it is a bit cheesy, it's also very enjoyable and less unfathomably earnest than the trailers made it seem and I have to assume that its failure is not a failure of Canadian cinema or Canadian audiences, but a failure of marketers to understand the audience.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ebert's Greats #12: The Thin Man (1934)

* * * *

Director: W. S. Van Dyke
Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy

The Thin Man is the kind of movie people mean when they say, "They don't make them like that anymore" (though that may not remain true, as a remake is in the works). A witty comedy/mystery, The Thin Man is one of the best films to come out of the 1930s (and that's no faint praise) and features one of the greatest film pairings of all time.