2014: Third-quarter movies


In theaters:

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, John C. Reilly---my goodness. Many of my favorite Hollywood men. (Clearly I have a type.) The movie did not disappoint, though I was never quite able to suspend my disbelief re the durability of that cassette tape. I passed up some other great options to be part of the zeitgeist. Yes, I let my expectations get a little too high, but I choose no regrets. Largely because I have faith in this incredible Marvel machine to keep paying dividends.

Ghostbusters (1984): Although the cartoon and the soundtrack are pivotal parts of my childhood, I'm not 100% sure I've seen the movie straight through before. It's not flawless, but I found it very satisfying. I laughed, I jumped, it was worth it.

At home:

Brick (2005): A great noir that manages to also be one of the better high-school movies I've seen---even though it goes in for the high school = drugs thing that I'm sick to death of. The details of set and character, and the clever moments of character work really make the film sing. I picked this up on reputation and the author's other work and the fact that he's tapped to take over Star Wars Episode VIII. Based on what I've seen, I'm intrigued at the choice.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971): One of the most rewatched movies of my childhood has just sent my children rolling on the floor in conniptions. And they even sat through "Portobello Road"---so I call this a great success. Personally, I'll always enjoy this more than Mary Poppins. (And, of course, waaaay more than Pete's Dragon.) So even if I would never watch this based on its concept were I hearing of it for the first time today, I recommend it to you all the same.

The Secret World of Arrietty (2010): This was pretty good. Another awesome female character from Miyazaki. Anyone who thinks it can't be done needs to sit down with his oeuvre. Not one of my favorites, but when I said that, Lady Steed was shocked. Of course, I liked The Wind Rises much more than her.

The Green Mile (1999): Loved the book and this is a terrific adaptation. Some of the layers are missing and you'll find some clever additions for make it more cinematic, but this really is one of the great adaptations. It captures the book and is a terrific movie at the same time. Also, it's not as gruesome as the novel which is good---otherwise it wouldn't be watchable. I've been wanting to see this movie since reading, before it came out, that it broke the studio's record for best responses from test audiences. It's taken me a long time to get around to it. Worth the wait.

In a World . . . (2013): The script's a bit choppy at places (especially with chronological clarity) but the important moments hit. The cast is strong and the acting is good. As is the dialogue they're acting. Good stuff.

Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012): A plethora of half-clever ideas do not a good movie make. But, you know, it was watchable.

Up in the Air (2009): This is a movie that threatened to resolve into typical cliche several times, but then veered away. I'm not sure quite where it did end, but it was a satisfying ambiguity. And what a cast, what a cast. The filming was such an important part of the storytelling, I often had times imagining the screenplay. (Imagining screenplays is a large part of my moviewatching experience these days.)

Napoleon Dynamite (2004): I've seen this movie more times than you have (guaranteed) and I've impressed with how this picaresque hodgepodge is ultimately so tightly constructed with such a large emotional payoff. Love it.

American Hustle (2013): It pulled a scene-from-the-middle-then-lengthy-flashback on me, but it was more forgivable than usual because the information revealed still made sequential sense without repeating things. Still my biggest complaint though. The acting was great and the twist both surprised me and would not poorly affect rewatching.

Little Secrets (2001): I first saw this when it was new and was surprised by the quality. I always wanted to someday show it to my kids. And now I have---to the oldest at least. Though not quite as good as my memory (no element of surprise this time), it does have a worthy payout and it makes surprisingly wise comments about secrets (then attempts to spell them out, which is what makes it kid-friendly, I suppose). Also funny to see Sam Cardon and Kurt Bestor heralded as the great artists of their generation. Truly a made-in-Utah film.

Bottle Rocket (1996): This was Lady Steed's first time seeing this movie. And though I wouldn't place it at the top of Wes Anderson's oeuvre, it's funny and pleasing. Totally bombs the Bechdel Test though, if you're keeping track.

Ginger Snaps (2000): One of the great B-movies of the 21st century, they say. One of the great movies about teenage girls, they say. One of the better horror movies of recent history, they say. You know what? I think they were right. It's a not a bad example of body horror either. Color me impressed. Wish I'd watched it a long time ago.

Better Off Dead... (1985): My first time seeing this movie. I'm so sad of this. It's a movie I could have enjoyed over and over. I still can enjoy it more than once, certainly, but I don't rewatch films so much anymore. And I would love for the chaos of this film to infect me. I mean---even more than it probably has. Children, live your lives such that you do not have regrets such as mine!

American Grindhouse (2010) Not much I didn't know, but interesting and free on Crackle and a good movie to put on in moments since, you know, it's just history---not plot.


Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012): A lot about this movie seemed impossible to pull off. The trailer was great, but I didn't see how to make is succeed as a film. A comedy about the end of humanity? How can a comedy end in a marriage AND a funeral? It didn't seem likely. And perhaps it wasn't perfect. But the humanity of the characters and the pleasure of the details made this movie work. The end shares DNA with many bad romcoms, but it comes from a more honest place and it works.

1 comment:

  1. I had never heard of Better Off Dead until my girlfriend (now wife) started quoting it with one of my roommates. Then we got it as a wedding gift from a friend of mine. The first time we watched it, I was extremely unimpressed. It just seemed like one of those unlikely-hero-doomed-to-succeed movies you have to grow up with to love. But subsequent watchings made me a convert. I think its a fantastic representation of the high-school experience. Particularly the scene in math class. And I think there's some not-so-subtle significance in the unconquerable mountain being called K-12.

    On a related note, I introduced Katie to Bill&Ted's Excellent Adventure a couple weeks ago, which holds up much better than I expected it to. Also, Katie noticed that one of the princesses is played by Better Off Dead's French foreign exchanged student, so there you go.