September 30, 2010

Rear Window

The Top 63 Marathon, part 44 (aka The Top 20)



Data
Title: Rear Window
Year: 1954
Length: 112 minutes
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: John Michael Hayes, based on a story by Cornell Woolrich
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter
Music: Franz Waxman
Distinctions: Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Cinematography (color) and Best Sound Recording; currently #21 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: a man with a broken leg takes an unhealthy interest in his neighbors
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Good.
Story: Good.
Characters: Great.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Great.
Special effects/design: Good.
Acting: Good.
Music: Good.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). I was never really with the characters; my prediction of how things would turn out tended to be the opposite of theirs at any given time, which means the suspense didn't work for me.
Objective Rating: 3.3/4 (Very good).

MythBusters: Collection Six

Data
Title: MythBusters: Collection Six
Year: 2008-2009
Network: Discovery Channel
Episodes: 10 at 43 minutes each, from the sixth and seventh seasons
Creator: Peter Rees
Directors: Alice Dallow (8 episodes), Tabitha Lentle (3)
Starring: Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage

My reaction
Synopsis: a couple special effects guys and their cohorts test whether various urban legends are possible
How I saw it: streaming from Netflix, over the past few days
Concept: Great.
Story: Bad.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Indifferent.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Good.
Acting: Bad.
Music: Indifferent.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay).  It's mildly entertaining, but the show's just not awesome anymore. They only occasionally test something that isn't either stupid or just an excuse to bring in explosives technicians.
Objective Rating: 2.3/4 (Okay).

September 29, 2010

Gus Van and Joe Schenck



Data
Title: "Gus Van and Joe Schenck"
Year: 1929
Length: 5 minutes
Starring: Gus Van, Joe Schenck

My reaction
Synopsis: Van & Schenck sing two songs
How I saw it: on video (The Broadway Melody bonus feature), two days ago
Concept: Terrible. Putting these two anywhere near a recording device is a bad idea.
Story: n/a
Characters: n/a
Dialog: n/a
Pacing: Indifferent.
Cinematography: Bad.
Special effects/design: Bad.
Acting: n/a
Music: Bad.
Subjective Rating: 2/10 (Terrible). One of the worst acts featured in the "Metro Movietone Revue" shorts gets their own film. And for some reason WB thought anyone alive today might ever want to see it.
Objective Rating: 0.8/4 (Very bad).

A Movietone Divertissement



Data
Title: "A Movietone Divertissement"
Year: 1928
Length: about 10 minutes
Starring: Tom Waring, Johnny Marvin, Yvette Rugel, The Happiness Boys

My reaction
Synopsis: four musical acts perform
How I saw it: on video (The Broadway Melody bonus feature), two days ago
Concept: Indifferent.
Story: n/a
Characters: n/a
Dialog: Indifferent.
Pacing: Indifferent.
Cinematography: Bad.
Special effects/design: Indifferent.
Acting: Indifferent.
Music: Good.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). A bit less entertaining on average than the "Metro Movietone Revue" shorts, but equally pointless.
Objective Rating: 2.0/4 (Indifferent).

September 28, 2010

The Dogway Melody



Data
Title: "The Dogway Melody"
Year: 1930
Length: 17 minutes
Directors: Zion Myers & Jules White

My reaction
Synopsis: a parody of The Broadway Melody, performed by talking dogs
How I saw it: on video (The Broadway Melody bonus feature), yesterday
Concept: Terrible.
Story: Terrible.
Characters: Terrible.
Dialog: Indifferent.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Bad. "No animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture, except for all those dogs that we tortured."
Acting: Indifferent.
Music: Good. It's so sad - the talking dogs can out-sing the original movie's stars.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). This is far more entertaining than I'd like to admit. A lot of that comes from the "oh my god what did they do to those dogs" factor. But it is also quite silly.
Objective Rating: 1.5/4 (Eh).

Metro Movietone Revues



Data
Title: "Metro Movietone Revue," "Metro Movietone Revue," "Metro Movietone Revue," and, you guessed it, "Metro Movietone Revue."
Year: 1929 / 1929 / 1930 / 1930
Length: about 15 minutes each
Starring: Gus Van, Joe Schenck, Harry Rose / George Dewey Washington, Harry Rose / Frances White, Jack Pepper / George Dewey Washington, Jack Pepper



My reaction
Synopsis: various musical acts perform, introduced by an MC
How I saw it: on video (The Broadway Melody bonus feature), yesterday
Concept: Indifferent.
Story: n/a
Characters: n/a
Dialog: Bad.
Pacing: Indifferent.
Cinematography: Bad.
Special effects/design: Bad.
Acting: Terrible.
Music: Good. Some acts are bad, but more of them are great. Jack Pepper is especially delightful.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). Entertaining but pointless.
Objective Rating: 1.5/4 (Eh).

The Broadway Melody



Data
Title: The Broadway Melody
Year: 1929
Length: 110 minutes
Director: Harry Beaumont
Writers: Edmund Goulding, Norman Houston, Sarah Y. Mason & James Gleason
Starring: Charles King, Anita Page, Bessie Love
Music: Nacio Herb Brown & Arthur Freed
Distinctions: Oscar for Best Picture; (unofficial) Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Actress (Love)

My reaction
Synopsis: a sister act tries to make it on broadway
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Terrible. It wasn't even cliche yet, and it's still terrible.
Story: Terrible.
Characters: Bad.
Dialog: Bad.
Pacing: Terrible.
Cinematography: Bad. It doesn't help that the picture is cropped for the DVD, so that it's 4:3 instead of 6:5. Notice anything missing from that tap dancing image above?
Special effects/design: Bad.
Acting: Bad.
Music: Indifferent. There are a handful of musical numbers that have nothing to do with the plot and feature none of the cast, and those bits are fine. The rest of the music ranges from mediocre to completely awful. I hope that Page's and Love's characters are meant to be bad performers, but I don't really think that was the intention.
Subjective Rating: 2/10 (Terrible). Everyone says this is a bad movie, but I had just assumed that that's because they go in expecting a Best Picture winner. I went in expecting crap, and it managed to be worse than I could have possibly imagined. I give it a 2/10 instead of a 1 simply because of the aforementioned Unrelated Musical Numbers (~5-10 minutes of screen time).
Objective Rating: 0.7/4 (Very bad).

September 27, 2010

The Usual Suspects

The Top 63 Marathon, part 43



Data
Title: The Usual Suspects
Year: 1995
Length: 106 minutes
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Spacey
Music: John Ottman
Distinctions: Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Spacey); currently #25 on the IMDb's Top 250

My reaction
Synopsis: a survivor of a crime gone wrong talks to the police about what happened
How I saw it: on video several times, most recently yesterday (rented from Netflix)
Concept: Indifferent.
Story: Great.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Good.
Pacing: Indifferent. The beginning of the movie, before it gets to the twists and turns and Keyser Soze, seems like just a run-of-the-mill heist movie, which is pretty dull. And the action scenes are mostly boring.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Great.
Music: Indifferent.
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great). Not as great as I used to think it was, but still great. I guess.
Objective Rating: 3.0/4 (Good).

September 26, 2010

Easy A

Data
Title: Easy A
Year: 2010
Length: 92 minutes
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Bert V. Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell, Stanley Tucci
Music: Brad Segal (mostly non-original music)

My reaction
Synopsis: a high-schooler encourages false rumors about herself
How I saw it: in the theater, yesterday
Concept: Bad. Metacritic.com is my hero. Many of the best movies I've seen this year are things I never would have considered seeing if it weren't for their surprisingly high scores. How to Train Your Dragon? The Ghost Writer? Toy Story 3?  They all looked dumb, and they're all on my top 10 of the year so far.  And now a "teen comedy" manages to beat all of them. So weird.
Story: Good.
Characters: Great. Not exactly the deepest window into humanity, but they're hilarious, and they feel real.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Great.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Great.
Music: Bad. But it's exactly what it should be.
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great) 9/10 (One of my favorites). No, seriously, it's a great movie.  It's clever and witty and lots of fun. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. My wife calls it "vigorously funny." (She doesn't know what that means, either.)
Objective Rating: 3.1/4 3.2/4 (Very good).

[edit: re-watched, 10/11/2012]

September 25, 2010

Psycho

The Top 63 Marathon, part 42



Data
Title: Psycho
Year: 1960
Length: 109 minutes
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writer: Joseph Stefano, based on the novel by Robert Bloch
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Distinctions: Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Leigh), Best Cinematography (black-and-white) and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (black-and-white); currently #23 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: a secretary runs off with stolen cash and ends up at an isolated motel
How I saw it: on video a couple times, most recently yesterday (rented from Netflix)
Concept: Indifferent.
Story: Great. Narrative expectations are for sissies.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Good.
Pacing: Indifferent. Similar to Vertigo, he breaks the suspense an hour before the end of the movie and never quite puts it back.
Cinematography: Great.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Good. Perkins is great, but the rest of them are unnatural.
Music: Great.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). Knowing what's going to happen ruins most of the suspense, but it's still awesome.
Objective Rating: 3.2/4 (Very good).

September 24, 2010

Once Upon a Time in the West

The Top 63 Marathon, part 41



Data
Title: C'era una volta il West
Year: 1968 (Italy), 1969 (US)
Length: 165 minutes
Director: Sergio Leone
Writers: Sergio Leone & Sergio Donati, with Mickey Knox; story by Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci & Leone
Starring: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson
Music: Ennio Morricone
Distinctions: currently #24 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: a woman's new family is murdered, and various outlaws take an interest
How I saw it: on video a couple times, most recently yesterday (rented from Netflix)
Concept: Good.
Story: Good.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Good.
Pacing: Bad. It's agonizingly slow, which is great for about an hour. After a while, it's just agonizing.
Cinematography: Great.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Good.
Music: Great.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). There are a number of great scenes - probably about half the movie - that stand up to the best bits of Leone's Clint Eastwood movies. A lot of the rest of it is dull, corny or misogynistic.
Objective Rating: 3.1/4 (Very good).

September 22, 2010

The Silence of the Lambs

The Top 63 Marathon, part 40



Data
Title: The Silence of the Lambs
Year: 1991
Length: 118 minutes
Director: Jonathan Demme
Writer: Ted Tally, based on the novel by Thomas Harris
Starring: Jodie Foster, Scott Glenn, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, Brooke Smith, Anthony Heald
Music: Howard Shore (and non-original music)
Distinctions: Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Foster) and Best Actor (Hopkins); Oscar nominations for Best Editing and Best Sound; currently #26 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: an FBI cadet interviews an incarcerated serial killer, hoping to catch a different serial killer
How I saw it: on video many times, most recently yesterday (rented from Netflix)
Concept: Good.
Story: Good.
Characters: Great.
Dialog: Great.  Some extremely cliched cop drama lines, but the good bits are enough to make up for it.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Good. A lot of it kind of looks like crap, but there are some very effective tricks.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Great. A bit over-rated, but still great.
Music: Indifferent.
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great). Proof that people who make horror movies about ghosts and zombies have no idea what is actually scary.
Objective Rating: 3.4/4 (Very good).

September 21, 2010

Doctor Who #129: The King's Demons



Data
Title: Doctor Who“The King's Demons”
Year: 1983
Network: BBC
Episodes: 2, at 25 minutes each; the last story (of six) from season twenty
Creators: Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Director: Tony Virgo
Writer: Terence Dudley
Starring: Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson
Music: Ron Grainer (theme); Jonathan Gibbs & Peter Howell

My reaction
Synopsis: someone's impersonating King John
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Indifferent.
Story: Bad. No ending...
Characters: Indifferent.
Dialog: Indifferent.
Pacing: Bad. Maybe if they'd moved a bit faster they could have had time for an ending.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Good. Wait, what? Good special effects? Weird. The robot is animatronic, but I had thought it was a guy in a suit.
Acting: Indifferent.
Music: Bad.
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent). It would be a good start to a story. But when they get to what feels like half-way through, it just stops. The Doctor and friends just pick up and leave, assume everything will work out on its own, and that's the end of the season. What the hell?
Objective Rating: 1.8/4 (Eh).

September 19, 2010

The Extra Man

Data
Title: The Extra Man
Year: 2010
Length: 105 minutes
Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Writers: Robert Pulcini, Jonathan Ames & Shari Springer Berman, based on the novel by Ames
Starring: Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly
Music: Klaus Badelt (and non-original music)

My reaction
Synopsis: an eccentric old man takes in a lodger
How I saw it: in the theater, yesterday
Concept: Good.
Story: Bad.
Characters: Good. Kevin Kline's character is about as good as they come, but the other characters are all boring.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Bad. There is (what seems like) a very long stretch where the character who is the only reason for this movie to exist isn't even in it.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Good.
Music: Bad.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). Sometimes it seems to think of itself as more than just silly characters acting silly, which is very strange considering how silly it is (or, at least, how silly it is when it resigns itself to being silly).  Anyways, Kevin Kline shouting ridiculous things: great.  Paul Dano trying to discover himself: boring.
Objective Rating: 2.5/4 (Okay).

Superman III



Data
Title: Superman III
Year: 1983
Length: 125 minutes
Director: Richard Lester
Writers: David Newman & Leslie Newman; characters by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Richard Pryor, Annette O'Toole
Music: Ken Thorne & Giorgio Moroder



My reaction
Synopsis: a tycoon and a computer genius hatch various schemes
How I saw it: on video (have on DVD), two days ago
Concept: Bad. You can't just have a super computer and/or evil twin to fight - instead, they have to be distractions from lame plots to get money.  But at least real estate isn't directly involved this time.
Story: Bad. A complete mess, but I'll give it a tiny bit of credit for the sheer volume of stuff going on.
Characters: Indifferent.
Dialog: Bad. But in a good way.
Pacing: Indifferent.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Good.
Acting: Indifferent.
Music: Bad.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). It's corny and stupid, but it knows it and embraces it. Kind of like Adam West's Batman, but with a budget.
Objective Rating: 1.7/4 (Eh).

September 18, 2010

The Matrix

The Top 63 Marathon, part 39



Data
Title: The Matrix
Year: 1999
Length: 136 minutes
Directors: Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski
Writers: Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano
Music: Don Davis (and non-original music)
Distinctions: Oscars for Best Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound and Best Sound Effects Editing; currently #27 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: an unhappy programmer finds out... some stuff that would be spoilers
How I saw it: on video many times, most recently yesterday (rented from Netflix)
Concept: Great.
Story: Indifferent.
Characters: Bad. I would say they're terrible, but then there's Mr. Smith, who is awesome.
Dialog: Bad. I would say it's terrible, but then there's Mr. Smith's "I want out" speach, which is awesome.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Good. You can actually tell what's going on, which is exceptional for this style of action movie (but then I suppose that if The Matrix's action didn't work, this style of action movie wouldn't exist in the first place).
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Bad. I would say it's terrible, but then there's Hugo Weaving, who is awesome.
Music: Bad.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). Huh. Well that hasn't aged well. After seeing it a few times, the once-mind-bending science fiction has nothing to offer, and instead I just notice how it doesn't hold up to too much thought. And after the last decade, the movie's once-awesomely-innovative style just looks like every other bad action movie. It's really only got two good things left (which I may have mentioned): Mr. Smith, and Hugo Weaving.
Objective Rating: 2.2/4 (Okay).

September 16, 2010

Seven

The Top 63 Marathon, part 38



Data
Title: Seven
Year: 1995
Length: 127 minutes
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey
Music: Howard Shore
Distinctions: Oscar nomination for Best Editing; currently #28 on the IMDb's Top 250

My reaction
Synopsis: police try to catch a serial killer
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Bad.
Story: Indifferent.
Characters: Bad. This movie's biggest flaw is probably its unrelenting insistence that these characters aren't completely boring.
Dialog: Indifferent.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Indifferent. It tries really hard. Mostly I just want to know why no one knows how to use a light switch.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Good.
Music: Indifferent.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). So, I guess the idea is to shock you with grotesque cruelty? All of that stuff serves no other purpose than to be unpleasant. Or perhaps it's meant to be a suspenseful mystery? In which case it doesn't fail completely, although it's not particularly good apart from the one action scene.  Ultimately, it comes down to the characters, who are boring.
Objective Rating: 2.2/4 (Okay).

Memento

The Top 63 Marathon, part 37



Data
Title: Memento
Year: 2000 (Europe), 2001 (US)
Length: 113 minutes
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan, based on a story by Jonathan Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Music: David Julyan
Distinctions: Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing; currently #29 on the IMDb's Top 250

My reaction
Synopsis: a man with no short-term memory kills somebody
How I saw it: in the theater (I think), c. 2001; on video a couple times, most recently yesterday (rented from Netflix)
Concept: Good. Gimmicky but interesting.
Story: Good.
Characters: Indifferent.
Dialog: Good.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Good.
Acting: Good. There is room for so much more.
Music: Good.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). It's an engaging film, although now that the novelty has worn off it's hard to see what all the fuss was about.
Objective Rating: 2.8/4 (Good).

September 15, 2010

Cinderella

Data
Title: Cinderella
Year: 1950
Length: 74 minutes
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
Writers: Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Ted Sears, Winston Hibler, Homer Brightman, Harry Reeves, Ken Anderson & Joe Rinaldi, based on the fairy tale by Charles Perrault
Starring: Ilene Woods, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, James MacDonald, Luis Van Rooten
Music: Mack David, Al Hoffman & Jerry Livingston (songs); Paul J. Smith & Oliver Wallace (score)
Distinctions: Oscar nominations for Best Score (musical), Best Song ("Bibbidy-Bobbidi-Boo") and Best Sound Recording

My reaction
Synopsis: a girl is forced to do a full day's work, with only an army of mice and birds to wait on her
How I saw it: on video several times, most recently yesterday (have on VHS)
Concept: Bad. Why make a film of Perrault when there are so many great Grimm stories? The guy is bland and unrelatable, with "Cinderella" in particular being a fine example of Stories That Should Have Died With Their Times.
Story: Bad. See above.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Good. Mostly corny, but with moments of greatness.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Good.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Good.
Music: Great.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). Despite how I feel about the story, I found the movie much more enjoyable than I'd remembered it. Perhaps my appreciation for adorable critters has grown since the last time I saw it.
Objective Rating: 2.8/4 (Good).

September 14, 2010

Tarzan Escapes



Data
Title: Tarzan Escapes
Year: 1936
Length: 89 minutes
Director: Richard Thorpe
Writer: Cyril Hume; characters by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, John Buckler, Herbert Mundin
Music: stock music (I think)

My reaction
Synopsis: a hunter wants to capture Tarzan (but don't worry - Tarzan escapes)
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Bad.
Story: Bad.
Characters: Indifferent.
Dialog: Bad.
Pacing: Indifferent.
Cinematography: Bad.
Special effects/design: Terrible.
Acting: Bad. Now that Tarzan's getting less ape-like, Weissmuller's awfulness is really shining through.
Music: Bad. Same as Tarzan the Ape Man: there's no score except for a few seconds at the beginning and end, and it badly needs one.
Subjective Rating: 4/10 (Eh). It just repeats what the first Tarzan movie did, except it doesn't do it as well (which is really saying something). The climax consists of footage of iguanas, interspersed with shots of our heroes looking frightened. Are they supposed to be giant iguanas? I don't think so; people are usually looking down at them. They're just deadly jungle iguanas, I guess.
Objective Rating: 1.2/4 (Bad).

September 13, 2010

Doctor Who #106: The Creature from the Pit



Data
Title: Doctor Who“The Creature from the Pit”
Year: 1979
Network: BBC
Episodes: 4, at 25 minutes each; the third story (of five or six) from season seventeen
Creators: Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Director: Christopher Barry
Writer: David Fisher
Starring: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward
Music: Ron Grainer (theme); Dudley Simpson

My reaction
Synopsis: a dictator enjoys throwing her enemies into a pit, where there is a creature
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Bad.
Story: Indifferent.
Characters: Indifferent.
Dialog: Great. Whoever's name might be on it, this is unmistakably Douglas Adams' script.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Bad.
Special effects/design: Indifferent. The monster is a joke, but I'm okay with that. And, honestly, it is fairly menacing. The sets look fine, and some of the costume design is actually quite good.
Acting: Indifferent. The main villain is terrible. Baker is at his best.
Music: Indifferent.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). What would have been a terrible story if it had been produced a year later, rescued and then some by unrelenting silliness.
Objective Rating: 2.2/4 (Okay).

September 12, 2010

The Two Towers

The Top 63 Marathon, part 36



Data
Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Year: 2002
Length: 179 minutes (theatrical cut)
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair & Peter Jackson, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
Starring: Sean Astin, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Karl Urban, David Wenham, Elijah Wood
Music: Howard Shore
Distinctions: Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing; Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Editing and Best Sound; currently #31 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: a fantasy world is at war, and two "unlikely heros" try to get past enemy lines
How I saw it: in the theater (probably a couple times), c. 2002; on video many times (have extended cut on DVD), most recently yesterday (theatrical cut, rented from Netflix)
Concept: Indifferent. The complete awfulness of the million attempts at ripping off The Lord of the Rings are pretty good evidence that the basic idea's not actually that good.
Story: Indifferent.
Characters: Great.
Dialog: Bad. Good at getting the story across, but oh so corny.
Pacing: Indifferent. What can you say to the pacing of these movies? It's three hours long, and feels three hours long, but at the same time it's crazy impressive that it works as well as it does.
Cinematography: Indifferent. Enough with the blue filter!
Special effects/design: Great. I'm kind of shocked, though, at how dated it already is. Gollum actually looks pretty crude next to what Pixar's done recently.
Acting: Indifferent. Such a mixed bag. Everything from Oscar-worthy performances to near-unwatchable terribleness.
Music: Good. It hurts me a little to give this movie's score a positive rating. I hate hate hate the way Jackson handled the music for these movies. But I have to admit that, for what it is, it could hardly have been a better score.
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites). My favorite of the trilogy. I find it strangely difficult to judge as a film, though; I can't help watching it as a geek.
Objective Rating: 2.6/4 2.7/4 (Good).

September 10, 2010

Tarzan the Ape Man



Data
Title: Tarzan the Ape Man
Year: 1932
Length: 100 minutes
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Writers: Cyril Hume & Ivor Novello; characters by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Starring: Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, Neil Hamilton, C. Aubrey Smith
Music: stock music (I think)



My reaction
Synopsis: on an African expedition, a woman is abducted by a wild man
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Good.
Story: Bad. Would have been okay, but we never do find out how or why Tarzan is in the jungle. Or where he got his knife.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Bad. Fortunately, a lot of it is difficult to hear.
Pacing: Bad.
Cinematography: Bad.
Special effects/design: Bad.  Mostly terrible, but I've got to give some credit for The Yell.
Acting: Indifferent. The actors seem good in general, but they might have benefited from a second take here and there.
Music: Bad. The music that plays over the credits is absolutely wonderful. But apart from that and a few seconds of Tchaikovsky at the very end, there's no music. And it badly needs music.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). It has moments of greatness. An action scene or two are actually somewhat exciting. But it's very slow, and the quality of the film-making is bad even by early 1930s standards.
Objective Rating: 1.6/4 (Eh).

September 9, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

The Top 63 Marathon, part 35



Data
Title: It's a Wonderful Life
Year: 1946
Length: 130 minutes
Director: Frank Capra
Writers: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett & Frank Capra, with Jo Swerling, story by Philip Van Doren Stern
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Distinctions: Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Stewart), Best Editing and Best Sound Recording; currently #30 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: angels intervene when a selfless man considers suicide
How I saw it: on tv (probably); on video (rented from Netflix) yesterday
Concept: Bad.
Story: Indifferent. It somehow manages to be a compelling story when you're watching it, but that's entirely due to Jimmy Stewart's awesomeness.
Characters: Great.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Good. Mostly great, but I was distracted by the fake snow.
Acting: Great.
Music: Indifferent.
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great). I had had the impression of this movie being sappy, sentimental mush. So it really took me by surprise when I sat down to actually watch the whole thing (instead of seeing a scene here or there out of context) how much I was genuinely emotionally involved. It does kind of turn dopey once Clarence shows up, though. I can't help but thinking it would be a better movie if it ended there and skipped the whole "what if" gimmick.
Objective Rating: 2.9/4 (Good).

September 8, 2010

Dr. Strangelove

The Top 63 Marathon, part 34



Data
Title: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Year: 1964
Length: 95 minutes
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern & Peter George, based on a book by George
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden
Music: Laurie Johnson (and non-original music)
Distinctions: Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor (Sellers); currently #33 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: a US general orders an attack on the Soviet Union
How I saw it: on video many times, most recently (rented from Netflix) yesterday
Concept: Great.
Story: Great.
Characters: Great.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Great.
Special effects/design: Indifferent.
Acting: Good. The performances are absolutely perfect, but not necessarily what you would call great acting.
Music: Great.
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites). There was a time, many years ago, when I considered this my favorite movie. My opinion of it has dropped quite a bit since then, but I still love it.
Objective Rating: 3.6/4 3.7/4 (Great).

September 5, 2010

The American

Data
Title: The American
Year: 2010
Length: 103 minutes
Director: Anton Corbijn
Writer: Rowan Joffe, based on a novel by Martin Booth
Starring: George Clooney, Paolo Bonacelli, Thekla Reuten, Violante Placido
Music: Herbert Gr├Ânemeyer

My reaction
Synopsis: somebody wants to kill an assassin/gun-maker
How I saw it: in the theater, yesterday
Concept: Good.
Story: Indifferent. It works extemely well, but there's not much to it. The same story filmed by different people could have been crap.
Characters: Indifferent. Very unrelatable, and not particularly original for a movie that puts a lot of focus on character.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Great.
Special effects/design: Great.
Acting: Great. There are a lot of scenes with no dialog where you know exactly what the protagonist is thinking. And when you don't know, you want to.
Music: Good.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). The action is great. A lot of the rest of it isn't nearly as interesting as it likes to think it is (although the direction is so cool and Spaghetti Western-y that you might not notice). And of course it has one of the best posters ever.
Objective Rating: 3.2/4 (Very good).

Sunset Boulevard

The Top 63 Marathon, part 33



Data
Title: Sunset Boulevard
Year: 1950
Length: 110 minutes
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder & D.M. Marshman Jr.
Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson
Music: Franz Waxman
Distinctions: Oscars for Best Story and Screenplay, Best Score (dramatic or comedy) and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (black-and-white); Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Holden), Best Actress (Swanson), Best Supporting Actor (Stroheim), Best Supporting Actress (Olson), Best Cinematography (black-and-white) and Best Editing; currently #32 on the IMDb's Top 250



My reaction
Synopsis: an aged star of silent films moves a younger man into her isolated mansion
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), two days ago
Concept: Indifferent.
Story: Good. The noir atmosphere had me waiting for some kind of twist ending.  Nope.
Characters: Great.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Good.
Cinematography: Great.
Special effects/design: Good.
Acting: Good.
Music: Good. Often great. Sometimes unintentionally funny.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). I expected a lot more, given its reputation. Everything's good, but Stroheim's character is the only aspect that really lives up to the movie's legendary status.
Objective Rating: 3.2/4 (Very good).

September 3, 2010

Sherlock Holmes



Data
Title: Sherlock Holmes
Year: 2009
Length: 128 minutes
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham & Simon Kinberg; story by Lionel Wigram & Johnson; characters by Arthur Conan Doyle
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
Music: Hans Zimmer
Distinctions: Oscar nominations for Best Score and Best Art Direction

My reaction
Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes finds badguys by looking at clues, and punches people
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Good.
Story: Bad. There's no mystery, and the subplot of Watson getting married made me want to throw things at the television.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Indifferent. A frustrating mix of great Sherlock Holmes-type lines and horrible action movie nonsense.
Pacing: Bad. Exhausting.
Cinematography: Terrible. It tries so very, very hard. And it won't let me watch the movie.
Special effects/design: Bad. I felt like I was watching a video game.
Acting: Indifferent. Downey is probably great. I don't know; the camera never stops long enough for me to see anything. Law makes Watson seem like a douchebag. McAdams is grating.
Music: Indifferent.
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent). I didn't have any fun.
Objective Rating: 1.7/4 (Eh).

September 2, 2010

Street Angel



Data
Title: Street Angel
Year: 1928
Length: 102 minutes
Director: Frank Borzage
Writers: Marion Orth, Philip Klein & Henry Roberts Symonds, with H.H. Caldwell & Katherine Hilliker, based on a novel by Monckton Hoffe
Starring: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell
Music: don't know, can't find info online, but it's a synchronized score
Distinctions: Oscar for Best Actress (Gaynor, for three films) (1929); (unofficial) Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction (1930)



My reaction
Synopsis: an escaped convict falls in love
How I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Concept: Indifferent.
Story: Indifferent.
Characters: Indifferent.
Dialog: Bad.
Pacing: Bad. The first half is fine. The second half drags painfully.
Cinematography: Great.
Special effects/design: Good. It usually looks like a stage, but it's a nice-looking stage.
Acting: Good. Nothing special by modern standards, but pretty good for the 20s. My wife suggests that they can get away with more because the characters are Italian.
Music: Good.
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay). It's kind of frustrating. There's a lot to like, and it's great to look at. I feel like it could have been a really good film, but (1) it's just so damn slow in the second half, and (2) the melodrama is taken to ridiculous extremes of melodramadery.
Objective Rating: 2.3/4 (Okay).

The Time Traveler's Wife

Data
Title: The Time Traveler's Wife
Year: 2009
Length: 107 minutes
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Bruce Joel Rubin, based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger
Starring: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams
Music: Mychael Danna

My reaction
Synopsis: the love-life of a man unstuck in time
How I saw it: on video, a couple weeks ago
Concept: Good.
Story: Terrible. There are so many great things they could have done with this movie. But nothing happens. Just, "Derp, she's pretty, whoop I'm disappearing again."
Characters: Bad.
Dialog: Terrible.
Pacing: Indifferent.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Bad. Why use expensive aging makeup when you can just give the actors new haircuts, right?
Acting: Indifferent. To be fair, there's nothing they could have done to be good in these roles.
Music: Bad.
Subjective Rating: 2/10 (Terrible). Horrible waste of time.
Objective Rating: 1.2/4 (Bad).

September 1, 2010

The Hangover

(Update of a previous post - original is here. Underlined bits are new, the rest is copied/pasted)

Data
Title: The Hangover
Year: 2009
Length: 99 minutes
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Music: Christophe Beck (mostly non-original music)
Distinctions: formerly on the IMDb’s Top 250

My reaction
Synopsis: three guys can’t remember last night, and their best friend is missing
How I saw it: in the theater, October 2009; on video, a couple weeks ago
Concept: Good. It was already a good concept in Dude Where’s My Car?, and it’s pushed farther here.
Story: Indifferent. It’s not a romantic comedy, but they still manage to rely heavily on romantic comedy cliches.
Characters: Good.
Dialog: Great.
Pacing: Great.
Cinematography: Indifferent.
Special effects/design: Good.
Acting: Indifferent. With the exception of Galifianakis’ character and “Mr. Chow,” it’s never the performance that makes things funny.
Music: Bad.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good). Very funny. I didn’t think it would be so good a second time (most of the humor comes from a series of really strange and unexpected things, which might not be funny anymore after you’re expecting them and have an explanation for them), but it's still good. Maybe not as hilarious as the first time, but still good.
Objective Rating: 2.7/4 (Good).