Sunday, January 5, 2014

Movie List 2013: 111-125

The continuing list of movies I've watched this year.

There's probably some swearing in here somewhere, because I really like movies. So consider yourself warned.

* = I've seen it before

*   111.   *

Talladega Nights

Reckless NASCAR driver Ricky Bobby thought he knew everything there was to know about being fast, but when a French Formula One driver defeats him, Ricky has to relearn everything he thought he knew.

Genre: Absurd race car comedy

There's a genre of absurdist comedy that I think people either love or hate. You know the ones I'm talking about: your Zoolander's and Anchorman's and their ilk. The ones with incredibly over-the-top characters and situations. It's a type of humor that's not for everyone. Personally, I'm kind of in the middle, some of them I love and laugh till my stomach hurts and a lot of them just annoy me and grate on my nerves.

This one, however, definitely makes me laugh.

For one thing it's got a great cast with main characters like Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Stranger Than Fiction), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Wreck-it Ralph), Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Da Ali G Show), Amy Adams (Enchanted, Julie & Julia), Jane Lynch (Best in Show, Glee), and more.

Part of the fun of the movie is seeing all these great actors having fun with one another and playing off each other so well.

For another thing there are so many memorable lines in this movie. As I sit here writing this they're all coming back to me and making me chuckle.

“So, what if you just said: ‘I love really thin pancakes’? That is a fair compromise, no?”

“Don't you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby!”

“I like to picture Jesus as a figure skater. He wears like a white outfit, and He does interpretive ice dances of my life's journey.”

“Hakuna Matata, bitches!”

That's what I have to say about that.

“America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.
-Eleanor Roosevelt, 1936”

*   112.   *

Kung Fu Hustle

A poor village finds itself the target of the notorious Axe Gang after two wannabe criminals accidentally instigate a feud.

Genre: Loony Tunes Kung-Fu

Oh, Kung Fu Hustle, you are delightful.

The first time I heard of Stephen Chow (the director and star of the movie) was in his earlier film Shaolin Soccer. While Shaolin Soccer is hilarious, I've gotta give it up to Chow because he outdid himself with Kung Fu Hustle.

If you're a fan of martial arts movies then you need to see this movie. Even if you're not a fan of those kinds of movies, you should still think twice before passing this one up. It's first and foremost a comedy. So while there is plenty of martial arts action, there's even more laughs. Plus the action often has this wonderful Loony Tunes quality that puts it apart from serious martial arts movies.

I mean, come on! Roger Ebert described it as: Imagine a film in which Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny. How could anyone not want to see a movie like that!?

“Becoming a top fighter takes time, unless you're a natural-born kung-fu genius, and they're 1 in a million.”

*   113.   *

Hot Fuzz

Police Officer Nicholas Angel is the best around. In fact, he's a little too good. In order to stop him from making everyone else look bad he's been transferred to a peaceful village. However, things might not be as serene as they seem.

Genre: Comedic Action satire

Ugh! This movie is so good. It's so good, you guys!

Whenever I'm called on to describe this movie I usually just say that it does for action movies what Shaun of the Dead did for zombie movies. If you've seen Shaun of the Dead you'll understand exactly what I'm saying, but if you haven't...well then it's a lot trickier to explain.

The Shaun of the Dead comparison is just so apt, though! They're both directed by Edgar Wright, so you can feel the similarities in the look and style of it. They both star the amazing duo of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost. They both lovingly pay homage to a genre of film while simultaneously satirizing it.

Like I said with Kung Fu Hustleand like I say with Shaundon't disregard these films just because you don't care for the genre they're playing with. Hot Fuzz is a comedy and it is a BRILLIANT comedy. You don't need to like guns and car chases to enjoy this movie. If you like them, then you'll be pleased to know they're definitely a part of the movie. If you don't like them, well, you'll probably like how they goof around with them, turn them on their head, and point out their inherent silliness.

“Oy! When's your birthday?”

“22nd of February.”

“What year?”

“Every year.”



Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, encounters the spectral ghost of his recently deceased father who he thought had died of natural causes, but this ghost is telling him that that he was murdered by his brother Claudius—Hamet's uncle (who is now King and has married Hamlet's mother)and Hamlet should probably avenge his dad's death, but Hamlet can't just kill his Uncle, or maybe he can! Oh, jeez, this is all so confusing, maybe we'd better wax poetically for a little while until we can figure this all out.

Genre: Shakespearean tale of revenge and madness.

While I know the story of Hamlet, I had never read the play or seen any production of it. Yet, when I heard of Ryan North's plans for his book To Be or Not to Be—a choose your own adventure version of HamletI figured I should take in the source material in order to better appreciate the humor of. Anyways, I tried to read Hamlet, but just like every time I try to read Shakespeare, I couldn't finish it. So I took the lazy way out and just watched the movie!

Watching Hamlet, however, proved to be its own challenge because apparently there is a freaking ton of them! I decided to go with the Laurence Olivier version, because...why not! It's Laurence Olivier!

Anyways, I liked it. If you want to watch a movie of Hamlet you should watch this one, because why not.

“Conscience doth make cowards of us all.”

*   115.   *

The Thing

In this prequel to John Carpenter's The Thing, a group of Norwegian scientists at an Antarctic research station discover an alien vessel trapped in the ice. Even more shocking they also find an alien life form. The joy of their discovery doesn't last long, however, when it turns out the creature isn't dead

Genre: Modern remake of a horror classic.

As some of you may know, I'm a big fan of John Carpenter's The Thing. So I was pretty excited to see they were making another one. This is not to say I was in any way confident it would be good, but just that my love for the original was large enough that even a shitty reboot wouldn't couldn't hope to tarnish it. So who cares! It can do no harm! HA HA!

Considering my outlook I'm probably willing to give it more concessions than most people. While the movie does have some major faults it also does a number of things extremely well.

First off, let's talk about the faults.

The biggest problem with the movie is that there's nothing new here. It doesn't feel like a prequel at all. It feels like a modern remake of the original. With only a couple exceptions nearly all the scenes in this movie have direct parallels to the original. I mean, really, a lot of the beats of this movie are nearly identical to the original. Heck, even most of the characters feel like they were copy & pasted into the movie. You've got the gruff copter pilot, the quiet dog lover, the asshole in charge, and so on.

Also, one of the great things about Carpenter's version is that it used practical effects to such great effect. The effects might look a little old and weird by today's standards, but dammit! They're still look spooky as shit! This modern version uses CG, of course. Ugh. Sure, there's a couple of shots wherein the CG was used to great effect, but overall it just left a bad taste in my mouth. If I had never seen the old one I probably wouldn't have cared, but I did, so I do.

To their credit though, I was watching some special features for it and apparently they did go out of their way to give the effects practical elements, thus giving the CG folks something solid to work on (not to mention the actors something to act to). Which is probably why I didn't find it all to be as dreadful as I usually find CGI monsters in movies.

This all leads us to the subject of things they did well.

First of all, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Winstead is a major reason why I tend to go to bat for this movie. Kurt Russell is not an easy act to follow, but damn if she doesn't do it. I love that the movie stars an intelligent and capable woman. Unlike the rest of this movie she doesn't try to remake anything. She brings a breath of fresh air to the film andsince she's the main characterthat considerably helps a rehash like this .

However, I kind of got the feeling that a different character WAS trying to fill Kurt Russell's shoes. So the movie didn't dodge that bullet completely. It wasn't a kill shot, but it still got it in the leg and gave it a bit of a limp.

Yet I've got to give a lot of credit to these filmmakers for the Norwegians. Carpenter's movie sets up the premise that the creature first attacked a Norwegian outpost. True to form the majority of this film's actors are Norwegian! Not only that, but apparently they're some really big names in Norway. It adds a dose of realism and quality acting that is rarely seen in a  horror remake.

So there you have it. Is it perfect? No, not by a long shot. But I think it definitely has merit. If nothing else it raises some interesting juxtapositions of how the two films represent their respective time periods of Horror Films.

“Burn it!”

*   116.   *


A past-his-peak tennis pro decides to call it quits and resign to taking a job as country club's tennis instructor. His upcoming appearance at Wimbledon is to serve as his last hoorah in the world of professional tennis. His look on life changes though when he meets a feisty rising-star tennis star with a lust for life.

Genre: Romantic comedy with a dash of sports.

My aunt and I are in agreement that Wimbledon is a kind of perfect movie. It's got a little bit everything you could want. There's romance, there's action, there's drama, there's humor, family, friends, life, sports, etc! It's got a little bit everything.

This is actually a favorite of mine. I really like all the characters and how they develop over the course of the story.

“I'm not an idiot, I know Lizzie likes to have her fun, keeps her relaxed, if you were just another easy... Y'know, well that would be one thing but you're not, are you?”

“As matter of fact, I was incredibly easy.”


The Way Way Back

A kid is forced to go on a vacation to the beach with his mom and her asshole boyfriend. His life is a living nightmare until he finds solace in the company of a waterpark's oddball staff.

Genre: Coming of age drama with some funny bits

The theater was showing this one and how can I say no to a free Sam Rockwell movie? Plus the main character used to play young Shaun on Psych.

As far as the story goes I don't know if it really has anything to offer that you haven't seen before in every other Coming of Age drama. But look at some of the people who work at the Water Park:

Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest, Moon), Maya Rudolph (Away We Go, Bridesmaids), Jim Rash (the dean from Community [also half of this movie's Writer/Director duo).

I mean, I could take or leave the angsty "You're not my real dad!" scenes. But the waterpark stuff is fantastic. Plus, it's got Sam Rockwell! That's really the main reason to see this. I can't think of a time when Sam Rockwell hasn't knocked his role out of the park. He is great in this. Goofy and funny, but also realistic and flawed. The main kid is also surprisingly good. I was very pleased to see that.

“Duncan! On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are?”

“...A six.”

“I think you're a 3.” 

*   118.   *


Super powered mutants fight other super powered mutants, the government, and Discrimination!

Genre: Cheesy comic spin-off

Not gonna lie, I own this one and I watched it here as a final chance to see if it's worth keeping. I have concluded that it is not. I mean, there's some great one liners (“what do they call you? 'Wheels?'”), some great performances (need I say more than Patrick Stewart & Ian McKellen?), and a couple of really memorable scenes (the young Magneto in Nazi Germany scene for instance), but they're not enough to save the movie from its weak plot, lack of development, and its general aura of cheese.

“You going to tell me to stay away from your girl?”

“If I had to do that, she wouldn't be my girl.”

*   119.   *

The Great Muppet Caper

Twin brothers and wannabe reporters, Kermit and Fozzie (and their cameraman Gonzo), head to London to interview the famous fashion designer Lady Holiday. However, when they accidentally discover the identities of an elite group of jewel thieves it seems that they're the only ones who have a shot at catching them.

Genre: Brilliant Muppet comedy

For some reason most people I talk to have seen The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan, but haven't seen this one! What?! In my opinion The Great Muppet Caper puts those others to shame. TO SHAME, I say. The plot is much stronger, the characters are more enjoyable, the jokes are funnier, and the setting is better utilized.

In fact I'd say that in terms of Muppet movies it is second only to The Muppet Christmas Carol.

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“It's plot exposition. It has to go somewhere.”



 After robbing her boss a woman goes on the run. While trying to elude the authorities she comes across a strange motel run by a young man with a deadly secret.

Genre:  I have no idea...Thriller, maybe?

Once again watching famous Hitchcock movies that I've never seen before. And once again it's really weird because I pretty much already know the story beforehand, or at least most of it anyway.

In case you've somehow managed to get this far in life without hearing how the movie ends, I won't ruin anything for you. I'll just say I'm not sure it'll have the impact now as it did back when it was made? I can't say for sure.

There's a lot of things I liked about this movie, but there's a lot of stuff I didn't. I really liked the main lady, but about halfway through they start concentrating on other characters who I don't really give a shit about. It all seemed very gimmicky.

The guy who played Norman Bates is really great though. He's definitely the MVP of the picture.

“It's not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven't you?”


Strangers on a Train

Two men meet and realize that they both have someone in their lives they wish would go away...permanently. But they can't murder them! I mean, they'd be the first suspect, right? But what if...what if they switched murders? Ah, well now there's an idea.

Genre: Thriller

Another Hitchcock that I felt I should see.

There is just something about Hitchcock movies that makes me get hung up on the little things. It's maddening! So I'm just gonna get this out of the way up front. There is a scene where the cops are after a suspect and he jumps onto a crowded carousel and the cops OPEN FIRE! Into the crowd! They straight up shoot the carousel operator, quite possibly killing him, and NO ONE CARES! What!? Just....what!?

I was completely taken out of the movie with shock. What kind of terrible police officers are these? They straight up murdered some people and no one mentions it. Also why are there so many adults on this carousel? Were people really that hard up for entertainment in the 50's?

Ugh. Anyway, it's an alright movie. Like usual with Hitchcock I think it was shot very well. The premise is extremely interesting. I thought the villain was very creepy. But it is all a bit dated. It's definitely fun, but by today's standards it's far from Scary or Disturbing or whatever. If you're looking for a fun old school crime story I think you'll enjoy it.

“Don't worry, I'm not going to shoot you, Mr. Haines. It might disturb Mother.”

*   122.   *

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

A disgraced journalist and an anti-social hacker team up to uncover the mystery of a girl who went missing 20 years ago.

Genre: Mystery Thriller

This is a great example of a book adaptation gone right. While I like the title they gave the American release, I do think the original title is much more telling: “Men Who Hate Women.” When you get down to it that's what the movie is really about.

Because the film revolves around men who commit unforgivable acts against women, it could have accidentally been just as exploitive as its villains. However, careful direction and the character of Lisbeth prevent that from happening. Lisbeth is just about as far from a damsel as you can get. She's fiercely intelligent, capable, and strong.

In the most chilling and graphic scene Lisbeth becomes the victim of sexual assault and rape. It's a hard scene to watch, but that's exactly what makes it so powerful. It isn't in the film for shock value or excitement. It's shown to be the horrible thing it is. It chills you, makes you uncomfortable, and it forces you to feel victimized because there's nothing you can do. But this atrocity that was committed against her doesn't break Lisbeth, she overcomes it, which leads to one of the most fulfilling bits of cinematic revenge ever made.

If you like Mysteries and/or Thrillers I think you'll really enjoy this one.

“I've never done this before. Hold still, or it'll get messy.”


The World's End

A group of middle-aged men get their old group of friends back together to attempt to finish the epic bar crawl that they failed to complete in their youth. However, something isn't right about their hometown. It's become a nightmarish facsimile of its former self and seeks to do the same to them.

Genre: Sci-Fi drama about middle-aged men.

I hated this movie.

I know a lot of people will disagree with me there, but whatever. In my opinion the film is thoroughly dreadful.

And I was so excited for it! I absolutely adore Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and I've been eagerly anticipating this film for so long. I wanted so badly to like it and I kept telling myself, “It'll get better, just wait, it'll get better.”

But it never did.

Heck, if you listen to the commentary for Hot Fuzz you'll hear them mention they once had an idea for a film about a pub crawl that never came together, and apparently it never did. Were they just scraping the bottom of their idea barrel or something?

It was billed as the 3rd part of the Cornetto trilogy (1. Shaun of the Dead, 2. Hot Fuzz), but I have no idea why. The other two were parodying a style of movie (zombie movies and action movies respectively), and as far as I can tell this one isn't. The other two had tons of laughs, this one didn't. What's worse is that this one was straight-up boring. It plays out like a drama, not a comedy. Then there's all these stupid fight scenes and they aren't funny like the ones in the other movies were, it's like they were trying to be really cool or something?

I'll admit that the climax of the movie was brilliant, but that's it. That one scene was fantastic, the rest of the movie was boring and disappointing.

“We're more belligerent, more stubborn, and more idiotic than you could ever imagine.”

*   124.   *


A group of strangers are invited to a dinner party, but when people start dropping dead they find that it's rather hard to find a killer when everyone there has a motive for murder

Genre: Who-done-it Mystery Comedy

I love this movie. I love it so much I'm having a hard-time trying to put what I love about it into words. It's just wonderfully ridiculous and they're having so much fun with it. There's so many brilliant one liners, and wonderful characters, and so many great actors. Just take my word on it; this movie is hilarious.

“What are you afraid of, a fate worse than death?”

“No, just death, isn't that enough?”


You're Next

A family meets at their cabin in the woods to celebrate their parents' anniversary. But when a strange group of animal-masked killers begin to attack, the family will have to defend itself.

Genre: Home invasion horror

In a rather odd twist, I love this movie. I was not expecting to, but there you have it.

I don't really know what to say about it, you kind of have to see it to understand what I'm talking about. It's this bizarre combination of a brilliant movie and a brilliantly terrible movie.

I mean, you've got these bits of just ridiculously stilted dialogue and these villains with ridiculous masks (that are a terrible idea! Their range of vision would be almost nil.) and it's just so silly! But then you've got one of the best female horror protagonists I've ever seen over here kicking some major ass.

It freely oscillates between frightening scenes of a nightmare scenario home invasion and Home Alone-esque hijinks (with a horror twist). There's a couple scenes that just scream Home Alone. I can't remember, but I may or may not of broken my movie silence to whisper to my companion, “This is my house. I have to defend it.”

It's got characters that are complete stereotypes and characters that are superbly fleshed out. It got kills that scare you and others that shock you because they're kind of weirdly hilarious. I mean there's this character that you're just waiting to get offed and BAM! out of nowhere he gets a crossbow bolt to the forehead and is stumbling around and you're just sitting there wide-eyed going “What IS this movie?!”

I'd freely accept if someone said this movie wasn't for them, or they thought it was terrible, but whatever! After I saw it I couldn't stop thinking about it and I wanting to see it again.

In my book that's the sign of a brilliant movie.

“Why would anyone do this?

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