Compilation Post: Films I’ve seen and haven’t reviewed yet…

I know…I know.  I am falling behind.  Between being extra busy at work and illness, my movie watching and posting have suffered.  So, I decided the best way to catch-up is to create a compilation post with only a short review for each, that way I can get back on track.

Here we go:

Killer Joe 

Wow!  This is exactly what the poster states…twisted. The lowdown? The label of Southern Gothic is perfect.  Playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts has a dark sense of humor and a great talent of capturing the absurd while grounding it.  Director William Friedkin still has it (even a 77 years of age) and can create a tight, well paced story.  Matthew McConaughey is having an incredible year and he knocks this performance out of the park.  The cast is first-rate and all deliver strong performances. I have a strong constitution and yet, there were some awkward, disturbing moments where I truly found myself asking, “Should I be laughing or seriously disgusted?”  I believe it is supposed to be a little of both.

End of Watch

I could watch two hours of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena patrolling the streets of South Central Los Angeles just shooting the breeze, ragging on each other and doing some good.  That in itself was entertaining, thought-provoking and heartfelt.  The chemistry of Gyllenhaal and Pena is electric!  The problem I had with End of Watch is that it tried to be a much bigger movie than it needed to be.  They incorporated drug cartels and criminal agendas that were unnecessary when the story of these LAPD partners was interesting already.  And I was disappointed in the ending–the tonal shift was distracting for me and made me feel cheated after, what was an emotional finale.  Still worth the time to check out.

The Master

I liked it.  It is not my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film, but I appreciated what he was doing with this narrative.  And the acting is phenomenal!  Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are at the top of the craft here.  PTA seems to bring out the best in his actors and The Master follows suit.  The pace is still and steady, which allows the characters to evolve organically   The themes that permeated were that of father and son, as well as master to pupil or as I felt master to dog.  I could not help but see correlations between Hoffman’s Master and Phoenix’s student and that between a dog and his master.  Everything…physical actions (playing in the yard) and in tone (verbal reprimands).  For some reason I could not shake that analogy.  Oh well.  So, if you go–be ready for a beautifully crafted film that takes its time and showcases some of the top talent in Hollywood today.

Frankenweenie

YAY!!  Tim Burton is back!!  And in fine form.  Frankenweenie is exactly what I hoped it would be…the return of Burton’s quirky style and heartfelt storytelling.  The fact that it is in fantastic Stop-Action only heightens my satisfaction and enjoyment of the wonderfully told story.  It’s truly lovely.  A tale of love and individuality that will stand the test of time.  Classic, yet unique.  Awesome.  Nice to have you back, Mr. Burton.  I hope you stay for a while.

Butter

Butter?!  I had never heard of this film.  Really.  So, when I came across it I was curious.  It had some people I enjoy, so why not check it out.  I am so glad I did!  What a nice surprise.  A film centered around Butter sculpting sounds weird and funny and that is what you get.  A very human story that just happens to be surrounded by oddities–from characters to circumstances–and yet, it works.  It is funny and heartwarming, even if at times it can be silly and over the top.  Overall, not a bad movie to stumble upon.

Friends With Kids

You guys know I like my Rom-Com realistic–right?  Well, I do.  And Friends with Kids is very realistic and I enjoyed it.  Written/Directed and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, she smartly creates a world where you believe all these characters and the environment they are in.  (It also helps that she surrounds herself with some strong talent.)  Except for a typical “a-ha” moment towards the end, I enjoyed this story and found myself rooting for a “happy ever after”, which of course, was always the way it was going to end.  Duh!

Hotel Transylvania

Oh, Adam Sandler!  Even animated you seem to be stuck in kitschy territory.  Sigh.  This is a safe, VERY kid friendly animated film.  It is not awful.  But, it is not brilliant.  It lingers in the “meh” of mediocrity.  Not dumb enough to be garbage, but never clever enough to be called good.  I chuckled a few times–mostly at the zombies (cute gags) and Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi rocks!), but overall was under impressed.

Dredd 3-D

A futuristic police officer in armour and a helmet that covers all but his mouth stands on the corner of a building roof with a gun in his hand as large tower blocks burn behind him. Above the man reads a tagline "Judgment is Coming".

HILARIOUS!  I laughed a lot in this version of the Dredd universe.  Now, I do not believe that was the intention..but it was funny!  Comical villains (with bad teeth, that had to be on display all the time)–comical one-liners (shakes head dramatically and then…”Yeah.”)–and lame action (not funny -_-).  There was potential for badassery, but it was lost when they allowed the slow-mo sequences to lasts forever. So, if you wanna have a fun time and laugh at some incredibly bad, expense cinema–get together with some of your favorite peeps (like I did) and have a blast.  Otherwise…skip it.

Arbitrage

I heard some buzz about Arbitrage and thought I was in for a first-rate financial thriller (if there is such a category).  Well, what I ended up with was a recycled narrative that has been done (better) before.  Rich man.  Mishandling of large sums of money.  Death of a mistress.  Lies.  Cover-ups.  More lies.  Family drama.  Even more lies.  Stop me if you heard this before.  Nothing elevates this very familiar story to the next level.  Performances?  Okay.  Plot?  Old.  I ended up disinterested and bored.  You might feel differently–because it seems to have others praising it.  Guess it wasn’t for me.

WHEW! That’s it!

I plan to give Argo its own post–because it’s really good! 🙂  And I will be writing up Cloud Atlas, which was amazing!  Until then…

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Dark Shadows leaves me disappointed–mostly…

I am 1/2 disappointed.  Is that possible?  I have never seen the 1966–1971 gothic horror soap opera of thesame name, so I had no expectations except for the hope that Burton and Depp were bringing back the old magic (I was keeping my fingers crossed).  Well, Tim Burton‘s Dark Shadows has good and bad things, but the magic has NOT fully returned.

Let’s begin with the good.  I enjoyed Johnny Depp‘s performance and that was nice because lately he has disappointed me.  As Barnabas Collins he brings angst, brooding and subtle humor to his fish out of water vampire–even with the ridiculous make up on (sorry–I am starting to worry about the Kabuki-like makeup fetish).  The sets were beautiful–Gothic and grand (and it was not so much of a comedy as the trailers indicated).  The effects are well done and the cast is perfect–especially Eva Green as the witch Angelique, who is the right mix of evil and sadly obsessed.  And I appreciated the premise, but this leads to the bad…

The narrative is all over the place.  This is the classic example of trying to say too much and ending up not saying anything.  There was no focus.  What story were they trying to tell?  I am not sure.  I think it was supposed to be about love lost and yet they did not spend enough time on that angle for me to care.  I also think they should have spent more time in the past if they wanted any of the key elements to resonate in the future.

Sigh.  Oh well.  I guess I should be happy that some of the magic was present, but I can not say I enjoyed it as much as I could have.  If only Burton had engrossed me with his brilliant storytelling, but instead this scattered story was too broad and as a result, it ended leaving me unsatisfied.

 

Can I dare hope that Tim Burton has found his lost mojo?

Okay. I love Tim Burton, but Alice in Wonderland disappointed me greatly (especially when I was almost giddy with excitement beforehand) and if I were being honest he has been hit and miss of late.  So, when Dark Shadows was announced I was NOT giddy, I was worried and planned to skip it, because it seems like both Johnny Depp and Burton were starting to lose my interest. 

Then I saw this trailer and I am almost afraid to hope.  Can this be the return of the Burton I once loved?  Can the magic of Depp and Burton be conjured up again? 

I want to believe…really, I do…

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