29 January 2010

Blasts from the past! (2003-2005 movie log)

This is still kind of a work in progress... excuse the mess. Same deal as the last entry, only with 2003-2005 films. Unfortunately, that's as far back as my records go. I'll be updating the colour scheme and the links to reviews at length, because unfortunately my original grades log over at RT has lost all the links to my reviews (something to do with the recent site changes making the links to RT journals all dead -- woo-frickin'-hoo).

2003 FILMS

All the Real Girls -- A
American Splendor -- A
Anger Management -- B+
Bad Santa -- B
*The Barbarian Invasions -- C
Basic -- D
Bend It Like Beckham -- A-
Big Fish -- B
Blue Car -- A
Bringing Down the House -- C
Bruce Almighty -- B-
*Bubba Ho-Tep -- B+
*Bus 174 -- A-
*Capturing the Friedmans -- B+
*Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle -- C
*City of God -- B+
*Cold Mountain -- C+
The Company -- B
Daredevil -- C
Dark Blue -- A-
*Dirty Pretty Things -- C
Down With Love -- B-
Dreamcatcher -- C-
*Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat -- D
*Duplex -- C-
Elephant -- B
Elf -- B+
Finding Nemo -- A
*The Fog of War -- A
*Freaky Friday -- A-
*Freddy vs. Jason -- C+
*Gerry -- A-
Gigli -- C-
Gothika -- C
Head of State -- B+
Holes -- B+
*House of Sand and Fog -- C+
The Hulk -- C-
The Hunted -- C
Identity -- B-
*In America -- B
*In the Cut -- C-
Intolerable Cruelty -- C
The Italian Job -- B
*Kill Bill - Vol. 1 -- A
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life -- C+
The Last Samurai -- B
L'Auberge Espagnole -- C+
*The Life of David Gale -- D-
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King -- A
*Lost in Translation -- A
Love Actually -- B
The Magdalene Sisters -- B
*The Man Without a Past -- A
*Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World -- A-
Matchstick Men -- B-
*The Matrix Reloaded -- C+
The Matrix Revolutions -- C+
A Mighty Wind -- B
The Missing -- C+
*Mona Lisa Smile -- D
*Monster -- B-
*Mystic River -- A
Once Upon a Time in Mexico -- B-
Open Range -- B
Out of Time -- B+
Phone Booth -- B-
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl -- C
Radio -- C+
The Recruit -- B-
The Return -- A
Ripley's Game
-- B-
Runaway Jury -- B+
The Rundown -- B
Scary Movie 3 -- B
The School of Rock -- A-
Seabiscuit -- B-
Shanghai Knights -- B
Shattered Glass -- B+
Something's Gotta Give -- B+
Spellbound -- A-
Spider -- B
*Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over -- C
*Stuck on You -- A-
S.W.A.T. -- B
Tears of the Sun -- C
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines -- B+
*The Texas Chainsaw Massacre -- C-
*Thirteen -- B+
The Triplets of Belleville -- A-
28 Days Later -- B+
21 Grams -- B-
*2 Fast 2 Furious -- C+
Whale Rider -- B
*Winged Migration -- A-
X2: X-Men United -- B+
XX/XY -- A-

Total # movies seen from 2003: 97

2004 FILMS
The Alamo -- C+
Alexander -- C-
*Along Came Polly -- C-
*Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy -- C+
The Assassination of Richard Nixon -- B
The Aviator -- A
Bad Education -- A-
Before Sunset -- A
*The Big Bounce -- B+
Born Into Brothels -- B-
The Bourne Supremacy -- A-
Catwoman -- D+
*Closer -- B
*Coffee and Cigarettes -- C+
*Collateral -- A-
*The Corporation -- B+
*Dawn of the Dead -- A
The Day After Tomorrow -- C+
*Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story -- B+
*Dogville -- A-
The Dreamers -- C
Ella Enchanted
-- B+
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- A
*Fahrenheit 9/11 -- B+
50 First Dates -- B
Finding Neverland -- B
Friday Night Lights -- B+
*Garden State -- B
*Good Bye, Lenin! -- B+
Good Bye, Dragon Inn -- B+
The Grudge
-- C
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle -- B+
*Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban -- A-
Hellboy -- B
*Hero -- B+
*Hotel Rwanda -- B-
House of Flying Daggers -- B
*I Heart Huckabees -- B-
I'm Not Scared -- B+
*The Incredibles -- A
In Good Company -- B+
I, Robot -- C
*Jersey Girl -- C-
*Kill Bill - Vol. 2 -- A
Kinsey -- A-
Ladder 49 -- B
The Ladykillers -- C
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events -- C+
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou -- B+
The Manchurian Candidate -- B-
*Man on Fire -- D
*Maria Full of Grace -- A
Mean Creek -- A-
*Mean Girls -- C+ (definitely have reconsidered this one since watching bits of it again on TV)
Meet the Fockers -- C+
The Merchant of Venice -- B+
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster -- A-
*Million Dollar Baby -- A
Miracle -- B
Moolaade -- A
The Motorcycle Diaries -- B
*Napoleon Dynamite -- C-
*The Notebook -- C+
Ocean's Twelve -- D+
Open Water -- A-
*Osama -- A
*The Passion of the Christ -- C+
The Phantom of the Opera -- B-
*The Polar Express -- C+
Primer -- A-
*Ray -- B+
Riding Giants -- A-
*The Saddest Music in the World -- B
*Saved! -- C
The Sea Inside -- B
Secret Window -- C+
Shark Tale -- C+
*Shaun of the Dead -- B+
Shrek 2 -- B+
*Sideways -- A
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow -- A-
*Spanglish -- D
Spartan -- B
*Spider-Man 2 -- A
*The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie -- B
Starsky & Hutch -- B
*Super Size Me -- B+
*Surviving Christmas -- F
Team America: World Police -- B
The Terminal -- B
*13 Going on 30 -- B
*Torque -- B
Touching the Void -- B
*Troy -- C
Undertow -- B
Van Helsing -- C
Vanity Fair -- C
Vera Drake -- A
A Very Long Engagement -- A-
*The Village -- C-

Total # movies seen from 2004: 100

2005 FILMS
*Bad News Bears -- B+
*The Ballad of Jack and Rose -- A-
*Batman Begins -- A
Be Cool -- C+
*The Best of Youth -- A
*Brokeback Mountain -- A
*Broken Flowers -- A
*Caché -- A
*Capote -- A-
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- C+
Chicken Little -- C-
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -- B+
*Cinderella Man -- B
Coach Carter -- C+
The Constant Gardener -- A-
Constantine -- C+
Conversations With Other Women -- B+
*Crash -- A
Cut (from Three... Extremes) -- B-
Diary of a Mad Black Woman -- D+
Domino -- C
Downfall -- B+
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room -- A-
*Fever Pitch -- B+
*The 40 Year-Old Virgin -- A-
Four Brothers -- D
*Good Night, and Good Luck -- A-
Grizzly Man -- A-
*Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -- B+
*A History of Violence -- A
Hitch -- C
*The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- B
*Hostage -- C
*Howl's Moving Castle -- B+
Hustle & Flow -- B+
The Ice Harvest -- A-
The Interpreter -- B+
The Island -- C
Jarhead -- B+
Junebug -- A-
*King Kong -- A
*Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang -- A-
Kung Fu Hustle -- A-
Layer Cake -- B+
The Longest Yard -- C+
Lord of War -- C+
Lords of Dogtown -- B+
Madagascar -- B
*Mad Hot Ballroom -- B
March of the Penguins -- B+
*The Matador -- B
Match Point -- B+
Me and You and Everyone We Know -- A
Memoirs of a Geisha -- C+
*Millions -- A-
MirrorMask -- B+
Mr. & Mrs. Smith -- B-
*Munich -- A-
*Murderball -- A
Mysterious Skin -- A-
My Summer of Love -- A-
*The New World -- A-
Nine Lives -- A-
Nobody Knows -- A
North Country -- B-
Oldboy -- C (ish)
Paradise Now
-- A-
Pretty Persuasion -- D-
Pride & Prejudice -- B+
*The Producers -- C
Proof -- B
Red Eye -- B
*Rent -- B
The Ring Two -- C
*Robots -- B-
Serenity -- A-
Shopgirl -- B-
*Sin City -- C+
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants -- B+
The Squid and the Whale -- A-
*Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith -- B
Stay -- C
Syriana -- B-
3-Iron -- B+
*Tim Burton's Corpse Bride -- B+
*2046 -- A-
An Unfinished Life -- D+
*The Upside of Anger -- B
Walk the Line -- B
*Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit -- A
*War of the Worlds -- A-
*The Weather Man -- C
*Wedding Crashers -- A-

Total # movies seen from 2005: 91

28 January 2010

2009-2011 movie grades log

This is primarily an organizational tool for myself, copied-and-pasted from the RT forums. It may be of interest, but you don't need to pay it any heed. Links to full reviews, if I have written one for the film in question, will be provided.

2009 Films

Act of God -- A-
Adventureland -- A-
Angels & Demons -- B-
Antichrist -- D+
*Avatar -- B
Away We Go -- B+
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans -- B+
Big Fan -- A-
Black Dynamite -- A-
The Blind Side -- D
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men -- C-
Bright Star -- A-
Broken Embraces -- A-
Brothers -- C+
Bruno -- B
Capitalism: A Love Story -- B
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs -- B
Cold Souls -- B+
Collapse -- A-
Coraline -- A-
Crank High Voltage -- brainsplosion
Disney's A Christmas Carol -- B
District 9 -- A
Drag Me to Hell -- A-
Earth -- B+
An Education -- B
Everlasting Moments -- A-
Fantastic Mr. Fox -- A
(500) Days of Summer -- A
Food, Inc. -- A
Funny People -- B-
The Girlfriend Experience -- C
The Hangover -- B+
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince -- B+
The Hurt Locker -- A
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs -- C+
I Love You, Man -- A-
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus -- B+
The Informant! -- B-
Inglourious Basterds -- A-
In the Loop -- A-
The Invention of Lying -- B-
Invictus -- B
It Might Get Loud -- A-
Julie & Julia -- B+
Knowing -- C-
The Last Station -- B+
*The Limits of Control-- B+?
*The Lovely Bones -- D+
The Men Who Stare at Goats -- C-
The Messenger -- B+
Monsters vs. Aliens -- B-
Moon -- B+
New York, I Love You -- B
9 -- B
Nine -- C+
Ninja Assassin -- C+
Observe and Report -- A-
One Week -- B+
Paranormal Activity -- A-
Ponyo -- A-
Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire -- A
The Princess and the Frog -- A-
Public Enemies -- B-
Red Cliff -- A-
The Road -- A-
A Serious Man -- A
Sherlock Holmes -- B-
A Single Man -- B-
The Soloist -- C
Star Trek -- B+
State of Play -- A-
Summer Hours -- A
Taken -- C-
Terminator Salvation -- C
35 Shots of Rum -- A-
Tokyo Sonata -- A-
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen -- C+
Two Lovers -- A
Up -- A-
Up in the Air -- A
Watchmen -- B
Whatever Works -- C
Where the Wild Things Are -- A
Whip It -- B-
The White Ribbon -- B
World's Greatest Dad -- B+
Zombieland -- B+

Total # movies seen from 2009: 88

2010 Films

Ajami -- A-
Alamar -- A
Alice in Wonderland -- B-
The American -- B-
Animal Kingdom -- A-
Another Year -- A
Black Swan -- C+
Blue Valentine -- A
Carlos (theatrical cut) -- B+
Catfish -- B
Cop Out -- C-
Cyrus -- A-
Death at a Funeral -- B-
Despicable Me -- A-
Dinner for Schmucks -- C
Due Date -- B-
Easy A -- B+
Edge of Darkness -- B
The Expendables -- B-
Exit Through the Gift Shop -- A
The Fighter -- B+
Fish Tank -- A-
The Ghost Writer -- B+
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest -- C+
The Girl Who Played With Fire -- B
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo -- B+
Greenberg -- B+
Green Zone -- C+
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1 -- A-
Hereafter -- B-
Hot Tub Time Machine -- B
How to Train Your Dragon -- B+
I Am Love -- B-
The Illusionist -- A
I Love You Phillip Morris -- A-
I'm Still Here -- A-
Inception -- A-
Inside Job -- A-
Iron Man 2 -- B
The Karate Kid -- B
Kick-Ass -- B
The Kids Are All Right -- A
The King's Speech -- B+
The Last Airbender -- D-
Last Train Home -- A
Lebanon -- A-
Legion -- C
Let Me In -- B+
The Losers -- B-
Machete -- B
Mother -- A
Never Let Me Go -- B-
A Nightmare on Elm Street -- C+
Nowhere Boy -- A-
127 Hours -- A
The Other Guys -- B+
Paranormal Activity 2 -- B
Please Give -- A-
A Prophet -- A
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time -- B
Rabbit Hole -- B
Red -- C+
Robin Hood -- C
The Runaways -- B-
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage -- B+
Salt -- B
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World -- B+
Secret Sunshine -- A-
Shutter Island -- B
The Social Network -- A
Somewhere -- B-
Splice -- A-
Tangled -- B
Tiny Furniture -- A
The Town -- B
Toy Story 3 -- A
Tron: Legacy -- B
True Grit -- B+
Waiting for 'Superman' -- A-
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps -- C+
Winter's Bone -- A
Youth in Revolt -- B-

Total # movies seen from 2010: 82

2011 films

The Adjustment Bureau -- B
The Adventures of Tintin -- B-
Another Earth -- C+
The Artist -- A
Beginners -- A
Being Elmo -- A-
A Better Life (Une vie meilleure) -- A-
Bridesmaids -- A-
Captain America: The First Avenger -- B+
Carnage -- D+
Cars 2 -- C+
Cave of Forgotten Dreams -- A-
Cedar Rapids -- B+
Certified Copy -- A
Contagion -- B
Crazy, Stupid, Love. -- A-
A Dangerous Method -- A-
The Descendants -- A
The Devil's Double -- C
Drive -- A-
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close -- B
50/50 -- B+
The Future -- A-
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- A-
The Hangover Part II -- C+
Hanna -- B+
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2 -- A
Le Havre -- A
The Help -- A-
Horrible Bosses -- A-
Hugo -- A
The Ides of March -- A-
Insidious -- B-
In Time -- C+
Kung Fu Panda 2 -- B+
Like Crazy -- A-
Limitless -- B+
Margin Call -- A-
Martha Marcy May Marlene -- B+
Melancholia -- A
Midnight in Paris -- C-
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol -- B+
Moneyball -- A-
The Muppets -- B+
*Nostalgia for the Light -- A-
Of Gods and Men -- A-
Our Idiot Brother -- B+
Paul -- B+
The Perfect Host -- C+
Pina -- A
Poetry -- A
Rango -- A-
Rise of the Planet of the Apes -- B-
Second Chance (La chance de ma vie) -- C
A Separation -- A
Source Code -- B+
Sucker Punch -- D
Super 8 -- A-
Take Shelter -- A
30 Minutes or Less -- B+
Thor -- B
Transformers: Dark of the Moon -- B-
*The Tree of Life -- B-?
The Trip -- A-
Water for Elephants -- C+
X-Men: First Class -- B+
Young Adult -- A-

Total # movies seen from 2011: 67

Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)

Ever since he ruled the Academy Awards and the worldwide box office with Titanic, his effusive marriage of outsize old-fashioned romance with a real, historical, tragic backdrop as well as awesome (in the true sense of the word) special effects, anticipation was building for James Cameron’s next big film. What could the “king of the world” possibly deliver after 12 (and more) years to meet these lofty expectations -- partly generated by the director’s own claims that the project would change movies as we know them? Avatar, at its best, is a rousing and proficiently staged action movie and, even more importantly, a ravishing technological display and a beautifully detailed and even hypnotic work of visual art. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit jarring. The scenes in the lush jungles of Pandora are so richly deep and detailed -- a gorgeous environmentalist dream -- and Jake’s experiences therein are so well orchestrated, they deliver an undeniable twinge of pleasure. But the human characters are (perhaps partially by design, but nonetheless irritatingly so) so one-dimensional, their goals so obvious, and their dialogue so bland and full of clichés that it is obvious why Jake eventually starts to prefer the company of the Na’vi; unfortunately, it takes us out of the film as well. Aiming for the kind of giant-scale populist success of blockbusters like The Dark Knight or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar nails the scale, the efficiency of action, and the dazzle of the special effects, but misses the emotion and the complexity of character and theme.

The story, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, is about a paraplegic Marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who is given a new lease on life while on a mission on Pandora, thanks to the “Avatar” program, which places him inside the body of one of the Natives, ostensibly to gain intel about their ways and force a compromise with the military and big business (the Na’vi live atop a giant deposit of a rare fuel source). As such, the film is a bit of a hero’s journey, a bit of a Pocahontas-style imperialists-vs.-peaceful Natives narrative, and a bit of a sci-fi dreamy Alice in Wonderland, what with its through-the-rabbit-hole transformation scenes from Jake’s real, damaged body to his new, lithe, towering, blue figure. Upon landing on Pandora, Jake runs in with Dr. Grace Sullivan (Sigourney Weaver, that tough yet womanly Cameron staple), the scientist in charge of the Avatar program and communication, as well as Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), leader of the military presence on the planet, both of them working under the thumb of the giant corporation attempting to mine the planet of its “unobtainium,” led by Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). Grace and the Na’vi are the good, peace-loving, environmentally conscious side of the equation; Quaritch and Selfridge are the bad side, bombastic adrenaline/explosion junkie and money-grubbing puppet of the shareholders, respectively. It’s all fairly neatly spelt out by Cameron in a few none-too-subtle lines of dialogue and few shadings of grey in the characterization; all that remains over the course of Avatar’s titanic running time is for Jake to decide where his loyalty really lies. The colonel promises him the use of his legs back if he succeeds in either convincing the Na’vi to leave or else forcing them out. But after meeting a sexy, wise, playful Na’vi local named Neytiri (a sultry Zoe Saldana) and learning her exotic language and thrilling culture and ways -- the depiction of which provides the bulk of the film’s scenes -- which side do you think Jake goes for when all is said and done?

It’s crucial that we have a hero we can believe in with an enterprise like Avatar. Luckily, Worthington is an immensely capable and appealing actor. His Jake is just interesting enough to make us want to watch him but just blank and simply drawn enough to make him a flexible, viable access point for the masses to Cameron’s brave new world of Pandora, the eyes through which we see this magnificent landscape. On second viewing, I was even more impressed with Worthington’s raffish charm and his palpable excitement each time he enters his Avatar body. The narration is also quite effective. Weaver is also appealingly tough but also (pun intended) graceful, justifying her status once again as Cameron’s go-to tough chick after Aliens. Saldana is the only other actor who really makes an impression, and she’s feisty, impetuous, and wise as Neytiri; although unlike, say, Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings movies, her performance does tend to get a little smothered by the technology rather than breaking through it in any astonishing way.

The other actors unfortunately don’t fare as well, especially up against the backdrops against which they are placed. The jungles of Pandora are extraordinarily well-executed visually, with little bits of plant life and exquisite glowing firefly-type creatures flitting around the edges of the screen and bigger, equally lavish creations (a giant beast with horns or a colourful flying pterodactyl-like creature) popping out at you from right in the middle. (The 3D screening on a regular-sized screen allowed me to see these numerous gorgeous details better, actually, than the IMAX version I saw initially, which was just huge and loud, if more immersive... one more reason I warmed up to Avatar just a little bit more on second viewing.) And the rituals of the Na’vi -- especially the communal healing/prayer assemblies and the scenes where Jake learns to ride a moody, stampeding land creature or an equally ill-tempered flying animal -- are often breathtaking. The 3D is mercifully not just a gimmick used for the director to throw things at the audience; instead it is used to deepen and enhance the world it has created, making it feel tactile and almost hyper-real. As such, Avatar is undoubtedly an intermittently thrilling spectacle, never less than competently made, with plenty of surface imagination; it is a good first step in utilizing this brand new cinematic technology.

But as much as it is often amazing to behold, it is also frustratingly predictable and even clichéd. Individual characters, except, perhaps, for Sully and Grace, never really materialize into tangible, real entities. As much as we feel for the Na’vi as a group forced out of its home, they never become much more than a symbol of the tragic beauty of nature on the brink of destruction, and none of the individuals of the tribe really stand out -- as much as Saldana, on paper, would seem to make an excellent muse for Cameron. The characterization of the military and big business figures is even more laughably bombastic and flat, ciphers there primarily to deliver Cameron’s tirades against the insensitive, destructive evils of, well, the military and big business. Ribisi’s Parker Selfridge is little more than a stooge of the shareholders, with little hesitation about bulldozing sacred trees for the sake of profits. And Lang is about the most clichéd, square-jawed, gung-ho army colonel seen in ages. Michelle Rodriguez's initially gung-ho, later fed-up, decidedly Rodriguez-like army chick is supposed to undergo a change of heart, but it is so sloppily delivered (She actually says, and I quote, something as cliched as "I didn't sign up for this shit.") and telegraphed that it never really feels organic. At least in something like The Lord of the Rings, you had conflicted villains like Gollum. The characterization in Avatar is straightforward, black-and-white, and, by and large, flat, which, when coupled with Cameron’s smack-over-the-head blatant environmental message (even Al Gore went about his business with more subtlety and elegance in An Inconvenient Truth -- only half kidding, there), means nothing much is ever really at stake and that there is never any doubt which side will and should win out in the end.

The scenes in the jungles of Pandora, breathtaking, enveloping, and beautiful, are achievements not likely to soon be matched. The sense of community, nature, and ritual captured by Cameron is fitfully engrossing. The battle scenes (with rampaging beasts, colourful flying creatures, gunner helicopters and planes, and some skilled, lithe, blue-skinned warriors who know how to wield a bow and arrow) are well staged and satisfying, logistically speaking. But all the money that went into this pet project isn’t worth a fig if it doesn’t sweep us up in an original world or hook us into complex characters whose personalities and fates haven't been already telegraphed in in advance. Avatar, in 3D, is an interesting and largely successful experiment, a fascinating novelty. With a capable hero, a durable if familiar story, and, of course, downright luscious visuals, it certainly glides pretty well for a two-and-three-quarter-hour epic; however, there is a reason it never quite soars nor embeds itself in your memory as firmly as it should. B

The best movies of the decade -- 2000-2009 (Hello, all!)

I'm just moving in here from the Rotten Tomatoes community, which has undergone some unfortunate new formatting changes. I think something like this will ultimately be a better home for my movie reviews, musings, comments, etc., and whatever else I feel like discussing from my life. Hopefully it will be both stylish, refreshing, and thought-provoking. To start things off, a link to a discussion and countdown of my favourite movies of the past decade. I've limited it to 12, but there are a few "cheat" entries (combining similar movies) and copious honourable mentions. Go here and enjoy!