The Official Review Thread of 2007

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Postby Sabin » Mon Jul 09, 2007 2:42 am

'Transformers'...

THE GOOD: the first third centering around Shia LaBoeuf's quest for a kickin' car...Shia LeBoeuf, who's better than he has any right to be...Anthony Anderson, delightful in another demeaning obnoxious black coward role he seems to cater to these days...the subversive sight of the numerous ad placements coming to life and killing people...the first big transformer fight with Bumblebee...um...it ends...

THE BAD: the transformers talk, which is death on the screen...the transformers themselves are individuals who are incredibly dull...the effects feel derived from a different film stock resulting in two separate movies going on at the same time visually...narratively, there are at least twelve different movies going on at every given minute...more jingoistic bullshit from Michael Bay...redundant action with no spatial relationships at all...a plot that feels largely invented on the spot...

Here's the thing...if you can shut your brain off, this is a good time. However, I could not because I was too busy being annoyed by the transformers speaking or the myriad plotlines winding towards unruly conclusion. I remember enjoying myself in the beginning of the film but that really kind of stops after the first half hour, forty minutes or so. And then it just goes on. My biggest problem is that the film feels the need to validate this "Tranformers Lore", which to my knowledge is largely stupid. A cube called the All Spark. Intergalactic robots with very human dialect, personalities, and names. Lame, lame names. Is there call for any of this? What is to be gained by having them talk? Why can't we stare up in wonder at these glorious CG creations and wonder "What are they thinking?" instead of "Why won't they shut up?"

A bad movie that could be a lot of fun for some people. I'm going easy on it a little, but I certainly wouldn't recommend it.
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Postby criddic3 » Sun Jul 08, 2007 4:58 pm

Sonic Youth wrote:"Breach", about the capture of American spy Robert Hanssen, is a very average movie with a very great performance from Chris Cooper. Director Billy Ray is quite a skillful filmmaker, but between this and "Shattered Glass" he's also very shallow. Ray has no interest in delving into the psyches of the antagonists. He's more interested in making pursuit films. This he does quite well - someone should assign him to take on a thriller - but the entertainment value is superficial. Entertaining it remains, but it falls back on too many moldy conventions: beginning the movie by giving away the ending, then showing a flashcard that reads "two months earlier"; routine emotional build-ups climaxing in yelling; the line "what is this all about?" (which no one says in real life), etc. And the protaganist is a fresh, young recruit tasked to spy on Hanssen while gaining his trust... almost always an uninteresting role as written, but particularly when it's played by Ryan Phillipe. Phillipe has gotten marginally better throughout the years, but he still has a long way to go and he gives off a Ben Affleck-y lack of gravitas. But Cooper, an understated presence, this time decides to chew the scenery. Just a bit, mind you, in his characteristically restrained manner. It's as if he decided this was going to be the role of his legacy. What a shame that the movie bombed and hardly anyone else knows about it. Not that the movie deserved a blockbuster-sized audience, but he did.

The movie has been renting quite well since it was released, at least where I work. And most people have been positive towards it.
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Postby kooyah » Sun Jul 08, 2007 12:07 am

anonymous wrote:This is a material that best serves his strengths: kickass action but Bay's penchant for going way over the top and undisciplined stylistic flourishes mar what could've been a pretty good escapist summer movie. The action way, way overstays it's welcome in the last act.

My problem with the action was that it was so fast paced and, considering the way the Transformers were designed, it was hard to tell exactly what they were doing to each other. It was like watching these huge mechanical things flying around the place and I had no idea how to make heads or tails of how the fights were taking place. Was that an arm? Did it land on its frontside or backside or head or foot?

And Bumble Bee. He's supposed to be a cute, charming Beetle, like Herbie. Not a dumb American muscle car.

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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Jul 05, 2007 9:16 pm

"Breach", about the capture of American spy Robert Hanssen, is a very average movie with a very great performance from Chris Cooper. Director Billy Ray is quite a skillful filmmaker, but between this and "Shattered Glass" he's also very shallow. Ray has no interest in delving into the psyches of the antagonists. He's more interested in making pursuit films. This he does quite well - someone should assign him to take on a thriller - but the entertainment value is superficial. Entertaining it remains, but it falls back on too many moldy conventions: beginning the movie by giving away the ending, then showing a flashcard that reads "two months earlier"; routine emotional build-ups climaxing in yelling; the line "what is this all about?" (which no one says in real life), etc. And the protaganist is a fresh, young recruit tasked to spy on Hanssen while gaining his trust... almost always an uninteresting role as written, but particularly when it's played by Ryan Phillipe. Phillipe has gotten marginally better throughout the years, but he still has a long way to go and he gives off a Ben Affleck-y lack of gravitas. But Cooper, an understated presence, this time decides to chew the scenery. Just a bit, mind you, in his characteristically restrained manner. It's as if he decided this was going to be the role of his legacy. What a shame that the movie bombed and hardly anyone else knows about it. Not that the movie deserved a blockbuster-sized audience, but he did.
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Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:57 am

BUG
Cast: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr., Lynn Collins, Bryan F. O'Byrne.
Dir: William Friedkin

This is William Friedkin's best theatrical film since The Exorcist and the best performance Ashley Judd has ever given in her career and that alone makes this film well worth it. This is a mesmerizing psychological thriller about two people descending into madness. Michael Shannon is a revelation.

Oscar Prospects: Ashley Judd deserves a Best Actress nod.

Grade: B+

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Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Jun 30, 2007 7:50 am

TRANSFORMERS
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson, Megan Fox, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Jon Voight, Kevin Dunn, Julie White.
Dir: Michael Bay

Good news: This is Michael Bay's best film since The Rock. Bad news: Well, he still hasn't learned the meaning of the word 'subtlety'. This is a material that best serves his strengths: kickass action but Bay's penchant for going way over the top and undisciplined stylistic flourishes mar what could've been a pretty good escapist summer movie. The action way, way overstays it's welcome in the last act. On the bright side, the film doesn't take itself too seriously with the actors pretty much game. Recent Tony winner Julie White in her few minutes as LaBeouf's mother gives probably the best performance in a Michael Bay movie ever.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound and Sound Editing.

Grade: C+

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Postby abcinyvr » Sun Jun 24, 2007 1:22 pm

SHARKWATER ***
Documentary, by Rob Stewart

Finally got around to seeing this last night at a second-run theatre. I guess I am living in a bit of a bubble here in Canada, not understanding that this is actually a Canadian doc and has yet to be released in the US.
Very affecting documentary about the woldwide slaughter of sharks. Much like the movement to save the whales in the 20th century this may be the start of a similar outcry.
Stunning photography by the director, a talented and experienced cinematographer, this film is a wonder on the big screen. It is also nauseating throughout, as it needs to be. Stewart does his own narration which adds a more personal texture as it is the story of his own journey to document the destruction of the species, but it also is distracting and borders on the amateur. Still, the benefit of him telling his own story seems more appropriate.
If AMPAS decides to take a pass on Michael Moore this year then this may be a strong possibility to be a frontrunner come Oscar season.

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Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Jun 18, 2007 12:53 am

I think the guy you're talking about Gaspard Ulliel who was in A Very Long Engagement.

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Postby dws1982 » Sun Jun 17, 2007 11:47 pm

Hannibal Rising
This movie was absolutely disgusting. If people thought that Ridley Scott bastardized the memories of Demme and Mann with Hannibal (I thought it was a witty, but very black comedy), then they should've been up in arms about this. This is even worse than Red Dragon. This is just nasty, sadistic garbage. It's supposed to be about why Lecter became who he was, but it's really just a sadistic excuse for the filmmakers to show several inventive murders--decapitations, drownings, explosions, stabbings. They could've thrown in more blood, and it could've passed for an Eli Roth film. The lead actor is almost too convincing as a cold, unemotional murderer, but he doesn't suggest the personal magnetism that Hopkins' Lecter has, or the world-weariness that Brian Cox showed in Manhunter. I haven't seen him in anything else, and I'm not sure how far that type of persona will get him in movies, so I hope he has something more to offer. Hannibal had a sense of humor about it, but this movie is completely humorless--so deadly serious, that, with its Holocaust basis, the filmmakers must've thought they were making Schindler's List. I can't think of any reason to watch this. I only watched it because someone let my dad borrow a bootleg DVD.

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Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jun 17, 2007 9:49 pm

I hate to sound like a total grouch, but I find the overwhelming acclaim for Once to be completely baffling. Oh, there are some charming moments (the "Falling Slowly" sequence noted by Sabin, the sequence in which the recording studio owner slowly takes interest in the band, the finale) and some nice music. But good heavens this is a little nothing of a film! This is the kind of film that when your buddy makes it in film school, you forgive the butt-ugly filmmaking, virtually nonexistent narrative, and beyond coy details (the protagonists are listed in the credits as Guy and Girl!?), and tell him it was sweet because you damn well don't want to squash his romantic spirit. How this possibly could have earned A-grades across the board from critics is totally beyond me.

I do still have Falling Slowly stuck in my head, though.

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Postby kooyah » Sat Jun 16, 2007 8:15 pm

I'm not really understanding the quibbles about the film's portrayal of the musical process. I mean, I understand that practice and revision is paramount in music -- I have many years of intensive classical training -- but I think such complaints are beside the point. Maybe it's just the musician in me speaking, but I think all this film is really about is the power music has in bringing people together and helping to set our lives right. I've experienced that myself and I think the film gets it right. I don't think missed notes or showing them slaving away at practice would have added all that much to the film.

I didn't feel it was saccharine at all. The musicians weren't perfect, which is part of their charm, and I didn't feel that people's reaction to them was out of sync, either. I felt the ending was pretty devastating, especially since I have done something similar in my life. Overall, the film felt honest to me, unlike the ridiculous manipulation of films like Life is Beautiful.

Once is no towering achievement, but it is a nice, small film. I refuse to be so cynical as to resist it for not being a completely realistic portrayal of music and the songwriting process.

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Postby rain Bard » Sat Jun 16, 2007 7:05 pm

Eric wrote:I don't wonder if the film was trying for a suspension of realism beyond the two conspicuous crane shots.

Oh yes. My first instinct was to type that I found this approach to the music "annoying", but on second thought I reflected that in a way the friction between real and ideal, both in the music and in the relationship, is the most interesting, memorable thing about the movie (which it's already been several weeks since I saw).

I do think the lo-fi aesthetic is, besides a simple function of the film's budget, an intentional technique designed to "trick" a hip, artifice-uncomfortable audience into appreciating a romantic musical the filmmakers felt was their modern-day tribute to the Freed Unit films of the past.

But keeping the songs magically blemish-free also works wonders in selling the soundtrack, I'm sure.

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Postby Eric » Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:58 pm

LOL, I just Facebook friended you, Josh, based on the fact that you were the only one who rated this one any less than 4.5 stars on the Flixter app.

Very much agree that the filmmakers/musicians didn't seem to want to allow flubbed notes or any such imperfection into the mix (at least aside from tentativeness on first run-throughs ... which happily enough seems to go hand-in-hand with tenderness in the genre), but then again I don't wonder if the film was trying for a suspension of realism beyond the two conspicuous crane shots.

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Postby rain Bard » Sat Jun 16, 2007 5:03 pm

It was kinda cute but not irresistably so.

One thing that stuck out to the musician in me was how, despite the film's lo-fi, "realistic" DV aesthetic, it made composing and recording music seem unrealistically, ridiculously simple. Sure, the filmmakers are careful to show that the album took days to record, but they don't do enough to show why it did. Every time the characters get together to play something, even on a first run-through, it sounds pretty damn polished (whether or not one thinks the songcraft is at the "Neil" level).

One might say that the filmmakers were trying to endow the characters with something of a magical level of musical chemistry. Or else they simply wanted to showcase the songs in the best possible light- which requires an elusion of the wrong notes, false starts, and struggles with arrangement and song structure that are more typical of any musical projects I've been witness to. In real life, and I think this goes for professionals as well as for the mostly-amateur musicians I've hung around with, the truly best work comes out of revision at least as much as it does from initial inspiration.

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Postby Sabin » Sat Jun 16, 2007 3:35 pm

I agree with your observation about people just enjoying their musical talent. That felt genuine. The first scene is so mischieviously fly-on-the-wall that the rest of the film is a little bit of a let-down. Neil Young? Please. I wouldn't go as far as Neil Diamond. It's barely average indie coffee house fare. Like 'Moulin Rouge!' or 'Garden State', it's the cloying motion picture soundtrack that will become unavoidable in the coming months. I will say that Glen Hansard has a helluva good voice and I was choked up when he taught her how to play 'Falling Slowly'.

I love the prospect of going to the movies and falling in love. 'Before Sunrise' and 'Before Sunset' are two of the gems of my lifetime. I admire 'Once' for its intention, spirit, and budget (for Christ's sake! This is the most shoestring-looking thing since 'Primer'), but if I allow it any close I fear dry heaves.

More to come...
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