I've been staying up late these past few weeks, and a combination of DVR and tons of movie channels has enabled me to catch a ton of things I'd otherwise never watch. So I thought I'd jot some notes about them in here, and maybe once my life is less crazed, I can even provide some better commentary. Don't worry, I have no illusions of grandeur, I have neither the training nor really the interest in analyzing movies as some kind of authority (unless, of course, I'm remarking on the shoes!). Just some thoughts, just some thoughts. And feel free to share your own! Even if it's, "No way, you actually sat through -that- drivel??" (especially if it's that).
Pulse - I'm a big fan of Kristen Bell's from Veronica Mars and Reefer Madness, even though I don't watch Gossip Girl, so I've been meaning to see this. Campy, somewhat predictable, and a little lame, I mostly disliked the last 10 minutes or so when the movie simply seemed to drag on and you didn't care of the protagonists lived or died, as long as you got some resolution soon. And then the final voiceover was so thick with platitudes and righteousness I literally rolled my eyes and was more than happy to click it off. Sometimes spooky, and an interesting concept, it was overall an impossible premise and an unrewarding watch.
The Grudge 2 - I actually liked the original The Grudge, it made me jump and kept me guessing, which is all you can really ask for in this type of movie. I have no idea how they roped Sarah Michelle Gellar into her tiny role in this film, nor do I understand how this got made at all. It simply rehashes all of the old gimmicks and plot from the first movie without introducing any new stunts or depth or plot. It's the sin of sequels, and I didn't even get startled much less frightened. I kept waiting for a twist that never came. Don't waste your time.
The Reaping - Starring Hilary Swank, who is not my favorite female lead, The Reaping was another movie that sat far too heavily on its morals and laurels to satisfy as a thriller. Based on the plagues of the Old Testament, the movie strayed from the most important elements (the plagues and their meanings and repercussions) and focused on the is it/is it not religious questioning of the protagonist which, as my friend warned me, is obvious from the beginning if you have any knowledge of the stories on which the movie is based and the formula of this kind of movie in general. I hate knowing what's going to happen, but I hate even more when none of your observance and intelligence is rewarded with any kind of twists or surprises or nudge-nudge insider hints. See it if you're so inclined, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Lake Placid - As a big fan of campy/funny scary movies, especially involving large creatures, a la Jaws (and Jaws 2, 3, 4,5...), Lake Placid is one of my favorites and this is the fifth or sixth time I've seen it. This is the one that rewards you for having expectations of the trope, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. I love the dialogue, I love the diverse characters and it's just a fun ride to go along with. Even as I anticipate a great line, I laugh as it's delivered by a great team of a cast. If you need further evidence in my bad taste in movies, yes, I also liked Deep Blue Sea and Ghost Ship. And those ones about the giant squid...
Catch and Release - I'm also not a fan of Jennifer Garner's, (I know, pickypicky), but I don't mind her and she was really great in 13 Going on 30. And I think she did well with those nontraditional romance amidst grief and loss and an eclectic group of friends that we all recognize or wish we had. Sitting back and just enjoying this movie was a pleasure, perhaps even more so because I expected so little from it. It's not novel or surprising, but it is pleasant, and you're rooting for the main pair the whole way. Best of all, unlike romantic comedies where everyone seems to be a type, in Catch and Release everyone seems very human, relateable and really real.
No Reservations - My problem with romantic movies is usually that they spend an hour trying to "surprise" you with two characters falling in love, then throw an uncreative obstacle between them that you know they will resolve by the 90-minute mark. I liked this movie because it didn't treat me like a moron, it didn't try to take me by surprise, and the main drama was actually not really between the romantic leads. You just went on a journey with a bunch of likeable characters and rooted for them throughout. Oh, and it didn't end in a marriage or something corny. I'm not singing it a ballad or anything, but I did like it more than I thought I would. (The hardest thing to get past was Aaron Eckhart in a romantic lead after seeing Dark Knight!)
How to Make an American Quilt - It's a story about love and relationships, and in that respect it does its job at featuring the complexities and various situations that people deal with in love, lust, commitment and family. However, it often takes itself a little too seriously and goes on too long with exposition. We understand the parallels and juxtaposition, thanks. The other problem is that the main story is woven with a patchwork of other stories, so the movie jerks around in all different directions and is sometimes hard to follow. I had it on in the background and I don't think I missed anything; in fact this is the way I would recommend watching it. Don't put forth too much effort or investment, but the acting from an all-star cast (featuring Winona Ryder) and the movie's many ideas and opinions are worth a look.
Mystic Pizza - Would you believe I just saw this? Well, I did. It was fun to see so many familiar faces as young, unknown actors (hi, baby-faced Matt Damon!) and simply laughing at the "fashion" of the 80's and the way a bunch of supposed-teens whine and struggle in their love-angst. It's endearing and a classic, unsurprising but warm. If you haven't seen it (though I truly believe I'm the last), then do so.
Akeelah and the Bee - I really wanted to like this movie. I wanted it to be more than another rise-to-success follow-your-heart overcome-adversity mentor-student family movies. But alas, that was all it was. Unknown Keke Palmer as Akeelah was the best part of the movie, and Laurence Fishbourne wasn't bad, he was just nothing more than himself. The most endearing part was the relationship between Akeelah and her spelling bee friend/boyfriend, Javier. Some racial and cultural subtext is skimmed over, but it touches nothing deep and avoids any controversy which may have given this movie actual depth. Unfortunately, I would have to recommend skipping it. Or maybe I don't like spelling bees, as I am also strongly against the Broadway musical Putnam County Spelling Bee and was unimpressed by Richard Gere's Bee Season.
Cars - I originally saw this in theaters and was very pleased by it. I think the second viewing held less magic than the first, but I still think the quality of the film, especially for children, is fantastic. There's also a lot of wit and tongue-in-cheek and meta references for adults to savor. A very original movie, one to add to the permanent collection. But it was no Toy Story.
The Good Shepherd - I liked this movie, but it was a little long and slow for my tastes. I think I expected something different from a movie with Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Robert DeNiro (who also directed) about the CIA. Something more fast-paced. But the movie itself, much like its main character, is stoic and introspective, so I didn't really feel included or even very intrigued. It picked up near the end as the stray threads began to come together, but then as the credits rolled I realized I was left unsatisfied by my investment.
Thumbelina - Yes, I just watched the animated musical cartoon from my childhood. It's actually a fun watch as an adult, mostly because you can just make fun of its silliness. Thumbelina is a silly child singing her way through obstacles as a naive heroine, while a cast of crazy-voiced characters (hi, Gilbert Gottfried, Charo and Carol Channing!) sing dopey little songs and create laughable conflicts for her. She's kind of the anti-heroine who is a little stupid and needs to be constantly saved, not a role model I'd let my young daughters watch. Especially because the ones doing the saving are bumbling and inadequate as well, and the only reason she doesn't perish is a series of mockable deus-ex-machina-type interventions and contrivances. But if you're looking for an excellent opportunity for a drinking game, Thumbelina is it. Hans Christen Andersen would be ashamed.
(In brief, since they're new and you can find far more insightful reviews than mine elsewhere on the 'nets!)
Mama Mia! - Well, I like musicals. And I like musical movies (I think the best transition to film was Chicago, btw). But I never liked Mama Mia! as a musical on stage, I'm not a big Abba fan, and therefore it's no surprise that I didn't enjoy this movie (though I am an Amanda Seyfried fan and she was hands down the best part about it). But I didn't have to pay for it either, so that's good. Just don't try to blame my distaste on the fact that there's goofy singing and dancing, because that's just not quite it. You might like it though; check it out and let me know.
Dark Knight - I'm intimidated to even tiptoe into this dense conversation, eek! Suffice it to say, I saw it twice, I loved it, but the hoopla and wailing surrounding it on all sides is to me a giant turn-off. Also, it could have been two movies. But for such a long film, I found it surprisingly easy to sit through twice.
Hancock - I very much enjoyed this and don't entirely understand its bad reviews. It was unexpected and took you to new perspectives with the superhero canon, one in which the heroes are human and fresh. In a summer of stale or at least stereotypical or familiar heroes and villains, Hancock is refreshing. Plus, I just love Will Smith and Jason Bateman. I would love to see a sequel.
The Happening - *I* loved it, but you might not. I love all of M. Night Shyamalan's work, too. And if you need further proof of the fact that my tastes run a little wonky, see above for Lake Placid.
Wanted - I didn't see the second half, but I want to, and that should say enough. And um, where can I get one of those white blood cell salt baths?
And believe it or not, I think I'm forgetting some! So there may be more to come.