May 27, 2008

Dan in Real Life - $7

Dan in Real Life is a pretty good character movie. Dan's struggle to be a good single dad to his three daughters is somewhat touching and believable. Dan also struggles to find romance and move on years after the passing of his wife.

The story revolves around a family holiday with uncles and aunts and cousins filling the old family home. Dan falls in love with his brother's girlfriend and off goes the movie.

Steve Carell is quite good as Dan and the supporting cast are good as well. Nothing really stood out to make this movie unique or really incredible but it was good and well worth watching.

I put Dan in Real Life on my 'Watch It' list and give it a value of $7.

I'm Not There - $4

I'm Not There is a take on the life of Bob Dylan. Or at least that's what it claims to be. Dylan is played by different actors who each seem to represent different parts of his personality. Creative idea, poorly executed in my opinion.

I was really looking forward to I'm Not There. My brother got me into Bob Dylan a few years ago and since then I've become a huge fan. This movie was a big disappointment to me though.

The story jumps around chronologically and the metaphors seem so obvious I kept wondering if I was missing something.

In the end I'm Not There is a meandering and directionless movie that tries way to hard to not be a biopic and ends up being a series of disconnected artsy short films that are sort-of about Bob Dylan. There were some intriguing scenes, some great imagery and some brilliant acting but way too many times where I was totally unengaged.

I'm putting I'm Not There on my 'Don't Watch It' list and giving it a value of $4.

May 22, 2008

Two Quick Reviews

I've been a bit quieter than usual here lately. It's not for lack of movie watching but more for lack of time. I've got an Iron Man review coming but for now here are two brief reviews of other movies I've seen in the last month.

Juno - $8

Juno was fun to watch, creatively written and well acted. The dialogue is quick and funny and the characters were developed well. Juno managed to be cute as well as touching while not being cheesy, a challenging line to walk.

Ellen Page was good but not brilliant. I need to see more range from her before I jump on the bandwagon. She was perfect for this movie though. Jason Bateman is subtle but great and Michael Cera steals the show in my opinion.

Juno is a good movie, nothing groundbreaking here though so I'm giving Juno a value of $8 and definitely putting it on my 'Watch It' list.

Cloverfield - $9

I loved Cloverfield. This was a very well executed movie in a genre that is hard to define. The opening 15 minutes dragged a bit but were necessary for making me care about the characters later on in the story.

When Cloverfield first ended I was disappointed that they didn't take the story further but after thinking about it I was happy the movie makers decided to leave it the way it was.

Cloverfield is creepy, thrilling and even a bit moving. I believed in the plausibility of the actions of the characters, this is an important point because often movies like this make their characters do things a person would never do just to advance the story or create a tense moment.

I am tempted to give Cloverfield a $10 rating but the beginning could have been better and it was too short. This is on the 'Watch It' list and I give it a value of $9.

May 10, 2008

The Golden Compass - $3

The Golden Compass is one of the most poorly executed book-to-movie adaptations I've ever seen. To bring it to the big screen major changes were made to the characters and situations in this story, unfortunately none of these changes were improvements.

The Golden Compass has a completely different ending than the book it is based on and omits enormous amounts of the story. The order of circumstances is changed and the screenplay writing is simplistic and awful.

The book is a wonderfully told story which reveals the mysteries of this fantasy world slowly whereas the movie does not allow the audience to figure anything out but rather has characters explain things as if to assume the audience is too dumb to follow along. The movie even has the audacity to open up with narration which explains major parts of the plot which are not revealed until the end of the book.

At this point you may be asking why I am giving a rating of $3 to a movie I have nothing but negative things to say about. The answer is simply that as a movie, judged apart from the far superior book it is based on, it's not terrible. Leaving aside the truly horrible screenplay, The Golden Compass contains brilliant visuals, pretty good acting and almost perfect casting, including the incomparable Sam Elliott.

This is definitely on my 'Don't Watch It' list though and I give The Golden Compass a value of $3. If you've read the book don't bother with this movie, but if you like fantasy movies and don't mind bad writing you may want to give it a shot.

May 7, 2008

Amazing Grace - $6

Amazing Grace is not an amazing movie, it is however a pretty good one.

Amazing Grace is the story of William Wilberforce, the late 18th and early 19th Century British parliamentarian who is credited with ending the British slave trade. He is an heroic figure of history and his story is well worth telling.

Where this movie misses is in the big moments, it seemed to me that several opportunities for powerful scenes became fairly mundane scenes passing facts along about this incredible person's life. Wilberforce is played only adequately by Ioan Gruffudd who is overshadowed by the performances of cast mates like Albert Finney, Rufus Sewell and Romola Garai.

Amazing Grace is worth watching if you like true stories told well through film. It will not blow you away but the life and accomplishments of Wilberforce should.

I'm putting Amazing Grace on my 'Watch It' list as I do like a good true story and I'm a sucker for political heroism. The modest rating of $6 reflects my feeling that this could have been better, but it wasn't bad.