Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011

Best films I saw in 2011 (not necessarily of films made in 2011). A quick glance through the year and these are the best of what I saw (not necessarily in order). Check them out.

Midnight in Paris
Source Code

2nd Tier
Higher Ground

The Big Fail

See you next year.

Tron: Legacy

A good looking film. A weak story. Not much opportunity to act. Jeff Bridges is stuck in the grid which is essentially the digital landscape of a video game (and has been for 20 years). His son is a chip off the old block and gets into the grid (a bit accidentally) and is brought into a plot to allow the programs to escape the grid and join the real world. There are a couple of good video game scenes with the light cycles and disc fights, but the bulk of this film is either back story from the original Tron, or angst about the creation and evolution of the grid. Not really very entertaining.
2 stars (out of 5)

I Love You Philip Morris

True is almost always interesting if it is made into a film. And Jim Carrey is almost always entertaining. But True and Jim Carrey don't guarantee a great film. I Love You Philip Morris is the story of a great con man who, having met his true love in prison, goes to great extremes to insure that they are always together. These extremes are so extreme that they are unbelievable, but I guess the Unbelievable True makes for the most interesting story. Breaking out of prison (several times), million dollar embezzlement, and impersonations is great fodder for a film and reminds me of Catch Me If You Can which is, sans love story, the same story. But I still found my self distracted and thinking "move it along" throughout the film. Somehow, there is just not enough here to be a good film, in spite of the massively fascinating story.
2 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt

This is an excellent documentary about the creative force behind and excellent band: The Magnetic Fields. Merritt is a prolific songwriter, perhaps most famous in the popular music scene (if famous can be used for this band at all) for his album 69 Love Songs (which or course contains 69 tracks). Merritt has a deadpan sense of humor and presence on stage and this film gives a great view into both his creative process as well as the culture of the band that has been together for more than 20 years. If you are a Magnetic Fields fan, this is well worth seeing. If you have no idea whether you are a fan, then watch this and then become one.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

We Bought a Zoo

Charming. A feel good film about family and animals and love and life. Matt Damon lost his wife and is raising his two kids on his own. He needs a change in his life and so he buys an old zoo. The film follows Damon and his family as they infuse new life into the zoo and come to terms with the passing of life. Not a novel production by any means, but still enjoyable. Worth seeing when you need a movie that wraps you up and holds you.
3 stars (out of 5)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Descendants

No one runs like a frantic George Clooney. I think it is the scene in the trailer, but George running in his beach shoes down the middle of the road with his arms flailing says "middle aged dad needs help" like nothing else I have seen. Clooney plays a guy with a wife in a coma and two kids who need a father. Through in a bunch of additional stressors (he also happens to be a member of a family that are descendents of Hawaiian royalty, and who own a huge plot of land on Kauai for which he negotiating a politically charged sale... for example) and see how George reacts. While on the face it seems farcical, the film is well done and made me laugh and think about what is important in life. An excellent job of not taking itself too seriously, but also being a serious film.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Still Walking

Can you believe I only saw one film last month. Were has all the time gone? Still Walking is a Japanese film looking at the generational divide in a family that has seen trauma. The setting is the annual anniversary of the death of the son. Both the brother (and his girlfriend and her son) and sister (and her family) come back to mom and dads house to commemorate an accident where the youngest son died while rescuing a drowning boy at the beach. But the story is really about the relationship between the living son and the father. Neither feels understood by the other. But now, some conversation is able to happen in a circumspect way by having the father talk to the girlfriends son. Confusing? Sorry... but really a pretty interesting look at family dynamics that translates well in to any culture.
4 stars (out of 5)