Friday, September 11, 2009

You Know What I Watched Last Summer - Movie Edition

So TIFF09 has started (that's the Toronto International Film Festival just in case you didn't know) again and hopefully I'll get to see a few films (although my schedule has suddenly changed and I have less free time than I thought next week now, ugh, so maybe not).

In the meantime, I'm playing clean up and spitting out some super late mini reviews of some of the movies I saw this past summer (which includes stuff I saw on DVD and in airplanes). You know, in case you care. It's sort of listed from best to worst but I reserve the right to re-order them in the future (aka, my end of year Best of List):

Up = A

What hasn't been said about Up? Pixar does it again. The story is gloriously loopy and goes ALL OVER THE PLACE (both in geography and in story direction, and I mean that in a good way), the colours are vibrant and beautiful, the characters are complex (when have you rooted for a grumpy old curmudgeon AND an annoyingly peppy youngster?) and who didn't have a tear or two in the first TEN MINUTES of the movie? What an adventure! What a comedy (I still laugh thinking back at Dug)! What a fun adventure film that is strangely engrossing and touching? This is what great movies are all about!

The Class (Entre Des Murs) = A

If Up takes us to mysterious places around the world, The Class brings us back to the classroom. A French classroom but one that is recognizable beyond borders. François Bégaudeau plays François Marin, a veiled version of himself as he deals with a heavy immigrant population in a Parisian High School that blurs the line between drama and documentary and shows the struggles teachers currently have while they attempt to stay invigorated by the job. Gripping and heartfelt and re-imagines the typical Hollywood teacher-inspires-poor-students in a worldly realistic setting.

District 9 = A

Speaking of blurring drama and documentary, writer and director Blomkamp spins the alien invasion movie and flips it all. What if they came and we put them into a refugee camp? I thought this was going to be so overrated after hearing all the praise but not only did it live up to the hype (including a nice sharp social commentary about South Africa's segregating past), the film quickly took what I thought would be the final twist and STARTED from there and moved speedily along, AND made us care for one of the creepy aliens.

Julie & Julia = B+

What CAN'T Meryl Streep do? A gloriously delicious movie with Meryl completely immersing herself into Julia Child. Her segments with husband Stanley Tucci are uplifiting and joyful, while I was one of the few who equally enjoyed Amy Adam's segments as modern times Julie. Maybe I could relate with the blogger who wants more in life. Such a glowy film and yes, even though we had dinner, we had to go to a second dinner after the movie just because.

Terminator Salvation = B+

Few things first. I was dragged to this because my friend really really wanted to see it. I didn't. There was just nothing in the promos or the ads that interested me, even though I liked the previous Terminators (and yes, I even liked T3, so you know I can be easy to please). But then Sam Worthington shows up and I became a convert. Okay, so the movie surrounding Sam actually turned out to be better than I thought it would be and for once I enjoyed the doom and gloom.

Adam = B+

This easily could have been a cloying romantic drama with bits of comedy, and the comedy could have leaned towards the offensive, but the movie stays nicely away from that fine line (that the ads make it seem like) and instead, is a nice little drama in a nice little story of Adam, played beautifully by Hugh Dancy, as he romances Rose Byrne (nicely softened and unDamaged). Surprisingly it doesn't dumb things down, nor does it play to the audiences and our expectations. In the end though, you too will fall in love with Dancy as Adam.

Duplicity = B+

Love Clive, Love Julia, but this was not the movie I was expecting from the ads.


Still, I thought it was a lot of fun and cheeky and the continuing back and forth between Owens and Roberts, plus the over-the-top performances from Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson keep things interesting enough through all the twists, turns and fakeouts.

I Love You, Man = B+

I Love You, Paul Rudd. Simple as that.

Also, it's nice to see Joy Jaime Pressly not play a southern white trash hick. And Rashida Jones is just lovely. Jason Segel is a bit over-the-top but I guess that's the point.

But really, I love you Paul Rudd!

Really REALLY Love you Man!

Sunshine Cleaning = B+

I also love Emily Blunt and I LOVE Amy Adams. Junebug, Enchanted, Julie & Julia, The Office, Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, This. Okay, so Amy Adams plays variations of the same character, but she's so good at it! And she's such a delight everytime, especially here, as a down-and-out single mom trying to survive while cleaning up dead bodies with her sister and crazy father (Alan Arkin. Again). Add in Clifton Collins Jr. (who I adore) and this is one of those indie gems that only got overshadowed because it has the word "sunshine" in it, it was made from the people who brought you Little Miss Sunshine and it had the same indie quirky feel. But I thought it was better than LMS.

Adventureland = B+

Sweet movie. Didn't rock my world, but played nicely like that groovy record in the background as you smoked up on the shag carpet in your basement. Plus, Jesse Eisenberg makes up for The Squid and the Whale (now THAT was an indie movie cliche that took every indie movie stereotype, threw it all together and gained tons of fans. WTF?) while Kristen Stewart proves she's more than just a vampire lover. And Ryan Reynolds continues his slow growth to leading man status. Seriously, did you think he would be getting this big and great back during Two Guys A Girl and a Pizza Place? And can anybody have a slower, but constant trajectory to superstardom?

Star Trek = B+

Chris Pine. Where did you come from? Oh, Chris Hemsworth. Hello! Okay, so I'm not a trekkie but this was fun enough, although the timelapse through whatever frozen space to get new Spock Zachary Quinto to meet old Spock Leonard Nemoy was kind of lame and slowed things down in a generally fast paced space romp, but kudos to a great cast including Anton Yelchin (also fun in Terminator Salvation, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana and Karl Urban. I like the nod to the past and I don't mind in theory to seeing the original cast members, I just thought it could have been done better. Especially if they're going to uglify (the beautiful beautiful) Eric Bana who seemed to strive in playing evil.

17 Again = B

Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Melora Hardin, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight, Hunter Parrish.

I watched this movie and just saw my different entertainment worlds collide. Ones I never thought would.

It was High School Musical meets Friends meets The Office meets Judd Apatow movies meets Reno 911 meets Buffy/Gossip Girl meets Sonny with a Chance meets Weeds/Spring Awakening. Weird. But strangely a lot of fun. Nothing brilliant, but enjoyable and silly and fun to see this mish mashed cast together.

And yes, Zac Efron has TONS of charisma. Even when he has his shirt on.

Angels & Demons = B

Well, it was better than the mess the first movie was. But thank goodness I was reading the book when I saw this so that I could fill in all the blanks from everything they sped right through to get to the extended climax.

Well, at least seeing Ewan McGregor made me want to pray to God.

The movie was breezy and a fun mystery adventure but I think having read the book helped make the movie better/make sense.

Summer Hours (L'Heure d'été) = B

Usually I love this kind of movie. French, slow, lingering on emotions and the subtleties between relationships, all while filmed beautifully around realistic looking French (summer) homes, plus with Juliette Binoche.

What's not to love?

But I didn't connect with this as much as I had hoped and found it more admirable than anything else.

Hannah Montana The Movie = B-

Yes I watched and yes I laughed.

Vanessa Williams and Margo Martindale are in it. Yes, they are excellent. And yes, some of the songs are still in my head.

WAY better than I expected, even though they had NO idea what to do with Jackson.

Oh, yes, hunky Lucas Till as hot jailbait cowboy (though not jailbait in real life, whew. thank goodness) certainly helped.

The Hangover = C+

The big hit of the summer but I sat in a full theatre where 2 girls laughed really hard while everyone else stayed silent. How did this become the word-of-mouth-film of the summer? More chuckles than anything LOL. LOVE Bradley Cooper but I thought Ed Helms, and not Zach, had the breakout role.

I REALLY wanted this to be funnier but I think I only laughed out loud during the closing credits when they showed the "photos" from the "bachelor party".

Post Grad = C

This movie, like its main character, had no idea where it was going and tried to be too many things at once. Quirky family comedy? (With Jane Lynch, Michael Keaton and Carol Burnett). Welcome to the real corporate world bitch? (In the Devil Reads Prada and Other Print wannabe), or 20's something romance (with Rodrigo Santoro thrown in for some good eye candy). As much as I love Rory Gilmore and Matt Saracen, they didn't quite work here and Alexis Bledel and Zach Gilford were thrown into the middle of a mess and left to float for themselves. Try as they might, ultimately they drown in the directors pool of indecision.

Here's my other reviews from the summer:

A : (500) Days of Summer
A- : Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
A- : Every Little Step
A- : One Week
B : Extract
C+ : He's Just Not That Into You
C+ : Monsters Vs. Aliens
C- : Youth In Revolt

Vance at


Anonymous said...

Seems like your grades average around a B+, which is pretty high - it was a good summer for movies, huh? One big surprise - Terminator: Salvation got the same grade as Star Trek?

That's a bold statement! I haven't seen it, which is weird for me - when I was, like, 12, Termintor 2 blew my barn doors off, and I really liked the TV show, too, despite its many flaws. But dude, T3 suuuuuucked and I couldn't even finish it, and I'd heard pretty negative things about the new one.

But dang, I really loved Trek, so if you see them as being even in the same league, I just might have to check Salvation out on DVD.

Vance said...

Well, you must know that I'm a bit too nice by now. So take it all with a grain of salt. Plus, I think I only watch movies I think I'm going to like, hence all the B+'s. That being said, Terminator Salvation was one of the few I really didn't want to see so it was a huge surprise so maybe a high grade because I had such low expectations. (Sam Worthington didn't hurt either so take that with a grain of salt either).

That said, I'm not a trekkie and that Leonard Nemoy sequence bored the hell out of me and took off points for what was going to be a higher grade.

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