Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some Capsule Reviews of 2011

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Some links: What if the SAG Awards Didn't Exist?
An Open Letter to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul on Gunaxin

Some movie reviews of 2011 Films (rapid fire edition)
Cedar Rapids-Ed Helms plays a small town insurance salesman who goes on his first plane trip to the big city to attend a convention. This movie is an excellent example of "Funny cause it's true" comedy. Trade and professional conventions are treated by the people who put them on and many of the attendees as highly exciting. From an outsider's perspective, it's a bunch of people overly excited to be spending a weekend at a hotel listening to lectures. Thus, you have a perfect premise for a movie and with the point of view being told from the perspective of the greenest convention goer ever to exist, there's not a mean bone in the film's body. John C. Reilly does his best to channel Jack Black. If I have one complaint about the film, is it ends on too much of a high. Even the best convention experiences aren't THAT life-changing.

We Built a Zoo-Covered here in my retrospective of Cameron Crowe. A must read if there ever was one.

Horrible Bosses-That was one enticing trailer that "Horrible Bosses" offered. Unfortunately, many of the best jokes were in the trailer. Oh yeah, and the trailer was misleading. It's not a film about three people trying to murder their bosses. That's really just the first act of the story. Maybe it's because the film switches directions in so many spots, that the film feels kind of rushed.

Overall, the film is still pretty decent. Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and Jason Bateman have some pretty good chemistry and Kevin Spacey and Colin Farrell have a lot of fun hamming it up as villains. Also, Julie Bowen of "Modern Family" pops up into the mix and gets kind of naughty.

Hangover II-Probably THE most shameless sequel to come along as of lately. It was enjoyable only on account of the fact that I was already in the theater (on account of other people) and did my darndest to forget I ever saw the first film. So if you try really hard, you can enjoy this film, but I do strongly believe that if a film has nothing original to say, then there's no reason for it to be made.

Cowboys and Aliens-This wasn't meant to have a shelf life beyond the two hours you spent watching it last summer, but this movie has proven surprisingly memorable for me. Several elements in the plot (i.e. why aliens would want gold, why Olivia Wilde's character wouldn't reveal her form, etc.) didn't make too much sense but it wasn't a movie that took itself seriously and I really appreciated it on the level of genre filmmaking (or more specifically, double genre filmmaking). The visuals, special effects and certain members of the cast (Adam Beach and Sam Rockwell made great supporting players) worked well. There was a sort of clash between Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford (One reviewer called the pairing a "peanut butter and peanut butter sandwich" and I ) both being the grumpiest guys you've ever seen, but I was won over by both of them even if I felt like it was a little too much friction.

Hugo-The main negative is that pretty much everyone says the movie starts off pretty slowly. It's over two hours and you could easily come in 45 minutes in and not miss much. This is somewhat of a problem because it's a mystery and the film works best on first viewing as the clues come together.

Other than that, it's an excellent film. The colorful cast of characters and excellent actors behind them are the film's biggest strength.

Descendants-This film is really two stories that don't connect as well as they should. It's not really a negative, though, because both stories work very well. One story is about a man coping with his wife's death and the other is about the responsibilities of the descendants of a land-owning clan to preserve the land. It's material that falls really well in Alexander Payne's ball park (co-written by Dean Pelton on Community of all people).

Both of the two central performances are overrated in terms of the Oscar buzz they're receiving. As I've written extensively, I'm finding the hoopla surrounding George Clooney to be overpowering of him whenever he is on screen. His performance is good but doesn't show many new notes in comparison to Up in the Air or Michael Clayton. Shalene Woodley is good but not great.

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