These are actually from the turn of the year, December and January. Forgot all about my NetFlix review list! Lots to catch up on so expect a couple more of these soon.
ELF: * * *
Our traditional family December Holiday Movie is BAD SANTA (* * * * *) but this year we thought we'd branch out a little. ELF is not bad, really, it's just eh. Does what it's meant to do in basically the way such movies do such things.
DEATH AND THE COMPASS: * * *
Directed by Alex "REPO MAN (* * * * *)" Cox and based on a Borges story, so you know it's going to be weird. Only, it sort of wasn't nearly weird enough, or something. It felt under-energized. The narrative frame felt more detracting than helpful. I dozed off a couple of times during it.
TRIANGLE: * * * *
A recommendation from a friend who said it's not what it looks like from the packaging. Well, it looks like a standard ol' horror movie about a bunch of people accidentally trapped in a spooky, then deadly, contained environment. And that's actually very much what it is at first, until it turns out to be a different kind of story hiding in a stalked-by-a-killer film. Good concept well executed. And in the midst of a whole bunch of nicely mind-bending trauma, it has a perfectly-executed moment of all-out bugfuck madness.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: * * * *
For Liana. I see the hand of new (at the time) Disney executive John "Pixar" Lasseter at work, to good effect. The period New Orleans setting is beautifully realized and the Disney princess in question is motivated and competent. A slightly more convoluted bad-guy scheme than most, which I think Liana didn't exactly follow, but she did pick up on the moral ambiguity of voodoo - why is it bad when one character does it but good when another one does? Ah, well, let's talk about that.
TOY STORY 2: * * * *
All-around excellent sequel. Again, for Liana, who loved it and then asked me to get the soundtrack songs for her playlist.
SPLICE: * * *
I heard lots of praise for this SF/horror tale of genetics but only found it okay. All too often with these sorts of films, it's clear that someone at some point (writer, producer, I dunno who) decided that the third act really needed to resolve with some cut-loose violence. The hell with the tension and the suspense, we need to bust more horror out! Least imaginative wrap-up ever. Also, as a parent, I was actually really thrown out of my immersion in the story by the number of times that both "parental" characters are in scenes elsewhere away from their "baby", who is thus apparently entirely untended for hours at a time. Uh. I guess nobody working on the movie had a toddler.
WRONG IS RIGHT: * * * *
Dr Strych9 recommended this little-known dark-comedy gem from 1982 over work breakfast one day and he was not wrong to do so. No, not at all. Sean Connery as a super-journalist caught up in a terrorist plot (alternately opposed and abetted by the US military) to blow up the World Trade Center. Might we be our own worst enemy? In '82 it must have seemed like a ludicrously over the top fantasy but in 2011 it is practically a goddamn documentary.
A NIGHT AT THE OPERA: * * * *
Decently fun Marx Brothers, one C and I'd never seen yet. The crowded stateroom scene is perfect physical comedy, and the bits with Harpo and Chico entertaining folks on the deck with music just jump out at you as sort of surprisingly amazing. Oh, yeah, these guys came out of an all-purpose vaudeville background, they can do anything.
ALPHAVILLE: * *
Oh god. I know I'm supposed to be into this classic progenitor of dystopian science-fiction film but I just wasn't. Things I liked: the croaking voice of Alpha-60; seeing the proto-DNA of Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER (* * * * *) visual style. Things I thought were interesting but not enjoyable: trying to make a contemporary Parisian setting seem futuristic and only occasionally succeeding. Things I really didn't like: everything else. Dave Sim, in his epic comic CEREBUS, says "Rich people are rich people first and whatever else they are second". Using the same framework, I'd say that French cinema is French cinema first and whatever else it is second.
FANTASIA 2000: * * * *
Liana really liked the first one so we dished up the second as well. She settled on the Rhapsody in Blue segment as her favorite; we watched it several nights in a row. She wanted to bail out of the Tin Soldier segment, however; too intense.
For consideration: coming next, some "hip" and "indie" offerings and a handful of end-of-the-worlds