Lots of Great Success in this batch (and lots of end of the world) tempered by two rather unfortunate failures in picking fare for Liana.
GENTLEMEN BRONCOS: * * * * *
All the best features of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (* * * *) with one big and significant change - all the characters are pretty much just as sadly unequipped for the world, but this time exactly one of them knows it. As a result, there's a more mature edge to the whole thing that lifts it above merely "quirky". Plus, Jemaine Clement and Sam Rockwell are both terrific in their roles.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: * * * *
It's hard to detangle my love of the nerd content in Scott Pilgrim from the question of whether it's good or not. Also, to detangle my enjoyment of the film's story from awareness that it's basically a juvenile fantasy about women as prize-objects. I wish it had been done with a less known cast (and thus a tenth the cost), effects that had been slightly less excessive (and thus a tenth the cost), and a less over-promising ad campaign (and thus a tenth the cost) so that it could have made a profit.
TOY STORY 3: * * *
COOL HAND LUKE is not an appropriate movie to remake for children. Traumatized Liana rather significantly, and she didn't even watch all the way to the end.
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL: * * *
Decided to watch this after enjoying GET HIM TO THE GREEK (* * * *). Decent enough rom-com type thing, with some great elements (Russell Brand, the clips from Sarah Marshall's TV series), but it went on a bit too long - there were a couple of points where it felt like it was wrapping up, and then it turned out it had a whole additional bit to go through, and then another. Kudos to Jason Segel for managing the whole write-and-star thing, though.
I AM LEGEND: * * * *
The first sixty minutes are pretty amazing, a beautiful examination of human determination and perseverance in the face of certain defeat. The last thirty minutes are sort of pathetic, a jumble of implausible choices and lucky coincidences and slapdash action for the sake of climax and a happy-ish ending.
MUPPET WIZARD OF OZ: * * *
Rented for our trip to Hawaii. As muppet movies go, this one felt like it somehow missed the mark. Didn't quite fully engage as easily as the early films and there were some more mature elements (Miss Piggy as Dominatrix Leather Bike Mama Wicked Witch for example) that were too baffling for Liana. So baffling, in fact, that, she didn't even ask a million questions about the movie, which is atypical for her.
MARY POPPINS: * * * *
Also a Hawaii rental. Total success! Liana wanted to see this one several times and is still coming up with questions to ask about it, many weeks later. ("How many jobs does Bert have? Does someone give him those jobs or does he make them up himself?") When I was a kid, we had an 8mm film reel of Mary Poppins' arrival at the house and I must have seen that bit a hundred times. The line of nannies blowing away still remains one of the all-time great practical effects ever.
THE QUIET EARTH: * * * *
This is one of those deeply appealing nightmares, right? You wake up and everyone else in the world vanished without leaving a trace. This actually happened to me once when I was a teenager - I woke up on a weekend morning and there was literally no evidence of anyone anywhere. No planes overhead, no lawnmowers, no cars going by on the street, nobody in my family present in the house… It probably couldn't have been more than three or four minutes, really, but it felt like ten, twenty. I went out into the front yard and saw nothing in either direction to suggest any life… and then I went back inside to fully freak out and suddenly, everything came back all at once: jet engine in the sky, a car, my sisters out in the backyard, all of it.
MONSTERS: * * * *
One of the most amazing bits of low-budget filmmaking I've ever seen and a great example of how you can be true to both Premise and Characters in a genre story. Read about how it was made, either before or after watching the film. Your jaw will drop. I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the kinds of science fiction you could make on a shoestring budget but this really went well beyond anything I'd considered.
ON THE BEACH: * * * *
The first truly grown-up film about the new (then) shadow of nuclear annihilation in the Cold War. As a 70s kid who fixated on post-apocalyptic settings early on, I was always aware of it but had never seen it. Wow.
For consideration: next batch is more post-apocalyptic fun