QUICK TAKES – 11.27.11

Sideways (2004)

Grade: A | 5th+ Viewing

I re-watched this film after seeing The Descendants and I still believe that it is Alexander Payne’s masterpiece. It is more of an ensemble film than any of his previous work, but it still tells Miles’ story better than any others. Paul Giamatti fascinatingly plays out his journey away from self-absorption in one of the most interesting roles in any of Payne’s films. I would also argue that this is Payne’s funniest film and he undercuts every moment of sadness with bitterly funny scenes.

Stay tuned for a Master Moments post on this film later this week.

Bridesmaids (2011)

Grade: B+ | 2nd Viewing

The first time I saw Bridesmaids I did so immediately after seeing the deplorable Hangover, Part II so my enamored reaction was unavoidable. Upon a second viewing the film wasn’t quite as funny, largely because it was stripped of the surprise, but it is still one of the better comedies from this year. Kristen Wiig has pitch-perfect comic timing, which is a trait that cannot be learned and I would not at all be surprised to see her receiving an Oscar nomination in a few years.

The one actress who has actually received Oscar buzz from this film is Melissa McCarthy. While I don’t think she will actually make the top five, there is no doubt that her next film roles will be highly anticipated by many including yours truly. She manages to make her character so much more than a punch line and creates one of the most all-around fun characters of the year.

My Week With Marilyn (2011)

Grade: C+ | 1st Viewing

I agree with most of what Casey said in his initial review, although I will be a little more kind to the film. Branagh is fantastic as Laurence Olivier, a role that he has been already playing his entire career. Michelle Williams is good enough, but I feel like her performance was hindered by a lack of trust from director Simon Curtis. There are way too many reaction shots to show us how infatuated the various characters on screen were with Marilyn. It would have been more effective to trust the audience to react and Williams to provide the awe.

The primary problems rely in the script. Whether for sake of economy or simply lack of creativity, much of the dialogue is rather trite and unrealistic. Many of the characters only seem to exist to neatly summarize a scene or provide character background with a few unrealistic lines of dialogue. The most egregious offenders are Judi Dench and Emma Watson, through no fault of their own.

Chungking Express (1994)

Grade: A | 2nd Viewing

Vincenzo already reviewed this one in more detail, but I finally got around to a much needed second viewing and I loved it even more this time around. The film is less visually daring than Wong Kar Wai’s later work, but it is certainly his most playful film that I have seen thus far. From one character’s conversations with inanimate objects to another’s humorous justification for jogging, Chungking exhibits such a delightful worldview.

The purposefully disjointed narrative took a little getting used to, but now having further examined Kar Wai’s style it felt just right. Other than the style of Wong Kar Wai I think my favorite discovery from this marathon has been Tony Leung, who is incredibly talented and brings so much to every one of Kar Wai’s films. It could be said that the films might not be the same with another actor in his place.

What movies did you see this week?

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  • Jose

    Dr. Strangelove: Or the incredibly long subtitle
    1st Viewing
    F*cking hilarious, best Kubrick film I’ve seen yet
    A

    The Muppets
    1st Viewing
    I can’t believe it, but I was actually bored through most of the movie. It really sucks because I’ve been anticipating this movie for so long and I wanted to love it but I found it amused instead of entertaining. Aside from the nostalgia I didn’t think there was anything else in the movie. And I wanted to see more of the Muppets but I felt that most of the human characters were hampering the movie down. I will say though that I found the last act touching to the point that I was on the verge of tears when the entire group was performing “The Rainbow Connection”, but I doubt I”ll want to see the movie again.
    B-

    The Tree of Life
    1st Viewing
    I still have no idea what that was all about.
    C

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
    3rd Viewing
    Not going to lie, I hate how these movies concluded. I’m hoping the series gets remade as a BBC mini-series with like 5 or 7 episodes per series and each one 90 minutes or 2 hours long.

    • I would not at all be opposed to a BBC mini-series of the ‘Harry Potter’ films. It will never happen, but it’s a great idea.

  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
    A-
    (a brilliant movie and a breath of fresh air, it was really thrilling too and loved the performance by Elizabeth Olsen. will be heartbreaking not to see this movie being nominated for any Oscars.)

    Albert Nobbs
    C-
    (nothing great in this movie, a very straight forward and dull story or was it the writers or directors fault because the movie felt really flat, i liked performances by Glenn Close, Janet McTeer and Mia Wasikowska.)

    50/50
    A-
    (an absolute heartwarming movie with a brilliant performance by the wonderful Joseph Gordon-Levitt, i had a great time watching it and yes i cried too.)

    One Day
    D
    (what a huge piece of disappointment it was ….. though i will still read the book someday)

    A Serbian Film
    C
    (it acted like a Horror thriller in which it did succeeded to be honest, i was literally scared and thrilled thanks largely to the violence and that music. it was one of the most disturbing movies i have seen but i saw much more than that in this movie. this is the only movie with unbelievable violent content that at the end of the day makes sense i just had slight problems with it, not a bad movie)

    Winnie The Pooh
    A-
    (while it is very short but still leaves you feeling good, i loved it.)

    American History X
    2nd watch
    B+
    (daring, disturbing and provocative with great performance by Norton and minor flaws….)

    • I’m with you on Martha Marcy May Marlene. The movie seems to be getting its fair share of backlash and I know – for me – it’s got a chance of making my personal top 10 of the year.

  • Calvin

    The Descendants: A
    The family was in town so we had quite the eclectic group of films:
    Charade (2nd viewing): A
    A Good Year (3rd viewing): B+
    Bridesmaids (3rd viewing): A-
    Then a group of high school friends and I got together for a chick flick night:
    Legally Blonde (5th+ viewing): B+
    13 Going on 30 (4th viewing): B+
    Then we went back to theaters:
    Margin Call: B

    • Trivia: What is the name of the hockey player who Jennifer Garner’s character dates in ’13 Going on 30′? (HINT: It’s my favorite movie character name of all-time.)

      • Jose

        Really? Cause that’s a dull name,
        I feel bad for anyone with that name.

      • ::Goes into corner and weeps for having been born in the most dull, Scandinavian place in America::

  • This extended holiday weekend was spent finishing up the viewing component of our Wong Kar Wai Marathon. I’ll wait til Davin’s review of ‘My Blueberry Nights’ to share my thoughts, but there are two movies I saw that aren’t getting properly reviewed by us (they are part of an informal trilogy whose write-up I’m currently working on). I absolutely consider them to be top-tire Wong Kar Wai:

    ‘In the Mood for Love’ (2000)
    Grade: A | 2nd and 3rd Viewing
    Wong’s most restrained film – it’s shot with a nearly Ozu-like discipline and there is no voiceover – and quite possibly his most potent. It’s more than a high-point in this amazing marathon we’re doing; it’s a zenith of modern cinema.

    ‘2046’ (2004)
    Grade: B+/A- | 1st Viewing
    A loose sequel to ‘In the Mood for Love,’ and ‘Days of Being Wild’ WKW is really returning to his stylistic roots here. The movie is less disciplined than either of those films, but as a result its sense of scope and emotion is more kinetic and complex. I’ve always loved Zhang Ziyi, but this is her most revealing performance since she broke through in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.’

  • Only one film this week for me:

    “Smiles of a Summer Night” (A-) – Incredibly different from most of Bergman’s films in terms of tone and theme, but it shares the same high quality for the most part. Had some slight issues with the overall arc of a few of the characters, but other than that it’s another terrific film from arguably the greatest director of all time.

    • On a somewhat related note, have you read ‘The Magic Lantern’? It’s a great guide to Bergman’s approach made me love his films even more (especially all of the Swedish/Russian theatrical influences).

      • I’ve actually never even heard of it until now. Will have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • The Tree of Life: B-
    A very weak film compared to The Thin Red Line.

    Breaking Bad Season 3: A
    Great as always. Now if I could only get my hands on the fourth season.

    Unforgiven (2nd viewing): A

    Platoon (4th viewing): A

  • Eric M

    Alien: B+
    Crimes and Misdemeanors: B
    Bananas: B+
    Moneyball: B+
    Black Swan (3rd viewing): A
    What About Bob?: D+
    Brazil (2nd viewing): B-

    I’ve been avoiding Moneyball from the get-go, but the hype became too much to ignore. The sub-plot with Pitt’s daughter felt very forced, and the film seemed to lack a middle-act. Also, I ask this seriously: has a text-epilogue ever worked for a movie? In what world does a film benefit from it?

    • Jose

      Animal House’s where are they now?

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