Grade: B | 1st Viewing
You would have to be a heartless jerk to not receive some joy from watching this film. There is no narrative whatsoever to the film and almost no dialogue throughout. Altogether we probably see adults on screen for about one tenth of the film. The rest is dedicated to the four babies (and their older siblings) from different global locales â€“ Mongolia, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Namibia.
Itâ€™s a fascinating experience watching how babies from different cultures go through the same process of growth and discovery. There are also many moments of absolute hilarity especially with the interactions between the baby from Mongolia and his slightly older brother. It is easily comparable to Americaâ€™s Funniest Home Videos except usually there are parents behind the camera who stop the children before they go too far. Director Thomas BalmÃ¨s lets the cameras just roll and the result is hilarious and heartwarming. This probably wonâ€™t be a movie I return to ever again and altogether it doesnâ€™t make for a fantastic film, but there are definitely individual moments that shine.
Duck Soup (1933)
Grade: A | 3rd Viewing
The Marx Brothers are like Charlie Chaplin in that every subsequent viewing of their films offer new comical discoveries. Groucho Marx is a comical genius with one thousand one-liners that never cease to be hilarious. Not only is Duck Soup full of brilliant hilarity, but it has some sharp political satire that is still relevant today. I canâ€™t help but feel like Rufus T. Firefly is a more hilarious surrogate of George W. Bush â€“ not very subtle about his praise for corruption, yet inexplicably adored.
The way that politicians tend to make brash decisions before thinking about the repercussions can best be summed up in this brilliant line from Groucho after he learns that Teasdaleâ€™s husband is dead: â€œWill you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.â€
Due Date (2010)
Grade: D- | 1st Viewing
Itâ€™s sort of a tradition that my family and I see a movie on Thanksgiving Day as we wind down from our gluttonous over-eating. The only movie we could agree on (begrudgingly) was Todd Phillipsâ€™ Due Date. Even with low expectations the film was still a total disaster, sucking the comedy out of every frame. Itâ€™s rare for me to root against a protagonist, but Robert Downey, Jr.â€™s Peter Highman was so cruel to Zach Galifianakisâ€™ idiotic Ethan Tremblay that I was hoping he would never complete his journey.
The film is a poor rip off of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles except it breaks its own rules from the start. Zach Galifianakisâ€™ character is made less absurd by putting him up against absurd guest stars like Danny McBride. The film was mostly not funny and just poorly written and I was more aware of that than ever having just watched the brilliant Marx Brothers.
127 Hours (2010)
Grade: B | 1st Viewing
Danny Boyleâ€™s 127 Hours is undoubtedly entertaining from start to finish as Boyle manages to make a mostly uneventful story feel remarkably full. Boyle packs every frame with a flurry of activity both aurally and visually. He uses split screens, swooping camera shots, and fast-paced editing. He combines an original score with a carefully chosen soundtrack of existing songs with sound effects that are played up to painful volumes – stomach growls, bone cracks, etc. Itâ€™s a classic example of style over substance and when all was said and done it felt like style was too dominant.
Boyle does an excellent job of preparing the audience for the eventual self-mutilation and creating a psychology in the protagonist that makes it seem the arm-severing was thought out and essential. It would be interesting to re-watch the film and count the camera angles, because in the frenetic film style of Boyle it does not seem like any single angle is repeated, besides those shot from Ralstonâ€™s own camera. This prevents the audience from a feeling of real connection with Ralston â€“ he is the one trapped and we are apparently not supposed to be a part of his journey.
Franco is phenomenal and adequately sustains the film on his own, although the gimmicky tricks used by Boyle including a laugh track from a â€œlive studio audienceâ€ prevents him from ever feeling truly alone. The film packs you full of adrenaline which is great to experience while in the theatre seat, but once the thrill wears off it becomes apparent that the film is actually pretty shallow.
Chicken Run (2000)
Grade: A- | 3rd Viewing
This is one of my wifeâ€™s favorite films of all-time that I love to revisit for a quick moment of escapism (pun intended). The brilliant Claymation combined with the clever story and the library of movie references from Indiana Jones to The Great Escape make this a great film for movie-lovers, children, families, anyone really. Amidst its overall theme of working together to overcome the evils of the world, it also has some smart commentary about contrasting American and British military attitudes.