Quick Takes – 11.28.10

Babies (2010)

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 – Mongolia, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Namibia.

It’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 America’s Funniest Home Videos except usually there are parents behind the camera who stop the children before they go too far. Director Thomas Balmès lets the cameras just roll and the result is hilarious and heartwarming. This probably won’t be a movie I return to ever again and altogether it doesn’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 can’t help but feel like Rufus T. Firefly is a more hilarious surrogate of George W. Bush – 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 Teasdale’s husband is dead: “Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.”

Due Date (2010)

Grade: D- | 1st Viewing

It’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 Phillips’ Due Date. Even with low expectations the film was still a total disaster, sucking the comedy out of every frame. It’s rare for me to root against a protagonist, but Robert Downey, Jr.’s Peter Highman was so cruel to Zach Galifianakis’ 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 Galifianakis’ 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 Boyle’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. It’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 Ralston’s own camera. This prevents the audience from a feeling of real connection with Ralston – 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 “live studio audience” 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 wife’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.

[Images: OutNow!]

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  • Megamind.. It’s meeeh. Another Despicable Me. I suppose if you liked Despicable you’ll like Megamind. 5.5/10

    If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle (Rumania). Nothing exceptional, just a good drama. 7/10

    The Virgin Suicides. Kinda rushed at the final part. 7/10

    The Social Network. Need to watch this again. Perfectly done. 9/10

    Death Becomes Her. Sorry but this just didn’t connect with me. 5/10

    Catfish. Great documentary! Wonderful emotional ride. 9/10

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. One of the best American films of 2010! Really good one and the best from the Potter franchise. 9/10

    The Kids are All Right. It was ok, i’ll never fully understand why certain comedies become so praised each year. Little Miss Sunshine, Up in the Air, now this. I suppose it has to do more with the names attached to it than with the film itself. 7/10

    Eastern Plays (Bulgaria). Stars very well but sinks into boredom. 6/10

    Desert Flower. Shit shit film. 3.5/10

  • I guess I am one of those who praises certain comedies every year and I can assure you that it has nothing to do with the stars. I’m generally an optimistic person who tries to have a good sense of humor and so personally I find more truth in comedy than I do in drama. Last year 4 of my top 5 films of the year were comedies and I suspect something similar this year.

    ‘The Kids Are All Right’ was hilarious and honest, self-aware and ahead of its time. It was also brilliantly filmed with the emphasis on meal scenes. In my opinion it is undeniably one of the best films of the year.

  • Jose

    Harry Potter and the Deatly Hallows: Part 1
    2nd Viewing.
    I actually enjoyed it more the second time I watched it
    B+

    Skyline
    1st Viewing
    It’s not as bad as everyone says it is, but its still a forgetable film with some really bad acting and and ending that ruins the film, but I actaully had fun
    C

    Enchanted
    1st viewing
    What a delightful little film
    B+

    Popeye
    Who the hell greelit this movie?
    F

    Raguabros I agree with you on “Kids”, “Little Miss Sunshine” (except on the idea of the stars, I just thought the film got boring and veered of the plot 2/3 of the way thorough), but leave “Up in the Air” out of this!

  • On 127 Hours:

    I see your point about not putting the audience in Ralston’s shoes. But I felt that even a third-person perspective on the sory is something of an experience. Also, for me at least, the emotional pull at the end of the film is about the strongest I’ve seen all year. A. R. Rahman deserves partial credit for that.

    About the Comedies:

    I enjoyed but didn’t love The Kids Are All Right as well. Little Miss Sunshine is in a similar boat for me. But Up in the Air is far and away my favorite film from last year. I don’t really consider it to be the same type of film as the others.

  • Brandon Cooley

    I am one of the few who doesn’t like Duck Soup. Hopefully G1000 isn’t reading this because I remember him saying that it was his favorite movie.

    Quicktakes for me:

    The Player: A- Another success for Altman. I’m really beginning to like his movies. I saw Nashville a month ago and that was excellent.

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: A The best film of 1939!

    Barton Fink: A- Another reason to like the Coen bothers.

    Hannah and Her Sisters: B+ I liked it as much as Annie Hall which is another movie that everybody around me seems to like better than I do. My favorite Woody Allen movie is Manhattan.

    The Passion of Joan of Arc: A I understand why Toronto put that as number 1 on their essential movies list.

    Natural Born Killers: A-

    Hard Eight: A-

    Groundhog Day: B+

  • Quinn

    “Secretariat” – B-
    Ehh it was OK. I really think it has no chance at any Oscars nominations. I wasn’t expecting Diane Lane’s performance to be great, a little less than Sandra Bullock’s in “The Blind Side”, but I was still a bit underwhelmed by it. John Malkovich was good, though.

    “Its Kind of A Funny Story” – B-
    Good, but it could have/should have been better. And if you saw it, you’ll remember the scene where they’re all singing “Under Pressure”. I HATED that scene. Also, Zach Galifianakis had been in soo many movies since “The Hangover” he’s becoming kind of over exposed, and I kind of getting sick of him.
    “True Grit” – A
    Really, really, good. john Ford and Kin Darby were great. I REALLY cannot wait for the remake!

    “Megamind” – B
    I liked this one more than “Despicable Me”. Obviously, both are far from perfect but still good. I thought it was funny and the voice cast was good. I thought the writers used the watch/body switcher thing as kind of an easy way out. Another thing that bothered me was the character Roxie. I didn’t like her.

    “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” – A-
    REALLY GOOD! By far my favorite of the series! I cannot wait to see it again!

    “Kick-Ass” – B
    I watched it on my iPod, which isn’t the best way to watch a movie, but I still liked it. I do wish, though, that it was more centered on Hit Girl and Big Daddy, or at least made the main character more interesting. Also, Chloe Moretz was fantastic.

  • Ah, “Duck Soup”. My favorite movie of all-time. Sorry, “Godfather”.

    What I Saw:

    “”Manhattan” – Did I mention this one yet? If I didn’t, it was great. One of Allen’s best (although not close to “Annie Hall”). A

    “Being John Malkovich” – One of the most brilliant motion pictures I’ve ever seen. Dazzling, creative, and stunning written. Just a masterpiece. A

    “Adaptation” – The ending threw me for a bit of a loop, but by the end I realized it was brilliant. Charlie Kaufman is a genius. A

    “Au Revoir Les Enfants” – The final words of this movie bothered me, because they ruined the quiet intimacy of the rest of the film. It was still terrific, though. A-

    “Dead Man Walking” – Great performances abound in this profound and disturbing film. Susan Sarandon in particular is magical, and the final scenes are utterly chilling. A

    And of course, I’ve continued with “The Shield”. Seasons 4, 5, and 6 were all As. The show is still not as good as “The Wire”, but it’s nonetheless magnificent. Can’t wait to see how it all wraps up in season 7.

  • Quinn

    Also I just saw…..
    “To Kill A Mockingbird”
    One of my favorite movies of all time. Not as good as the book, although few things in life are.
    A

    “Paranormal Activity”
    Really good. it was a bit disappointing because it really wasn’t scary until scary until the last 20 minutes or so and for the first hour there were long moments of anticipation and then all that would happen was the door would move a little bit by itself. But then when I went to bed, that’s when it really scared me
    B+

  • “To Kill a Mockingbird”: an undeniable classic.

    Quinn, not sure you’re aware, but I hated “Paranormal Activity” with a passion. I give it an F, and a whole lot of things have to go wrong for me to do that. I didn’t find anything scary about it, and the acting was terrible. It was just boring.

    Now “The Shining” (which I just watched a few days ago)… that’s another story. That movie is seriously scary, at least in places. A bit overlong, though.

  • Quinn

    Haha, I’m aware of how you hated it (I love Ramblings of G100), and I can see where you’re coming from. I was very underwhelmed for like the first 45 minutes because all it really was the door moving, like, an inch and the ghost coming under the sheets and whispering. And it was kind of predictable, but I thought the last 20 minutes were scary and then when I went to sleep everytime the door moved because it was blown by the wind or something. I froze. And I thought the acting was terrific. And about “The Shining”, I don’t see myself watching that anytime soon. Horror movies scare the s*%^ out of me. I was given “Silence of the Lambs: as a gift last Christmas and I stilll haven’t watched it. I’m legit afraid of it haha. . But seriously the only movies I’ve seen that could be considered horror movies are: Paranormal Activity, Disturbia, Prom Night, Psycho. Don’t judge hahah.

  • Quinn

    Also, I want to mention I just saw “Nine”. I WANT TWO HOURS OF MY LIFE BACK. The ONLy good things a bout it were Marion, Cotillard, Penelope Cruz (they were stellar), Daniel-Day Lewis, Judi Dench, The cinematography, and art direction. The songs sucked. The directing sucked. The writing sucked. It was boring, uninspired, and dull. And its ironic because the movies about writer’s block and such, and it seems like Rob Marshall had a baaad case of it.
    C-

  • I haven’t seen much horror, either. “The Shining” in all honesty is merely creepy until the last half hour or so. Then it does turn truly frightening.

    I’ve yet to see “Halloween”, “Silence of the Lambs”, or “Rosemary’s Baby”. “Psycho” in all honesty wasn’t all that scary, though it was well-acted and well-made. “Repulsion” on the other hand… another pretty terrifying film.

    I also just saw a very interesting film called “The Battleship Potemkin”, which was in many ways quite astonishing. I’ll have a few more thoughts on it on my blog on Sunday, when I do my recap of the movies I’ve seen this week. Very impressive, though.

  • Quinn

    Oh “Battleship Potemkin”……I was going to check rent that but I got “Nine” instead I honestly do not know what I was thinking…I was in the mood for something more modern. But still…inexcusable.

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