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73- The Muppets [7.5]

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary and Mary from Smalltown, USA, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds.

More than anything, The Muppets is a pleasurable film to watch. With an abundance of self-referential material and fourth wall breaking, screenwriters Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller took a wise approach in acknowledging how The Muppets aren’t relevant anymore.

I especially enjoyed some of the angles that director James Bobbin shot the musical numbers. Though there’s a fair amount of the usual crane shots for those type of sequences, he also opted to make those scenes feel original. Brent McKenzie, his cast mate on Flight of the Conchords, provides the soundtrack with some very Flight-esque arrangements (including the woefully out of touch Amy Adams solo number in the diner).

I laughed quite a few times and had a big smile on my face for most of the movie. That’s what I like in getting to spend a little time with The Muppets.


72- My Winnipeg [1.0]

A goodbye letter and self-described “docu-fantasia” that is equal parts transcendental rumination, historical chronicle, and personal portrait. In the first segment, Maddin’s camera drifts dreamlike through crowded trains as a floating kielbasa hangs from the ceiling and the director/narrator ponders just why the city boasts the most sleepwalkers per capita of any major international city.

Oh boy, I really didn’t enjoy this (and a quick look over at RottenTomatoes shows that I’m very much in the minority). I found My Winnipeg to be incredibly self-indulgent and sophomoric in execution. Guy Maddin is talented with a camera, but the documentary plays out like a bad student film, with title cards quickly flashing and re-stating what the narrator had previously said. Speaking of which, just because you repeat a line multiple times doesn’t make your writing poetry.

I’m all for a filmmaker doing something different and My Winnipeg certainly has that going for it. It’s also a pretentious, self-aware, and unenjoyable piece of filmmaking.

71- My Dinner with Andre [9.5]

Gregory, a theater director from New York, is the more talkative of the pair. He relates to Shawn his tales of dropping out, traveling around the world, and experiencing the variety of ways people live, such as a monk who could balance his entire weight on his fingertips. Shawn listens avidly, but questions the value of Gregory’s seeming abandonment of the pragmatic aspects of life.

My Dinner with Andre reminds me a lot of Waking Life, one of my favorite movies. Both include an extensive amount of analytical discussion about different facets of life. Both are hard films to recommend to most, Andre perhaps moreso (Waking Life benefits from rotoscoping based on live action in a variety of locations whereas Andre simply cuts back and forth between two characters in one setting). I have heard many complaints of people being bored with Waking Life, and I can see the same thing happening here.

I was endlessly enthralled with My Dinner with Andre. In fact, I wish it didn’t end. Initially I spent a good portion of the movie just trying to figure out which side of sanity Andre was sitting on. I then considered the thin line between brilliance and madness and, with that in mind, came to a better understanding of what the film was touching on as a whole. To delve deeply into the nature of being a person in society can lead to great discovery that may not in turn be true to the experience as a whole. You find yourself rationalizing grand truths that don’t actually correlate to all the frustrating and paradoxical experiences you go through, but rather, explain them in a vacuum.

And there I go rambling. After watching those two men have dinner and discuss life, I feel like I may just ramble on a little more often now.

70- The Fall [7.5]

A psychologically complex tale of a hospitalized paraplegic with a curious knack for storytelling. Unable to free himself from his sterile confines, the immobile patient’s deepest fears form the basis of a dark story that he shares with his young companion — a little girl who visits his room as she recovers from a nasty fall.

The Fall is a special film. Equal parts A Princess Bride and Big Fish, this fantastical story is directed by the visionary Tarsem who weaves together a heartwarming story of two physically damaged hospital patients. Catinca Untaru gives one of the great child performances, and her lack of understanding of English makes it all the more impressive. The Fall drags at times and can be accused of being indulgent (from what I understand, it’s an incredibly divisive film) but is still worth a viewing if not only for Tarsem’s unique imagery.

69- Melancholia [7.5]

Justine and Michael are celebrating their marriage at a sumptuous party in the home of her sister and brother-in-law. Meanwhile, the planet, Melancholia, is heading towards Earth.

Melancholia‘s opening shares some similarities with Lars Von Triers’ previous film, Antichrist. Both contain slow moving images set to classical music (though the latter film’s prologue was set in black and white). These scenes are absolutely gorgeous to look at, and feel more like moving paintings than traditional slower frame rate film. (Both films even share similar title cards and acts being broken into named parts.)

I find the apocalyptic set Melancholia to be a parallel to the doom of marriage. Save for the climatic ending, Melancholia is undone by it’s severely slow second hour revolved around Charlotte Gainsbourg’s Claire. While I enjoy Von Trier’s single cam shakiness, it can be a bit excessive at times. Moreover, for all the beauty of the classical music he uses, I find that it takes away from the strength of certain images as it’s occasionally overused.

Regardless of what you make of Lars Von Triers’ work, I doubt you’ll forge some of his shots. Though it’s sometimes hard to separate the artist from the art, I’ll look past his public comments and treat his works as evocative films that I respect for how they stick with me long after initial viewing.

68- Transformers 3 [1.0]

When a mysterious event from Earth’s past erupts into the present day it threatens to bring a war to Earth so big that the Transformers alone will not be able to save us.

What a dumb film. Sure, I knew what I was getting into, but I at least enjoyed the first as pure summer blockbuster entertainment. The first hour and a half of Transformers 3 is largely comprised of dialogue that does nothing to advance the plot and features well respected actors cashing in paychecks while playing the thinnest of caricatures. The last hour was action packed with robot action (the only reason I even bothered in the first place), but even that wasn’t enough to keep this mess together. And for a film targeted to younger kids, there was a ton of cursing in Transformers 3. Call me soft, but is it really necessary for a film of this nature?

Shia LaBeouf screams his way from scene to scene while Rosie Huntington-Whiteley does nothing more than replace Megan Fox as eye candy. It amazes me that Frances McDormand, John Turturro and John Malkovich are in a Transformers film but hey, that’s Hollywood for you. (Also, Malkovich was likely looking for a big paycheck after Spiderman 4 fell through at Sony.)

67- 30 Minutes or Less [3.0]

Nick is a small town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wanna-be criminal masterminds. The volatile duo kidnaps Nick and forces him to rob a bank.

The manner in which large exposition is delivered can make or break a film. 30 Minutes or Less has a lot of critical information to get across in the first act in regards to the set up, but fails by awkwardly establishing the relationships of the main players. The lack of a sympathetic character isn’t the films biggest flaw (the irrational decisions and unintelligent dialogue is suppose to make for comedy here), but rather the squandered talent. I love Aziz Ansari on Parks and Rec but he isn’t given much to do with. As funny as Danny McBride is, I wish he’d show some range. If you’ve seen him in one film, than you’ve seen all his performances.

30 Minutes or Less is the pinnacle of situation comedies, and I don’t mean that in a complimentary fashion. The film is supposedly based on a true story (the director denies it), and that may be the most interesting part of the movie.