Tag Archive | 8.5

103- City Lights [8.5]

The Little Tramp makes the acquaintance of a blind flower girl, who through a series of coincidences has gotten the impression that the shabby tramp is a millionaire. A second storyline begins when the tramp rescues a genuine millionaire from committing suicide.

The degree of brilliance displayed throughout Charlie Chaplin’s filmography may vary, but one thing is consistent throughout each of his works: they are damn funny. Initially, City Lights plays out like a series of Tramp skits, but it eventually settles into a charming mix-up story. Though the boxing sequence felt a bit long, there were so many laughs peppered throughout that it was worth the extended bit time. The final scene is one that left a big, stupid smile on my face, even if it wasn’t difficult to telegraph. Though The Great Dictator remains my favorite CHaplin film, City Lights is a close second.


82- Best Worst Movie [8.5]

Troll 2 star Michael Stephenson steps behind the camera to explore the phenomenon behind the low-budget Italian-produced horror sequel that young movie fanatics have christened “the Rocky Horror of our generation” in this documentary which proves that just because a movie is awful doesn’t mean it won’t find an audience.

Best Worst Movie is such an enjoyable view because director Michael Stephenson (who was the child lead in Troll 2) chose not to approach the subject matter in a cynical fashion. Documentaries are an especially manipulative genre that can distort statements via clever edits, but that doesn’t happen here. Sure, there are few cases of people who have gone off their rocker (or already had when Troll 2 was filmed), but those scenes are fairly sad to watch and you don’t get the feeling that Stephenson is making light of these people’s problems.

At the heart of Best Worst Movie is a fascinating notion that, in some instances, quality doesn’t necessarily dictate a filmviewer’s enjoyment of a movie, but rather, how they emotionally connect to the earnest of what is being created. People recommend Troll 2 not only because it’s an awful film, but because it’s so outrageously odd and out there that it elicits emotions that other comparably bad films may not.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve started this website and having seen eighty-two movies this year, I can say I’ve seen a fair share of poorly made films. There’s something that I remember about having seen Troll 2 after a friend implored me to watch it– there was the joy of the experience, to be so riveted by something truly abysmal. Even after only one viewing, it became a memorable movie and film-viewing experience, and that in itself is why Best Worst Movie reminds me of the amazing joy of cinema– yes, even terrible cinema.

80- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy [8.5]

George Smiley, a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government – which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets.

With a cast featuring Gary Oldman, William Hurt, Tom Hardy, Toby Jones, Colin Firth and Stephen Merchant, you know you’re in for something good. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a dense, untraditional spy film thats only flaw is its pace.

There’s a tremendous amount of information to take in throughout the two hour run time– various relationships get turned on their head seemingly every other minute. I appreciate a film of this nature in which there are no grand shouting matches that lazily get across exposition or gigantic set pieces; however, I wish the film was just a little quicker. (It’s worth noting that director Tomas Alfredson’s other excellent film “Let the Right One In” didn’t exactly fly by either.)

The grainy textures employed by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema gives the film a gritty 70s feel (not to mention a gloomy London look as well, though I imagine the weather meets a film crew half way). Tinker Tailor is the type of film you may need to see multiple times to understand all the layers of intricacies, but is certainly rewarding enough to see once.

74- The Artist [8.5]

Hollywood 1927. George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky’s the limit – major movie stardom awaits. The film tells the story of their interlinked destinies.

The first act of The Artist is incredibly endearing. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as the numerous clever reveals as to what the audience is watching morphed from one thing to another. There are great pleasures throughout (including the weirdness of seeing John Goodman and Harvey Weinstein’s names appear in the throwback opening credits) and I believe you’d be hard pressed to not laugh a few times. The pure charisma of leads Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo is enough to carry this gorgeous black and white film.

Ludovic Bource’s score is a real treasure, as it works earnestly in conjunction with the film instead of being a whimsical wink at what a silent film score would be almost a century after they were made. In fact, one of the only meta instances in The Artist takes place in a dream sequence that serves as a metaphor for George’s fears, which works in respect to the story.

The Artist became problematic for me as George falls into self-pity, as we are left with no reason for Peppy to stay awestruck and in love with him as he begins his descent into depression. What keeps him mildly likeable is his companion dog, who gives one of the best animal performances on screen. Though it may seem gimmicky to do a largely silent black and white film in 2011, The Artist works as an enjoyable, if not slightly flawed love letter to the movies of yesteryear.

59- Attack The Block [9.0]

A group of London teens find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion and fight to defend their tower block from some evil extraterrestrials.

For months I have been hearing a lot about Attack the Block. The mash up descriptions have been amusing: The Goonies meets The Wire. Shaun of the Dead meets District 9. (My friend who attended the screening with me last night said Boyz n the Hood meets Cloverfield.) So what exactly is Attack the Block? It is an often hilarious, occasionally touching and–most excitingly–wholly original alien invasion story.

As a generalization, what do kids who have no parental guidance and live in a crappy neighborhood do? They engage in immature, dangerous, and often illegal activity. They live for the moment of something exciting happening, no matter the trouble it may cause. Attack the Block is loosely framed around this idea, and with it, we are introduced to a handful of excellent characters who frequently shift from heroically to fearfully fighting aliens.

In the last few years, audiences have been getting an abundance of genre parodies, retreads and meta takes on films of the past, a lot of which have been lazy. In despite of people’s willingness to compare Attack the Block to the feel of other films, what makes the movie so great is because it blazes its own trail. The humor is hardly referential to genre conventions. I especially enjoyed the manner in which the teens and residents of the neighborhood react to the invasion itself, which I don’t think another film anywhere close to this nature has taken the approach Attack does.

I’m hesitant to divulge too much of the films’ finer points, as it’s best to see this movie as fresh as possible. I’m not sure what the distribution plan is for the U.S., but I guarantee you will be hearing about Attack the Block for months to come.

53- A Film Unfinished [8.5]

Since the end of WWII, one copy of a 60-minute (unfinished) propaganda film, shot by the Nazis in May 1942 (a year prior to the uprising), labeled simply “Ghetto,” sat undisturbed in an East German archive.

A Film Unfinished shows the Nazi propaganda machine in full effect, as Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto are forced to participate in scenes creating a false history. Almost sixty years later, some of the Jews who experienced the horror are interviewed and view footage from the unfinished film as the reflection of the projected images appear on their faces. The haunting effect is one of the many things in A Film Unfinished that will likely stay with me for a long time.

It is one thing to watch horrific acts depicted in fiction. It’s another to see the real thing in a documentary. The bastardized blending of fiction into propaganda in A Film Unfinished is especially difficult to watch. One scene depicts Jews supposedly bustling along the street as their day would normally go when, in actuality, they are moving hurriedly because a gun was fired off screen to get them to move quickly. There are a lot of graphic scenes in the movie and I strongly urge caution before watching (though I do believe it is incredibly important for people to see). I’ve long been fascinated with what goes into making a film, but I wish could unsee what occurs in this particular documentary.

37- Rango [8.5]

A household pet goes on an adventure to discover its true self.

At times an examination of purpose and identity, the stunningly refreshing Rango is one of if not the most adult-oriented animated films to hit almost 4,000 theaters. Say what you will about director Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean films, but that franchise’s financial success allowed for an expensive miracle like this to be financed and released.

Featuring Hans Zimmer’s most inspired score in ages, this western was put together in an unconventional fashion: as oppose to having the actors just do their voice-over work, they got to act out their scenes on a stage and have industry magicians ILM record everything. In addition to a terrific script, I believe this process went a long way towards making the film so unique. Rango is also the first time in recent memory that an eccentric performance by Johnny Depp felt welcomed. Parents may want to think twice about taking the little ones.