Recent Cinema (that you’ve heard of)

With Eric on break and no other constraints on our time, we’ve been catching up on movies. Comparing my Flixster ratings with my journal entries, I’m way behind on journaling about movies too. I’ll hit the highs and notable lows of recent-ish mainstream-ish releases. The stuff you probably haven’t heard of I’ll write about over on Obscure Media Monday.

Sherlock Holmes (2009) – Since I was excited to see this movie, we decided to go to an opening-day Christmas showing. Despite my rants about Beowulf, I really have no problem with literary figures being adapted to movies. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite characters, and a favored property for pastiche. I’ve seen him done every-which-way, and the only real requirement is that Holmes retains his particular Holmes qualities. One could argue what those are exactly, but I’d venture to say that it’s his fairly Aspergean nature. He’s driven and focused and, therefore, a bit of a bastard to people. The Holmes of this movie has enough of that to be a good Holmes. The plot has to be given credit for being ambitious *and* pulling it off without running into major problems. Not too many movies can say that. Finally, Guy Ritchie was perfect for this movie. The quick “explanation” flashbacks were well done and are something Ritchie is good at. As for the action… I’d say the more “Ritchie” action sequences—short, brutal fights—are pitch-perfect. The set-piece action never struck me as overboard on an individual scene level, but in total seemed a bit much.

The Wrestler (2008) – One of the darlings of last year, a deserved reputation. The performances are great. The film is well-shot because, if anything, Darren Aronofsky is an interesting film maker. Character-driven and a strange sort of love letter to the wrestling of the 80s.

The Hangover (2009) – I wasn’t really interested in seeing this movie, but Mark and Trish had it and were up for watching it again. It was funnier than I expected it to be, containing (as Eric puts it) a lot of “smart” dumb. And a good dash of absurdity which I always appreciate.

The Invasion (2007) – Daniel Craig is the best thing in this movie and I can’t figure out why he’s in it. It is about as bad as the worst 1950s alien invasion films. Except without the cheesy flying saucers.

District 9 (2009) – I have a soft spot for low-budget movies that don’t look like low-budget movies (low budget being defined as around the $50 million mark). Much has already been said of the merits of $30 million District 9 versus $200 million Transformers 2. While the former is by no means a great movie, I’m going to go out on a pretty strong limb and say it’s probably better than the latter. I also appreciate it using a very unsympathetic protagonist, though by the end of the movie I did feel manipulated. Wikus and the rest of the humans are such heels that I have to side with the Prawns.

State of Play (2009) – In retrospect, I have no feelings for or against this movie. It was alright. The majority of the plot seemed jammed into a 24 hour period, but the pacing of the movie itself was good. Good cast. Just not an outstanding movie.

Flightplan (2005) – The last Jodie Foster movie I was dubious of and pleasantly surprised by was Panic Room (a movie that is probably unwatched enough to make OMM). This movie was no where as good. To “meta” the plot, you ask yourself, “If she’s nuts, what’s the point of this movie?” There is a nice aspect to how the people on the plane react; the different degrees of indifference, empathy and hostility that they show. Similar in that respect to the series four Doctor Who episode “Midnight.”

The Proposal (2009) – I like Sandra Bullock, and occasionally I delve into the land of chick flicks. This one isn’t good. It isn’t bad either, but it’s incredibly formulaic. Even for this genre, there were no surprises.

RocknRolla (2008) – Good flick, if you like Guy Ritchie films. It shows some progression away from the gimmicks of Lock, Stock or Snatch (and not all gimmicks are bad). Strong storytelling.

Primer (2004) – Didn’t care for it. I followed along for the most part, but it felt as though the movie was being intentionally obfuscatory. I also wonder what group of engineers wear ties ALL THE TIME.

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