Catch up with the idea behind this series here.
If someone classified this blog (good luck trying to do that, anyone that might attempt to) as one thing, I bet they’d be likely to say it’s a movie review site. While I do much more, and I urge you to check out all the other things I do, it’s probably true that I am most prominently a movie critic.
So how can I look back on a year of blogging without retrospectively looking at my own writing? So here are excerpts from 10 of what I believe were my best reviews this year – 5 good movies, 5 bad movies – that I believe best demonstrate my love of writing, language, and some good wordplay.
(NOTE: I’m only putting excerpts because I want you to go read the whole review! So don’t be afraid to click the links!)
There’s really no one else but Aronofsky who could pull off a big, brassy movie like this. He’s simply the best visual filmmaker out there. As if his first two movies, “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream,” weren’t powerful enough, “Black Swan” is Aronofsky in full bloom, showing absolute command of all cinematic vocabulary. There is no boundary too sacred or stiff for him to toy with, and he doesn’t so much push them as he does eradicate them. Thus, “Black Swan” isn’t just a victory for Aronofsky and the rest of the crew; it’s a victory for the craft of filmmaking as we know it.
But overall, it’s the humanity that Danny Boyle brings to the screen that makes this a cinematic achievement unlike any other. He manages to engage our senses on frightening levels. The pain we feel as we watch the boulder crush Ralston’s arm. The disgust we feel when Ralston is left with no alternative but to drink his own urine. The fear we feel as Ralston slowly loses his mind and begins to have delusions. The gut-clenching agony we feel as Ralston amputates his own arm – and the catharsis we feel when he at last emerges from the canyon and finds refuge. Ultimately, Franco and Boyle’s commitment do more than engage our senses. They engage our souls.
Nolan pulls out all the stops to make sure that this world comes to vibrant life, beginning with his own script that never fails to captivate us. It’s heavy on the hard-hitting drama, and he always makes sure to remind us that no matter what’s going on around these people, they are still humans with emotions as complex as the world around them. These characters are fully realized, with rivalries, passions, and hatreds. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s going on when a movie exists in four different layers of reality, but we manage to stay grounded through these characters and Nolan’s impeccable sense of direction.
Over the course of two well written hours, “The Town” explores and analyzes this question all the while providing fantastic drama and thrilling chases, robberies, and shoot-outs. It has Affleck written all over it, and not just because of the location. He makes Charlestown a character in itself, and we get to know it just as well as any of the people populating the set. Very few directors have the dexterity to capture a city in all of its glory and sordidness, and it’s a credit to Affleck’s prowess that he can make it feel so authentic. He also gets the best out of an extraordinary cast, and everything working together towards Affleck’s vision provides one dynamite moviewatching experience.
“Toy Story 3“
As the movie chugged towards an ending, I realized that I hadn’t just grown up with the toys. I’ve grown up with Andy, too. I was too young to remember seeing the first movie, but I was around Andy’s age at the release of the second installment. And as Andy prepares to move away from home and go to college in “Toy Story 3,” I am only one year behind, getting ready to make the decisions that will push me farther away from home and the innocence of my childhood. The movie is especially resonant for the generation of children that grew up with the “Toy Story” movies, allowing us to reminisce about the times where we didn’t need laptops or iPods to entertain us. Once, it only took a few toys and an unbounded imagination to make us happy, and “Toy Story 3″ gives us a window back into the simpler times of our youth. It’s a feeling both joyous and sad, but overall, it’s beautiful.
“The Bounty Hunter“
The movie is an action comedy – well, if you count Butler punching a few people as action and a few pity sneer as comedy. We’ve never quite seen a plot like this, where exes fight with stakes as high as prison, but it never feels the slightest bit original. In fact, it just feels like an old trip down Memory Lane, mimicking every sort of used gimmick with ex-lovers. But boy, Memory Lane has never looked so run-down or shabby. It’s time for some renovation.
Sound familiar? It’s not just a remake of the 1973 George A. Romero original; it’s a rehash of every horror movie since. Eventually, enough is enough, and cheap jumps and thrills only spell out boredom. The movie gets harder and harder to enjoy as it drags on … and on … and on. We know exactly what’s going to happen just from hearing the premise. Maybe the perceived lack of originality speaks to how influential the first movie was. But I missed the memo that the original was some kind of cultural watershed, so I’m just going to interpret this rendition of “The Crazies” as the latest dull entry into the woefully overflowing “been there, done that” category.
“Dinner for Schmucks“
At “Dinner for Schmucks,” the real schmuck is you, the unsuspecting moviegoer who is lured in by the wattage of comedic stars Steve Carell and Paul Rudd. With your money, you’ve financed a dinner for sadists, the executives who will make a profit off of your pain. Perhaps a more fitting title is “Movie for Morons” because that’s exactly what you’ll be if you see this movie.
“Edge of Darkness“
“Edge of Darkness” is more of an epitaph than a movie. Gather here to mourn these fallen talents, it seems to cry. Perhaps Monahan needs Scorsese’s vision to succeed; perhaps Campbell needs the stakes of a hero like James Bond to make a movie work; perhaps Mel Gibson just needs some help.
There are movies that beg you not to be taken seriously, and then there are those that beg you not to take the craft of cinema seriously. ”MacGruber” is the latter of the two, trying to fly on the flimsy premise that a sketch that can barely sustain two minutes on TV could make an entertaining movie that’s 45 times bigger. Perhaps Lorne Michaels will come up with a more clever way to make money off this movie in the future: take “MacGruber” off the case and slap on the title “The Worst of Will Forte.”