Movie reviews written for movies released theatrically in 2006.
1. Lake of Fire, directed by Tony Kaye (10/10)
This is quite astounding.
At first, it does seem a trifle pretentious, especially in its use of music – the film score often seems far too dramatic. But what we get is an extremely artistic combination of historical footage, interviews from both sides of the debate and the odd other shot. The result is incredibly compelling.
Though Kaye clearly takes a side, one is not left feeling like most documentaries, where the filmmaker’s point of view usually completely dominates. This is probably the essential non-fiction film on abortion – the essential fiction film is Palindromes – and one of the essential documentaries.
2. Little Children, directed by Todd Field (9/10)
What I said at 25: There is something not quite right about this movie. The narration isn’t consistent. It’s there for a stretch, then it’s not. The tone shifts drastically near the end. Otherwise, it’s my kind of movie, and it’s pretty awesome. It is funny and also compelling. It’s not quite In the Bedroom but it’s along similar lines. It’s only a few odd choices that make me think it’s not totally awesome.
3. The Lives of Others, directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (9/10)
Yes, there are concerns about any film that seeks to humanize secret police. However, I believe this film is honest about the subject and so portraying the possibility of humanity within such an inhuman system does not, in the end, excuse that system or participants of that system. Though I was initially not liking the ending, I think the ending actually helps us understand what this is: a thank you to those who did change their minds, however few they may be. The one problem with the end is probably the “years later” headings which are totally unnecessary.
4. Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo Del Toro (9/10)
This is a pretty great movie. It’s quite original and it’s great to look at. The fantasy stuff is done really well, because it’s made very clear what it is, which I won’t say because it might spoil something. The one problem with it is that the supposedly realistic parts about the Spanish army can feel a little unbelievable. It’s odd that the fantasy seems more believable than the realistic parts but that’s the way it is (there are some implausible moments with the Captain and his officers). Aside from that, this is a great movie.
5. A Scanner Darkly, directed by Richard Linklater (9/10)
This is a really neat movie: an innovative film that appears to succeed as an adaptation (though I have not read the source material). Sometimes technological innovations are not well-paired with their material, they seem unnecessary or what have you. Not the case here. Here we have a couple very good reasons, and it works very well. A number of things from the novel are rendered really well with the new technology.
6. Reprise, directed by Joachim Tier (9/10)
This is one of the best coming of age movies I have seen in quite some time. It manages to bring youthful anticipation of multiple futures to the audience in a way I hadn’t thought possible. It’s amusing but also provocative and evocative. Yes, these people are privileged, but the experiences are still (somewhat) universal, or at least relatable. A great film.
7. The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese (9/10)
8. Blindsight, directed by Lucy Walker (9/10)
It is rare when a movie overcomes my cynicism, but this one did. It is one of the more empowering things I have seen in quite some time. Just the fact of a blind mountain climber alone is pretty impressive, but seeing untrained, blind Tibetan teenagers climb mountains makes you feel like you could do anything…and makes you feel like you haven’t done much yet. The strength of the material definitely overcomes the standard documentary filmmaking on display.
9. Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuaron (9/10)
Lost my review. What a shot (even if it’s a composite!).
10. The Bridge, directed by Eric Steel (8/10)
This is a devastating and deeply moving film about the people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge during 2004, when the film crew filmed the bridge 24 hours a day for the entire year. (Yes, that means you will see people die if you watch this movie.)
The project itself is rather incredible and unlike the moral High Horses that think this is some kind of snuff film, I appreciate the attempt by someone to go where no filmmaker had gone before. Suicide is something we don’t talk about enough, as is mental illness. Dismissing a film that confronts the viewer with this as a “snuff film” is lazy, unnecessarily self-righteous and willfully ignorant.
The film itself is incredibly devastating. It works particularly well because its subject (which I had forgotten) is not made clear initially. It’s a reminder to those of us who haven’t known suicides, that suicide is an awful thing to do to the people you love, as much as it’s an awful thing to do to yourself.
The one problem I have with this film is the soundtrack, which lets the film down on at least three occasions, failing to hit the right emotional notes.
11. Brand Upon the Brain, directed by Guy Maddin (8/10)
Not my favourite Maddin, but still an onslaught of visual marvels and humour.
12. Away from Her, directed by Sarah Polley (8/10)
This is a deeply moving film about Alzheimer’s, featuring excellent performances and an appropriate pace. It’s a note-perfect movie – except for the awful Neil Young cover over the closing credits – with one rather significant problem: this is a film that focuses on the emotional devastation of the disease (for the relatives of the afflicted), but it pretty much ignores the other aspects, such as the inevitable physical issues. So it’s a bit of an idealized portrait. It’s still a very good movie, but it’s a little unrealistic.
13. Borat, directed by Larry Charles (8/10)
People had to sign waivers to appear in this, folks. Calm yourselves. If this is the worst thing that had ever happened – instead of just being very funny and taking advantage of some really stupid people – then we would all be a lot better off.
What I said at the time:
I just watched Borat. Yeah, finally. It was ridiculous. And really, if you sign a release… I don’t get people who want to be on TV (or in a movie) so bad they don’t think about the after-effects. But then people are idiots. And that’s certainly something confirmed by this film.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. The film was “controversial” because it “used” people but also because it was possibly “racist”…or something like that. Now, I tend to think this kind of stuff is stupid, but I can’t help thinking about how controversy is really just about profit. All the hysterical types out there get used so much by companies that want / need / use controversy. If you are a hysterical “everything offends me” whatever type person, you should stop being used. Case in point: Borat.
Borat was supposedly so controversial (I don’t know why people are offended by it, but then I’m not a Kazakh). One of the media outlets that made a big deal about it was Fox News. The distributor of the film (even acknowledged by Fox) is Twentieth Century Fox. The same company. The same company. Either, this is calculated controversy for profit, or Fox News was exhibiting one of the rare examples of TV news media independence of late. Since the latter is impossible (yes, it is impossible), it is just further proof that the controversy isn’t about anyone being offended, it is about profit.
On a related note, I watched “The Quest for Ratings” last night for the first time. It’s awesome. The news media are not about news, they are about profit. More people will see Borat if there’s controversy. Yay.
14. A Prairie Home Companion, directed by Robert Altman (8/10)
Lost my review. Excellent tribute to a radio show I would never listen to.
15. The War Tapes, directed by Deborah Scranton (8/10)
I can’t really believe this got made. I would have thought that something allowed by the US military wouldn’t be so obviously negative (I can’t understand how someone would watch this and think “this is a good thing” about the war). It is certainly interesting to see this new (for the time) perspective and it allows us far greater insight, but it is also frustrating (and illuminating) to listen to these guys. Yes, I’m sure they are representative, but that doesn’t make it any easier to listen to what is at times unadulterated ignorance (one of the soldiers equates being a good man with killing people).
16. Inside Man, directed by Spike Lee (8/10)
Lost my review. Pretty flawless. Shows Spike can make a heist movie about as well as anyone.
17. The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair, directed by Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker (8/10)
I want to say this is a great movie, but two things are stopping me: the sound design and the direction. The direction, the lesser of the evils, is understandable but early on it is sort of bonkers. A lot of the decisions seem unnecessary. Why write the supposed significant phrases on the screen? If we really can’t here what he’s saying, maybe they should have thought of sub-titles…It gets better after a while, it’s less obviously intrusive into the interviews and I do fully get and agree with the animation. It works and it’s a good way of doing it. But in the first few parts its all more frenetic and unnecessary. The bigger issue is the sound mix. It’s terrible. It’s one of the worst mixed DVDs I have ever heard and worse there are no subtitles. Once you get used to the protagonist’s accent it becomes more bearable, but still they drown him out in noise and music regularly. This is too bad because the story is very compelling (the more so for the guy filming himself and his family, just like Capturing the Friedmans) and finding the guard was a coup as well. This could be a classic documentary about arbitrary and wrongful imprisonment, but they really should have thought a little more about the design of the film, and maybe they should have watched the master DVD before they greenlighted it, you know?
18. Casino Royale, directed by Martin Campbell (8/10)
If I wrote a review, I don’t know where it is. Finally a return to (some semblance of) realism.
19. Deliver Us from Evil, directed by Amy Berg (8/10)
I don’t know how anyone can be a Catholic. I really don’t understand it. This institution has done so many bad things. In this case, how can any parent anywhere think this church – not part of this church but the whole church – is something they should teach their kids to be part of? They protect pedophiles. I mean, does anything else have to be said about it? Apparently. This movie doesn’t work completely, as it is really two stories, the specific one about O’Grady and the general one about the cover-up. The should have either given equal time to both, or focused only on O’Grady, or done O’Grady as a case study. However, this film veers from talking only about O’Grady to not mentioning him at all, and then back to O’Grady again. In the hands of a better director, this would have been a truly great documentary.
20. Who Killed the Electric Car?, directed by Chris Paine (8/10)
This is a great, if biased, documentary on what happened to the car most of us never heard of. Though the filmmakers do attempt to put forward the other side’s point of view, they don’t try that hard. The other problem is they pretty much spend the whole movie arguing there was demand for the car, and then claim at the end that there wasn’t enough demand for the car. This conclusion would suggest that their other “guilty suspects” are not that guilty.
21. The Host, directed by Joon-Ho Bong (8/10)
Lost my review. Good though.
22. Slither, directed by James Gunn (8/10)
Lost my review.
23. This is England, directed by Shane Meadows (8/10)
Lost my review.
24. Paprika, directed by Satoshi Kon (8/10)
This is a fantastically inventive piece of anime, with a whole whack of ideas and the animation to match. I can’t shake the feeling it was a major, major inspiration for Inception as, though the plots differ, there are a lot of commonalities in terms of theme (and even some minor details, like Paprika running up the side of a hotel wall). So this is worth watching on two fronts, because it is a good and entertaining movie, and because it is interesting to see the possible origin of a great movie.
25. Monkey Warfare, directed by Reginald Harkema (8/10)
This is quite entertaining. It’s a little zany and possibly a little too artsy for its own good, but I got over that because it was so funny. Often, such a short running time is a warning sign but not in this case. I was very pleasantly surprised. The ending is also pretty ideal. Well worth checking out.
26. Tales of the Rat Fink, directed by Ron Mann (8/10)
Lost my review.
27. Cheech, directed by Patrice Sauve (8/10)
Lost my review.
28. The Hoax, directed by Lasse Hallstrom (8/10)
I didn’t know anything about this. For some reason it’s a story I’d never heard before. It’s so amazing it’s unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine this actually happened. The movie is generally really entertaining and interesting. I have a bit of a problem with the Watergate thing, but in the spirit of confusing truth with fiction, I’ll let it go. This helps explain why people were so unwilling to believe Melvin of Melvin and Howard fame. They had already been fooled once that decade by a Howard Hughes hoax.
29. Jonestown: the Life and Death of People’s Temple, directed by (8/10)
Good if you can excuse the moral, which is horrible.
30. The Queen, directed by Stephen Frears (8/10)
I hate the very idea of monarchies. And this certainly adds to that hatred. As Tom Paine said, the idea of a hereditary monarch is as silly as the idea of a hereditary poet laureate. This film at least manages to convince me that they’re real people and they do have reasons for why they do things. I still don’t want a queen; I wish we’d get rid of her. But I understand why she wouldn’t see it that way. Mirren is fantastic. This is perhaps the best performance of her career. You should see it for that alone.
32. The Journals of Knud Rasmmussen, directed by Norman Cohn, Zacharias Kunuk (8/10)
Lost my review.
33. Neil Young: Heart of Gold, directed by Jonathan Demme (8/10)
Lost my review. But I am biased.
34. Radiant City, directed by Jim Brown, Gary Burns (8/10)
This is apparently a normal documentary. And then things start to unfold differently and you wonder “but how could they have known that was coming?” Then we are told what the movie really is, which might be best described as pseudo-documentary. I’m not sure how effective these tactics are to the message, as I totally agree with the message and so I’m biased. The approach was different, which made it more interesting; but I definitely favour the arguments of the planners and architects.
35. Hatchet, directed by Adam Green (8/10)
I didn’t hear any hype about this movie, and I guess that was a good thing. This is entertaining, and pretty referential (and I like that). It’s not classic, but it’s a lot of fun. The effects are over the top, the one-liners are pretty numerous, and the bad guy is memorable enough. The biggest problem for me was the lighting, which makes the movie feel like it was shot on a set (whether it actually was or not). Also, the set up is a little contrived (I don’t buy the guys’s friends at the beginning), but you get over that part pretty quickly.
36. Wordplay, directed by Patrick Creadon (8/10)
Lost my review.
37. Letters from Iwo Jima, directed by Clint Eastwood (8/10)
Combined, in some way, the two films are almost the equivalent of Tora Tora, only with so many years to make it more believable. This is the better film, not just because they speak Japanese. It is simpler than Flags of Our Fathers, and that makes it far more effective. There are still a few problems, the General-Private plot feels very contrived, particularly near the end. The score is pretty weak (in both films). Eastwood should stick to directing. This is definitely the better movie.
38. Snow Cake, directed by Marc Evans (8/10)
On the whole this is a fine film. The acting is pretty great (I forgot I was watching an ex-movie star) and the story – or lack thereof – is compelling. There are a few minor quibbles I have with some of the geographic references, but that’s because I drive too fast (how it takes anyone days and days to travel from Algonquin to Wawa is beyond me). It does feel a little bit like a lecture disguised as a story, but I could ignore that feeling for most of it.
39. Journey from the Fall, directed by Ham Tran (8/10)
This is mostly an effective and affecting movie. I don’t really understand why they felt it was necessary to jump around in time so much. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Also, some of the time / place locater subtitles aren’t really necessary (it’s a pet peeve of mine when movies go to one place in time and then go to another 30 seconds later). Some of the big scenes are a little melodramatic too. But otherwise it’s good.
40. The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan (8/10)
Lost my review.
41. Sweet Mud aka Adama Meshuga’at, directed by Dror Shaul (8/10)
This is an affecting coming of age drama about what it was like to grow up on an Israeli Kibbutz in the seventies with a single mother. All the performances are strong and they help take the very loose narrative to a greater level of pathos. I can’t imagine what it would have been like living in one of these pseudo-utopian communities where, surprise surprise, people continue to be people and xenophobia – or, rather, the general disregard for the “other” – is allowed to run rampant.
Well worth watching.
42. Il caimino, directed by Nanni Moretti (7/10)
A nearly-great Italian political satire. Should be turned into Il Trumpo for American audiences. Read the review.
43. Iklimler aka Climates, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (7/10)
An excellent film spoiled by an unnecessary scene. Read the review of Iklimler.
44. The Last King of Scotland, directed by Kevin Macdonald (7/10)
Lost my review.
45. Black Snake Moan, directed by Craig Brewer (7/10)
This is a fascinating, provocative and, in its own way, uplifting film about The Blues and redemption. However, at it’s heart is a really strange idea about (really) tough love being necessary for some psychological problems (though it acknowledges the opposite is true as well) that I’m not 100% comfortable with. But that doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth watching, particularly given the strong performances by Jackson and Ricci and a strong supporting turn from Timberlake who, whatever you think of his music, must be admired for his willingness to take on risky films, especially this early in his career as an actor.
46. American Hardcore, directed by Paul Rachman (7/10)
Lost my review.
47. Shut Up & Sing, directed by Barbara Kopple, Cecilia (7/10)
Infuriating. Read the review of Shut Up & Sing.
48. The Ground Truth, directed by Patricia Foulkrod (7/10)
Lost my review.
49. This Film is Not Yet Rated, directed by Kirby Dick (7/10)
Lost my review. Important film, but didn’t quite push it far enough.
50. Rescue Dawn, directed by Werner Herzog (7/10)
This is a pretty good attempt at turning an amazing documentary into a fictional film. However, this film is far more conventional than the documentary and so it loses its uniqueness. Having seen the documentary first, I was also familiar with the story and therefore both familiar with the dramatic license parts and also well aware of the ending. I think this considerably lessened the film’s impact for me. That being said, this is a good movie, especially if you haven’t seen Little Dieter Needs to Fly.
51. Den brysomme mannen, directed by Jens Lien (7/10)
Amusing but not as deep as it would appear. Read the review.
52. Congorama, directed by Philippe Falardeau (7/10)
This movie is mostly good. It’s good until the false ending. That’s what wrecks it. At first, I didn’t like the style, the way it was divided up. It didn’t make sense to me but then, as the plot unfolded, it made way more sense and the movie grew on me the longer it went on. Things were good. Then there was a fade out, right at a point where you otherwise would have found a or the climax. And I thought, “wow, what a great ending.” And then the movie kept going. And I really don’t know what else to say except that the actual ending wasn’t necessary at all. And it weakened the whole thing.
53. Perfume, directed by Tom Tykwer (7/10)
This is a great idea but the execution is a little wonky. At one point I thought it would have been better in “smell’o’vision” but then I realized there’s no way it would work. The story probably works better as a novel, because more is left to the imagination. There are lots of good moments, but there are also far too many close-ups of his nose. I get it: he’s got an amazing sense of smell. Let’s move on. The whole thing is really neat and I would really like to like it more than I did, it’s just the direction and pacing were a little odd, and there were a few moments that I really questioned the script. Otherwise, it’s definitely entertaining.
54. Days of Glory, directed by Rachib Bouchareb (7/10)
This movie starts off a little confused, but really improves and is quite effective until the climax. The climax is some kind of combination of The Wild Bunch and Saving Private Ryan, it is totally unbelievable and ridiculous. It almost ruins the movie. The denouement is effective, however, making me forgive the climax, slightly. Admittedly, the climax could have been even more ridiculous than it was, but it still stretches credulity past the breaking point. This is unfortunate, as the rest of the movie is good.
55. Jeff Tweedy: Sunken Treasure, Live in the Pacific Northwest, directed by Christoph Green (7/10)
If you are a Wilco fan, this is a must see. Not just because he plays some Wilco songs but because you get to a see a different side of Tweedy and get a little insight into his feelings about performance.
But I think the film succeeds as a concert film even if you aren’t necessarily a huge Wilco fan. Tweedy’s performances are compelling – including a radical reworking of “Sunken Treasure”, a mic-less encore, and a couple of performances with Nels Cline and / or Glenn Kotche – but he also has an interesting philosophy / outlook about touring that no doubt resonates with a lot of people.
Well worth watching.
56. Babel, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (7/10)
My wife got shot randomly in Morocco
My Nanny took my kids illegally across the US-Mexico Border
The Embassy won’t send the ambulance
I got the Babel blues
Kinda wish I was dead
Maybe I’ll kill that old guy who wants to go home
Or just yell at the Moroccans instead.
The guy who gave the rifle to the guy who sold the rifle to the guy who’s kids killed my wife, his daughter is a deaf nymphomaniac
She tried to fuck her dentist
And she flashed some kids and tried to fuck a cop
I got the Babel blues
Kinda wish I was dead
Maybe her volleyball team really would have won if she hadn’t lost her temper
Or maybe they just sucked instead.
My wife didn’t actually die even though they said she did
My kids were recovered off-camera
It’s only a happy ending for the rich people
I guess I don’t have the Babel blues
And I don’t wish I was dead
My ex-Nanny has been deported and a Moroccan kid has been killed
And me and the Japanese kids are okay instead.
I don’t really understand all that
Or why only the rich people did okay
I think this guy has to work at his tragedy
Because I have the ‘I have seen this movie before’ blues
And it was called 21 Grams
I didn’t like it that much the first time
Making the story more convoluted doesn’t make it better and I don’t know what rhymes with grams.
57. Fast Food Nation, directed by Richard Linklater (7/10)
Lost my review.
58. Jesus Camp, directed by Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady (7/10)
Lost my reivew.
59. Flags of Our Fathers, directed by Clint Eastwood (7/10)
I don’t know that I can say exactly what it is that makes this film not as good as it could have been but there’s definitely a major problem somewhere. The guys lifting the flag are the supposed uniting point, but we don’t hear much about some of them, and then we hear about other guys. Nothing wrong with trying to be inclusive, but it would help to focus on the unit or the guys, and not necessarily both. Even though the multiple narrators are talking to the book author, the differing voice-overs also seem to affect the films continuity. I think I know why they adopted both of these methods but for some reason they don’t work for me. Also, sometimes the CGI really is too video-gamey. I don’t know, this could have been a lot better.
60. Manufactured Landscapes, directed by Jennifer Baichwal (7/10)
Lost my review.
61. God on My Side, directed by Andrew Denton (7/10)
Lost my review.
62. An Inconvenient Truth, directed by David Guggenheim (7/10)
I like how they stuck (mostly) to what they can prove. Too often there are these hypothetical models now – see Michael Crighton’s reasonable complaints – but this film tends to focus on stuff that has happened already. That is good.
On the other hand, I didn’t find the presentation anywhere near as well done as everyone has been saying. It’s just a typical documentary. Oh yeah, and some of the stuff Gore uses in his actual presentation is stupid, and clearly aimed at non-thinking folks.
Also, Gore can’t help being a little partisan- I guess the whole 2000 election might do that to you – but I don’t think that helps his cause. In the words of Schwarzenegger – oh my science I’m paraphrasing Arnold – there is no such thing as Republican clean air, or Democrat clean air (you can substitute the appropriate environmental cause in there if it makes you happy).
63. Sharkwater, directed by Rob Stewart (7/10)
Lost my review.
64. Offside, directed by Jafar Panahi (7/10)
This is an interesting film, though I don’t know that it’s a comedy. It is a great story of the unifying power of sport, against those who say sports are unimportant or insignificant. And it is a surprisingly subtle (relatively speaking) indictment of Iranian mores. Unlike most films of this type, the Iranian attitude towards women is treated as fact, not abomination, which is welcome and surprising.
65. Ten Canoes, directed by Rolf de Heer, Peter Djigirr (7/10)
Well this is an interesting little piece of history. It certainly is important, since it’s probably the first true film documentation of this particular story.
As film it is a little too meta for what it is doing, but then that appears to be the nature of this story (and perhaps many Abo stories).
I can’t say it was all that captivating but I recognize it’s necessary and certainly a good first step. It pales in comparison to the Fast Runner, though.
66. Spaceman: a Baseball Odyssey, directed by Brett Rapkin (7/10)
I was barely born when Lee was released so I had no idea he existed. This is great stuff. I would love to know more. Unfortunately this was made for TV, so it they had a length restriction. He was certainly an interesting guy. It’s too bad there aren’t more athletes and public figures like him. Too bad that his major league career was cut short and undermined by people who didn’t get along with him too.
67. Election 2: Harmony is a Virtue aka Triad Election, directed by Johnnie To (7/10)
I must admit, I haven’t seen the first one. Don’t really know why I zipped this without that, but that’s what happened.
This is fascinating because, though it gets off to a really rough start (it feels like everything is being rushed to pave the way for the violence) the film takes a really really long time to get to where you think its going, and then when it gets there it is relatively subdued (relatively I say). The plodding pace reminds me of westerns and I almost feel like they were perhaps the biggest influence on this unusual (for Chinese gangster films) movie.
68. Paris, je taime, directed by various (7/10)
I was going to rate each one and I made it much of the way through, but the zip sleeve said that it was 155 minutes, not an hour and 55 minutes so I gave up, thinking there must be just about a million segments. Many segments work very well and only a few don’t really fit the vibe, or seem way to obviously the creation of their respective creators (wow, that is a terrible sentence). The ending is totally unnecessary and really quite lame, but since it really isn’t any of the shorts themselves, I don’t care.
69. The Secret History of 9/11, directed by Terrence McKenna (7*/10)
I was probably still drinking the Koolaid when I saw this.
70. Inland Empire, directed by David Lynch (7*/10)
This was strange, as expected. Maybe stranger than expected. It had some great moments, and some really boring stretches. And then it had a completely ill-suited (tonally) ending. The odd thing about that is that Lynch made it independently, so he wasn’t being pressured for a happy ending. Anyway, I didn’t get how that worked.
71. Death of a President, directed by Gabriel Range (7*/10)
Lost my review. Probably overrated.
72. Nacho Libre, directed by Jared Hess (7*/10)
I was tired, I was lonely, I was desperate to kill some time. I have no idea how I liked it so much.
73. For Your Consideration, directed by Christopher Guest (7/10)
Lost my review.
74. Amazing Grace, Michael Apted (7/10)
How like us white people to make a film commemorating the British abolition of the slave trade by focusing entirely on the efforts of a rich, white man. Yes, I understand that his efforts were important, and it’s not like slaves outside of Haiti were in a position to do much themselves, but this is such like us westerners to tell only one side of events.
Anyway, this is a decent period piece, with very good performances – from a who’s who of British actors, this is quite a cast – and the typical British attention to period detail. There are a few moments of comedy, too, which are refreshing given the ponderous seriousness of the rest of the film.
There are things about this movie that I don’t like in addition to the entirely English focus of it, and the backslapping, “aren’t we so much more civilized than everyone else?” tone, but I recognize that it is, at bottom, a biopic of a British person, and so I should get over this stuff.
But seriously, there is one black person in this movie! About the slave trade!
75. Air Guitar Nation, directed by Alexandra Lipsitz (7/10)
This is an interesting portrait of people who basically dance in one particular style and take it really seriously (even though they appear to mostly be doing it for fun). It is at times hard to sympathize with some of them as they seem to be a little too serious (or a little too interested in adopting rock star personae). I certainly learned a lot, as I knew nothing about this. I’m a little surprised at how few people were like C-Diddy, “playing” technically difficult solos. Certainly the air guitar competition I have seen in the past involved much more of that. So that was weird.
76. This Filthy World, directed by Jeff Garlin (7/10)
This is an entertaining performance. Waters is funny and sometimes very right about the film industry. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of his movies but this makes me want to actually see him in person doing something like this. As a film it’s nothing spectacular, as it literally is just a film of his performance. Worth watching though.
77. Summer ’04, directed by Stefan Krohmer (7/10)
This is a weird one. This woman is unhappy although we’re unsure why she’s unhappy. That life looks alright to me. She gets jealous of a child, and we find out she had no reason to be. Lots of wonderful European awkwardness but the odd implausible plot twist (okay, one big one). Liked the vibe, could have had a better story.
78. Trailer Park Boys: the Movie, directed by Mike Clattenburg (7/10)
The show in movie form, basically.
79. Penelope, directed by Mark Palansky (7*/10)
What I said when I was 26 and possibly in love with Christina Ricci: This is an enjoyable and well made family film (and this is coming from a guy who dislikes most family films). I’m not its target audience but I laughed a few times and at least the transparent message is bearable (and useful for kids…I’d show it to my daughter if I had one). There are a few scenes that boggle my mind and make no sense to me, but I’m not a teenage girl. Also, where does this take place, some weird hybrid of England and the States??? Sigur Ros was a pleasant surprise.
80. Fido, directed by Andrew Currie (7*/10)
What I said at 25 or 26: It’s funny in a “cute” way. It’s entertaining. But there’s nothing particularly unusual or different here. This has been done before and better. I think this is geared more towards people who don’t generally like zombie films. It’s awfully safe given the subject matter. It’s worth watching for a laugh but there are better comedies, better zombie movies, and better zombie comedies.
81. Private Fears in Public Places aka Coeurs (6/10), directed by Alain Renais
Too stagey, and I’m not sure I would like the play if I saw it on stage. Read the review of Coeurs aka Private Fears in Public Places.
82. Scoop, directed by Woody Allen (6/10)
Lost my review.
83. Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, directed by Stephen Kijak (6/10)
I am not familiar with Walker’s early work but I think the Drift if one of the great and essential recordings of our young century so this was a treat for me.
Unfortunately, it is a pretty oddly made film, jumping back and forth between interviews and parts of Walker’s career.
Worse, there are multiple ‘music videos’ (for lack of a better term), which have apparently been included to get you into what is not very immediate or accessible music. I don’t really get that decision, I don’t find it necessary for the film, and I frankly think it detracts from it (in addition, it suggests that the filmmakers didn’t have enough material, which seems really odd given the sheer number of interviewees and Walker’s own thoughtful comments).
I really would like to like this movie more, and I would advise anyone with an interest in Walker to check it out anyway, but it is not a great documentary.
84. Severance, directed by Christopher Smith (6/10)
This a mostly clever and entertaining horror-comedy/horror-parody. It’s far more subtle than the usual horror comedies and it’s easy to miss some of jokes, especially early on, before one’s really sure whether it’s a comedy or just a horror movie with some funny lines. Unfortunately, the wheels come off a bit in the end, with a pretty conventional horror movie ending that doesn’t live up to the earlier genre-parodying moments. But it’s fun.
85. Bonneville, directed by Christopher N. Rowley (6/10)
This film is absolutely not for me but I’m glad that such movies exist. This film takes the evil step mother of so many Hollywood films and imagines the loss of the father from her perspective instead, and it feels like that’s been a long time coming. Combine that with a road movie and you have an interesting idea, even if it’s geared at a different gender and age than I am.
My problems with the movie have nothing to do with the concept, or the cast for that matter. I find the narrative device of Lange’s character writing a letter to be clunky and unnecessary – this film could have been told without it. And the daughter is just too much of a caricature – she shouldn’t be so unsympathetic.
But I’m glad stuff like this gets made. It gives me hope.
86. Bombay Calling, directed by Ben Addeman, Samir Mallal (6/10)
Interesting if not well made.
87. Art School Confidential, directed by Terry Zwigoff (6*/10)
I feel like maybe I overrated this.
88. Candy, directed by Neil Armfield (6/10)
Lost my review.
89. Lights in the Dusk, directed by Aki Karismaki (6/10)
In so many crime movies of the past, there have been minor characters that have been manipulated so that a heist can happen. I guess this is the story of one of them. It’s interesting in that sense, and in the noirishness of the movie. However, there is little to endear us to the star, as he isn’t particularly likable or interesting. The whole thing is pretty bleak, and it’s less laugh-out-loud funny than “humph” funny. The director has done better.
90. Still Life, directed by Zhang Ke Jia (6/10)
I genuinely like films that are nice to look at. I am less enthusiastic about films that think they can use that as an excuse for some other flaw, for example to revel in obscurity.
This film would be a lot less easy to admire and think about if there weren’t brief snippets of aliens. Can anyone justify this for me? I don’t get it. And, frankly, it is so casually handled that it makes me unwilling to put the thought into appreciating the rest of the movie.
At least it’s nice to look at (and makes you feel for the people of the gorges).
91. Renaissance, directed by Christian Volckman (6/10)
This is a neat looking film. The visuals are very artfully done and as far as I know they are unique. There are also some neat touches here and there, such as the colour drawing. The sound design is also often interesting, though it is occasionally unsuccessful. However, that’s all that is original here. The plot is that of a typical sci-fi thriller. Any and all comparisons to actual sci-fi landmarks are not accurate.
92. Stranger than Fiction, directed by Marc Foster (6/10)
So, allowing of the preposterous (and never explained – which may be to its credit) premise, this is a pretty entertaining little piece of fiction…until the thing that can’t happen but we know will happen happens and yet again, another Hollywood film is wrecked nearly irrevocably by an ending that has no place in it. That the film itself concedes that the ending is less good than the alternative is unique and I guess worth stressing, but it barely makes me less disappointed.
93. Red Road, directed by Andrea Arnold (6/10)
There is certainly a lot here that is worthwhile. I can’t say too much against the acting or the sense of realism (of the circumstances if not of the lead’s behaviour). I also can say that this film makes me not want to live in Glasgow.
But anyway: the problem with this film is that the director decided she would play it tricky. The reason’s for our lead’s behaviour are saved for a big reveal. The problem with that is that we lose sympathy for the lead (or at least those of us who think framing someone for something they didn’t do is just as bad as committing that something lose sympathy) well before we find out why she is like this. Can we then forgive her for what she did for closure? I have a very hard time.
That being said, the closure scene with the in-laws is very well done and touching. But if this film had been structured differently, it might have worked a lot better and wouldn’t have left a bitter taste in my mouth.
94. 9/11: the Falling Man, directed by Henry Singer (6/10)
Lost my review.
95. Idiocracy, directed by Mike Judge (6/10)
Lost my review.
96. Stephanie Daley, directed by Hilary Brougher (6/10)
This is one of those films that takes on a slightly unconventional (dare I say “indie”) air in order to disguise some of the problems associated with typical Hollywood melodramas. It’s tough to get over the most obvious contrivance, the one that helps paint the numbers of the plot but there are others as well, cliches that we’d come to expect in American “indie” films. The thing is, the acting is uniformly good (sometimes great), the characters are interesting and seemingly real. There’s just that damn plot, which doesn’t work. Giving it an “indie” ending (which is more than a little abrupt as well) doesn’t get rid of the contrivances.
97. Lucky Number Slevin, directed by Paul McGuigan (6/10)
Lost my review.
98. Superman Returns, directed by Bryan Singer (6/10)
I have lost my review. I did not like the climax.
99. Alpha Dog, directed by Nick Cassavettes (6/10)
Lost my review.
100. 10 Items or Less, directed by Brad Silberling (6/10)
I really don’t like movies like this and once I figured out it was this type of movie, I got really worried. Fortunately Freeman is really believable as a slightly less successful version of himself and the girl works too. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how funny (but mildly funny) it ended up being. It’s diverting if nothing else.
101. Come Early Morning, directed by Joey Lauren Adams (6/10)
Lost my review.
102. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, directed by Gore Verbinski (6/10)
This is a reasonably entertaining PG action film that I half watched while I performed a really annoying task related to this blog. I can’t say I paid a lot of attention, but it seemed reasonably well done.
103. Muffins for Granny, directed by Nadia Maclean (6/10)
An ambitious documentary about Canadian residential schools which is sabotaged by its lack of budget and lack of style. Read the review of Muffins for Granny.
104. Cocaine Cowboys, directed by Billy Corben (6/10)
Would be really interesting if it weren’t so poorly made. Read the review of Cocaine Cowboys.
105. Blood Diamond, directed by Edward Zwick (5/10)
This is film feels like an attempt to cross an adventure movie with a war movie with a Hollywood message movie. At times it succeeds rather well but at other times it’s borderline terrible.
105. All the King’s Men, directed by Steven Zaillian (5/10)
Probably an improvement on the original in some senses, but given how much has changed since that film was made, that’s not saying much. The book has yet to receive a decent adaptation.
106. The Science of Sleep, directed by Michel Gondry (5/10)
There’s a lot going on in this movie…sort of. At least it seems that way, because there’s animation and more dream sequences than you can shake a stick at. And it would all be well and good if it were going somewhere. But unfortunately, beneath the very interesting and original visuals is…a very straightforward romcom that isn’t all that funny (it is sporadically funny, which is why I am assuming it was meant to be a romcom and not just a romance). So it’s only mildly engaging (once you get bored of the visuals there is nothing left to keep your interest) and it seems to be a pretty big waste of talent.
107. Flight 93, directed by Peter Markle (5/10)
I guess I should watch the theatrical version of this story, eh?
108. Kabul Express, directed by Kabir Khan (5/10)
Lost my review. Bollywood sucks!
109. Talladega Nights, directed by Adam McKay (5/10*)
Probably funnier than I gave it credit for.
110. Black Sheep, directed by Jonathan King (5/10)
Lost my review.
111. Tekkon Kinkreet, directed by Maikeru Ariasu (5/10)
The more anime I see the more I worry that maybe I need to lower my standards. Yes, I have seen the odd anime that stands up to live action films, but they are few and far between. On the whole, most anime I see seem to treat their audience like children. Yes, they have adult things, but they still treat their viewers as if they don’t like to think. First: the positive: the climax is extremely well animated. That is great. It deserves kudos. The problem is that it is executed with no subtlety whatsoever. Not only are the two main characters named black and white (what could that possibly represent?), not only does the wise old man cliche tell us what is going on, but black wears a ying-yang symbol (!!!) on his shirt. Seriously? When I saw that, I felt like I was being beaten to death with the duality of man. Then came the climax, and I was pretty much beaten to death with the duality of man. Ugh.
112. Black Book, directed by Paul Verhoeven (4/10)
There’s a reason this says “based on true events.” Perhaps the events are the German occupation of Holland. This is a double-cross movie transplanted into WWII. If there is a true story in here, I’m sure it could have been told with far less dramatic license than this movie. Very little of this comes off as believable (especially as the movie rolls on). If we are seeking to understand the sacrifices spies have to go through, this is not the type of film to do it.
113. Seraphim Falls, directed by David von Ancken (4/10)
It begins as a fairly competent but somewhat implausible revenge flick. Brosnan should be dead about three times before 15 minutes have passed, but I’ve seen worse. Things are going along swimmingly until the third act. Brosnan hides in a bizarre place to surprise his pursuers (is that even possible?) and then Angelica Huston shows up literally out of nowhere. We wonder, is she real? If she is, how did she get there? Why is she there? And so on. Or is she some kind of angel? More appropriately, is she some other kind of deus ex machina? The movie is suddenly surreal and really hard to figure out. I don’t get it. I don’t particularly want to either.
114. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, directed by Scott Glosserman (4/10)
115. Smokin’ Aces, directed by Joe Carnahan (4/10)
This movie is totally incoherent. It seems to make a little sense (though the ending fails to wrap up all the threads) until you really start thinking about it. The more you think about it, the less any of it makes any sense. And yet everyone in the movie does a good job with this brutal material. It’s kind of amazing that such a weak script could still produce / allow for good performances. The other amazing thing is that everyone takes this so seriously. It would be a lot better if they had a sense of humour about it.
116. Shortbus, directed by John Cameron Mitchell (4/10)
So I think Mitchell is attempting to make some kind of grand statement that our society-imposed anxiety about sex and relationships is unimportant in the scheme of things, and really just gets in the way of our having a good time. And so he creates this fantasy sex club – maybe it isn’t so fantastic, maybe something like that really does exist – where, if we lose power, all our problems will likely seem less important, as long as there’s a musical number.
I feel like if Mitchell hadn’t experimented so much with his narrative creation – the cast apparently contributed much – he might have actually succeeded. Instead we get a mess: there is an absolute ton of navel gazing by the various sexually troubled but seemingly somehow financially successful characters and Mitchell cannot resist making himself the hero at the end of the film, even if it seems to not resolve anything at all. This is not an offensive movie – unless you are a prude – but it isn’t very well made and I would have hoped that a movie that should have been really provocative would have been more competent – and funnier. (I laughed out loud maybe 3 times.)
117. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, directed by Johnathan Levine (4/10)
I watched the first 30-35 minutes of this maybe a year ago (in pieces) while someone else was watching it. I figured I should watch it all the way through, even given my reservations. Read the full, spoilerific review.
118. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, directed by Dito Montiel (4/10)
“I went to film school!”
119. Let’s Go to Prison, directed by Bob Odenkirk (4/10*)
Lost my review.
120. Bon Cop Bad Cop, directed by Erik Canuel (4/10)
Lost my review but: “Oh my god language differences are so funny. And the cops reflect our cultural differences! Incredible!”
121. Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola (4/10)
Just a mess. There’s no other way of putting it. I don’t even know why it exists. It doesn’t even tell her whole story. Whatever realism was looked for (none, I guess) disappears with the Gang of Four over the title credits. If you’re going to get all meta with the score, you might as well play “Marie Antoinette” by Curved Air, and be done with it. Nothing really seems to fit. For example, why is she singing in French if they speak English for the rest of the movie? Blek.
122. Akeelah and the Bee, directed by Doug Atchison (4/10)
Lost my review. Don’t know how I came to watch it. I feel like maybe my zip review was deleted for language.
123. Bobby, directed by Emilio Estevez (4/10)
Lost my review. But fictionalizing what happened is not effective.
124. X-Men: the Last Stand, directed by Bret Ratner (4/10)
Not very good.
125. Rendezvous with Death: Why JFK Had to Die, directed by Wilfried Huismann (4/10*)
To fully judge this movie, I would have to re-watch it now that I am out from under the spell of conspiracy theories.
126. 300, directed by Zack Snyder (4*/10)
Regardless of how it was made (and it was made well) the premise is so fucking far fetched that I really, really can’t suspend my disbelief. I’m sorry. My problem is with the source material, I know. Perhaps if it were set in a fictional time instead of Ancient Greece I might be more open to it…
127. Mulberry St., directed by Jim Mickle (4/10)
Lost my review.
128. Something New, directed by Sanaa Hamri (4/10)
Dreck. The only thing that manages to barely elevate this film to below average is the fact that it sort of deals with racism (in a very Hollwyood-ish way: as a means of educating us intolerant audience types). Aside from that brief snippet of something substantial, this is a paint-by-numbers rom com with little going for it. This is why I hate Hollywood.
129. Southland Tales, directed by Richard Kelly (3/10)
This is a terrible movie. There are so many things wrong with it, I would probably have to watch it five or six times to make sure I got all of them. That being said, it isn’t irredeemable, or worth ignoring altogether. It’s not that it’s so bad it’s good, it’s that somewhere, hiding in one of the biggest disasters I can remember watching, is an idea…well, rather about 100 ideas.
They would have been far better off making a TV show and, with better casting – and a producer with final cut! – it might have actually been something. There are way more ideas than any movie can handle, and certainly 13 hour-long episodes might have led to something at least passable.
Despite its sheer awfulness on so many levels, there are actually some really funny moments (and many more moments that I know should be funny, if only a different director handled the material) and it feels to me like there is a short little thing in here that might have worked as a comedy.
So that expresses the dichotomy: enough ideas for a TV series, enough usable film for maybe an absurdist short film. I feel like this is the filmic equivalent of Sandinista! What this film needs is the equivalent of the producer on an album that tells the talented but overly prolific artist to drop two thirds of their songs.
130. Silent Hill, directed by Christopher Gans (3/10)
Not good. Read the review of Silent Hill.
131. Lady in the Water, directed by M. Night Shyamalan (3/10)
He would have us believe that he is a master of conventions, and a master of storytelling. He does this by the unnecessary meta moments loaded throughout the last third of this movie. However, the opening narration saps the first third of the movie of any interest whatsoever. One shouldn’t lecture about good writing in a story that doesn’t work properly. Lots of things don’t make any sense. For example, if the tale is Chinese, why is there an English / gobbledygook translation of Chinese words that the Chinese / English student is familiar with? The middle third is much better than the beginning or end, but it is nothing special either.
The worst movie of his I’ve seen.
132. The Tripper, directed by David Arquette (3/10)
This isn’t scary – and I’m not sure its really supposed to be – but the problem is that it isn’t funny either. I laughed maybe twice.
The political commentary is obvious and heavy handed and not in any way insightful.
The best part about it is the spot-the-famous-people aspect, and that’s not all that much fun either (thanks to the internet).
This is a mess of a movie but it makes sense since I certainly never thought David Arquette had directing in him.
133. The Lake House, directed by Alejandro Agresti (3/10)
Don’t mess with time. Seriously, don’t mess with it if you can’t make it work. And they can’t. It makes no sense if you think about it slightly. In fact, the whole premise goes out the window if the two agree to just meet each other, though it takes them two thirds of the movie to figure that out. I’d give this less but I admit I laughed once or twice and Reeves was less than annoying so that has to be worth something, right?
134. Desperation, directed by Mick Garris (3/10)
Lost my review.
135. A Job to Kill For, directed by Bill Corcoran (3/10)
Lost my review.
136. Ties that Bind, directed by Terry Ingram (3/10)
Lost my review, if I wrote one.
137. Turistas, directed by John Stockwell (3/10*)
Hostel on a different continent.
138. Saving Shiloh, directed by Sandy Tung (3/10)
Disclaimer: this movie was not made with me in mind and I have not seen the prequels.
How I came to see this movie is a bit of a mystery, but anyway: This is a reasonably mediocre family film for most of its runtime. There are clichés heaped upon clichés but the acting is not particularly terrible. The third act is about as paint-by-numbers as it gets, which ruins whatever minor goodwill the not-terrible acting had built up in me earlier. I’m sure some people like this kind of thing. If I knew better, I would have avoided it like the plague.
139. The Last Sect, directed by Jonathan Dueck (3/10)
Don’t remember it.
140. American Cannibal, directed by Perry Grebin, Michael Nigro (3/10)
Lost my review.
141. Android Apocalypse, directed by Paul Ziller (3/10)
Lost my review.
142. Ultraviolet, directed by Kurt Wimmer (2/10)
This was terrible. I think giving it a 2 is being nice. But that’s what I’m doing. I guess it’s because I have a soft spot for Jovovich beating up everything. But the thing is, there’s very little that’s real in this film. Wait, calling it a film demeans the word film. Movie.
143. Underworld: Evolution, directed by Len Wiseman (2/10)
The evolution of what, exactly? Bad taste? (Did I rate this higher than the original???)
144. Final Destination 3, directed by James Wong (2/10)
Enjoyable as always.
145. John Tucker Must Die, directed by Betty Thomas (2/10)
146. Date Movie, directed by Aaron Seltzer (2/10)
147. Simon Says, directed by Bill Dear (2/10)
I can’t admire Glover’s acting. I don’t know what accent he’s doing, but it doesn’t stay consistent. The effects are terrible. The “creative” ways are just a bunch of pick axes. He rigged the whole woods so he could fire pick axes from every angle? This is possible? This is scary? This is funny? It’s nothing. The whole thing is just crap. The title doesn’t even make sense. Yuck.
148. The Hills Have Eyes, directed by (1*/10)
I haven’t seen the original but I pray (to whom?) that it’s better than this. Did anyone else notice that ridiculous bass pulse through the whole movie? Sometimes when the soundtrack is really bad, nothing else matters.
149. Poseidon, directed by Wolfgang Petersen (1/10)
Obviously this needed a remake.
150. Meltdown: Day of Destruction, directed by J.P. Howell (1/10)
Not quite all-time bad but pretty close. Read the review.