I'd rather be nine people's favorite thing...

[title of blog]

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Yes, I do still review movies. Really.
Like, for example, these:

The International
3 stars

The International was thrilling, exciting, heart-pounding, clever, cunning, lots of fun...and almost completely forgettable. I watched it last summer (which should give you some idea on the turnaround of these movie reviews, lol), and aside from the shootout in the Guggenheim, I couldn't remember any of it clearly enough to write a comprehensive review. I remembered enjoying it, in a crime-thriller-action-flick kind of way, but I couldn't remember specifically why I liked it. And if I may tout my own memory briefly, in over 300 reviews that kind of forgetting has just never happened. So despite the fact that it was fun to watch, I'm pretty sure The International was nothing terribly special. Not only that, but both Clive Owen and Naomi Watts have starred in much more memorable films recently--Inside Man for him and Eastern Promises for her. So maybe going and renting those movies might be a better idea than watching this one. *shrug*

Super-Size Me
4 stars

I'll be honest. This movie frightened me. If I hadn't already decided to work on my eating habits, watching Super Size Me would have scared me into it. I still eat at McD's, Wendy's and Taco Bell semi-regularly, but much less frequently than I did before watching this. And I'm MUCH more conscious of balancing fast food with healthier fare, laying off soda and huge portions, and exercising. And I bet pretty much everyone who saw this movie felt similarly. What can I say? Fear is a motivator. (ETA: even that fear is hard to keep up long-term, but I'm working on it, lol.)

One of the best parts of this film is its host/protagonist. Morgan Spurlock is humorous, but his genius comes in taking what starts as a documentary and turning it into a very personal narrative where the viewer relates to and sympathizes with him. His enthusiasm is infectious, his indignation is easily shared, and his struggle with feelings of physical pain and near-addiction while trying valiantly to finish out his McD's challenge pull at audience heartstrings as much as any Oscar-winning performance, largely because as far as we know, HE ISN'T ACTING.

Another thing I really liked was that Spurlock didn't really seem like he had an agenda. Movies like An Inconvenient Truth and Michael Moore's works come across like they are arguing a point so that by the end of the film, the audience will be in full agreement with and support of that point. Super Size Me, though it did have important points to make, came at those points from an angle of providing information and investigating inconsistencies. The information itself was its own argument, not anything that Spurlock himself had to say--his whole attitude was one of "okay, let's see what happens here." And that made SSM feel very easy, relaxed, and accessible rather than argumentative or political. All in all, it's a film everyone should see.

All In
1.5 stars

Dominique Swain is vivacious, smart, and easy on the eyes. It really is a pity that she went absolutely nowhere after playing the rebellious daughter in Face/Off. And by "absolutely nowhere," I mean "starring in films like All In." Some of the poker scenes in this movie were fun to watch, and Louis Gossett Jr. added a bit of much-needed class, but the believability meter of this movie fell through the floor after about fifteen minutes, and didn't rise much thereafter. The acting was shallow, the dialogue was minimal, the humor wasn't humorous, and the romance had no spark. Poker fans might enjoy this movie...not sure if anyone else would.

12 Rounds
3.5 stars

When they are done well, and when they don't build up to a good resolution and then torpedo it, puzzle sequence movies are a serious guilty pleasure of mine. It's why I love the National Treasure movies, Angels and Demons, and Level 26, and it's why I admire the premise of the Saw series even though I refuse to watch any of them. Any movie where characters have to follow a trail, or put pieces of a riddle together, or figure out their actions one step at a time...they rock. Especially when beating a system or a villain who has ostensible control of the situation is involved. So when I saw 12 Rounds on the video store shelf and found out it had a similar premise, I immediately grabbed it. And I was not disappointed.

While I admit to not being much of a professional wrestling fan these days (I was when I was in middle school, lol), and while the WWE's forays into feature film have been somewhat hit-or-miss, I have to say I was impressed with 12 Rounds. John Cena does not suck as an action actor. If he wanted to, and was willing to work at it, I could see him making a transition to film not unlike Dwayne Johnson's. I also enjoyed Aidan Gillen's portrayal of the vengeful villain.

But the real star of this film was the "12 Rounds" of tasks that Cena's character had to fulfill within the villain's time limit. With a clear allusion to the Twelve Labors of Hercules, the 12 tasks got progressively harder and took Cena all across the city of New Orleans, with action scenes ever-increasing in scale and thrill factor. Was it the best action movie I've ever seen? No, not even close. But was it still entertaining despite that? Hell yes.

4.5 stars

There exist in the film industry today a several select actors and actresses who can carry a movie in a certain genre just by their presence. And within THOSE elite, there exist an even smaller few who can carry a movie in ANY genre just by their presence. Meryl Streep. Daniel Day-Lewis. Kevin Spacey. Marcia Gay Harden. Laura Linney. And the star of this film, Mr. Washington. While Will Smith, Forest Whitaker, Terrence Howard and Samuel L. Jackson have proven their talent and versatility as successful black actors, it is Denzel to whom they are all compared.

In Hurricane, Denzel takes on the role of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the successful boxer who spent twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit. I can;t remember if Washington got an Oscar nomination for this portrayal, but in my book he absolutely should have. The angst, the rage, the frustration, the contemplation, and the eventual redemption of the man called the Hurricane came out crystal-clear in Washington's flawless, fearless acting. One aspect that hit particularly hard was how Washington occasionally portrayed multiple sides of Carter's personality. Like the cliche of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, and like Joseph Fiennes argued with an invisible Satan in Luther, Washington from time to time took on the persona of the anger in Carter's head, the voice that argued to Carter that violence and retribution were the only answers. Combined with differences in lighting, Washington's body position and the camera angle, this technique allowed a clear portrayal of the mental struggle Carter must have gone through to overcome his hatred of the outside world that had put him in prison.

I was also impressed with the work of Liev Schreiber, John Hannah and Deborah Unger as the three activists who worked tirelessly to get Carter's case reviewed, and of Vicellous Reon Shannon as the young teenager who was inspired to prove Hurricane's innocence. There was a realness about those four that made watching them feel like I wasn't watching a movie, but the real events--and even in films based on true stories, that's not always common.

I've been told that even though it has been proven in a court of law, that there are still questions about Rubin Carter's innocence. Apparently the film may have left out some facts that would have undermined its message. But that may itself be only hearsay, or at least I've only heard it from one source and I don't know how reliable that source is. But whatever the truth is, this movie is phenomenal. Despite coming out in a year (1999) that featured both American Beauty and The Matrix, Hurricane was clearly one of the top films made that year. And like both of those other two, its message still resonates, and it still moves us, ten years later.

More to come, I promise. Thanks, everyone, for your patience.


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I had the same thoughts about The International.

I took Supersize Me with a grain of salt, because in the class I watched it in we went over the history and Spurlock's lifestyle before the experiment: apparently he was a super-strict vegan, which means that if he even switched to a carnivorous but mostly healthy diet he'd have had problems? I still think it's a good point that he's making though and even if it shows an extreme version of that diet I would still say it's done some good just by making people think about it.

I've missed your reviews!

both Clive Owen and Naomi Watts have starred in much more memorable films recently--Inside Man for him and Eastern Promises for her
i c what you did thar james. i really want to see these two films eventually!

Another thing I really liked was that Spurlock didn't really seem like he had an agenda. Movies like An Inconvenient Truth and Michael Moore's works come across like they are arguing a point so that by the end of the film, the audience will be in full agreement with and support of that point.
I think that
Hmmmm. I think that there is a need for films/documentaries like Gore's which throw the word "unbiased" out the window. And not just because i'm a card-carrying member of the tree hugging hive mind myself. Okay I phrased that really badly. What I'm saying is, I'm not sure what you're saying? Are you saying you didn't enjoy An Inconvenient Truth as much as Fast Food Nation? Because if you are, then I agree, I didn't either. But I'm troubled by the implication that the general public - which has no vested interest in changing public policy when it comes to environmental issues - would be turned off by someone passionately arguing his case.

A documentary with no obvious agenda is more palatable, yes, but sometimes I read Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter for shits and giggles I dunno I'm probably not one to talk. On the one hand nobody wants to be inundated with propganda, otoh I feel like people are capable of making up their own minds about what they see. And none of this was intended to be an indictment of you or your opinion on Gore or Moore, I just. This is an issue very near and dear to my heart, even though I may not talk about it on LJ a lot. Sometimes it feels like my even broaching the subject of climate change will be taken as an attempt to ~convert~ someone; a lot of people see Gore's film as a heavy-handed attempt to change their minds about something, but I see it as an attempt to present some important facts/predictions/trends that have been obscured by noise. But I dunno, my idea of what constitutes "important" is not the same as yours, and the environmental issues aside, I think it's fascinating how unreceptive audiences can be when they suspect they're being manipulated or coerced into a certain response.

12 Rounds was a fun ride. I first saw it earlier this year when I watched the horror that was The Tooth Fairy (still mad at The Rock for that one, although I don't feel guilty watching that one online) and I just so happened to watch Cena's film on TV afterward since I hadn't seen it when it hit theaters. In comparison to Tooth Fairy, this was a masterpiece. :-P

12 Rounds was a much better vehicle for Cena than The Marine, though, and I loved the plot and intense situations his character was put through. Aidan Gillen was brilliant too.

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