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Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2011.1
Late December/early January are what I call "guy movie month" here because the wife is away. <dl dt_class="field"> Inception (2010) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1375666/">9/10</a> Fantastic film from start to finish with an exceedingly interesting storyline and well-put-together concept. Excellent effects, excellent cast and challenging material make for a film that you'll want to watch again. Zombieland (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1156398/">8/10</a> Woody Harrelson is always entertaining, but the kid doing the Michael Cera schtick of being absolutely pathetic and neurotic got old pretty quickly. Saving grace was a cameo by Bill Murray. It's a zombie movie, so you're going to have to put up with the shambling dead. The Invention of Lying (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1058017/">7/10</a> Gervais is great in this film about a planet where no one knows how to lie or even knows what a lie is. Once you suspend disbelief that such a society would have led to almost the exact same culture as early 20th-century Earth, it's a good, fun time, mostly carried by Gervais's sense of humor. Surrogates (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0986263/">7/10</a> Bruce Willis is decent in this film about a near-future society where nearly everyone is a shut-in steering a robot around the world all day to perform all of their functions. An entertaining film as long as you don't think about it too much. Decent effects. Defendor (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1303828/">8/10</a> Woody Harrelson again, this time as a mentally challenged man who fights crime in a semi-fantasy world of his very own. His interactions with the real world are rarely rewarding, but Harrelson carries the film quite well. 9 (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472033/">5/10</a> Boring, trite story of little sack-puppet, clockwork creatures in a post-apocalyptic world (reasons pretty much unknown) who inexplicably help create a monster and then have to kill it. Overtones of Japanese anime (pieces of the soul, etc.) but pretty hackneyed and yawn-inducing. Primer (2004) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0390384/">7/10</a> Low-budget time-travel movie with a pretty interesting approach and analysis of repercussions. Much is left unsaid, many ends are left loose, but it's tantalizing and interesting. The look of the film is deliberately low-rent and somewhat overblown, giving it a suburban/strip-mall feel that makes the invention of the machine seem almost humdrum. Four Christmases (2008) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0369436/">7/10</a> I'm a sucker for Vince Vaughn, who pretty much plays himself in this film opposite Reese Witherspoon, who's also a lot of fun. The families are deliberately quirky, but also very entertaining, with Robert Duvall putting in a decent turn. Poor Reese ends up playing the free spirit laid low by her Mommy instinct, which typical Hollywood treacle, but what can you do? Moon (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1182345/">8/10</a> Interesting concept about a man alone on the moon overseeing a tritium mining operation that regularly sends tritium back to Earth to fuel its fusion reactors. After nearly three years alone, things start to get a bit strange. Pretty entertaining throughout, without too many deus ex machina thrown in. Sam Rockwell easily carries the film, which is saying something because it's pretty much a one-man show. Fred Claus (2007) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0486583/">8/10</a> Good old Vince Vaughn as Santa's brother. Need I say more? Paul Giamatti as Santa and Kevin Spacey as an efficiency expert round out the cast to make what I consider to be a very fun Christmas movie. Which is saying something. Family Guy - Something Something Dark Side (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1329665/">7/10</a> If you like Family Guy, you'll like this film. Even if you don't really like the heap of non sequiturs that comprise a typical episode, this film is pretty entertaining. Stewie as Darth Vader steals the show. JCVD (2008) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1130988/">8/10</a> Interesting meta-film about Jean Claude Van Damme as himself; that is, as a fading action star just trying to make ends meet as he loses his daughter in a custody battle. To add another layer, he's caught up in a bank robbery that's told with an interleaved series of long flashbacks. The film is mostly in French, so you'll probably need subtitles (if you understand French, Van Damme is comprehensible, but the Belgian slang of the bank robbers was impenetrable). The Expendables (2010) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1320253/">7/10</a> It's the action film of the century with <i>everybody</i> in it (except for Stephen Seagal and Jean Claude Van Damme, who thought his part wasn't meaningful enough, which is especially interesting in light of having just seen JCVD). Willis and Schwarzenegger are really only very small cameos, but Stallone is there with all of his muscles and a face that doesn't quite fit his skull, playing opposite Mickey Rourke, who has retained his look from Iron Man II and slipped into his role very well. Dolph Lundgren was surprisingly good and Jet Li was decent, but Jason Statham completely stole the show. Hands down. If you're a Statham fan or just a fan of good fight choreography, there are some lovely, lovely moves and combinations here. The Book of Eli (2010) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1037705/">7/10</a> Less than overwhelming treatment of yet-another-post-apocalyptic US of A with Denzel Washington trekking across the country. Denzel is great, as always, and plays the martial arts / master of the blade bad-ass quite well (he apparently did his own scenes, for which he was trained by Dan Inosanto). Gary Oldman was typically evil and Mila Kunis was pretty (though the conversion to bad-ass at the end was pretty trite). There was a nice trick ending, but which book it turned out to be was pretty annoying. Again, we have no idea what happened; apparently that's the new style in post-apocalysm: don't even bother explaining why everything's desolate and dusty. Capitalism: a Love Story (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1232207/">7/10</a> Michael Moore does a decent job as a journalist in this one (as he did, for the most part, in Sicko), staying really on topic and keeping the clever editing and fact cherry-picking to a minimum. For anyone who wasn't paying attention to what happened and what is still happening, this is an excellent primer that will smack of propaganda if you're still one of the fools who believes the myths force-fed to us by the powers-that-be. If you're not, and you're relatively well-read, there won't be much to surprise or inform here, but it's put together well. Clash of the Titans (2010) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800320/">6/10</a> Sam Worthington glowers around a lot, but it's kind of a fun take on the ancient Greek myths. The effects are out of this world (especially the Kraken but also Medusa is slitheringly fun), though the Gods are a little lackluster, just standing around being shiny on Mount Olympus. Neeson as Zeus is kinda falt, but Fiennes was entertaining as he chewed up the scenery as Hades. Betas the ass off the original. District 9 (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1136608/">8/10</a> Documentary-style film (at least at the beginning) about aliens that mysteriously show up and hover above Jo-burg in South Africa for two decades. As we are now accustomed, no back-story is given and we are shown the interaction between a shantytown of aliens held in check by the native humans. The parallels to the apartheid-era townships are only very vaguely suggested and racial tension among humans is completely absent, almost as if it was transferred to the human/alien barrier. A decent film with a story that's a bit of stretch, though the effects were very good (especially the alien weaponry). The Road (2009) --- <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/">4/10</a> Cormac McCarthy must be pissed. He won a Pulitzer for the book and it was made into this whiny, boring, depressing snore of a movie. Perhaps there is some subtlety to showing the utter bleakness of life in an environment blasted of all life and meaning. Perhaps. Or perhaps it's just an overly long, boring film that makes you want your 100 minutes back. </dl>