The following are mini-reviews of all of the post-1970 films viewed in March that won’t be getting full reviews on TMP. This will be the new standard format on TMP for reviews of post-1970 films (with the exception of period films, which get full reviews), replacing the Reviews in a Line or Two series and replacing my experiment in including the reviews in the montly wrap-up last month.
The Love Letter (1999) – Random pick from the library during the dreaded week of illness, selected by my mom. I can see myself adding this one to my collection. It’s got a wonderful, quirky sense of humor that sets it apart from typical rom-com-dram fare. ****
Scoop (2006) – I’m working my way through Woody’s films, and while I’ve loved most of them I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. I’ve heard a few fellow Allen fans refer to it as one of his worst films, but I went in with high hopes regardless and was impressed! Allen himself is hilarious in this film, and the mix of mystery plot with supernatural elements (a journalist returning from the grave to dole out journalistic advice!) is great. *****!
Young @ Heart (2007) – I’m not the type to cry during films, but this documentary got a few tears out of me! It follows a chorus group made of elderly people who perform covers of songs from unexpected genres, punk included. Equal parts heartfelt, fun and heartbreaking, Young @ Heart is the best post-’70 discovery I’ve made in a while. *****!
Your Sister’s Sister (2011) – This one was a complete dud. I was on a bit of an Emily Blunt kick at the beginning of the month (by chance rather than by choice), and this was my least favorite of the films I watched from her filmography. As hard as they tried to make us care about the characters, the portrayals seemed dishonest to me. On top of that, the film was completely predictable (despite their attempt at a unique ending) and the cast had little to no chemistry. *
New Year’s Eve (2011) – Another dud, but an expected one. Garry Marshall, I was rooting for you! I love his television work and some of his films, but this one’s even worse than its predecessor, Valentine’s Day. *
Bug (2002) – Aaaaand here we have another dud! This one tries too hard to be a special snowflake. It’s got characters that really want to be oddballs and gags that really want to be funny, but in the midst of all of that trying, the film forgets to give the audience a reason to be invested in a single one of its characters or story lines. *
This is What Democracy Looks Like (2000) – This is an interesting documentary utilizing footage shot by protestors themselves. It won’t tell you anything you didn’t already know unless you’re completely unfamiliar with the particular protest it shows, but it does stir up a bit of activist spirit in the viewer. ***
Keeping Mum (2005) – This one serves up everything you’d expect from a British dark comedy. I’m a big fan of the genre, so I enjoyed this one quite a bit though I could see most of the twists coming from a mile away. It’s also a very stylish film visually. ***
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – I have no excuse for not having seen this until last month. I bought it blind at Target due to its reputation for being one of the greats, and it is truly great. Tim Robbins is fantastic. *****
Julie & Julia (2009) – I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, but found Amy Adams’ character to be completely insufferable. I wish the whole film had been focused on Julia and her husband — that half of the film was so much better than watching whiny Julie and her blog. ** and a half
Elizabethtown (2005) – This is another one that I enjoyed more than I thought I would, though I didn’t understand the appeal of Kirsten Dunst’s character. To me it just seemed like she was inserting herself into his life far too forcefully. Somewhat stalker-y and extremely self-centered, she managed to make everything about herself, which made me want to strangle her throughout 90% of the film. It also really bugged me that they never explained what the defect of the shoe was. The failure of the shoe was just a device to give Orlando Bloom’s character a reason to be double-mopey, but I still wanted an explanation! ** and a half
Take Me Home Tonight (2011) – I expected more from this since it came from the writers of That ’70s Show, but at the same time it was far less stupid than I expected it to be based on the trailers. Not all of the comedy suited my taste, but I’ve got to give it credit for being better than many of the other comedy/rom-com releases of recent years. ** and a half
Half Light (2006) – Half Light is a middle of the road film in every sense of the word. The performances are neither good nor bad. It’s a little corny, but not corny enough to be the good type of corny. The script is somewhat predictable, the pace is moderate. If this film was a color it would be a slightly darker variation of beige. **
Irresistible (2006) – This film delivered a few unexpected turns of events, and I love Susan Sarandon, but it wasn’t a phenomenal thriller. It improved as it progressed but it never reached its potential for creep factor. **
Ed Gein (2001) also known as In the Light of the Moon – This was one of my favorite “Hey sister, let’s watch a random Netflix Instant movie together” discovers of the month. Though the pace is slow and some of the supporting performances aren’t exactly top-notch quality, I appreciate the fact that the film doesn’t take a super-gore angle on the familiar, horrifying story of Ed Gein. Steve Railsback gives a phenomenal and seriously chilling performance as the title character. He gives the film such an unsettling tone that there’s no need for over-the-top shocks. *** and a half
Admission (2013) – I thought the trailer for this looked horrible, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the film as a whole was not. It wasn’t a stellar film by any means and the marketing campaign made the mistake of pushing it as a comedy, but I enjoyed watching it. While lacking in big laughs, the film is humorous and took a few turns I wasn’t expecting from it based on my low expectations/limited knowledge of the plot beforehand. ***
Session 9 (2001) – This is a slow starter, but an incredibly effective psychological thriller when all is said and done. It stuck with me for quite a while after watching, and it was incredibly unpredictable. Up until the final couple of scenes, I was misinterpreting the entire thing… which is exactly what should happen when watching a film with a mysterious plot! Kudos to Brad Anderson for being able to go from one of my favorite romantic “dramedy” films, Happy Accidents, to such a fascinating little horror film. *** and a half
Silent House (2011) – I’m on the fence about this one. It’s shot in “continuous take” style, so it appears to be in “real time,” following every move of Elizabeth Olsen’s character. I liked the use of this style a lot and thought it was pretty successful, but the film lost a lot of steam as it progressed, and the ending itself was a letdown. ** and a half
Fingerprints (2006) – This film is a total riot. I wish I’d had my notebook handy while watching so I could’ve done a Classics of the Corn post on it. (I may have to re-watch it just for that purpose.) It’s three of my favorite things: cheesy as hell, incredibly overdramatic and available on Netflix Instant! Corny Cliff Scale Score: ****
Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013) – Man oh man, is this film a mess. My sister and I both saw the two “twists” coming from miles away, and the ending made the film come off as more of a PSA for fidelity than an honest exploration of infidelity and marriage. I will give it props for being incredibly fun to watch in a theater with a very vocal audience. We derived as much entertainment from our fellow movie-goers (who were shocked by the “twists” and had snarky comments ready to be fired at every character) as we did from the film itself, if not more. **
American Loser (2007) – Not a great one. Sean William Scott gives a better performance than I would have expected him to based on the other films I’ve seen him in and the pace is decent, but not much else works in the film’s favor. Skip this one. *