Here is the latest in a series of posts I have been doing on movie rentals or video rentals from my Netflix queue. You can read the first in the series right here, and the follow up post here. These write-ups cover the most recent movies I have seen from the DVD rental service, in order of which I saw them. They cover a spectrum of films, both in my instant watch activity as well as straight random and new movie rentals to my home. You will indeed find spoilers in these write ups, so be forewarned. These are mini-reviews of sorts, that include the star rating I submitted to Netflix, based on their somewhat flawed, IMO, 5-star rating system. Enjoy.
Youth In Revolt (2010)
This Michael Cera led film had an intriguing trailer, though I have not traditionally been a fan of his, I took the plunge. I can’t say that I was particularly rewarded for doing so, but the movie where Cera’s Nick creates an alternative law-breaking, risk-taking persona, Francois, in order to impress a girl had its moments. The small town Nick is a desperate loner so Francois easily becomes the real star. He eggs on Nick to do malicious things, which eventually catch up to him, all in the name of love. Miguel Arteta’s direction hinted at Wes Anderson’s style with a welcome whimsical, is it real or not, presentation of situations on screen. This was mildly entertaining, but nothing worth writing home about, so instead I write for you. 3 out of 5 stars.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
Its been years since I saw the Harry Hamlin original as a youngster, but cheesily fond memories made me show interest in this remake. Sam Worthington stars as an otherwise forgettable hero, who is caught in a war with the Gods in order to save civilization (or something along those lines). The storyline was irrelevant, as the special effects were the show. Impressive as they were, this obviously lacked depth and was predictable. Louis Letterier handled the direction capably for the most part, which was a a bit of a surprise considering the bashing I have seen him take. Liam Neeson’s “release the Kraken” was the most memorable line (although it seemed better in the trailer). I was able to accept this as mindless entertainment at home, but it wasn’t worthy of my hard-earned dollar in the theater. Perhaps its sequel, which is to be shot in 3D from start to finish (unlike this versions add-on in post), might improve on this film. Who knows? 3 out of 5 stars.
What Doesn’t Kill You (2009)
Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke star as friends who grew up together in a life of crime. When they get busted, one of them wants to go straight and the other, not so much. Based on a true story and directed by Brian Goodman, who has a role in the film as well. Ruffalo plays Brian. A little unevenly paced and shot, but still a reasonably touching film with decent performances from the leads as well as Amanda Peet as Brian’s wife. The film is about the power of overcoming self-created obstacles and making “the right” decisions. The film is a little above average and the tale is something that most all can relate to. 3 out of 5 stars.
This thriller starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore in a troubled marriage was a bit out there. Cue young, temptress Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to stir the pot. I thought Seyfried did a good job; I’d never seen the rising star act before. Additionally, I’d eard of Atom Egoyan, but never seen a film he’d directed. This one was very much a Fatal Attraction wannabe. The film had a strange tone, one in which once you got the gist of what was happening, you could see the outcome from a mile away. If you like sex, Seyfried, and/or twisted thrillers, this might be up your alley. I wanted to like this more than I did. Egoyan’s direction was very reserved and a little unsettling at times, to ratchet up the drama, but there wasn’t enough originality or “meat on the bones” so to speak, for me to recommend this. 2 out of 5 stars.
Those that know me know that my Netflix queue is getting stretched when I end up reaching for an animated film. Still, I had some interest in this off-beat animated film about some weird dudes in a post-apocalyptic world. Though I had seen the original, award-winning short film, there wasn’t much additional to see here overall. I just can’t seem to get emotionally invested in animated creatures and this standard tale of fighting for their lives and fighting to be alive was no different. Decent animation I suppose, but nothing I would go back to again. Watch it “high” and you might enjoy it more. 2 out of 5 stars
Body Of Lies (2008)
Russell Crowe is a dweeby, political CIA man stationed in the US, with Leonardo DiCaprio his rogue CIA agent stationed internationally doing all the dirty work. You know, putting his life on the line, getting involved emotionally with the locals, etc., while Crowe chats him up in deep-seeded discussions as he tends to his domestic family life as if nothing serious is going on. An interesting juxtaposition between the two characters, but the film never really takes off. Leo does his best to captivate and Crowe makes his straight man as smarmy as can be, but I can understand why it wasn’t much of a crowd-pleaser. It was just sort of flat and uninventive overall. Ridley Scott is failing to move me as a director much anymore. I wonder if he has lost his touch (and I think he might have). He needs to call up Boogie Nights-era Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly to get that touch back. This was an average affair, I’d give it 2.5 if I could. It ended rather blandly and was quite talky for a supposed action director. 3 out of 5 stars
Facing Ali (2009)
Documentary, as the title states, of boxers recounting their stories of when they fought Muhammad Ali. Ten men, including Larry Holmes, Ken Norton, Ernie Shavers, and George Foreman chime in on the champ. Boxing fans will love it, as it is a bit of history wrapped into a strong package. I am a fight fan and learned a lot about the history of some of these fights, the stories of the challengers and their feelings for what Ali meant to them and their careers. Good info, surprisingly touching, without a hint of bitterness from any of the fighters. Not tons of actual fight footage, similar to Tyson in that regard, but just the boxers describing Ali in their own words. A portrayal of the brutality of the sport (very different though from the likes of After The Last Round) as evidenced by where some of these men are now, but also the gratitude that the sport owes and shows Ali. A worthy companion piece to any number of Ali-related films that are out there in the pantheon such as Michael Mann’s Ali, the also very good When We Were Kings and Thrilla In Manila. 4 out of 5 stars.
Me and Orson Welles (2008)
A somewhat entertaining period piece about Orson Welles (a strong Christian McKay) directing a play that stars Zac Efron. This moved about fine, was paced okay, mixed in a coming of age tale for Efron’s Richard, and essentially broke no new ground. Richard Linklater directs in a straight-forward manner and Claire Danes co-stars to add a little “star-power” to this tale. No laughing, no crying, no real emotion. I thought it might be a little better than it was, but my watching this shows that my queue is nearing the end of the line, as there were several other films I would have seen but they were all rented out. 2 out of 5 stars.
Robin Hood (2010)
Have you seen Gladiator? Have you seen Braveheart? What about Kingdom of Heaven? Rob Roy? If you have seen any of these, then you have essentially seen Robin Hood, Ridley Scott’s latest period action epic. There is very little action to be had in this Russell Crowe/Cate Blanchett vehicle though. It is really just a tale where we follow around the main character as he acts out his destiny, falls in love, and fights for his new freinds/family/town. I would have rated it higher if I cared at all, or at least if I could understand the characters through their usual 12th century Hollywood talk. I think it would have been better off if if stuck with its original movie title of Nottingham. It was all so…bland. It’s no wonder it didn’t do well in theaters; its long and it offers nothing new. 2 out of 5 stars.