Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Still Breathless: The Final Weeks

This late in the year, the original Fall Preview post gets a little tricky to read, with all the grades and the font colors, and the "passes." Plus, it helps to see light at the end of the yearly tunnel and to know exactly how much you have to look forward to (or not) before you can officially tie a bow on 2010. In the months since drafting that first list, some of my reservations have been cheerfully dispelled, some of my optimisms have cooled, and some titles have become such awards-circuit inevitabilities that I h-h-h-have to s-s-see them even if I d-d-d-d-don't want to. So, preserving our Madonnarific categories, here are all the remaining films for which I'm still "like a virgin."

EROTICA
Closed category. After the sublime White Material, I'm not panting for anything.

LIKE A PRAYER
Blue Valentine A - Gosling and Williams meet sky-high hopes in vivid, deft film
Carlos B+ - Opaque politics, indulgent length, but still a lot to chew on and savor

LOVE PROFUSION
Another Year B - Odd courting of cliché and rude moralism, but intriguing layers
Burlesque B– - Such pop flair, so damn amiable and dopey, you forgive a host of sins
The Illusionist B - Single frames and sum effect entrance; less satisfying scene by scene
Samson and Delilah Drat! - Held up with work on the only two nights it showed
Tiny Furniture C– - Signs of promise drowned in flat writing, overwhelming narcissism

GIVE IT 2 ME
Boxing Gym Drat! - Getting ever further off my game. This darn day job!
The Fighter B+ - Actors all click, but vital, resonant direction really sells it
Love and Other Drugs D+ - Glimmers of hope snuffed by very narcissism film critiques
Night Catches Us B/B– - Slow to find story and footing, but bristles with complex ideas
The Way Back B– - Aptly sobering, but chatty screenplay intrudes, structure flags

PROMISE TO TRY
Country Strong - I like the full-on push Gwyneth is giving, even if it's iffy
Fair Game B/B– - Strong first half compensates for patchy, off-topic dénouement
Frankie and Alice - Halle's Country Strong? Vanity project, but anti-typecasting
The King's Speech C– - Ill shot, poorly written; good perfs not enough to redeem flaws
Somewhere C - Even airier than usual for Coppola, as in, it barely exists
True Grit B– - Kinda sweet, pretty cold, mostly handsome, acted okay, quite dull

SOONER OR LATER
Helena from the Wedding Drat! - Badly timed one-week run; sorry to have missed this
How Do You Know Pass - I didn't even read reviews, but I gather they were ...not good
Leaving Drat! - Same four-day run as Helena, same problems catching it
Made in Dagenham C+ - Satisfying story, but filmmaking below par. Hawkins a plus.
Nowhere Boy C - Some tart images, but too shellacked, lacking in stakes
Vision Drat! - Now only playing in the northern suburbs. That settles that.

JUSTIFY MY LOVE
Biutiful - I'm all but dreading this, but hopefully the actors do some triage
The Tempest - Boy has this gotten clobbered, but I can't help seeing for myself
The Tourist Pass - Reviews confirm my worst suspicions about plotting and casting
Unstoppable - Who knew the critics would be so jazzed and generous?

BORDERLINE
All Good Things - Early notices are poisonous; wisps of curiosity linger
Barney's Version - Guy was gently admiring at Venice, but is it my cuppa?
The Company Men - Trailer has some charm, and I'm pro-Ben at the moment
TRON: Legacy Pass - Just doesn't sound fun or impressive enough to make time for
Welcome to the Rileys Drat! - Spent a couple weeks in Chicago, but I didn't make it

LOVE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
Casino Jack Pass - If the script couldn't attract bigger talent than Kelly Preston...
Tangled B– - Tender, funny second half elevates what is maladroit and off-putting in first

SOMETHING TO REMEMBER
(Rental Possibilities)
City Island B–/C+ - Clunkily shot and written, but quite charming; good use of actors
The Disappearance of Alice Creed C - Stylishly shot but unedifyingly lurid
Going the Distance B/B– - In its modest way, manages good jokes and plausible layers
Legendary C/C– - Unrepentantly stock, even clunky, but actors save enough of it
Sweetgrass B/B+ - Casually majestic but thin until late-film outpourings of inner strain
Ajami, Cell 211, Leaves of Grass, Soul Kitchen, Spring Fever

I'M SO STUPID
(Wish I hadn't missed these)
Enter the Void, Last Train Home

RESCUE ME
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Due Date, Faster, Gulliver's Travels, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Little Fockers, The Warrior's Way, Yogi Bear

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8 Comments:

Blogger RJ said...

Last Train Home is really quite great.

Soul Kitchen is, unfortunately, pretty much a total failure as a comedy.

4:00 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger GlenH said...

I'm feeling exactly the same way about "Last Train Home" (Thanks RJ! ;)). I ended up skipping it in the middle of a festival to catch up on sleep and I've been regretting it ever since - particularly since I caught "We Are What We Are" instead and it's nothing to write home about.

I enjoyed the Illusionist. I feel the slapstick translates well to animation and it does a good job of being warm without being sentimental.

I'm less high on Carlos. Not a big fan of the first part which feels very familiar and doesn't (for me anyway) distinguish Carlos from any other film terrorist. But I found the last two parts - were Carlos and the geopolitics he's playing with start to really interact - to be fascinating.

I've seen Samson and Delilah and Blue Valentine as well and like both well enough without really being able to say why. I think the latter does a good job of implying the ways in which their original relationship led to their current one without being too deterministic about it.

4:26 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

I'm not sure if this will sway your opinion one way or the other, but Scott Feinberg, not exactly the hardest person to please (no offense!), slammed Barney's Version on his website.

http://scottfeinberg.com/barneys-version-needs-a-2-0

Normally one man's opinion wouldn't completely sway my desire to see a film or not, but his review confirms nearly every reservation I had upon watching the trailer.

8:43 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@RJ: I actually had to leave Last Train Home about halfway through, if you can believe it, so I'm especially mad at myself for not having seized a chance to finish it out. But you might have just saved me more than an hour on public transport to go see Soul Kitchen.

@Glen: Thanks for these impressions! I had to bail on a festival ticket to see We Are What We Are, so I'm glad to know I didn't miss a total gem. Always glad to have more reader impressions to compare once I do get 'round to seeing something.

@Robert: Yikes. This is, indeed, exactly what I'd been worried about, and seeing the trailer again today at Monsters didn't help. But, Guy did find some value in it, and especially in Pike's performance, which Feinberg seems to admire, too. Fingers crossed. (Meanwhile, thanks for standing up for me elsewhere on the web today, even if I probably only have myself to blame in that instance. I meant the core of what I said but overstepped in expressing it, and I ought to have known based on an earlier conversation that it wouldn't sit well with the addressee. Won't make that mistake again.)

9:37 PM, November 21, 2010  
Blogger Colin Low said...

We had Another Year for a special one-night screening at Doc last week, and I couldn't be happier for my first Mike Leigh experience. A gem ensemble, vanguarded by a startlingly sour cameo by Imelda Staunton, and I loved the warmth, comic timing and quiet strength of Broadbent and Sheen as the couple around which the plot pivots, even if their roles might not be individually "award-worthy" (oops, there's that bugbear again). Karina Fernandez, too, steals in some hilarious physical improv near the end. If I have any objections to the film, it's in how it treats Lesley Manville's lead in a similarly hyperbolized, inevitably season-structured manner as Ellen Burstyn's character in Requiem for a Dream. But that really is a minor gripe, given the humanist attention which Leigh lavishes onto pretty much every character. Nick, I look forward to your response when you finally see it!

In other heartening news, both White Material and The Illusionist are coming down to Doc next quarter. Really looking forward to those (as well as Easy A, for Stone). I'm trying to pull our programming chair's leg to get Bong's Mother, too, so fingers crossed. =)

(P.S. It's probably an embarrassing sign of how much I read this blog that I managed to suss out from the admirably reserved comments above just where this incident happened. I'll just note that I thought you guys resolved it classily.)

12:26 AM, November 22, 2010  
Blogger Alex in Movieland said...

I've seen AJAMI at the beginning of this year and I kinda really liked it. I thought the screenplay worked well and it was maybe everything that Crash should've been plotwise.

but then again, I think Kris Tapley hated it, so... it depends :)

4:45 AM, November 22, 2010  
Blogger James T said...

Why the lack of anticipation for "Tangled"? I didn't like the trailer at all but everyone says it is much better than that and actually quite good per se. And sometimes I agree with "everyone". You know, except for Avatar, Up In The Air, The Social Network (not bad, this one) etc :p

I assume you really want August: Osage County (the movie) to be great because I see no reason for you to find charm in The Company Men trailer unless you need something to help you hope Wells has what it takes ;)

Seriously, though, I thought it was trying to imitate that "Every Oscar movie" (or something like that) spoof video. So many cliches in so little time!

I always ask you about the performances so I'll hold back this time and not beg you to say something about Huppert in White Material (Colin, that doesn't apply to you when you see it :p). I assume she is a contender for a nicksflickpicks honor so I'll wait until then. (That seemed like a sneaky comment but it wasn't. I meant it)

And since I like all the film writers I admire to be on good terms with each other, I'm with Colin on how you handled it.

If there was a prize for risky commentary at Santa Streizand festival, you'd get it :p

6:18 AM, November 22, 2010  
Anonymous Drew said...

I was really disappointed that you skipped out on Enter the Void because I was dying to read your take on it. I'm excited to see that you're giving it another chance.

2:24 PM, November 22, 2010  

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