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Recent Movie Round-Up 2/10/2013

Too many movies to list! TOO MANY! MOVIES!

#21 – The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)

The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: ‘The Wrestler’

Part 4 of my Darren Aronofsky Retrospective can be read on Movie Mezzanine by clicking on this smexy link.

#22 – Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004)

Cate Shortland’s debut feature is a lovely, provocative character study on a young girl’s sexual awakening, and tying it all together is a wonderful debut performance from Abbie Cornish. What’s most surprising however is that Sam Worthington is in this movie and he isn’t a boring scrap of blandness. Hooray for nice surprises!

#23 – Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (George Hickenlooper, 1991)

Hearts of Darkness is without a doubt the best documentary about the filmmaking process, not only because of how much access the documentarians had to behind-the-scenes video and interviews with the director, cast, and crew of Apocalypse Now, but because of how it miraculously mirrors the struggles of the main character of both the film and the source material it’s based on.

#24 – Lore (Cate Shortland, 2013)

<i>Lore:</i> A Nation Divided; A Woman Torn

I wrote a review about Cate Shortland’s WWII film Lore on Movie Mezzanine. You can read it here.

#25 – Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Because fuck you, it’s Robocop.

#26 – John Dies at the End (Don Coscarelli, 2013)

Here’s a weird one. John Dies at the End is a ludicrous, strange, off-beat film that goes through parallel dimensions, hallucinogenic drugs, psychic abilities, talking dogs, chest slugs, elder gods, and the like. It’s also fun as hell. Don Coscarelli (Director of Bubba Ho-Tep) goes through all these strange twists and turns with ease, while providing a surplus of wit and humor thanks to wonderfully charismatic lead performances from Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes. That being said, the movie starts out expertly-paced for its first half only to really rush things in the second half. Based on a book of the same name, you can tell that it’s just going through the motions and crams a bit too much ideas into the latter half of the film and the whole thing loses its luster as a result. But even at its worst, John Dies at the End is simply a ton of fun, and I had a blast watching it.

#27 – Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)

One of my favorite films of all time, Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven is one of the most beautiful, poetic, and heart-breaking films ever created. Not just because of the astounding cinematography from Nestor Almendros, but because of how exquisitely it melds together all its themes. Malick is a guy who simply knows how to convey the subtlest of human emotions, and here, the heartache of forever saying goodbye to a paradise you’ve loved is devastating to watch. Simply put, Malick can do no wrong.

#28 – Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine, 2013)

Warm Bodies may be the first adaptation of a young-adult novel (a la Twilight) to be actually good. In fact, it’s kinda more than good. Warm Bodies is unabashedly sweet, romantic, optimistic, and adorable; each of those words never fitting the usual zombie-apocalypse genre. The oddball premise is approached with as much sincerity as humanly possible, creating a film that just perks you up when it’s over. The characters are all well-rounded, the film commits to its ludicrous premise, and the performances just sell it all.

#29 – Bullet to the Head (Walter Hill, 2013)

Described as an “anti-buddy” movie, Bullet to the Head is a strange sort of action film. It’s a buddy movie where the buddy-aspect never coheres into anything, an action film where almost everyone–even the protagonist–is reprehensible in a way, and the movie doesn’t shy away from it either. I really don’t know what to make of this film. It’s not bad by any means, but it leaves a lot to be desired because of just how it constantly resist the urge to be traditionally likable. I dunno whether to recommend it or not, that is unless you’re a die-hard Stallone fan, in which case, this will most definitely do the job.

#30 – Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

The Darren Aronofsky Retrospective: <i>Black Swan</i>

Black Swan is a modern masterpiece of a film. So much so that I wrote a whole analysis on it. I conclude my Darren Aronofsky Retrospective with a look at the Oscar-nominated ballet-thriller on Movie Mezzanine. Click this sexy link to read it.

#31 – Identity Thief (Seth Gordon, 2013)

Ugh, don’t even get me started on this one. Identity Thief is really bad. A shameless amalgamation of Midnight RunPlanes Trains and Automobiles, and the comedy stylings of Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, the film is hardly funny at all, and worst of all, the relationship feels utterly forced. McCarthy tries her damnedest, but she’s given a role that doesn’t do her justice. The character she plays here is absolutely reprehensible to the point of no redemption, being rude, crude, obnoxious, and just a downright awful person to be around. But what’s even worse is the film’s attempts to humanize her with some of the most unearned, laziest tonal shifts I’ve seen in a film, comedy or otherwise. We’ll see McCarthy performing abhorrent acts and behavior, yet the next scene will show her crying in a corner so we could feel sorry for her. Then we get treated to a slice of backstory that feels totally genuine because of McCarthy’s fantastic delivery, but it’s absolutely unearned and totally unfitting because it contradicts everything that came before the film.

All in all, McCarthy deserves better than this. I’m glad that she’s become a big comedy star thanks to Bridesmaids, and she deserved success for being in a good film such as that. But for this? Skip it. Skip it like you mean it.

#32 – Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)

Side Effects, which Steven Soderbergh has declared his last film before retiring from directing, is the best kind of thriller. Adult, intelligent, unsettling, eerie, and fascinating…at least for the first three quarters. This is a problem that I always have with thrillers that desperately try to come up with a twist ending. Without giving anything away, the movie ends with the kind of revelation that completely contradicts everything we’ve seen before rather than reinforce it. This ostensibly means that Soderbergh and the writer pretty much had to lie to the audience in order to keep its twist ending, and it doesn’t make a lick of logical sense upon retrospect because of it. It’s a damn shame because the central storyline was so interesting–that of a medication that leads to sinister side-effects–that it deserved a better resolution than that.

That being said, this is still a recommendation. It’s interesting and well-acted enough, especially from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo‘s Rooney Mara and Jude Law at the center, and well-directed enough to make for a good time at the movies. Hell, it’s worth it just for one sequence involving a knife that had the entire theater gasping in shock. Not great, but a pretty good send-off for Soderbergh’s career.

#33 – Warm Bodies (Jonathan Levine, 2013)

Yes I saw it a second time, shut up!

Follow me on Twitter @CGRunyon, and don’t forget to read more of my material at Movie Mezzanine, including a list of my 20 Most Anticipated Films from the Sundance Festival. Have fun.

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