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Short Takes – Fall Movie Division

A quick rundown on some of the movies I’ve seen in this fall. Short takes inspired by the Movie Blog method.

The Master – Impressive performances from the two main actors (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix), and a very scary and intense Amy Adams. This one offers lots of fodder for film school discussions, parsing symbolism etc., but the further away I get from it, the more its initial impact fades for me.

Seven Psychopaths – Despite a great movie-stealing performance by Sam Rockwell, this one struck me as half-baked, with some scenes that work and others just not quite gelling. There are some funny lines, and some very clever meta stuff, but merely having a character acknowledge the awful treatment of female characters in movies such as this one does not absolve you of trying to actually do better on that score. Even with a great Christopher Walken turn, this one doesn’t quite come together.

Looper – Loved it. It’s fun, tense, with great attention to detail in set design and look, and fabulous secondary characters. There are real stakes, difficult moral questions, and a very innovative use of time travel. Highly recommended.

Argo – Seems to be widely considered a favorite. It’s a solid piece of entertainment, fun and tense in all the right places.

End of Watch – I could have kept watching Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena for several more hours.  Fantastic character work, which looks effortless but packs a punch; these guys seem like real people, and the movie takes its time to build the world they inhabit.

Pitch Perfect – This movie delivered exactly what I wanted from it. So much fun. Plus, college a capella. Just put this one on your rental list already.

B Movie Triple Shot

The Bay (2012) – I was surprised to learn this one was directed by Barry Levinson of Rain Man, Bugsy, Sleepers, etc. A bit of a departure for him. Quite disturbing, with moments that made me jump. Great use of “found” footage, with a skillful building of tension. Be lured by the extremely effective trailer, stay for the knowledge that this started as a documentary. 40% of the Chesapeake Bay is a dead zone!

Attack the Block (2011) – A great B movie. Tight story, an unusual setting for an alien invasion story (South London council housing block), good acting. Very entertaining, although the special effect aliens might not work for everyone. Still, a satisfying watch, and it’s only 88 minutes of your time. Well worth it. Note: You might want to have the subtitles on if you have problems catching British working class accents and idioms.

Horror House on Highway 5 (1985) – If you can gets this on DVD, it’s the perfect Bad Movie night feature. Watch this with a group of witty friends and make your own Mystery Science Theater 3000 experience. Amateur acting, no plot to speak of, terrible dialog, plus vague demonic Germanic rituals and a tenuous connection to Nazi stuff. Features predictable deaths (watch out for that rake!) and barely-defined characters like The Pothead, The Tough Guy, The Housewife, and Dr. Mabuse. If you retain any sense of humor and the absurd, you really can’t go wrong with this one.

Dear Academy

My, how time flies. Although, not so much when you’re watching the Oscars. Every year, I tell myself that it’s really not necessary for me to actually watch the Academy Awards, that the show is boring, too long, not really that important, and half the time they get it wrong anyway. And every year, I find myself staggering bleary-eyed into work on Monday morning after a very late Sunday night spent groaning at the TV. This year, same thing. I am still tired and my eyes are like sandpaper, thanks to the endless, endless show. And my apparent compulsion to watch it, even when I totally disagree with the results and am bored by all those montages and songs. Those songs. Dear John. Continue reading