95: Real Steel (I really did watch it)

Real Steel – October 7, 2011
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Dakota Goyo
Written by: Shawn Levy
Directed by: John Gatins

The plot: “Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he’s found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father.” – IMDB (I have to say that this description is kind of shit. His kid feels like he’s found a champion and his father only agrees after he wins a few fights.)

My thoughts: So I watched Real Steel last night, much to my surprised as I remember seeing the trailer in the theater and saying “I’ll not be seeing a movie about Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” and yet there I was last night, watching Hugh Jackman virtually box for a robot.

So basically, Hugh (I’m only going to call him Hugh, not his character name) is not a good dad. The woman who gave birth to his son dies which makes him the next of kin. However, the mom’s sister really wants the kid and Hugh really needs some money (because he has to be kind of down and out and learn a lesson from the kid and all that), so much so that Hugh sells him to the kid’s uncle for 100,000 dollars. The catch is, Hugh has to keep him for the summer so the hoity toity new parents can go to Italy.

But of course, the kid is cool and after some grumbling and obvious points about how the kid and Hugh are so similar, they fix up an old sparring ‘bot and – hold on, I’m not sure you’re gonna believe this – they start winning! And on their first professional fight (in a huge ass arena) this smug little kid runs up, grabs the mic, and challenges the apparent God of robot fighting to a battle. Let me just say, he was spittin’ some whack shit.

And then Hugh Jackman gets the shit beat out of him (but not really because it’s a kid’s movie. They make sure to tell us that it’s “within an inch of his life” though, just so we understand how bad it was supposed to be.) So he makes an adult decision and brings him back to his new parents as people wish to beat him up on the reg, it seems. But then he goes back to Evangeline Lilly (who surprisingly isn’t annoying) and they smash their lips together and he realizes he made a mistake in giving the kid up a second time.

I want to mention one thing: this kid and his robot? They dance. And even though everyone in the movie is like “Oh damn! That kid and his robot got mooooves!” They don’t. I assure you. He is an 11-year-old who has no rhythm and no ability to groove in any capacity. I suffered major second-hand embarrassment every time he started dancing. I guess I shouldn’t be so critical of an 11-year-old who was hired to act, not to dance.

For being a movie about boxing robots and family stuff, it could’ve been worse. I can’t help but like Hugh Jackman as well as his muscles that have muscles. The robots were kind of cool, the backstory was believable (though the way they told us was a bit exposition-y. Kid’s movie, Kaitie. It’s a movie for kids.) and it…it had heart.

Stars: 2.5/5

88: Bellflower (yes, I finally saw it!)

Bellflower – August 5, 2011
Starring: Evan Glodell, Tyler Dawson, Jessie Wiseman, Rebekah Brandes
Written and directed by: Evan Glodell

The plot: “Two friends spend all their free time building flame-throwers and weapons of mass destruction in hopes that a global apocalypse will occur and clear the runway for their imaginary gang “Mother Medusa”.” – IMDB

My thoughts: Bellflower confused me a little bit. My main question is whether everything we saw actually happened. The movie is narratively linear and consistent for at least three quarters of the movie and then all of a sudden we’re seeing…flashbacks? Or maybe we’ve never advanced past a particular point and we’ve simply been seeing what Woodrow (which, give me a break about that name. For real?) is imagining? I lean toward the end being all in Woodrow’s mind because the end is way too crazy to be real.

I haven’t heard so many “dude’s” spoken in a movie since Dude, Where’s My Car, which was simultaneously hilarious and realistic. Even I’m guilty of frequently using the word “dude” an unnecessary amount. I guess it made the movie realistic enough – I definitely felt like I’ve met all of those people at some point in my life. I can’t say I liked those people, but they’re “real.” What wasn’t realistic to me was where in the hell are these guys getting their money to build this car?! They appeared to be living at a financial level similar to a college student, in other words, they didn’t seem to have enough money to own a place bigger than a kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. And yet, neither of the two main characters busy building flame-throwers and muscle cars appear to have a job of any sort. Which makes me hate them.

Visually, I really enjoyed the movie. The colors were gorgeous. They definitely took advantage of contrasting colors, especially black against bright backdrops and sunsets and sunrises and all of that good stuff. But where it succeeded stylistically, it fell short in overall meaning to me. I guess it was supposed to be a metaphor for a mental, personal apocalypse rather than the typical understanding of apocalypse. It was definitely about love and destruction but everything seemed to get a bit fuzzy. What relationship was the main focus? There were so many going on it was hard to tell which was the key relationship. What was I supposed to get out of the movie? Anything? I don’t really know.

All I know is that this might be an instance of awesome trailer, mediocre movie. Which is such a disappointment because I was so obviously jazzed to see this.

Stars: 2.5/5

77: Shame (or as I like to call it ‘Michael Fassbender’s Penis’)

Shame – December 2, 2011
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Written by: Abi Morgan, Steve McQueen
Directed by: Steve McQueen

The plot: “In New York City, Brandon’s carefully cultivated private life — which allows him to indulge his sexual addiction — is disrupted when his sister Sissy arrives unannounced for an indefinite stay.” – IMDB

My thoughts: This is the perfect film to take your special someone to see! It’s cute without being too fluffy, romantic without being too mushy, funny without being too try-hard-hilarious, and it’s sexy without being too controversial.

I’m completely lying. If you’ve only recently started seeing someone and you’re not trying to make it too intense so soon, don’t see Shame. This is a genuine interaction I heard while sitting in the lobby of the lovely Athena Cinema:

Guy: Hey…you haven’t seen The Artist yet, have you?
Girl: No. Why?
Guy: I uh…I heard that Shame is pretty controversial and I don’t want to be the freak guy who brings you to a porno.
Girl: HAHAHAHAHAHAH OKAY. (editor’s note: seriously, she laughed way too hard and spoke way too loudly.)

I’ll be real, I was a bit giddy about seeing Michael Fassbender in all his naked glory (honestly, were they just teasing us with keeping all the good parts in the shadows? It was just plain cruel!) but was pleasantly surprised with what a good film it was.

This is not to say that it was uplifting. Not even remotely. In fact, it was kind if dismal and made me feel especially depressed, but everything was spectacular. Carey Mulligan didn’t come off like a mousey, boring English girl. She was interesting and loud and fun (in a twisted sort of way) as Sissy. And Fassbender was perfectly tormented and ashamed (imagine, a character feeling ashamed in a movie called Shame!), while still maintaining some really human qualities that made it easy (well, easier) for the audience to sympathize with his character, Brandon.

I’m also going to warn you, Shame is probably not an ideal movie to see with a sibling or family member. Not just because of the full-frontal nudity or the graphic sex scenes but there are some incestuous undertones that definitely add some interesting, complex layers to the story but would also make for an uncomfortable two hours with a family member. However, I found such undertones to be the most important part of the film – they lend themselves to the reading of the film and some kind of understanding of Bradon and Sissy.

I personally feel that the two siblings come from some sort of terrible home life (as Mulligan’s Sissy says in the film, “We’re not bad people, we just come from a bad place,”) and because of that, they sough solace in each other. Whether or not they had sex at some point, I’m not sure. However, I think that they are in love with each other and they know it’s not right but that’s how they feel. Brandon’s sex addiction and Sissy’s depression/wild lifestyle stem from this fact.

Anyway, I highly recommend it. If you’re not comfortable with graphic sex or if Blue Valentine‘s level of depression was too much for you, Shame probably won’t be your cup of tea.

Stars: 5/5

67: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (U.S. version)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – December 20, 2011
Starring: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer,
Written by:
Directed by:

The plot: “Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker.” – IMDB

My thoughts: Okay, so I know for a fact that there are a billion reviews for this movie out because it was quite buzz-worthy. And with good reason! Point being, there are probably reviews that will be more critical of this so I’ll just do my usual spiel and let you be the judge. Like I told everyone I talked to in regard to the film, “I’m a big Fincher fan, I’m a big Daniel Craig fan, and I’m a big Trent Reznor fan,” and so really, this combination wasn’t likely to go wrong with me.

I really loved the Swedish version starring Noomi Rapace in the titular role of Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. And even though I think Rooney Mara comes off as being very vanilla in “real life”, she was excellent as Lisbeth. She was hard and messed up and perfectly weird. I really feel that she was on par with Noomi in the role and they both brought a really wonderful and distinct dynamic to the character.

However, I thought that Daniel Craig stood out to me as Mikael Blomkvist. For some reason, I don’t really recall what Mikael was like in the Swedish version. Daniel always seems so charismatic and complex in his roles (at least to me. I’m sure many would argue that. I guess I’ve just got a crush on him.)

I haven’t read the books, but as far as I understand, Fincher’s film follows the books more closely which I generally enjoyed. It ended on a much sadder, probably more realistic version which to me was appreciated as it just doesn’t seem like the kind of story where everyone gets the perfect, ideal happy ending. It’s kind of the entire point of Lisbeth.

Reznor and Atticus Ross‘s score was glorious. I love that it’s not so much that they’re creating music or songs, they create moods. I don’t know how else to describe it. I just don’t think I’d ever put on the soundtrack separately or say “Oh turn it up, I love this song.” To me, it’s kind of the epitome of what a score should be. I’d put Cliff Martinez in this category.

I really enjoyed the movie. It was kind of nice seeing it and comparing it to the Swedish version. I can’t determine which I liked more…I’ll probably have to watch the 2009 version so that Fincher’s is still fresh in my mind and I can decide. It was easily one of my favorite movies of 2011 – won’t be surprised if it comes away with a few awards throughout the year.

Stars: 5/5

64: New Year’s Eve (yes, I did.)

New Year’s Eve – December 9, 2011
Starring: Everyone. I can’t be bothered to write out everyone in this movie.
Written by: Katherine Fugate
Directed by: Garry Marshall

The plot: “The lives of several couples and singles in New York intertwine over the course of New Year’s Eve.” – IMDB

My thoughts: Why did I watch this? I don’t know. I think I just have to see some movies so that I can say whether they were really as bad or as good as everyone else said. You know, in the case that everyone is wrong!

It’s not that NYE was bad it’s just that it was super, insanely bland and painfully predictable. There isn’t much of a plot – just a bunch of couples or inevitable couples or relationships or whatever and we see their little “vignettes” (I think that’s too nice a word to be applied to this movie) for an hour-and-a-half (which you won’t get back.)

There are pregnant ladies and overbearing moms and know-it-all teenagers and rock stars and all kinds of bullshit and despite the opportunity to have a huge range of stories their all really…blah.

And worse yet? Not a single “alternative” lifestyle was shown. No gay couples and no interracial couples. Just vanilla, middle-upper class people falling in love and doing unbearably “cute” things.

Okay, sorry. Ludacris and Halle Berry were in the movie for about a millisecond. It was cancelled out by the blandness that is Katherine Heigl and Lea Michelle. And let’s be real, in the poster they look pretty fair skinned.

I don’t even want to spend analyzing any sexism/classism/whateverism that was in the movie because it just isn’t worth the effort. Bottom line: it was utnoriginal and boring and bland. I can only give it a point because some people in the cast made for nice eye candy. It didn’t make me want to jump off a cliff or anything, it just made me want to multi-task and never recommend this to anyone unless they don’t mind losing about 2 hours.

Stars: 1/5

61: Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – December 16, 2011
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Jared Harris, Rachel McAdams
Written by: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney
Directed by: Guy Ritchie

The plot: “Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their fiercest adversary, Professor Moriarty.” – IMDB

My thoughts: Here’s the thing…both times the Sherlock movies have been announced and the trailers have come out, I’ve geeked out. HARD. Because Guy Ritchie and RDJ are two things I really love in the world of movies. Sure, some might say Ritchie isn’t especially creative in his film style (and I’ll agree with that. You would never mistake his work for someone else’s) but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. And to me RDJ is just so charismatic and likable and brings such fun to his characters.

And yet, with each Sherlock movie, I’ve left feeling…I don’t know, like I have the movie blue balls? I have all these hopes and dreams for the movies and they fall just a little bit short. The plots are just a tiny bit hard to really track at times and I’m never especially enthralled with the action sequences. I guess that might make sense – it takes place in the 1890s so it’s not like you can ask for a car chase or the like.

The acting was good – truly! And Jared Harris made a pretty convincing crazy Moriarty. And having done absolutely zero research of this movie, it was a lovely surprise when Stephen Fry showed up! As always, Sherlock was brilliant and there was a nice twist at the end. RDJ was wonderfully humorous, Jude Law was perfectly glib, irritated, and begrudgingly accommodating.

And yet, I was a little bit bored. It seemed drawn out and tedious. And I hate to say it, but the movie just got me more excited for the second series of BBC’s TV-adaptation of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson which premieres on January 1st. Now that shit delivers.

Still, I love thee RDJ and Guy!

Stars: 3/5

60: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – December 21, 2011
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton,
Written by: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec
Directed by: Brad Bird

The plot: “The IMF is shut down when it’s implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, causing Ethan Hunt and his new team to go rogue to clear their organization’s name.” – IMDB

My thoughts: Admittedly, I’m a sucker for the MI franchise. I can’t help but enjoy the, well, “impossible” stunts and action sequences. And yes, I even enjoy Tom Cruise in it. Hey! He might be a little wonky and a Scientologist, but his acting? That I do not hate. And this sucker got a super fresh rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, so how could I say no?

In terms of action, combat, and weapons – awesome. Cruise hanging off of the tallest building in the world by a mere glove? Ridiculously good. The gizmos and gadgets – bitchin’. The screen that visually simulates whatever lies behind it and alters itself based on the pair of human eyes looking at it? Whaaaaat! And of course, the witty bits of humor and dialogue – pitch perfect. The opening scene is classic MI, both exciting and humorous.

And while it was undeniably enjoyable, it wasn’t as totally, super awesome, can’t wait to see it again good. It was visually more gorgeous than the previous three films, but the actual plot was just a little bit overdone and not the thrill that could have come with a much anticipated installment in a popular series.

However it did really get some things right – those things being the entire backstory with Ethan Hunt and his wife (Michelle Monaghan) from the third movie. It would have been easy (though very annoying) to just wave that plot off and have him get it with Paula Patton. Instead, their story was told in a smart, clever way that brought everything full circle.

There was also no shortage of clever plots and ploys to get what they needed without being found out – the hotel switcher-oo!

I don’t want to give away too much since it literally just came out today. It was enjoyable – absolutely. It wasn’t above and beyond amazing, but it was right on par with the MI franchise and far as I’m concerned. Cool, entertaining, mysterious, and full of action. Just what any sane person wants from Mission Impossible.

Stars: 4/5