Movie Review Catch-up

I’ve been making some changes in how I’m going to pursue this reviewing hobby of mine, starting with where my reviews will be posted, and where they won’t (besides here, of course). Another big change I’ve decided to make for this year is what I’ll be reviewing. In the past, I made a point of reviewing every movie I saw from the current year (i.e., if I saw a 2007 film in 2007, in theatre or on DVD, I tried to review it). This has become an unmanageable pace for me, particularly at the end of the year as I cram to get movies in for my year end lists and Andy Movie Awards posts.

As a result, I often feel like I have a big backlog of movies I “have” to review, which is a little silly, I know. My bigger concern is my desire to review all recent-ish movies has kept me from doing other sorts of posts, like TV or music reviews, older movies, or lists I’ve had bubbling in my head. So from now on, I’ll be doing fewer movie reviews, but hopefully more other kinds of posts, which should be fun for me (which is what this is all about, after all).

That said, the biggest reason I made a point of reviewing newish movies is that it’s the area that I think most people are most interested in reading my opinion of. If a movie is still in theatres or new to DVD, people may be interested in what I thought of it, so they can decide whether or not they want to see (that is, if they’re interested in my opinion of anything. I’ll assume some people are, otherwise, I’ll assume no one is reading this). To that end, periodically I’m going to do movie review catch-up posts, where I do mini-reviews for a handful of recent movies that I never got around to reviewing. These mini-reviews will basically be a paragraph of opinion that will mostly be summary-less, with an assigned score. I think this will be a good solution for movies I don’t have a whole lot to say about, but still have a bit of an opinion of. Sound good?

Read on for reviews of:
Be Kind Rewind (2008) 
Black Book (2007)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Lust, Caution (2007)
Persepolis (2007)

What's that thing they're flying on?

Be Kind Rewind (2008) 

Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz

Directed by: Michel Gondry

I had big hopes from this one going from the trailer, but was slightly let down by the final product. The best part of the movie were the films within the film, which were funny and inventive. Sadly, the film itself wasn’t as compelling when Jack Black and Mos Def weren’t riffing on something like Ghostbusters or Rush Hour 2. After this and The Science of Sleep, I’ve come to the conclusion that while Michel Gondry is a gifted visual filmmaker, he isn’t as strong a screenwriter, and the movie suffers for it. Also, the rest of the movie was as shambolic as the films within it, which on one hand fit with the theme, but on the other made the whole movie feel sloppy and poorly improvised. Still, the movie has an undeniable charm, making it worth a rental or TV viewing.


Requisite Nazi foreign language film.

Black Book (2007)

Starring: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, Derek de Lint, Christian Berkel, Dolf de Vries

Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Not interested in foreign films? How about one filled with espionage, gunfights, explosions, and sex from the guy who did Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct, and Robocop? Does it interest you now? Paul Verhoeven made a gorgeous-looking film that is pure entertainment, filled with his standard melodrama without being ridiculous. At times it dangles on the edge of ridiculousness, but star Carice van Houten keeps it from going over the edge with her strong performance, among the best leading actress roles in the past few years.


I think this is as close as he ever came to her box.

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Kelli Garner, Paul Schneider

Directed by: Craig Gillespie

I went into this movie expecting another indie quirkfest, the sort that I’ve more than had my fill of over the past few years. Instead, I got a sweet little movie closer to Frank Capra than Wes Anderson. It’s quirky for sure, but it almost completely eschews the irony that strangles a lot of indie comedies in favour of genuine heart. Ryan Gosling got all the attention for this movie (well, as much as this movie got any attention), and he is solid here. But the true appeal of the movie lies with Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider, whose considerate reaction to Lars bizarre behaviour sets the tone for the movie, making it less a movie about a guy and the sex doll he thinks is real, and more a movie about family and community.


Feel the lust!

Lust, Caution (2007)

Starring: Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Joan Chen, Wang Lee Hom

Directed by: Ang Lee

This is the second WWII sexy spy foreign language movie I watched recently, and the one that got the most attention, due to its director and its NC-17 rating in America. It’s also easily the less remarkable of the two. Ang Lee is an exacting filmmaker, carefully composing his visions down to the last detail. Sometimes it works. Here, it ends up creating a surprising bloodless film that looks very nice, but fails to connect. Overly long by at least half an hour, Lust, Caution did little more than illicit a big meh from me, despite all the acrobatic graphic sex. If you only have time to watch one erotic WWII foreign language film, choose Black Book. If you have time for two… watch it twice. Skip this one, unless you really want to see Lee’s meticulousness on screen.


For some reason, I kept reading the title as 'Persopolis'. Don't know why.

Persepolis (2007)

Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes

Directed by: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi

Of all the reviews I let slide, this is the one I regret not writing the most. If you have the opportunity to see Persepolis, I highly recommend you do, hopefully in the original French, not the English dub (although, as I’ve never seen the English dub, I guess I can’t really judge, but I think some of the flavour will be lost). It’s a wonderfully personal tale, with expressive animation, that unlocks some of the mystery surrounding Iran and its people. My whole life, Iran was The Other, defined by its totalitarian government while completely ignoring regular Iranians, many of whom lived through liberal protests in the late 70s. The movie adapts Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel of the same name (which I’ve yet to read), bringing us into her life with genuine warmth, affection, and humour, while still producing drama and political relevance. Perhaps the best compliment I can give the movie is that it convinced me for the first time that a film version of Art Spiegelman’s Maus could work, but only as an animated film in a style similar to his art, with his direct supervision. Persepolis proves that animation is as viable a medium for serious art as any.


2 thoughts on “Movie Review Catch-up

  1. Pingback: Movie Review: Son of Rambow (2008) « Critically Speaking

  2. Pingback: Top 20 Comic Book Movies of All-Time « Critically Speaking

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