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First I stole [livejournal.com profile] philthe25th's idea to catalogue all the movies I've seen on Twitter, now I've stolen his idea of posting a month's worth of reviews on lj. The fun of the Twitter review is that you're limited to 140 characters. The fun of re-posting the reviews here is that I can expand on whatever snap judgment I'd made and say some more things (more coherent things, maybe) about the films.

I didn't see enough films to make this a best-of (maybe I should start reviewing/grading TV episodes?), but fair's fair: here's what I've been watching.

Iron Man (2008): 9/10. Light on the character-to-action ratio, but that's like faulting water for being wet. RDJr is a hero. Saw it 2x.

More: At first, I was not enthusiastic about seeing this one. I wasn’t that familiar with the character and the early trailers had left out the whole remorse thing, but then the reviews for the film were all glowing and I decided to give it a chance. The only reason why it didn’t get a perfect review was that origin stories tend to be all build-up and little payoff. If there’s a sequel (and really, how could there not be, the film made tons of money and was a hit with the critics), I’ll be interested to see what shape that story takes. Now that I’ve gone and read lots of back-issues I have a better sense of the character and what’s possible. The whole faking-his-death-but-actually-dying-a-little thing would be interesting. The film version of Stark is going to be quite different than the comic version because in the comics they seem to maintain the pretense that Iron Man is a bodyguard, with Stark as the rich, smart, but kinda wimpy guy. I mean, what kind of paranoid wacko builds a robot-suit for a bodyguard? That’s not the Stark we had by the end of the film.

On the Edge (2001): 6/10. Stephen Rea (shrink), Cillian Murphy (suicidal patient), indie Irish film. Weak script near-saved by good acting.

More: A re-watch; this was the second movie I’d seen with Cillian Murphy (after 28 Days Later, woo!). Since I first saw it I’ve had done my degree, and wow does it look different now. The on-screen relationship between Rea and Murphy is amusing, considering they played lovers a few years later in Breakfast on Pluto. I think what I like best about this film is the point at the end where the shrink tells the main character that he’s not actually depressed, he’s a lazy teenager who needs to take responsibility for his life. Yeah, it hasn’t been the best life possible, but that doesn’t make him special at all.

Chaplin (1992): 6/10. Over-sentimentalized view of Chaplin's life. Watch for RDJr's amazing physical comedy timing, not the plodding script.

More: The weirdest part of this film are the scenes where an old Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr in age makeup) is interviewed by Anthony Hopkins, playing a character several decades Chaplin’s junior. There are lots of moments like that – little bits that must have seemed clever but don’t quite work out. The painfully laboured narrative structure of the film uses the aged Chaplin’s memoirs as a jumping-off point; Hopkins’s character (the editor of said memoirs, or something like that) is fact-checking the book. More than a framing device, it means we keep going in and out of flashback (at a rate that would make Lost envious) and experience Chaplin’s life as a series of episodes. This is a real shame, because RDJ is so very good. His ability to do Chaplin’s stand-up routines is phenomenal, and the only reason to see the film. He’s consistently good in the other scenes, too, but the script does him no favours.

InterMission (2003): 8/10. Irish heist/romance/action flick *not* made for export. Fast & fun. Recognizable cast; 80% playing against type.

More: Lots of foreign films that percolate out of their country of origin tend to be the kinds of films that have Something to Say about that country. Denys Arcand’s films are like that: Decline of the American Empire is two hours of Quebec intellectuals at a cottage in the wilderness talking about why modern life (and the US) is horribly decadent and flawed. The entire thing is an excuse to point out differences in national identity, to affirm or deny stereotypes, yadda yadda yadda. All those foreign films that do the festival circuit tend to be read as divinations of a National Character (rightly or wrongly). InterMission doesn’t care for any of that BS. It’s kind of like the Irish Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and is less concerned with Making Statements about modern Ireland than taking you on a fun ride. But then, any film where Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy team up as hapless criminals is clearly awesome. Their comedic timing is just brilliant.

Bringing Up Baby (1938): 9/10. Grant, Hepburn, a leopard and a dinosaur. Funnier than any given rom-com today. Lots of quotable lines.

More: The moral of this story: uptight archaeologists should hang out with wild and willful heiresses and discover that a series of wacky adventures is more important than any intercostal clavicle. Hepburn’s character wavers between being genuinely wacko and playing wacko to manipulate Grant’s archaeologist, keeping him away from his wedding. The beginning is fairly mild, but by the time you hit the sheriff’s office at the end it’s gone fully absurd. Hepburn and Grant have killer chemistry.

Dark City (1998): 7/10. SF-noir where Rufus Sewell has superpowers. More style than substance. *waves hand* Sleep. *waves hand* Sleep.

More: Sadly, not much more to say. The CG is dated, but holds up decently. Pre-24 Keifer Sutherland plays a weedy, cringing scientist (which is fun), Rufus Sewell plays not-the-villain (which is nice) and Jennifer Connolly wanders around being all disproving. The future-noir setting is neat, the villains are moderately creepy, but the overall feel of a film riffing on one neat idea (the world changes when you’re asleep) and never moving beyond that.

Speed Racer (2008): 5/10. Sugar shock from the first frame: entertainingly mediocre. Crap editing, hypercolourful visuals, lol@Matthew Fox.

More: Gave this one a higher rating because it was fun to watch. It never tips to the so-bad-it’s-good category, but there was enough to laugh at when we were watching that it was a good time. Most of it was a pile of WTF: John Goodman fighting ninjas, for one; poor, poor Matthew Fox caught in yet another string of angsty flashbacks, for another; and the eye-crossingly bright art direction. If it had been a bit more sedate it could have been really fun. As it was the retro-kitsch thing never worked, and that was the strongest part of the movie.

Mammoth (2006): 1/10. Srsly. NEVER SEE THIS MOVIE. One point for Vincent Ventresca in glasses + clever credits. NO MORE POINTS. EVAR.

More: I’d rather watch Speed Racer again. So very painfully bad. It could have been watchable, but there’s something really weird about Vincent Ventresca and Tom Skerritt playing father and son, and something quite depressing about watching Summer Glau play an average teenage girl. Boring.

Tristram Shandy (2005): 9/10. Makes more sense after knowing who all the Brit actors are. Much better. Witty, clever & much there to love.

More: Saw this one the first time with [livejournal.com profile] thucyken in theatres, didn’t get half the jokes, and only recognized a few of the faces. It’s a lot more playful now that I have better frames of reference to actually get it.

Hellboy (2004): 7/10. Red demon monkey spawned by Nazis fights cthulhu-beasties, Rasputin and Captain Steampunk. LOVE IT.

More: [livejournal.com profile] firstgold hadn’t ever seen this, so we had to rectify that. Bring on the sequel!

Iron Man (2008): 9/10. Third time through and it's still entertaining. Can't wait for the franchise to start spinning off. Want more RDJr.

More: It’s been fascinating to see how Tony Stark has become this summer’s fandom catnip. He can be witty, broken, charming, dazzlingly brilliant and thoroughly whumped, all which makes him near-perfect fodder for fandom. Can you think of a more broadly-accessible victim character? If you like lite banter, he’s got that, along with angst and vulnerability in spades, not to mention the rich playboy thing or the genius engineer thing.... no matter where you stand in fandom, you can find a side of Stark to have fun with. Gawd, do we have a complex character in a summer blockbuster?!

Blue/Orange (2005): 3/10. Was likely better on stage (adapted play, 3 characters). Great cast, interesting topic, dull-as-beans execution.

More: John Simm, playing yet another mostly-passive loser. I’m sure that on stage this would have been a fascinating play. But on screen the entire thing washes right out. Clever theatre design becomes an arch art department (yes, thanks – everything is just blue and orange, wonderful), a fraught ethical problem (surrounding race and mental illness) becomes boring and uninteresting, and charged exchanges are at the level of a drama class exercise (talented actors, but not sense of a greater project that the scenes belong to. Its ambiguous ending doesn’t feel like it was earned, and seems like the writers didn’t know how to end the piece. If you have the choice, read the play. It’s a shame, because I really wanted to like this one.

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints (2006): 7/10. Auto-biopic, dir's first film. Shia LaBeouf & RDJ as kid and adult versions of the hero.

More: The writer/director based this screenplay on his own memoirs and then gave the main character his own name. (Dito, which is sometimes pronounced “ditto”, ha ha.) There are a lot of potential problems associated with that, and this film falls prey to a few of them (the dialogue, oh GOD the dialogue). As a Sundance Festival-bred autobiographical vanity project it could have been far worse. The reason to watch this (and I encourage you to do so – it’s an okay, if not terribly original, film) is to watch Shia LaBeouf and Robert Downey Jr. playing the younger and older version of Dito. Both are actors whose presence in a scene will make it better, and it’s quite eerie how well they’ve worked together to animate this character. Or maybe both actors just have the same way of acting a scene, possess similar mannerisms and bring the same level of intensity to a performance. Either way, it’s worth a watch for that alone.

EDIT: After only one entry, I've forgotten the one-song-per-post challenge I've set for myself. So: here's a Justin Timberlake/Ace of Base mashup ("Summer Love" with "Cruel Summer"). Good times.
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