Dave's Films

As with a number of us, I got so busy in the second half of the month that I didn't have time to complete the challenge. BOOOOOO! >_<  But just for the hell of it, I'm adding a few short reviews at the end of this post of non-challenge movies I saw during August...

Crimes & Misdemeanors (Your Choice #1) - I've still only seen a handful of Woody Allen movies, and went into this one not knowing if it was a comedy or drama. First of all: great movie. Second: while it's got some dark comedy going, this definitely played out as a drama for me. It's some serious shit, dealing with infidelity, good people getting nothing while bad people get everything, and eventually, the specter of murder. Everyone's good, but Martin Landau gives a performance that's fucking amazing. 4/5

Source Code (Films from 2000-2011 #1) - Great sci-fi/suspense movie from the director of Moon, and I was pleased to discover the movie had something more to it than the trailers revealed. Nice performances, too. I'd suggest checking this one out to most anyone, and as it only runs maybe an hour and a half, it's a lean and fast-paced outing. 4/5

Black Swan
(Films I've Never Seen #1) - Darren Aronofsky is technically highly proficient, but I think the only movie of his I really enjoyed was his first: Pi. Now I'm starting to see all his movies are basically the same: people go through intense physical and emotional distress and, in the final few minutes, undergo a violent culmination of their downward spiral. And his characters all seem like cyphers - just there to move the story he wants to tell forward. Black Swan, like the Wrestler, was a movie I feel like I got all the major beats from the trailer alone. I'm not even giving it an extra star for Natalie Portman having lesbian sex with that chick from That 70s Show! 2 out of 5

Frozen (Your Choice #2) - This is the movie about the group of skiers who get trapped on a mountain ski lift right as the slopes are shutting down for a week. Not quite a horror movie, but definitely a survival flick. I thought it was surprisingly decent. The characters were above average and it actually had a good script. It walked a bit of a tough line between being a slightly pop suspense/survival movie and being a more serious drama about survival, but that kept it from getting morose. Still, a pretty grim outing. One awesomely filmed scene made me wince as few movies ever have. 3/5

The Dresser (Films I've Never Seen #2) - I caught this one on my Mom's recommendation. It's a serious drama (though with lots of incidental humor) about an aging, lead Shakespearian actor beginning to succumb to dementia. It occurs almost in real time as the lead up to a production of King Lear in the middle of London during The Blitz. The other lead character is the guy's gay "dresser" - an all purpose theatrical assistant who goes to extraordinary lengths to make sure the show goes on...even if the lead actor is about to go out of his mind. Great premise, and some amazing acting (Albert Finney got an Oscar nomination), but the movie ultimately left me cold. I felt like it overly sympathized with Finney's character, an egocentric bastard whose downward slide is surprisingly difficult to empathize with. 3/5

(bonus fact: The Dresser was made in 1983; that same year, the director made the slightly less award-winning epic...KRULL)

Crank 2 (Films from 2000-2011 #1) - Perhaps the most batshit movie I've ever seen, but I actually preferred the slightly more grounded original Crank. Still, a good, crazy time from the team that's doing the Ghost Rider sequel. Amy Smart is crazy-hot in these movie, BTW. 3/5

Transsiberian (Films Starring the Same Actor #1 - Woody Harrelson) - Modern, Hitchcockian thriller that takes place largely on a week-long train from Beijing to Moscow. I read that it's best to watch this without knowing anything about it and that's true. As a result I was pretty riveted. This is the kind of thriller where you really don't know where it's gonna go. Unfortunately, there're a few swerves at the end I didn't buy and they brought down (a bit) what had been an excellent suspense outing. Same director as Session 9, a memorably low-key horror movie from the 2000s, and if you know that movie (or maybe The Machinist, which I haven't seen), you know this guy can create strong, eerie pacing. Recommended in spite of an ending I didn't love. 3/5

Trainspotting (Films I've Never Seen #3) - For some reason Danny Boyle's hugely watchable, stylish, blackly humorous foray into heroin addiction for a group of Scottish hoodlums didn't connect much with me. Lots of memorable scenes and visuals, and even a great soundtrack. I think the skeeviness of the characters just got to me. They're a pretty bastardly lot to spend two hours with. Still, I'm glad I saw it. Ewan McGregor is particularly great and so is Robert Carlyle (who I only know from Stargate Universe and didn't even recognize in Trainspotting, he's such a different character). 3/5

No Country for Old Men (Just Some Random Shit I Watched #1) - I don't know why this movie enthralls me so, but I've probably watched it seven or eight times now and I never do that with movies. I even agree that it's got some flaws in its final act, but the nailbiting suspense, the terrifying performance by Javier Bardem, the beautifully bleak visuals, and having one memorable scene after another all add up to an amazing movie. 5/5

Fright Night (Just Some Random Shit I Watched #2) - Nothing great, but a fun update of the original (a cult favorite of mine) that threw in enough new stuff to stand on its own. Catch it sometime if you're in the mood for a lightweight horror movie with some laughs along the way. 3/5 

Misery (Just Some Random Shit I Watched #3) - Rob Riener is the fucking man. His hits include The Princess Bride, Stand by Me, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, and yes, Misery. With a screenplay by the legendary William Goldman and amazing performances by Kathy Bates and James Caan, this is about as good as it gets for suspense movies. Even the bit parts (Richard Farnsworth, Lauren Bacall) are awesome. 5/5

Unbreakable (Just Some Random Shit I Watched #4) - It always seemed like the mythology Shyamalan built up in this showed a poor understanding of superhero comics, but since the movie suggests superhero comics are just a filtered down, pop version of a real phenomenon, it doesn't hurt the movie much. And it's just a great yarn. And harrowing, almost moving into some kind of grim horror movie near the end, but I love the slow-burn sense of discovery that builds up to it. Good cast, very understated acting. Memorable score by James Newton Howard. I didn't especially like this when I saw it at the theater, but it seems to grow on me with every new viewing and now I'm definitely a fan. 4/5


  1. Good to hear about Source Code. The trailer made me instantly uninterested, so this makes me more likely to check it out.

  2. I will say I actually liked the trailers, but they did look a bit by-the-numbers and the actual movie has some cool twists and turns. I also like that this director seems to be interested in a new era of smart, humanistic sci-fi films.

    Dan, have you seen Moon, his directorial debut?

    And did you know he's the son of David Bowie? That shit still seems crazy!

  3. Really thought Crimes & Misdemeanors was a fantastic film. And you're certainly right about Martin Landau, Dave.

    As for Source Code, I know people enjoyed Moon, but I found Source Code to actually be better. It wasn't that Jake Gylenhall was a better lead than Sam Rockwell or that the story was better, there was just a spark in the movie that made me have a better time with it than Moon. Maybe it was because I didn't know what to expect going in and it really had the ability to suck you into the story, I don't know.

    Anyways, Source Code = BOSS AWESOME

  4. Source Code is definitely more compelling, I think. It's possible I might like Moon better, but that's a movie you might need to be a in certain kind of thoughtful mood to see. Source code is wrapped up in a thriller and that's just much more immediately accessible.

  5. I haven't seen Moon, but I did know he is David Bowie's son. Oddness.

  6. I'm behind in my movie quota, but if I have to resort to counting stuff I've seen at the theater - Rise of the Apes, Cowboys & Aliens, Fright Night, etc, I will!

  7. This makes me want to catch up on Woody Allen movies; I've only seen a handful. Source Code is on my short list, too. Hm, maybe I should jump on the 15 in 30 bandwagon...


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