1. Leap Year (2010)
You'll never guess what happens!
Amy Adams goes to Ireland to meet up with her boyfriend and propose to him because she read that on the Internet that it's ok for a woman to propose on February 29th (Leap Year, hence the title) but THEN she meets Matthew Goode who offers to driver her to Dublin to meet her boyfriend but THEN a lot of stuff goes wrong and they end up in a bed and breakfast where they have to pretend to be man and wife and THEN they have to kiss each other at dinner to prove their love and THEN a lot of other stuff happens and THEN they finally do get to Dublin and she meets her boyfriend even though she's starting to have feelings for Matthew Goode and THEN she thinks she's going to marry her boyfriend but it turns out that he only wanted to marry her to get an apartment in Boston and THEN...
Sorry if I ruined the movie for you, but if you haven't guessed the entire plot of this film within the first twenty minutes you haven't seen your share of romantic comedies. The entire thing is so completely, so thoroughly contrived, that you can't really grudge it for being what it is. It's like the feminine version of a Jason Statham movie. It knows its audience, it's not trying too hard, and if you enjoy films like the Notebook you'll probably also enjoy this one.
People often talk about "the Superman curse," as if any actor who plays Superman won't be successful in any other role. But what, I wonder, about "the Watchmen curse?" I mean, what has Matthew Goode (Ozymandias) really done lately? Malin Akerman? Jackie Earle Haley? Patrick Wilson?
Yeah, I know that Patrick Wilson starred in The Conjuring, but is that enough proof that there isn't a curse?
2. The Jungle Book (2016)
I've been hearing people rave about this movie for a while, and I have to say that I just don't get it.
It's alright I guess. Standard Disney fare. I found it interesting that they shied away from the way in which Mowgli disposes of Shere Khan in the book, and instead substituted a less credible means of survival.
However he does it, Mowgli replaces Shere Khan as apex predator, and all is right with the jungle. Or is it? The folks at Disney might not want you or I contemplating this portrayal of "Nature" too closely, but it does bear (ha ha) thinking about.
Oh, and if you haven't read the book by Rudyard Kipling, I heartily recommend it. Kipling remains one of my favorite authors, and the book hasn't aged a day.
Fun Fact: If this isn't enough Jungle Book for you, another cinematic version of this story is coming out in 2018!
3. The Artist (2011)
A black and white movie? A black and white silent movie? In 2011? OF COURSE it's French! Well, mostly French. There are some American actors in it, too.
Jean Dujardin stars as a fading star of silent films, with Berenice Bejo as the rising star who supplants him as "talkies" become The Big New Thing. It won countless awards in 2011, and remains the most awarded French film in history.
All of which is great, but I have to say that this movie bored me to tears. Not "Tears of Love," mind you, but real, genuine, tears of boredom. I'm not saying this to be contrary, or hipsterish, but because it made me yawn, and then it made my eyes water, and then it put me to sleep. I missed about fifteen minutes of this film due to sheer lack of interest, which is a shame because I started it with the sincere expectation that it would be good.
I suppose that even the "best" films aren't for everybody.
4. The Accountant (2016)
Saw this in the theater recently. Ben "Batman" Affleck stars as an exceptionally violent CPA, with John "Punisher" Bernthal and J.K. "Commissioner Gordon" Simmons in supporting roles
I'd put this movie in the "Not Bad" category. It won't blow your mind, but it has some good scenes and the plot is fairly cohesive. It could have done with less backstory near the end.
|She's got a great (gun) rack.|
5. Terminator Genisys (2015)
And you thought the continuity of the X-men movies was a mess? I give you the Terminator franchise, in which they've thrown causality out the window.
Obviously not a good movie. So underwhelming, in fact, that I almost found myself growing nostalgic over Terminator Salvation. The first half of this movie also seems strangely low budget, as if most of the money was saved for the big set pieces at the end of the film. Even so, these big set pieces feature some of the worst CGI ever.
It might have been a good movie if the writers had bothered to think through the technology (or the causality) involved. But then again such a thinking-through would have made for an entirely different movie, working on an entirely different set of principles.
And Emilia Clarke is no Linda Hamilton. Neither is Jai Courtney Michael Biehn. And while Schwarzenegger remains his old, stoic self, his character is little more than a prop in this film, with no clear motivation or rapport with the other characters.
But hey, there's J.K. Simmons again. He's a good actor, isn't he? His career was really on the upswing in 2015.
6. Contraband (2012)
Mark Wahlberg stars as an ex-smuggler drawn back into the world he thought he'd left behind.
Like The Accountant, it's not bad. It's a bit hard to empathize with Wahlberg's character, and one wonders how the rest of the crew fails to see the stacks of "super notes" he's hiding on the ship. But it's fairly well thought out, and there's one great scene where Wahlberg and his friend find themselves in the middle of a shootout.
Just the same, I could see that "Jackson Pollock" moment coming from a mile away.
And look! There's J.K. Simmons as the captain. This should be a drinking game. Take another shot!
Fun Fact: Mark Wahlberg has quite a police record. Before becoming famous, he was arrested several times in the Massachusetts area for substance-abuse related crimes and assault. Kind of puts his scenes in The Departed in a new light, doesn't it?
Fun Fact (?) #2: It might be his own fault for starring in too many movies, but Mark Wahlberg is in a lot of underrated films. Three Kings, We Own the Night, The Other Guys, The Fighter, Ted, Broken City, Pain & Gain, The Gambler... they're all great films, but the number of bad-to-average movies he's done often overshadows the good ones.
7. Big Eyes (2014)
NOT a fan of director Tim Burton, but Amy Adams and Cristoph Waltz are in it, so I thought I'd give it a try.
Adams stars as painter of ocularly enhanced children Margaret Keane, with Waltz as her fraudulent husband. Like most people born after the events described in the movie, I was aware of Keane's art but not a fan of it, and it has always seemed stuck in the era that produced it. I would tend to agree with the art critic who pops up in the middle of the film, though I think Mr. Keane has a point when he intimates that art is in the eye of the beholder.
What I liked most about this movie is the pains they took to recreate the time period. The exterior shots of 50s-era San Francisco are eye catching, and the script does justice to the conservative nature of that time.
It's a good film, but like Keane's art it fails to be great. When you think about it, Tim Burton might be a latter-day, cinematic version of Keane - possibly best forgotten by later generations. I'm not saying he's bad, but he's not all that good, either.
8. Side Effects (2013)
A psychiatrist becomes the object of scrutiny following a murder. Jude Law and Rooney Mara star in this Steven Soderbergh-directed thriller.
This movie really swings for the bleachers, but comes away with something more like a double play. Jude Law is great as the psychiatrist, but the plot is extremely convoluted and most people will find their attention wavering. The twist at the end is worth sitting through the movie for, but it takes a while to get there.
Fun Facts: Along with being the sister of actress Kate Mara, Rooney Mara's family founded both the New York Giants AND the Pittsburgh Steelers football teams.