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Thursday, January 5, 2012

4th Quarter Movie Reviews

It’s been a while since we’ve done movie reviews here at the blog, so here’s a recap of the 4th quarter. We usually do this monthly, but this time we’ll do the best and worst of the movies I’ve seen since November.

Best Movie Since November: Exam (2009)
I’m a sucker for these problem-solving puzzle psychological thrillers. From a pure production and critical standpoint, some of the other films I’ve seen were probably better (Sunshine, 2007; The Adjustment Bureau, 2011), but in terms of the most memorable that kept my interest from beginning to end, this one did the job.

This is a challenging genre for a writer. Whether it’s a novel or a film script, the payoff at the end of these types of enigmatic thrillers almost never lives up to the build-up that gets us there. One of the few exceptions in my opinion was the fantastic Fermat’s Room (La habitacion de Fermat). Fermat’s Room is sleek, engaging, and actually does the impossible of pulling itself together tightly in the end. It’s a pretty film to watch and even the string of challenges for the characters are interesting.

Exam is a distant second, but still worth the ride. Basically, several job candidates are vying for a prestigious position and must answer a single question while locked in a room. There are only a few rules and, as you can guess, psychology intervenes leading to tension and chaos.  The ending isn’t terrible, but was a little weak compared to the journey toward it. 

The last time I saw Luke Mably was as Julia Stiles prince charming in The Prince & Me. I’m sure he’s been in many other things, but I didn’t see them so I when I saw his name in the credits I immediately had flashes of a pleasant, dapper lad in formal military attire. I enjoyed seeing him as anything but a prince charming in this film. He can play a jerk with the best of them which is a credit to the actor in my opinion.

Honorable Mention: Gnomeo & Juliet, 2011 (I can’t not mention a film that has James McAvoy in the credits.); Sunshine, 2007

Worst Movie Since November: The Roommate (2011)

To be fair, this actually isn’t the worst movie I saw, but some are just impossible to review. (e.g. The Deaths of Ian Stone left me scratching my head, but not in confusion. I got it I guess, but …what was the point of even making it?) So we’ll go with The Roommate because it was the worst major film that was trying to be good.

First of all, there was a huge, glaring problem right from the opening credits: Minka Kelly as a sweet, nurturing girl next door.

Now, I don’t know Ms. Kelly. She could be the nicest person in the world, but she’s doomed as an actress by her own physical perfection. I have trouble believing she’d be the type to take a needy outcast under her wing. She just has that crippling flawless beauty that makes her unbelievable as anything BUT the snobby head cheerleader. As you know, I was a huge Friday Night Lights fan where she managed to transition from cheerleader to damaged girl next door, but it took several seasons, multiple in-depth storylines, and plenty of help from other characters to get there. I didn’t believe her character for one second.

Having said all that, glaring problem number two was believing Leighton Meester as a social misfit psycho-stalker. The movie tried hard to explain her character, but again, she was just too pretty. I also had trouble believing she would get away with all the horrifying acts she committed without repercussions. If I were the blond, curly haired girl who was repeatedly terrorized, I’d go to the police no questions asked. I don’t care what kinds of threats the crazy girl made or what dirt she had on me. She just tortured me in the shower. She’s getting arrested.

One plus was Cam Gigandet. I’ll admit I find him fascinating as an actor. He may not be my favorite (I’m on record for the James McAvoy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt camp), but he’s unique in a very obvious way. Actors are frequently typecast, but rarely as two opposite character-types. I’ve seen him in several films and he’s either a very believable villain or a very believable supportive boyfriend to the female lead. It’s not often you see an actor who’s typically cast as the bad guy also pull off the supportive boyfriend. He was the only character I believed, which is ironic considering how many times I’ve seen him scowling and sneering at heroes.

Honorable Mention: The Deaths of Ian Stone; Vanishing on
7th Street; La Belle Personne

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