100 Movie Challenge

So I’ve totally ripped off my buddy Chris here, but all year I’ve been keeping track of every new movie I watch and write a quick review. And by ‘new,’ I mean new to me. Most of the movies that count are recent releases, but every now and then an oldie I’ve never seen will slip in.

My personal goal was to hit 100 movies by the end of the year, but at the rate I’m going, that’ll be tough. Here are reviews 1 – 25, or what I’d watched between January and March.

01 Black Swan #1 “Black Swan” Absolutely amazing performance from Natalie Portman and fascinating camera work. Still trying to figure it all out, or even if there was anything left to figure out. Probably going to enjoy it more on a second viewing. Also, still wondering where Natalie’s talent was for the Star Wars prequels. 4/5
02 Pirate Radio #2 “Pirate Radio Fun movie, and actually laugh-out-loud funny at moments (“Good work, Twatt”). Great ensemble cast, but almost too many characters to really care about any one in particular. The awfully misleading American promos for this may have gotten me off on the wrong foot with this one. Great soundtrack though. 3/5
03 The Fighter #3 “The Fighter” Never been a fan of Mark Wahlberg or boxing movies, but thankfully this was neither a typical Wahlberg movie or a typical boxing movie. Christian Bale was fantastic, and i’m pretty sure the boxing scenes were real fights. Also, yay for Conan O’Brien’s sister. 4/5
04 I'm Still Here #4 “I’m Still Here” Pointless. Obnoxious. Not funny. Maybe I just don’t care enough about Joaquin Phoenix, but this was pretty awful. Considering how elaborate the whole hoax was, this should have been a lot better. 1/5
05 The Green Hornet #5 “The Green Hornet Overall, just a fun action movie with a number of clever moments. Great cameo from James Franco, however the Christoph Waltz villain was way too boring. 3/5
06 Tangled #6 “Tangled” Typical Disney princess movie–which isn’t a bad thing, just not always my cup of tea. Voice acting was great. Musical numbers sounded almost too much like “Little Mermaid” or “Aladdin” at times though. Entertaining movie, if only for nostalgic reasons. 3/5
07 Kick-Ass #7 “Kick-Ass” Great take on the superhero genre–not quite a spoof or just an extended homage, but a solid, original story with plenty of comedy and self-awareness. Reminded me of what ‘Shaun of the Dead’ did for zombie movies, but a little less consistent and started to take itself a bit too seriously by the end. 4/5
08 Following #8 “Following” Chris Nolan’s first movie, although at barely over an hour in length, it’s tough to justify counting this, and not the first episode of the BBC’s “Sherlock.” Anyway, great film, told in Nolan’s trademark non-linear fashion. Slowly gets more and more confusing with a few twists along the way, until it all falls cleverly into place at the end. Neat connections to his future movies as well, both intentionally (main character named Cobb) and unintentionally (Batman sticker on other main character’s door). 5/5
09 True Grit #9 “True Grit” Another great, smart film from the Coen brothers, although I typically enjoy their goofier stuff more. Action scenes were a bit forced and anticlimactic; but gorgeous art direction, clever script, and fantastic acting. 4/5
10 Operation Endgame #10 “Operation: Endgame” Despite an interesting premise and a great B-list cast, this one barely rises above awful. The whole thing really felt like a pilot episode of a mid-season replacement on Fox, save for the gratuitous cursing. Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy colorful language and don’t expect every director to command the eff-word as well as a Scorsese or a Kevin Smith. But seriously, I think I was using more clever and convincing insults in grade school. 2/5
11 Failure to Launch #11 “Failure to Launch” Almost embarrassed to even claim this one, but it was on TV while I was doing homework, and I got sucked in. Anyway, it was an entertaining rom-com whose great supporting cast more than makes up for the awful leading pair. 3/5
12 Cedar Rapids #12 “Cedar Rapids” Got to see a free early screening, which was pretty cool, so my rating might be slightly inflated because of that. Nonetheless, it’s definitely laugh-out-loud funny. Good to see that Ed Helms can hold his own as the lead, and that John C. Reilly can be funny when no one else is trying to be more obnoxious. 4/5
13 Winter's Bone #13 “Winter’s Bone” Both terrifying and heartbreaking, simply because of how true of a story this really is. Great performances. Kinda slow at times, but a handful of scenes are just so well done, it’s hard not to get completely sucked in. 4/5
14 The Kids are All Right #14 “The Kids are All Right” Honestly, I didn’t have the highest expectations going into this one–Hollywood has a tendency when dealing with gay characters to either ultimately play into stereotypes or go so far out of their way to break those stereotypes that a film is left with unrealistic characters. Instead, we get a film that avoids any overt political messages and a fantastic character study of a slightly dysfunctional family where the parents just happen to be gay. As a result, the characters are so much more believable and the film is far more compelling and true to life. Superb cast, particularly Mark Ruffalo who reminded me way too much of Kevin Corrigan (Google him, you’ll know who he is and see what I mean). 5/5
15 Avatar #15 “Avatar” Yeah, I finally gave in and watched it. I’ll admit, the film is gorgeous, but that’s about it. Cameron’s script is so condescending and over explains every bit of the story’s mythology, instead of leaving any mystery and letting the audience wonder. Awful techno-babble as well. “Ten to the fourth?” Really? Even real scientists are allowed to say “ten thousand.” 2/5
16 Just Go With It #16 “Just Go With It” Label this one as ‘watchable’ in my ‘every third Adam Sandler movie is watchable’ theory. Typically, the ones that are relatively grounded in reality and are more character- and duologue-driven (Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy) are far better than the ones dependent on ridiculous sight gags (Little Nicky, Zohan). And while this one comes so close to being among the former, too many poop jokes and prosthetic noses puts this somewhere in the middle. Still, there’s a lot of heart, made me laugh, and Jennifer Aniston in a bikini. 3/5
17 Freakonomics #17 “Freakonomics” Less of a feature documentary, and more of a cable TV special, and probably just a 90 minute ad for the book. Still, it’s intriguing and fun; kind of a James Burke’s “Connections” for our modern ADD society. Doesn’t make any major claims or calls to action, but it doesn’t try to–which is kind of disappointing considering the talented directors behind each segment. 3/5
18 Date Night #18 “Date Night” No particularly out-of-the-ordinary performances from either Carell or Fey, which isn’t a bad thing, just fairly predictable and formulaic. They’re both such great writers, it’s a shame neither of them worked on this script. Still, some genuine laughs and great cameos. 3/5
19 Barney's Version #19 “Barney’s Version” I’d pretty much echo Krompy’s review, so read his too. Very interesting film with fantastic performances. I hate to use a phrase like “emotional rollercoaster,” but Giamatti’s character goes from total creeper to almost likable so many times that it keeps you engaged throughout the film. 4/5
20 Rango #20 “Rango” Can’t believe it took ILM this long to do their own fully-animated feature; it’s about as gorgeous as CG can get. The animation mixed with a pretty diverse cast voicing some wonderfully quirky characters gives the whole movie a truly unique feel, even as it does its whole spaghetti-western homage thing. Hard to compare it to anything else, and wins because of that. 5/5
21 Paul #21 “Paul” In the tradition of “Shaun” and “Fuzz,” “Paul” avoids being a parody or extended homage of its genre, and instead is actually a pretty good sci-fi flick on its own. Of course it’s laugh-out-loud funny too, but it falls way short of the cleverness of their earlier collaborations (Edgar’s probably what makes that happen). 4/5
22 The Adjustment Bureau #22 “The Adjustment Bureau” Fantastic thriller which throws in some subtle political and quasi-religious themes without getting off track from the suspense and action. Characters have true depth and personality, which usually makes the difference between most sci-fi and the great. 5/5
23 The Losers #23 “The Losers” Or did I watch “The A-Team?” I’m confused. Anyway, pretty typical action flick. Fun characters, some good fight scenes, and a few twists which kept it interesting. But in the end, I feel like I’ve already seen it a dozen times. 3/5
24 Food, Inc #24 “Food, Inc.” So it’s creepy how well Netflix knows me, having recommended a number of documentaries that match up perfectly with issues I care about. Unfortunately most of these documentaries are intended for a broad audience and not for people in grad school studying these particular issues, so none of the controversies brought up in the documentary were terribly new to me. Still, issues surrounding land use, food labeling, public health, and gene patenting are alarming, and the movie does a great job of showing how the food industry has shaped the policies behind all of these for its own benefit. Decent call to action at the end, and will likely result in a trip to the co-op for some of that delicious grass-fed, free-range ground beef. 4/5
25 Due Date #25 “Due Date” Funny, but not especially memorable. Tries to take Zach Galifianakis’s performance from ‘The Hangover’ and expand it into an entire movie–which doesn’t quite work. RDJ is fantastic though, and winds up delivering most of the movie’s best lines. 3/5
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