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2010 Film List (Reviews, Discussion, Tracking)


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#61 of 74 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted November 07 2010 - 08:41 AM

If you want to know just what a Rohrschach test Doug Liman's film about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame is, consider the following two reviews of Fair Game:


Roger Ebert:


What's effective is how matter-of-fact "Fair Game" is. This isn't a lathering, angry attack picture. Wilson and Plame are both seen as loyal government employees, not particularly political until they discover the wrong information. 


Ty Burr (the Boston Globe):


‘Fair Game’’ takes one of the more shameful sub-chapters in modern US politics . . . and turns it into a strident, condescending Hollywood melodrama. It’s one of those nobly intended affairs in which Important Stars explain to us how we’ve been screwed by our elected representatives.  


I'm mostly with Ebert, although Burr has a point about the final scene with Sean Penn's Joe Wilson, which I'm sure is verbatim from one of Wilson's speeches, but plays too neatly in the context of the film. Most of the film, and the parts that work best, show Naomi Watts's Valerie quietly and intensely doing her job -- developing "assets", analyzing information, reporting her findings, exchanging insights with other agents. The same applies to Penn's portrayal of Wilson when he's asked to check out reports of a sale by Niger (a country he knows well) of yellowcake uranium to Iraq. But Penn gets Wilson's blustery, combative side right off the bat, and you can see right away what's going to happen when Wilson discovers that his conclusions have been ignored (he determined there was no way any such sale could have happened and was ultimately proved right).


Director Doug Liman shot the film in a kind of casually intimate style -- not exacty documentary, but more like you just happen to be nearby while various events are taking place, whether they're political, covert or domestic. A ripple of recognition went through the audience at the screening I attended when David Andrews' Scooter Libby showed up at CIA HQ. Given how events subsequently played out, it was pretty clear who was going to be the film's main villain.


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#62 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted November 07 2010 - 10:53 AM

Fairly or unfairly, Fair Game will be seen as the latest pot shot at the Bush administration from angry liberal Hollywood and is probably destined to do about as well as Lions for Lambs. Sean Penn's history of inflammatory remarks against President Bush and his cabinet will only reinforce that opinion. All the President's Men captured an event that changed our nation, and that made it a public interest story. For all of the exhaustive coverage, the story of Joe Wilson and his wife did not. It's the story of a couple getting screwed over by a handful of petty politicos, all but one of whom managed to avoid trial. The course of the country didn't change, and because of that most people won't care.


Caught Due Date, which has some of the funniest laughs of the year but is severely limited by two seriously unlikable protagonists. Robert Downey Jr.'s character has serious anger management issues. Not funny anger management issues, but sometimes scary anger management issues. Opposite him, Zach Galifianakis's character is almost maliciously stupid and weird. In Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Steve Martin was an anal retentive tight ass and John Candy was that too-nice guy that you'd hate to be seated next to. But both were fundamentally decent people. John Hughes took the time to always provide adequate build-up for Martin's outbursts, so that we felt like we'd maybe blow up too if we were in his shoes, and to make the obstacles Candy cause plausibly unintentional. Phillips on the other hand takes pleasure trying to mine laughs from discomfort. When Robert Downey Jr.'s character socks a kid in the gut, I dreaded the idea of him becoming a father. When he tells the story of his own father abandoning him, and Zach Galifianakis's character laughs, I kind of hoped he would leave him. When you don't like either of the protagonists, it's hard to really enjoy a comedy.



#63 of 74 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted November 08 2010 - 02:11 AM


[quote]Originally Posted by Adam Lenhardt [url=/forum/thread/296480/2010-film-list-reviews-discussion-tracking/30#post_3748145]


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#64 of 74 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted November 08 2010 - 05:46 AM

The only one of those I've seen is In the Valley of Elah.  IMO it probably did poorly at the box office because it was boring as hell (the implication that returning veterans are likely to be psychotic couldn't have helped, either). 


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#65 of 74 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted November 08 2010 - 06:09 AM

I said "whatever their merits" precisely to avoid such a discussion, but since you insist on volunteering: I found In the Valley of Elah to be a gripping and beautifully crafted character drama. I bought the Blu-ray and watched it again, and my opinion didn't change.


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#66 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted November 08 2010 - 08:42 AM

Originally Posted by Michael Reuben [url=/forum/thread/296480/2010-film-list-reviews-discussion-tracking/60#post_3748292]


I think to some degree it reflects the increased partisanship of the American public generally, since Republicans for the most part will shun films like this one. But that can't be the whole story, because then fervent Democrats would be flocking to them and they'd be do a pretty brisk business at the box office. When it comes to the war movies, I think it reflects the uneasiness of a nation that has largely chosen to ignore Iraq and Afghanistan and a military strategy that enables this by involving as small of a percentage of the American population as possible. These are just speculations, of course, and I feel like I'm already skirting HTF rules with this post so I don't really want to get into it any deeper.



#67 of 74 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted November 09 2010 - 05:54 AM

[quote]Originally Posted by Adam Lenhardt [url=/forum/thread/296480/2010-film-list-reviews-discussion-tracking/60#post_3748492]


"How wonderful it will be to have a leader unburdened by the twin horrors of knowledge and experience." -- Mr. Wick

#68 of 74 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted November 09 2010 - 06:34 AM


[quote]Originally Posted by Aaron Silverman [url=/forum/thread/296480/2010-film-list-reviews-discussion-tracking/60#post_3748814]


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#69 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted November 13 2010 - 01:38 PM

Added Unstoppable, easily the most suspenseful movie about trains I've ever seen. Much like his remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Scott takes the time to really immerse the audience in the world of freight, with an operation that is obviously CSX even if it's not labeled as CSX. The movie alternates between several vantage points. The most prominent perspective features retiring engineer Frank Barnes and newbie conductor Will Colson, who are on a seemingly normal run until they learn that there's an unmanned freight train with no air brakes hurtling toward them at full power. We also get a window into operations from the perspective of Rosario Dawson's yardmaster, the corporate decision making, and an overarching omniscient point of view provided by the local Fox affiliate. The result becomes the most tense movie I've seen in a long, long time. Highly recommended.



#70 of 74 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted November 29 2010 - 04:41 AM

At first glance, The King's Speech  looks like another dull BBC history lesson about British royalty, but it's really an oddball buddy film about the strange friendship between George VI (the current Queen Elizabeth's father), who suffered from a terrible stammer, and the Australian speech coach who helped him overcome it, Lionel Logue. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush dominate the film, and they keep it firmly in their hands even when faced with luminaries like Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi, who play key supporting parts.


It's well-established that George was a reluctant monarch, having never expected to occupy the throne; he ascended only because his older brother, Edward, abdicated within a year after their father's death, so that he could marry a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson. (Edward is played, with pitch-perfect self-absorption, by Guy Pearce.) Firth plays George as someone with a grave sense of responsibility and a crippling self-doubt. Rush plays Logue as a fascinating bundle of conflicting impulses. On the one hand, he's irreverent enough to treat the future king (who's still a prince when they first meet) as just another patient; but on the other hand, there are moments when he acts like a loyal subject called to serve the empire. Most of all, he comes to admire his star patient's sheer determination.


Logue was an actor, and many of the exercises he had the future king perform don't exactly comport with standard notions of royal dignity. Rush and Firth play these scenes for all they're worth. The audience I saw the film with laughed out loud, repeatedly. There's some dry wit from Helena Bonham Carter as George's wife, whose birth wasn't considered sufficiently noble to raise her above the level of commoner and who declined his proposals for two years, because she wasn't sure she could stomach life as a royal. Clearly, the future king was an excellent judge of character.


The film concludes with the radio address George delivered on Sept. 3, 1939 after war was declared between England and Germany. Immediately after watching the film, I searched out a recording of the actual address on YouTube. Firth's delivery is an astonishingly precise recreation, but it's also more. It's like seeing history come alive for a few minutes.


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#71 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 17 2010 - 06:21 PM

Had the pleasure of seeing It's a Wonderful Life on the big screen at the same old movie palace I saw To Kill a Mockingbird in. The entire theater, including the balcony, was packed. The print was pretty beat but perfectly watchable. The crowd, with the exception of one woman who felt the need to play with her smartphone for the last hour of the film (including making a call from her seat and passing the phone to her husband to talk), was excellent. The friend I brought along had somehow never seen it before, which added to the experience. Great time.



#72 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 19 2010 - 01:00 PM

Added Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which I expect I would have liked more when I was younger. There's lots of perfectly solid pieces here, but nothing that felt new or even especially purposeful. Part of this can be attributed to the serialized nature of the source material, but even so I felt like the script could have done more to get me involved. Georgie Henley still shines as a now very teenage Lucy and Skandar Keynes is no better nor worse than he's ever been. Simon Pegg does an excellent job with the voice of Reepicheep; if I hadn't known otherwise, I would have thought it was still Eddie Izzard voicing him. Will Poulter (Son of Rambow) does a stellar job making Eustace Scrubb absolutely unbearable, and comes closest to anyone of investing this story with life. If they do make a fourth film, he'll do just fine with the right casting of Jill Pole. Happy I saw it? Yes. Was it entirely necessary? I'm not entirely certain it was. And that's a shame.




#73 of 74 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted December 19 2010 - 01:00 PM

Added Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which I expect I would have liked more when I was younger. There's lots of perfectly solid pieces here, but nothing that felt new or even especially purposeful. Part of this can be attributed to the serialized nature of the source material, but even so I felt like the script could have done more to get me involved. Georgie Henley still shines as a now very teenage Lucy and Skandar Keynes is no better nor worse than he's ever been. Simon Pegg does an excellent job with the voice of Reepicheep; if I hadn't known otherwise, I would have thought it was still Eddie Izzard voicing him. Will Poulter (Son of Rambow) does a stellar job making Eustace Scrubb absolutely unbearable, and comes closest to anyone of investing this story with life. If they do make a fourth film, he'll do just fine with the right casting of Jill Pole. Happy I saw it? Yes. Was it entirely necessary? I'm not entirely certain it was. And that's a shame.




#74 of 74 OFFLINE   streeter

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Posted January 03 2011 - 03:32 AM

Is there going to be a separate 2010 top 10 thread?
Nothing Lost Forever: The Films of Tom Schiller
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