Monday, February 27, 2012

The Morning After the Oscars and Two New Reviews

So, I apparently didn't find the 84th Academy Awards to be nearly as tiresome as some others, who complained of how "boring" it was.

I enjoyed it. Billy Crystal may have not given his best performance as the show's host, but he was funny enough. I particularly enjoyed the segment in which he attempted to read the minds of audience members.

A few of the presenters flubbed it. I won't name names. But the show was, overall, enjoyable enough. That being said, I didn't feel particularly enthralled by the winners in any given category, although I was very glad to see "A Separation" take Best Foreign Film.

Otherwise, I'm pleased that Jean Dujardin won and I thought Meryl Streep was the best in that category (which, sadly, excluded Kirsten Dunst and Keira Knightley). Similarly, I believe Christopher Plummer was the best in his category (which excluded Albert Brooks and Brad Pitt for his extraordinary work in "The Tree of Life"). I thought Octavia Spencer gave a very good performance and her speech was moving. Personally, I'd long been gunning for Jessica Chastain to pick up an award this season - but more for "The Tree of Life" or "Take Shelter."

This week, I've got two new reviews for Patch - "Wanderlust," a minor, but often funny comedy that I mostly enjoyed, and "Gone," a forgettable teen thriller. Here are my notices.

I also snuck in two Oscar movies at the last minute - "Albert Nobbs," which featured some solid acting and was better than I'd been led to believe, and "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," which was decent enough. I'd read the book and enjoyed it, but I found Oskar's character in the movie to be a little less sympathetic, especially during the numerous, frantic sequences involving his shouting. Not a bad movie, but Stephen Daldry has done better. Max von Sydow was excellent.

This coming week, I'm definitely seeing Jafar Panahi's much-talked-about "This Is Not a Film" as well as "Project X." I'd love to see "The Snowtown Murders," but am having some difficulty tracking down where the film is playing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Week at the Movies: 'This Means War,' 'Ghost Rider' and 'Michael'

I try to make the headlines these posts a little more inspiring than the one you see above. This one must be a reflection of the films I saw this past weekend - a little uninspiring.

"This Means War" is a mediocre action-injected romantic comedy that wastes a perfectly good cast, while "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is a complete debacle. It does, however, have a few amazingly insane line readings from the ever entertaining Nicolas Cage.

I found Markus Schleinzer's "Michael" to be unsettling and well-performed, if not completely justified to exist. It's far from a bad film and it will certainly leave you with something to talk about, but I wasn't exactly blown away.

Here are my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'm going to see "Gone" and "Wanderlust" as well as finally catch up with "Albert Nobbs." And, of course, there's the Academy Awards.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Mighty Wind's a Blowin': Bela Tarr's 'The Turin Horse'

"The Turin Horse," which is rumored to be the great Bela Tarr's last film, is among the bleakest in the Hungarian director's career. And that's saying something.

I was definitely entranced by the film - at least, for the most part. It's filled with stunning imagery and makes great use of sound. But, to be honest, I didn't quite love it as I did "Satantango" or "Werckmeister Harmonies." And yet, it's still better than most of the other pictures playing at a theater near you.

I also caught "Safe House," a perfectly average CIA thriller featuring Denzel Washington as a rogue agent. The picture has some solid action sequences, little character development and virtually nothing going on beyond what's on screen. Not a bad film, but one that I feel I've seen many times before.

Check out my reviews for Patch.

This coming weekend, I'll be seeing "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," "This Means War" and the controversial "Michael."

Friday, February 10, 2012

You're Schmoopy!: A Guide to the Most Romantic Films for Valentine's Day

Today, I posted my list of the top 10 films that could give your love life a boost should you screen them with your romantic interest.

So, check out my piece on the Valentine's Day Canon. I tried to combine some old favorites with some slightly more offbeat choices. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Horror, The Horror, 2012 Edition

It was about one year ago that I launched the Critical Conditions blog with my first post, "The Horror, The Horror," which featured reviews of "We Are What We Are" and "Vanishing on 7th Street."

So, it's appropriate that this week's post is "The Horror, The Horror, 2012 Edition." This past weekend was as smorgasbord of creepy genre pictures.

First and foremost, I was not able to catch "Chronicle" in time to include it in my weekly Patch roundup. But I've seen it since and enjoyed it. In fact, I'd say the clever found footage thriller ranks second with "Cloverfield" behind "The Blair Witch Project" in that genre.

My reviews focused on three new films, including Ben Wheatley's diabolical horror-crime mash-up "Kill List." I didn't think it was a masterpiece as some other critics have proclaimed it. But it's still pretty damn good.

I was not impressed so much with "The Woman in Black," which is a shame because I thought James Watkin's first picture, "Eden Lake," was a disturbing little number. I was also lukewarm on "The Innkeepers," which is also a shame as I was a fan of Ti West's previous effort, "The House of the Devil."

Here is This Week at the Movies.

This coming weekend, I'm definitely going to catch up with Bela Tarr's "The Turin Horse," which is said to be the Hungarian master's final film. I'll also see "Safe House" with Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds.