1. Bachelorette - I think if I wasn't expecting something funnier, I would have enjoyed this movie more than I did. I was under the impression that it was laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it had more of a dark, subversive humor that I wasn't expecting. There were really only a few really funny moments and most of them came from Lizzy Caplan (and probably just because I LOVE HER). Her and Adam Scott in the same movie together just makes me smile (big Party Down fan, if you couldn't tell already). The movie suffered from one-dimensional cliche characters (the "type-A personality", the "ditz" and the "sarcastic rebel"), but at least the actors did the best they could with these characters to make them interesting (and extremely unlikable). I can relate to their age group (they graduated high school 1999, as did I...best year ever!) and that feeling of wanting to grasp on to those crazy nights that make one feel young again, but I can't relate to anything else in the movie. I don't want to get married, I don't hold onto feelings for someone from 10 years ago, I don't make fun of my friends behind their back and I don't have low self-esteem (at least as low as some girls). It all seemed a little bit immature and mean-spirited, which, again would have been all fine and dandy if it were funnier. It went back and forth between being a raunchy comedy and a depressing character study, but then ended with a boring sentimental (and tidy) ending.
2. For Ellen - Such a bland movie. It reminded me of the Sofia Coppola movie, Somewhere, which was about an actor trying to reconnect with his young daughter. Except that movie actually did it better (and no, I didn't like that movie either). I don't buy Paul Dano as a "rock star", maybe because he usually plays the loner, writer-type character. The movie had very little plot or substance. It was really challenging to pay attention to. Usually movies like this only work for me if the performances are stellar, or there is some intricate camera-work, but there is literally nothing to comment on.
3. The Sessions - Great writing, strong premise, interesting characters and a memorable performance from John Hawkes. Surprisingly, I found the weak link to be Helen Hunt. I like her a lot (Mad About You!!!!), but I think that Oscar nomination was very generous. Her "outside Boston" accent was incredibly distracting (sometimes she pronounced his name "Mark", sometimes with the thicker accent "Maaak"). It felt forced and awkward. On another note, she is stunning at 50 (and not plastic!!!). The story is a bit of a touchy subject, and if it wasn't written as well as it was, could have been a complete disaster. Instead, it was very honest, touching and light with a few moments of genuine awkwardness and humor. It was nice to see a mature "adult" story about sex and relationships that wasn't boring.
4. Bernie - I was a little skeptical of the supposed great performance by Jack Black in this movie. I'm not really a fan. He's mildly funny, but mostly annoying. I can see the buzz about his performance, mostly because it was different, but that doesn't mean it was amazing (I even read "Oscar talk", which is just absurd). I am, however, a huge fan of Richard Linklater (and I think his first collaboration with Jack Black, School of Rock, is easily the worst in his filmography. No wait, Me and Orson Welles was pretty bad. Interesting that he didn't write either of these movies.). Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly are on my extremely long list of favorite movies. Bernie had some wonderful elements, but overall was disappointing. The repetitive "Bernie is amazing!!" chatter was mind-numbingly repetitive. It didn't really get good until the "twist", which if you've seen the trailer (or read the Netflix description), then you already know what it is. I didn't know anything about the movie (aside from Jack Black's performance), so it took me by surprise. It's definitely dark....and...different. Also, it is very clear that Matthew McConaughey is trying to shed his romantic comedy roles. I had written him off as a terrible actor with one lucky role (A Time to Kill), but this is now the 5th movie in a row where he is excellent (I'm including Lincoln Lawyer, even though I didn't like the movie). I'm really looking forward to Mud.
5. Anna Karenina - I don't think a director has ever frustrated me as much as Joe Wright. Sometimes he is absolutely brilliant (the first half of Atonement) and sometimes he is disastrous (the last half of Atonement). I had similar feelings with Anna Karenina, except that it was more sprinkled through-out the film instead of divided in two. Wright knows how to make a beautiful film; I don't see how anyone could argue with that statement (but I'm sure some do anyway). Some of the tracking shots in this film are sublime (although none can touch the tracking shot in Atonement. That's one for the history books.). All of the elements are there for a perfect period piece - the intricate set design, the dazzling costumes and the poetic dialogue. I actually liked the "staged" setting and the way the story transitioned between scenes, as I can always appreciate a "thinking outside the box" spin on a classic tale. It was weird, but it kept me interested. Yet, for one of the greatest love stories of all time, it is severely lacking in emotion and passion. I don't think I read the Tolstoy novel, but everything about the story felt very familiar...so maybe I did? I was never a big novel reader; always preferred plays (I have read every Chekhov play that exists, so that could explain the "familiar" feeling). I really liked the movie about Tolstoy, the one with James McAvoy (I'm too lazy to look it up. Also...mmmmm....James McAvoy...where has he been? He's been missing from my life.); the whole cult-like followers are completely fascinating. I've been meaning to read more about him and his work. After watching this movie, I wasn't too impressed, but then I read the Wikipedia summary of the novel and that made me want to read it. I guess it says a lot about the film, when it leaves less of an impression than a Wikipedia entry. I think I would blame the lack of chemistry between the leads, which is partly a director issue, but mostly an acting issue. Keira Knightley is perfect for roles like this (I almost always hate her in modern roles), but she didn't amaze me here. Also, Jude Law > Aaron Johnson, therefore the love story automatically doesn't work. Aaron Johnson is just soooo blaaaaaaah.