2009 So Far Part 3: The Quickening

Some more mini-reviews of films I’ve seen this year. If I keep doing this from time to time, it should be much simpler to quantify my top ten once the end of the year rolls around, since I’ll have an on-the-record star-rating to work with (note: I reserve the right to capriciously change my mind at any moment, about anything).

The Hurt Locker

What I Liked: Man oh man, where to begin? This film grabs your chest and squeezes, right from the start. Pulse-pounding, teeth-clenching. A brutally simple story of three soldiers in Iraq in an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit, meaning a bomb squad. And that’s pretty much it: they wake up, they go disarm Intentional Explosive Devices, they die or they don’t die. In between the scenes of the various ways that they try to unwind the untenable tension each assignment brings, we get quietly chaotic moments of the squad doing a dangerous job in an already dangerous place.

There’s a scene with an anticlimactically realistic sniper-battle that emphasizes what an awful place for a war a desert is (not that there’s a great place for it. Maybe it emphasizes what an awful place a desert is to wear full combat gear). In the third act, a tank explodes in the dead of night, and as the team rushes to investigate why I realized I had forgotten about night-time! The day scenes were already harrowing, it didn’t occur to me that it could get worse.

What I Didn’t Like: Not very much. The scenes with leading man Jeremy Renner’s wife and child seemed a bit out of tone, but that’s sort of the point, I think.

The Verdict: Another Four Star movie! Quite the busy pre-September we’ve been having, at least for me personally.

(500) Days Of Summer

What I Liked: A bright, summery film if there ever was one, buoyed by some fun greeting-card gags and commendably twee performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. It’s pretty inconsequential, as it turns out, but oddly hard to fault for it. I don’t mean this in an entirely bad way, but it felt like an extended commercial for something, at least in design and visual presentation. A commercial for ‘love’? Who knows? Plus there’s a scene with karaoke, which is awesome.

What I Didn’t Like: It was, in the end, more forgettable than we all hoped back when we heard that indie-poster-people Levitt and Deschanel were involved. Deschanel is a Manic Pixie Dream-Girl to beat all the others, with no ambitions and very little background of her own. There’s also an annoyingly mature younger sister, and good old reliable Wacky But Pathetic Best Friend.

The Verdict: Two Stars- I’m torn between two and two and a half. But it’s really just Eternal Sunshine-light.

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What I Liked: Sam Rockwell! He played two distinctly different Sam Rockwells, which was great! Also the plot sort of straightforwardly goes where it says it’s going, which is both refreshing in a way, but also kind of anticlimactic. Hard to say, really. The film looks great, and the score (by Klint Mansell) is one of my favorites of the year). Plus: Sam Rockwell!

What I Didn’t Like: There were a couple of plot holes (or questions, rather) that sort of gnawed at me afterwards, not to get into spoilers or anything. It was a bit…stagey, I guess. I hoped for a little more expressionism from a touted ‘psychological thriller,’ but there’s something to be said for straightforwardness.

The Verdict: Three Stars! (One of these stars is brought to you solely by Sam Rockwell)

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

What I Liked/What I Didn’t Like: I’ll get into this when I cover this movie for an upcoming feature. It’ll take a few weeks to get there, though (it’s the sixth installment said feature. Can’t imagine why…)

The Verdict: Three and a Half Stars!

Public Enemies

What I Liked: Johnny Depp was pretty slick as John Dillinger, and the cast was littered with ringers in nearly wordless parts (Stephen Dorff? David Wenham? What?) Christian Bale was pretty badass, and his accent was hilarious (as I have often visited South Carolina (where Melvin Purvis was from) and it was not very accurate). Mann’s orange-lit documentary style lends itself well to historical movies- it’s like he’s been emulating the poor lighting quality of footage from the thirties all along.

What I Didn’t Like: There’s a gun battle in the middle of the film that must last twenty minutes, and unlike in Heat, the real-life inspiration was a skirmish that lasted all of three minutes. I then read Bryan Burrough’s fascinatingly detailed book of the same name, and was just left asking why certain historical events were changed for the film, even beyond timeframe and narrative reasons.

The Verdict: Two And A Half Stars.


What I Liked: Plenty of laughs from an extended tv show in the theaters: he gets Paula Abdul to talk about how helping people is very important to her while sitting on a Mexican worker in place of a chair- he interviews parents who whore out their babies for photo-shoots about the various hazards they have no problems exposing them to. He gets a lot of mileage out of homophobes of various types, culminating in a hilariously over the top finale.

What I Didn’t Like: Some of it was a bit far (poor Ron Paul), but really, I knew what to expect.

The Verdict: Two Stars- didn’t impress, didn’t do less than I expect either.

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