I've been busy trying to make up for this year's lost time and gained weight so I haven't been able to write up much about the latest movies I've caught. There have been some good, some not so good but none bad, which is refreshing (granted, I skipped most of the ones that just looked awful.) So going from least to most enjoyable, here's some quick hits.
Lawless: This was a slow movie that offered absolutely nothing new to the genre. The love story between Shia and Mia was a complete waste and seemed completely wedged in. The main storyline ground to a halt whenever one of the relationship scenes popped up. It definitely felt like something from a book that was kept in, despite the fact that the adaptation made it fairly pointless. Honestly, the entire film felt like a failed adaptation.
The Amazing Spider-Man: I hadn't been this unengaged by a movie in quite some time. Nothing in the film stood out. Even Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone seemed to be going threw the motions. And I know this might be because I'm from an older generation but obviously CGI actions scenes leave me cold and this film's seemed faker than the Raimi Spider-man's did at the time. It'll be interesting to see how the next Spider-man movie does; they'll need some great casting (and Jamie Foxx as a villain is an interesting choice) because the first film certainly didn't inspire many followers.
Killing Them Softly: Killing Them Softly is based during the 2008 election and, as the movie gets going, the new reports about the struggling economy are interesting, as they mirror what is going on in the underworld economy... a problem that Brad Pitt's hitman has been brought in to fix. The problem, however, is that the new reports keep on popping up, hammering the metaphor on the nose and into the ground. There are some nice moments, and a surprising amount of laughs, but, in the end, it's just one of those films that you walk out of wanting to like more than you did and I think most people who liked the film would give it only a lukewarm recommendation (aka It's a rental.)
The standout of the film, however, is Scoot McNairy who is completely unrecognizable from his other big role of the year, as one of the hostages in Argo. He does a great job as a brain dead Bostonian. But there is one issue that stuck with me. If the film is set in Boston (it was shot in Louisiana but McNairy has the Boston accent and mentions a couple of cities in Mass), then someone needs to smack whoever did the research because McNairy pronounces Haverhill as HAVE-er-hill; anyone from Mass knows that it's pronounce HAY-vril.
Holy Motors: Holy Hell. One of the most confounding theater experiences of my life. I still don't know what the hell happened. As I've noted before, if you like Gonzo Art Films, check it out. If you require even the smallest semblance of traditional storytelling, you should probably skip it.
Flight: The most interesting part of Flight is that Robert Zemeckis basically made a studio movie about faith. He was able to push the religious film past execs who probably wouldn't have gone for a straight crisis of faith film by laying on a veneer about alcoholism and coping with addiction and having a huge action set piece in the beginning (which is pretty damn good.) But in the end, the film seems like it is really about a man struggling with temptation and loss of faith. The problem is, unfortunately, that it doesn't really say too much. John Goodman and Don Cheadle are an interesting pair, playing a kind of Good Devil/Bad Devil pair that keeps pushing Denzel towards doing one sort of wrong. If you didn't realize Goodman's character was a devil, Zemeckis slaps you in the face with it by playing the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" both times he arrives. (All of the music in the movie is laughably on the nose.) The film also suffers from one ending too many.
It's a decent film but is ultimately forgettable. It really could find a second life and gain popularity if they sell the religious angle when it comes out on DVD but I doubt the studio will go that route.
Silver Linings Playbook: Well, my crush on Jennifer Lawrence is certainly back. It died a bit after Hunger Games but she is pretty awesome in Silver Linings Playbook. In fact, the whole cast is great. The big names are getting the attention but Jackie Weaver is perfect in it, John Ortiz seems like he's the next John Leguizamo (great Latino actor who'll never get a great leading role unless he writes it for himself), and Paul Herman aka Marvin the accountant from Entourage does a tremendous job that one would think would FINALLY earn him a picture on IMDB. I can understand why some people might not get why it's up for an Oscar; it's not an epic film and it doesn't even really deal with mental illness all that well (the somewhat light take on the subject stuck out more than usual when I saw it as I had just heard the news about KC Chiefs linebacker killing his girlfriend and then going to the stadium, thanking his coach and general manager for the opportunity they gave him, and finally turning around and shooting himself) but it's a kind of throwback movie that is just an entertaining ride. David O. Russell's direction is top notch and while it may be a bit of a trifle, it's worth a watch. I don't think it should win the Best Picture Oscar (I wouldn't expect it to win any major awards) but it definitely has a place in the discussion.
I still haven't updated my rankings yet but, in case you were interested, these films would fall on the list something like this:
#2 (After Perks of Being a Wallflower/Argo): Silver Linings Playbook
#10 - After Headhunters: Flight
#11 - After Bernie: Holy Motors
#12 - After Holy Motors: Killing Them Softly
#16 - After Savages: Amazing Spider-Man
# 18 - After Haywire: Lawless