For the purpose of these reviews, I’ll use my 6-pack rating system.
Moon (5/6, Heineken) – A stark and beautiful science fiction movie with a sharp focus on character and ideas. Sam Rockwell’s performance is believable and understated. The landscape, philosophical implications, inherent mystery, and suspense make for an engrossing experience. Though the tropes are familiar, they are used well. I would give it a full six pack if it were not for some logic issues I had with the premise. (Why only one guy at a time? Really? I’d give a human being, no matter who they were, a week at tops before they went nuts if they were all alone in such an isolated setting, no matter how many hobbies.)
Public Enemies (2/6, Coors Light) – Let me preface this review by noting I am growing to dislike “realistic” historical films/books. There’s too much room for interpretation on the part of writers, and I always worry about how history is edited to create tension and consistent plots (historical events rarely follow traditional story arcs – they’re usually much messier, and it is rare that protagonists and antagonists are so well-defined). All the same, I really wanted to like this movie. The sets, costumes, cars, and locations all work in this well-filmed and overall pretty piece of film. However, it did not work for me. I could not relate to any of the characters, did not really identify with their motivations, and found some of the gunfights overly long and tedious. The love story – so central to the film for the ending to have any real emotional impact – was not well-developed at all. The two characters were in love simply because the film-makers said so. I’d rather have no love interest in a film at all than a poorly defined, unbelievable love story. And I really did not like Christian Bale’s performance. It’s like the guy is stuck on cruise control and still playing Batman. I know the guy is a good actor with some range, I don’t know why he isn’t using it anymore. The stoic hero loses his luster when his face never moves.
Ponyo (6/6, Juicy-Juice Fruit Punch) – I could easily describe this one with one word: “sweet.” That sums it up pretty well, but I would also like to add the words “imaginative” and “artistic” and, surprisingly, “romantic.” My oldest son has been watching this funny and heartwarming take on “The Little Mermaid” every single night since we first watched it a couple weeks ago. A great family movie about the innocence and unconditional nature of love.
Terminator: Salvation (1/6, Colt 45) — I watched it, but I don’t really remember much of it. There were explosions and motorcycles and robots and Batman and stuff. Those things are cool, I guess, but there was not much in the way of story or character development to go along with those cool things. My wife went to sleep during this one, and she was really excited to see it. We were both disappointed by this one.
The Hurt Locker (5/6, Budweiser) – Ignore the critical acclaim; it isn’t some snooty art-house picture. This one is a straight-up suspenseful action movie, and a very, very good one at that. The characters were well-played and believable as people – these could be guys I know, folks I graduated from school with – which only added to the suspense. I don’t know if it deserved the Oscar, but it is well-worth watching.
District 9 (4/6, Castle Lager) – This one surprised me. I wasn’t expecting a body horror film or for the movie to be as funny as it was. I think some of the hype surrounding it was a little overblown, and I fear that my own high expectations for a deep and political film diminished my enjoyment of the movie somewhat. The camerawork (see note below) bothered me as well, but it was a very fun movie. The setting was refreshing for a science fiction film. I would be interested in seeing a sequel.
*A note on both The Hurt Locker and District 9 and to Hollywood directors in general: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP IT WITH THE SHAKY CAMERA WORK, ALREADY!!! I get it. You want to capture a documentary feel. However, unless your film is actually a documentary or a fake documentary there is no need for it (for example, it was fine in the earlier scenes of District 9 that were supposed to be a documentary, but did not work for me during the rest of the movie when the film was no longer a mockumentary). I do not want to see this kind of camera work anymore. The novelty has worn off. Unless the cameramen are secretly a bunch of unpaid spider monkeys, there is simply no reason for films to be this shaky in the modern age of filmmaking. I’m pretty sure the Steadicam’s been around longer than I’ve been alive.