a) The Monuments Men
I had a few hours to kill between jobs the other day, and caught a matinee of this, because if make a caper movie with George Clooney, Bill Murray and John Goodman in it, I am there. It feels like Clooney has picked up a lot from working with the Coens and Soderbergh, and it's not hard to imagine either directing this, especially since it's got actors they often use in it. But having that comparison in mind also underlines that Clooney is not remotely as good a director as those guys are -- I really liked Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and thought it was well directed, but this fell a little flat. Might've been a script problem too, though, for them to have some great character actors around who don't really get that much to work with. It picks up in the second half, though -- a few scenes really got to me emotionally and made me really believe in the mission of the characters, the sentiment of the movie, as thick as they laid it on. It's weird how many period movies now, like this and Argo, seem to be going for a The Great Escape vibe.
b) Evil Dead
I'm fond of the original Evil Dead movies and apprehensive about remakes in general, but not so hugely reverent that I completely object to anyone making the effort. And I gotta say, this really won me over. It wasn't 100% in the spirit of the '80s flicks, but if you'd told me this was Sam Raimi's directorial follow-up to Drag Me To Hell (which I loved), I'd believe you. There was some really inspired gore in this movie, and it looked pretty modern but was all about in-camera effects and not CGI. Jane Levy is great at comedy on "Suburgatory" but she just totally stepped up for all the crazy shit that a role in a movie like this required and kinda surprised me.
c) The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
There was something oddly (unintentionally?) meta about Steve Carrell playing an entertainer who's losing ground to a newer competitor played by Jim Carrey, in a role reversal of what their actual career arcs have been. The whole thing felt a little thin and underdeveloped, Carrell plays a jerk who redeems himself and neither the jerkiness nor the redemption felt that convincing, and Steve Buscemi was in it more than I expected but never really got to be funny. The only winner in this, I think, is Olivia Wilde, who's better at comedy than I expected.
d) Warm Bodies
This was charming, really committed to the whole weird concept and was funnier than I expected, especially the voiceover moments. Not amazing or anything but it worked.
e) Gangster Squad
I just had this on one night while I was writing and waiting for something else to come on and man it was some garbage. Even Emma Stone couldn't bring it to life. Nick Nolte sounded kinda like Yoda, though, that was hilarious.
f) Silver Linings Playbook
I went into this thinking it would at least be kind of acceptable, charming Oscar bait, like As Good As It Gets or something, and that I might even be able to squint and pretend it's someone besides Bradley Cooper until it seems like a genuinely good movie. But nah, this was just kind of bad, weird in a flat way that's not even interesting, it just barely functioned. J-Law gives a good performance (and looks amazing), but that's about it. The big climactic dance scene practically turns this into Little Miss Sunshine at the end.
g) The Bay
Our storied Valentine's Day tradition, in which the wife and I order Chinese food and watch horror movies, this year featured this movie, which we kind of grabbed at random out of a bunch of recommendations I got on Twitter and then looked up on Netflix. It wasn't until we started the movie that I realized it was the horror movie Barry Levinson directed that takes place on the Chesapeake Bay. I love Levinson at his best, and I love Levinson's movies about Maryland, but it's hard to really place this in his filmography, as diverse as it is -- a super low budget 'found footage' horror flick that really could've been directed by almost anybody. It was pretty well done, though, had a good conceit that allowed them to change perspectives and focus on different characters, which made it a little less monotonous than the usual found footage movie. After a while it got pretty immersive to contemplate the possibility of something like it happening in real life, like Contagion.
h) The Master
This had been available OnDemand and on my mental to-do list of things I wanted to watch before Philip Seymour Hoffman died, so afterwards I finally got around to watching it. I have mixed feelings about Paul Thomas Anderson and hated There Will Be Blood, which this resembled most of all his films, but The Master put that texture and rhythm to much better use, I thought. All the unsettling elements and over-the-top performances, including Hoffman totally just going for it as much as he ever did, really had a cumulative effect and took it somewhere far more interesting than just the 'thinly veiled Scientology origin story' premise. I don't know if it all added up per se, but I liked it.