a) Despicable Me 2
The first Despicable Me was a big hit in my household -- my son's 4th birthday party was minion-themed and his mom made minion cupcakes (with Twinkies on top of the cupcakes). But it's also one of those recent non-Pixar digitally animated movies that I thought was genuinely funny and had a lot of replay value. So I was pleased, when James got it for Christmas and wanted to watch it 20 times in the following week, that the sequel was just as good as the original, possibly funnier. Kristen Wiig's character was a good addition. They could make like 5 of these movies for all I care.
These days it seems like who stars in a comedy is more important than the actual quality of the movie, and I'm culpable too, if you put someone I like, like Tina Fey or Paul Rudd, in a movie, I'll see it and probably enjoy it. Both of 'em? Forget about it! This was pretty drab, though, and I say that as a Date Night apologist.
c) Promised Land
I had low expectations for Gus Van Sant directing a film from a story by Dave Eggers about fracking, but this turned out pretty good. The way they kinda kept you focused on the Matt Damon character, and made you kinda set aside your feelings for the topic while you figured out what was going on, was really effective, and set up a good twist towards the end.
d) Killing Them Softly
I liked how this movie told a pretty simple story in a fairly un-Hollywood way, spending lots of time on different characters' perspectives even when that meant less and less screentime for Brad Pitt and more and more screentime for some actors I've never even seen before plus some nice supporting turns by Richard Jenkins and James Gandolfini. By the end, though, I was like, well, that was a lot of gorey, stylish nothing.
e) The Words
I like to just put movies on in the background sometimes when I'm writing, and the more writing needs to be done, the less distracting the movie should be, ideally. And one day I got a lot of stuff done with The Words was on. Boring-ass movies starring boring-ass Bradley Cooper are really helpful to have around sometimes. It's really funny how this movie about a guy who plagiarized a best-selling book was apparently plagiarized from some Swiss novelist, though, that's more interesting that anything in the actual movie.
f) Fun Size
A Nickelodeon movie about trick-or-treating that, by virtue of its PG-13 rating, was free to actually be pretty funny. Jane Levy from "Suburgatory" in particular killed it, but unfortunately she was the best friend character and the lead, Victoria Justice, is just kind of devoid of charisma and totally unable to pull off her character as written.
g) Seven Psychopaths
I thought it was a little weird that Martin McDonagh is this revered, award-winning Irish playwright with all these really ambitious-sounding plays and then his first movie, In Bruges, was a flimsy little black comedy about hitmen, seemed like how Cormac McCarthy went into movies with The Counselor. And then McDonagh's second movie, Seven Psychopaths, seems even more loaded up with post-Pulp Fiction black comedy meta pop culture bullshit. As those kinds of movies go, this was actually pretty decent, carried by guys like Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell being as entertaining as ever. I just wonder how people can do movies like this without realizing how intrinsically played out and hacky they've become.
h) Celeste & Jesse Forever
This reminded me of another movie I saw recently, Save The Date, in that it was a little-seen romantic dramedy starring a lot of familiar faces from TV comedy, in this case Rashida Jones, who also co-wrote the movie, and Andy Samberg. A little less likable and successful overall, though, Samberg as a semi-serious romantic lead worked better than I expected. But it still took a lot of good ideas and a strong premise and seemed to just slowly let the air out of them until the movie ended with a shrug.
i) The Apparition
Pretty weak horror flick, I've already forgotten almost everything about it.
j) The Amazing Spider-Man
More and more, I don't even feel like Sam Raimi's Spidey movies were even that good, just good for what they were. And yet this seems to exist to make it seem better and better -- Emma Stone really the only upgrade, but everything else? Denis Leary? The fuck?
k) Your Sister's Sister
I am at the point where I will watch pretty much anything Emily Blunt is in, not just because she's a babe and a good actress, which she is, but because her taste is compatible with mine and she seems to pick movies I enjoy
l) Damsels In Distress
I started watching this on cable for a few minutes before I even realized it was Whit Stillman's first movie in 13 years, although up to that point it already seemed like an uncommonly verbose campus comedy. Like what I've seen of his other movies, it has some really great dialogue but doesn't necessarily hold together that well as a whole, but I enjoyed it. Also, nice small role for Dukey from "The Wire"!
m) American Reunion
Had no particular affection for these movies to begin with, but it was mildly nice to see them all together, a little puffier but pretty much looking good, even Tara Reid! And anything would be less depressing than Eugene Levy doing all those straight-to-DVD spinoff movies.
This is a little neo noir flick where Amanda Seyfried is a girl who'd been abducted and then has to search for her sister who she thinks was taken by the same guy. It was a little weird to watch after recently revisiting the first season of "Veronica Mars," like 'Woah, in this Lilly Kane is the one solving the mystery?' But she carried it really well.
o) No Strings Attached
In the great romantic comedy Armageddon/Deep Impact showdown of 2011, I firmly backed the Will Gluck-directed Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis joint, Friends With Benefits. But now that I've finally seen its Ashton Kutcher/Natalie Portman counterpart, I dunno, I can see both sides of the competition being arguable winners (although it's pretty funny that they were both originally called Friends With Benefits and then the one not starring a member of N Sync changed to No Strings Attached). This one was written by the creator of "New Girl," Elizabeth Meriwether, and it had a similar tone, which worked well, and there were a lot of funny supporting players, including "New Girl"'s Jake Johnson, even Natalie Portman was more game as a rom com lead than I expected. Still it was a little too brooding and flat in parts, Friends was more fun overall.
p) Musical Chairs
A pretty charming indie flick by Susan Seidelman of Desperately Seeking Susan fame about a dance class for people confined to wheelchairs, although the storytelling and the way the main romantic plot unfurled kinda didn't work, in the end it felt a little weak.
q) I'm Still Here
The Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary about his hoax rap career or whatever. I watched half of this and it was about as pitiful and unfunny as I expected, but maybe actually worse, it barely even functioned as satire or anything.
r) Kill Katie Malone
I haven't seen the last couple yet, but this might be the most tolerable Woody Allen movie of the last ten years? Not that it's great, but it's kind of deliberately lightweight and loopy, whereas almost all of the others are just absolute failures on some fundamental level.
t) Blade Runner
Would you believe I just watched this for the first time the other night? I remember someone in my family getting the 25th anniversary DVD a few years ago, but even then I never actually sat down and watched it, even though I rightly assumed that it's great and influenced a lot of things I love about contemporary sci-fi. And a few nights ago, when I was up literally the entire night writing on deadline, and this came on TV at 4am, that seemed like a good way to experience it for the first time. Not that I totally paid close attention or even stayed awake for all of it, but it was a nice introduction, I'm sure I'll still watch it for real for real sometime.
u) Sunset Boulevard
Another amazing movie that, as a Billy Wilder fan, I've always wanted to see and knew I'd enjoy, but just hadn't gotten around to it until recently, and I also don't think the first viewing quite did the trick and I plan on revisiting it many times in the future.