Letterboxd has now virtually replaced Flixster as the website I use to share movie ratings, reviews, and lists. It’s a social network that allows you to keep a diary of your movie-watching and see what your friends are watching as well. The site looks a lot better than Flixster and quite a few professional critics whom I like and respect actually use it. I definitely recommend signing up.
And here are a few of my most recent movie reviews posted there:
Watchmen (2009, Zack Snyder) – Perhaps the best compliment anyone can pay this movie is that no one could have made a better CliffsNotes version of the gloriously complex source material. Does Zack Snyder ever attain anything greater than that? Not really, but I think this might be his most watchable film (I haven’t seen his Dawn of the Dead yet). And Alan Moore’s story is rich enough that, even in truncated form, I have to recommend it. Simply seeing it brought to life is a pleasure. The talents of Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Carla Gugino more than outweigh the deficiencies of Malin Akerman, Matthew Goode, and Robert Wisden’s Nixon impression. The film is excessively violent at times, but the brutality of the characters reminds us that these “heroes” are a mess. That’s the point.
Despicable Me 2 (2013, Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud) – I suppose without the Minions, there would be no movie, so there shouldn’t have been a movie. Nah, it’s not that bad: pleasant enough while it lasts, completely forgettable once it’s over. Those Minions really are most effective in small doses, though.
Spaceballs (1987, Mel Brooks) – This is definitely one of Mel Brooks’ better spoofs; he just doesn’t leave me rolling in the aisles, generally speaking. A lot of the best jokes weren’t even genre-specific, instead breaking the fourth wall with references to the art and business of moviemaking – exposition, camera zooms, home video, etc. Honestly, there were a few times when I wondered if this is just a few steps up from today’s “(Blank) Movie” spoofs. A couple jokes feel like today’s dimwit axiom “people recognize this reference, and that makes it funny.” The non-Star Wars references get progressively worse. An early Star Trek joke raises the possibility of a Wars/Trek hybrid, which would poke fun at the eternal feud between those two camps by pointing out how nerdy they both are. Alas, besides Snotty, there don’t seem to be any more Trek references. The Wizard of Oz scene works because it sneaks up on you. The way it seamlessly blends characters from Star Wars and Oz points out physical and archetypal similarities. It’s actually a pretty decent bit of film criticism in that way. That’s what all spoofs are supposed to be shooting for, right? But then we get to the movie’s ending, or rather its refusal to end (surely not a preemptive spoof of Return of the King; Brooks can’t be that brilliant). The Alien reference is still pretty funny thanks to the cameo, but then the movie just keeps going, and they throw in an obvious Planet of the Apes joke because, hey, also sci-fi! There was potential here, and some of it is fulfilled. John Candy and Rick Moranis are always great. But I didn’t laugh enough.
Scream 4 (2011, Wes Craven) – Not many people gave this one a chance. Is it too clever by half? Sure, at times. Clearly, there’s no way to make the phone calls and the voice changer fresh or interesting anymore. That idea was played out probably a couple sequels ago. Nevertheless, this film is often a blast to watch. It’s good to see the franchise return to once again take stock of its genre, also taking shots at cheap celebrity in the age of reality TV. Remakes/reboots are a pretty easy target, but the movie mocks the concept both in word and deed (by killing off nearly all the new characters while leaving the old veterans wounded but apparently un-killable). What a mind-bogglingly attractive cast, too!