RSS
Welcome to Sculpting in Time, Nats' movie review blog! I watch movies nearly everyday (and sometimes several in one day) and I will write about ALL of them! So check back often and feel free to leave your own reviews in the comments.

Amelia (2009)


No, not Amelie. It's Amelia as in Earhart. The story is familiar enough, so there's no use in recounting it. Amelia is a historical drama that simply illustrates Amelia Earhart's rise to fame, her love life, and her famous final flight. There's no twist, no passion, nothing remotely interesting at all. I would rather it had sacrificed historical accuracy - having Amelia run into a pack of ninjas riding pterodactyls, for example - and made a better movie. Seriously, it's boring. It seems as if the whole movie is supposed to ride off on Hilary Swank's acting chops, but she's so awkward in this movie. And manly. Which is good for when she plays manly characters (Boys Don't Cry, Million Dollar Baby) but Amelia is supposed to be not only a determined, independent role model for girls, she's also supposed to be the romantic interest of Richard Gere. It doesn't play out well. Her emotional range is somehow directly tied to her bad Kansas accent. I don't believe any of it.

Months and months ago, I saw Amelia on several lists for possible Oscar nominations. That was obviously before anyone had watched it. It wasn't nominated for any Oscars. I think a lot of people are suckers for historical dramas because they're based on true stories, so the drama seems more real. This movie takes what, I guess, could have been a powerful, inspirational story and turns it into a bad documentary with history channel actors.

Writing: 2/10
Acting: 2/10
Plot: 1/10
Visuals: 8/10

Law Abiding Citizen (2009)



I'm pretty sure no one sits down to watch this movie expecting cinematic excellence. It's one of those crime drama action thriller things...with Jamie Foxx! Foxx plays a lawyer who prosecutes these dudes who killed some guy's (Gerard Butler) family. A plea bargain is reached and while one of the killers gets the death sentence, the other gets 3 years in prison. You can imagine that this wouldn't sit well with Gerard (yes, I will refer to the actor's name, not the character). Mr. Butler decides that the justice system is faulty (IS IT REALLY!?!) and takes matters into his own hands.

Yeah, so, there's this whole mystery about how Gerard is manipulating the system and killing people while he's imprisoned. The answer is not only not that shocking, but completely implausible. Law Abiding Citizen is rife with cliche dialogue and plot devices. It, like, totally tries to be Shawshank Redemption or something. But it's not. There are very few surprises here, so if you're looking for an action crime thriller thing that will keep you on the edge of your seat, move along.

There is some blood and stuff, though, if you're into that kind of thing.

Writing: 2/10
Acting: 4/10
Plot: 1/10
Visuals: 4/10

Sherlock Holmes (2009)



Align Right
Robert Downey Jr is probably my favorite actor working today and I generally enjoy all of his films, if not only for his performance. I also love older Guy Ritchie films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch), and, though he has continually disappointed me since then, there's always that hope that he will live up to his former glory. I had high hopes for Sherlock Holmes, and for the most part, I was disappointed. There was a lot of potential for Ritchie to make a fantastic reconfiguring of a classic literary figure, but fell short due to a boring, mundane plot.

In this particular adventure, Holmes (Downey) and his faithful partner Dr. Watson (Jude Law) take on Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a man who is sentenced to hang for practicing black magic but somehow rises from the dead. He plans to murder key people in a plot to take over England with his dark magic. Yes, it's that ridiculous. Obviously, like an episode of Scooby Doo, his plot was foiled by those meddling detectives.

The great thing about mysteries like Sherlock Holmes, and why they're so appealing, is trying to figure out how the bad guy did it before the hero does. In Sherlock Holmes, I didn't really care how the bad guy did it. I didn't really care about the story at all. There is some witty dialogue and Downey does do a good job, so parts are entertaining. However, the fight scenes go on too long and Watson's silliness could have been a lot sillier. In short, it's boring.

Writing: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Plot: 3/10
Visuals: 8/10

Network (1976)



The first movie from the AFI's 100 Greatest Movies list that I posted a few days ago, Network is a 1976 drama directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, The Appointment, Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict) and staring Faye Dunaway (Bonnie & Clyde, Chinatown). The script for Network may as well just be the guidebook for any current major news network, but more apparently, it's prophetic of our current state of affairs regarding entertainment and corporatocracy. Or maybe it's just always been that way. In Network, the fictional television network UBC has recently been bought by the conglomerate CCA. With a new, stronger incentive to make profit and boost ratings, UBC's programming director, Diana(Faye Dunaway), becomes desperate to create hit show; there is no line she won't cross.

Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in a evening news anchorman with journalistic credibility and a historic career, but awful ratings. When he is fired from the network, he has a mental break down and threatens to kill himself on air. The threat brings the channel enormous ratings and, even though Beale is clearly out of his mind, the network executives decided to give him his own nightly show as a modern, angry prophet. The show is an astronomical success until his mad rantings begin to target UBC and CCA. Beale's nightly newscasts don't have power, anger, or mass appeal anymore and his ratings plummet. Unable to just get rid of Beale, the network decides to obliterate him in an unimaginable way.

The current resonance of Network is astonishing. Glenn Beck might as well be reading directly from Howard Beale's script. The question, then, is when will Beck have to be suppressed by his puppet masters?! Anyway, it's a rather unique story. Not many movies are made about the inner workings of network TV, especially ones that are so socially relevant. The plot is engaging and Faye plays flat characters really well. Some of the dialogue is awfully corny, though. Especially regarding the relationship that develops between Max (UBS News president, played by William Holden) and Diana. This is probably intentional, though, as Max repeatedly reflects that their relationship merely follows one of Diana's TV scripts. Still, the dialogue during these scenes is laughable, which is a nice relief during such an intense drama. Overall, Network is a well constructed story with many ripples of influence. It's a movie that will be referred to and remain relevant for years to come.

Writing: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Visuals: 7/10

The Informant! (2009)

I love dark comedies and this movie makes me adore Matt Damon. I can not emphasize enough how incredible Damon's performance is in this movie. He plays Mark Whitacre, a scientist and VP at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a large agri-business, who becomes an FBI information. He confesses to FBI Agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula - yes, Scott Bakula a.k.a. Quantum Leap) that ADM is involved in an international price fixing scam. Whitacre works with the FBI for years, taping conversations, revealing documents and all the while trying to maintain his own innocence, which turns out to be very difficult. Whitacre gets caught up in a web of ridiculous lies and plagiarisms that he, or the audience, can't tell which way is up.

While Steven Soderbergh directs a masterful mystery thriller and Scott Burns' screenplay establishes some of the most brilliant and funny dialogue I've heard in a long time, this movie belongs to Matt Damon. Playing the best and most challenging role of his entire career, Damon is on point with every desperate explanation, with every innocent gaze, with that psychotic, confused smile. The Informant! is simply hilarious and fun and full of mystery. It's also based on a true story, which is entirely secondary to the awesomeness of the film within itself. I highly recommend it.



Writing: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Plot: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Invictus (2009)

Invictus is Latin for "unconquered" and is also the name of the poem by William Ernest Henley that Nelson Mandela turned to in times when he needed inspiration. Invictus the movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, centers around the beginning of the Nelson Mandela presidency. Mandela (Morgan Freeman) knows he has to unite post-apartheid country before tackling major issues like poverty, crime, and education. He decides to focus on using the South African rugby team, the Springboks, as a political tool; they must win the 1995 Rugby World Cup and bring the South African whites and blacks together. Fran├žois Pienaar, the Springbok's captain played by Matt Damon, forms a relationship with Mandela based on their mutual leadership roles and need for inspiration.

Like all movies based on rather famous true stories, we already know how Invictus ends. It's how the movie gets to its end that becomes the focus. Clint Eastwood seems to be very good at manipulating emotions. He picks just the right stories that will tug at your heart strings and films them in a way that makes the sentiment of the film impossible to ignore. At times, this is just cheesy (i.e. showing the crowd cheering in slow motion up to the Springbok's game winning score). At other times, the cheesiness is outweighed by reality; this is not just a movie, this really happened. One such moment is when Pienaar is shows Mandela's cell when he was in prison. He looks down and sees the thin blankets on the floor that were his bed. He spreads his arms out while in the cell to see how small it is. He imagines Mandela sitting in the single chair, reading and never giving up hope. The scene is filmed in Mandela's actual cell, so even though it seems a bit gratuitous and the transparent Mandela sitting in the chair juxtaposed over Pienaar seems a bit too much, it doesn't matter.

I'm really a stickler for a movie being good only on the grounds of its production, its form. The movie in and of itself is not great. Sure, the acting is good (both Freeman and Damon were nominated for acting Oscars), but the story, the filming, and the writing are the same as just about every other sports movie ever made. The underdog always comes out on top and the same story is retold once again. However, what most sports movies don't have is the incredibly charismatic character of Mandela and the historical significance of something as monumental as the apartheid. Even if Invictus does follow the same old formula, it's a shining example of what the formula should be.

Writing: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Plot: 6/10
Visuals: 6/10

The Descent: Part 2 (2009)


I didn't see the original The Descent, but from what I've gathered from The Descent: Part 2, the first one was about a group of hot, young, model-esque girls who decide to go cave spelunking in order to film their own extreme version of Girls Gone Wild. The whole thing goes terribly wrong when they discover that the whole cave is infested with naked, cannibal bat-men, who are not nearly as sexy as Batman. Six girls into the cave and only one comes out: Sarah (Shauna Macdonald in both movies).

The Descent: Part 2 starts with a group of men and women who have formed a search party in order to look for the 5 missing hot girls. The group forces Sarah to go back into the cave with them as they believe she is a liar and/or crazy. Sarah does, initially, have some sort of PTSD, then upon entering the cave, her memory comes back to her and she leaves behind the well-meaning nosy bitch bastards. The group gets split up, as is typical for any movie where it would be beneficial if the characters stay together. They soon realize that Sarah wasn't a crazy liar but, of course, several characters end up dead anyway.

Apparently, it looks shittier than the first movie. I'm not sure in what way, but The Descent: Part 2 definitely has a SyFy movie quality to it. It's also quite gory, though the blood is that unrealistic kind of fluorescent red that makes the gore more funny than grotesque. The acting is not even worth mentioning. This movie is bad.

Writing: 3/10
Acting: 1/10
Plot: 3/10
Visuals: 3/10

I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

So, new look, new style, new layout! How do you guys like it?

A few added features:

  • There is a "will you watch this movie?" poll at the bottom of each post where you can conveniently tell me if you've seen it or if you plan on watching it in the future with an easy click of a mouse button!
  • I have developed an easy tagging system that will categorize movies by their quality ( awful, decent, good, and fabulous)
  • I have also tagged movies with their star actors/actresses if I feel like there will be several movies staring them and if they are actors/actresses that people really like.
  • There is now a FAQ page which I will be adding to regularly, so check it out.
  • The TBS link at the top is to The Bomb Shelter, a fun social network developed by my boyfriend. It is invite only, so if you're interested in joining, shoot me an e-mail at natsfakemail@yahoo.com or hit me up on AIM (s/n: Cuddlethunder), and I'll send you an invite.

The Box (2009)


The summary of The Box on IMDB is "A small wooden box arrives on the doorstep of a married couple, who know that opening it will grant them a million dollars and kill someone they don't know." This is also a rather succinct summary of the short story that The Box is based on: Richard Matheson's "Button, Button". Doesn't seem like much material for a full length movie. Instead of becoming a glorified extended episode of The Twilight Zone, Richard Kelly (director and writer of Donnie Darko) slowly warps and manipulates "Button, Button" into something entirely dissimilar. And much more interesting.

The Box is incredibly suspenseful. I watched it in bed one night with my boyfriend laying next to me. I kept having to pause the movie and I'd turn to him, "This is really scary. I'm really freaked out right now. This is really scary, etc." over and over. Now, I should say that I don't regularly enjoy horror movies and that I may have over reacted. However, even though I felt terrified for about 40 minutes of the film, I still really liked it. It was a kind of suspense that I don't normally experience with film, especially modern horror. It's also very weird. If you've seen Donnie Darko, The Box is very much in the same vein, both visually and dramatically. My only complaint would be the casting of Cameron Diaz, although her natural naivete is surprisingly fitting for a 1970's housewife. Frank Lagella is super creepy as Arlington Steward, the bearer of the box, so the acting isn't all bad.

Overall, I was really surprised with The Box and would recommend it to those looking for a suspenseful thrill ride that isn't typical of modern horror films.

Writing: 8/10
Acting: 6/10
Plot: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

In the Loop (2009)

In the Loop is a British comedy that at once reminded me of the British version of The Office. I suppose it's the same sort of dry, subtle, straight-faced humor. It's also filmed in a similarly pseudo-documentary style. Apparently, In the Loop is a spin-off of the BBC television series The Thick of It, but I haven't seen it, so I can't really comment. Anyway, the movie depicts US and UK political relationships during the run up to the Iraq war in 2003.

The movie if filled with brilliantly amusing site gags and absurd quips. At one point, Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy), the US Assistant Secretary of State of Diplomacy starts bleeding profusely from the mouth during a meeting. She retreats to the bathroom where she stuffs her mouth with napkins with the assistance of her assistant, Liza (Anna Chlumpsky, the girl from My Girl). Karen gives Liza an order and when Liza clarifies, "You're not going to shout at me if I go and do that, are you?" Karen, with her mouth and hands covered in blood and crammed full of bloody napkins says, "I'm not a monster, Liza, okay?" Another delightful one-liner has Malcome Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the Prime Minister's Director of Communications, saying "'Climbing the mountain of conflict'? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!"

In the Loop is probably entertaining for those who are familiar with and enjoy British comedy, and maybe some of those who don't. I think deadpan punchlines and absurdity has it's place in American comedy, but it's much more subtle than the more common forms of humor.

Writing: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10
 
Copyright 2009 Sculpting in Time. All rights reserved.