It has been so cold and snowy here in Kansas City that all I want to do is sit around watching movies or reading. Mostly watching movies. Here's what I saw the last few nights:
-Despicable Me - With Pixar on a streak of greatness rivaling Joe Dimaggio, other animated movies can't help but suffer in comparison. As a result, I rarely see them in theaters, either waiting for video/cable or skipping them altogether. After seeing the trailers for Despicable Me, I figured I wouldn't see it unless I was bored and HBO was showing it. Lucky for me, Redbox had it yesterday, and I spent 90 minutes laughing hysterically. The alternate reality where the movie takes place shares the hilarious cartoon violence I always loved in Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. While the two central characters and the little girls who come between them are great in their own right, the endless army of minions (pictured above) completely stole the show.
-Buried - This thriller never got the attention it deserved when it came out in the fall with little fanfare. I suppose the general public would not flock to see a movie that takes place almost entirely inside of a small wood coffin. Ryan Reynolds stars as a man who finds himself buried alive inside the aforementioned coffin, and he spends the rest of the movie working to escape. I heard a few comparisons to 127 Hours, since the central character in both is stuck in one place. Where 127 Hours resorts to twitchy camera work and lots of quick edits, Buried allows the camera to sit still at times. The result is a feeling of claustrophobia that never goes away. The filmmaking and the acting are both impressive.
-Date Night - This was clearly the third best of the Redbox movies I rented to console myself after the KU loss yesterday. Tina Fey and Steve Carell work nicely together in what could have been renamed Adventures in Babysitting with Adults. I do not mean that as a slight. There are a lot of laughs with fun adventure and a wonderful supporting cast. The scenes with Marky Mark had me howling, and the James Franco/Mila Kunis scene is brilliantly acted. While it doesn't deserve any awards, you won't regret spending 90 minutes with Date Night.
-Green Zone - I hesitate to bring politics into the site, but it's difficult to discuss Green Zone without doing so. The bad guys in this movie are so cartoonish that I wanted to dismiss them for being too perfectly constructed by the filmmakers. They just didn't seem real. Of course, I then realized the Bush administration did a lot of similar crap to get us into the war in Iraq. Getting angry again, so I'm gonna stop. Decent movie, but not one I will remember much from Matt Damon's career.
-The Life of Emile Zola and The Great Ziegfeld - It's amazing how much biopics have changed in the last 75 years. These two movies won Best Picture for 1937 and 1936, though neither one gives much of a nuanced portrait of its subjects. The Great Ziegfeld is a love letter to Florenz Ziegfeld, producer of the famed Ziegfeld Follies, among other things. While they do not make him out to be a saint, the filmmaker's opinion of Ziegfeld is plain from the beginning. There are some grand set pieces that are beautiful and clearly cost a ton of money to make, but they feel thrown in as part of another movie. Fortunately, the cast, including three of my favorites, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Frank Morgan, make the bulk of the movie fun to watch. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town should have taken home Best Picture that year. Then again, five Frank Capra movies would have won Best Picture in the 30s if it were up to me. Maybe six.
The acting in The Life of Emile Zola feels like something out of an SNL sketch making fun of how over-the-top actors used to be. Emile Zola DID lead an interesting life, but I found myself laughing at the actors more often than not. If you want to see a great movie from the same year, get The Awful Truth, which is intentionally funny.
-Suspicion - I didn't think it could happen, but I finally found an Alfred Hitchcock movie I didn't like, as well as a crappy performance from Cary Grant. The less said about this one, the better. If Cary Grant isn't my all-time favorite actor, he's probably second behind Jimmy Stewart. His cartoonish performance in Suspicion distracted me so much, I hardly noticed how great Joan Fontaine is. Guess I should watch North by Northwest or Holiday or His Girl Friday again, just to get Cary back in my good graces.