TootsieThis is another movie I decided to see after reading about it in a screenwriting book. The book included a couple of excerpts, and it was amusing to see them on screen as not just involving Dustin Hoffman interacting with these abstract characters, but instead with Bill Murray and Teri Garr.
I'm not sure what the last movie I actually really laughed out loud at was--South Park did it, and I'm not sure what since. This one surprised me, as I did indeed laugh out loud in a few places. Some of the fish-out-of-water humor was a little obvious, but for the most part it was pretty fun. The story explored a fair number of possibilities and came together nicely in the end.
Five stars out of five.
La Femme NikitaEh. An interesting collection of moments, but it didn't really add up for me. Too many of the scenes were constructured to surprise Nikita and the audience without any real explanation for why Nikita would be so in the dark. The ending didn't seem to achieve any sense of closure. Probably part of the problem was the shift in point of view: the rest of the movie had pretty much restricted itself to events Nikita was party to (although we did get to see the fixer on his way up); but then, at the end, instead of following Nikita, we stay behind to hear the discussion of the men in her lives. But even if we had followed Nikita, I still think it would have felt like it petered out uselessly.
Three out of five shading lower.
Donnie DarkoSomebody on ifmud recommended this. I was very disappointed with the movie, but I appreciate the recommendation: for one, I'm still glad I saw it, and for the other, this is the kind (or at least a kind) of movie people should recommend to me, and it's up to me to either like it or not.
This is one of those movies that could have been so good that it makes me want to give it 1 star for being so disappointing, but I suppose in fairness I have to give it, say, three stars. The good: neat premise, lots of interesting stuff happening; some cool camera work, playing with time passing by over- and under-cranking, changing mid-shot.
The bad: Usually a writer/director-made movie is a good thing, but I think here we have an example of why it was bad. Either as a writer Kelly failed to communicate in the script what he wanted, or as a director Kelly failed to communicate what was in the script or failed to point out the problems. Before reviewing this I checked the web to try to find out "what happened" in this movie, and after not much luck, I sat down and listened to the directors commentary (about half an hour at the beginning and fifteen minutes at the end). This was very revealing: he described in a lot of detail a lot of what was going on--none of which was communicated on screen. Whether this was intentional or not isn't clear, but in the end his explanation isn't communicate by the movie and doesn't explain the vast majority of the movie. He acts like Donnie's actions with the axe and burning are somehow responsible for resolving the time issue--mentioning explicitly Rose being on the plane--but Rose being on the plane had nothing to do with what happened to the plane. If what happened to Donnie's gf had motivated Donnie to do something about the time situation, that would have been cool and all made sense and Grandma Death's involvement ditto; but instead, after that happened... Donnie did nothing but watch.
So. If this movie had gone somewhere at the end--not necessarily made perfect sense, but actually had anybody's actions make some kind of difference--it might have been a great movie. But Kelly needs somebody else to tell him when his ideas are nonsensical: like in the commentary Kelly mentions that the sleepwalking incident that opens the movie was Donnie being called to observe the layout of things that he'd need to know at the end. But this happens before the breakaway to the "Tangent Universe"--Kelly's explanation for what's going on timewise--which happens the night Frank calls Donnie. Oops.
Big Trouble in Little ChinaOk, I thought this was a fairly amusing concept: a clueless, relatively incompetent hero, who's constantly failing to understand what's going on, plus the move from realism to fantasy happens at just the point in the movie where it's early enough that it doesn't bother me and late enough that it's kind of a fun surprise. The fight scenes didn't seem that impressive by today's standards, but I'll give it a bit of a benefit of the doubt. A few nice touches of comedy--presumably intended more as a comedy/action movie rather than an action movie with comic relief. Four stars.
Wet Hot American SummerSo, another Janeane Garofalo movie set in the 80s for not much reason, other than that that was when the movies it's "parodying" came out. I'm not sure why I rented it; partly because of JG of course, but I was pretty sure I wouldn't like it so I was avoiding picking it, but I must have seen a good review somewhere.
I shouldn't have bothered. It has a few funny ideas for parodying those movies, but it milks them far too much, for far too long. Also lots of pointlessly tacky gags. There are also a number of nice, subtle touches that I only noticed by having them pointed out on the commentary track, which was too bad; those little touches were a lot better than most of the attempts at humor--far too much of it seemed more of the "here's a funny sort of thing that belongs in the sorts of movies that we're parodying".