It’s the end of July (holy chronometer, Batman, where does the time fly?), so it’s time for another movie report card.  It’s also an opportunity to wax eloquent about movie-watching in general.

There’s shifting in the Movieverse of Zu.  I finally got me a wi-fi enabled blu-ray player, which I adore. It streams Netflix, Amazon, CinemaNow, and more. And now come the decisions.

The first is the pending decision about whether to continue subscribing to Netflix. As many will have heard, Netflix, the haven of watchers of unusual, classic, cult, foreign, and documentary films, has announced a change on September 1 that basically raises prices and changes services in a way that makes it tough for some of us to decide what to do. For example, I currently subscribe to getting two DVDs at home at a time plus unlimited streaming, which runs $14.99 plus assorted taxes. The new price for this plan is $19.98.  That’s an increase of over 30 percent!  So, now I have to decide whether to go with JUST streaming for $7.99 (seriously cutting down on the selection available to me and thereby negating one of the main resons I signed on with Netflix in the first place) or streaming plus one DVD at home for $15.98 – still an increase in price over my current plan and a decrease in DVDs.  A third alternative, of course, is to scrap Netflix altogether for this bungling of plans and rely on the new options available to me.

Decisions, decisions.

And now, back to movies. I’ve been working like a madwoman the past few weeks – er, months, actually – so I needed something to give myself as a reward and help me relax with at least a couple of hours of leisure each weekend.  So, what better reward for the Movie Freak than to go see a movie at the theater?  So far, so good.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Here are the recent highlights. These are, by necessity of limited time, very brief reviews, but I had to take these first three out of the report card table, if only so I could include the gratuitous eye candy.

Captain America: The First Avenger

A

First Avenger, hellz yeah! (Yes, it’s true … I am a comic-adapted-to-film nerd.)

Drumroll please, my latest heartthrob is Chris Evans (always liked him — in Fantastic Four, The Losers, Push, Cellular, and Scott Pilgrim — like him even more now). Among the excellent cast, Tommy Lee Jones steals every scene he’s in, IMO. And Hugo Weaving is appropriately menacing as Red Skull.

The story provides well-paced background about the first Avenger, and the final post-credits scene makes Marvel geeks everywhere salivate for May 2012.

The film does an excellent job of immersing viewers in the WWII era and introducing the Captain from his humble beginnings. Though I’m not super-excited about CGI in live-action films, the talent behind the film did an amazing body-shrinking job to make pre-serum Steve Rogers appear short and scrawny.  Of course, post-serum Steve (the real buff physique of Chris Evans) needed no special effects enhancements.

 

Limitless

A

This splendid mind-bender with super cinematography and terrific talent opened to less-than-stellar reception.  It’s hard to say why, though it may have something to do with the fact that the story itself is somewhat bendy. Our good guy is quite the antihero. Conclusions about ethics and the means to reach an end are open to viewer interpretation. It’s not all wrapped up in a neat and shiny bow at the end, and that tends to rattle audiences used to having everything, inclusive of character motivations, ironed and folded.

The film features some amazing cinematography, with sequences that zoom viewers through the streets, alleys, and dwellings of New York in seemingly uninterrupted shots. Made me dizzy … seriously.

And then there are Bradley Cooper’s amazing eyes.  0_0  Um, sorry … what was I saying?

 

Cowboys and Aliens

B+

Well, I may be guilty of being too hyped up on the marketing to give this one a fair shake, but it seemed like a hot mess to me. Oh, it has its moments, and it boasts a terrific cast, bad-ass aliens that are unequivocally baddies, and some awesome Wild West scenery. I really wanted to love this movie. I was waiting to get blown away by it. The storyline is excellent — a real throwback to the feel of old comics that threw together completely implausible combinations in amazingly workable mixtures. But as much as director Jon Favreau talked about it being both about the characters and their relationships and about breathtaking FX and shootouts, it seems somewhere in between to me.  The scenes that are supposed to be heartfelt come off as a bit contrived to me; the action, on the other hand, is stymied in deference to that supposed character development. Something intangible is missing, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.  What I can put my finger on, however, is that some of the reactions of the supposed frontiersmen to being attacked by aliens is less than realistic, and that’s one way in which credibility could certainly have been built.

It’s definitely worth seeing, and I am certain to add it to my collection. Perhaps repeat viewings will change my tune about some of the details. Nonetheless, this is my first reaction … I wished I’d gone to see Captain America again.

Here are some other flicks I watched over the past couple of weeks.  Looking forward to hearing about your movie-watching adventures!

Film Grade Comment
Deep Red (1975)

A-

Dario Argento classic horror film, often considered his best. David Hemmings (Blow-Up) is an expat musician in Italy pulled into a mysterious series of murders. Though some of the acting is melodramatic and the random dubbing/subtitles can distract, it’s an engaging psycho-drama and mystery with plenty of creative kills to satisfy horror fans.
Rango (2011)

A+

Brilliant satire!  There’s enough “animated movie” here to please the kids, but this most definitely a film with plenty of material for adult sensibilities. Ostensibly an underdog-hero tale, Rango rattles the cage of everything from Old West heroes to water conservation issues. Awesome cast and amazing graphics; the uncut version is a must-see!
The Iron Giant (1999)

A

What can I say? Even with today’s mind-boggling advances in animation, this movie remains a gem.
Dark Harbor (1998)

C

Um, I had seen this before and “forgot” – as one forgets things one would like to unsee.  Naw, it’s not THAT bad … it’s just slow as molasses for a while, with a surprising yet oddly creepy crescendo. But like I’ve said many times, I will watch anything with Alan Rickman in it.
Deadtime Stories: Volume 1 (2009)

D

What saves these crappy short flicks from being a complete F is that the stories are actually interesting in an old-fashioned comic-book horror kind of way. But the truly horrific production values make this compilation painful to watch.  Perhaps narrator/producer George Romero didn’t suspect the end result; then again, maybe he didn’t care.
Barney’s Version (2010)

B-

Meh. I kind of didn’t get it as a story, except as a John Irving-esque “here’s a life” portrait (but without Irving’s marvelous life lessons, except maybe the lesson “try not to be an asshole”), but the performances are fabulous. Paul Giamatti is awesome as usual, but I wish he’d quit playing only such sad-sacks and get back to his comedic roots.
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