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Saturday, July 30, 2011

I'm going to make this a regular column because I watch and rewatch films all the time that I just don't have the time or energy to write full reviews about. So at the end of every month, I'll write a recap and include a few capsule reviews.

This month, I rewatched The Social Network for maybe the fifth time. It's easily the most rewatchable film from 2010, and is right up there with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I'm not sure I'm ready to declare it my favorite film of last year because of how 127 Hours and Toy Story 3 made me feel on first and second viewings, but with time, who knows.

I checked out Spider-man 2 around the 4th of July when I was jonesing for a quality blockbuster to hit theaters. Thankfully, that's happened since (twice, actually—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Captain America: The First Avenger), but I think Sam Raimi's 2004 film was just what I needed at that time. Sure, it has its fair share of cornball moments, but overall, it's as refreshing as I remember and definitely the best film of that trilogy.

I saw Woody Allen's Love and Death for the first time. It's certainly an unusual film, though almost typical for Allen. It never takes itself too seriously and contains some laugh-out-loud moments, but I have to say, it didn't wow me. I enjoyed it for sure, but I just don't think it comes together quite as strongly as some of the director's other films. But I love Woody, and I always will. Like Scorsese, even his minor films usually work for me, and Love and Death is no exception. Just don't expect it on my August column as something I rewatched.

Below are some capsule reviews of some 2010 films I finally caught up with. All three underwhelmed me in a big way, actually, but having officially seen my 100 films of the year, I'm happy to close the door on last year and fully devote myself to the films of 2011. I'll be writing more about that year later this week, but for now, enjoy these reviews, and let me know what you think!

Let Me In (2 Stars)
In 1980s New Mexico, a picked-on young boy, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), longs for acceptance from anyone. It comes in the form of Abby (Chloe Mortez), a mysterious young girl who just moved into Owen's apartment complex. The two spend time together and become quite close, but it's clear from the start that there's something strange about Abby, and when a series of murders leads back to her and her guardian (Richard Jenkins), Owen must decide whether or not it's in his best interest to stick by his potentially dangerous new friend.

To condemn the film for slavishly following Alfredson's original, the brilliant Let the Right One In, would be too easy. Instead, I'll bemoan the complete lack of suspense and the disappointingly tepid romance that should be the film's core. In the Swedish version, we cared about the characters. We felt for both children as they struggle to fit in. Owen and Abby, however, are maybe half as interesting. I don't blame Smit-McPhee or Moretz. They're adequate. Rather, I fault director Matt Reeves. If you can't coax great performances out of solid actors with material like this, you've got a problem on your hands.

Love and Other Drugs (2 Stars)
Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a hotshot pharmaceutical salesman who believes he can charm the pants off just about any woman out there. His latest acquaintance, Maggie (Anne Hathaway), is more of a challenge. It certainly doesn't take long before her pants (and everything else) are off, but Maggie is a tough nut to crack. She's very emotionally distant, insisting on a purely physical relationship between the two of them, but something about that arrangement intrigues Something. He's intoxicated by Maggie, and eventually she relents, but as the source of her pain and reservedness becomes known, Jamie must decide whether it's best for him and his future to commit or get out.

There's no denying Hathaway and Gyllenhaal have chemistry. So why then do we care so little about them? Is it because the film's focus moves back and forth quite jarringly between his career and Maggie's issues without taking the proper time to develop their relationship? Or is it because they spend most of the film just having sex and condemning the less glamorous aspects of relationships? Obviously, both bothered me quite a bit. Theirs just isn't an appealing coupling. I lost interest quite early on and they never said or did anything that made me feel like I needed to pay attention. Consider yourself warned: This one is a snooze.

Made in Dagenham (2 Stars)
Though strikes were commonplace during the 1950s and 1960s across Britain, there was never a strike quite like the one at the Dagenham Ford factory in 1968. For the first time, women (about 200 or so) stood on the picket line with their signs, demanding equal pay. Led by Rita O'Grady (Sally Hawkins), the women refused to return to work until their demands were met, even if that meant a complete shutdown for all workers. Faced with mounting pressure from Ford executives, and their male counterparts who were losing money by the hour, Rita and her women stood strong, and with the help of a unyielding bureaucrat (Miranda Richardson), their demands were eventually met, and the 1970 Equal Pay Act was signed into law.

Those who would call that a spoiler need only watch the first few minutes of director Nigel Cole's film before you realize how this one will end. The film's tone foreshadows every event from a mile away, meaning any sense of suspense is absent, and the stakes Rita and her women face feel muted. The acting is fine—Miranda Richardson is especially memorable. But the rest of the film is so paint-by-numbers that it's hard to generate much enthusiasm about it at all.


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