Monday, March 14, 2011

My 10 favorite movies of 2010 posted far too late for anyone to care

Jennifer Lawrence (above) starred in my favorite movie of 2010, "Winter's Bone," a film that reminds us that the reason we don't go into the woods uninvited isn't the monsters, but the people.

Sometime in early January a co-worker asked me for a list of my favorite movies for 2010. I hadn't thought about it much at the time. I planned to answer with a blog post. Then I got lazy. Then I started watching "The Big Lebowski"  over and over again. Here we are in the middle of March and I haven’t answered. I am absolutely worthless without deadlines. Many, especially my editors, would argue I’m not much good then, either. Ah well.

Anyway, here are my 2010 picks, each in about 140 characters.

1. Winter’s Bone makes you feel like a stranger in your homeland in a tale of a girl’s struggle to save her family home in the dirt poor Ozarks.

2. Get Low stars Bill Murray and Robert Duvall. If that is not enough of a recommendation, than I'll add it's very funny, warm and touching.

3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan are painfully shy people make one another better in Jack Goes Boating, a small, lovely romantic story.

4. The Dude outdoes the Duke in True Grit, which is almost as much fun to listen to as it is to watch. Contraction-free dialogue is captivating.

5. The Other Guys is a supposed to be a send-up of buddy cop movies, but it’s really the best buddy cop movie since Lethal Weapon.

6. The Town proves Ben Affleck has a lot more to contribute to movies than being a punchline and Jon Hamm is more than the maddest of Mad Men.

7. The Social Network is really about the increasing disconnection of people from their humanity despite technology designed to do the opposite.

8. Inception feels like walking in an MC Escher drawing while in the middle of a heist being chased by spies and trying to fix a relationship.

9. Salt is a great action movie. Angelina Jolie stomps adversaries in sequences worthy of the Bourne films but becomes a hero we root for.

10. Toy Story 3. Woody. Buzz. Rex. The Potato Heads. Barbie. Ken. Pixar. Adventure. High jinks. Coming of age. All heart. Aw, hell. Just see it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Movie Review: "Jack Goes Boating"

5. If only every romantic comedy could be as good as "Jack Goes Boating," a small movie about painfully shy people who fall in love despite being adrift in a cynical sea of decaying relationships and social ostracism.

4. The magnificent Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Jack, a socially awkward limousine driver who gets set up with fellow square Connie (Amy Ryan), who works as a saleswoman for a self-help seminar outfit.

3. Connie loves boating, but Jack can't swim so friend and co-worker Clyde (John Ortiz) teaches him to swim and tries to coach Jack about long-term relationships even though Clyde's own marriage to Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega) is crumbling.

2. "Jack Goes Boating" might set a celluloid record for painful pauses, awkward silences and stilted dialogue, but it's all wonderful because the cast create believable and whole characters taken from everyday life, with real problems -- people who fumble, struggle and miss their mark yet manage to display truly loving acts through small kindnesses and giant leaps of trust.

1. This movie only made about $474,000, but it is so much better than the hideous spate money-making of romantic comedy released this year ("Sex and the City 2," "Date Night," "Going the Distance," "Valentine's Day," "Leap Year," "The Switch," "The Bounty Hunter," "Killers" and "Knight and Day" to name a few) and though its gone from theaters in Des Moines, it merits a must-rent on Netflix, Video On Demand or DVD purchase when it arrives Jan. 18.

"Jack Goes Boating"
Run time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Rated R
Genre: Romantic comedy
Director: Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega
Finney's Flicks Grade: A+

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Movie Review: "Jackass 3D"

5. When I posted to my Facebook page that I was seeing "Jackass 3D" at the theater, an old friend replied "Why?,"and I offered the only appropriate response to an unspoken implication that we should all be above such a sickening display of idiocy: "Why not?"

4. Is the vast and inventive use of feces, both animal and human, by the likes of Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera really any more gag-inducing than the latest spate of hateful political commercials offered by power-hungry Democrats and Republicans?

3. Is dumping a plastic tub full of pythons on ophidiophobic Margera any more abusive than the donkey and elephant parties each drumming up fears of global Apocalypse should just one person from the other side ascend to elected office?

2. Is watching Jason "Wee Man" Acuna be glued to the hairy chest of a fat man and then be ripped off in wrenching fashion anymore painful than seeing a pair of insipid, dull and uninspiring gubernatorial candidates debate who is the greater liar?

1. The easy way out is to say "Jackass 3D" is the lowest of the lowbrow, but our allegedly high-minded political candidates find new and more creative ways to debase themselves and our electoral process on a biannual basis, so if you ask me why I'm at "Jackass 3D" instead of requesting an absentee ballot, I say, "If am I'm to spend my afternoon covered in drek, let it at least be amusing."

"Jackass 3D"
Run time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Rated R‎‎
Genre: Comedy/Documentary/Action/Adventure‎
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Ryan Dunn and Jason Acuna
Finney's Flick's Grade: C+

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Movie Review: "Red"

5. "Red" is basically "The Expendables" with a better cast.

4. I don't know if this new trend in action movies for the AARP crowd is disturbing or empowering.

3. On the one hand, it's nice to the senior set -- Morgan Freeman, 73, Helen Mirren, 55, John Malkovich, 56, and Bruce Willis, 55 -- get to blow stuff up and shoot bad guys with the reckless abandon not seen since the cocaine-fueled, inflation-endowed 1980s.

2. Yet "Red," just as "Expendibles," made me feel old because it meant we've been watching these people -- particularly Willis -- do basically the same thing again and again for more than two decades -- more than 57 percent of my life.

1. "Reds" is OK, not worth much more than an "eh," but it did leave me wondering if I needed to do something different with whatever percentage of movie-watching life I have left.

Run time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Rated PG-13‎‎
Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy‎
Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Karl Urban
Finney's Flicks Grade: C

Monday, October 11, 2010

Movie Review: "The Social Network"

5. "The Social Network" really isn't about Facebook or the legal battles over it's creation or any hypertext information super highway gobbledygook; it's the oldest story in the world: It's about a nerdy boy, albeit one with an uncommonly powerful intellect, desperately trying to fit in and woo women.

4. Everything that's already been said about "The Social Network" is true: It's a terrific, well-written and directed modern drama that's masterfully acted with amazing performances by the three young leads Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Joseph Mazzello.

3. What isn't as obvious in the hype is that "The Social Network" serves as a kind of indictment of Facebook as a great connector and minter of friendships.

2. Facebook may be worth $25 billion, but all the website truly offers us is a very contrived illusion of access to others -- we only see what they want us to see in the definitions and terms they choose, a sort of clearinghouse for digital distortion not all that different the an old fashioned fun house mirror.

1. The most telling moment "The Social Network" comes in the brilliant, wonderful and sad scene final scene, which I won't spoil but to say no matter how many ways we have to "connect" via the Internet, our smart phones, it does not change that in our most solitary moments of darkness pierced only by the glow of a laptop screen, we still wonder if anybody really loves us.

"The Social Network"
Run time: 2 hour
Rated PG-13‎‎
Genre: Drama‎
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Joseph Mazzello and Rooney Mara
Finney's Flicks Grades: A+

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Movie Review: "The Town"

5. "The Town", based on the novel by Chuck Hogan, is a terrific, taunt thriller that proves Ben Affleck has a lot more to contribute to movies than being a punchline ("Gigli" notwithstanding) and Jon Hamm is far more than the maddest of "Mad Men," Don Draper.

4. Doug MacRay (Affleck), a native of Boston's  Charlestown neighborhood the alleged bank robber capital of the world, falls in love with Claire (Rebecca Hall) the manager of a bank he and his psychotic pal (Jeremy Renner) knock over to open the film.

3. MacRay and his crew come into the cross hairs of FBI Agent Adam Frawley (Hamm), who is more disheveled than Hamm's signature Don Draper, but no less intense, confident and capable.

2. "The Town" brings plenty of breakneck action sequences — including the best-filmed close-quarters urban car chase I've ever seen — and director Affleck coaxes believable, smart and edgy performances out of Pete Posthlethwaite (as a creepy gangster flourist). Hamm, Hall, Renner  and perhaps especially himself.

1. Maybe the most interesting thing about the town is that you don't have to pick a side: Both MacRay and Frawley are equally likable and relatable in their own way and the strength of the film is not the inevitable collision between their characters but the chase in between.

"The Town"
Run time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Rated R‎‎ 
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively and Pete Postlethwaite
Finney's Flicks Grade: A

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Movie Review: "The American"

5. George Clooney does his Steve McQueen impression in "The American," playing a strong, silent type with a tough job and many loves.

4. Clooney has had enough of his job as an international weapons maker and dealer, a role that recalls McQueen's best work in "Bullitt" and the sparseness of dialogue in "Le Mans."

3. This isn't to imply "The American" is unoriginal or even an homage, but rather poured of a prime vintage — a recall of classic thrillers driven by believable action and the smoldering intensity of a leading man who has little patience for emotional diatribes or overt romantic sentiment.

2. "The American" drags a bit despite a tight 105-minute run time but much credit goes to Clooney who makes the most of his frames without the benefit of exposition.

1. In fact, this is Clooney's best work since "Michael Clayton" and a worthy segue from summer shoot-em-ups to the fall's Oscar hopefuls.

"The American"
 Run time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Rated R
Genre: Suspense-Thriller-Drama
Director: Anton Corbijn
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli
Finney's Flicks Grade: B

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