Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 Movies I Saw

In backwards date order for 2010:

The Hereafter
- Not a thriller. Slow look at three people's lives, affected by death. Interesting, but not revolutionary nor particularly thought-provoking (although it seems to think so of itself). Liked it, but maybe I was biased by Matt Damon's presence.

The Social Network
- Decently made, and fairly interesting. I liked it, but I'm not sure what all the hype is about.

- Potential in concept and coolness, but seriously lacking in real story/character. The story is a shadow of a story and the characters are shadows of characters. Kind of neat, but incomplete.

The Fighter
- Great movie. Definitely rated R. Based on a true story. What a family. Now I hope Christian Bale goes back to a normal weight.

Little Fockers
- Average movie. Some funny moments, but not great. Owen Wilson was prolific but did not pick them well this year. Ben Stiller did all right here.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
- I liked this one, but I find it hard not to like Shia LeBeauf. I did see what was coming but I thought it was a well-made, engaging, timely tale.

Remember Me
- Eh. Pattinson is a little wooden. Heavy-handed, brooding, with a 'surprise' dark ending that many hated but some loved. I don't think this piece worked.

- This movie should hold your attention. Intriguing and well-played.

Jonah Hex
- Interesting concept poorly executed - a lot of fight scenes where you can't even tell what is going on or why. Could've been much better.

The Town
- I'm not a Ben Affleck fan, really, but this is a pretty good movie.

How Do You Know

- Ugh this Reese Witherspoon movie was dull and stupid.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

- Nothing spectacular, but nice telling of the C.S. Lewis book.

The Kids Are All Right

- I liked the part about the kids meeting their dad, but the whole dynamic between the two moms and the dad I just hated.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

- Just what I expected, and worth seeing.

Morning Glory

- Okay, formulaic, kinda like instant coffee.

Life as We Know It

- In a horrible year for romantic comedies, this was better than most, but still not great.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

- Beautifully animated, nice story, but a little weak for adults.

You Again
- Horrible movie. Nothing to like about any of the female characters at all, and I can't remember any of the men in it.

Easy A
- Fun and relatively fresh.

The American
- Very slow-paced and self-important. Well acted, but just not worth making in the first place.

Going the Distance
- Relatively charming. Big time bring-back-the-80's fashion for the cast.

The Other Guys
- Pretty dumb, but maybe okay if it comes on TV.

The Switch
- Nice casting, but a bit sleepy.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
- Too many boyfriends to kill, but cute and clever. If you're over 45 you might be too old to appreciate this.

- Charismatic cast but again not that great of a story - could've been better.

Charlie St. Cloud
- Nice, sweet movie.

Ramona and Beezus
- Absolutely darling, highly recommended, safe for all audiences.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
- There's just something about Nicolas Cage and Disney. Nothing Oscar worthy but a nice basic adventure.

Grown Ups
- A lot more story than I expected, and some laughs, too.

Toy Story 3
- I can't imagine someone not crying at this very well-made movie.

The Karate Kid
- Very enjoyable movie - love Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith did very well.

- Pretty lame.

Shrek Forever After (Shrek 4)

- What a waste of animation.

Robin Hood
- A little heavy or trudging at times, but a worthy rendition. A more serious 'epic' take on Robin Hood.

Letters to Juliet
- One good idea, but annoying-as-heck characters. Who are these people?

Just Wright
- Now here is a romantic comedy where the people seem like real people. As they all are, it is predictable, but at least the woman lead isn't a shrill insipid maniac and the man isn't a boorish thug or swooning gigolo fool.

The Book of Eli
- You could possibly be surprised by the ending, but will you believe it? Not destined to be a classic, but not bad.

Iron Man 2
- This one is over-cooked. It may satisfy a basic need for comic-to-movie fare but the first one was better.

Furry Vengeance
- Run, run far far away. This movie is just terrible!

Death at a Funeral
- Better than I expected it to be, should get at least some laughs.

Date Night
- In my book, this was one of the better 'light' movies of the year. Fun.

Green Zone
- My mom fell asleep in this, but I thought it was good.

Hot Tub Time Machine
- Like most comedies these days, lots of base humor, some of it just too much, but you might like some of the 80's nostalgia.

The Bounty Hunter
- What redeeming qualities do either character possess? They deserve each other, I guess.

Cop Out
- This movie felt like it was made 30 years ago and mediocre then.

Alice in Wonderland
- Fantastic and freakish rendition of the Lewis Carroll story.

When in Rome
- All of these stupid romantic comedies can be enjoyed a little if you can get past just how bad they are. This one has some stuff that's kind of 'cute', but I just don't like Kristen Bell.

Shutter Island
- This is the kind of 'horror' I like - suspenseful, thrilling, psychological, and intelligent.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
- Not bad. Good enough I could see them making more of these. The same quality as Voyage of the Dawn Treader without trying nearly as hard or taking itself as seriously.

The Tooth Fairy
- Very cute movie for little kids.

Away We Go
- Interesting, not bad, kind of sweet.

The Spy Next Door
- I'm a sucker for Jackie Chan, so I liked this, but it will be too kiddie and lame for some.

Leap Year
- I could write the same thing for almost all the romantic comedies this year - if you really really don't think very much you can get some enjoyment out of it, but these characters are so unlikable and ridiculous, and the stories so trite that it is hard to overlook.

Recommended:The Fighter,Inception, The Town, The Karate Kid, Charlie St. Cloud, Toy Story 3, Date Night, Wall Street, Harry Potter, Easy A, Scott Pilgrim, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Ramona and Beezus, Green Zone, Alice in Wonderland, Shutter Island, Percy Jackson, The Tooth Fairy

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Name is Khan (2010)

I know what you're thinking. "Bollywood?" But let me tell you, this isn't your typical Indian movie, other than the fact that it stars Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. No random bursting out into song or dance numbers in the rain. Instead, "My Name is Khan" is the story of a Muslim Indian man who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism. He moves to America to live with his brother after his mother passes away in India. There he meets a beautiful Hindu divorcee who sees him as the kind and interesting man he is, instead of just seeing him for his disorder like so many others do. The movie builds up to their wedding, as so many Bollywood movies do, but it doesn't end there. 9/11 happens, instead. Now this family of mixed faith but shared ethnicity is subject to harassment and the trials of being different in country shaken by fear. I loved this film. While some people are calling it an 'Indian version of Forrest Gump', I think it is a very original take on the Bollywood romance trope. Yes, there's drama and weddings and tragedy and humor, but the way it is framed is what really makes this movie special. Seeing Khan's hijabi sister-in-law who is a Psychology professor having her hijab yanked on campus after 9/11 and her subsequent decision to stop wearing it really hit home for me. I started wearing hats and bandanas myself after those tragic events, more for my mother's peace of mind than any perceived threat, but all the same it was a vivid reminder of that time for me.

The crux of the film lies in an angst-filled and dramatic argument between Khan (the main character) and his wife, who finally screams at him to go to the President of the US and tell him, "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist". To reveal the circumstances of the argument would be to reveal some very important plot points so you'll just have to watch to find out what drove her to say it. Khan, being autistic and not able to express emotion, does the only thing he can to prove his love. Start the journey to meet the President and tell him. It's a surprisingly poignant story, though some things may come off as cliché to those used to the regular movie tropes found in regular Hollywood movies. Later on in the film, Khan goes to help out at a Katrina-like natural disaster, which might seem over the top to some, but the parallels they illustrate between this disaster and his childhood memories make it meaningful and interesting. The portrayal of African-Americans from the South could come off as offensive, especially the Aunt Jemima-like character of Mama Jenny, but the stereo-type is not used in a negative light, so you kind of have to give them the benefit of the doubt in this case. Perhaps the next Bollywood film featuring African-Americans will have a more nuanced portrayal.

The parts of the film dealing with religion in particular were very nuanced on the other hand. We got to see Khan's brother disapprove his Hindu wife, while the hijabi sister-in-law attends the wedding despite that. Khan is shown praying salat at different intervals in the film with sincerity and dedication. The highlight of the film for me was when he happens upon a mosque where a man is trying to lead a small group of others into extremist behavior. The way that situation is addressed and handled was wonderfully creative and insightful. I think that part alone made the film worth watching, even if most of it is in Hindi with English subtitles. I feel like I'm not able to do the film justice in this short review, nor am I able to articulate all the minor shortcomings, but in the end, I highly recommend this movie to anyone who has the opportunity to see it!