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January 2013 Review Roundup

Haven't posted one of these since forever because of my falloff of actually writing review (hard to roundup nothing), so here we finally go. Didn't make it to the theaters at all this month because we stayed home and watched a lot of screeners of the Oscar nominated movies.

I'm adding new categories to the the roundups - Most/Least Enjoyed - because with many films sharing the same score, but for different qualitative reasons (which is why you should go read the words and not just look at the numbers), it's not true to say that Film A with an 8/10 is "better" than Film B (6/10) as far as "Which would I want to watch again?" goes. We've all seen movies that we've thought were really good but wouldn't care if we never saw again; these are the movies I'd re-watch first or last.

Jan. 1 - Hugo (4/10)
Jan. 6 - Flight (6/10)
Jan. 7 - Arbitrage (6/10)
Jan. 15 - Beasts of the Southern Wild (3/10)
Jan. 20 - Silver Linings Playbook (7/10)
Jan. 22 - Zero Dark Thirty (7/10)
Jan. 23 - Dredd (6/10)
Jan. 27 - Seven Psychopaths (6/10)

Most Enjoyed: Silver Linings Playbook
Least Enjoyed: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Month's Movies Watched: 8
Previously Unseen: 8
Theatrical: 0
Home: 8
Year-To-Date: 8
YTD First-Timers: 8
YTD Theatrical: 0
YTD Home: 8

"Seven Psychopaths" Review

It's hard to synopsize the plot of the shaggy dog pseudo-noir Seven Psychopaths, not because it would spoil the surprises (which it would), but because it's so all over the place, it's not really explicable.

It opens with a pair of hitmen awaiting their target at the Lake Hollywood reservoir who, shall we say, are prevented from doing their job. Then we meet writers blocked screenwriter Colin Farrell who is struggling with his latest script, a story with seven psychopaths of different backgrounds and back stories. His pal, Sam Rockwell, is a dognapper - stealing peoples' dogs at the park and collecting the reward money with sidekick Christopher Walken - who is trying to help Ferrell cope with his alcoholism and prod him along with tales of psychopaths, which are told as flashbacks/dream sequences or in the form of respondents to a classified ad. (A very weird sequence involving Tom Waits.) Complicating matters is the fact that Rockwell has stolen Woody Harrelson's beloved pooch and he's hellbent to get it back.

Eventually, the lines between legend and reality start to blur and the movie starts to become a meta-narrative contemplation about the tropes of post-Tarantino gangster movies (though not explicitly stated that way) and that's where Seven Psychopaths both starts to come into focus and fall apart. For the first half, I was wondering how this was all supposed to amount to something; as it went along and things started to connect, it seemed like it was going to pay off but as Rockwell's wild card character got more wild cardish, it started to become frenetic while believing itself to be energetic.

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh (whose In Bruges is stacked up in a to-watch pile someplace) reunites with Ferrell but he's stuck with being a passive straight man to Rockwell's driver. Walken is less weird than usual (by his standards these days), but the couple of female characters (Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko) are non-entities; something the screenplay itself comments on, though they still end up on the poster though they basically have one meaningless scene apiece.

If you're in the mood for a bloody, crazy, somewhat incoherent flick with some showy performances and dark Grand Guignol comic touches, you could do worse than Seven Psychopaths. I mean, you can't just keep watching Pulp Fiction on cable every other night it's on, right?

Score: 6/10. Rent it.

"Dredd" Blu-ray Review

Movie nerds suck. Seriously. They are the whiniest little bitches; tubby nerdgins pounding out vast tracts of nerd rage over the lack of proper ultra-violent action films; griping about how Live Free or Die Hard was PG-13, thus denying us John McLane's Roy Roger's (and Ghandi) quote or the threat of a non-R Alien movie in the form of Prometheus. So you'd think that they would've been stoked for Dredd, especially as reviews and buzz spread that it was a serious, splatterific take on the cult comic book, far removed from the campy Sylvester Stallone-fronted Judge Dredd. But, unlike You've Got Mail, it was built and they didn't come. (Wait, what?) Dredd did dreadfully (heh) at the box office and so much for that franchise's hopes. The nerds asked for it, got it, then stayed home, choosing to blog about how no one makes these sorts of movies while through their inaction, justifying Hollywood's case for not making them because no one goes to see them. Chicken, meet egg. Losers.

If you saw Sly's version, the setup is pretty much the same: It's the future; America is mostly bombed-out nuclear wasteland; the remaining area is MegaCity One, a solid megalopolis with 700 million people packed into an area from Boston to Washington D.C. In MC1 are "megablocks" - kilometer-high, 200-story towers with 75,000 residents, mostly living in slum conditions. In the Peach Trees megablock lives Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a former prostitute who killed her pimp, formed a gang, cleared out all the other gangs in the place, and now is the manufacturer and distributor of a formidable new drug called Slo-Mo which makes users feel that time is passing at 1% normal speed.

When Ma-Ma has a trio of crooks who crossed her tossed to their deaths in the tower's atrium, Judges Dredd (Karl Urban) and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) - a rookie on her first day evaluation - investigate, rapidly capturing one of Ma-Ma's lieutenants to take in for interrogation. Knowing that if he gets grilled, he'll eventually spill the Slo-Mo beans, she locks down the entire megablock, trapping Dredd and Anderson inside, and sending every bad guy in the place to hunt them down. Hijinks ensue.

While the setup is pretty simple and the violence so ultra that it's surreal, what with shots of bullets tearing through heads, spraying digital blood in ribbons, there is a tidy lean and meanness to Dredd. I don't read the comics, but know that this version sticks to the text by never removing his helmet, forcing Urban to convey his stoic rage with just his grimacing mouth and jutting chin. (Thirlby is helmetless because it interferes with her mutant psychic abilities, which is shown with some nifty effects.) Urban plays Dredd like a pissed-off Clint Eastwood and a slyly unironic humor. When he hisses, "I am the law," it plays a lot better than, well, this...


On the downside, though, with such a limited brief, it surprisingly slows down a tad much in a couple of spots and the violence could've actually been a little more amped up. There are some subtle details in the script which provide unexpected depth in spots, but for the most part it's just cracking skulls and capping foo's for 90 minutes. Headey is a trip with her spikey hair and slash-scarred face; she's one tough mama. (Yeah, I punned that.)

Visually, the 2D/3D combo Blu-ray looks OK, though I only watched it in 2D. Audio is super bass-heavy, so if you've got a booming system and hate your neighbors, this will work nicely. On the extras front, there's a superficial 15-minute overview of the 35-year history of the comic book and another 15 minutes of making-of, concentrating on the 3D cameras and special effects to convert Johannesburg, South Africa into MegaCity One; plus a handful of 2-3 minute bits about costumes and gear; it's all pretty superficial.

Should Dredd have been a blockbuster or could it have been if the emo bitch nerd babies had left their basements for the multiplexes? I don't know if it could've been big - probably wouldn't have been - but it's hard to demand movies like it if you don't support them when they do get made.

Score: 6/10. Rent it.

"Zero Dark Thirty" Review

Zero Dark Thirty - the docu-dramatic portrayal of the hunt for and ultimate killing of Nickleback frontman Al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden by Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar-winning director of The Hurt Locker - has been fraught by controversy all through its development, filming, release and even now that it's a multiple Oscar nominee.

First it was suspected to be a cheesy campaign ad for President Obama's reelection which led to its release date to be pushed until after the election; then there were multiple rumors from both sides of the political spectrum that secret CIA intel was shared with the filmmakers; and upon its release it was praised by conservatives as showing our intelligence and special operator forces positively while liberals decried what they called glorification of torture, organizing boycotts which have pretty much shut it down for awards season.

While I can see where both sides are coming from, the reality is that Zero Dark Thirty is a meticulously reported, gritty telling of the hunt for Chad Kroeger bin Laden that ultimately suffers from being to distant, dry and detached from its own thrilling story.

Opening with audio of terrified 911 calls from 9/11, ZDT jumps ahead two years to a secret interrogation site where a suspected Al Qaeda member is being shown an unpleasant time. Watching the show is CIA analyst Maya (Oscar-nominated Jessica Chastain playing a fictionalized version of a person whose identity must obviously be kept under wraps.) Eventually the prisoner spills intel which eventually leads after several dead ends, detours and double-crosses to discovering where Osama was hiding, culminating in the climactic recreation of the SEAL Team 6 strike that put three shots in his dome.

Screenwriter Mark Boal, who also wrote The Hurt Locker, brings his journalist eye to the script which has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, the details feel authentic though it's a little mind-boggling to see the assault which opened with one of the choppers crashing into a wall not seeming to put the entire town and Osama's compound on alert. (While resisting the temptation to Hollywood up the action is laudable, it's almost ludicrous to watch while thinking, "No one heard a flipping helicopter crash in the middle of the night?")

On the minus side of the ledger, by chugging through procedural details and random bombings spread over eight years without as much as a hairstyle change on Maya to mark the passage of time, it never felt like it was going someplace specific. Knowing going in that they find their target isn't the problem, it's that the process isn't exciting, ending up generally dry and detached like The Hurt Locker, but without a rich central character to follow.

Chastain is very good, but hampered by a woefully underwritten role - an archtype of the driven, lonely woman, bucking the Old Boys Club Establishment who won't believe her which is very familiar after a couple of seasons of Homeland, except Claire Danes' Carrie is mentally ill. We never know of Maya's life other than an interesting factoid that she was recruited out of high school, but can't discuss as to why? Because she spoke 15 languages or had bitching red hair? Who knows? Why not make up something - anything - to humanize her? Because it wouldn't be accurate? We'd forgive some embroidery in service of giving us a rooting interest, guys.

By being simultaneously telling its story from 30 inches away and 30,000 feet up Zero Dark Thirty ends up not satisfying those seeking minutia or a comprehensive overview. The odd thing is that they were getting ready to roll on this movie as just a procedural about the ongoing hunt for OBL when events suddenly dropped a tidy ending in their laps, but I can't imagine how a movie about people looking for World Enemy #1 that fades to black with a title card reading "And the hunt continues..." would be very satisfying.

Score: 7/10. Rent it.

"Silver Linings Playbook" Review

With nominations for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing and all four acting categories, Silver Linings Playbook has a shot to benefit from difference-splitting between the epic Lincoln and the controversial Zero Dark Thirty (which I haven't seen yet), but it would be a shame if it did because while the performances are solid and the script is mostly solid, it sells out everything that came before with a rushed and cliched finale.

Bradley Cooper is a bi-polar mess, getting out of a mental hospital after an 8 month stint for nearly beating to death the man whom he caught with his wife in their shower. He desperately believes that he can win his wife back, restraining orders and basic reality notwithstanding. When he encounters young widow Jennifer Lawrence, who has a connection to his wife by which he can slip her a note (under the restraining order's radar), he agrees to help her with a ballroom dance contest which ultimately has ramifications upon his father's (Robert De Niro) business plans to leverage his bookie business into a legit restaurant.

Silver Linings Playbook starts off-kilter as we're introduced to the characters and realize they're all messes - Cooper is bi-polar and delusional; De Niro has OCD and a hefty dose of sports superstition (which makes those Bud Light "It's only weird if it doesn't work" ads look like an endorsement of mental illness, in addition to alcoholism); Lawrence was extremely promiscuous after her husband's death. Since we know that lurking in the distance are the usual rom-com tropes of whether Cooper and J.Law are going to fall in love or not, it's interesting in the early going to see them tear into each other, though it's one-sided because Cooper is the one with problems.

Speaking of Cooper, he's excellent in the role. I've always thought he had the same problem as Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise in that no one wants to take him seriously as an actor because he's so preposterously handsome. (Not that he's had the off-screen meltdowns the others have had.) He manages to make what is a sick, mean, self-deluded guy appealing, but never by winking at us to let us know he's just funning. A bad haircut helps.

J.Law's only competition for Best Actress is likely to be Jessica Chastain because she is riveting playing a role that's somewhat older than the 21 she was when shooting this. Unlike most blank starlets, she is able to project her feelings through her eyes and more than holds her own against De Niro and others. (Along with Emma Stone, actresses like J.Law are why Lindsay Lohan's career is over.) De Niro is much less mannered and self-parodying here than he's been in ages, too.

It's hard to explain how Silver Linings Playbook blows it without spoiling the ending but to say that after nearly two hours of subverting the expectations of the rom-com formula, it succumbs to them in an unsatisfactory manner. Cooper's denouement with his estranged wife is done silently (a la Lost in Translation), coming off not as profound but as if David O'Russell couldn't think of what he should say, feeling rushed and tacked on.

I can't fault the temptation to deliver a happy ending to send audiences out of the theater with a smile on their faces, but after setting up a twitchy, itchy milieu and characters, it's too bad Silver Linings Playbook didn't have the guts to finish off as bravely as it seemed to want to when it started.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" Review

One of the big shockers of this year's Academy Awards nominations was the quartet of nods (Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actress) for Beasts of the Southern Wild, a little indie flick that took Cannes by storm. But the bigger shock is watching it with the knowledge that it's been showered with all the accolades because all I kept thinking was,"Are they high? This is a Best Picture?"

Beasts is the very slight and extremely aimless story about a little girl named Hushpuppy (an adorable Quvenzhané Wallis, who was 6 years old when this was filmed and is the youngest Best Actress nominee ever now at 9) living in conditions that can be fairly described as being several notches below squalor in the Gulf Coast podunk of The Bathtub (between Bedroom Heights and Beyondville?) with her erratic, troubled father; mom is dead, of course. Then there is a scene of revelry with the ethnically-mixed neighbors (old white people?), some talk of ancient monsters and melting ice caps, a storm which floods the 'Tub out of existence, shouting, dynamite, road trip (over water) on a magic boat filled with chicken biscuit wrappers to a floating dream brothel, death, the end. Or something like that. I think. Oh, there's a lot of shellfish. I'm allergic to the things, so I'd starve if I was in this movie.

I've been getting annoyed - OK, more annoyed - lately about the overhype of movies whose main trait is that they're "different" from the mainstream, homogenized pap excreted by the Hollywood pablum factory and if I was someone who was forced to sit through every rom-com and Adam Sandler movie as part of a critic gig, I'd probably be prone to moisten myself with joy at something, anything, that seems original. But while critics losing their minds is one thing, what's the Academy's excuse?

My problems began right off with director Benh Zeitlin - who is a 30-year-old white guy from Queens, in case you were wondering - and his jittery camera work. Hey, kids, it's not selling out to put the camera on sticks from time to time. It had a feel of what I imagine a Terrance Malick movie to be like (I've seen negative reviews that confirm this) and my constant internal monologue only shifted from saying, "What the heck is this about?" at the end when I was asking, "What the heck was that all about?!?" From wondering why social workers weren't interested in an effectively orphaned girl living on cat food stew to why being rescued from their inundated hovels was anathema to the locals to what the deal is with the giant horned magical beasts that apparently came from thawing glaciers and showed up on the bayou to...well, I don't rightly know. I guess global warming? (They don't look like ManBearPigs.)

Beasts has a lot of mood and detail like the boat made of a pickup truck bed lashed to pickle barrels, but very little characterization. I think part of the appeal to those who've bought into this thing is the utterly alien landscape of Bathtub. If you live in comfy urban surroundings, the exotic landscape and mystical pretensions must seem more spiritual than a Swamp People and Hillbilly Handfishing marathon, but in reality it's just elucidating why everyone hates white people. (The piece linked below has even harsher thoughts on the subject.)

Whether through selective editing and rigorous commands or some actually talent, Wallis is effective as Hushpuppy, never annoying, but never totally compelling; then again, there's little in the way of character to play. My girlfriend texted me that she should win the Oscar. She is incorrect in this judgement.

If I'd watched Beasts of the Southern Wild a couple of weeks ago, I may have had a mildly more favorable reaction to it. However, if its going to be playing with the big boys in the big show, we've got to judge it in that context and it's simply not good enough. Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow have every right to feel chapped that they got snubbed here.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

This Film Drunk beatdown of the movie aligns closely to my thoughts, so since someone saved me the typing, here's some snips:
As an MGMT video, Beasts of the Southern Wild is pretty good. It’s got soaring music, pretty cinematography, fantastical imagery that borrows heavily from Where the Wild Things Are, an impossibly cute little girl, and deep south swamp locations exotic to urbanized yankees like me (“look, crawdaddies! Isn’t that a funny word, Brent? ‘Crawdaddies?’”). But if you can see past the craft, this tale of deep south swamp hobos and feral children that eat cat food has all the depth of one of those Levis slam poetry commercials. I thought we weren’t supposed to fall for the Magic Negro and the Noble Savage anymore? Yet here it is, a whole movie full of them, plus folksy Cajuns who can’t open their mouths without homespun crypticisms aw shucksing their way out.

Hushpuppy’s daddy...lives amongst a band of fellow rascals who don’t need jobs or money or possessions, because why bother with that when you can just dig in the dirt and get drunk and eat crabs with your hands all day? (It sounds great, I admit) The whole first half of the film is basically that scene in Titanic where Rose leaves her stuffy old first class soirée so Jack can show her some real fun down in steerage, where Irishmen and negroes drink frosty brews and dance jigs to lively flute music. OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, POVERTY IS SO MUCH FUN! WHY HAVEN’T WE COME DOWN HERE BEFORE?!

You could argue that what happens next in Beasts of the Southern Wild de-glamorizes the life of the mud-poor have-nots, but the scene where Hushpuppy’s daddy and his band of primitivist troglodytes lead a cargo-cult raid on the evil levee that keeps their swamp flooded and the city dry (can someone check the science on this, please?) makes the implication pretty clear: Society = hollow, inevitable. Swamp people = romantic, doomed.

When you live in the city and you buy your meat wrapped in cellophane and styrofoam, it’s a pleasant fantasy to believe that people who sleep in the dirt and gut their own dinners are possessed of a spiritual richness that you’ve always felt deep down you’re somehow lacking. It’s also a really old fantasy. Like, REALLY old.

Also, call me cynical, but watching po’ black characters deliberately misuse words and grammar in folksy phrases written by white people (“cavemens,” for example) feels hokey at best and offensive at worst. Keep in mind, I knew nothing about the filmmakers before I watched this film. It just reeked of theater kid fantasy, and I’ve seen enough Hurricane Katrina narratives written by liberal arts students in New York to recognize this as one. Art students be lovin’ Katrina narratives like fictional Cajuns love crawdads, you all.

 Go read it all.

"Arbitrage" Review

Richard Gere scored a Golden Globe nomination and was talked up for an Oscar nom (but is unlikely to get it due to a tough year) for Arbitrage, a movie that fell through the cracks because it sounds like a Wall Street financial movie and not what it's more closely related to: The Bonfire of the Vanities. (The awesome book, not the craptastic movie.)

Gere is a investment wizard with what appears to be a great life, great wealth, and a great family. Under the surface, he's got a French mistress and a $416 million problem in the form of shady financial dealings that he's desperately trying to square away by selling his firm. Unfortunately for him (and especially the mistress), he's involved in terrible auto accident which leaves him badly banged up and his girlfriend dead. With the police hot on the trail, trying to tie him to the crime, will he be able to save the important things in his world?

Gere is very good, though it's odd to see him playing his age (his character is 60) and Susan Sarandon as his wife is lively as she plays something other than an earthy aging hippie as she's done a lot lately. Brit Marling (the writer and star of Another Earth) plays Gere's daughter who is appalled at what she discovers the old man has been doing, but while she gets a good confrontation scene, the tepid denouement after the main plots are wrapped up doesn't give her the punchline it feels like she deserves.  Not as good is Tim Roth doing a caricatured take on a detective that feels like it should be in a 2nd-rate Law & Order knockoff.

Overall, the performances make the material seem better than it is while it's rolling by, but afterwards you'll realize that Arbitrage never quite leveraged its assets for maximum return.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.

"Flight" Review

How badass is Denzel Washington? According to Flight - director Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film in 12 years after making a trio of lousy CGI features - so badass that while drunk at triple the limit he was able to safely crash-land an airliner resulting in only 6 fatalities out of 102 on board. So badass that 10 sober pilots given the scenario in simulators couldn't save the plane; everyone would've died if these guys were at the controls. So what's the problem, ossifer? Can't DW have some booze and blow and then save 94% of the people on his plane without people being critical? He's like Dr. Johnny Fever taking a sobriety test, getting better the more he drinks!

The reason Flight never actually takes off (har!) is that despite a raft of strong performances from Denzel and company, every single beat of the plot is predictable to anyone who's ever seen a movie-of-the-week about substance abuse or has been following Lindsay Lohan's career for the past five years. The denial, the half-assed attempts to clean up followed by falling off the Budweiser beer wagon, the woman who is also an addict who can't be with him anymore - a underwritten, why-is-she-here role played decently by Kelley Riley - the final bender leading to pseudo-redemption; it's all by the numbers and has no surprises up its sleeve.

There are a couple of tone issues I had as well. First, John Goodman's drug dealer character is played way too much for laughs; when you're trying to explore the depths of despair an in-denial drunk is plumbing, should you be yucking it up with a scene showing the best method to sober up a drunk is several rails of coke? Also, the song choices on the soundtrack are so on the nose that I began to wonder if this was some sort of ironic joke. Really? The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" playing before and during the scene of Reilly's junkie shooting up? A Muzak version of "With A Little Help From My Friends" after Denzel has been bumped into shape by Dr. Feelgood? Pfffft.

The plane crash sequence is harrowing and any movie which opens with full nudity from Nadine Velazquez, who looks like this...

...isn't totally without merit, but while Flight never crashes, it also never really soars as intended. Zemeckis is still laboring under the Curse of Oscar where he hasn't made a better-than-average film since he won for Forrest Gump, but compared to his creepy doll-eyed forays into CG animated films with The Polar Express, Beowulf, and Jim Carrey's A Christmas Carol (which I haven't seen), it's good to see him back in the land of the living. Now get a better script, Z.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.

"Hugo" Blu-ray Review

We have got to stop pity-f*cking Martin Scorsese. Yes, it's a tragedy that his greatest work was snubbed by the Academy in his prime, but after tossing him a bone with The Departed, there seems to have been an overcompensation of praise for dreck like Shutter Island and the exquisitely-designed, but wonderless Hugo. Let's be honest: If his name wasn't in the credits, neither of these works would've been acclaimed and/or nominated.

Hugo is the story of a little orphaned boy named Jimmy (j/k) who lives in the walls of a Paris train station in 1931, filling his days by winding and maintaining all the clocks and subsisting by pilfering food and clock parts to repair a mysterious automaton his father was repairing when he died. Hugo constantly needs to artfully dodge station inspector Borat, I mean Sacha Baron Cohen (attempting an Inspector Clouseau vibe, not very well), and Ben Kingsley, a toy shop owner who knows Hugo's been nicking clock parts from his shop. Hugo meets Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), the ward of Ghandi who conveniently has a key part - as in a key proper - to the mysterious robot.

The fundamental problem with Hugo is that Scorsese is ill-suited for the children's movie tone he's going for. In the extras it's revealed that one of his primary reasons for making it was that he had a 12-year-old daughter who hadn't seen any of his movies because they're all hardcore R-rated flicks for grown-ups, but I can't imagine a child being engaged by the slow plotting which wanders without much forward motion until it diverts into a paean to revolutionary filmmaker Georges Méliès who has an easy-to-spot-waaaaaaay-early connection to the story. Much of the overpraise has been because of these parts and about the "magic of the movies" but it simply didn't feel magical to me; it's the Marty Effect in action. Another tonal problem is Borat's shown chasing down the orphans in his train station and handing them over to the police as the villain, but there are several vignettes of him trying to ask flower girl Emily Mortimer out. Which is he - heavy or bumbling loverboy?

The material simply doesn't fit Scorsese, just like when James Cameron tried to channel Steven Spielberg's knack for wonder with the alien aspects of The Abyss. I tell people who've never seen it before, "When Ed Harris defuses the nuke, stop the movie; it's done. If you keep watching, you'll just wonder WTF?" for a reason - Cameron, for all his brilliance simply can't pull of glowing jellyfish aliens of super-superior nature. A marital breakup drama AND a heavy metal actioner about a Navy SEAL (literally) cracking under pressure? Hell yeahs! But the E.T. stuff? Nope.

As unsatisfying as I found Hugo's story, it is a visual feast. I didn't see it in 3D, but this is a good reason to buy Blu-rays and large TVs. The colors and details are lush and the obviously digitally enhanced environments actually contribute to the dreamlike quality of the film. Anyone who watches this and still doesn't appreciate the benefits of six times the resolution of DVD needs their eyes checked.

My girlfriend wondered if Georges Méliès was a real person - which was a bit of a shock - but all I had to do is switch to the featurette about him which shows a bunch of clips from his films and details how the depiction of him in the film was true-to-life. I found myself wishing they'd made a straight-up movie about him and skipped all the claptrap about the kid. There are also interesting featurettes about real automatons, the making-of the film, and how one of the special effects sequences was done. What's missing is a more extensive look at the use of digital sets and FX to create the world. This video was part of an item on Wired and there is zero reason it shouldn't have been included on the disc.


Sumptuous on the eyes, but empty in the head and heart, Hugo is well-intentioned, but falls like a shaken souffle. 

Score: 4/10. Rent the Blu-ray.

Happy New Years! (and a Resolution)

New Year's Day is a traditional day to put the previous year behind us and to look forward with a clean sheet of paper to scribble our futures upon. But to move forward, you must be able to look back with clarity as to how the last year went down. Frankly, it was a bad year for DirkFlix and it's all my fault.

2012 was the third full year of operation and if you look at the post count at right, it was the least active year by far; a third of what 2010 was. Have I been watching fewer movies? No, I just haven't been getting the reviews written and posted and considering my intentions for this site - to post up short, pithy reviews instead of the thousand-word behemoths I used to when writing for major sites - this was pathetic and inexcusable.

According to my rough count, I watched 88 movies, but only got 39 reviews posted. That's less than half and some movies I watched both theatrically AND on home video, not writing about either. I kept intending to go back and clear the backlog, but when you're looking at 24 drafts dating back three months and are having a rough time remember exactly what you'd meant to say immediately after seeing it.

So what happened? In brief, I wasted time banging my head against the walls of others' rigidly held ignorance instead of taking care of my business. I know that people choose liberal political beliefs precisely because they're immune to reason and opposed to reality, but it just doesn't seem right to just let them live in a fog of lies and allow them to poison others. Just because you can't save everyone doesn't mean you shouldn't try to save some, right? Noble intentions/damn fool idealistic crusades aside, the time spent on that was time not spent here and that's going to change in 2013.

A site like this is only as good as the quality AND quantity of content, so it's time to get back on the stick. I appreciate your continued support and readership - make sure to click on the RSS Subscribe link to not miss a thing - but realize that it's hard for you to read what's not written.

See ya at the movies!
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