1. Wonderful blog entry by someone who TOTALLY gets it (note how he even mentions my favorite moment from The Royal Tenenbaums).  If my words didn’t convince you of the perfection of this film, let this guy speak for me.

  2. Submarine (2010, dir. Richard Ayoade)

    First Watch (8-26-13) // Rewatch

    Plot Summary15-year-old Oliver Tate has two objectives: To lose his virginity before his next birthday, and to extinguish the flame between his mother and an ex-lover who has resurfaced in her life.  Starring Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins, and Noah Taylor.

    Review: I really loved this film.  It was visually stunning, and the music (by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys) was perfection.  I could tell that Ayoade was very influenced by Wes Anderson (I promise someday I’ll stop talking about Wes Anderson, but today is not that day), and at first it seemed like a bit of a Rushmore imitator, but Submarine is so much more than that.  It goes beyond Anderson into John Hughes-eqsue territory, which is always appreciated, and beyond that to a style and substance of Ayoade’s own.

    The film is carried by Roberts as Oliver Tate, a rather precocious, awkward teenager who’s wise beyond his years.  His crush on and later relationship with Jordana (Paige) is the focus of half of the film, while his parents’ relationship takes up the other half, which was a nice change from most coming-of-age films that focus heavily on teen romance.  Really, Jordana was the weak link in the film to me, and she comes of as a total brat from the get go.  Later in the film we learn why she acts so unattached and disaffected to those around her, but it doesn’t make me like her any more.  It’s hard to see why Oliver cares for her so much.

    Besides that, the characters and their actions are very realistic.  The storyline is unique and compelling, and all of Ayoade’s creative choices come together to form something truly wonderful.  And did I mention the music is really, really awesome?

    In short: A new take on the coming-of-age genre with a strong performance from newcomer Craig Roberts.

  3. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, dir. Wes Anderson)

    First Watch // Rewatch (9-1-13)

    Plot SummaryWith a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.  Starring Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Cate Blanchett.

    Review: I just extolled the virtues of rewatching movies in my previous review of Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, since my second viewing of that film made me really love it.  However, in some cases, first impressions are absolutely right.  This film is a trainwreck, or rather, a shipwreck.  The only thing that saves it from 1-star status is my love for Anderson and Wilson (whose screenwriting touch is very much missed here).

    As much as I adore Bill Murray, Steve Zissou is an incredibly unlikeable character.  He’s pretty much a one-dimensional asshole for 90% of the movie, and all of the supporting characters are more interesting.  The film would have been much better without Zissou in it.  Wilson’s character, Ned Plimpton, was the only character I really cared about, and he got treated like crap for the most part.

    The storyline wasn’t compelling, and neither were the characters.  However, the film is visually stunning, and I adore the music and costumes.  Overall, I was and probably always will be seriously disappointed in this film.  I think part of Anderson’s difficulty here was adjusting to a new writing partner, as his next three films have been miles better than this.  I know that there are some rabid fans of this film (my brother included), but I’m not one of them.

    In short: Wes Anderson’s weakest film - watch only if you’re a completist of Anderson’s, Wilson’s, or Murray’s filmography.

  4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, dir. Wes Anderson)

    First Watch // Rewatch (9-2-13)

    Plot SummaryAn estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their member announces he has a terminal illness.  Starring Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, and Owen Wilson.

    Review: I love it when I rewatch a movie and I like it way more than when I first saw it.  Maybe it’s because I was half asleep the first time, but I thought it was overrated, two stars at best.  As you can see, my opinion has changed after a fully conscious viewing last night.

    The film relies completely on the performances of the actors, as the storyline itself is kind of thin.  It’s all about the characters, like in most Anderson movies.  The best part of the film is Luke Wilson as Richie, the youngest Tenenbaum.  He’s in love with his (adopted) sister Margot (Paltrow), who overall is kind of a brat, but just as with his father Royal (Hackman), Richie sees the good in her.  He is so full of love, and his performance touched me deeply even the first time I saw the movie.

    On the second viewing however, Chas (Stiller) affected me as well.  His character is revealed to us slowly as his relationship with his father is explored, and one scene in particular stands out to me.  (spoiler).  At the end of the film, a car crash kills Chas’s dog Buckley, and Royal buys a dalmatian off of a fireman to replace him.  As Chas pets the dog, he looks up at his father and says, “I’ve had a rough year, Dad.”  Royal replies, “I know, son.”  And in that moment, we see the weight of everything Chas has gone through, and that Royal understands too.  It’s a beautiful moment, and I actually started crying.  It’s probably my favorite part of the entire movie. (end spoiler).

    Once you look past the absurd aspects of the movie, and the heavy Anderson feeling of falseness that makes you hyper-aware that you’re watching a movie, there are some characters that are truly, honestly, real and affecting.  I wish that certain characters - Margot in particular - had been more fleshed out to give us an actual sense of investment in their fates, but the characters that are well-defined almost make up for it.  While I might not agree that this is Anderson’s masterpiece, it’s a lot better than I initially thought.  Always rewatch movies, people!

    In short: A classic exercise in Anderson-ian family life, with a handful of powerful performances.

  5. The Darjeeling Limited (2007, dir. Wes Anderson)

    First Watch // Rewatch (8-22-13)

    Plot SummaryA year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other.  Starring Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman.

    Review: There are few movies in this world I love more than The Darjeeling Limited.  In fact, I can only think of one (Inglourious Basterds, in case you’re wondering, but that’s a review for another day).  This is the movie that made me fall in love with Wes Anderson and I still think it’s his best film to date.  Perhaps I’m biased since it stars three of my most favorite actors.  However, I’d argue that this movie wouldn’t work half as well if any of the characters were played by different actors - these roles are tailor made for Brody, Wilson, and Schwartzman, and they each play them to a tee.

    For once, Anderson’s characters seem 100% real, unlike the exaggerated Tenenbaums or Max Fischer, the Ferris Bueller of Rushmore Academy.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore Anderson’s kooky characters.  I love that he makes you hyper-aware that you’re watching a movie.  But there’s just something about these three brothers that I can relate to more than any other Anderson creations.  I’m the youngest and only girl from an exceedingly dysfunctional Anderson-worthy family, and I saw myself and my two older brothers in the Whitman brothers.  I am Francis (Wilson), the mother of the trio, the organizer and peacekeeper.  My middle brother is Peter (Brody), closed off to others, yet feels everything deeply.  My oldest brother is Jack (Schwartzman), distant and always uninvolved.  I think that maybe one day my brothers and I will end up like the Whitmans at the beginning of the film; hell, it’s already been two years since I’ve seen my oldest brother.  Maybe that’s why I love this movie so much - because it makes my heart ache from the truth of it.

    In short: Funny, honest, and at times heartbreaking, this is Wes Anderson’s most emotionally authentic film to date.

    *I will FIGHT anyone who says a single negative thing about this movie*

  6. Pacific Rim (2013, dir. Guillermo del Toro)
    ★★★★ 1/2

    First Watch (8-20-13) // Rewatch

    Plot SummaryAs a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures called Kaiju wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete giant robot weapon (Jaeger) in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.  Starring Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, and Charlie Day.

    Review: I am actually ashamed that it took me a month to see this movie.  It was so, so good.  Honestly, I could leave the review right there, but I feel like it’s my duty to get you, dear reader, to see this movie in theaters while you still can.

    Unlike other giant robot action movies that pop up in the summer months, this actually has a storyline that’s inventive and intelligent without being overly complicated.  The Kaiju monsters/aliens come to attack Earth through a portal deep in the Pacific Ocean - that right there sold me in the first few minutes.  It’s so easy to have monsters come from outer space, but how often do we get movies that look at what’s below our own feet?  So much of the ocean floor is still unexplored, so the fact that Pacific Rim finds its monsters there is refreshing.  I don’t want to give away the rest of the plot, but trust me, there’s plenty of stuff that you wouldn’t expect from a summer blockbuster.

    In addition to having a clever plotline, Pacific Rim features a woman in a leading role whose purpose isn’t just to be a love interest (GASP!!).  Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) aspires to be a Jaeger pilot and goes for it, not because she wants to impress some guy, but because SHE wants to.  The film also has comic relief in the form of Dr. “Newt” Newton (Charlie Day) and Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), dueling scientists who have their own ideas of how to stop the Kaiju.  They’ll make you laugh, but they’re still really intelligent and important to the story beyond their comic roles.  The only real weak link in the cast is leading man Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) because his character is just a little to typical hero for my taste.

    Overall, the film has plenty of visual thrills and fight scenes you can actually follow interspersed with a compelling storyline and some solid performances by the majority of the cast.  Please, go see this movie.  Right now.

    In short: An intelligent summer blockbuster.

  7. Hollywoodland (2006, dir. Allen Coulter)

    First Watch (8-21-13) // Rewatch

    Plot SummaryA detective examines the mysterious death of George Reeves, TV’s Superman.  Starring Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck, & Diane Lane.

    Review: I’m going to be totally honest here - I watched this for Adrien Brody.  Going into it, I knew nothing about the George Reeves murder mystery or honestly anything about Reeves other than that he played Superman on TV.  That said, I still found this movie totally engrossing.  

    Through flashbacks, we see how Reeves (Ben Affleck) became Superman as well as his affair with an MGM exec’s wife, Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), while in the movie’s present, fictional PI Louis Simo (Brody) investigates the sudden and mysterious death.  The film presents the viewer with three equally plausible situations leading to Reeves’s death, and leaves it up to you to decide how you think he died.  Affleck did a great job portraying Reeves, and yes, there was plenty of Brody, even shirtless Brody, which is always a welcome bonus.  I didn’t really like how the film ended, but since the case was sort of unsolved in real life, the lack of resolution at the end of the movie was only fitting.

    In short: Solid murder mystery for classic Hollywood film buffs.