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March Movie Reviews

March 31, 2010

This is the start of a new regular blog feature: monthly his and hers movie reviews. Movies are listed in order viewed throughout the month.

How to Steal a Million (1966)

Sarah: I first discovered this gem of a film with my mom, I think during my college years. It stars Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in a witty, fun, smart, romantic heist comedy. It’s hard to find romantic comedies that are intelligent, well-written, well-acted, and appeal to both men and women. Plus it revolves around art and is set in Paris! An all-around great movie. Rating: 5/5.

Jeff: Audrey Hepburn plays a convincingly innocent and charmingly naive young woman who must steal the forged Venus De Milo statue her father gave to a museum. Peter O’Toole plays a cunning and yet oddly trustworthy criminal who helps her. The two are great on film together, and the story is fun. This is one of those classic films that does a great job satisfying those who came for a romance and those who came because their wife wanted to watch a romance. Rating: 4/5.

Citizen Kane (1941)

Sarah: It was brilliantly filmed and well-acted and I’m glad I’ve seen it, but I’m somewhere in the middle on how much I personally enjoyed it. The story is tragic, and I had already seen the famous ending scene that gives away the answer to the mystery of Rosebud. If I’d had the benefit of suspense, I think I would have liked it better. Personally I enjoyed its top of the list competitors a lot more: CasablancaThe GodfatherGone With the Wind, and Lawrence of Arabia. Rating: 3/5.

Jeff: I think I enjoyed this more than Sarah, who probably expected something more stunning, especially after having waiting this long in her life to watch the perennial #1 film. To be fair, I don’t think this film makes you love any of its characters or join in feeling their joys and pains. The movie feels like a documentary (on purpose, of course). But, for me, Citizen Kane is still a very successful film. Much like the first 10 minutes of Pixar’s Up!, it shows the complete path of a life. Except this film focuses on how a single, fatal flaw lead to that life’s destruction. Citizen Kane is a classic story in the same vein as any of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Rating: 4.5/5.

Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Sarah: This was a cute, family-friendly, heart-warming story about a curious Japanese schoolgirl who loves to read books, hopes to become a writer, and seeks adventure in her real-life. The animation was beautiful and it was fun to hear Cary Elwes (Westley from Princess Bride) do one of the voices. Very enjoyable! Rating: 4/5.

Jeff: A truly charming film, full of likable characters and true-to-life humor. However, I got nervous toward the end of the film. The main character, Shizuku, is a high school student who meets and falls in love with a boy who inspires her to reach her potential. Distance comes between them. As the final minutes of the movie drew near, I worried that the movie would force a quick, happy ending on them. And, well, it kind of did. But by then the movie’s charm had worked on me and I was actually glad to see a happy ending. Rating: 4/5.

Man on Wire (2008)

Sarah: This was a very exciting, thrilling documentary. Yes, I just used the words “exciting” and “thrilling” in the same sentence as “documentary.” :) It’s easy to see why it won an Oscar. It’s great, edge-of-your-seat storytelling and reminded me a little of Ocean’s 11 with all the detailed planning to accomplish the feat. However, the ending is a little bittersweet. Rating: 4/5.

Jeff: An oddly compelling documentary describing the life of an oddly compelling individual. From his teenage years, Philippe Petit knew he must one day walk on a tightrope between the Twin Towers. He describes the moment he first read about the plans for the towers in a magazine, and how he stole that page and kept it because he know it was his destiny. Philippe spent most of his life training, planning, building a team, making dangerous plans to get into the buildings and set up his equipment. And he finally did it! But, in fact, walking between the buildings was a false climax. The story is really about his compulsion, and how his charisma compelled others to help him. And about the disappointing aftermath once he realized his dream. Rating: 3.5/5.

Up in the Air (2009)

Sarah: I’ve had a hard time writing this review. On the one hand, it’s a good, current snapshot of Corporate America; on the other hand, it’s a sad, pitiable picture of people who lack true meaning in their lives. It’s hard to say more without playing the spoiler. It’s well-acted, -written, and -directed, and an interesting film, but ultimately leaves me with mixed feelings. This is the second Anna Kendrick movie I’ve seen, and I look forward to seeing more of her. Rating: 3.5/5.

Jeff: I usually like movies with a modern story line that eschews the expected, happy endings that movies often deliver. But in this case, I really did want a happy ending for Ryan Bingham (George Clooney). As a career man, he had a single, pointless goal in life. And when he reached that goal, he saw how pointless it was and tried to change. But when circumstances in his life prevented him from finding the happiness he wanted, he went back to his old life and settled into its familiar routines. The story will ring true to anyone who has tried to change on their own strength and failed. Although I would say the movie was very well made, it will dissatisfy anyone who loves a good redemption story. Rating: 3.5/5.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Sarah: This is one of those quirky, absurdist comedies that makes you laugh, but also leaves you saying, “Whaaaaat?” While entertaining, I think the satire falls flat. Jeff Bridges (channeling The Dude) is perfect for his role as the head of the new U.S. Army black ops training of psychic spies/warrior monks/Jedi. Maybe one of the funniest moments is when Ewan McGregor (also known as Obi-Wan Kenobi) doesn’t understand what a Jedi warrior does. Rating: 3/5.

Jeff: Full of fun, likable characters, this movie started out strong. The first two acts set us up for a fun ride with no clear end in sight. Unfortunately, it ended that way too. I prefer a movie with a point or message of some sort, and I could find none in The Men Who Stare at Goats. If you watch the movie, maybe just hit stop after the first hour and pretend the ending was lost. You’ll have more fun imagining how it could have ended on your own. Rating: 3/5.

Note: Some of these movies are rated R. We recognize that everyone has different opinions on what content is appropriate for viewing, and our opinions may differ from your own. Please check the content against your standards before watching or ask us if you’d like a more personal review/recommendation.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. jaimieteekell permalink
    March 31, 2010 11:29 pm

    See, you guys talk about how the theme did/didn’t fit with your idea of how the story should go and rate down/up according to that; not to criticize that, because I think it’s fine (and one could say it’s disingenuous to do otherwise), but I think that’s the main area we differ in reviews, and why our Netflix ratings don’t measure up more.

    That was a long sentence.

    Anyway, I sometimes rate down overtly positive movies, haha! So I guess I do it too. But UP IN THE AIR I love because it’s real, because not everything in life is redemptive. I do love a good redemption story, but I also love a good non-redemptive story.

    NOT to pick a fight. I hate when people get all up in other people’s movie reviews. I think all of what you guys say is valid.

    I haven’t seen STARE AT GOATS yet…

    • April 1, 2010 12:37 am

      Fair enough! I tried to give a balance of my personal feelings/enjoyment and objective quality of film-making in the review, but you’re right: the final rating is weighted according to my own bias. For me, I do think it would be disingenuous to do otherwise.

      It bugs me when people gush over a movie that isn’t particularly well-made just because they like the story (such as Fireproof, which I haven’t seen, but have a good idea about… or dumb comedies or chick-flicks). But, I guess I do that also to some extent! Mostly I want to hear more than that a movie is “good” unless I really know the person’s movie tastes well.

      I actually rated Up in the Air higher than I might have otherwise because I recognized the good elements there. Still probably not as high as it deserves, but there you have it. Maybe I was in the wrong mood when I watched it, but after Bingham’s surprise in Chicago it went downhill for me. Maybe I didn’t identify with the character enough to care. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist for a movie like that… although I do enjoy real, gritty (and sometimes depressing) books a lot. I like happy endings, but I don’t need them. Like I said in my review, I have mixed feelings about that one. I can understand why so many people love it, but it’s just not there for me.

  2. Jeff permalink
    March 31, 2010 11:35 pm

    Jamie,

    Fair point. Maybe, if I’m being more honest about how the Up in the Air made me feel, I would say that the movie made me feel bad — which is different than feeling bad about the movie, but easy to mix up.

    It’s definitely a well told story, and I give it high marks for that.

  3. jaimieteekell permalink
    April 1, 2010 1:15 am

    WordPress ate my comment.

    What I WAS gonna say, is that I think 3.5/5 is actually a fair rating for a movie that you think had all the chops, but you just didn’t dig the story. (But I said it so much more eloquently with that, including quotes from your comments.)

    And then I said that you made me realize something about my own critiquing style–I said that after I apologized for being so geeky about this sort of thing.

    My realization about my own critiquing law:

    While a good theme can be allowed to raise a well-made movie (acting, writing, shooting) past the standard 3.5/5 rating, a good theme must never be allowed to raise the rating of a poorly-made movie. *SNOB*

    Fireproof made me think of that.

  4. jaimieteekell permalink
    April 1, 2010 1:15 am

    This is hilarious: “If I’m being more honest about how the Up in the Air made me feel, I would say that the movie made me feel bad.”

  5. jaimieteekell permalink
    April 1, 2010 1:17 am

    *Critiquing STYLE. Critiquing law? What the crap? LATE. SLEEP.

  6. Rae permalink
    April 1, 2010 9:49 am

    Love your movie review column. I’ll look forward to this in the future.

    How To Steal a Million is one of my favorites!

    P.S. You guys are so cute!

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