Having grown up with the glorious cheesiness of the James Bond movies, it's almost startling when one takes itself semi-seriously and plays upon the history of the hero, both for plot points and to add some weight to the story. This one is going to be tough to top for a lot of reasons -- the death of a major character, the introduction of at least two more (though one is, strictly speaking, a new version of that departed character) and the whole feeling of Bond coming to the end of his run. Plus, thanks to the cinematography of the great Roger Deakins, this thing just looks amazing, from the first frame to the last.
I didn't see most of the major movies of last year, I'll admit, but it's hard for me to think of one that would top this effort from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. A flawless mixture of comedy, human drama and suspenseful science fiction, in a perfect world it would be both a global hit and a nominee for Best Picture. I mean, what else do you need? The characters are richly drawn and consistently surprising, the comedy is pitch perfect and hits every note and the movie takes on some big issues -- aging, gentrification, sobriety, the meaning of life and freedom, etc. At least as good as "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz," and believe me, that's saying something.
It's been a long, long time since I saw this one in the theater, but we figured we'd introduce Allie to the boy wizard. Couple of observations: The movie isn't exactly bad, but it's not exactly good either. It's the fun concepts of the book itself and nothing in the movie that makes it entertaining. (The movies themselves wouldn't really get good until Alfonso Cuaron took over directing duties with the third film.) And, as you might have guessed, all that CGI has aged rather poorly. Also, the movie spends so much time introducing those intriguing elements -- the train, the kids, the school, the cloak -- that the plot itself sort of pops up about 3/4 of the way through, too late to really care a whole lot about what's happening. The best thing about the film, though, might've been the most difficult element to nail -- the cast is excellent across the board, and over the course of the other six movies, they'd only get better.
Fascinating documentary about The Source Family, a sort of cultish gathering of hippie-types who tried to found an ideal living community in 1970 Los Angeles. Thankfully, they never went the way the Mansons. Instead, they ran an insanely profitable health food restaurant on the Sunset Strip that not only attracted most of the big name celebrities of the day, it was also famous as the place Woody Allen visits at the end of "Annie Hall" and orders (in one of my favorite movie lines ever) "a plate of mashed yeast." This doc covers the entire history of the group, from it's restaurant-based roots to the current day, when its members look back on their past with a mixture of hazy nostalgia and bemused wonder.
Damned good! I expected it to be a lot of fun, coming from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the guys behind "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," but I don't know if I expected it to be this good, combining laugh-out-loud comedy with some solid emotional moments and even a touch of reality-bending mysticism. I don't want to give away any spoilers -- seriously, check this one out -- but there was at least one cameo I was hoping for but not expecting at all, and the ending went in a direction I couldn't see coming at all. Like the song says, everything is awesome.