Review round-up: September 2012

I’ve seen a lot of movies in the past month, so here’s a collection of everything I’ve seen since Aug. 1 that hasn’t already been covered on the site or College Movie Review.

(A) – DVD
Richard Linklater’s true-life tale of murder in an East Texas town absolutely nails life in the sticks. Jack Black gives the performance of a lifetime as the charismatic funeral home director who took out the meanest lady in town (Shirley MacLaine) and almost got away with it. Also, chalk up another great supporting turn from Matthew McConaughey.

The Bourne Legacy
(B+) – Theater
Jeremy Renner is no Matt Damon, but he doesn’t have to be. This is a parallel story directed with the same action chops, but no shaky-cam. Sure, I get a little tired of hearing Edward Norton say things like, “I want everything you have on this guy, and I mean everything.” But this a new chapter of one of the best trilogies of all time, moving in a darker but thrilling direction.

Celeste and Jesse Forever
(B+) – Theater
Like last year’s Young Adult, this is often more drama than comedy, but it documents, in sometimes excruciating detail, the different stages of grief of a break-up, and with a character it’s often hard to like. But Jones finds all the nuance she doesn’t get on Parks and Rec and Samberg shows he’s got a bright post-SNL future ahead if he picks more movies like this over That’s My Boy.

God Bless America
(B+) – Netflix
Occasionally lapses into redundancy: rant, shootout, rant, shootout. But at least Bobcat Goldthwait is saying some things that need to be said about our culture and the people who don’t deserve to be a part of it. This is essentially a pop-culture infused Bonnie and Clyde, but when it works, it fires on all cylinders.

The Grey
(B+) – DVD
Liam Neeson absolutely kills it once more, fighting off wolves and hypothermia. It’s far more existential than the sights of wolf punching would have you believe, but it’s gripping from beginning to end, and even taps into a spiritual side.

The Hunger Games
(B+) – DVD
Some of those special effects are rough, but Katniss Everdeen is a heroine you can be OK with your daughter looking up to, unlike Twilight. Jennifer Lawrence is great as usual, and the colorful cast of non-competitors elevates this to the level of a spectacular blockbuster.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green
(C+) – Screening
This would have made an awesome horror movie, but it’s sadly an overly earnest family drama. The little kid who grows in the garden exists solely teach this barren couple about doing nice things for nice people and believing in yourself and blah blah blah. It aims for tears but only earns yawns.

(C-) – Dollar Theater
Would have been simply a stylish, substance-free action movie were it not for the horrible choice to put Blake Lively in this. Her narration and acting are just atrocious, featuring two lines that have to rank among the worst this side of The Room. Even without her, this is a senseless, witless movie that makes it impossible to care what happens to anyone onscreen.

Sleepwalk with Me
(A-) – Screening
Mike Birbiglia’s very autobiographical comedy is a real charmer, even though it’s brief and lightweight. We already know he’s a great writer, but he’s also naturally gifted as an actor, in a way that’s different from his onstage presence. Plus, he’s surrounded himself with a great group of actors with natural chemistry. This one’s likely found a way into my top ten.

Thin Ice
(B) – DVD
Takes a while to get going (even in a form that’s a half-hour shorter than what premiered at Sundance), but once it does, it’s a fascinating game of who’s-conning-whom with a colorful cast in a frozen landscape, recalling good memories of Fargo.

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