Tag: Source Code

2011 Year End Movie Review: David Medsker

A funny thing happened at the movies this year: absolutely nothing blew me away.

There were things I really liked, but my list of favorite movies is kind of a joke, really. They’re not bad movies (not in my mind, anyway), but there are few, if any, Best Picture candidates in the bunch. Compare that to last year, where six of my top 10 movies were nominated for Best Picture. This time around, that’s just not happening. Just want to lay that out up front.

Worse, there isn’t one movie that stands above the others. I liked my favorite movies equally, more or less. That might sound like a copout, but it’s true. Of the movies I’ve seen so far, this was the year where movies were just sort of…there. Maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

My Favorite Movies of 2011


Margin Call
Selling one’s soul is a popular subject in movies, since no two people are willing to settle for the same amount. “Margin Call” explores the subject on a massive scale, since the ripple effect of the actions of a few will be felt around the world. It’s not a thriller in the traditional sense, but it’s absolutely gripping. Kevin Spacey shines here, as does the ever-reliable Stanley Tucci.


Super 8
It probably helped that I grew up in a small Ohio town not terribly unlike the one in “Super 8” (though no one used the word ‘mint’ the way Riley Griffiths’ character does here), but “Super 8” wasn’t merely an exercise in nostalgia; the movie delivered top-notch thrills, well-drawn characters, and the most spectacular sequence of the year with that jaw-dropping train crash. Elle Fanning, meanwhile, put on an acting clinic, and she’s only 13. Wow.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Rooney Mara gives it all, and shows it all, too. Did she really get her nipples pierced for the part? That’s dedication, right there.


Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Oh, is this movie fun. A pair of back woods regular guys are mistaken for serial killers by a group of college kids, who begin dying in horrific accidents that look like the work of, yep, a pair of serial killers. Tyler Labine and the great Alan Tudyk have terrific chemistry, and Katrina Bowden just might be the cutest thing on the planet.


Source Code
Despite the fact that the movie ends with one giant unanswered question, this is one hell of a time travel ride. Duncan Jones (yep, he’s David Bowie’s son) is proving himself to be quite the director, and getting Scott Bakula to play Jake Gyllenhaal’s father was a great in-joke.


The Adjustment Bureau
You just met the girl of your dreams. Now imagine a group of “agents” telling you that they’ll turn you into a vegetable if you pursue her, because that is not your fate. What a neat idea, merging a chase movie with the concept of divine intervention, and peppering it with some of the most realistic boy/girl dialogue the movies have seen in years. The scene between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in the bathroom is one of the greatest meet cutes of all time.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Not only was this a blast from start to finish, it contained the most emotional weight of any “Potter” movie, namely the moment where Severus Snape reveals to Harry why he’s been so hard on him all these years. Still, Harry really names his son Albus Severus Potter? It’s a heartfelt gesture, but that’s almost as bad a name as Renesmee. More on that later.


The Ides of March
Was the movie an exploration of how quickly idealism gives way to survivalism, or a subtle promotional film for George Clooney’s eventual transition into politics? Either way, it was a well crafted, if not wildly original, exploration of how everyone in politics eventually gets his hands dirty.


Kung Fu Panda 2
Rare is the animated sequel that ups the action ante while fleshing out the back story in such a fulfilling way. “Kung Fu Panda 2” kicked ass, took names, and opened the door for a more grown-up “KFP3.” Also, Gary Oldman was awesome as the evil peacock.


The Artist
The scene of Berenice Bejo pretending to be felt up by Jean Dujardin by slipping her arm into one of his jacket sleeves is pure poetry.


Horrible Bosses
“The Hangover 2” may have taken in twice as much money, but I’ll take Bateman, Sudeikis and Day over the wolf pack any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Likewise, people are still going nuts over “Bridesmaids,” and while it has its good points, it isn’t a tenth as clever as the writing here (both EW critics put “Bridesmaids” in their Top 10? Really?). And just try looking at a Prius on the highway without thinking to yourself, “I don’t win much.”

Movies I still need to see

Drive
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Tree of Life (though I’d rather not)
Young Adult
Hugo
Melancholia

My Least Favorite Movies of 2011

This list was much easier to assemble than the first one. Isn’t that always the way.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Ugly, mean and pointless, and they destroyed the beautiful Chicago skyline in the process. There was one cool shot, and that was Char the Beef getting thrown out of, and back into, Bumblebee. Everything else was masturbation.

New Year’s Eve
Did you like how they used one Warner Bros. movie to promote another Warner Bros. movie opening the following week (“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows“)? And to think, that was actually one of the least obnoxious things about this movie.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I
“Sleep with me.” “I really shouldn’t.” “Come on, we’re married now.” “Yeah, but I could, you know…” “What?” “Nothing.” “Cool. (*hot sex*) Hey, that was awesome, if a bit rough. Hey, why do I feel like I’m about to die?” “Oh, I guess I should have told you…” Are you fucking kidding me? And they named their daughter Renesmee? Like the world isn’t already overloaded with people who will saddle their kids with the worst, most idiotic names ever invented simply because they’re trendy? This is your cross to bear, Stephenie Meyer.

Cowboys and Aliens
This could have been so, so cool. Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Jon Favreau together on a movie, and it isn’t awesome? Huge, huge disappointment.

Battle: Los Angeles
The cinematic equivalent of a migraine headache. I’m not one to be snarky, but this movie is painful, in the worst way.

The Dilemma
How did so much talent make a movie so aggressively mediocre? At least we had the Fratellis and “Chelsea Dagger” to pick us up at the end.

Hop
I was about to say that you have to think that James Marsden and Russell Brand gave each other a knowing look before every scene, the “Yeah, this sucks, but we’ll be able to buy vacation houses with the money” look. And then I think, “Wait, Russell was just doing voice work, meaning Marsden was on his own.” Tsk tsk.

Puss in Boots
My kids love this movie. They’re also 4 and 2. They like everything.

The Eagle
I feel bad ripping on something that clearly has noble intentions, but who wants to see this movie? Judging by the box office, no one.

Movies I didn’t see (nor could you make me)

Jack and Jill
I Don’t Know How She Does It
Drive Angry
Season of the Witch
Big Momma: Like Mother, Like Son
I Am Number Four
Johnny English Reborn

SXSW 2011: Source Code

Duncan Jones was probably bombarded with a number of offers to direct a big studio movie following the release and cult success of his directorial debut, “Moon,” but there’s something about his decision to choose “Source Code” as his follow-up that tells you a lot about the kind of filmmaker he hopes to become. To some extent a companion piece to “Moon” in that they’re both morality tales about technology, Jones has succeeded in taking yet another high-concept premise and spinning it into a captivating thriller that’s both incredibly simple in execution and yet brain-teasingly complex the more you pick it apart. A thinking man’s sci-fi film with real mainstream appeal.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Cpt. Colter Stevens, a helicopter pilot stationed in Afghanistan who wakes up suddenly to discover he’s riding on a commuter train headed to Chicago. The twist? He’s in the body of a man named Sean Fentress, and before he can figure out what’s going on, the train explodes. But Stevens isn’t actually dead, and when he awakens in a strange capsule seconds later, he’s greeted by a woman named Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), who informs him that he’s part of a military experiment that’s trying to stop a terrorist attack in Chicago. Using a computer program called the Source Code, they can send Stevens’ consciousness into the body of Fentress for the last eight minutes of his life, granting him a unique opportunity to examine the scene of the crime before it even happens, in the hope that he can identify the bomber and prevent a second attack on the city. But as Stevens gets closer to tracking down the culprit with each new pass, he sets his mind on saving his fellow commuters (including Michelle Monaghan), despite the fact that the creator of the Source Code (Jeffrey Wright) tells him it isn’t possible.

source_code

That might sound like an awful lot of information to process, but “Source Code” isn’t nearly as confusing as it lets on. With the exception of one exposition-heavy scene at the beginning of the film that tells you just about everything you need to know, the rest of the movie is split between Stevens’ investigation of the train’s passengers via a time loop that always ends with him dying, and communicating with the people running the mission. Of course, there are several twists and turns along the way, but Jones doesn’t hide his hand particularly well. Two of the film’s biggest revelations are not only predictable, but pretty obvious if you just pay attention, and though it would have ruined a lesser movie, “Source Code” is still engaging even when you know how it will end.

You wouldn’t think that a film about a guy experiencing the same eight minutes over and over again would be very interesting (even “Groundhog Day” took place over the course of a day), but Jones manages to prevent the loop from feeling monotonous by making every trip into the Source Code unique. He also relies greatly on star Jake Gyllenhaal to keep the audience invested, and it’s one of the actor’s best performances to date, providing the character with an Everyman quality that allows him to be serious without being humorless. The rest of the actors are just pawns in the story, but Vera Farmiga does add some depth to the thankless role of Stevens’ sympathetic handler. Not that the movie requires especially strong performances to work, because the real star is Jones himself, who proves here that he’s more than just a one-hit wonder. Your reaction to the movie will ultimately vary based on how you feel about its ending, but for fans of the sci-fi genre and time travel in particular, “Source Code” doesn’t disappoint.

“Please, can’t I at least save the hot one?”

In what looks like another engaging science fiction drama from Duncan Jones (“Moon“), Jake Gyllenhaal is forced to relive the same unfortunate eight minutes, via computer-assisted time-travel, in search of a railway bomber in “Source Code.” For some reason, he seems to want to save Michelle Monaghan from her already past death. The rest of the passengers on the train aren’t weighing on his mind as much. Jeffrey Wright and Vera Farmiga costar.

Thanks to noted writer, cartoonist, and filmmaker Peet Gelderblom for this one.

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