Mini Movie Reviews: This is Forty, Django Unchained, & Anna Karenina

One of my blogging changes in the new year is doing away with an individual recap post for each movie I see and condensing them to groups of reviews (probably in threes, like this one). The truth is, I’m (obviously) not a movie critic, and I tend to struggle to come up with enough to fill a whole post; after you’ve written a few of these, every compliment or criticism for a movie starts to sound the same. There will probably be a few films here and there that I have a lot to say about and will do a whole post for (think Les Mis), but for the most part, this is my new format. So here’s what I’ve seen at the movies lately:

this is 40

This is Forty: A common Judd Apatow criticism – movies that are too long and meandering – applies here. More importantly, my main problem with this movie was that I found the protagonists, a married couple played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, a little too unlikeable for me to fully invest in them solving their problems, of which they had many. I think that if I were older and married, this movie might have resonated more (and I might have been more sympathetic to the protagonists), but I mostly found the characters whiny and immature. The highlight was a fantastic supporting cast – Iris and Maude Apatow, as the daughters, almost saved the movie for me. There are also great performances by Chris O’Dowd, Jason Segel, Annie Mumolo, and Melissa McCarthy in smaller roles. Those guys made me laugh, but not enough to turn this into a great movie. Grade: B

django unchained

Django Unchained: If This is Forty was too long, Django was WAY too long. I enjoyed the movie’s first hour (when it was basically a buddy western movie with Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx) tremendously – it was crisp and darkly funny. Once the action moved to the plantation, the movie went off the rails for me. Leonardo DiCaprio, playing the villain, was excellent, but his performance was not enough to redeem the latter two-thirds of the movie. It felt like Django had about five endings and, quite frankly, the non-stop, over-the-top, extreme violence at the movie’s end felt tedious and excessive just for the sake of being excessive – which, I guess, is Tarantino in a nutshell. My ultimate verdict: great performances (Waltz especially), but in major need of editing. Grade: B-

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina: This movie is set largely in a theater and shot as if you’re watching a play – sets are moved in and out, just as they would be on a Broadway stage. That artistic choice seems polarizing; I’ve read several reviews where critics claim it’s a gimmicky distraction. For me, however, the gamble paid off – I thought the transition from scene to scene was beautifully done and fascinating to watch. In fact, this whole movie is gorgeous to see, from the costumes to the sets to the camerawork, and that artistry is worth the price of admission alone, in my book. If it’s not enough for you, luckily the movie also features lots of great performances – my favorites by Matthew Macfadyen as Count Oblonsky (wonderfully outrageous), Jude Law as Karenin (understated but sympathetic and noble), and Alicia Vikander as Kitty (perfect in capturing what it’s like to be young and foolish about love – a feeling most can probably relate to well). Grade: A-

If you’ve seen any of these movies, what did you think? And what other movies did you watch this holiday season?

(Images via Gawker, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and The Seven Sees)

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