Well, in the short history of "Irreviews" (formerly the inappropriately-named "One-Line Movie Reviews"), this is the first time that the entire list is "SEE it" films. Sure, there used to be ten titles per list, and there are heavy personal reservations concerning The Hurt Locker, but it's still kinda cool.
Director: Shane Acker
Writer(s): Pamela Pettler, Shane Acker (story)
Starring: Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly
This movie did poorly in its US domestic release. Why? I have no idea, but it reinforces the notion that American audiences are pretty stupid. Whether that's true or not is irrelevant, but if you've not seen this movie yet, do so as soon as possible. Both the narrative and visual concepts behind this animated wonder are, without reserve, absolutely brilliant. I refuse to give anything else away. My only complaint: it's too short. I could've watched this story for another 10 hours.
Verdict: SEE it. One of the best animated movies you'll ever see.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer(s): Mark Boal
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty
A critics darling, this is a film that suffers from a typical problem in Hollywood: the more you know about the subject matter (in this case, the Army and Explosive Ordnance Disposal), the less you'll like it. That stated, it is replete with outstanding performances (including smile-inducing cameos by Guy Pierce, David Morse, and Ralph Fiennes), excellent direction, and good cinematography. That it is thoroughly inaccurate in its depiction of the military is both expected and a little sad, resigning a film that could have truly been a wondrous war film to yet another example of how Hollywood likes to pretend it's in touch with geopolitics, but really has no clue. Still, Bigelow demonstrates a remarkable ability to build and maintain tension, and (objectively) it really is a good film. That stated, I didn't like it. Hated it, in fact.
Verdict: SEE it. You'll probably appreciate it more than I did.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer(s): Anthony Peckham, John Carlin (book)
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
Based on the true story of the post-Apartheid South African rugby team and its push to win the Rugby World Cup. Make no mistake, this is less a sports movie than it is a memoir/biopic concerning a very interesting event (a couple, actually) in South African history. Though not without its faults (the soundtrack is a bit over-the-top at times), Clint Eastwood continues his streak of excellent films and reinforces my belief that he is the greatest living American film director. Invictus, Eastwood's attempt at "a Ron Howard film," one-ups Howard at his own game.
Verdict: SEE it.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Director: Grant Heslov
Writer(s): Peter Straughan, Joe Ronson (book)
Starring: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey
A comedy adaptation of the book by Joe Ronson. A completely enjoyable and genuinely funny film, it manages to present "psychic spies" in both a humorous and informative fashion. The casting is top notch, and the actors (down to and including the supporting actors) somehow take their characters seriously without really taking their characters seriously. The ending doesn't quite work, but other than that it's worth the viewing.
Verdict: SEE it. Whether you believe in this stuff or not, it's a good movie.
Up in the Air (2009)
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer(s): Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner, Walter Kirn (novel)
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick
Jason Reitman appears to specialize in films concerning controversial occupations (see Thank You For Smoking), letting us in on the probable negative impacts those occupations have on our society, while portraying the willing souls in those occupations as regular people. And, hey, it works. While there is nothing overtly spectacular about Up in the Air (including Clooney's acting), it is Clooney's public persona that so perfectly fits this film. As we would imagine Mr. Clooney in a bar having drinks, so we see the character of Ryan Bingham unveiled on the silver screen. A superb film? No, not really. But it is very, very good, and though I hesitate to claim that Clooney gives one of his best performances, he is certainly the center of Up in the Air's attention. Extra kudos for ditching the "Hollywood ending."
Verdict: SEE it.