- A Return to Reason (1923), Man Ray – Early French avant-garde short is an awesome cacophony of images. What look like micro-organisms, street lights, carousels, nails, springs, breasts and more. I’ll be fucked if I know what it means, if anything, but it’s cool to look at. Check it out:
- Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), Steve Pink – This film has a really nice, heartfelt spirit that is missing from most recent comedies. Great performances by the core cast, and the notion of a second opportunity to do things differently if you had your time over held my interest. And I laughed in this a hell of a lot, which is a good thing for a comedy.
- Sanctum (2011), Alister Grierson – This Aussie cave diving flick was much maligned on release. The most cliché ridden script in recent memory, and the visuals losing their impact on a smaller, 2D screen doesn’t help. So why worth a watch? Because it’s an incredibly intense, full on genre piece. I started getting a bit uneasy physically, so well is the claustrophobia conveyed. From about the half hour point, this had me utterly gripped, helped by some really nice performances from the Australian cast members. However the film does leave a couple of questions unanswered. Like, why the fuck would anyone go cave diving? And what accent is Hornblower going for exactly?
- Allonsanfan (1973), Paolo & Vittorio Taviani – Initially this looks like a cheap BBC Shakespeare adaptation. But things pick up once the action escapes the shoddy internal sets. The tale of a revolutionary released from jail who has to choose between revolution and his family. An interesting, thought provoking film about how hard it is to escape the past and the dangers of standing for nothing.
- X-Men: First Class (2011), Matthew Vaughan – I’m a fan of sequels, prequels and most any other ‘el’ you can think of. Not so sure about this ‘reboot’ fad that is going on. But if they’re all going to be this good, sign me up. Definitely the best Saturday night popcorn flick I’ve seen this year. Michael Fassbender as Magneto is obscenely good, and the evolving relationship between him and James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is intriguing.
- Alias Season 1 (2001), J.J Abrams – This was the series that kick-started TV wunderkid (now just wunderkid) Abrams’ career. This is a globetrotting spy series that keeps the action coming and the characters always intriguing. It helps that it is brought to life by a pretty darn fine cast headed by Jennifer Garner and Bradley Cooper. A silly and occasionally convoluted mix of James Bond and Indiana Jones, that is always ultra entertaining.
- Shakespeare Behind Bars (2005), Hank Rogerson & Jilann Spitzmiller – This is an incredible and dense doco which chronicles a Shakespeare group in an American prison. Introduces the (at times brilliant) players at work, before gradually unveiling their heinous crimes, making you reappraise judgement. The felons are intelligent and bursting with philosophy, best seen when they summarise The Tempest in their own words. This film is the most truthful piece you could hope to see.
- Seven Up! (1964), Paul Almond – Based on this, the seminal sociological doco series is seminal for a reason. Beautifully shot as it is, this is essentially a ‘talking heads’ TV. piece. The innocence, but already engrained differences between the youngsters sets the basis for the rest of the series.
- 7+7 Up (1970), Michael Apted – Despite a change in director, this is more of the (good) same. Seven years on and the contrasting rebelliousness and conformity of teenage years are laid bare. Some have changed immeasurably in seven years, whereas there is a suspicion some will never change.
- State of Play (2009), Kevin Macdonald – Investigative journalists, politicians and high conspiracy, all pretty standard thriller plot points. Featuring Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren and Ben Affleck in major roles just shows the power of a decent (more than decent) cast as this positively races by enjoyably. An outstanding supporting cast doesn’t hurt either.
- Tree of Life (2011), Terrence Malick – This was my most anticipated film of the year. Having seen it, I find the mixed response it has received utterly incomprehensible. The most ambitious mainstream cinema release I can recall is also the most beautiful. A poem about the cosmos God has created and an individual’s place in it. About the way one can choose to live their life by nature or by grace. Whilst this does feature Brad Pitt and dinosaurs, it ain’t a popcorn film. But I urge you to see it with an open mind and let the images wash over you. Then go back and see it a second time like I intend to.
- Oranges and Sunshine (2010), Jim Loach – This is a crushing film about family. A portrayal of yet another example of the Aus and British governments colluding in the heinous betrayal of children. Also yet another example of the depth of talent in Aussie acting. The smallest supporting roles are brilliantly, and emotively shown. But it is Weaving who ‘stars’ delivering a powerful turn that I’d be willing to bet will be as good as any this year.
Not Worth Watching:
- The Hearts of Age (1934), Orson Welles & William Vance – Orson Welles’ first film is the first of his I haven’t loved. In fact I was bored by it. This out there piece prominently features a tolling bell, and hideous demons. To me, this does not show any of the characteristics that would make Welles the greatest director in history. Maybe I just don’t get it. Take a look and let me know if I’m being harsh:
- Number, Please (1920), Hal Roach & Fred C. Newmeyer – This stars Harold Lloyd who is considered the third pillar of silent comedy along with Keaton & Chaplin. This is a beautifully shot, traditional love triangle. But a lot of it is similar to the aforementioned two comedians, only they do it better. Also, Lloyd’s everyman character lacks any distinctiveness. Pace too slow to generate laughs.
- Jennifer’s Body (2009), Karyn Kusama – “Is that the stupid Megan Fox lesbian movie” my girlfriend accused when I bought this home. “But, but…” I spluttered “It’s written by the same person who wrote Juno” was my defence. Script starts really well, quite funny, but then the horror shift kicks in, and Megan Fox’s sheer lack of acting ability take over. Forgoes any semblance of classical vampire mythology for overt sexuality – a vampire who needs to get her tits out before attacking. Only a very small target audience, easily titillated 14 year old boys, will come out of this one satisfied.
- The Hangover Part II (2011), Todd Phillips – I enjoyed this more than the first one (but I really didn’t like that). But it takes Hollywood unoriginality to absurd new heights. It’s literally the exact same script as the first one. So unoriginal, yep there’s a ladyboy joke. And am I the only one who finds Zach Galifinakis’ character incredibly annoying rather than hilarious?
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Michael Bay – The critical community, and my girlfriend, all agreed this film was a heinous crime against cinema. They were all right. A woeful script is brought to life by woeful performances. The most mind-numbingly dumb film I’ve ever seen (transformers humping legs, transformer testicles???). Racist & sexist to boot. This is a movie so bad, Megan Fox’s performance isn’t even close to the worst thing in it.
- Bridesmaids (2011), Paul Feig – Sold as a female The Hangover, this starts pretty lacklustre. And while it improves in patches, it still feels like a film which consists of jokes rejected from Will Ferrell and better Judd Apatow films. Good performances from Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd can’t save this one.
If you only have time to watch one Tree of Life
Avoid at all costs Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen