- Super 8 (2011), J. J. Abrams – A fantastic 80s throwback exploring what kids get up to during their summer holidays… with aliens. Awesome film references and snappy dialogue abound. And it is great to see such great performances from the young cast members, who are actually acting not just being themselves. A cracking old school monster flick with a genuine sense of intrigue.
- The Tempest (2010), Julie Taymor – For me, any Shakespeare on the big screen is a good thing. Taymor has refined her bold visual style since her earlier work, and this is so original to look at with great use of set design and special effects. Helen Mirren excels as the tired, weary Prospera and Russel Brand’s gimmicky casting actually comes off. Ben Whishaw is excellent as Ariel, in a role that can sometimes trip actors up.
- Cars 2 (2011), John Lasseter – A lot of people, idiots, didn’t like the first Cars. The spy parody that makes up the bulk of this sequel is genius. Michael Caine as the elder, Aston Martin spy car is inspired. This is one of the funniest films of the year supported by really sharp animation. And there is so much beautiful nuance in this alternate reality.
- Get Low (2009), Aaron Schneider – There is a great ‘Western’ style aesthetic to this with wonderful cinematography and perhaps the year’s best script. Robert Duvall is such a great actor and throw in Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray and you cannot go wrong. A really nice, simple film that is perhaps a little slow, but definitely worth taking the time to sit through.
- Sucker Punch (2011), Zack Snyder – This is duking it out with The Tree of Life for the most divisive film of the year. Style over substance? Yes, but what style over substance! The awesome bastard child of a film, a music video and a video game. The episodic narrative brilliantly blurs the lines between dreams and reality in a video game quest to collect objects. One thing that cannot be argued about this film, is that it is one of the years most original releases. I loved it. You may hate it.
- Warrior (2011), Gavin O’Connor – One big cliché of a sports film. But with a couple of things really going for it. First the respect shown and research into the fledgling sport of MMA. Secondly some really great performances from Frank Grillo, Nick Nolte and especially Tom Hardy who delivers one of the year’s very best turns.
- The Decameron (1971), Pier Paolo Pasolini – Pasolini brings a real folk tale feel to this film, beautifully enhanced by the crisp cinematography. An exploration of greed and sexual repression, but delivered in a light and funny way. A cool hammy acting style pervades the performances. An intriguing film that intelligently engages with the notions of the church and religion but manages to maintain its comedic edge.
- In Bruges (2008), Martin McDonagh – Easy to see why this has become a cult classic with the profanity laden hilarious dialogue. As far as comedy goes, it is as black as it comes and it is these heavier moments, including the thoughtful romance and a martyrdom which provide the lasting impact.
Not Worth Watching:
- Dorian Gray (2009), Oliver Parker – Ben Barnes is hammy as the doe-eyed, newcomer to London Dorian and is matched up against Colin Firth. Not even the latter, excellent actor can rise above the average here. This is an annoyingly shit movie. It is tackily shot and captures none of the incredible zest of the book’s dialogue. Barnes’ Dorian just comes off as a shallow twat, with none of the conflicted depth the character should have.
- The Scarlet Letter (1995), Roland Joffe – Abysmal. That could be my review right there. This is one of the most ill-judged and worst movies ever. An unauthentic period piece where accents jar, Robert Duvall puts up a strong contender for worst movie wig in history and Demi Moore’s sheer inability to act leads to a film that is plain awkward. A po-faced butchering of the classic book. If I’m going to be subjected to Gary Oldman penis and arse, I expect the film to be approximately 800,000 times better than this. “Freely adapted”, more like shamefully rooted.
- The Sentinel (2006), Clark Johnson – We were all hoping for Jack Bauer hunts rogue CIA agent. Instead you get something a whole lot more tepid than you thought possible with Kiefer Sutherland and Michael Douglas involved. Forgets that for a thriller to be worthwhile it needs a cracking villain. However this just slaps one on almost as an afterthought.
If you only have time to watch one Sucker Punch
Avoid at all costs The Scarlet Letter