- Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), Sean Durkin – This features probably the best performance by an actress over the past 12 months, from Elizabeth Olsen. She believably portrays a young woman full of anguish and vulnerability with no requirement to revert to histrionics. Once you settle into the film’s back and forth structure it engages and provokes thought, taking the viewer on an original (and at times harrowing) journey.
- The Artist (2011), Michel Hazanavicius – An excellent film. A homage to classic Hollywood and the transformative power of cinema at that time. The influence of Singin in the Rain (1952) is plain to see. The pride of the main character makes him a frustrating figure. Full of positives, the highlights are the cracking cinematography and the two joyful lead performances from Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.
- Man on a Ledge (2012), Asger Leth – Sam Worthington establishes himself as an action star well worth watching in this, following in the footsteps of Aussie brethren Russel Crowe. This is a classically, simply shot action film that reminds just how enjoyable a film like this can be. A lot of this is down to how the plot slowly, but surely reveals its secrets which helps to maintain interest throughout.
- Shame (2011), Steve McQueen – A film about a man addicted to sex, or more specifically ejaculation. Fassbender is surreally good as the high powered exec living this life until his sister, the phenomenal Carey Mulligan, turns his world upside down causing him to reflect on how he carries himself. A character study of a man caught in the most shameful of addictions. McQueen is a stylist and a technician & this is adoringly shot with great use of light, angle and especially sound.
- Hulk (2003), Ang Lee – This maligned film starts with a cracking credit sequence and never looks back. The most interestingly constructed comic book film I’ve ever seen, editing is masterfully used to truly make it feel like you are watching a comic brought to life on the big screen. Such a great vibe, truly inspired and don’t worry, Bana’s Hulk is awesomely destructive when the time comes. Jennifer Connelly gives a wonderful performance as well. Thematically as well as in looks, this is a much more ‘grown-up’ Marvel film.
- Hugo (2011), Martin Scorsese – An extremely rich film worthy of repeated viewings. Dripping in mechanics and clockwork, it features a revelatory performance from Sacha Baron Cohen and a phenomenal one from Ben Kingsley. Of course this is Marty’s ode to cinema, but at times, that is clumsy with dialogue serving as film lecture. It is a bit po-faced at times, but overall an amazing film.
Not Worth Watching:
- Flowers and Trees (1932), Burt Gillett – This Disney effort was the first ever winner of best animated short at the Oscars. It is classically Disney in style and nicely conveys the joys of the natural world. However the film has dated pretty bad and with no story to speak of there is precious little emotion to be found. Take a look:
- Search by Image, Recursively, Transparent PNG, #1 (2012), Sebastian Schmieg – It’s a clever idea. The results though are underwhelming. For far too long its just pictures of space, and the lack of any soundtrack really hurts it. Gets a lot cooler when the images begin to change, but these cuts are much too fast. It’s rare for a 4 minute film to feel too long, but this achieves that because too many of the images just aren’t that interesting. Check it out:
- Bluebeard (1944), Edgar G. Ulmer – One of my favourite fairytales is transformed into a pretty poor film. No real attention paid to establishing the film’s period chops and Bluebeard doesn’t even have a rockin beard. The film is about as atmosphereless as a film can be, even the invocation of the Faust tale can’t help. To top it all off the background music is incessant, and I don’t think anyone actually paid any attention to the music chosen. Really, truly terrible. And if it still sounds like a film you want to watch, you can check it out here:
- One for the Money (2012), Julie Anne Robinson – Katherine Heigl stars, featuring a whole lot of fake tan and as bad an attempt at an Italian accent you will ever come across. What starts as fun, light fare with a rockin hardboiled voiceover descends into inanity at lightning speed. Poorly acted (the supporting cast are atrocious), with an even more poorly constructed plot this woeful film is one I assure you you can afford to miss.
- The Incredible Hulk (2008), Louis Leterrier – Supposedly this is the better of the recent Hulk films. I must have missed something cause this bored me to tears. Somewhere between a sequel and a reboot, having all the same characters played by different actors is distracting. And not one of them is as good as what came in Ang Lee’s take, with Ed Norton & Tim Roth particularly miscast. Derivative, you can see the Bourne and Casino Royale (2006) references all over this one but they add little. And the decision to have the Hulk’s transformation triggered by heart rate rather than anger is a major fail.
- The Spanish Apartment (2001), Cedric Klapisch – Really slow start, with the most notable aspect being a number of (failed) attempts at funky aesthetics – onscreen graphics & images in fast forward. Gets into its stride, accurately conveying the sheer unfamiliarity of a new city, and a meta apartment with residents from all over Europe in each other’s pockets. In the end though, there are so many characters that none of them are really given the narrative attention they deserve. A surreal, comedy of errors that is perhaps too ambitious in the end.
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), Stephen Daldry – An exceedingly annoying film with one of the most misjudged central characters ever. This painful child character, with the infernal tambourine he takes everywhere, is paired with an infuriating voiceover for a lot of it. Sandra Bullock is surreally good, and she evokes more emotion in her small part than the entire rest of the film. And whilst Max Von Sydow is also very good, his character is symptomatic of what’s wrong with the film. If the young central protagonist, and Sandra Bullock’s character had their screen time swapped, this might have been bearable. It isn’t.
If you only have time to watch one Hulk
Avoid at all costs One for the Money