- Sherlock Series 2 (2012), Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss – More of the utterly awesome same. These guys really know how to finish off a series too – wow what an ending! Superb acting, and the construction of the episodes (movies really) means the joys unfold sublimely well. Put simply, if you haven’t caught this, go out and do so.
- Hidden (2005), Michael Haneke – This sorta thriller features very clever use of style, incorporating video technology such as fast forwarding wonderfully into the narrative. An examination of unwanted surveillance, as a couple are terrorised by tapes of their house and strange drawings sent to them. An intriguing, and well acted, weaving of the past into the present.
- Burning Man (2011), Jonathan Teplitzky – As good as I could imagine a study of grief being. Incredibly fragmented opening half hour distils brilliantly at just the right moment. Performances are uniformly brilliant whilst the direction is similarly excellent. I cried at the death of a character I had known for two shots. I’m not a crier, but I wept or cried openly for the entire last hour of this. One of the very few films that do death (and by extension life) justice. If I had of seen it in time, this would have been in my top 5 for last year.
- Wish You Were Here (2012), Kieran Darcy-SMith – Well off young people getting into serious trouble appears to be the trope of choice in Aussie cinema at the moment. Splintered, non-linear narrative works well here to gradually reveal the true nature of what each character knew. A pretty enjoyable outing with universally unlikeable characters. The shocking ending is a winner though.
- The Woman in Black (2012), James Watkins – This haunted house flick is a cracking chiller. It’s all very Victorian – fog, marshland and distrusting locals hiding something. Shot very cleverly to enhance the atmosphere and shocks. A contained, taut film anchored by excellent performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Ciaran Hinds. Scared the shit out of me too.
- Dark Shadows (2012), Tim Burton – This very fun film is actually a meditation on the nature & function of family, with some distinctly adult flashes. Burton & Depp have successfully dialled it down here resulting in a fantastically restrained performance and an incredible looking (1972 set) but not visually gimmicky film. A simple story and a great cast equal lots of fun.
- Tinkler Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), Tomas Alfredson – Novelist John Le Carre is known for his labyrinthine plots, and I had been warned that this adaptation of his most famous novel was borderline impossible to follow. But to me, it just requires close viewing, an old school, slow burn of a spy thriller. Beautifully shot, with close-ups driving the story. A tense, cracking adult film that is with one of the best male ensembles ever cobbled together with Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Strong the best of a very good bunch. I will admit though that the final reveal was not entirely clear to me.
- The Descendents (2011), Alexander Payne – I think this is an overrated film, but by no means a bad one, and one that grows as it goes along. A man’s wife goes into a coma, at which point he has to ramp up his parenting duties and discovers she has been having an affair. Clooney is extremely good in an exceedingly difficult role – that of a man put in an insane position. It sort of turns into a wonderfully strange, absurd road trip with an inspired confrontation scene and a delightful building of a father-daughter bond.
- Men in Black 3 (2012) Barry Sonnenfeld – This is just great fun. So good to see people like Josh Brolin and Emma Thompson being exceedingly silly. This series of films are silly, but at their best, inspiringly, absurdistly so. Not much is done with the time travel aspect of the narrative, and the huge secret reveal at the end is a hollow attempt to add gravitas where it is not wanted. But this is one of the funniest, and funnest big budget romps of the year.
- Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012), Deb Cox & Shelly Birse – What an awesome Australian show, a period crime tales told with unrelenting joy. Simply amazing characters, led by Essie Daviss as the one of a kind titular detective, backed by 5 or 6 others you can’t help but love. Fun for the most part, but it also shows it can really ramp up the tension over the last couple of episodes. Very happy to hear that series two is in the works.
Not Worth Watching:
- The Promise (1995), Marharethe von Trotta – A weighty start gives way to a pretty tepid, clichéd love story. Not that surprising when you consider the premise – young lovers divided by the Berlin Wall. Oh, think of the metaphors. The lack of backstory hinders the main two characters, as well as their supposed intense love, whilst the film is melodramatic in a bad way. Some interesting ideas, but an annoying change of actors in the main role and a script that bumbles attempting to render the differences between East and West mean they don’t shine through.
- Iron Sky (2012), Timo Vuorensola – This really not very good film completely wastes the incredible concept of Nazis on the dark side of the Moon. It is nowhere near self aware enough, and is just bad and unfunny. The sci-fi and action elements are simply unexhilarating whilst the visuals are bland and acting uniformly woeful. Bad enough though that it will probably gain a cult following on DVD.
- The Dictator (2012), Larry Charles – A film dedicated to Kim Jong Ill – A heinous tyrant who tortured and murdered. That’s the kind of thing this film finds funny. Not just ignorant and dismissive of the terrible goings on of the Arab Spring, but downright racist in parts. Comedy about dictators and the like can be subversively brilliant (I’m looking at you Chaplin) but this is not at all. And worst of all for a comedy – it’s deeply, deeply unfunny.
If you only have time to watch one Burning Man
Avoid at all costs The Dictator