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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Roundup of Films Released Over the 2011/2012 Holiday Season

So, it's been a while since I have updated the blog (apparently it's really easy to get lazy when on holiday by the sea - who knew?) so here are some quick, no frills reviews of a bunch of films that came out over the past few weeks. 

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows If you enjoyed Guy Ritchie's first crack at Sherlock Holmes then you'll probably like this. It sags significantly in the middle as the old Ritchie self-indulgence takes centre-stage with just one too many explosive set pieces but the witty character interplay between Holmes and Watson is as fun as ever and Jared Hess' Moriarty makes for a perfect villainous counterpoint to Holmes' genius detective. And having a bit of Stephen Fry comic relief never hurts either. (7/10)  

I Don't Know How She Does It Admittedly, Sarah Jessica Parker's latest is far less painful than the Sex and the City franchise but then so is getting whacked in the face with a sledgehammer. Once again she stars in a film that is presumably supposed to a comedy drama with serious feminist overtones but it's far too empty and full of itself to be anything but yet another cynical, heartless "chick flick" - even if its premise promised a whole lot more. (2/10)

The Music Never Stopped Now here's a film that could easily have gone very wrong as its premise of a brain-damaged man being "saved" by his love for sixties music could easily have given way to saccharine mawkishness, but between its stellar performances, killer soundtrack and underplayed direction, it's actually really rather moving. Cynics might sneer but if you're up for just a bit of emotional manipulation, it's one of the better films out there right now. (8/10)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo No less than three remakes were released on 6 January but this is actually, to my (semi) shame, the only one whose original I've actually seen. But then, the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo came out here just a few months ago. Here's the thing: taken on its own, David Fincher's take on the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a severely flawed but solid, nicely put together thriller, but, if you've seen the original, it's impossible to get past the fact that this isn't a film - it's an English dub.

Lets cut the crap. I don't care what the press releases have to say, this is a remake (re-adaptation, my ass) and exists purely to cater to English-speaking audiences that are too lazy to read subtitles. There are slight differences along the way (the longer coda, the slightly spunkier characterisation of Lisbeth Salander) but the only truly notable difference between this and the original Swedish film is that we now have English-speaking actors speaking English with silly Swedish accents, rather than Swedish actors talking Swedish. And since both "versions" are set in Sweden, guess which one comes across better?

Put it this way - rather than coming up with another Se7en, Fight Club or Social Network, David Fincher is wasting his clearly impressive talent - and his very talented cast - on a series of films that are the very definition of wasteful. Now that's really unforgivable. (0/10)

Footloose There's actually something of a reason for this film to exist. It's a remake but considering how many dance movies have come out over the years that are clearly just updates on Flashdance, why not have a Flashdance for this current generation? The result, unsurprisingly, is complete hogwash but it's way, way more fun than it has any right to be. Effectively Rebel Without A Cause but with dancing, Flashdance has enough impressive dancing and wholesome teenage rebellion to provide a perfectly decent couple of hours of laughably daft entertainment. (5/10)

The Thing A remake of a remake disguised as a prequel? Yup, this is what it has come to. It's total rubbish but its biggest sin is that it assumes that dodgy CGI work is in any way a decent substitute for old fashioned physical effects when it comes to horror. It's admirably stripped down but this Thing isn't witty or scary enough to satisfy even the most ardent of genre fans. (3/10)

Martha Marcy May Marlene So apparently the Olsen twins' younger sister is a brilliant actress. Who saw that coming? Sadly, Elisabeth Olsen's brilliant, career-making performance is the only thing that truly impresses in what is otherwise a too self-consciously-indie indie-drama about a young woman trying to reconnect with her sister after spending a couple of years in an abusive cult. A fantastic central performance, very good supporting turns and some clearly noble intentions simply aren't enough to save the film from being a rather boring and pointless misfire. (4/10)

Margin Call Terrible title, yes, but Margin Call is actually a really engrossing drama/thriller about the dirty Wall Street dealings that started off the current recession. It has a boatload of terrific performances from its A-list cast (Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons are especially impressive) but the best thing about it is that it takes a plot that is driven by a subject that is, at best, baffling to people who aren't involved with stock market trading and makes it all about people - thereby turning a film that could have been dreary and alienating into something that is more emotionally captivating than it has any right to be. (8/10)
There are a few films that I still haven't seen but, for now, this brings us back up to date. The blog will hopefully be back to a regular schedule (with pretty star ratings and ripped-from-Google-Images graphics) from this week.  


  1. "... but then so is getting whacked in the face with a sledgehammer." - HAHHAHAHHA! Shame man, these 'chick flicks' are just not your thing hey?! Just make sure to marry a girl who would rather watch Kill Bill :)

  2. To be fair, I actually rather like chick flicks when they're done right. Too bad Hollywood seems so intent on keeping the good ones a decidedly rare commodity.