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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Movie rundown of 2012: Redux

So, here we go again. After falling way behind on reviews not written for Channel24, here are very snappy reviews (usually) of a whole load of movies. Some great, some less so. On with the show then!

The Descendants: I'm clearly not doing this in any order so we might as well start off with one of the best films released so far this year. It might be too quiet and uneventful for some movie goers but I thought that was part of the charm of a film that is as touching as it is funny and one that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. Clooney is always a great screen presence but this may well be his best role yet but relative newcomer Shailene Woodley  threatens to steal the whole film from under him. He may not be prolific but The Descendants is just further proof that Alexander Payne is one of America's greatest filmmakers. (10/10)

The Skin I Live In: This is sure to go down as one of the year's strangest films but it is also undoubtedly one of its most compelling. Almadovar is a director that I'm still very much getting caught up on - the dude has a huge filmography - but even by his standards, this seems to be pretty out there. Elana Ayana is superb and Antonio Banderas might just have delivered the performance of his career. Don't ask me to tell you what it's about though - half the fun of the film is having the rug pulled from under you every 10 minutes. (9/10)

Trespass: A very, very, very uninspired home invasion thriller that would have worked a lot better if director Joel Schumacher (8mm, Batman and Robin) resisted his usual impulse to turn everything up to 11 from the get go. Apparently building up terror and suspense is far less important to the man than incessant shrieking and over-acting and, boy, does the audience suffer for it. And once again Nicolas Cage isn't good enough to be good or bonkers enough to be really, really good - where's Werner Herzog when you need him? (3/10)

My Week With Marilyn: Not quite as good as some say but a terrifically entertaining film with about half a dozen standout performances but, yes, the most standout of the standouts are clearly Michelle Williams as Miss Monroe herself and Kenneth Branagh who is clearly having a whale of a time as Laurence Olivier. Its decision to move away from its terrific supporting cast in the second half to focus squarely on the relationship between the two title characters (Marilyn and the "My" of the title, Colin Clark) means that the film ends up being far less joyous and funny than it was in its first hour. A good film nonetheless but be sure to check out the Richard Linklater's under-seen Me and Orson Wells, which does a similar thing arguably even better. (8/10)

Safe House: Notable mostly for being shot almost entirely in Cape Town, this A-list Hollywood action thriller suffers from an overly familiar plot and its sub-Bourne action scenes but it's a perfectly adequate example of its genre that is boosted by the charismatic screen presence of Denzel Washington and by Ryan Reynolds playing something of a different character to his usual cock-sure, smart-alec persona. (6/10)

The Iron Lady: Meryl Streep is great as always and the film does have some very solid supporting performances (Buffy fans be sure to keep an eye out for an almost-unrecognizable Anthony Stewart Head) but it is a film that looks less impressive the more I think about it. By splitting the focus of Thatcher's life between her as an old woman getting over the death of her husband (who still appears to her in the form of the always sublime Jim Broadbent) and her time as one of England's most infamous leaders. The former is a tad generic, while the latter is woefully underdeveloped but either would have been far better if director Phyllida Lloyd (Mama Mia!) had stuck to one or the other. Considering the level of the performances in The Iron Lady it's a pity that it ain't it but we're clearly going to have to wait a while longer until we get a film that truly does justice to so controversial,but important, a figure as Margaret Thatcher. (6/10)

Jack and Jill: Wait. I already did this, didn't I? Ah well, just in case I didn't make it clear before, GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! (0/10)

We Need to Talk About Kevin: A very powerful but very tough film about the mother of a, shall we say, "troubled" teenager who goes on a killing spree at his high school, and her attempts to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. It has some incredible performances and a visceral, almost horrific emotional potency but it's purely for people who like to be challenged by outings to their local art cinemas. It also has unjustifiably overshadowed the similar and similarly powerful Beautiful Boy (released in mid-2011 here) so if you like We Need To Talk About Kevin definitely check that out as well. (8/10)

Seeking Justice: Another Nicolas Cage film that holds him back from doing what he does best but this revenge-thriller-turned-conspiracy-thriller does its job pretty well. Even with a suitably intense performance from Guy Pierce, it's still almost instantly forgettable and generic when its not unbelievably daft, but it's still surprisingly fun while it's on. (6/10)

And that I believe is that. I still want to see J Edgar and We Bought A Zoo and there are a few films that I missed - including the worst Star Wars film retrofitted with 3D! - but that mostly brings us back up to speed. 

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