Great idea, I've been meaning to keep a journal - guess this is as good a place as any to do it January
1. High Fidelity
Brilliant little comedy, the dialogue is crisp and nothing short of hilarious. The quirkiness of John Cusack's character provides most of the entertainment, his vain insecurities are exploited for maximum effect. Really good stuff. His duo of nerdy, if fairly rude (imagine a toned-down Randall), employees manage to show off their antics as well, and Jack Black does a good turn as an early Dewey (of School of Rock-fame). Was impressed with Iben Hjejles American accent, even if it isn't flawless it's certainly better than what Mads Mikkelsen or Jesper Christensen showcased in Casino Royale. Of course, they didn't play Americans.. still, pretty good accent, and the film is great fun to boot. 8/10WALL·E
Kind of hard to comment on WALL·E without doing a rehash of the praise it's already seeped in, so I'll just mention that it's one of my favourites of 2008, and manages to tell the most intimate love story since Linklater's Before Sunset using computers and synthesised voice acting. WALL·E himself is probably the most expressive character Pixar ever did, which is saying quite a lot - each rattle and eccentricity just makes him more endearing. 10/10
2. The Name of the Rose
Great historical mystery flick which demonstrates fully that Sean Connery is one of the coolest people alive. The tension between the church and the people, which it exploited completely, comes across very well, particularly in the climax. The atmosphere is thick, and the daily life of the monks is portrayed exceptionally well - in fact, the only real complaint I have is that Christian Slater is rather bland, but the novice/master relationship works around this well enough. A great, big 8/10
3. A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit
This has always been the W&G short I remembered most clearly, but after seeing it again I've come to realise that, while it's certainly charming and inventive enough, it's completely overshadowed by the Nick Park's later work. The pacing is, in quite a lot of scenes, extremely slow, and only really takes off when the duo finally arrive on the moon. The ski-loving something-or-other-machine was good fun, but I missed the typical British humour around the neighborhood. 7/10
The quintessential monster slasher flick, and the film I use as a reference for exactly why space is creepy - so darn oppressive! Anyway, the atmosphere is everything in this film, and Ridley Scott manages to build up a sense of impending disaster through delaying much of the action throughout the first half of the film - the pace here is quite slow, and takes time to acquaint the viewer with the locale, and particularly the incomprehensibility of the crashed spaceship on the planet contributes to the viewer's feeling uneasy.
Of course, once the alien is hatched (which, btw, is my pick for scariest scene) things start to heat up for the poor crew, and the plot evolves into your garden-variety slasher yarn, if exceptionally filmed and executed. I wouldn't give it kudos for originality, but the framing, editing and, once more, building up suspence, is nothing short of phenomenal. The final scenes stand out, simply because they 'prolong the terror' - a typical horror film would have had a climax sooner, but here the conclusion doesn't come right away.
Anyway, if I'm going to list every film in here I should probably start writing fewer impressions... Still, couldn't resist - Alien really is one of the greatest sci-fi films. 10/10Aliens
Continued my Alien extravaganza last night with James Cameron's sequel. While not as frightening or iconic as the original film, it is nonetheless suspensefull and exhilerating - to my mind, this is the action film of the series, a high-octane thriller with nary a dull moment. The aliens are still frightening, although I think multiplying them so efficiently takes away some of the initial terror; obviously they aren't as invincible as we thought, the amount of them exploding in this film, and this cannibalising of the concept did bug me a bit.
Fortunately, the pacing doesn't allow for a lot of these ruminations while actually watching it. Where the original relied on long shots to establish the atmosphere, its sequel uses disorientation through harrowingly edited action sequences, while maintaining an emotional base through the mother-daughter relationship between Ripley and Newt.
It does suffer a bit from a predictable plot, I certainly could have done without some of its more stereotypical characters (Bill Paxton, I'm looking at you!). Still, for sheer adrenaline it's practically unrivaled, and it remains, without a doubt, one of the most obvious candidates for an HD treatment. 9/10
6. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Last year, I started watching these 'Apatow' flicks, as they've come to be called - started out with 40 Year-Old Virgin and worked my way through Knocked Up and Superbad, and even though the quality has definitely been varied, I was rather looking forward to seeing this latest one. Jason Segel's script isn't exactly consistently funny, but it does have enough interesting moments and character delevopment to make it worthwhile; Paul Rudd's character was brilliant, shame he didn't have any more screen time.
Peter coping with his heartbreak provides a good deal of comedy, particularly in the beginning of the movie, although his incessant crying comes off as a bit strained halfway through the film. Some of the director's choices are a bit illogical as well, the flow of certain scenes is flawed, but in all it was a very decent film - definitely continues the brand of humour from the previous films in the 'series'. I'll do a teeny 8/10, but that's mainly because I can't be bothered with decimals.
I haven't been watching that many films recently, I got the great, big Buffy the Vampire Slayer box set and I'm going through that.
12. Ghost in the Shell
I'd been meaning to see this one for a while, the entire sci-fi aspect intrigued me. There are elements of the classical dystopian society, but what really carries the film is how it delves head-first into the philosphical implications of replicants, a la Blade Runner; what defines a human being, what is the soul and what constitutes personal identity? It doesn't pertain to a grounded reality like its thematical big brother, and particularly towards the ending it becomes a bit abstract - it certainly requires repeat viewings before all of the details sink in, much like Akira. However, even if its just for its more straight-forward passages, it's highly recommended. 8/10
18. Office Space
Another great comedy, this one regarding work in an office. Unlike the more widely known The Office, with which it, obviously, shares quite a few similarities, it's more staged and exaggerated, and doesn't try to hard to remain realistic. What we have, really, is a rebellion against the oft-parodied button-pushing culture and lifestyle, and much of its humour is derived from the viewer's familiarity with the environment (the main characters' seething hatred of the copy machine in particular).
Office Space is a fairly simple film which owes a good deal of its ongoing popularity to its vivid characterisations and fantastic gags; office humour is still a hit with me. This was my second viewing in about a month, and I suspect this one will move up my list of cult favourites in the future - it's certainly well deserving of the praise generally lathered upon it by the internet's nerdy underbelly. 8/10
21/22. Ae Fond Kiss
My English teacher figured this would be a great film to enlighten immigration for us, so we watched it in class. Now, I could do a rant about watching films in school when your teacher understands nothing
of the criteria of enjoying a film properly - OAR, proper screen, avoiding lectures without pausing the film and so forth - but I won't. Some people just don't understand, and that's pretty much that.
Regardless, I did manage to forget about those things while actually watching the film, and my final verdict of the feature falls in its favour. It's certainly nothing groundbreaking, not a masterpiece by any standards, and it does tread water structurally every once in a while, but it's still fairly good entertainment, and if you can ignore how tired the setup has become you should be able to enjoy the drama. Nothing too special, but worth a watch if you're in the mood. 7/10
23. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
Hot piss! Whedon does it again, digging out his checkered dance shoes to hand out a gem of a musical to the adoring masses. Although he's often favoured the dark and brooding in his previous work, this Internet-based miniseries serves as ample proof that he's a bona fide genious regardless of genre. This super hero spoof was everything I hoped for and more, the way this stuff should be handled. Dr. Horrible is the most amusing villain since Bomb Voyage, and his social awkwardness and professional failures provide belly laughs for the whole family.
I'd just seen the legendary musical 'Buffy' episode, so my expectations for this one were pretty much through the roof. Not so much because of the music - still not any break-away pop hits - but because of how meticulously layered and humorous the setting of it is. The film boasts more than its share of great gags and snappy dialogue, and the songs are all soaked in invisible glue to make them stick in your head - barring a lobotomy, there's really nothing I haven't tried to stop humming the 'Bad Horse' songs, and I rue the day it turns dull. 9/10, with enough cult potential to make your head spin.Howl's Moving Castle
I love Miyazaki. God help me, I really do. Completely platonic, of course, but if I ever saw him in the street, I'll be damned if he leaves without a hug. Which is why I can love a film like Howl's Moving Castle, certainly not the most sensible or even accessible from his repertoire, but it's got all the makings of a great film which is pretty much enough for me. Mythology and fantasy go hand in hand, set in a society technologically resembling the late 1800's; in other words, about the same as usual. Still, it's quite a different story to his previous work, and a rather sweet love story in its own right. Sofi's guise as an old lady is a great metaphor, and it's not the only bit of symbolism to be found.
Still, as with most of his films, it's Miyazaki's ability to create a vibrant and charming world around his characters that makes this film so memorable. Calcifer the fire demon is good and feisty, and we get some good maternal themes introduced with the wiz kid. The ending might be a tad confusing, but despite that, it's still Studio Ghibli at the top of their game. God, I hope Ponyo doesn't disappoint. 8/10
25. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I wrapped up my little Buffy-marathon last Sunday, finishing off the last few episodes of the seventh season. It's a bit hard to pin the show down to a single grade, or even genre, as it varies enormously in tone and content over its seven-year run - and even from episode to episode. Overall though, it's certainly a series I'd recommend to others, as even the most stale episodes have enough excitement and humour to make watching them worthwhile.
The real strength of the show, however, is its cast. The eternal discussion of Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting talent aside, it's hard to ignore how compelling, and fresh the supporting cast is. The few main characters, Willow, Xander and Buffy, all develop from fairly simple characters to people you can actually identify with, and care about. Anthony Head is, of course, übercool as bookish Brit sensei Ruper Giles, Emma Caulfield's straightforward ex-vengeance demon provides mucho comic relief and the ever-golden Spike steps in as both style and substance in the last couple of seasons.
Any show that ranges from fairly entertaining to bliss everlasting in terms of quality is one to look out for, and while the bulk of Buffy's episodes don't really stand out, it's the exceptional few that elevates it so high above the competition. Whedon's keen sense of pretty much everything carries the series throughout, chuck-full of pop culture references as they ought to be done. It takes a turn for the gloomy in the final few seasons, but even then it had moments to make me chuckle. I'm on the fence regarding a grade, but I'll go with a grand 8/10 and the possibility of upgrading in the future.
27. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Now, I admit I'm a sucker for films like these, epic life parables with glitz and glamour, even though I realise it's become way cooler to hate them. Benjamin Button is a film that doesn't reinvent the formula, but sticks to it, and the result is as good as it's ever been. Comedy and tragedy go hand in hand as poor Benjamin grows younger, meeting a variety of colourful people along the way, finally catching up to the woman he loves as they meet at the middle of their lives.
13 nominations is definitely pushing it, but a sturdy film like this has a decent shot at the title. Cate Blanchett, while great, really only plays second fiddle to Brad Pitt as he gives one of the most memorable performances of his career (and he's Tyler Durden, people - Tyler Durden!). From quiet and reflective to obtrusive and forward, he is
Benjamin Button, completely engulfed in the role.
To me, Panic Room has really been the only cock-up of Fincher's since he got creative control over his films, and his latest continues the trend from Zodiac, crafting a great film that might just serve as a well-deserved ticket in with the Academy - although that honour should have come from a different project. 8/10
A big old yay for two trips to the theatre in as many days! The Clint has already proved his worth as a director, and with this Depression-era abduction drama he once more shows off his stylistic skills, which are nothing short of mad. Changeling is absolutely gorgeous, faded colours highlighting the mood of the piece throughout. What's even better though, is his ability to build up tension and suspense, getting the audience to care for the characters.
Angelina Jolie has never impressed me as an actress, but a lot of that might stem from my only seeing her in dumbed-down films like Beyond Borders and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Her turn as desperate mother Christine Collins was pretty exhilerating though, not to mention damn convincing. I'd say she's still a bit stiff in some of her scenes to go with a statuette, but the nomination is well-earned.
Changeling is a compelling period piece, and certainly the best film about corruption in the LAPD since L.A. Confidential. I can't throw an accolade like 'best drama of '08' yet, but unless its competitors take me completely by surprise, it'll probably be pretty close. 8/10
30. The Insider
Now, I had high hopes for this film, based in part on the extremely positive feedback it had gotten, as well as the talent participating - not to mention the fact that I was christening my brand new 42-inch PX80 with it. What I found when I finally got around to watching it, was a political drama rather than an actual thriller. Nothing bad there, I just saw it expecting something else, which is one of the reasons why I can't really judge it.
The acting is flawless, and the portrayal of the modern-day difficulties in getting a controversial programme aired is most certainly intriguing - although Good Night, and Good Luck did it a tad better in my opinion. What bothered me though, was how unclear certain plot elements were; the FBI are suddenly connected to the story arc, and appear to play a rather large part in the ending, but I never caught on to the reason.
The film is definitely solid, but it would also benefit greatly from multiple viewings, which is why I'll hold off grading it till I've seen it again.
31. Inside Man
As I'd been expecting more of a straight-up thriller with The Insider, I popped Spike Lee's Inside-film in the next day. And, once more, found it to be vastly different than I'd anticipated. Damn talkies.
Anyway, Denzel Washington is way cool - seemed to be a rehash of the 'righteous cop vs. da man' storyline, but then he turned sneaky near the end. An enigmatic Clive Owen steals the show with a carefully laid-out game plan to rival the best heist films, and Christopher Plummer as a repenting Nazi-businessman gave the film a nice twist.
I wouldn't say it's the most exciting film I've seen lately if it wasn't the only film I've seen lately, but it's more slow passages are justified by loads of cool moments. I'm a bit undecided as to the grade, but I'll be harsh and give it a seven - good, could have been better. Intrigued by the sequel, though. 7/10February
1. Groundhog Day
My very favourite feel-good movie, and one of the very few I can't imagine growing tired of. Quirky and inventive doesn't quite cut it for the script, Bill Murray takes the cake as a subtle well of eternal comedy fantastically backed by a stellar supporting cast - Chris Elliott is always great, and the usually sinister Stephen Tobolowsky shows off considerable comedic skill.
While one might argue that the more memorable scenes carry the film, I'd say the greatest source of humour in Groundhog Day lies in its endless variations upon the same setups. The scenes with Ned are classic in this regard - while at first trying to avoid the guy, Phil begins to figure out ways to get back at him (the homo-erotic hug being my personal favourite).
Even if you look past the humour (and I won't even bother with the religious allegory), the film is endowed with an essentially sweet story of a man coming to appreciate and embrace life instead of sneering sardonically at it. Definitely a classic in my opinion, and one I'd say will stand the test of time. 9/10
Bryan Singer's period piece is a methodically accurate portrayal of Nazi Germany, giving is a glimpse of the growing exasperation among Army officers as the war drew to a close. Beautifully shot and acted, with a cast to die for - a who's who of great actors headed by Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy and Kenneth Branagh. Nothing short of fantastic in that regard.
The pacing is rather slow, which, through the nature of the plot, allows for a lot of pent-up suspense. Keeping the audience captivated even when they know the ending is an impressive feat, but one Singer manages completely.
I won't say there aren't problems with the film, but they're small enough that they don't particularly detract from one of the finest WWII dramas in years. 8/10
Gus Van Sant's biopic of Dumbledore activist turned politician Harvey Milk is a breathtaking work of art, and the most impressive period piece I've seen in years. It's an honest and moving film, depicting events as they transpired without the tacky sensationalism of similar films. There are no stylished shots and it never feels staged - it's an emotional tour de force, not a visual one. The dialogue and acting has the earnest freshness of improvisation, and that's a rare treat for a film like this.
Sean Penn steals the show with his powerhouse performance as the titular character, creating a vivid portrait of an important historic person. Granted, being unfamiliar with the mannerisms of the real Harvey Milk, I can't judge his performance based on the depiction of his subject, but I cannot imagine the character seen in the film being brought to life with more vigour and intimacy than Penn manages to convey. His is as fine a performance as you're liable to see.
It's been a good long while since I saw a drama of this calibre; we all know how it ends, but as with so many things, it's not the destination but the journey that's important - and Milk is the most moving ride I've taken in a good long while. Even with contending heavyweight Benjamin Button as thematic peer, Van Sant's realism far outshines Fincher's existentialism. Influence by my immediate enthusiasm, I'd go with a full score, although that's subject to future revising. 10/10
21. The Blues Brothers
Brilliant Eightie's classic I watched again with my big sister and her boyfriend. It's not so much the dialogue, or even the gags - which, for the main part, are fantastic - but the music that really makes this gem stand out. There are plenty of great scenes to weigh out the slower ones, of which there are a noticable few. Although it's certainly flawed at times, with parts that haven't aged particularly well, it's still one hell of a good time, made so through the humour, music and strong cast involved in it. Ray Charles' cameo alone makes it worth watching. 8/10
The ending was grand. Not just because it was a fantastic finale on its own, but I haven't seen anything much not related to the Buffyverse for nearly two months straight, so finally getting Angel out of the way was a tremendous relief.
Not, of course, that it wasn't good. It is. The tone is darker than that of Buffy, but even so, there's plenty of giggles to go around, great gags, jokes and dialogue make the show as comical as it is intriguing. The acting was good overall, although both the cast and their characters became more interesting as the series progressed. Most every season has a Big Bad of its own, a main adversary for the heroes to clash against, and the plotlines are usually pretty damn good.
The show thematically (and structurally) resembles its big sister quite a bit, and it did float about a while during the first season, still finding its feet. Once it did though, it churned out high-quality entertainment pretty much all the way through, allowing for a few rotten eggs and some of the whinier cast. What Buffy had though, and what Angel never quite attains (although a particular episode in the fifth season comes real close), was the occasional that stood head and shoulders above the rest, so phenomenally fantastic you're sure there was a ritual sacrifice involved in the creative process. Joss Whedon is a bona fide genious, and while Angel is a brilliant show, it's not his best work.
Anyway, I did a segue a while back without following up on it - finishing Angel was a melancholy experience, because I've seen next to nothing outside of Buffy and Angel since early January, and having seen it all means, quite simply, reaching the end. The relieving part enters the picture right around the humongous stacks of unseen DVDs piling up all around me, and finally being free to see them. Angel is a great show, darkly humorous and quirky in just the proper manner, another one I'll try and get other people hooked on. The quality varies, and, as with any show this long, there are ups and downs along the way, but it's always entertaining and viewed as a whole, quite impressive. 8/10
26. Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder
I'm a massive Futurama fan, got all the DVDs, heard the commentaries and I even modded a fansite, so my expectations for the fourth and final straight-to-DVD continuation of the series were through the roof. I've been more or less satisfied with the previous three, although none of them were as brilliant as the parent show at its best, but the fourth one was a disappointment.
Lots of unnecessary jokes, and surprisingly little character development. It's all situational, no time to look inward to provide some finality to it all. Fortunately though, the film still relies on the episodic format enough to allow for radical shifts in quality (and plot), which means that while parts of it were fairly uninteresting, others felt just like good ol' Futurama again, and the ending in particular did give me some closure.
But not so much that I haven't still got my fingers crossed, hoping for a fresh season; or just a new batch of films. I know they've got it in them to do better than this. 7/10
and I know that's a pretty high score for a disappointing film, but it's Futurama, after all; I'd come to expect more, but that doesn't make it a bad film.
27. City Lights
I've only seen a few of Charlie Chaplin's film classics, so I was fairly excited when I came across a lovely collection as a bargain a while back. City Lights was the first of the bunch, so that's where I started out.
First off, it's old. Real, real old, which is apparent not only from a technical aspect, but in terms of pacing, plot and humour as well. It's an overly simplistic film, with slapstick gags stitching together a quite insipid story, and while it's not as rollicking as it once was, the film has stood the test of time magnificently. It's still fun to watch, the romance between The Tramp and the blind girl is still as bittersweet, and the bipolar millionaire still gets in a few laughs (although, seen through a modern lense, he's probably more homoerotic than he was back in the day).
City Lights is inarguably one of the more sturdy entries in the history of cinema, but it has to be seen in the context of its time; it's pleasant, but not uproariously funny. Bears multiple views though, and that's more than can be said of a lot of modern comedies. 8/10Face/Off
John Woo makes good action, and that just about sums up this film; the plot is ludicrous, and I never really cared for the characters who are, more or less, caricatures, but the action scenes are absolutely brilliant. Not to mention that the film features one of the most ingenious plot devices ever, allowing for the two main actors to switch roles a few times - excellent! I always knew John Travolta was badass, but Nicholas Cage was a pleasant surprise.
Watch with beer. 7/10
I also saw half of Blazing Saddles, but I started too late and fell asleep halfway through. I plan on trying again later tonight.
28. The Frighteners
I like Peter Jackson's work, right from his humble yet gory beginnings to his multi-million dollar epics, and this darkly humorous ghost flick just fanned the fire. Ingeniously funny and comfortably scary, it's the sort of film I'd have loved to grow up with.
The entire serial killer-aspect of the story brings the horror aspect of the film more visibly to the surface, and while it is out of tone with the more slapstick-y parts of the film, it definitely suits it. There aren't a lot of surprises along the way, but it's very competently done, and rather effective - plus, Jackson had a pretty great cast going, who turn in some very solid performances. I'll definitely start looking for the DC. 8/10Bonnie and Clyde
Placing this particular classic among Hollywood's Greatest Hits is definitely overdoing it, but it is a wonderfully crafted tale of two lovers on the lame, and there's no denying the indelible mark it has made upon modern cinema. The more shocking sequences, the graphic morbidity and daringly ambiguous morality, don't hold as much power as they did in the Sixties. We as an audience, have become desensitised to violence on film, and that has taken some of the oomph out of the film.
Even so, the brilliant performances and evocative script are plenty cause for admiration. The way each character is built up, and particularly the underlying certainty of their unavoidable demise, makes watching the film all the more compelling - although it's aged quite noticeable, it's certainly no worse for wear. 8/10Blazing Saddles
I saw the entire film again last night, this time remaining conscious even through the closing credits. I can see how it got its reputation; cheeky, cheery and it maintains a great sense of odd-ball humour more or less throughout. Mel Brooks works the fourth dimension into the film resulting in a feature that's very much self-aware. It twists a lot of old Western clichés, and through the inarguable charisma of its leading man (backed by the ever-entertaining Gene Wilder), provides a good handful of sincere belly-laughs. It's easy to draw parallels with The Holy Grail, even if Brooks' sense of humour remains too conventional to actually compare the two. 8/10Galaxy Quest
I'm not real familiar with Star Trek, so a lot of the jokes of this film were lost on me. Still, I recognise good sci-fi when I see it, and the plot is inspired enough, and the cast stellar enough, to warrant a look; there's a lot of cult potential here, particularly from Alan Rickman's character. In fact, the only real complaint I have is that it seems unable to make up its mind whether to be dramatic or comical, and often ends up neither. Still, it's a fun spoof, with all the ingredients of a spectacular space romp; even if they aren't mixed quite right, it's still pretty good. 7/10MarchHellboy II: The Golden Army
I've been meaning to host a Hellboy marathon, but after a month of waiting for people to agree on a date, I just went ahead and saw the second chapter of Guillermo del Toro's proposed trilogy. It's got even less to do with the comics than did its predecessor, but giving Mike Mignola's gothic horror yarns a big ol' dab o' show business actually works to the film's advantage; it's a self-contained film with few links to the first one, and the sensationalised plot is apocalyptic enough for my tastes.
Ron Perlman really is the embodiment of Hellboy, bringing to the character the same gruff, tough attitude as was in the comics - even if the machismo was never as evident. The character of Abe gets a dose of puppy love to make him endearing to the audience, but he should have been developed backwards as a character, given an origin story rather than a sappy romantic one. The Hellboy-Liz relationship is more interesting, if a tad puzzling.
Anyho, great sci-fi/fantasy action flick that made my repeat list for sure. I hope Del Toro will see fit to provide a third film once he's finished with Middle-Earth. 8/10
I had The Assassination of Jesse James in the player, loaded and everything, but since my menu consisted of pizza and beer, I decided to go with something more fitting. Michael Bay's films are usually mindless, violent romps with high enough entertainment values to add up for their lacking artistic merit, and this description pretty much sums up 'that fucking space rock movie'. The acting, while not necessarily bad (although Liv Tyler isn't particularly impressive), is certainly no more than adequate, and the script provides no real surprises, and a lot of plot points both illogical and improbable.
Even so, I was tremendously entertained during the ride. Coming off the high though, in the final scenes, I sat wondering why on Earth I'd subjected myself to that crap. I've no idea what to rate it, it's equal parts Hollywood trash and exciting action, so I'll just go with a cozy six because it went down well with a slice and a brew. 6/10
4. Forgotten Silver
After watching The Frighteners this weekend, I figured I'd watch the last few of Peter Jackson's films I'd missed out on, so I ordered Heavenly Creatures and today I saw his (in)famous mockumentary. It's the first of its kind that seemed actually believable to me, not self-parodying or even self-aware. It's a shamelessly probable portrayal of an extraordinary pioneer, and so long as you keep in mind that it's all fiction, it's immensely enjoyable.
I wasn't surprised to learn that it had been released as an actual hoax, with loads of people buying into it, because the way it's presented makes it all seem perfectly real. A quite interesting experiment, and a succesful one at that. 8/10Equilibrium
I actually saw the first twenty minutes or so of the film a long time ago, but opted to do something else instead, thinking it merely another overly stylized and criminally self-absorbed sci-fi action flick. This time around, I was a tad cautious coming into it, but I found that it balanced action and plot quite expertly.
The story steals left and right from dystopian litterature, but the fight scenes are spectacular and the cinematography excellent. I haven't a lot to say of the acting, but since the story's set in a society where feelings are outlawed, that's to be expected. So yeah, very entertaining and even enthralling at times with gun fights brilliantly choreographed and beautifully shot. Christian Bale is fucking bad. 8/10
6. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season One
I won the box set last week in an online contest, and it came in the mail the other day. I've always liked the Terminator franchise - granted, mostly when James Cameron was still in charge, but still enough to keep a lingering interest. So when I first heard about this series being made, I saw the potential, but following the third film, also the risk of it sucking. Bad.
After the first few episodes, I couldn't really decide whether or not my fears were justified; the pace was damnably slow, and the whole thing was just shot in a manner that left me completely indifferent. What it lacked, really, was a story to bind everything together, a Big Bad to keep it interesting. The Connors (and River Tam) just wade around L.A. without any goal at all.
Then came Derek Reese, and suddenly, at the inclusion of a character that's just an eensy bit intriguing, the quality of episodes rises. I find myself caught in the storyline, not
rooting for the metal men. The last few episodes were really quite good, the finale absolutely inspired - the final scenes, with dark death and mayhem set to Johnny Cash singing about the Apocalypse, were phenomenal.
It started out dull, but having finished the first season, I'm actually looking forward to the next. Whether it's 'worthy' of its mantle as a successor of sorts to the original trilogy is an entirely different matter, but so far I'm keeping my fingers crossed. The grade is influenced by the final episodes, so adjust for enthusiasm. 8/10In Bruges
Gem of a film, pitch-black humour interspiced with heartfelt drama. The acting is magnificent as well, Colin Farrell is an excellent actor, and it was lovely to hear him talk in his own brogue. Same goes for the rest of the cast, of course, the main characters were all brilliantly portrayed.
It's a hard film to pin down though, as there's a lot of symbolism regarding life and death, but it's just vague enough to make you think you missed it. I held off this entry for a couple of days because I wanted to sort it all out in my head, but finally reached the conclusion that it can be interpreted in a number of ways. Even so, it's certainly a film I'll be coming back to. 8/10
7. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Right, I love a medieval adventure flick as much as the next guy, but putting American Kevin Costner smack in the middle of an all-English cast was just a horrible casting decision. Morgan Freeman is forgiven as his character isn't British at all, but having the lead sport an American accent was just distracting. At least Mel Gibson tried.
There are loads of other points on my list though; it's much too serious for such a silly film and the dialogue all seems forced. It's a double dip of authorial vices, having a script that's perfectly silly without the slightest hint of irony. It would have been much more entertaining to watch sober if it'd been given a healthy dose of self-parodying.
In the end, I just weighed the film after pros and cons, with Alan Rickman, Sean Connery and Brian Blessed in the proper end and everything else in the other. It's moderately entertaining, but if you've got a heightened sense of filmic quality, I'd definitely give it a miss. 6/10The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
I read loads about this one back when it was still in theates, but finally missed it. A few months ago, I picked it up used in a shop, but just shelved it because of its length (and because I was going through Buffy and Angel at the time). Yesterday though, I finally dug it out and saw what I now consider to be one of the finest bipics in recent years.
The pace is slow, it takes its time to establish the characters and their relationships as well as showing off the gorgeous plains in which it's set. The voice-over, while a clichéd plot device, is insightful and even poetic at times, a reminder throughout the film that we're watching something historic, not just another sensationalised escapist western.
Jesse James is a sadistic tyrant, psychologically harassing his men and breaking them down, but there are more humane qualities to him as well. Robert Ford is a young man awestruck and nervous to be in the presence of his great idol, and we see how Jesse's grilling him gradually turns his dreams of fame against him. The motives of the characters are never clear though, the film provides a densely layered character portrait on the strength of its main cast, fodder for numerous debate and research.
The film's strengh lies both in the brilliance of its actors - I was extremely impressed by Casey Affleck, and consider Brad Pitt's turn as the temperamental outlaw one of his finest achievements - but also in the beautiful camerawork, compliments of the legendary Roger Deakins. A criminally overlooked aesthetic masterpiece. 9/10Casino
It's familiar ground for De Niro and Scorsese, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. The tale of two friends caught up in the glamourised underbelly of Las Vegas is as competently constructed as you'd expect from the master, and although it's certainly long, there's never a dull moment. At very few points while I saw it did I feel the urge to look away, go for a snack or do anything at all, really, but keep watching.
The only real complaint one might have is how little innovation the film provides. It's all been seen before, if you imagine a cross between Scarface and Goodfellas you sort of get the idea, but that doesn't detract from the experience in the least because it's so competently constructed.
Generally speaking, Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese teaming up is cause for celebration, and while this isn't the greatest of the collaborations, it's still miles ahead of the competition. 8/10
10. Dirty Harry
Finally managed to get one of the Clint's seminal works off of my 'to-see'-list and into my DVD player; Dirty Harry being one of the most oft-quoted films ever, and often included in lists of cinema greats, my expectations were pretty high, but the film managed to deliver on them. Pretty much.
The pacing is slower than average, even taken in context of its era, and there are precious few action sequences. In the few we see though, the misanthropist cop steals the show with astounding displays of badness - he's methodically dirty in his work, but he sure as hell gets the job done, and screw the bureaucrats. The emphasis is on character development though, and establishing the proper atmosphere.
The plot itself isn't particularly imaginative, and relies quite heavily on the bad craziness of its antagonist, a crazed serial killer with the handle 'Scorpio'. This is enough to keep the ball going, but the murders aren't as grizzly or intense as they used to be; modern films have left me more or less desensitised to on-screen violence, and this isn't particularly explicit.
It's interesting to note how the serial killer is portrayed in this film: stark raving mad, with a nervous laugh and unkempt appearance. It's an idealised view of the then-active Zodiac killer, fully confident that someone like him can't elude the police indefinitely. I can only recommend watching David Fincher's intense adaptation of that affair, comparing the two gives an interesting insight into public opinion.
Dirty Harry isn't the greatest cop drama I've ever seen, but I'll defend its status as a classic any day. Like so many films of its time, it feels somewhat dated, but if you're able to forget that and just focus on Clint being badass, you should be plenty entertained. 8/10
11. Hot Fuzz
I'd seen this British cult comedy gem a few times before, but I wasn't convinced of its genious until the other night, when I saw it with my sister's boyfriend. In the past, I'd see it coming off the comedic high that is Shaun of the Dead, and with that kind of a precursor I was in for a disappointment. It's not the same, the humour is more subtle in this unofficial sequel, less pronounced. It took three and a half viewings, but I did finally accept how spectacularly hilarious it truly is. Even though I'm fairly ignorant when it comes to the sort of high-octane adrenaline action flicks it pays reference to, there's plenty for everyone. 9/10
13. The Oxford Murders
I got this for review, being mildly intrigued by the involvement of John Hurt. Fairly ordinary whodunit, it doesn't capture the attention as it probably should. It's not so much that the twists were predictable, they were simply uninteresting. The entire film, in fact, is decidedly bland; not bad as such, and there's some impressive camerawork, but in terms of plot it's fatally lacking. 5/10
14. Slumdog Millionaire
Zowee! Me liked. Danny Boyle is an interesting director; I've steered clear of the less popular entries in his filmography, focusing on 28 Days Later, Sunshine and the incomparable Trainspotting. As with the latter, his depiction of the grim side of society is absolutely enthralling, the life of our protagonist a string of touching anectodes both moving and poignant, tied together as the young Jamal relates the experiences that led him to the fateful quiz show.
The story is somewhat sequential, each vignette of flashbacks providing more insight into the actual story; the true significance of past events aren't clear until the very end. It has a lot of the same qualities that made City of God work so well, but ends on a much higher note. It's not a realistic depiction of life in the slum, merely a heartwarming fable of a child that escaped them.
I still won't comment on the Oscars, having only seen three of the five best picture nominees, but Slumdog Millionaire wasn't a bad choice at all. It's a layered and (from what I hear) realistic take on Indian culture; films like these are few and far between. 9/10
15. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - first and second seasons
Got this box ages ago based on the ridiculously high IMDb rating and the comparisons between this and Arrested Development. It's good, great fun, but relies too much on situational humour even though it tries to distance itself from the sitcom-format. Too many obvious build-ups to awkwardness, but the plots are generally quite inspired and brilliantly executed. The repetition of jokes works well, too, and the acting is great - Danny DeVito's character provides a lot of excellent comedy. Looking forward to the next season. 8/10
17. The Strangers
Got this for review. Really didn't appeal to me; it wasn't bad as such, merely uninteresting. We've seen it so many times before, these sorts of torture flicks have been shamelessly propagated since the success of the Saw franchise. It did have some good parts, and if I'd been paying more attention, probably some decent scares as well. On the whole though, I'd say give it a miss. 5/10
A lot's been said, and I've done my fair share of ranting as well, so I'll just do a short recap here; the comic probably shouldn't have been filmed, even though it retains the most memorable scenes they're usually altered in some way, usually for the worse. Zack Snyder wasn't the right man for the job, he's far too reliant on a visual style that's unnecessarily extravagant. He made it his own though, but I don't particularly like his vision - in any event, it's nothing like the graphic novel, but if it sparks an interest in the original material, I suppose I can forgive it. I'm hoping the DC will grow on me. 6/10
19/20. Educating Rita
I love it when our English lectures involve watching films. Educating Rita, while not a masterpiece by any measure, is a charming little comedy; both Julie Walters as the eponymous knowledge-hungry girl and Michael Caine as her despondent drunkard of a tutor shine. The editing and music cues were a bit dodgy at times, but on the whole I'd say Lewis Gilbert did a fairly good job. 7/10Happy-Go-Lucky
Without being at all familiar with the works of Mike Leigh, I saw his latest comedy last Friday. Pretty fun, but neither the plot nor the characters seem to evolve much. Also, while the protagonist was obviously meant to be charming and funny, she came across as downright annoying. Quite good on the strength of the juxtaposition between the inexorably optimistic Poppy and the more cynical, pessimistic world that surrounds her; Eddie Marsan did a hell of a job. 7/10
While I hear Stephen King's books are generally shamelessly ripped in adaptation, what I've seen so far is pretty damn good. Then again, I've steered clear of the supposedly worst ones, instead seeking out the ones with decent reputations. Misery is fantastic. James Caan is brilliant, nervously trying to appease the erratic mood swings of his fairly freaky hostess/captor - and Kathy Bates steals the show completely. Add another layer with the charismatic sheriff's ongoing investigations, and you've got a perfectly structured and impeccably executed horror film. One of Rob Reiner's best. 9/10Airplane!
Comfortably wacky 80's comedy, good for a fair number of genuine belly-laughs and steady chuckling. The premise is completely ludicrous, but since it's only real function is to set up a bunch of jokes. Parts seem dated and parts are unfunny, but on the whole it's one of the finest flicks from the golden era of spoof films. Gags a-plenty! 8/10
I've only seen a few of John Woo's films, but so far the quality of his flicks drop a hell of a lot with each new one. The Killer to Face/Off to Paycheck - started great, but this glorified pseudo-intelligent action thriller tries much too hard to be different. It's fairly good the first hour or so, but once Affleck decides to get back at Da Man it takes a turn for the way, way worse. Uma Thurman is horribly malplaced, and poor Paul Giamatti is caught in the maelstrom. The film itself can't figure out whether to appeal to the intellectual crowd of Philip K. Dick fans or just go with the flow, and do the action junkies. I can't decide on a grade, though - as bad as it was, I was reasonably entertained most of the time. Looking for a brainless brawler? This is for you, but I'd give it a pass, myself. 4/10
Spurred on by the success of Misery, I saw another King horror flick on Monday - and loved it! The familiar 'haunted mansion'-scenario is given a twist as poor John Cusack is terrorised by the otherworldly inhabitants of Room 1408 which is, as the incomparably cool Samuel L. Jackson put it, an evil fucking room. Enslin's slow deterioration into complete madness is brilliantly portrayed, and the horrors he's exposed to are absolutely chilling. It's not fantastic, not even particularly imaginative, but extremely effective. 7/10
24. The Changeling
I was still in the mood for horror last night, so I popped in this George C. Scott haunting flick and sat back. What I was treated to wildly exceeded my expectations, the gothic quality of the old mansion and the nighttime setting create an entirely unsettling experience. The atmosphere, particularly enhanced through the use of the spirit's ethereal voice, is bone-chillingly fantastic. 8/10
The unrelenting forces of nature are used rather effectively here, the psychological aspect of Man vs. The Wild is explored well. The canoe trip and what happens along the way takes its toll on Jon Voight's Ed, who starts out fascinated by Burt Reynold's survivalist, but slowly loses himself as events force him to realise his dreams.
The way these manly men react to the emotional strain of their actions is interesting as well; rather than accept it, they transfer it to an external aggressor. Clearly, the more macho you get, the less you understand, or accept, emotions.
Anyway, pretty good. I was hoping for more, the pacing of the narrative is pretty slow, but all in all it's a good 'back to nature'-flick. 7/10
Didn't turn out as I had expected it to. Based on what I'd heard, I'd already pegged it as being brainless and devoid of innovation, relying on frequent references to pop culture for entertainment value. Not true, although some of my prejudices were right on the spot - namely, the many references. But they're used quite effectively, and tastefully as well, not as empty substitues for original thought. The plot is absolutely droll, and the third act is exceptionally boring, but the odd gag - and the oft-mentioned penguins - make it work all right. 7/10The Madagascar Penguins in: A Christmas Caper
The scenes with the penguins were the best of Madagascar, and so far as I've been able to ascertain, the most popular of the flick, so a spin-off was more or less inevitable. This animated short started the trend, which is supposed to continue with a television series. Quite good fun, the camaraderie between the commando-type penguins shines through, but all in all they're just really popular clichés. Nothing new here, but some decent slapstick. 7/10Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
While it's definitely a more even film than its predecessor, the sequel to Madagascar doesn't rise significantly above its roots. Some pretty good music and performances, beautiful animation but an entirely uninspired plot - and I really could have done without the Ross-giraffe/hippo romance. Even so, it's quite a lot better than the first of the series, and quite decent sub-Pixar entertainment. 7/10The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
I grew up with the animated adaptation of C.S. Lewis' classic novel, and was fairly intrigued back when this live-action version was released. Back then I was still high on the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings revitalisation of the fantasy genre, so it might have faltered a bit in comparison. On its own though, it's more than an adequate film, the atmosphere is perfectly rendered and entirely compelling.
The relationships between the children is quite well-explored, with a competent cast of child actors. My main complaint with this adaptation is that it tries too hard to reach the same heights set by the aforementioned fantasy flicks, stuffing in epic battles and effects 'inspired' by other films and eventually falling short of the mark. Even so, it's excellent fun for the whole family, an entertaining lite alternative to the more serious films of the genre. 7/10
28. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Adamson continues his Narnia adaptation in much the same style as the first film, if just a tad darker. The children have all matured considerably compared to their first outing in the magical land, as has the land itself. The film is more action-oriented than its predecessor, which makes up for a fairly weak plot. Some minor quibbles about plagiarism toward the ending (a figure emerges in a river to drown the bad guys? Foul!), but on the whole it was remarkably good. 7/10The Princess Bride
The Princess Bride is, I believe, a cultural heritage exclusive to English-speaking countries. I've always had a healthy interest in film, but didn't manage to snag Rob Reiner's fairy tale flick until early last year, and I've never seen it mentioned anywhere but online. In the interest of passing it on, I saw it with my mum and sister on Saturday, both of whom liked it.
It starts out innocuously enough, but soon picks up the pace - and quirkiness - as the story unfolds. Many interesting characters, encounters and gags make it a compelling experience for just about anyone, a family film just as interesting to adults as to children. If only I could find a Danish release, I'd be able to get more people watching it, but so far no luck... Anyway, a remarkably solid film, only the effects have aged since its initial release. 8/10
29. AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem
Piece of shit. Really. I've been disillusioned with the Alien and Predator franchises, respectively, since they went to hell in the early 90's, further exacerbated with the decidedly shitty action-fest that was Alien vs Predator, but this sequel is really the final nail in their coffin. Horrendous. Really. The original AvP, despite its crappiness, did manage to entertain on some leve, but this didn't even do that. It's not involuntarily funny or anything much at all, just a horrible film that made me feel dirty all over. 2/10
30. The Escapist
Brian Cox steals the show, but the script is severely lacking. Not particularly imaginative or interesting, it did manage to capture my attention throughout its runtime - although that might just have been because I had to review it. Still, its portrayal of prison life is harsh and gritty, with fine performances all round. Decent film. 6/10
31. The Wild Bunch
Peckinpah's vision of the dying West is less enthralling than Leone's, but the camaraderie between the hunted outlaws - not to mention their pursuer's melancholic longing for their friendship - makes it a compelling view. It's deeply concerned with the morality of the Old West, and delves deeper into the ethical ambivalence than does its romanticised predecessors, making it a precursor for the modern, redemptive western. Highly recommended, even if didn't quite fulfil my expectations. 8/10
01. The Dirty Dozen
Good, old-fashioned fun - bad Nazis and good allies, regardless of past misdemeanors. There's really ont a lot more to it than that; we're introduced to our protagonists, who are instantly sympathetic regardless of their crimes, we see them train and prove themselves battle-ready, and finally we follow them on their mission. We notice the twists miles off, but it's less concerned with plot than brawn, which works quite well. Mindless but extremely entertaining. 8/10
02. Where Eagles Dare
Similar to The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare is a WWII film to be taken at face value; there's not a whole lot going on beneath the surface, but it's a lovely and wonderfully engaging story. Richard Burton is excellent as a British officer whose motives are entirely unclear, while Clint Eastwood plays a less complex, instantly likable American lieutenant whose puzzlement mirrors the audience's own. As the plot unfolds, we're treated to an above-average plot and a lot of great action sequences - I was reminded more than once of On Her Majesty's Secret Service while watching this. Great flick. 8/10Saving Private Ryan
In keeping with the WWII theme I'd set for myself, I next turned my attention to Spielberg's war epic, a beautifully crafted mastodont of an action film. It's instantly compelling, and sets a pace so high it leaves the viewer completely jostled, waiting for a quiet moment to get one's bearings. It does leave something to be desired in the relationships between the lead cast, focusing on depicting the grueling experience of warfare rather than the reliance soldiers have upon each other. Even so, it's hard to fault a film this satisfying, and what this film lacks in character development, Band of Brothers more than makes up for. 8/10
04. Life of Brian
Life of Brian is one of those golden comedies I've seen more times than I care to remember, but which remains as outright hilarious now as it did the first time I saw it. Immaculately comical in its spoof and deeply satirical humour, the gags and sketches performed here rival the very best work the troupe ever did in their Flying Circus. Whether this or The Holy Grail is their greatest achievement is a question left with the audience and their respective deities, but there's no doubt whatsoever to my mind about the exquisite quality of both films. 10/10
06. Body of Lies
Ridley Scott tackles a lot of interesting projects - I've only gone after the supposed classics so far, but what I've found is a bold director willing to take on an impressive range of genres and styles and accomplishing the task with, at least, technical flourish. Character relations have a tendency to be overlooked in some of his films, but I didn't find this to be a shortcoming of his latest flick, Middle-eastern political thriller Body of LIes. The story of American involvement in the Middle East is explored to a certain extent, as the film keeps a narrative focus on the conditions at hand, rather than presenting us with an overview of the entire war.
Russel Crowe is expediently professional as the authoritative bureau chief, Mark Strong delectably menacing as the gentlemanly Jordanian head of intelligence and Leonardo DiCaprio has gotten his picture off of tween bedroom walls and onto the Hollywood hall of fame - that guy is really coming into his own, with a slew if fine performances and Oscar nods already in the bag. The film itself delves only fleetingly on its subjects, but zooms through the locales without a second glance, which makes for a snappy, entertaining thriller that doesn't exert itself as intellectual stimula. 7-8/10Glory
I'd previously been avowed by director Edward Zwick's later films, particularly the grandiouse The Last Samurai and the effectively gritty Blood Diamond. Turning my attention to his past filmography, I found Glory to be the most interesting entry, and promptly ordered it.
Ages later, I finally saw it. I haven't seen a lot of Civil War flicks, and without having that particular slice of Americana as reference, I was at somewhat of a loss watching this film. It's epic, sure, if a bit dated – the early battle scenes are decidedly dull, the editing doesn't make up for the overly simple setups.
The characterisation, on the other hand, is excellent; through their long wait, we get to know the characters intimately, sharing in their defeats and victories right through to the bitter end. There's no happy ending, but a bitter-sweet portrayal of the hardships of war and the racism of the period.
It's a bit simplistic and a bit dated, but it holds up rather well 20 years on. Denzel Washington got the accolades, but the rest of the cast deliver more than solid performances as well – even Matthew Broderick, who seems a tad miscast at first, brings Shaw to life brilliantly. 8/10Match Point
07. The Royal TenenbaumsHarold & Kumar Go To White CastleGarden State
08. Bottle RocketRushmoreThe Life Aquatic With Steve ZissouLeaving Las Vegas
09. Terminator 2: Judgment DayEverything Is Illuminated
10. Band of Brothers
17. Lost in TranslationThe Darjeeling Limited
18. FrankensteinBride of FrankensteinUnited 93
19. The Jungle BookSerpicoTo Kill a MockingbirdMystic RiverGremlinsAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
Previously-seen films in italic.