500 Days of Summer
A Moment to Remember – very traditional plot particularly in the second half but the intense chemistry and superb acting from film icons Jung Woo Sung and Jeon Ji Hye lift this above the average Korean tearjerker, and there were moments of great writing, particularly in the leads’ offbeat first meeting and the magnificent build-up to their first kiss. The ending was emotionally off-center, providing an odd moment of hope in a film which should have owned its status as a weepie
American History X – one of the most difficult films to watch I’ve ever seen, but I loved the last hour to death. An unflinching portrayal of racism and violence in America, as well as a great brotherhood story. Brilliant ending that rocked me to my bones and filled me with rage, despair, and a deep admiration
An Education- well-acted, pitch-perfect little film, though somehow fails to quite reach the resonance it was attempting at. Not Oscar-worthy, but worth watching
And When Did You Last See Your Father?- an unhappy, poorly-written, and pointless film – one of my biggest disappointments of the year
Avatar- thin on plot, as expected, but the latter half in particular is an excellent action-packed sci-fi/fantasy epic. A bit Star Wars, a bit Dances with Wolves, and a bit Fern Gully, it’s not great cinema (the plot and dialogue are deeply derivative) but is a great cinematic effort(the special effects are as dazzling as promised but neither overwrought nor overwhelming, blending seamlessly with the film to create a visually immersive experience)
Broken Flowers – lovely cover and Bill Murray; I thought this would be another Lost in Translation. Instead it so boring, pointless, and plotless that I fastforwarded through most of it
Catch and Release – low-budget and highly forgettable
Can’t Buy Me Love – mediocre but mildly entertaining 80s flick starring Patrick Dempsey
Crows Zero – brilliant Japanese fight film with stunning cinematography. A cross between Matrix and Fight Club.
Crows Zero 2 – the first half an hour was slightly dull set-up, but after that it was as brilliant as the first if not more so. Frelling brilliant.
Charlie’s Angels – Should have been a mindlessly fun action flick, but the “Angel” mythology and endearing lead actresses are mired in poorly shot action sequences, cheesy one-liners, and zero plot. Kill Bill did female empowerment better.
Confessions of a Shopaholic – surprisingly well-written and adorable chick flick, funny and fast-paced with good performances and chemistry between Isla Fisher(not to be confused with Amy Adams though there’s certainly a resemblance here) and the always dependable and sexy Hugh Dancy
Dear John-the plot is painted with broad strokes and the themes aren’t exactly subtle, but excellent directing, acting, and cinematography, and especially the fiery chemistry between the leads, made this an unexpectedly luminous romantic film
Easy Virtue – not quite the light-hearted social satire/romance I was expecting, thus turned out to be a faintly bleak but oddly perceptive and memorable film about the meaning of love and family. An entirely unexpected but lovely romance between two lonely people underpins it
Eclipse – it’s really quite wonderful how bad these movies are. Decent soundtrack
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past-uneven and disappointing, and misses all its emotional cues. Avoid
Gran Torino- raw, bitter, and brilliant
Iron Man 2 – enjoyable in the same loosely plotted, unabashedly overblown comic book/superhero way as the first. Robert Downey Junior makes the film.
Sherlock Holmes -heavy-handed directing and an often incoherent plot is balanced out by great production, good acting, and chemistry between the three main leads. A good action film if you’re not looking for Sherlock Holmes. Something of a travesty if you are
He’s Just Not That Into You – liked it
Hot Tub Time Machine – surprisingly coherent and well-thought for its genre, but still ultimately remains a (very) raunchy comedy. ugh.
Infernal Affairs – With better editing and a surer director’s hand, this could have been a brilliant, Godfather-esque film. Even with uneven directing and editing, it’s still beautifully shot and well-acted.
I’ve Loved You So Long – brilliant. Just brilliant
Keith – this dark teen romance starring Jesse McCartney and based on a Ron Carlsson short story was unexpectedly profoundly moving. By turns sharply bitter, understated, and warmly funny, it builds to a magnificently resonant conclusion. Highly recommended
Kill Bill – kind of awesome, not least on the level of seeing America finally do an unadulterated revenge story. Also an interesting blend of genres with part of the movie filmed as a Japanese anime. Main drawback is that it’s stomach-churningly violent and gory (and one particular fight scene goes on far, far too long).
Kill Bill 2 – more of the same, though had one particularly stand-out stomach-turning moment
Kites – this multi-cultural, multi-lingual film (languages include English, Spanish, and Hindi) fails by trying to also join the film styles of the three different cultures it represents. An uneasy mash-up of Spanish telenovela, Bollywood romance/musical, and American gangster film, Kites tries to be too many things at once and thus fails at all of them. Not even the amazing cinematography and a surprisingly good performance from Shahid Kapoor could save this melodramatic mess. The sweeping Bollywood style falters without the music or witty dialogue to shore it up, the gangster parts are convincing but feel wildly out of place, and the dialogue and lovers’ interactions, so necessary to provide a convincing heart to this incoherent film, are lifted straight from the soapy, cliched lines of a telenovela. Avoid – this was not just a rather bad film, it was also a boring one (please don’t take this as a representation of Bollywood – it is most decidedly not).
Letters to Juliet – another paper-thin, waste-of-time rom-com. Hollywood has been churning out a steady succession of these films over the past four years in which pretty people, stunning locations and cinematography and a dash of romance is supposed to make up for an entire lack of plot, decent dialogue, or well-built conflict
Little Miss Sunshine – for a film with sunshine in the title and an adorable little girl on the cover, Little Miss Sunshine was an oddly dark film, a rather grim portrayal of family life in all its nitty-gritty nastiness and dysfunction. It has luminous moments however and ends on a note of hope. Rather brilliant, but not always enjoyable.
Metropolis – revived and recut sci-fi classic, though in truth it’s more of a dystopia film. A little uneven and rather disappointingly failed to delve into most of the ideas it presented about government and religion and technology, choosing instead to focus on the romance
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – I thought this would be a film about two teenagers going on a journey of musical discovery and ultimately love. Sadly, the title is the only creative thing about this unoriginal, immediately-forgotten trifle. As the final failure in a film with “playlist” in the title, the soundtrack is dull
No Country for Old Men – relentless and brilliant. Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin shine, as does Kelly McDonald (under-used in the film industry, she was equally luminous in The Girl in the Cafe). Grim almost from start to finish, yet I loved it. Watch it.
Paris, J’etaime – A collection of shorts focusing around Paris, this is a stellar production, varied and magical and of consistent high quality on all fronts. Outstanding cinematography and acting
Pyaar Impossible – light-hearted and wonderful. A delicious Bollywood rom-com
Rabbit and Lizard – as if to make up for all the awful Korean films I watch, every once in a while a gem comes along. This is one of those – not just one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever seen, but a luminous narrative about two lost people finding hope in and because of each other. Exquisite camera work and moody cinematography underpin a story told on mostly a visual level, woven through with wistful music and stripped, necessary dialogue.
Remember Me-mediocre first half leads unfolds gradually into a heart-wrenching, subtle, pitch-perfect tale of love, grief, and family in the second half. One of the few films I’ve ever seen that made me cry bitterly. Highly recommended
Some Kind of Wonderful – standard John Hughes fare, though a little more uneven than usual and the male lead isn’t the greatest actor. Mary Stuart Masterson gives it her best, however
The A-Team – awesomeness from start to finish
The Back-Up Plan – it’s all about the shtick in this hugely uncomfortable film which sets out to place its characters and audience in as many shocking, awkward, pregnancy-related situations as possible in an apparent attempt at humor. I’m not going to say it’s not entertaining – mere shock value is enough for that – but unless this type of humour is your thing, avoid at all costs
The Breakfast Club – this seminal John Hughes film is even more brilliant that you’d expect. Loved every second of it.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – raw, lovely, innovative film, though not a necessary one
The Fighter – a fierce, superbly crafted film. Doesn’t have the necessary spark to lift it above an excellent genre piece however – despite wonderful performances, it fails to transcend its own limitations
The Last Song – Nicholas Sparks puts his stock characters in a cliched world, but that world and those characters are so rare in entertainment and film nowadays – emotionally brave, admirable people – that somehow it can occasionally be refreshing. That doesn’t save this from being painfully, laughably trite at times, but Miley Cyrus is a decent actress and it’s well-cast all around. If you want a good Nicholas Sparks, watch Dear John or The Notebook, but if you want a slight film to get you through a rainy day, this will do.
The Other Guys – shtick humour, little to no action, unsympathetic characters. A ribald farce that attempts to satirize…something…but does so with little charm or ease. A pity, because both actors are wasted in this.
The Princess and the Frog – sweet if unexceptional. Less saccharine/bland than I was expecting but still not nearly approaching the musical depth or flair for characterization of Disney’s earlier films
The Royal Tenenbaums- wacky but somehow very awesome in a Wes Anderson kind of way. Gwyneth Paltrow is brilliant, and a perfect ending.
The White Countess – a spare, lovely film. Rather slow in the first half but gives way to a deeply tender love story in the second, and a moving, pitch-perfect ending. Merchant Ivory at its assured best.
Transformers 2- more explosions, more Megan Fox running around in a low-cut tank top, more cheesy Shia LaBeouf-led awesomeness. I can’t decide whether I love or hate Transformers
When in Rome – the only good thing about this mediocre, slightly frenetic film was Kristen Bell. Slight characterizations and madcap escapades substitute for a plot