Film Reviews Recap – January 2012

My relationship with film this year has started in earnest. After a lackluster month of December in which I watched very few films, I decided to play catch-up and, at the same time, aim for some of the quality films I missed last year, with only a couple of exceptions and a few repeats.

Following is a list of all the films I have watched so far this year. I have written a small review for each film, with the exception of those I have already analyzed on this blog:

50/50 ( Jonathan Levine – 2011)

A well-written, efficient and heartfelt film about overcoming adversity and deepening relationships with the ones you love. A very compelling Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars alongside Seth Rogen playing his usual self with a bit more restrain and depth in a film that needed some of his warm comic relief.
50/50 handsomely balances comedy with drama, giving more room to the former until the final few scenes unfold.
I would have still liked a film that was a bit more personal and less lighthearted, yet still infused with some of the comedy that made it work so well.

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

The Ides of March (George Clooney – 2011)

Another well-crafted film by George Clooney about an idealist who becomes suddenly tangled in the corrupt and amoral game of politics. Ryan Gosling plays Steven, a press secretary that firmly believes that his candidate, played by a suave George Clooney, can really shake things up in Washington. Soon, we understand Stevie is more invested in himself than in anyone else as he easily succumbs to the constant morality tests he is put through.
The film explores, without much compassion or sentimentality, what happens behind the scenes as politicians move about, scrambling for votes, endorsements, deals and campaign donations, and how the very nature of politics can corrupt even the best of us.
The Ides of March is raw, unapologetic, punctuated by awesome supporting performances that include the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti just to name a couple.

Despite all of the film’s strengths, which are several, the story does suffer a bit by a script that feels a bit forced at times, trying to be some sort of revealing expose on American politics, only to reveal what most of us already know. At the same time, there’s a lack of emotion in all of these characters that make them seem as one-dimensional realists seeking nothing more than personal victories.

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet – 2010)

Check my review for the film here

The Hangover Part 2 (Todd Phillips – 2011)

The sequel to the huge box-office hit feels much like a rehash rather than an respectable sequel.
Much of the same structure remains in place as a group of friends led by Bradley Cooper wake up after a wild night of partying not remembering a thing.
While the first part saw them in Las Vegas, this time around the guys end up in Thailand, where one of them is getting married .
There is absolutely nothing new under the sun in Part 2, making the film absolutely predictable, often replacing comedy with cheap slapstick.
This is perhaps the ultimate demonstration of Hollywood obsessively trying to cater to the “dude” crowd that, according to studio heads, want nothing more than brainless sequels, full of crude jokes, crashes, fights, explosions and ridiculous caricatures of men getting high and drunk.

Rating: 2/5 (bad)

Warrior (Gavin O’Connor – 2011)

One of the best films of 2011 stars the surprising Joel Edgerton alongside one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors of the moment: Tom Hardy. ‘Warrior” is about two brothers that took very different paths after a troubled childhood forced them to be apart.
For over an hour, their stories are presented separately, always pointing towards an unavoidable climax where they will face each other at a mixed martial arts tournament. Mr. Edgerton plays Brendan, a high school teacher and family man who, after being threatened with foreclosure, resorts to street fights to make some extra cash.
Similarly, Tom Hardy, who plays Tommy, seeks out a niche as a professional martial arts fighter in search for redemption. He opens the film with a bottle of alcohol in his hand, waiting for his alcoholic father to show up, as we immediately realize that Tommy is dealing with some inner demons. He seeks him out because he needs a trainer, but he unwillingly yearns for his father, even when he holds him responsible for every bad moment in their lives.
Playing their father is Nick Nolte in a very moving performance that could be easily considered among the best of the year.

While the film does not go at length about the family’s past, it is clear that the two brothers go into the tournament with all of their conviction, seeking for a chance at a better life.

Even though the finale falls into the melodramatic and predictable territory, the well-crafted script never chooses sides, making the case for all three main characters to be deserving of a second chance at happiness.

Rating: 4/5 (very good)

(500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb – 2009)

Check my review for the film here

Rating: 4/5 (very good)

Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt – 2011)

What is it about this movie that many critics liked so much? I seriously don’t get it.

Meek’s Cutoff is an incredibly dull film about three families crossing the Oregon Trail in search for new riches. Beyond the performances, which are all very strong, the movie just gets lost in the inconsequential nature of the quest at hand. What are their obstacles? They want to get “somewhere” but, instead, they get lost following Meek, a good-for-nothing cowboy that is full of anecdotes, many of which might not even be true. Day after day, we see the group endlessly walking, as slowly as their wooden wheels can move, searching for a sign of civilization at first and, later, for just enough water to not die dehydrated.

In the process, they come across a native Indian that they manage to capture. Even when they can’t speak his language and he can’t get a word of English out, they manage to convey their need for water and they trust on him for guidance because they have no other choice.
Do they get where they need to get to? We don’t really find out. More importantly is the failure of the film to get us to care enough about these characters, all of which seem trapped and doomed by their own misjudgements and paralysis.

The cinematography, for all of those who appreciate it, is nothing more than a collection of panoramic shots that often places the caravan in the foreground, looking ever so small and insignificant in the vastness of the desert. There is nothing original, artistic or valuable about long shots in nature, since we can simply turn on the TV and tune in the Discovery Channel to get just that.

Rating: 1.5/5 (very bad)

Terri (Azazel Jacobs – 2011)

Check my review for the film here

Rating: 3/5 (above average)

Win Win (Thomas McCarthy – 2011)

Check my review for the film here

Rating: 4/5 (very good)

Fright Night (Craig Gillespie – 2011)

After a promising start, Fright Night gets lost in it ways as it goes from a slightly suspenseful thriller, turning into an action-packed mayhem where vampires kill, or convert, a few Las Vegas residents, and, in reply, humans try to fight back with the familiar anti-vampire weaponry.
As the film so carefully explains, this is not just any vampire movie, the sect led by a suave and confident Colin Farrel is a “strong breed” that is not easily eradicated, meaning it takes more than Christian crosses and an occasional stab on the heart to kill them. How is that for a twist?!!

Beyond the suspenseful coolness of the beginning, the film loses its edge as soon as our vampire loses his temper and abruptly decides to attack his neighbors. Once it happens, there is no more thrill and the film begins to stick to the Hollywood text book, delivering slapstick comedy, poorly choreographed fights and caricaturesque performances.

Rating: 2/5 (bad)

Final Destination 5 (Steven Quale – 2011)

Check my review here

Rating: 1.5/5 (very bad)

Inception (Christopher Nolan – 2010)

Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever

This was my third or fourth stab at the wildly original and hugely entertaining masterwork by Christopher Nolan.
My favorite film of 2010 stars a great cast that contains Leo Di Caprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy just to name a few.
Watch it now if you haven’t already. It’s a wildride that can be enjoyed by any cinephile out there.

Rating: 4.5/5 (masterpiece)

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis – 1993)

Blog of Big Ideas’ TOP 250 films ever

After watching bits and pieces for years, I finally sat down once again to enjoy one of my favorite films.
Once again, I was taken aback by its layered script which, at first glance, might appear silly and inconsequential. Bill Murray plays all of his strengths in a film that demands comedic and dramatic range.
Groundhog Day is a poem that raises questions about existence, life, death and love.

Rating: 4.5/5 (great)

Up (Pete Docter, Bob Peterson – 2009)

To find some thoughts of mine about this heartfelt Pixar film, just click here to access “The Best Moments in Film History”

Rating: 4/5 (very good)

Upcoming Reviews: Bellflower, Winnie the Pooh & Take Shelter

Niels

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8 thoughts on “Film Reviews Recap – January 2012

  1. I’d agree w/ your rating for Ides of March, but I gave Warrior a bit higher mark because of how much it affected me. It’s odd because normally I don’t even like movies about boxing but like The Fighter, it’s more about the relationships of the character that’s so compelling. I cried so much by the end and the performances are top notch!

    I haven’t seen Fright Night but it does look silly. I mean, there’s no way that’d top the original w/ Chris Sarandon as Dracula. Though that one was whimsical in parts, at least Sarandon was sinister & scary in the role whilst Colin looked like he just got out of a costume party!

    1. Fright Night is silly, I was actually expecting something a bit better.

      I was debating whether to give Warrior a higher mark, but considering I give 4 out of 5 to less than 10% of the films I watch, I think it’s good enough. My only problem with Warrior is the ending, it’s predictable, melodramatic, with more than one cliche. If the producers had done something different with the final 5 minutes or so, I would have probably given it 4.5/5.

      Thanks for dropping by Ruth!

      Niels

      1. haha… it seems that my pathetic attempt to do inception on you has failed… you have trained your dreams’ security staff well… but still, great movie

  2. Haven’t watch some of the movies you list in here. I want to see Meek’s Cutoff but heard mixed reviews about it, so I don’t know. Glad you liked Warrior, 500 days of summer, 50/50, Win Win and Groundhog Day. All great movies.

    1. I seriously suggest everyone to stay away from Meek’s Cutoff. I think it tries to be something that it most certainly is not. Very dull!
      If I wanted to watch something this boring, Id suggest anything on C-Span.

      Thanks for your comment

      Niels

  3. That’s a pretty good group of movies you saw last month. I still need to see Warrior and The Illusionist, but I loved 50/50 and The Ides of March. They both made my top ten films of last year.

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