Category Archives: 2012 Reviews

Best Films of 2012, 11 months late

After more than 11 months have passed since the turn of the year, I finally get to posting the list for what I consider to be the best films of 2012.
Out of the more than 60 films from last year that I managed to see, 18 received at least a 4/5 or “very good” rating, which is exactly one more than the amount I rated as high in 2011. The average score at this moment is 2.9, which is also in line with the average from the previous year. Out of these 18, only 5 were given 4.5/5 and no films received a perfect score. My count for 5/5 rated films remains stationed at 14 films total, with the last entry being ‘A Separation’ from 2011.

Here is the list of my favorite 18 films of 2012:

Continue reading Best Films of 2012, 11 months late

Film review: Life of Pi (2012)

life-of-pi

Genre: Drama/Thriller

Director: Ang Lee

Cast: Suraj Sharma (Teen Pi), Irrfan Khan (Adult Pi), Gautam Belur (Boy Pi), Rafe Spall (writer)

The arrival of 3D film-making has rarely rendered as satisfying a result as in Life of Pi, the very entertaining and visually exceptional film by Academy-Award winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain & Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon)

Though it is initially portrayed as a spiritual journey of sorts, Life of Pi is an excellent story of survival that is perhaps too interested in the details of the ordeal to fulfill its ambitious promise.

Continue reading Film review: Life of Pi (2012)

IMDB Top 250: Ran (1985)

Ran

Genre: Drama, Epic

Director: Akira Kurosawa

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai (Hidetora), Akira Terau (Taro), Jinpachi Nezu (Jiro), Daisuke Ryu (Saburo), Mieko Harada (Lady Kaede).

In Akira Kurosawa’s impressive oeuvre, Ran is often described as his most epic and ambitious contribution to the art of film making. Inspired by the Shakespearean tale of King Lear, Ran is delivered with the discipline of a perfectionist, with the visual richness of a master craftsman and the obsessive attention to detail of a director who had conceived the idea about twenty years prior to the release of the film.

After a long and fertile film-making period that spanned from 1944 to 1955, which included gems like Ikiru (the ending of which was part of my best moments in film history special found here) and Seven Samurai, Kurosawa’s style had fallen out of fashion in Japan by the late 1960s. Once the pride of an entire nation, his films were considered conservative relics not to be reproduced. Beyond stylistic concerns, studio heads in Japan were particularly wary of Ran given its ambitious scope and how much it could potentially cost.

Continue reading IMDB Top 250: Ran (1985)

Film review: A Separation (2011)

Genre: Drama

Cast: Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat, Shabab Hosseini, Sarina Farhadi

Director/Writer: Asghar Farhadi

From the first sequence to the last, A Separation is an impeccable piece of film driven by an inspired screenplay that thrusts forward with ease, almost by inertia, as if every scene is the natural consequence of the one preceding it.

Continue reading Film review: A Separation (2011)

The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

It comes 10 months into 2012 but, for the first time, I am confident enough to make my own list of the “best” films of 2011.

Imagine how important it was for me to wait until now to publish this list, that the film that eventually ends up at the top is one that I only managed to watch 3 weeks ago. Without it, this list would have been a crime against my own taste.

Instead of giving you a top 10 or a top 20, I simply give you a run-down of all of the films that received, at the very least, a 4/5 (very good) in my rating system. The result is that there are 17 films out of the almost 100 films from 2011 that I managed to watch, 11 of which received a 4/5, five films received a 4.5/5 and only one received the very rare 5/5.

Despite still missing some highly praised films released the previous solar year (it is impossible to cover them all), I now give you my favorite films of 2011 (and why they are) when we are already in October 2012:

Continue reading The Best Films of 2011 (updated)

Film Review: End of Watch (2012)

After nearly two months of absence, I return to blogging with a review of the best 2012 film I have seen so far. Enjoy!

Genre: drama, comedy.

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, Natalie Martinez

Director/Writer: David Ayer

In the long history of buddy movies that have emanated from Hollywood, End of Watch is among the most powerful, realistic and genuinely funny ones I have had the pleasure to watch.

The relationship that develops between Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena), two decent LAPD patrol officers, is absolutely fun to watch. There is great authenticity and intensity in the performances, carrying the film with undeniable street charm through occasional patches of police cliches and shaky camera work.

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Film Round-up: May, June & July

During the past 3 slow months worth of blogging, I have seen many different films that have not enjoyed the benefit of a review. To try to catch up I offer a long collection of small reviews of most of the films I have watched in the last three months that did not get a review until now. A total of 24 films, a couple of which will get longer in-depth reviews. The highlights of the list are Weekend and Sunshine, both very different but very pleasant surprises.

I apologize in advance if this gets a little long. Enjoy:

The French Connection (1971)

Genre: Action/Thriller

Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey

Director: William Friedkin

Writers: Ernest Tidyman, Robin Moore (original novel), Howard Hanks

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

Starring Gene Hackman in a now famous role as tough cop Jimmy Doyle, The French Connection is an intense thriller that takes place in the harsh New York winter of 1970.

Most of the success of the film is due to its intensity and realism, displaying some of the most exciting chase sequences ever put on film. These have surprisingly lost little of their power over time, feeling current even today (minus antiquated vehicles and fashion). The cast is also excellent, further enriching the well-crafted dynamic between cops, informants, low-lives and criminals. I just wish the film had focused less on the details and intricacies of case-solving and criminal chasing and more on character-building.

Continue reading Film Round-up: May, June & July

Film Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Genre: Drama, Horror

Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

Director: Lynn Ramsay

There is something wrong with Kevin, the director knows it, the camera knows it and we are certain of it. Eva, his mother, played by a glum Tilda Swinton, feels that there is something wrong but she can’t quite pinpoint it or act upon it. From the moment she was pregnant, she was not at ease, perhaps even saddened at the fact that her carefree lifestyle of travels had been suddenly replaced by a growing fetus inside her uterus. Franklin, her husband, played by an aloof John C. Reilly, could not be happier about the birth of their first child, unaware of his wife’s discomfort.

During the first years of child rearing, even before he can speak fluently, Kevin seems rebellious and distant towards Eva, almost looking at her with a mixture of anger and disdain. Maybe he can feel her mother’s hesitation during pregnancy? As Kevin grows older, he seems to begin to grow ever more distant, defiant and hurtful, seemingly preferring the company of his father, the ever-loving and increasingly permissive Franklin.

Continue reading Film Review: We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

Senna and I, my tearful relationship to the idol and the film

It was a typical Sunday morning. I was either 8 or 9 years old. My dad had woken me up so I could join him in our black leather couch. In front was the tv on channel 10. Another race of the F1 Championship was about to start, a sport my dad had taught me to appreciate from an early age.

I probably started watching F1 when I was 5, circa 1990. Obviously I did not have the capacity to have an informed opinion of the sport just yet. What was clear, even to my young eyes, was that there were two pilots battling for the championships every season. Back in the late 80s and early 90s you could either be a fan of Alain Prost or Ayrton Senna, there were no others. The first was the cool, calculated champion. The most disciplined guy in the sport. The second was the exciting, unpredictable and incredibly talented Ayrton Senna. It was a rivalry that exceeded the track. Prost and Senna did not like each other. They had been teammates and bad ones at that and the two never reconciled. My dad was a Prost fan, and I immediately had a liking for Senna.

Continue reading Senna and I, my tearful relationship to the idol and the film

Film Review: The Tree of Life (2011)

Genre: Drama/Spiritual

Cast: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken

Director: Terrence Malick

The Tree Of Life is one of the most challenging films I would ever have the pleasure to review, a cinematic poem of incredible visual beauty that dares to examine our place in the Universe through the eyes of a boy growing up in Texas during the 1950s.

Only the fifth feature-length film of Terrence Malick’s long career, The Tree Of Life is as ambitious as it is personal, feeling like the director’s quest to find God in the memory of a fading childhood.

Malick’s exploration is a quiet one, using his impressive cast as vessels of emotion that speak through their eyes and through their touch, more than by the content of their words. For most of its running time, The Tree Of Life centers on Jack, the oldest son of an American southern family. He is shown as an older man reminiscing about his childhood and the loss of a brother, played by a nearly silent Sean Penn; and as a young kid, played by the very capable child actor Hunter McCracken, who seems to grow up in front of our eyes, balancing two very different parents and two younger siblings.

Continue reading Film Review: The Tree of Life (2011)