Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Films watched in 2011 (Part Two)

The Fakers (dir. Richard Janes, 2004)
Crime comedy set in London – witty gangsters; art forgeries and high stakes – you know the sort of thing.

The First Grader (dir. Justin Chadwick, 2011)
Beautifully shot although entirely predictable film about an 84-year-old man attempting to go to primary school in Kenya to take advantage of the free education. If you allow yourself to be swept up in the emotion, you will be moved even if manipulated.

From Paris with Love (dir. Pierre Morel, 2010)
John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers play the good cop/ bad cop CIA pairing in a high-octane spy drama with lots of guns and fast cars – set in Paris. Written by Luc Besson (who wrote and directed the far-superior Léon) it’s fast (92 minutes), frenetic and very silly but a good boy film that girls can like too.

Get Him to the Greek (dir. Nicholas Stoller, 2010)
This was better than I was expecting, largely due to Russell Brand actually being quite appealing – he does sensitive and highly-strung as well as over-sexed and funny. The film plays to his strengths as he pretends to be a rock-god/ fallen idol, and Jonah Hill, as the hapless record-company flunky who has to get him to the Greek theatre in time to perform his gig, is personable enough that you hope he achieves his mission, despite overwhelming obstacles of sex and drugs and rock and roll.

The Ghost Writer (dir. Roman Polanski, 2010)
This interesting adaptation of the Robert Harris novel removes all of the subtlety and political satire to focus purely on the action and the thriller mystery aspects, but does it very well. Ewan McGregor plays the patsy memoir writer to Pierce Brosnan’s troubled prime minister, while Olivia Williams and Kim Cattrall provide strong support.

Happy, Happy (dir. Anne Sewitsky, 2010)
These two couples are anything but – but they live in Norway, swap partners and wrestle in the snow, so that’s all the stereotypes accounted for, then. Strangely, it still manages to be a bleakly entertaining film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (dir. David Yates, 2011)
And so it is finished, and I am glad. It probably makes a difference if you see it in 3D, because in normal 2D it seems flat – once again, acting, plot and characterisation are sacrificed on the altar of special effects. This is cinema for the ADD generation.

I’m Not There (dir. Todd Haynes, 2007)
Bob Dylan biopic with the shaggy haired folk-singer played by six different actors, to represent different aspects of his career and personality, most notably Cate Blanchett, whose performance earned her an Oscar nomination. Bits of it are inspired but it is also rather rambling and goes on too long.

The Importance of Being Earnest (dir. Brian Bedford, 2011)
The filming of a Broadway production of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s performance is more interesting as an alternative media experiment than as an interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s classic. Brian Bedford plays Lady Bracknell as a pantomime dame which is all very amusing but lacks depth and nuance.

Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan, 2010)
The girl at the video shop told us we would have to concentrate very hard to understand this film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. She was wrong as it all seemed fairly obvious to me, although the dream within a dream within a dream etc was an interesting angle, and the shifting physical perspectives were effective.

The Insider (dir. Michael Mann, 1999)
Russell Crowe discovers that attacking the big bad tobacco companies cannot end well in a drama with issues of integrity and responsibility, of both the perpetrators and the whistleblowers.

Just Like Heaven (dir. Mark Waters, 2005)
Reese Witherspoon twinkles as the ghost in Mark Ruffalo’s apartment in a rom-com rather than a horror way. Sweet, charming, corny and predictable – great rainy Sunday afternoon stuff.

The King’s Speech (dir. Tom Hooper, 2010)
Superlative acting, directing and screenwriting led to a thoroughly deserved Oscar haul for this practically perfect film.

The Last Station (dir. Michael Hoffman, 2009)
You can’t ever understand what goes on inside a relationship – especially when it’s Tolstoy and his wife trying to reason what to share with the public and what to keep for themselves, and especially when they are played (with fabulous sincerity) by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren.

Limitless (dir. Neil Burger, 2011)
If you could take an unauthorised drug that would lead you to be smarter and better at everything without knowing the consequences, would you? Of course you would. What happens when the consequences catch up with you? Bradley Cooper may or may not find out in this smart sci-fi thriller with several twists.

The Lincoln Lawyer (dir. Brad Furman, 2011)
Matthew McConaughy is not averse to performing dubious legal manoeuvres from the back of his Lincoln, but he draws the line at defending sleazy little rich kids – nicely done.

Little Shop of Horrors (dir. Frank Oz, 1986)
I finally watched the film of the musical with the big singing plant – totally ridiculous and quite good fun with a great turn from Steve Martin as a sadistic dentist, and a harmonious narrative chorus.

Love Birds (dir. Paul Murphy, 2011)
Feather-brained comedy about two completely mismatched people (Rhys Darby and Sally Hawkins) who get together due to a child and a duck – largely forgettable.

The Maiden Heist (dir. Peter Hewitt, 2009)
Three old security guards hatch a plan to steal their favourite artworks to prevent them from being sold to another art gallery. Despite a trio of great actors (Christopher Walken; Morgan Freeman; William H. Macy), it is ponderous and feels long at 90 minutes.

The Mark Pease Experience (dir. Todd Louiso, 2009)
I don’t usually watch films about inspirational teachers in high school and, even though this is meant to be a comedy with Ben Stiller debunking the genre, it still reminded me why.

The Mechanic (dir. Simon West, 2011)
A professional hitman takes on an apprentice – the son of his murdered mentor. It’s a man’s world, apparently, and Jason Statham is king.

Midnight in Paris (dir. Woody Allen, 2011)
Woody Allen directs Americans in Paris in a time-hopping romantic comedy with a clear love of the city throughout the ages, including the present.

Morning Glory (dir. Roger Michell 2010)
Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton are an inspired pairing in this comedy about the sound-bite-obsessed morning TV where real journalism is eschewed in favour of celebrity gossip and motivational yoga. There is a lesson to be learned and it is stop casting Rachel McAdams – she is annoying.

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