Thursday, 17 January 2013

Films Watched in 2012 (Part Three: 51-78)

51. Patricia Cornwell: At Risk (2010) – Andie MacDowell’s character uncovers a cold case that she thinks will help her career as a crime novelist in a film based on a book by Patricia Cornwell. Ho hum.

52. Penelope (2006) – Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born with a pig’s nose due to a family curse, but she learns that true beauty is on the inside, with a little help from some friends. It’s pretty bad but attracted some big names (Richard E Grant; Peter Dinklage; Nigel Havers; Reese Witherspoon; Lenny Henry; Russell Brand) and when James MacAvoy smiles, it gets better.
53. Perrier’s Bounty (2009) – Irish crime comedy starring the usual suspects (Brendan Gleeson; Cillian Murphy) and Jim Broadbent who create good characters out of a mediocre script.
54. Prairie Fever (2008) – Apparently women go mad if they’re left out in the wop-wops for long enough. They just need love and affection to blossom – sensitive little flowers that they are.

55. The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe: a match made in purgatory but a fascinating film – the on-screen action of My Week with Marilyn if you will.
56. Proof (2005) – Definition of proof: fact, evidence or argument sufficing or helping to establish a fact; spoken or written legal evidence; proving, demonstration; trial before judge instead of jury; test; trial impression taken from type or film, for making corrections; of tried strength; able to resist or withstand damage or destruction – rarely has a film been so well-named, and the father/daughter relationship played out by Anthony Hopkins and Gwyneth Paltrow is deeply affecting.
57. Queen Christina (1933) – Black and white epic in which Greta Garbo plays the Queen of Sweden in a blend of history and fiction as she attempts to fit in with the male-dominated world she inhabits. It’s a slight story but a long film full of moody intent.
58. Rabbit Hole (2010) – art house favourite about a couple (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) who struggle to relate to each other after the sudden death of their son. Painful.

59. A Royal Affair (2012) – sumptuous costume drama, perfectly paced, excellently acted and raising intriguing ideas about the dawning of enlightenment in eighteenth-century Denmark.
60. Safe House (2012) – Predictable action film with lots of of shooting, fighting and explosions in which a young CIA agent (Ryan Reynolds) is charged with looking after a fugitive (Denzel Washington) with whom he goes on the run after their safe house is attacked.
61. The Sapphires (2012) – Feel-good film about an all-girl Aborigine troop of entertainers performing soul for the troops in Vietnam, under the comic tutelage of Dave Lovelace (Chris O'Dowd) - an Aussie Dreamgirls if you will.

62. Seven Psychopaths (2012) – A struggling screenwriter (Colin Farrell) tries to finish his script by calling in his friends and every cliché in the Hollywood canon - great dialogue and acting (Sam Rockwell; Christopher Walken; Woody Harrelson) go a long way towards excusing the smug self-awareness.
63. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011) – Enjoyable return of Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson in Guy Ritchie’s stylish second instalment. The humour shines through in the man-disguised-as-a-chair sequence, while the cinematography is not overlooked either, and the chess game/battle with Moriarty is a classic.
64. The Shining (1980) – My brother’s idea of fun family festive entertainment... Interesting to watch over 30 years after it was made to see what all the fuss is about – it’s no longer shocking but is still incredibly influential.
65. Shopgirl (2005) – Working in a department store can destroy your soul to the point that you will do anything to escape the tedium. The precisely observed details of retail bring out a cold sweat in anyone who has undergone a similar experience.

66. Skyfall (2012) - Warning: this action film contains real acting, with limited CGI crap, and a brilliant opening sequence. Daniel Craig brings the sexy back and with director Sam Mendes and proper actors (Dame Judi, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ben Wishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney) it's the best Bond film ever - I'm a big fan, so that's saying something. 'Take the bloody shot'.
67. The Small Voice (1949) – A psychological drama about the guilt of committing a crime in black and white. A couple of escaped convicts take an unhappily-married couple hostage, and then succumb to decency in desperation.
68. Stardust (2007) – Claire Danes is a star. No, really, she is, in this charming piece of fantasy/ whimsy based on the book by Neil Gamain.
69. Stolen Youth (1996) – Woman’s best friend has affair with her teenage (18 and technically adult) son – cue spurious outrage and double standards. Of course a young man couldn’t possibly be interested in an older woman; she must have lured him onto her evil clutches...
70. To Love and to Die (2008) – Utterly ridiculous premise about a young woman trying to reconnect with her estranged father by becoming involved in his contract killing business. Apparently it was a pilot for a series that was never picked up. No surprises there.
71. Unstable (2009) – A spoilt pampered darling daughter has an abusive relationship from which she is trying to recover with the help of a psychiatrist. When she meets a charming man she gets married in haste and then thinks she may be going mad as she forgets and loses things – or is perhaps her new husband manipulating her vulnerability and not quite so charming as first thought? Well, what do you think?
72. Until Proven Innocent (2009) – A New Zealand film based on the true story of David Dougherty who served three and a half years before his conviction for raping his 11-year old neighbour was overturned through the tireless efforts of a journalist and other professionals. The moral is that DNA testing is far more reliable than child testimony, and that the court system is crushingly slow.

73. Up (2009) – A very cute animated tale about an aspiring wilderness explorer (like a scout) and a grumpy old man who becomes a sort of surrogate grandfather to the kid, as they undertake an adventure of danger and (self)-discovery. Future dreams meet past reminisces and youthful innocence balances aged cynicism. It’s all rather lovely and there’s a great dopey (but loyal and adorable) dog. One for kids and sentimental adults.
74. Up Close and Personal (1996) – Robert Redford is an old newshound; Michelle Pfeiffer is the young wannabe and Stockard Channing is the best thing in it as the old has-been. There’s a slight exposé about the decline of hard-hitting journalism in favour of sound-bite flim-flammery, but the most startling thing about it is the total lack of chemistry between the leads.
75. Vanity Fair (2004) – I’m sure I’ve seen this before, but it’s a very passable adaptation of Thakeray’s novel. It’s beautifully shot (Declan Quinn) and directed (Mira Nair), highlighting all the picaresque moments (Julian Fellowes is among the screenwriters), Romola Garai is as fabulous as ever, and Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharpe gives her best ever performance.

76. We Bought a Zoo (2011) – When his wife dies Benjamin (Matt Damon) has a change of direction and seeks an adventure by buying a zoo and moving his young family to the sticks. The little girl is particularly cute (Maggie Elizabeth Jones); the zoo inspector is a pantomime villain (John Michael Higgins); the chief zookeeper is a sorely miscast Scarlett Johansson. The messages are obvious, the metaphors palpable and the moral clear – This isn’t Disney but it might as well be.
77. Wedding Wars (2006) – Best man wedding planner is organising his brother’s wedding when he discovers the future father-in-law politician is dead set against gay marriage. It is probably meant to deal sensitively with an issue, but it manages to make a distasteful mockery of everything.
78. Wicker Park (2004) – American psychological romance/ drama featuring obsession, deception and mistaken identity; not your usual rom/com puff.

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