shortcartoonist's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

Hector And The Search For Happiness

For a film intent on levity, inspiration, and enlightenment - HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS can be flat, unfulfilling and eerily void of any reality.

Interstellar
Interstellar(2014)

A visual and aural blast of logical depth with inconsistencies, INTERSTELLAR masquerades as hard hitting science, though is ultimately a wondrous piece of fiction.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
½

An entire film as a prelude, MOCKINGJAY: PART 1 is very much a single act film, missing any real story progression or resolution. As a tease leading into its final chapter, it offers very little, as essentially - very little actually happens in the film. Combined with its second part, MOCKINGJAY may ignite into a triumph, but in its own state - it remains kindle.

The Giver
The Giver(2014)
½

Lacking exposition or any real emotional punch, THE GIVER is brisk and unfulfilling, never reaching the potential of its hefty ideas. While a visual delight - through its mixture of grayscale and colour film - everything else under its skin is bland and tepid.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Over-long and under-funny, Seth McFarlane's cinematic ode to the west is comedy without thought interjected into a story with little drive.

The Inbetweeners Movie 2
½

A brand of humour built around awkwardness and teenage factions, without the laughs. While this brand has worked in the past for this series, it seems that while the age of the lads of THE INBETWEENERS series increases, their associated level of humour declines. THE INBETWEENERS 2 brings nothing new, but instead holds a heightened series of cringe-worthy social interactions and rancid clutches at gags.

Muppets Most Wanted
½

Beginning with a riff on the nature of sequels and following with (another) reinvention in its series - MUPPETS MOST WANTED brings a fun silliness and sly irreverence that only this cast of felt characters can deliver.

Hercules
Hercules(2014)
½

"The untold story of Hercules", as the marketing tagline for this modern take surmises, is the story that should have remained untold. HERCULES (2014) is, at its foundation, a re-imagining of the fabled hero with a question-mark over his godliness. The result instead is an exclamation mark over the need for this godliness to have the character stand uniquely. Instead here, he is fashioned as an unmemorable mercenary leader in an unexciting, unmemorable film.

Need For Speed
½

Heightened absurdity bordering on overtaking its rival film franchise, NEED FOR SPEED sacrifices any real depth of character and story for an adrenal shot of basic revenge. Yet, for all its faults, there is something about the film, lying underneath, that makes it strangely magnetic. It may be Aaron Paul's stand-out performance against a stilted ensemble, or the brilliant cinematography on display. Regardless, NEED FOR SPEED is a bad film that progressively reaches a goal of becoming enjoyable.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Balancing bright visuals, fiery characters, enthralling set-pieces and interjections of snappy humour - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is pure cinematic pleasure and a true example of original tonality.

Transcendence

A breath of ambition disappointingly lost in a gasp of absurdity, TRANSCENDENCE is a bookended failure. Through its many faults, on its most basic terms, lies the underlying fault of an unpolished script meeting the overarching fault of choppy editing. The film promises much in a larger world, but ultimately feels isolated, small, and insignificant. The importance of its thought-provoking science and humanity held potential for a global threat, but only paves the way for an overblown finale - feeding on the fiction of its genre with an appetite of devouring the interest in its science.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
½

The most humane, emotionally enveloping film of the year stars a CGI creature at its core. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is so well thought out, and so well put together, that it feels natural, exciting, and real.

Non-Stop
Non-Stop(2014)

For a film that begins with such promise and intrigue, NON STOP descends in its final act with a lacklustre conclusion and motive.

Oldboy
Oldboy(2013)
½

A remake with the purpose of capitalising on a twist ending, OLDBOY fails in this and many other facets that hold its original in esteem. Comparisons aside, OLDBOY 2013 is poorly made cinema - a distant character, a story with little exposition and thin motives, rushed scenes, and an ambivalence towards its conclusion. The highlight of the film remains the leads time in captivity, but everything before and after remains a blur.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
½

An opulence in imagery and levity in tone that is both greatly unique and highly engaging, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is artful, carefully constructed cinema that reaches to a broader audience. It is daring and dashing, hilarious and heartfelt, and is pieced together so well as to render it near faultless.

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow

Smart, hard, funny, and unpredictable - EDGE OF TOMORROW is everything an original blockbuster should be.

Frank
Frank(2014)
½

Effortless and free-flowing in its distinct brand of slanted dark humour, FRANK is affecting and real, while still existing in the surrealist world of a paper mache vocalist of an experimental rock band. Gleeson is charming and likable, but it is once more Michael Fassbender who draws attention - not only for the gimmick of costume, but in the physicality and energy he manages to bring to his performance.

The Rover
The Rover(2014)

Bravura performances from a heated Guy Pierce and doltish Robert Pattinson don't help mask the issues lying at the base of THE ROVER. Bleak yet beautiful, Michod knows how to capture a landscape and have his actors move through it, but here it is more so meandering without purpose. The basis of the film is weak, the decisions of the characters questionable, and much of the dialogue redundant.

Boyhood
Boyhood(2014)

Impressive in experimentation and result, BOYHOOD is the culmination of experience and a recollection of memories; acting both as an insight into growth and a chronicle of our changing world. The level of control and detail in maintaining this production over its timespan is impressive alone, but more so is the overall flow and continuity that the film holds.

Duck Soup
Duck Soup(1933)

Absurdist, foolish cinema is at its apex with DUCK SOUP, a vehicle for the Marx Brothers infectious stamp on physical comedy. While holding an airy, difficult plot to absorb that may be one-part political satire, it merely acts as a way of stringing the series of sketches together.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
½

The most un-Marvel Marvel film so far and one of the studios more rousing entries, CAPTAIN AMERICA 2 has the earmarks of a political thriller, with superheroes thrown in to speed the process. The film never clearly paints a picture of the political landscape, and it is better for it - instead focusing on a well paced plot with questionable characters and motives. Marvel may be building a connected film universe, but there is enough intrigue in the world conveyed in this film alone to keep audiences wanting more.

The Spirit of the Beehive (El EspÝritu de la colmena)

An innocence and unbridled naivety that only childhood can relay, this is an experience in simplicity and tenderness, in reality and fantasy - and the slow beginnings of growing up.

Insidious: Chapter 2

Consistency seems paramount in the INSIDIOUS series, as Chapter 2 holds the same shortfalls as its predecessor. Very much a top heavy film, it seems that the closer we get to the finale, the less interesting and less scary the film becomes - a trait mirrored by the initial Chapter.

Noah
Noah(2014)
½

For an Aronofsky film, NOAH is straight and simple, but like most Aronofsky films it is also beautiful, encapsulating wide vistas accompanying pounding instrumentals.

Wolf Creek 2
Wolf Creek 2(2014)

Lacking a sense of identity, place, and character - WOLF CREEK 2 is ironic in its tries to achieve these traits. While it's predecessor harnessed simplicity and open expanses to convey it's grim atmosphere, everything here is too trying, too forceful, and too quick to rush towards bloodshed. Exploitative for the sake of audience glee, this is sadism pushed pointlessly and a failing in it's ambition to join cultural folklore.

Ender's Game
Ender's Game(2013)

Essentially an audience watching experience of an ensemble playing video games, ENDER'S GAME is so far removed from any palpable threat that it loses interest. While its underlying themes hold merit, the lack of explanation or execution of these themes hinders it a lost opportunity.

Frozen
Frozen(2013)
½

Very much the antithesis of traditional Disney entertainment, FROZEN is a gel of modern themes and characteristics, infused into a classic fairytale. Its progressiveness is furthered through the elimination of traditional story elements of villains and oppression, becoming something new for a new audience.

Dallas Buyers Club

The evolution of a man, his prejudices, and the opinions of the world around him. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is astonishing in its integrity in displaying a subject of much opinion in the 1980's filled with small triumphs and greater pains, and in Mathew McConaughey's determined performance of sinew and exhaustion.

Upstream Color

Perplexity through abstraction, UPSTREAM COLOR is a series of loose themes interwoven in a strange plot device. It's technique is fine-tuned - Shane Carruth delivering an auteur hold on interesting imagery and an eerily beautiful score, but the film is so loosely constructed that there is little backing any sources of interpretation. It is a rumination on loneliness and relationships, on a woman's journey to motherhood, on the parasitic nature of humans - or none or all of this.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
½

While it may not reach the heights of its predecessor, ANCHORMAN 2 remains committed to a consistent brand of quotable, frenetic, randomised humour with lots of laughs.

The Wolf of Wall Street
½

Arrogant and aggressive, the energy of THE WOLF OF WALL STREET borders infectious as it paints its many white collar criminals as frat boys, taking and doing as they please. It is typical Scorcese style to tiptoe this line of glorification and indictment, but here his style and energy works to highlight the absolute absurdity and arrogance of these individuals. It may take a heavy 3 hours to tell of all this, but the crazy ride is worthwhile.

Short Term 12

Like the constant yo-yoing of a youth in growth, SHORT TERM 12 is affecting in a myriad of emotions, at once heartbreaking, joyful, and enlightening. It is inviting in its openness in depicting a little-seen area of society, with an ensemble cast of performances that is simply the best of the year.

American Hustle

A greater emphasis on caricature over character and style over substance of plot or audience connection leaves AMERICAN HUSTLE a fairly shallow, greedy mess - an overlong, and at times self-absorbed piece that never becomes truly endearing, dangerous, or even funny. These are the obvious traits that director David O Russell aspires for in the film, but continually feels underdone in an overlong running time. The simple problem is that the film is so in joy with its setting and period that it loses any sense of weight in plot movement.

Le passÚ (The Past)

Heartbreaking, honest, humane - connection at its rawest and yet most delicate.

Her
Her(2013)
½

Uniquely moving, vibrantly creative, and poignant in the thematic of the relationship between humans and their technology. HER is Spike Jonze at his height of intrigue and Joaquin Phoenix reaching his performing depths, in what is very much a one-man show.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

Evocative and impressive, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY is rousing in tone and finely crafted, imbuing a want for exploration and change. Though all too often there is an emphasis on technique over true emotion, bringing a greater sense of planning at the expense of spontaneity.

Don Jon
Don Jon(2013)
½

Very much a modern film, DON JON never shies from pinpointing specific issues facing this modern society and the relationships existing in it. There is a dedication to addiction and psychology that only this modern world faces, and its detriment to the afflicted and those around them.

About Time
About Time(2013)

A film beginning about love, but becoming more about life, ABOUT TIME is infectious and affecting, off-kilter and absorbing. While its generous length may bring questions about its own grasp of time, there is an ultimate notion of enjoying life for what it is - a series of highs and lows, without a choice for change.

12 Years a Slave
½

Harrowing, difficult, mandatory - 12 YEARS A SLAVE is film making of rare brilliance and duty; a showcase of past horrors and a seminal delivery for current viewers. Director Steve McQueen uses his talents of audience envelopment, with bleak aesthetics and performances of emotional conviction, to portray something of truth and importance. In a career of solid, unique pictures - this could be his best yet.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
½

Lifting the tones of lore and heightening the sense of danger, excitement, and repercussion - THE HOBBIT: TDOS appears on the outset to better its predecessor. Yet the film still falls into the same traps of a CGI reliance deteriorating characterisation, and a loss of immersion in this fantasy world that made THE LORD OF THE RINGS so successful.

The Kings of Summer

A strangeness in tonality throughout THE KINGS OF SUMMER starts the film feeling a little at odds with its naturalistic imagery and setting. Seeming to throw random interjections through an off kilter character and editing gives the film an awkward, skewed flow; which could have proved a hindrance, had it not blossomed throughout the film as it ultimately did. THE KINGS OF SUMMER is far from perfect, but through a series of fine performances and memorable scenery, it becomes slowly enveloping.

The Way Way Back

Familiar narrative tropes of adolescence and epiphanous summer vacations earmark THE WAY WAY BACK, an easy film to relate to and become involved in. While there is very little new throughout, the core of this is quintessential in its portrayal of modern youth and family. It comes down to its delivery to make it stand out, and though it never knows when to quit a joke (Janney and Rockwell, though highlights of the film, quickly lose comedic steam) there is certainly enough here to enjoy.

Riddick
Riddick(2013)

Three films in one; RIDDICK combines the solidarity of a lone survivor, the hunt of a thriller between mercenary factions, and the horror of alien beasts crashing the party. These cinematic traits hold potential for this character, had it not been for the overbearing similarities this film shares in plot with its first predecessor, and the general lack of quality writing in this latest rehash.

Thor: The Dark World

A threat as great as the one presented in THOR: THE DARK WORLD deserves a tone fitting its gravity. Director Alan Taylor tries to achieve this, yet it becomes difficult to add a level of seriousness amidst the comic calamity and humour that the script brings. While certainly enjoyable, this THOR is not so much the dark world as it is the light hearted swashbuckling actioner.

Prince Avalanche

Charming and off-kilter, PRINCE AVALANCHE may be toned with melancholia and a sense of boredom, but it is difficult to not smile through the relationship of Hirsch's youthful energy and Rudd's experience in solitude. There may not be a lot driving this film, but it remains a beauty to look at, and be a part of.

Captain Phillips

Paul Greengrass' handling of tight, tense cinema is on display once more with CAPTAIN PHILLIPS - a film of taut tension throughout with surprisingly empathetic motivations. Hanks delivers one of his finest performances in years, and his relationship with the equally impressive Barkhad Abdi makes for captivating cinema.

Despicable Me 2
½

A seemingly two-act film, DESPICABLE ME 2 takes so long to reach the point of its story that even its bright colours and infectious humour have difficulty saving itself from a brisk finale to a slow build-up.

Monsters University
½

Frighteningly flat, the Pixar brand of surprise and originality halts with MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, a film of familiar structure and trying laughs that, while outside of moments of enjoyment, tends to feel more formulaic than what is to be expected.

Gravity
Gravity(2013)

Isolation in the ultimate expanse, terror in silence - GRAVITY is a claustrophobic exploration into the openness of space and the infancy of humans in this great unknown. It is beautiful and brilliant, and the finest example of film making in years.

Mud
Mud(2013)

Truth, faith, and growth - written and executed like a modern American classic, MUD is never flashy in its depiction of growing up. Instead, with a slowness like the southern drawl of its characters, there is a greater reliance on its straight script - about making friends, and the values of trust and relationships.

Pain & Gain
Pain & Gain(2013)
½

Sometimes stylistic direction is never a welcome facade for a sometimes engaging plot in PAIN & GAIN - a sometimes rewarding and sometimes flattening film. "Sometimes" can be a used a lot when describing this film, as while its heights are never the American dream that it's characters aspire for, it's lows are never a real failure neither. Sometimes funny and sometimes crude, PAIN & GAIN sits somewhere between watchable and forgettable.

Fast & Furious 6

Faster and more furious, the ante is upped and the action switches to yet another higher gear. While continually bordering on absurdity, FAST AND FURIOUS 6 ultimately wins out through its sheer audacity in delivering action set-pieces from a childhood play dream. While the pace of these set-pieces is often a little too fast to keep up with, the ideas on display make for exciting cinema.

This Is the End

While there are many pits in this sometimes bloated comedy, there are more than enough peaks to make THIS IS THE END a worthwhile film edition of apocalyptic celebrity heads.

Evil Dead
Evil Dead(2013)

Reveling in its bloodshed and gleeful in its gore, EVIL DEAD is playful with its subject matter in a refreshing way - never taking itself too seriously in the horror that it creates but remaining chilling in its imagery and level of shock. It is this imagery that is the true star here - it is hard to imagine this film being so immediately engaging if not for the murky visuals being slowly saturated by a harsh red and black.

The Hangover Part III
½

A plodding dark road film that is neither funny nor exciting, THE HANGOVER PART III makes this long winded tale two parts too many. Unsure of what kind of film it is aiming to be, this lifeless monster becomes something bland and unmemorable - it is void of laughs (and arguably jokes of any kind) and lacks any real forward momentum in an engaging plot. While the direction and angle is commendably different in the scope of this series, there is a similar laziness and self-questioning seen prior. If Part II was so unsure of itself that it became a copy, Part III truly proves how unwarranted this story continuation was in becoming something different, mean, and alienated.

Elysium
Elysium(2013)
½

Political motivations and questions of ethics between our own growing disparate nations fuels ELYSIUM, a film that strangely - while wholly original in content - tends to lack its own signature heartbeat. Director Neill Blomkamp has again smartly conceived a believably hellish future as a repercussion for decisions being made in the present, and while the visuals and ideas of this world stand out as something new - it lacks that final edge to become truly memorable.

World War Z
World War Z(2013)

Interesting yet faltering, WORLD WAR Z is a conceptually intriguing entry to its genre with lacklustre execution. With a wide plot scope condensed into something with so little time and definition, only a blurry mess of rushed action and tension eventuate. With certain ideas of interest scattered throughout the film, there is enough here to hold a certain focus, but not enough to fulfil an obvious potential.

Kick-Ass 2
Kick-Ass 2(2013)
½

Frenetic violence with anarchistic flair, KICK-ASS 2 raises the obscenities of language, bloodshed, and political incorrectness, forging its way into a film determined to overstep any notions of correct ethics and sanity. Like a stubborn teenager, it is flippant - there is a clear disregard for staying straight and promoting an even tone, with a continual shift in snarky humour and dogged brutality. Yet for the rollercoaster of hormone and tonality that is exuded - as entertainment, KICK-ASS 2 works very well.

Before Midnight

Romanticism as a casaulty of aging and commitment, the questioning of past decisions and present predicaments - BEFORE MIDNIGHT is masterful in its notions of the complications in life and love, and how the pursuit of a perfect personal ending comes not without struggle. As a standalone film, these notions a delivered well, but the impact of the film find itself more in the real development of its characters over time. The saccharine love of the previous films begins to erode into something more palpable and realised here - where time has made those perfect opening moments in love seem fleeting compared to the many years that follow.

Now You See Me
½

In one hand, NOW YOU SEE ME could be considered a creative marvel - a perfect mime of a magic trick in the flashiness of its showmanship and ego of its inventiveness. In the other hand, it could be considered a great con. But like all great magic tricks, the luster is lost in the final reveal, and the conclusion to this magic film is anything but magical.

This is not to diminish what comes before it - NOW YOU SEE ME is calculated and interesting. It feels that it is grander than it actually is, yet its continual provocation of its audience to search for truth and a grand reveal, when there is little backing, only diminish something that really should have been much grander.

The Wolverine

A dull blade barely scratching the surface of formidable blockbuster entertainment, THE WOLVERINE is a flat, predictable effort from a film that is trying too hard at doing the opposite.

The Conjuring
½

Creepy and clever, THE CONJURING is bravura film making hearkening to genre roots while carefully manipulating its own unique flair. While not particularly frightening throughout, the film is nevertheless airy with chill and a focus on an interest in the story being told.

Pacific Rim
Pacific Rim(2013)

An incredibly by-the-numbers blockbuster that will manage to excite young boys with its share of gargantuan brawling and brutal visuals. PACIFIC RIM is fun and simple entertainment that knows itself without trying to be anything more, though this can come at the detriment of truly surprising its audience.

Burning Man
Burning Man(2012)
½

Affecting and affirming, BURNING MAN is emotion and story delivered with unconventional rhythm. It is raw, difficult, funny, intriguing, but most of all nuanced. A powerful showcase of editing and exceptional performances make this something special.

Spring Breakers
½

An indictment on a young generation with a self-obsession, SPRING BREAKERS is very much a film mimicking its subject matter - it is stylish, visually flashy, and unsure on its direction and purpose. While it is watchable, there is an ultimate flatness to the picture that only peaks through an interesting performance from James Franco.

Man of Steel
Man of Steel(2013)
½

Brisk in action, brisk in visuals, brisk in pacing - MAN OF STEEL is a whirlwind of adrenalised destruction that - while heart-pumping - renders it with a feint soul amidst this heavy focus.

The Internship

Predictability and awkwardness are only minor problems in THE INTERNSHIP, a sometimes charming and interesting film delving into the modern age, where it's more major problem lies in the fact that it just isn't very funny.

Stoker
Stoker(2013)
½

Eery and disquieting yet distant and disconnected, STOKER is atmospherically chilly and aesthetically crisp, but at its heart there lies a flat story, an alienated set of characters, and a general scent of blandness towards its plot developments.

Only God Forgives
½

A vision of violence. The consistent red hues and searing neon blues of ONLY GOD FORGIVES is the visual encapsulation of what this film is - beautiful brutality. Set in the hot pot of Thai boxing and the associations of its criminal underworld, director Nicolas Winding Refn recombines with star Ryan Gosling, depicting a film of heavy stylistic dashes over a narrow story. The result is an electric assault on the senses - a film with an effortless flow, continual manipulations with perception and time, and a heavy fist with violence as a consequence of action.

Breathe In
Breathe In(2014)
½

Awkwardly stilted conversations and silences that speak volumes - BREATHE IN is a film with clear definitions in the development of its plot, though a loss in clarity in its ultimate outcomes and consequences.

To The Wonder
½

Ambiguous in narrative and chronology, TO THE WONDER is unique, beautiful, mesmerising and yet often not fulfilling. Emotion, thought, and rumination rule the complexities of the film as a pose to a straight narrative, yet at its core it remains as something simple. It is a film about love, dedication, and belonging; though this often becomes confusing through a continual moroseness in tone coupled with an interchanging timeline of events.

Director Terrence Malick continues to make challenging films that push the borders of story delivery and emotional resonance, but with TO THE WONDER he has created something that is clearly missing an integral piece of the soul that his films so often achieve. Through its difficulties in tone, its highlight rears in its style - a visual splendour that is unbridled in its variance of light, colour, and composition, truly embracing the many locations and settings. It is difficult to remember the last film that looked as good as this.

Side Effects
Side Effects(2013)

A claustrophobic spiral that finds a sanity a little too neat by its conclusion.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Solid and zippy - STARK TREK INTO DARKNESS is an action packet of a film that gives a great deal for the eyes to divulge in and the heart to race to.

Oblivion
Oblivion(2013)

Intriguing concepts in visually interesting vistas, OBLIVION is a potential fuelled machine that unfortunately lags one-step behind its audience. The film is often predictable and familiar, but in terms of an execution of style and a deliverance of straight and simple science fiction - the film should be commended.

The Imposter
The Imposter(2012)

A documentary told with the flair of a thrilling narrative continually asking questions - THE IMPOSTER is impressive filmmaking depicting a unique subject. Though it's choppy editing can sometimes make it confusing, what makes the film truly impressive is it's slow unwinding and transformation of a subject - from initial complications to ultimate insinuations - of a man pretending to be someone else, and of a family seemingly blind to this stranger.

Oz the Great and Powerful

Nicely nostalgic and curiously contemporary, OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL understands its different ingredients, but doesn't quite comprehend bringing them together into a good final result.

Argo
Argo(2012)

Re-creation tempting reality, Ben Affleck's depiction of an '80s America is a searing hot pot of political tension realised with a raw integrity. While a little too brisk and as a film that could have benefited with another half hour, ARGO is smart filmmaking from a filmmaker who is bettering his talents with each step.

Liberal Arts
Liberal Arts(2012)
½

It is fitting that director Josh Radnor's sophomoric effort is about growth, as it is clear that - as a director - the man has undertaken some growth in his talents. LIBERAL ARTS is an often insightful, quaintly adventurous exploration of age and growing up. The script is sharp and thoughtful, giving room for its ideas to breath. Radnor's previous film - HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE - showed sparks of this creativity and unique thoughts on life, but it too often felt disconnected with only the odd spike of inspiration. With LIBERAL ARTS, Radnor has created a more even film - something that is continually brimming with thoughts without feeling overt or pretentious.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Compact and straight - never before have I seen a film so quickly enter the motions of the main story arc as JOURNEY 2, with a narrative already in full swing before the 10 minute mark. Exposition and any sense of character depth are quickly abandoned for the rush of adventure. The intention may be to keep the young audience enthralled through a relentless pace, but all that succumbs is a flat story with flatter characters in a showcase for 3D effects and cringe worthy dialogue.

Lincoln
Lincoln(2012)
½

Resolute though often distancing, LINCOLN is stern filmmaking focused heavily on conversation to propel story. As a political film this is obvious, though it at times makes it difficult to embrace - with its many, many characters and often fast scene transitions. Day-Lewis' turn as the 16th President is magnetic and whole, but the real hero on display here is Thaddeus Stevens, played with a purity from Tommy Lee Jones - embodying the intelligence of a perseverance for equality. There are many moments of thumping patriotism and gold-hearted idealism sealed in striking speeches - given honour from Janusz Kaminski's lensing (though I could have done with one less zoom in).

Zero Dark Thirty

Hardened and real, ZERO DARK THIRTY continues director Kathryn Bigelow's raw, almost documentarian views on current relevant issues and mindsets. ZERO DARK THIRTY is a careful and calculated portrayal of a world lingering with fear, and the tunnelled determination in distinguishing the source to this cloud of darkness. Untraditionally emotive, this is a heavy film with heavy subject matter executed with justice.

This is 40
This is 40(2012)
½

As a filmmaker, Judd Apatow created works with an end goal - virginity, pregnancy, disease - all set within a very real world. His characters became flesh, and their problems became understandable and relatable. With THIS IS 40, Apatow again portrays a very real world, but gives no end goal, instead focusing his film on an important stage in family life condensed into 2 hours. It is a little unfortunate though, that this focus squares so much on yelling, bickering and troubles that it loses a stronger sense of connection that his previous films held.

Movie 43
Movie 43(2013)

Some films are made with the intentions of bad taste, but there are some films that tilt this on such a tipping point that its creators must perceive a turkey on the horizon. If a film fits this criteria, what purpose does it serve? MOVIE 43 is uncanny in its ability to push taste to the extremities of disgust; a film so bad it becomes frustrating in fathoming how so many revered actors lent their name and talent to the production. A film like MOVIE 43 understands its level of bad taste, and with its level of cast - it must surely understand how shocking, offensive, repulsive, and tasteless it truly is.

Les MisÚrables

Grandiosity and gorgeousness, painful and invigorating - LES MISERABLES is a rousing and relentless force of emotion with hair-raising highs and solemnly sad lows.

Django Unchained

Closer to balls-out blaxploitation from the '70's than a gritty western, perhaps the great triumph of DJANGO UNCHAINED comes from it's director's re-grasping of an even tone. The film is loud and proud in its quest as a celebration to the severing of slavery and the beginnings of an equal America, and Tarantino has nailed this execution with the funk and cool of the 1970's sub-genre that SHAFT invented.

Silver Linings Playbook

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is craziness. It is about crazy characters, portrayed in a crazy way, and becomes crazy in its thematic delivery. For a film that begins so promisingly with its slight differences and strange warmness - showing us in its opening two acts that crazy is good, it quickly loses its way in becoming a little too sane in its third act.

The Dark Knight Rises
½

Grandiose in ambition and scale yet faltering in execution and cohesion, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is a film often burdened with an overflow of concepts, story, and themes saved by its consistent grip in tone and spectacle. A film with many ideas, yet little conviction.

The Ides of March
½

As a political drama, THE IDES OF MARCH sits firmly in a dual-genre; enforcing itself as a vehicle for ideas and insights into our modern governmental systems, yet also as a form of narrative entertainment. George Clooney's latest directorial endeavour fails and succeeds at these two split dynamics - it is interesting in character but never in ideas; moving in tone but never in greater depth. THE IDES OF MARCH is Clooney in story mode without the ideas, it is a shallow albeit entertaining fixture surrounded by bigger themes aching for a piece of the limelight. The film hints at greater points, but ultimately means very little, which is unfortunate - because what is left is still quite good.

Shame
Shame(2011)
½

Powerful and dangerous, SHAME is bold, daring, emotional, lustful, and interestingly complex. It is many things; a myriad of emotions swirling in confusion and distress, but given a greater shade of clarity through a moving character portrait. In Michael Fassbender, an unafraid and thoroughly committed performance is delivered on screen - a highlight that gives his film a raw intensity rarely seen in cinema. His commitment gives the film a physicality and movement that would otherwise be lost; drawing the viewer into this characters inner torment, Fassbender combines a skill for nuanced facial expressions with a harsh bodily showcase. We are left always wondering what thoughts are going through this characters mind - not only what compels him, but what frightens him.

This is the Fassbender show - first and foremost - but director Steve McQueen has a grander picture being painted. Addiction, lust, and needs are explored. While sex is the main point being driven, it is more a point of dependence and the inability to commit and grow that is given a more rounded exploration.

Take Shelter
Take Shelter(2011)

Confined, gripping paranoia seeping through the lense of a film with a firm grip on its tonal qualities. TAKE SHELTER is a meticulous, compulsive film - its frames, sounds, and editing spliced carefully to create a creeping tension. It works impressively well, but the main problem with the film lies in its own devices - it is meanderingly slow with a conclusion a little too clear-cut for an otherwise interpretive effort.

The Artist
The Artist(2011)

Nostalgic, romantic, and infectious in mood - THE ARTIST is an encapsulation of cinema that transcends mimicry or straight homage to become a piece of warm insight of its medium and history. Love and passion are the driving force, whereby its nature in its portrayal of cinema feeds its emotions. The film is heartbreaking and humorous, with lovingly choreographed sequences and meticulously pieced scenes. This is a beautiful film.

In a film with so many magnetic qualities, perhaps what is most impressive is in its method of avoiding mimicry. Through its playfulness with its subject matter, the film is at a continual struggle along with its lead character.

Hugo
Hugo(2011)

In cinema, sometimes a film comes along that acts as a bookmark; a feature so breathtaking, so inventive, and so fresh that it emerges as a gateway piece for the medium, ushering in new concepts and ways of thinking. These films are not only a highlight of their year, but prove an ultimate worth as a devotion of newness to the art form. HUGO is a bookmark piece in cinematic history, at once a paean to films of old, and a spark of imagination for films yet to come; at once a loving ode to the medium it exists in, and a wondrous insight into the relation it bares to the world around it. Scorcese's film is beautiful and delicate in tone, with an innocence and wonder that should prove invigorating for children and rekindling for adults.

In many ways, HUGO is recursive in narrative and intent. Its depiction of early cinematic landmarks mirrors its own intent in inspiration. Through its dashing use of 3D (the best use of the technology yet) and its marriage with glowing, golden-hue imagery, the world on offer is unique yet captivating - pulling the audience into the frame to walk with these characters and weave through the Parisian corridors.

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
½

Overblown yet precise. Extremities in the length that the set-pieces of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL are willing to reach is what gives this impressive feature a wow-factor, but it is the careful eye to detail and playfulness with cinematic traditions that make it truly stand-out. The latest in the American espionage series sees the ambition of adrenaline reach new highs, with stunts and concepts that are as insane as they are exciting. Which is very.

Project Nim
Project Nim(2011)

Meticulous in tessellating fact and opinion but energetically free in atmosphere, PROJECT NIM is an expertly crafted documentary that is equal parts fun, sadness, and intrigue. It is a moving piece of study and rumination on evolution and the role that humans play in affecting the natural order around us.

50/50
50/50(2011)
½

Balance and reality; 50/50 is a film of raw emotion and real humour, a work that balances and blends the harsh truths of facing the end, with the brightness needed to push through it. In what is possibly the performance of an already brimming career, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's eyes are the star on show here - their gaze working from sullen, sunken pits of fading hope to glistening ellipses of trust and connection. His commitment to this performance is the driving force that works in unison with the childish likability of co-star Seth Rogen. But what sets 50/50 apart is its heart - which it holds intact, without falsity and with bravery. While the film is often predictable, its journey of showing that feeling alone never truly means loneliness is a wonderful experience to join.

War Horse
War Horse(2011)

A Spielberg spectacle writ with sentimentality, a pull for prestige, and invoking a love for film and cinematic purity. This is Spielberg in creative mode - a force of beauty and tradition that pleases the wider audience. With WAR HORSE, Spielberg achieves two things at once - he is able to show the expanse of the first World War while keeping the story personal and close. It works differently to his previous efforts in the genre through the war being both the centrepiece (driving the story) but also the backdrop (a focus on a force of unity).

Angels And Airwaves Presents Love
½

Quiet and contemplative; serene and echoing with a voice of humanity - LOVE is in many ways a modern melding of Stanley Kubrick and Terrence Malick, a film at once absorbed in the notions of silence and still imagery, with an emphasis in delivering meaning through narration and the human condition. It is an ambitious endeavor and a visually gorgeous recital of life's grand quandaries. When LOVE is on song - it is the bard to the questions of human connection and isolation; when it falls out of tune, it becomes an incoherent, meandering mess that plods along until its next piece of wisdom is unfurled. Unfortunately it is more often the latter.

Dare it be said - LOVE can be slightly pretentious. This is no fault due to its ambition - it is clear what this film sets out to achieve. Commendations for this scale of ambition should be noted as it looks to address core principles to our place and purpose, but too often does the film feel like it is unsure of itself and of how to deliver its message. For such a short running time, much of the film is slow without intent. It intersperses these moments of silent crawling with dialogue scenes that are very much the opposite - they are pointed and direct, a message conveyed clearly and precisely. As if the film crawls with trepidation, it catches up with itself through obvious musings and recitals.

The problem with this comes from the pace of LOVE - it is slow and boring, without needing to be. Too often do these moments of narration feel like rushed avenues into telling the audience what this film is about. In a screenplay that borders on silliness in its final act - the most worrying aspect of this film is its inability to evenly convey its message by allowing the audience to read into it. The audience is smarter than LOVE seems to believe.

But this detracts from the source of beauty to the film. Take aside its muddled message and awkward analogies, and feel the cinematic experience of an interesting sound score and one of the finest looking films of the year. It is unfortunate that director William Eubank is unsure in writing his film, because he clearly has the eye of a smart cinematographer. The framing of LOVE is continually intriguing as it plays with gravity and tilt; the use of slow-motion is never over-done, instead allowing for a greater inspection of the fine compositions put to screen; the colour and lighting is used to highlight elements at all the right moments.

If LOVE is a film trying to convey an emotion - it never understands it through words or definition. But through the use of visuals and sound to convey feeling - it may come close.

Our Idiot Brother

Bland, simple, annoying, and nearing pointlessness - OUR IDIOT BROTHER is idiotic in its own direction, as it so often feels that it doesn't have one. Pretensions in purpose, it meekly masquerades as a journey of change and accepting the gratitude and intentions of those around you. The only real problem is in the thinness to this veil. Paul Rudd's naive man of peace is the same from start to finish; his sisters perception of him pushing an unbelievable force of change.

The Adventures of Tintin
½

A style of classicism and a delivery of modern indulgence, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN is an energetic film combing through the wonders of childhood imagination with the humour of an adult. It is at times both overblown through its set-pieces and talent that its pacing can become jarringly quick; but through a snappy script and likeable relationships, it becomes an old-fashioned escapade with enough charm to please a young audience looking for a colourful ride, and an old audience seeking a reentering to adventure serials of the past.

The Hangover Part II
½

How Todd Phillips was walking straight while making this film is anyone's guess. The man, along with his fellow writers, must have been on their own drunken bender while conceiving this familiar, simple stupor. THE HANGOVER PART II is an insult to paying film-goers using their money for entertainment. Delivering a tale already read, but with a different setting, THE HANGOVER PART II is a carbon copy of its predecessor in story catalyst, plot movement, final resolution, and even simple dynamics. It is a lazy, mumbling mess with worsening intentions.

Plenty has been written about the movie's complete lack to introduce new elements to a singular, one-time story, but through its blatant alterations in trying to trick an audience into believing that they are watching a different movie, it becomes an insult. Instead of a baby, there is now a monkey; instead of a missing tooth, there is now a face tattoo; instead of trading for a missing friend from a mobster, there is now trading for a missing soon-to-be-Brother-in-law; instead of rufilin in drinks, there is now - you get the idea.

When "part II" is labelled on a film title, it generally proves to be a continuation, not a refresher.

But what makes THE HANGOVER PART II truly bad is in the simplest fact that it is just not funny. Like the out-of-place lead trio, everything in the movie feels out of place. Its humour is misaligned and crude for the sake of it, it is extreme in trying to make an audience flinch, and it often borders on cultural and ethical jokes without taste.

While its predecessor pushed average-Joes as absurd partying stars with a greater intent, this successor pushes these average men into cardboard fools.

Cars 2
Cars 2(2011)
½

Fast and flashy, CARS 2 is about style, aesthetics, and boyhood liveliness. As a film primarily catering to young kids, its bright colours and whizzing caricatures will work, but there is a lot to this film that leaves it as a dissapointment, especially being from a studio with such a strong track record.

From the standpoint of its plot, it holds a rare complexity for a studio that focuses on more naturally emotional hooks. Multi-story arcs intertwining with real-life issues gives what is essentially a basic film an intriguing level of layers. Resources, modern oil barons, and the sad state of blocking potential revolutions in fuel give an outlandish film a link with the affairs surrounding us. But what CARS 2 ultimately lacks is cohesion in its many ideas and scenarios, and a grounded sense of awareness for its characters and their place. It almost feels as if too many things are happening in the film, meaning that nothing in particular ends up amounting to much.

Contagion
Contagion(2011)
½

Eery, understated, and pedantic in minor details, CONTAGION is the kind of experience that steadily seeps itself into a viewers psyche, not only for its grand concept, but for its meticulousness in drving a reality with slight precision and creeping paranoia.

Real Steel
Real Steel(2011)
½

Rock-em sock-em robots with gears, REAL STEEL is a simple and straight exercise with an absurd premise. The notions of futuresport with fighting appliances is the kind of misconstrued concept of our future that would have been thought up decades prior. It is the kind of film seemingly geared to commercialism of merchandise through base concepts (the onslaught of product placement and advertising throughout the picture does attest to this). It is the kind of film that uses cliche' human issues as a clutch for emotional complexity to balance its moronic action. But with a bright spark of youth, it is also the kind of film that uses its traits of obviousness to great effect and becomes a state of simple enjoyment. It is a basic film with determined energy - the kind of experience that is perfect for a young audience and something that knows how to drag an audience away from initial perception into its world of silly boyhood adrenaline.

Like the odds-against robo-hero that drives this movie, REAL STEEL undoubtedly faced an immediate battle with expectations. It could be the surprise hit of the year though, as everything in it just seems to work so well. Through its well-paired combo of Jackman and youngster Dakota Goyo, the movie has a stamp of likeability already sealed. The two work magic together, and its a testament to Goyo's liveliness throughout the picture that he becomes the main draw throughout. The clanging of metal is fun, but it's a lot more fun seeing the cheering atmosphere surrounding him.

But his performance is given more room to move in a screenplay that - again, while predictable - allows the cast to give a range to their characters to have a life outside of the ring. Chalk it up to the Steven Spielberg influence (as Executive Producer), but REAL STEEL manages to pull of drama outside of its base action that is both warming and enticing. Human elements balance the action set pieces, translating into a cast that we can care for.

Midnight in Paris

Steadily seeped in notions of love and inspiration, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is a positive film wandering for purpose. Its goal is inspiration, but in order for inspiration to take hold you have to be looking to the future. Owen Wilson's character is a wanderer, he has an inkling of what he wants from his future, but is instead more at home in the past. He looks for inspiration, but rarely looks ahead. He knows what he doesn't want, but not quite sure what he wants. In this comfort zone shying away from responsibility he is allowed to have fun, and above all, that is what Woody Allen's latest film is - a wandering film of verve, freshness, and culture. An interesting meld of romance, science fiction, comedy, and confusion in a changing world and self.

The Thing
The Thing(2011)

For a film purportedly a prequel to a prior effort, 2011's THE THING is alarmingly similar to its 1982 counterpart. In its levels of plot dyanamics and logistics, characterisation and interaction, structure, and tone - it is a very familiar beast. You would not be wrong to reminisce in already having seen this feature, as its mimickry is almost as good as the replicating monster at its core. But it is in the last of the mentioned similarities that the film falters and becomes its own machine. While its 1982 original was brooding, methodical, and alarming in tension with a spurt of monstrous fright, this new incarnation is overt, leaving little to the imagination as its computerised limbs wander the screen. Some films have a purpose to be made; some stories have an extra chapter that needs to be told. The story of THE THING did not.

13 Assassins
13 Assassins(2011)

Takashi Miike's bloody epic is a wholly different affair to the film's that make his fame. '13 Assassins' is a film of scale, encompassing history and politics as the driving force to upheaval and retaliation. It is a beast, huge in size and ferocity, yet sleek and intelligent. While it is an action film, it holds a beating heart of cultural significance and pride, always inclined to give a reason to the blood being shed on screen. There is much chance for excitement, but equal chance for a rounded and rousing cinematic experience.

The set pieces are huge, it's action sometimes relentless, and the themes are powerful. But, while everything in the film is big, perhaps what is most impressive about '13 Assassins' is that it remains convincingly personal. It is both an observation to the parting of a political system, but also an ode to the lives lost in this conquest - on both sides of this feud.

Your Highness
½

This is not comedy. This is a movie with the pretensions of comedy. Juvenile and vulgar, it is like the schoolyard fool who thinks they are amusing, all the while pushing their intended audience away. It has a sense of self-worth, where it feels that its humour is warranted and there is an audience to listen to it. But who that audience is, is anyone's guess.

'Your Highness' is self-important drivel. In a schoolyard squabble, it is easy to see its defence as being "you just don't understand the jokes", as if it feels like its intended audience has an exclusive claim to modern laughs. Simple, crude humour stiffens this flacid film into a one-trick pony - a simple joke rehashed mercilessly. It laughs alone.

Seemingly oblivious to this though, it continues by sullying good actors names with trite garbage spilling from their mouths. Franco and Deschanel come across as stage actors in a drama class clearly forcing them into an excercise outside of their comfort zone, while McBride is downright annoying as a childish, greedy, spoiled brat. His character is the base to this films antics, and the actor takes ownership to these antics from his own hand.

McBride's ownership in penning a screenplay that he thinks is funny is the point for concern. The hope is for a modern brand of humour to combine with a classical and distanced setting. By melding current language with a medievil world, McBride and director David Gordon Green may have envisaged a raunchier version of 'The Princess Bride', but all they got was a stream of dick jokes from actors with laughably bad British accents. Perhaps the only laughs the film has on offer.

Drive Angry
Drive Angry(2011)

A pulp B-Grade revenge actioneer with C-Grade execution, 'Drive Angry' is a hallmark of poor film techniques working in unison, inside of a genre that relishes bad filmmaking. Overacting, emotional complacency, forceful plot elements, laughable dialogue, bad effects - it's all on display. In the grindhouse formula - bad = good. In the case of 'Drive Angry', it's just bad.

Attack the Block

A wonderfully isolated film with youthful vigour and scope, 'Attack the Block' is a stylish, energetic and eerily timely film for a modern audience. Holding a true sense of personality and opinion, it manages to bring light to pressing issues in the tight underground mayhem that envelopes it. We are not subject to an action film with style as a reason for involvement, but furthering it as style with meaning.

Masquerading initially as an insight into a bad neighbourhood, the themes of cause and purpose in this area of living cut their way to the surface. How does an area become this way? What is the reasoning to the way of life in this area? What is being done to help this area? The ignition to the fuse of this mayhem is a street mugging. The continuation of this as a theme is the alien onslaught.

Funny, active, and full of unique movement and tone, 'Attack the Block' is a rounded package of modernistic entertainment and humane insights into a harsh culture.

Horrible Bosses
½

Spontaneity infused into commonplace humour, 'Horrible Bosses' is a breed of continually infectious comedy that balances raunchiness, slapstick, and caricatures to the tune of modern-day droll dreamers. In turn it is oftenly made of impetuous motions built into obvious caricatures aboard a familiar scene. But through its strong performers and its free nature, the movie comes out all the better for its seemingly simple underpinnings.

Win Win
Win Win(2011)
½

Fragmentations and forced feelings; 'Win Win' is a quaint, trying excercise in small-town familial and financial struggles, that more often feels like a mash of literary techniques than a genuine dramedy. Perhaps the ultimate fault of the film lies in its many avenues of exploration. Sports combattant, ethics lesson, marriage counseling, teenage confusion. Confusion is the avenue it works best in, as the film itself isn't quite sure where it is heading as it pits its many characters and their issues to the test. It almost pulls everything together in the end, but it's all too late.

Focus is the issue on hand here, and it is the lack of which that causes problems. We are introduced to too many characters, holding too many problems, for us to truly balance everyone out. It may be called "Win Win", but there is a lot of loss in this small town.

Fast Five
Fast Five(2011)

Fast without the fury, 'Fast Five' is a cocky, assured actioner throttled at blistering speeds but without character care. Flashy and stylised, its concern lies not in the progression of the long-standing characters that inhabit it, but in the schemes that progress them forward. Feigning emotion and depth, the movie wants its characters to have a life outside of this heist or - at least - a purpose. But they are shallow, their lives transparent in comparison to their pursuit of something richer. This doesn't really account for much though, as when the film is able to indulge itself - the audience can indulge with it.

Director Justin Lin proves himself fiercely compatible to action-oriented thrills. In its many moments of overblown mayhem, there is a control of technique in creating tension, awe, and adrenaline from its audience. Lin knows when to truly capitalise with the pacing of an action setpiece and with quick-cutting combined with a bevvy of camera angles - the sheer scale to some of these stunts can be digested.

And the scale is impressive. In moments of confined space or sprawling cityscapes, the action on display is indulgant and flashy but maintained from someone clearly at home in this level of filmmaking.

Cars, guns, beautiful people, bank vault heists - the film is decorated with classical cinematic elements with a modern flavour. Lin's execution of this works well, but the script underlying his efforts leaves much. Logic holes, convenience in plot tooling, simple character relationships, flat quippy one-liners - there is a lot that leaves these characters looking dull compared to their surroundings.

But it is ultimately these surroundings that make the movie what it is - a fun ride (a quip you could be mistaken for finding in the 'Fast Five' script).

The Mechanic
The Mechanic(2011)

Straight, narrow; 'The Mechanic' is a simple film without deviation. It has a basic core, easy methods of character purpose, and a pacing not equipped with the baggage of backstory, side plot or insights into the lives of its leads. But sometimes straight can be enough, and with the abled performances of its leads beating their way through scenes - this is one of those films.

Cowboys & Aliens
½

Experimentation with a steady hand, 'Cowboys and Aliens' is a genre-bending exercise with steely restraint. It is safe - a picture that comes expectedly and minimises its risk in story sequence and character portrayals. While this tends to lessen surprise, the film is able to rest on the wildness of the elements to its story in order to keep intrigue floating.

Hall Pass
Hall Pass(2011)

Crass without reason, ethically misaligned, and juvenile in humour and intent, 'Hall Pass' is a comedy with a sour foundation. When looking at a film, its intentions are the initial viewpoint to take into account. What is the film trying to say? Who are its target audience? Written by seemingly sex-starved teenagers, 'Hall Pass' is an effort catering to a demographic of males looking for a reason to indulge in fantasy and have it feel warranted.

» Full Review at lightsandlessons.com

Certified Copy (Copie Conforme)
½

Concepts of falsity breathing rumination on place and purpose; Abbas Kiarostami's voyeuristic visual poetry is beautiful and painful - a fleshed out relational argument with a musing on art and originality. A cultural piece rightly in love with its surroundings, it is closely infused with personal lives and problems and holds concern for intent and perception. Intent with a person to their work and actions towards others; perceptions from others towards that work and the receiving of those actions.

Perhaps what is most intriguing about the picture, however, is its sleight in interweaving these two notions and of its forcing of a perception from its audience. In a simple setting of two people conversing through the streets of Tuscany, these concepts are given a raw light. In the coupling of Binoche and screen-newcomer Shimell, the intents and wants of each part of a relationship are explored. But the catch is that these two are not a couple. Or are they?

Kiarostami's screenplay has a wavering, wispy relation to facts. It is defined at the onset (through a fandom for art and literature) that these two have never met. Yet as the film progresses, there is much more underlying than what we are led to believe. It is easy to look at this vagueness with frustration as the film almost abruptly alters its tone and tension at its midpoint, but through this airiness in fact Kiarostami is able to point more closely at the IDEA of a relationship, and not of a couple in itself.

It is level of falsity to the picture, where our perceptions are continually being challenged, that feeds this into these ideas so well.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
½

Expression and emotion in pixels. The conversion of thought to visuals on screen is a marvel of cinema; it's inherent nature to transform fantasy to a close-reality is an asset shared equally in part with its ability to create emotion. Throughout its evolution it has garnered new tools in this process, broadening the scope and degree to how we meet these characters. With 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes', life is created from the ultimate in artificality. Familar faces are given an alienistic treatment and expression and intent from these characters of the computer reach new heights. But what is most impressive about this next step in emotional conveyance is an emotion that 'Rise of the Apes' delivers strongly - empathy. In a war between humans and apes, it is the apes that we are rooting for.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

Italian source material in an American setting breeds potential, culture, and flare. However, in the case of 'Dylan Dog' it breeds an unstylistic, flat, and often boring film that treads water between its standout scenes. Like the monotonic voice of its trying lead, 'Dylan Dog' is a film that never really rises while also never dipping. It is still blood; drying as we watch it. Intriguing in its nature, but underwhelming in our realisation of its state.

At the heart of this oozy mess of vampires, werewolves, and zombies lies a bumbling screenplay. For a film that attempts complexity, it turns in an overall lack of impact. It is a weaving tale with no purpose, no connection, and haphazard character growth. Our lead character begins with no purpose, his quest has little purpose, his reasoning to partake in this quest has little purpose, and he ultimately finishes the film with a sense of vapid change.

Feelings of flatness are not helped by director Kevin Monroe, who seems incapable of creating a consistent tone and exuding a new flair to a production that otherwise held the potential for much more. His cross fades, choice of narration, and retired detective reek of a trying for noir; his comedic interjections, cannon blasts from pistols, and faint electric guitars feel like a hesitation towards an Italian spaghetti-western roots. These are wonderful in concept, but under this direction they only feel like a test.

Insidious
Insidious(2011)

Like good horror films, 'Insidious' uses suspense and the lead-up to a scare to illicit fright. Unlike good horror films, it doesn't know how to capitalise further. Darkness, violin screeches, and abrupt frame editing are the tools of fright on offer here, and the film works best when these are absent or dialled down. Their inclusion comes in two purposes: scare the audience, hearken to B-Grade sources of genre inspiration. Both don't feel in tune here.

Horror films are traditionally built to instill a foreboding sense steadily before lashing with a full burst of terror. With 'Insidious', horror director James Wan has created a film with a structure that mimics its tool and the ultimate issue in its use of that tool. An irony of filmmaking, or a wry technique? In the darkness, mystery, and sense of coming danger - this film works. It creates a heavy atmosphere, leaving its audience at a level of unease. There is understanding of how to scare an audience, and its first two acts slowly build with elements of this.

But it is in the final act - where the build-up of tension is meant to pay with a scare - that the mystery is unveiled, the heavy atmosphere is lightened with silly visuals, and all levels of danger are washed with away with a rush. For a film that begins steadily, rapidly declines into loose-ends and a complete lack of mystery. 'Insidious' is a half-baked horror movie that tries to ultimately fright and shock in all the wrong ways.

Submarine
Submarine(2011)
½

Strange, awkward, charming. Submerged in the depths of thought and teenage confusion, 'Submarine' is a film that thinks too much. In the to-and-fro of perceptions and decisions in a growing mind, it is blurred. Sweet in perception; bitter in decision. These thoughts are displayed as a bustle of colour in a flat world. It yearns for love, connection, and understanding but holds a wintery tone of grey. It is everything it should be.

As the story begins, the unworldly teen of Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) that we are about to try and understand and connect with states that we like to think of ourselves as individual; that noone thinks the way that we do and that this is what motivates us to get out of bed each morning.

Oliver is at war with himself. He sees himself as unique, yet yearns to be understood. His feelilngs are familiar - we've all felt that way - and are translated into this film with quests for love and family strengthening.

However the greatest crime with 'Submarine' is that it never truly breaks an expected mould. There is an overall freshness to the picture, and this likability never waivers, but its level of quirk and melancholy are a tried and tested staple of the kind of film it wants to be. It succeeds in its intentions - the characters are touching and real; difficult to comprehend but magnetic in us trying to. The world they inhabit is small, personal, and allows us to care for them.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Unashamedly patriotic, invigorating with the energy of inspiration and justice, and a melding of otherwise splintering genre and tone - director Joe Johnston had great material to work with. His film is in turns silly, realised, earnest, and bold but uses this to great effect. 'Captain America' is above all a lot of fun; it understands this in its quest to essentially modernise a period piece of propaganda.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
½

Climbing. Harry does a lot of it in this ultimate installment, as he topples gold, furniture, and bodies. His task stretches ahead of him and his story has much to tell. But this film in which he stars is a feat of climbing in itself - a relentless swoop of action and courage. There is an urgency to the latest Potter in its run to the finish with a tempo continually rising, climbing. There is a cramming of a good portion of this story saved for this final endeavour; it is fast and full, yet it works. These characters are facing insurmountable odds, relying on a fools courage to take them through, and through sheer adrenaline and obligation they go forward. This full steam approach is a fitting conclusion to a decade long franchise.

As it grew with the children who first boarded the train of fandom, the films have been growing suitably darker. It's magic is a very different kind from what was conjured a decade ago. In a world that is essentially void of magic though, this makes sense. Of course it is still magic that is onscreen, but the magic of innocence, of whimsy, and of childhood is lost. Harry Potter has grown from a boy of awe, to a boy of burden; someone whose life was opened to a new world, to someone whose life looks bleak as it follows an arduous road.

'The Deathly Hallows: Part II' conveys this strongly.

The Tree of Life
½

Creation and destruction; life and death; good and evil. Everything. The Tree of Life is a Terrence Malick film - with a style of quiet musing, sensuality, and filled with a sense of grandeur and awe of its own surroundings. Like the films of the director that have come prior, it is beautiful and caressing, swaying towards feeling, tone, and insight. At its heart though lies a classic conflict of strength and will to succeed versus the due course of the world, or - as the film states - nature vs grace. But above that, it is about much more.

This is ambition of the highest regard, with concern towards the beginning and end of all things, encompassing the universe and the life inside of it. It is a piece balancing personal lives and love with the grandness of our surroundings. How did everything come to be? Where did love first show itself? For these concepts alone, it is a beautiful film. But it is the humanity in these questions that truly gives the film its striking soul, acting as part epic, part indie. It is all encompassing, yet feels personal.

Set in 1950's suburban America, the film follows a family. Like a tree, they grow. They learn anger, dissapointment, elation, love, and the loss of innocence. It is essentially this loss of innocence in the children of this family (in the only real way of describing a story to the film) that acts as the fundamental element in grander schemes.

In a picture focusing on so much, it is this enclosed lesson in the realities of the world and the

The Adjustment Bureau

A melding of variants in plot and theme that never reaches cohesion, 'The Adjustment Bureau' holds many separate elements that work well enough in their own efforts, without coming together to reach a higher level. It is a commendable thematic execution on free-will and spiritual guidance; a psuedo-science-fiction work that blends well into our reality; and above all a romance that holds weight. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are a magnetic partnership - easy to watch and smile with. They are the core to a film that would deviate without it and act as the standout in the many elements that the film attempts to comb together.

Holding many relations with religion, faith, and fate - it is interesting for the most-part, but tends to lose its way in the final act. Things wrap up neatly and swiftly, almost washing the careful characterisation and lead up that the rest of the picture had tried hard to place together.

The Thin Red Line

Pondering destruction; Terrence Malick's film of war is of a war between man and his own demise and creator. As an example of the horrors and tragedy involved, it is an obvious anti-war film, heavily highlighting its director's eye for exterior beauty with an underlying ripping of the soul. Destructions of compassion, love, feeling, and purpose are the concerns on display in a war with no path and soldiers losing the humanity that nature once gave to them.

Unknown
Unknown(2011)
½

Slow; a word with dual meaning in a film that both drags in pace and falters by staying one step behind the audience. 'Unknown' is a slickly developed film. It looks good, has moments of fun, and even begins with levels of intrigue and promise. It is a foundation that is built on intrigue - dragging us into a mystery as vague as the amnesiac on screen - but unfortunately we have much better luck figuring things out than he does, almost nullifying the point to the movie.

When a film holds a premise like this, there are obvious concerns to begin with - a film that immediately cuts to its plot; and concerns that arise throughout - misdirection and surprise. 'Unknown' understands these problems, but does little to rectify it. A premise as basic as this relies on a resolution and driving force as basic as could be conceived. Through repetition and simple clues, the film is over in the first hour. It's just that it continues on for an hour more, playing catch up with the expectations and realisations of its audience.

But this shouldn't detract from the moments that work on screen, and thanks to the detailed eye of director Jaume Collet-Serra and the always capable shoulders of Liam Neeson (in an obviously familiar role from 2008's 'Taken') - these moments aren't too hard to come by. But with an uninspired script and a sleeping editor, the film never reaches any higher.

X-Men: First Class

Genuine soul with a different flavour, X-Men: First Class is a shining example of prologuing an existing film base through a cohesion in film departments. This is a project tuned into a synergetic machine - each aspect of its creation working at a strong capacity, fitting together to create a realised vision and delivering something that understands the strengths and limits it faces. What makes this vision truly impressive comes from this quality - it is the best of the films that follow its timeline and the best of its genre for several years.

Utilising its time period to great effect, the tonality of 'X-Men: First Class' is the initial standout. The film has an atmosphere of retro-meets-modern, a sort of hip retooling to the 1960's feelings of fear brought on by the Cold War. By pushing this film into this time period, it immediately takes on a unique tone from the films to follow, feeling freshened and looking spectacular.

Adding to that, the performances of the young mutant heroes work wonders by grabbing onto the fact that we know how they are going to turn out. Michael Fassbender is untrustable and unstable, and the better for it; James McAvoy balances maturity with mischievousness.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Michael Bay. Adrenaline. Gorgeous Women. Explosions. Synonymous words and terms, familial trademarks of a modern action director. With a Transformers movie, the audience has an expectation of simple pleasures in a wild ride - a seemingly fitting piece to a Michael Bay experience. The films are loud and proud, and in all honesty when a film with such an extreme basis is put to screen - nothing more is expected. It is a series where its director harnesses these qualities and uses them, yet with this latest endeavour - the macho-action is embraced in a whole new level. Its adrenaline is amplified, its women furthered as simple screen candy, and its explosions multiplied.

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╗ Full Review at lightsandlessons.com

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
½

Experiential, majestic, textured cinema of a rare scope. With a full utilisation of 3D and one of the better examples of the use of this new technology, 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams' isn't so much a film as it is an experience. Herzog ventures outside of the documentarian norm to capture and transport the viewer into the epic darkness, crystalline passageways and ancient stone formations to connect and understand an ancestry from many millenia past.
 
» Full Review Here

Super 8
Super 8(2011)
½

Children in broken families; adventure in a small town; extra-terrestrial mysteries; all wrapped into a family friendly package. This is a film seemingly ripped from the 1980's Spielberg fare that invented the blockbuster at the multiplex. It is a film in which innocence, spectacle, and intrigue meld into homage. In its parts it is familiar and nostalgic and while this often acts as a driving force to this production, it is the sum of these parts that make the film something to take note of.

Rango
Rango(2011)

Benefitting from a convenient mesh of plot dynamics (characters, lessons) with a recreation in setting (tone, triumphs) - 'Rango' is a feature that is familiar in it's parts but freshened as a whole. It's structure and aspirations are not unlike films from the two genres it inhabits - being animation and the western - but like the former genre it is the charm and excitement of the picture that win it. In the world of 'Rango' - a dirty setting never dilutes the brightness at its centre.

A western's surface is always drab. The world is plain and simple. It is up to a film to expose the vastness of this world and the tininess of man, or invoke a stylised tone to engage an audience. Animation is fitting to make the most of this. With 'Rango' - it furthers the concept of stylising the simple. The visuals are gorgeous - there is a movement and texture that exudes a strange tangibility; the score is exciting and silly, slyly mocking its sources of inspiration; and its humour and excitement layered but simple. In many ways it can be considered an adult film - but there is just as much for kids.

Plot mechanics in the convenience of the story is an obvious inclusion; something both aiding and harming the film. As the lesson of finding a place and purpose in the world, Johnny Depp's misdirectioned stranger is the ultimate in character symbols - an actor looking for the perfect role, and a chameleon needing community and course. He is a lead of quirkiness with innocence, a familiar element in children's fare, but in the grander scheme of the film - he fits well. It is a passion that runs throughout 'Rango' that is clear and consistent that makes its mehcanical underpinnings a minor issue. It enjoys its tweaking of familiar plot elements and allows the audience to enjoy the film as a whole.

Annie Hall
Annie Hall(1977)

In film, artists are given a short amount of time to create and convey characters and themes. Wrapped into a narrative, it is the tool of prioritising traits and reactions that are used to best gauge a person on screen. With 'Annie Hall', Woody Allen is not so much conveying a narrative. There is no start or end but instead a familiar chapter in the larger story of life.

His focus is a look at the lines connecting and separating the dual parts of a relationship and it is the level of conveyance that Allen ultimately achieves that gives a strong understanding. In a 90 minute feature, there is a greater insight than films twice it's length.

Sweet and bitter, 'Annie Hall' is everything a relationship is and should be. It is an easy and enjoyable affair as the familiarisation of these lives is being explored. As love gestates and evolves, difficulties ensue and realities look to brush away the early romancing. The reality of the film and its effortless cramming of scenes is key. But it is in the fact that we - the audience - know throughout that this romance is doomed, fleeting, that sets it apart. Each character is open to personal bias and like, but their relationship is now pushed into a more objective viewpoint.

Limitless
Limitless(2011)
½

Purporting itself as a vehicle of fast pace and an intelligence without borders, 'Limitless' manages to achieve one of these images. The rest is a mirage. Through the cramming of short scenes, the ride being taken holds a lot; yet it still feels like it is cheating us out of our time and money.

[Full Revew Pending]

Source Code
Source Code(2011)

A goofy albeit captivating action film with affecting intentions; 'Source Code' holds two notions at its core - it aims to both thrill and inspire. Action and mystery act merely as a veil to the greater purpose of the film as it cuts through into a core of human drama - of lives being lived, loved and lost. Harrowing but insightful, the story may be a gate to another person's life, but the film itself is a gate to the joys and purposes that life presents us.

[Full Review Pending]

No Strings Attached
½

Somewhere in the midst of passion you will find love; somewhere in the midst of confusion you will find clarity; somewhere in the midst of 'No Strings Attached' you will find a good film. As an example of a rom-com, it is okay, yet it persistently pulls away from what it should be - a focus on two-people. The irony to the film is that its focus is indeed on a couple scratching for definition in their parts in a relationship, but it is the small peripherals of the film that pull it away. And there are many peripherals.

» Full Review Here
 

Scream 4
Scream 4(2011)
½

Meta without matter, 'Scream 4' is a film reliant on formula, references, and sly parody; in turns both wry to the genre it inhabits and relishing to its sensibilities. It is more intent on pointedly drawing attention to the formula of this genre, than further exploring it, and intent to merely retread recounts and themes that are staple to not only this genre - but the series itself. Vapid without a core to its own story and void of adding to the iconography it worships, this is a film that was feeling stale over a decade ago. Three sequels later, little has changed.

» Full Review Here
 

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Rivalry, pride, and status in the modern battlefield of circuitry and joysticks; 'The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters' is both a nostalgic look at the grounding of a modern entertainment revolution and a classic portrayal of the humbled hero against the empirical antagoniser. Filmic quailties in its depiction of these people and this setting is what pushes this story of simplicity to greater heights. Allowing what is essentially a battle for numbers to morph into a test of character in a person and a show of determination against the uncertainties of fraud in a system, the barriers of an established community, and self doubt. Classical story and character elements are used to great effect in giving the documentary - a retelling of straight facts and lives - into a genuine story of loss and triumph.

But what sets the film into murky (though interesting) territory is its picturing of these lives. The clear painting of Billy Mitchell - the former champion - as a cunning schemer afraid of losing is only the start. The further dragging of the community around him is the ultimate test. The film almost seems at times to make an antagonist of the game community as a whole, with its hero - Steve Wiebe - the man of justice. But we are reminded of it as just a game as a hobby, though a game can turn into an addiction.

Thor
Thor(2011)

Thor is a brute with a heart for those around him. He cares for these people, but ultimately means to entertain. He is simple yet magnetic, bulking in stature yet intriguing in qualities beneath this size. Muscled without direction, he is a hero looking for purpose and annihilating all obstacles along this path. The film in which he stars is a mimic - a slog-fest teasing more below its simple surface. It is fast, straight, and looks good; promising much but unsure on how to deliver it. It lives in a fresh world of simple enjoyment, but doesn't know how to reach further.

» Full Review Here

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

While a meandering whisper of a plot running the course hurts it, it is thanks to the charm from performances and a maturity in tone that this - the third in the Narnia franchise - becomes a welcome addition to the magic of this world. It is through its young actors that this film avoids falling, their interplay is excellent and their chemistry always moving. But in the addition of Will Poulter to the young adventurers, we are given something new to the series - someone to love to hate. His obnoxious, pompous attitude is delivered by its young actor in a way that never becomes grating,

Sherlock Jr.
Sherlock Jr.(1924)
½

Buster Keaton may be known as one of the great comedians in cinema, but he should also be known as one of the great stunt performers shown on film. With 'Sherlock Jr', his physical comedy is at a peak. A palpable danger mixed with performance slapstick, his set pieces are audacious and hilarious, never wavering in pushing the limits of morphing structures into props. His physicality in performance is almost unparalleled; shown with scenes running on moving trains, jumping through windows, or scaling multiple stories. He is almost clown-like in physicality, but with a heightened sophistication.

With this silent era masterpiece though, his outrageous stunts are still in rear of what is focal. It is a love-letter to movies, and to the imagination. It is both a romance and a thriller, alternating a want for love and adventure. His detective-aspiring film projectionist is an amalgamation of what so many feel when watching movies - a passion for emulating and feeling what is seen onscreen. But reality strikes, the film ends, and Keaton's projectionist becomes grounded. He sees life as it is.

Just Go with It

Overbearing comedy with obvious dramatic turns. The earmark of the Adam Sandler/Dennis Dugan brand of comedy is in full force here; an attempt to warm the heart and tonsils, this romantic comedy only warms with an embarrassing onslaught of juvenile jokes and illogical plot turns.

'Just Go With It' shows Sandler in his two modes - the nonchalant comedian with a penchant for overplaying at all the wrong times; flat in expression yet overcompensating in moments. And as the loser getting the girl. It's the factoring of the two girls in this film that works with different motives. The introduction of Brooklyn Decker is contrived, brisk, and unbelievable. This notion never changes. But it is in Jennifer Aniston that the film holds a rare key - she is the most natural presence onscreen; a chatty performance from the only realised character given to us.

Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch(2011)
½

The stylistic sensibilities of Zack Snyder have always been firmly ingrown with a sense of flamboyant fanaticism. There is a try for beauty; and a result in grungy awe. This fanaticism often turns into a flurry, and in turn becomes a driving force over the more traditional elements of moving a picture forward. The fictive settings are hyper and their surrounding tones drowning to the story behind them. Yet like the great visual auteurs, Snyder understands a warranted narrative to his sensibilities, and with 'Sucker Punch' he has achieved beauty in modern visual storytelling.

╗ Full Review Here
 

The Magnificent Ambersons

Familial and small-scale in immediate pictures; grand and adventurous in scope. 'The Magnificent Ambersons' is an amazing film - it is a narrative spanning decades, holds many characters, and covers timely insights into turn of the century industry, power, and the downwards tilt of high-life. Yet the film drags. It is an amazing effort that something so crammed together can be a vapid and slow greeting to an uninviting family. Welles' film is well-known for it's extreme studio interference - and it shows heavily - but the result remains as a film with no real purpose, no interesting characters or ties, and no impact on the themes surrounding them. There was a lot happening in the world that these families lived in, it's just too bad we weren't shown very much of it.

Another Year
Another Year(2010)
½

A year in the life. Mike Leigh's latest entry is still, calm, and tepid. With simple settings and plain characters - it is almost lethargic. But it is real. It's setting is simple but inviting, and its characters plain but wisened. They have lived lives, but realise their current situation is not a part of the plan. Are they happy? Mostly no. A central character states that "change is hard" - those close to her know all-too-well.

[Full review pending]

Yes Man
Yes Man(2008)
½

A likeable - and admittedly surprising - comedy that uses the traits of its cast to excellent effect. Carrey's zany antics are rarely caricaturised, Deschanel's quirky cuteness is never schmaltzy, and Darby's eccentric geekisms are a joy in every moment. 'Yes Man' is a joy in general, and thanks to a screenplay that allows itself to mellow at certain points while throwing in well-timed humour - the film comes far ahead of what its failed marketing department would have you believe. 'Yes Man' could so easily have been 'Liar Liar 2'; thankfully it isn't.

Traffic
Traffic(2000)
½

A triptych of a modern America and its casualties as a result of drugs. Casualties to corruption; casualties to poverty; casualties to death. Soderbergh's handling of a trio of tight-knit stories is each given a heavy yet balanced weight. They each serve a purpose, have their own tales of loss, and are equally affecting, and thankkfully are never forcibly interwoven. The ensemble on display is mesmerising. The standouts in Douglas and Del Toro give restrained characters whose faces show the toll of this suburban war. Add Soderbergh's excellent use of colour and film grain in the visual elements of the film, and 'Traffic' becomes a top example of multiple stories in one film with a firm singular purpose.

Battle: Los Angeles
½

A flat actioner that is full of action - Battle: Los Angeles exemplifies the notion that too much adrenaline amounts to a crash. A crash in attention, in narrative, and in impact. The film's continual drive is a hazard to itself as its lacklustre characters charade their way through obstacles, in a situation given very little light or backing. The situation at hand is vague yet predictable, with its people faltering in their tries to incite inspiration in these dull proceedings.

The structure of Battle: Los Angeles is strange and awkward. It attempts to give its varied characters an introduction - to give them a sense of humanity and to showcase what they have to lose. Expectant fathers; devoted brothers; youthful innocence. Yet these people remain shadows. This humanity is never realised. In the sharp jolt towards the centrepiece war at the core (and whole) of the film, these people are forgotten. Their brief and many introductions are meaningless excerpts with their past lives and present intentions meaning little.

But the real awkwardness of the structure to this film lies in this centrepiece. As if it were written as a video game, the group of soldiers bashing their way through barricades of alien insurgents, encountering ranked combatants with increasing difficulties, and an end goal of handling an opposition checkpoint is simplistic and translates poorly to film. If this were a video game, it would be an average effort. As a film, this a poor effort. Aaron Eckhart's Staff Sergeant states that men died while serving under him while he lived, a seeming "pun to some kind of bad joke". The only bad joke on offer here is this film, and the pun in its delivery is bad indeed.

HappyThankYouMorePlease

Josh Radnor loves New York City. He loves the cityscape, the occupants, and the stories in the relationships inside this large bubble. His love for this city is gushing, and as the muse to the story - he and his characters feel it is unique. Yet there remains a levelness to his film to give these opinions a certain truth. He may love his setting, but never pushes it with beauty or gloss. There's a lot to admire in this, and a lot to admire to the passion in this film.

[Full review pending]

The Ghost Writer
½

A dense political thriller with a sometimes abstract execution, 'The Ghost Writer' is a layered foray into personal, institutional, and governmental relationships. It can be misconstrued as slow-burning, but proves immensely absorbing and through its compact structure and consistent plot weaving - moves quickly. Polanski's stylistic choices gives his film an icy atmosphere - there is paranoia and intrigue, menace and confusion. And though it can often leave its audience in the cold, careful dedication pays off largely.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

A film of serene ambiance and naturalistic beauty, 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives' takes full advantage of its lush surroundings and distinct sounds - submerging its viewers in the Thai countryside. As a contemplative effort, the film is a slow meditation on spiritual legends - karma and reincarnation - and becomes a hazy blend of animal and human connectiveness. The world of 'Uncle Boonmee' is shown as a shared one, and these two sides attempt to form a clearer understanding of human purpose and place.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film is a labyrinth. I would be lying if I said that each turn in this deceptive maze was understood. His narrative is at times simple, but his plot points continually break any semblance of narrative and force themselves as a metaphor. Boonmee's past lives are given more as examples of an impact on those around him. In his dying days, the return of his son - as an animal - tends to act as a visual aid in Boonmee's next step into reincarnation, and another life. But the return of the ghost of his passed wife tends to complicate this with the notion of Boonmee's steps into the consequences of karma.

The issue and benefit of the film is its airiness in the delivery of fact and hopes for interpretation. It doesn't give much to base theories on, but gives plenty of food for thought. And when your mind and soul are allowed to wander through this visual spectacle - it makes for a wonderful two hours.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)

Dirty and obstreperous, the culture portrayed in 'True Grit' is raw and palpable. Its world given to us is brutal, but there is a clear majesty at play in its open expanses and strong wanderers inside of it. 'True Grit' is the most accessible Coen brothers film in many years. It's narrative and characters are easy to navigate, and its depiction and purpose are wrought from a well-used cloth. But this not to be confused as slander; this is high-calibre genre-fare of a class rarely seen in this time of cinema.

Tamara Drewe
Tamara Drewe(2010)

Some writers flesh realised characters into vessels of change. Some writers delve into the depths of meaning in society or relationships. Some writers create a mood distinct within their story. And some writers pen 'Tamara Drewe'. A mish-mash attempt of these traits, 'Tamara Drewe' is a film that sets itself in a quaint plain, with wandering souls drifting whimsically. This changes when a catalyst from the past - a girl - reappears. She has blossomed, and so too does the quiet village.

This is a fanciful film that leads nowhere. Tamara Drewe as a title character is flat and uncaring. She has little in the backbone of her life given to the audience and undergoes minimal change. She is portrayed as a woman renewed - and uses this second lease of confidence with little care for those close to her, but with a clear head of perceptiveness. Gemma Arterton's batting eyes and smulder only get this character so far, and when a film revolves around such a void character - little more can be done. The film attempts to turn this into a point of recovery and learning by its conclusion - but it is too far gone to sway the audience.

Yet its writers try. At its core, the film is about the writing process and the necessity for inspiration. If there's one writing technique that Tamara Drewe grasps firmly - it is irony. It is ironical that a film about creativity remains vapid with a handful of thematic cliche's. Its notions of adultery, of catalysts for change, of the deceptions and worth in love, and of attention are dull and frustrating. The film attempts to use a running theme of lies as being a charge for story ideas - and thinks its slyly using this as a meta device for its own plot. It fails.

Somehow though, the films production works vigorously to fight back for some pride. The rocky couple of Roger Allam and Tamsin Greig are the real meat of the story, and a supporting turn from Bill Camp makes for a trifecta that would have worked much better as a story on its own.

The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

Chomet's portrait of performance in an evolving world is an honest study of age, relevance, and the learning of the harsh realities this world has to offer. It is oftenly a lonely film, with an almost melancholic nature, as its struggles in an alienating society either push our characters to the side - stripping them of their essence - or sucking them whole - pushing for conformity. 'The Illusionist' is often downtrodden and difficult, but it remains heartfelt and beautiful throughout - a kind of harsh reality that invokes a certain charm and respect.

The magic at the centre of the film lies in the execution of its tone and theme. This is a beautiful film; a love-letter to the classical animation and stories that have inspired it. Based off of a screenplay from Jacques Tati, the persistent bubbly quirkiness balances with the pain in its themes and makes for an atmosphere of maturity. It is easy to mistake the film for adult fare, but there is much more to it. Chomet's handling of themes ingrained with the loss of the magic found in childhood is accessible and fresh. The canvas he paints with widens with emotion and becomes a vivid realisation of loneliness and growth.

Chomet is the star here - his brush strokes are shown throughout. His entrancing score atop his delicate visuals adds to the enticing air on display. It is an enveloping and inviting experience watching this film. It is gentle and pristine, but its delicateness and magic are never taken for granted and never pushed to sway emotion. Chomet has too much respect for audience to paint that into his film.

Dinner for Schmucks

Grossly unfunny and flatly annoying, 'Dinner for Schmucks' is silliness pushed to an extreme and humour void of wit, charm, or fun. This is a terrible way to spend your time, and clocking in at a bulking two hours - this is a long time to spend in the company of idiocy. The issue with this film is that it is about idiots and is ultimately idiotic in its own rights. Its characters are frustrating, its plot is tawdry, and its ambitions are questionable. With over-the-top people gallivanting through an absurd scene of events - how could this be considered comedy?

'Dinner for Schmucks' is an overly long, unfunny attempt at physical comedy and silly antics. It is annoying to sit through, and has very little redeeming qualities. If it wasn't for Jemaine Clement's attempts at masking Steve Carrell's show of foolishness, this film could have been even worse.

Easy A
Easy A(2010)

Laden with pop-culture and a clear sense of nostalgia, 'Easy A' is a generational bridge - influenced by the predecessors of its genre, but showing enough vigour to make a stamp of its own on those to come. Smart and cheeky, the film pointedly incorporates and references past films and stories in the construction of its story and characters. It's both a hindrance and benefit of the film, but ultimately it manages to escape the bottleneck of homage and step into a fresh atmosphere.

This is achieved largely to its sheer likeability and on-screen chemistry. Emma Stone is wonderful. She is smart yet accessible, beautiful yet humbled. Her scenes of humour are handled with a clumsy charm, and her scenes of emotion manage to polarize the former and become truly heartfelt. Its an all-around excellent performance, and one that bounces and interacts with the momentum of the screenplay with unexpected turns.

Her supporting cast work well, but the star's balance comes from her on-screen parents. In Tucci and Clarkson, we are given an extra dose of eccentricity. Tucci's timing and wit are on song, and Clarkson's ability to handle awkward lines with grace brings some of the films best moments.

While its handling of some cultural material - namely religion and promiscuity - are brought into question, 'Easy A' is still the gem of the year in the teenage cinematic wasteland.

Devil
Devil(2010)

A small scale horror film with a large canvas for terror, 'Devil' understands what scares us - it's just a shame that it never pushes this. Through its moments of fright, of dim suspense, and the leering suspicion of the people on display - it can often be impressive. Director, John Erick Dowdle, is formidable in his grasp of tension (his previous feature - 'Quarantine' - was excellent in this aspect) and its transferrance over to 'Devil' is intact. The film has an ominous threat throughout, kicked into a higher gear at will.

A swooping camera over the bleak cityscape; the pounding of its heavy piano and trombone tones; lighting used to effect. The scenes on display are often penetrating. They can cut through, and in short bursts truly scare. A lot is owed to long-time collaborater and cinematographer Fujimoto for this, who brings the visual qualities to a horror film in need. But above that, his work in general with this picture is a standout. His tight handling and heightening of suspicion inside of the crammed elevator is juxtaposed to the expanse used in the outside world. And his opening shot of the film is a treasure.

But it is in the writing that 'Devil' falters. It is short, brisk, and shying of breaking its cage to tackle its themes and setting in greater detail. The film accelerates and quickly becomes a "who will die next" scenario. It is banal in its handling of religion and its adoptance into this plot. With a view on morality and retribution, there was much to work with. This is handled in as much light as its visuals.

Exit Through The Gift Shop
½

Intriguing, implosive, and inventive - but not in a good way; 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' is a strange film. It is deceptive and unbalanced - everything that a post-modern work of art claims to be. It is a piece that tends to alter its intentions and themes as it progresses, all the while questioning its own authenticity. But these qualities give it a difference, a certain style and anarchistic charm, that by the end of the film allow the sum of its parts to equal something true.

Perhaps the most interesting part of 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' is that for its first two-thirds - it really isn't anything remarkable. Our insights into "street art" ask the question of vandalism vs. creativity. Its close-quarters insights into the creative processes and unleashing of these ideas tends to act as the mask to the films ultimate purpose - what is art? It is in the final half-hour that its intent is known, its questions come together, while also turning itself around. Our protagonist is painted in a new light, and the entire film becomes a new entity.

Buried
Buried(2010)

Intimately suspenseful, innovative, and highly taut - Rodrigo Cortes' experiment in extreme minimalism is a unique experience in empathy. On its outset, the film could be mistaken for a probing claustrophobia; but with a roving camera, a powerful performance, and a consistent tension in external aspects - this 7 foot space feels much larger. We are confined to consolidate our time with a single man in a single space. This never becomes a chore.

'Buried' is a simple film, housing a simple premise. But its making is intriguing. It never deviates from its goal of allowing us to live this ordeal. It never mixes itself too highly with the emotions of others. It never cheapens its plot with mechanics for satisfaction. It is a grim though absorbing effort with inventive flair, delivering something cinematically and emotionally challenging with an edge.

Cortes' film is almost "Hitchcock-ian" in this execution. From the Saul Bass inspired intro, to the enclosed camera-work, and distant voices speaking to our confused lead. 'Buried' is a film that never divulges much information, and tips dangerously towards plot-hole territory. But its macguffin-like premise pushes us to soak in this confusion, this dread, and the innovative ways in how it showcases it.

The King's Speech
½

Classical in every sense of the word, The King's Speech is movie-making and storytelling ingrained with the techniques and tone of cinema of the old. It's aesthetics, sound, and narrative are smooth and comforting. An obvious regality is always in place here. Yet in the character's of King George VI and Lionel Logue, it looks to distance itself.

The King's Speech is a methodical, focused picture with a dedication to singular themes. It is set in a time of great political upheaval and war, yet remains resolute in its intentions of using its lead as an anchor for overcoming adversity. It's a tool used to great effect by the monarchy of the time, but not so much by Tom Hooper in his film. At a time of such great scope, The King's Speech often feels tunnel-visioned on smaller aspects. With so much time spent on the confidence and impediments of it's soon-to-be King, it's greater points of a revolving line to the throne, an unstable government, and the threat of a looming war feel consistently overshadowed. This scope doesn't mean a three hour picture is needed, but a balance in themes and a true highlighting of the greater gravity at play at this point in history would have benefited the film.

In terms of the scenes of this focus however, it is commendably made and striking in its chemistry between leads. Firth has a necessitating fustration to his performance. He is difficult to watch through his shying, stammering, and heated tantrums. But this is a performance given the right texture. This is a frustrating character, and though Firth can sometimes too fervently potray him, he gives this man a real recognition for highlighting his deficiencies and ultimate growth.

The second main theme to The King's Speech is the life of a common man versus the life of a Prince. It's two leads bookend these classes, and in Firth's counterpart - Geoffrey Rush is tall, sturdy, and noble. Everthing our Prince is aiming to be. Next to a performance with the demands of shyness pushing for confidence, Rush is collected and calculating. He is the reflector to Firth's glow, but is slight and precise. A performance commanding attention, next to a commanding performance.

The King's Speech is good. This needs to be stated. But like its lead character, it shy's away from greatness.

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)

While being such an enclosed and at times grim film, 127 Hours manages to be full of vigour and life. Boyle's direction has taken a claustrophobic anchor and lifted it with an infectious energy, allowing him to tell a small-scale story on a larger canvas. The drive of his central character in Aron Ralston is reflected through the film's bursts of splitting montage and differences in technique and movement. Boyle opts for steadiness in an icy atmosphere in the struggles of Ralston, but allows him to revel in the excitement of hallucination, memory, and desire with a blurry and dreamy vision.

This factor in entertainment is used to make it easier to watch, but in many instances it can detract from the film. Where it could be pushing harder for connection, it instead distances through its surreality. Albeit, it may not be a necessarily bad technique, it can feel like the film is missing on pushing to greater heights in this character and in its technique of delivering a bridge between this struggle and the audience watching it.

Franco's performance of these struggles is remarkable. For the vast majority of the film, his acting and reacting to only himself show the mettle and range of this actor. As the film progresses and the clock turns, his characters disintegration from roller to rolled is affecting and a joy to watch. But again, it can feel like his characters distance from us is greater than the mere metres that split us.

Danny Boyle's experimental effort has yielded a great result. 127 Hours tells a simple and affecting story in a way to deliver it to a wider audience. His deliverance may win many over, but for me it was lacking in pushing itself and giving us a greater insight into this man, his motivation, and his struggle.

Catfish
Catfish(2010)
½

In what could be called the "other Facebook movie of 2010", Catfish is an intricate, delicate, and poignant view of our modern world, and the ways that technology is allowing us to meet others in it. It is a gripping and touching study of modern friendship and both the dangers and benefits of having them. In a world where close connections can be made without ever meeting that person - how well do you really know them?

Catfish is a film that must be seen. Poignancy to our current situation in time is key here, as we delve into important issues of safety, privacy, and morality in an online world. With its tight mystery, the film is breezy and infectious; relateable and assuring. It may come across as heavy-fisted in its portrayal of this situation, but its honesty and silk-lined understandings allow us to trust the people on display here. The Schulman brothers and Joost's handling of this material is expertly interwoven with touches of empathy. As the tale reveals itself, its characters motives are understandable and even invoke a certain compassion.

Catfish is difficult to write about, because it deserves so much praise but also deserves to have very little about its inner-workings revealed. To write this is to raise awareness of a special piece of cinema in a vague but enticing fashion. It simply must be seen.

Blue Valentine
½

Emotionally draining but highly rewarding, Blue Valentine is equal parts struggle and elation in its winding turns of mood and tone. It can be difficult spending time with these characters, but it can also be a joy in their company, and as their lives envelop and their stories are told - we understand them. We may not condone them, but each retains a certain respect in this on-screen struggle - largely given by immense chemistry in the performances of Gosling and Williams. The two are the head of the pack in their age range, and together in this they create magic.

Through its interchanging times in the relationship, the film is charming, sweet, and funny while harshly cutting to the present realities of a relationship in clear turmoil. It can be this fascinating and vividly realised portrait of this relationship that makes this story so real, its characters so magnetic, and its intensifying bleakness melancholic. Neither in this couple is painted as the antagoniser (though each in equal measure), but we nevertheless hope for things to turn out for the best.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)
½

Wildly elegant and enticing, Black Swan is an erratic, beautiful film tailored to obsession in the perseverence towards perfection. Portman's performance manages a balance of freedom and fine-tuned rigidity. She has a soft frailty to her character; a bright innocence continually longing for more. But the duality of her character allows Portman to truly shine in her character's polarised psychosis. It's the performance of her career and (much the same way of her character) is shown as a true immersion and dedication to her craft.

The pacing and structure of the film mimics the play at its centre. We pick up tempo and increase the momentum through peaks of lust and violence, lifting towards an erupting conclusion. There is a lingering sense of foreboding and danger throughout the picture. At any points it feels as though everything may tip through this nightmarish tone, almost pushing itself from a drama to a horror. This melodramatic nature makes for riveting viewing, and Aronofsky's capturing of this on-stage ballet action is astonishing.

The Kids Are All Right

An alternative and perceptive view on family and relationships, The Kids are All Right is a trend-setting example of modern filmmaking done right. Lisa Cholodenko's ease of tone with her direction and sharp wit with her writing has crafted a new-age version of growing up in this modern world. Her airy tone and differing characters are magnetic; their quirkiness is infectious and their personalities intriguing. Her story is palpable in its connection with the audience; its ideals and motives ring true on many occassions. And her cast is thoroughly impressive.

What makes this film truly special is how its different nature and different circumstances in story are never highlighted. Its characters and their unique situation is merely the backdrop for bigger things at play. The roles that each character plays are used more to highlight each as a place in a family, and how our roles effect and influence those around us.

Unstoppable
Unstoppable(2010)
½

Tony Scott's latest popcorn pleaser can be a lot of fun at times. It's frinetic tone and no-nonsense hero's action makes for an enjoyable enough time. Denzel Washinton and Chris Pine are fantastic together; their chemistry is likable, but they stand out in otherwise flop of a film. Unstoppable is ultimately a high-speed chase with a rickety start and a ridiculous point. It's narrative driving force is contrived and convenient, and makes one wonder how much of the film consists of the actual events that it retells.

The film begins with an incompetent error. That turns into a train carrying lethal chemicals. That turns into a train that will hurtle into a yard of fuel containers. It's a conveniently written series of events in a lazy story that turns this film away from the potential that it's director and stars try to bring to it.

However, Scott's handling of tone here is impressive. The intentional creaking slowness of the first act in the film allows the greater portion of the action to be highlighted and experienced. It's thrills in the battle of trying to slow such immense force hurtling towards a city can be exciting, though never enough to dimish its ultimate absurdity.

Let Me In
Let Me In(2010)

A remake delivered with extraordinary visual detail, solid performances from a young cast, and a strong dedication to its source material - Let Me In is a rarity. Director Matt Reeves has taken the highly impressive Swedith film of 2008 - "Let the Right One In" - and transferred it to a new setting. While the film resembles it's parent closely, there is a distinct stamp to it, never diulting its flavour but freshening it as a separate experience.The film is a testament to the surprise in filmmaking when time and freedom are given to a production to make it succeed, and what we are given is something that truly brings a familiar experience to a new audience, while never straying from the source of inspiration. Let Me In is a grim yet elegant production that seeps itself into its audience. Its slow, but always burns bright, and with such strong performances from its two leads it is sure to become a cult classic.

The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)
½

"What have you ever done with your life?". A stark quote that stands as the definition to this films small-town inhabitants; trapped and latching on to a hopeful success. The Fighter is a film about battles. Our typical boxing protagonist is aging and beaten but given a last effort shot at greatness. It feels initially like we've seen this before. But these physical battles in the ring take a backseat to the real battle happening in the film - the battle between dependence and independence.

Mickey Ward is the beaten star dependent on his family and brother. This brother, Dicky Eklund, is dependent on joys of the past and drugs of the present to relive them. It is the battles of these brothers where The Fighter turns itself into a keen study on character and relationships - and uses its sport and plot as a mere vehicle for this. Christian Bale is mesmerising in his role as the older brother latching on to a last hope to fill in the missing gaps in his own lifetime. His dedication to the role and conveyance of a man clearly living in another world in his head is one of the finest pieces of work from the already impressive actors back catalogue. His characters strut, ballooned eyes, and sinewy rage are marks of a man finely in tune with his character.

David O. Russell has given his film a tone steeped in reality. There is little in terms of generic audience adrenaline feeding and hero poses so often presented with this genre, and instead it opts as a vehicle more geared towards the pitfalls of its characters. Though this doesn't deter it from the generic character's predictability and redemption in its final act. Russell's screenwriters have given us a great story, but with strange pitfalls of its own. This predictability ends up costing the film, but thankfully its previous two acts prove strong enough to blow away any dropped punches.

Flipped
Flipped(2010)

Tender, earthly, and full of youthful innocence; Flipped is a film that conveys childhood confusion and growth with a soft beauty. There is a running sweetness throughout Flipped that makes it a charming and thoroughly absorbing affair with an astonishing cast that holds a determined edge on maturity. Madeline Carroll is a bright, intelligent, and interesting lead in Juli - the unique girl that is ahead of her years. Carroll displays these qualities with aplomb; she contends with her adult peers and sets herself apart as a talent to be watched.

Her counterpart is Callan McAuliffe in no less impressive. As a young boy learning from his mistakes, McAuliffe has given his character a steady ground and an inviting understanding. It could have been a difficult character to nail, but the young actor has given his '50's period child a magnetic quality that makes the audience want him to succeed.

Unfortunately though, for such an impressive film with a talented young lineup, it is a single short performance from Kevin Weisman that greatly detracts. His cliche' ridden mumblings pull out from an otherwise rounded piece, and needs to be noted as a rare mistep for this film.

Flipped is an understated stroke of mastery from Rob Reiner that deserves a solid audience. It's a sweet look at young life in the making, and is executed with an eye for wonder and hope that it should prove to stir a nostalgic stream of emotions in its viewers.

Animal Kingdom
½

Brutally absorbing and affecting, Animal Kingdom uses lashes of violence in a modern suburbia to depict paranoia and ego in the battle between cops and robbers. Sharp bursts of bloodshed and heated anger are spattered throughout the film; but it is the steady, calmed direction of debutant David Michod that makes the film stand out. The tone of the film manages to stay grounded without becoming flat due to its beautiful framing of scenes and intricate characters.

While initially flat themselves, the characters occupying this town are layered with individual issues. Ben Mendelsohn perfectly portrays this in one of the finest performances of the year as the fresh-out-of-jail uncle desparate to stay out. His evened voice inflections and subtle paranoid twitches make his character ever more interesting in his infamy.

And it is these bursts of surprise that come from this brilliant script and solid cast that push Animal Kingdom into a rounded beauty throughout. Jacki Weaver and Guy Pearce manage to bring one of the more memorable scenes from a simple setting, and Michod manages to push this further with a final shock to leave the viewers reeling. This really is an excellent film on all counts.

Tron Legacy
Tron Legacy(2010)
½

Atmospherically intoxicating - Tron: Legacy brings unique and dazzling sensations to the eyes and ears, fulfilling its promise of a futuristic lightshow to be treated as a special event. It's a rare beast of strong, shining visuals winning over any other aspect of the film without hurting it too much. Its simple story and characters take a comfortable back seat, only becoming an issue at times of convenience and contrivances in moving the plot forward. The film is a whirlwind of vibrant imagery to ignite the imagination, and with its fierce drumbeats and electronic sounds amplifying its atmosphere, the film is made to be something to be felt rather than dissected. There was still much room for the film to fly higher - and had the script been heavily tweaked and expanded - it may have reached those heights. Yet still - the film is dizzyingly satisfying as it is.

Somewhere
Somewhere(2010)

Acting more as an exercise in mood, Somewhere is a melancholic rumination on responsibility and personal direction in life. It has a slow, absorbing and hypnotic rythm to it; pulling in its audience through its dreamy visuals and flatline emotion. It's lead character is depressed and confused - meandering in circles through life - and Coppola's mastery of tone is given full flex in conveying this. Her actor's occupy their space and give such slight performances in many scenes that it is easy to dismiss them. But their work is great. Dorff wanders ghostly through the halls, while Fanning emits a glow to warm the screen.

The film's emittance of mood is digestible and moerish, but unfortunately this begins to waver in such a thin screenplay. These characters and their situation are evident, but the story is never compelling enough to push us easily along. There is much to enjoy in the film, but Coppola's melding of tone and story in this melancholic world isn't quite up to her standards shown in previous features.

The Town
The Town(2010)
½

An intellectual action thriller; The Town is a taut and absorbing heist film that manages to stay a step ahead while using already familiar plot mechanics. Thanks to sharp writing and restrained direction from Ben Affleck - who knows when and how to switch into his higher gears - the film stands as a stock story that works well. We are shown an adrenalised stamping of a crime spiralling community with an atypical protagonist who begins to think for himself. It's in this community where Affleck's second point of great direction comes from - pulling a great performance. It's the sibling characters played by the excellent Jeremy Renner and the knockout Blake Lively that stand out in an already impressive group of performers.

Skyline
Skyline(2010)

Cognitively dull yet visually beautiful, Skyline is a by-product of the visual effects laden genre that it inhabits. Its enclosed storytelling and simple character interactions never allow its world and its creations to take full hold, but for when we are given a glimpse of its outside events we are given something potentially unique and surprising given its budget. It can be a little difficult to trash a film like Skyline - simply because very little actually happens - but in many ways that is its biggest pitfall.

Outside of its lavish designs and execution of its outside invaders, the budget to the film is used cheaply. Its closed quarters storytelling nature never arouses real interaction for its disparate group. Though whenever interaction is forced, they do so with middling dialogue and ridiculous decisions.

These characters are simple tools with a simple deliverance from their cast, thinly veiled by glimpses of bright lights and giant aliens. Unfortunately for Skyline though, these lights aren't quite bright enough to make us forget about the rest of its pitfalls.

The Social Network

As a story of intrigue, it is uniquely fascinating. As a stylistic execution of this story, it excels to rare heights. As an encapsulation of the times and trends of the society in this story, it is exceptional. A character in The Social Network calls its subject matter a "once in a lifetime idea"; the story's muse almost lives up to that statement in its own right.
The Social Network is a rarity of cinema, a hip beast seemingly jumping on a train of current trends. Its timeliness screams for controversy and audiences as it loudly bashes the people populating it. It is a film that can all too often be made for the wrong reasons, but when an idea of timeliness is in the hands of a team of people who use it to showcase the changing world that we live in - the result is a marvel. The collaboration between a sharp screenwriter, an ever-evolving director, and a talented young cast has turned out a film that stands not only firmly atop its year, but as something to be remembered for touching the notes of its decade.
Aaron Sorkin has crafted something that gives a striking insight into the business and technology of our modern world, and the results of the youth who are utilizing it. There is a depth to this idea in the film as we follow our flawed character - Mark Zuckerberg - lieing and deceiving as he reinvents the wheel to take advantage of a new phenomenon. He never invents anything new, yet has the smarts and wit to push a simple idea in an exclusive fashion. It's fascinating to watch so much of this growing business in a two hour film, fine tuned with a strange swiftness from Sorkin. So much happens in this short time, yet its scene structure and sweet dialogue paints a much larger canvas. Between its cross-switching between the starry-eyed Zuckerberg at the very beginnings of his new empire, to the hardened businessman in Zuckerberg during later court proceedings, The Social Network provides its audience with a look at the phenomenal growth of the business in the film, and the people and relationships that live inside it.
David Fincher's direction continues to be of the highest-quality, and continues to be striking in the boldness and variety of the source material. The lensing of the film is gorgeous. There are so many darkened shots of the college years that contrast with the stark brightness of the business world that we are given a distinct flavour and difference between its two times. Its lighting and mood often also acts as a contrast to the flatness in mood from its main character, played with perfect reservation from Jesse Eisenberg.
The Social Network is a film that hits all of its marks with a high distinction and gives much room for thought and insight into a time of change in the world and the people who are pushing it. It is brilliant.

Saw 3D
Saw 3D(2010)

Formulaic, familiar and frankly just terrible. After the boost from its sixth entry, Saw VII (or "3D" as their marketers put it) acts as a wimpering flicker of a candle burning for far too long. The entire film is built upon scenes and plot turns seen numerous times in the series already, and any potential the film had was pushed to the side in a rushed, nonchalant manner. The entire film feels pushed - the actors trudge through their strides; their dialogue and characters in the slow turning pages of the script coming across like overt copies of what we have seen in previous entries. But not only is its plot familiar and predictable - but (even for a Saw film) it is completely illogical. Its traps and victims are never given an ounce of humanity but feel given as simple puppets to showcase the gore of its technical marvel. It is void of any sense of care as the people who populate it are nobodies and their torturers motives are ever more waivered.
Saw VII is the worst film in the series and something to unfortunately tarnish what has been unsteadily building for seven years. It is a snide goodbye to its fans and a disservice to movegoing marketing suckers.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
½

Abundances of energy and quirky humour are what immediately set Scott Pilgrim vs. the World apart from many other films of its target market. While its visuals and general style are highly original and addictive in its setting, it boils down to its basic element of fun that make the film an easy and thoroughly enjoyable watch. Its heightened world and adrenalised characters battling in an arcade style grudge-match give it a quintissential generational quality - something acting as both a strength and weakness. Its ambition for originality is so grand, but its scope so little in terms of audience that the film is doomed to be remembered by the few. But those who take hold of this gem will find something warming and hilarious; a film harnessing the pop-culture elements of its decade with the energy of its youth.

Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey

Blending his mastery of the silent era with the storytelling of a voice production, Carl Theodore Dreyer constructed one of the most staple examples of the transition in filmmaking of this time. Vampyr is a strange, ghostly picture of eery visuals and dreamily progressing scenes. It's a dark, demanding effort to watch but its experimental nature makes for a fascinating and pioneering achievement.

Night Nurse
Night Nurse(1931)
½

While Stanwyck and Gable do wonders with the material given to them, this briskly paced film moves so quickly that it cuts entire sections of its story out, making for a disjointed, patched film that never gives its audience the time or chance to be drawn into its strange plot workings. The film is a provocative piece during modest times, but its characters are drearily one-dimensional and their relationships so alarmingly out of tune.

City Lights
City Lights(1931)

Through City Lights, Chaplin captures a raw essence of emotion, harnessing the core nature of joy, excitement, and love. The film is a transcendental exploraton of a unique individual connection between two people in a big city that is accessible for a current generation as the ones prior. Its naive tone makes for a sweet, thoroughly touching picture that brightens any mood and acts as a staple film for all to feel.

Inception
Inception(2010)
½

Nolan's labyrinthine film of deception and mystery is a study into the fabric of human nature - our thoughts, desires, trusts, and our limitless potential. The film is an extremely ambitious and original exploration of how our mind works and interprets the world around us. By throwing the audience into a concept as open as this, the film is allowed to soar high and wide; a scope reaching as far as the imagination of its creator allows. And the world given to us is something of rich detail.

Nolan's creativity flourishes in this. His ability to push the visuals into an area matching the ideas behind it is astounding. He not only creates a visual tapestry for us, but plants a blueprint onto us as a pane of understanding. His brush strokes of surreality in normal scenarios are married wonderfully with his concept of the depths to our thinking in the normal world that we live in.

But it is these small details littered throughout Inception that turn it into something special. Not only has a grand canvas been constructed, but the finer points along the way are strung together like puppetry. Nolan's mascots wade their way through this ocean of surreal excitement with bravado. There are no weak links. An impressive effort in such a demanding film.

Predators
Predators(2010)

Tight and tense; Antal knows how to take a simple premise and give it an effective atmosphere of dread and intrigue. Predators is by no means a film that breaks expectation, but it understands itself well enough to know its sources of inspiration and what fields to amplify itself in. It harnesses the thrill of the McTiernan classic, and while it could never match the brutality - it does an admirable job. While the movie is always in step with the audience - never really surprising us - the real surprise comes in the package as a whole; it is never bad.

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)
½

A rare delicasy; rich in texture, constructed by an artist, and tasting as exquisite and lively as its story and characters. All of the obvious adjectives describe Ratatouille, but at its core it remains something new and daring; a film with a crazy premise with an equally crazy execution.

Brad Bird has delivered an unexpected gem from the powerhouse of animation. Ratatouille sparks the beginning of Pixar's stream of films that stray far from the normal for its genre. Visually - the film is the most involving and detailed of the studio's high calibre history. Paris hasn't looked this good since the brushstrokes of the artists of old who gave the city its rich visual history. But Bird has followed suit, showcasing a dazzling array of lights in the cityscapes, to the ruffled fur of the rats below. Its a dazzling visual feast that supplements the main course of the story.

Through its innovative and wild scenes, Ratatouille is built as an exotic adventure, and a bold step in storytelling from a likely muse in an unlikely situation. Remy the rat, and his passion, are so inviting and his adventures so enticing that the film moves swiftly. While being in one of the most bustling and artistic cities in the world, the scope of the film is small, but it never proves a hindrance. Instead, the characters - and the films - ambition, is a trait that pushes it into something truly extraordinary.

Cars
Cars(2006)

Childishly silly in its level of enjoyability, Cars is a film of formula and familiarity with obvious twists. While it may ultimately feel like more of a chore for an older audience, its brands of humour and characters are sure to please children - and with that, Pixar are onto a winner. The studio's usual charm of rounded family entertainment may be absent, but Cars holds everything for an adrenaline charged youth outing. Its colours are dizzying, its pace swift, and its characters likeable and diverse. The world of Cars is borderline absurd, but this absurdity allows for a very easy-going level of fun.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3(2010)
½

Through the original brand of charm, humour, and emotion that Pixar has so successfully imbued into its films, none has had the impact of its Toy Story franchise, and with the late inclusion of this third outing the studio has laid one more aspect - nostalgia. The greatest thing Pixar could have done was to hold off on making this film, and the eleven year wait has proven the perfect piece of timing.

The films initial use of nostalgia and reintroduction of these characters occurs naturally - it's been eleven years since playing with these friends, yet as an audience we fit right back in. Both their journey up to this point, and the transitions taking place, are all understood. But it's the films use of nostalgia from this point that is most impressive, through the use of the series main link - the owner Andy. It's the growth of this character, and the growth of the audience through this gap, that makes Toy Story 3 something special. The children who grew up with the original doubtlessly felt a certain attachment and familiarity with it; and so too will they feel a familiarity with the themes of this film.

The notions of attachment, of maturity, and the stages of our life are succinctly and effectively brought to the screen. It's a celebration of childhood, but also the sayonara to that chapter and the goodbye to friends. It is this deft blend of poignant emotion, of rousing and unpredictable thrills, and of genuine humour that has given Pixar its worthy status of being at the forefront of family entertainment, and the best in the business at giving original fare for broad audiences.

The studio has given us a treat with this film - a visual delicacy rich in colour and texture, and something so moving and real that the toys onscreen are the kind of friends that you'll never want to say goodbye to.

Easy Rider
Easy Rider(1969)
½

Aimless yet poignant, Dennis Hopper's directorial debut is a distressingly realised vision of escapism and freedom always holding its costs; a freedom that can never be bought. The film is a myriad of cruising scenery with an eye for its decade's level of easing against society's foundations. It's themes are as striking as they are surprising in its context, and its characters as unbalanced to reality as their sense of direction. The film is an example of tone and theme coming to front with a clarity that is rarer in films that try harder. Easy Rider truly is a film that delivers without needing to exert itself.

A Nightmare on Elm Street
½

For a film all about not falling asleep, the latest re-imagining of the supernatural burns victim with a grudge almost put me into a coma. While visually appealing, there is very little to take home from this bored, derivative horror film that lacks scares or any semblance to its iconic original.

Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2(2010)
½

The hip superhero franchise continues strongly thanks to Favreau and Downey Jnr.'s sheer enthusiasm, but it's newcomers Rourke and Rockwell who steal the show. Rourke's straight-foward brute of an antagonist blends brilliantly with the deceptive weasel played by Rockwell, a chemistry that takes the thunder from the other myriads of partnerships scattered throughout the film. But for what could be considered the biggest achievement of the picture, the film has escaped an over-abundance of plot material and delivered something fairly streamlined and enjoyable.

Kick-Ass
Kick-Ass(2010)
½

Taking its genre. style, and societal implications to their most extreme, Kick-Ass is a film almost relishing in its overt nature of bloodshed and sarcasm. Vaughn's handling of this snide and sarcastic material is upbeat and, while highly provocative, a lot of fun.

She's Out of My League
½

Many jokes fall flat, the film feels rushed and awkard in pushing these two people together, and nothing stands out in terms of comedy or chemistry. Yet there is still a likeability to the film in rare moments where its goofy missteps come off with genuine charm....and my oh my - Alice Eve is something special on screen. Every scene of hers sizzles the frame and melts everything around.

Alice in Wonderland
½

Burton's kooky fantasyscapes may be intriguing, but his film as a whole is far from wonderful. While this revisionist Alice in Wonderland lends itself to a more streamlined plot, it stills feels as though something is missing. The film as a whole has a strange level of flatness to it, detracting from the inventiveness that should be flooding the screen. Its thrills never rouse and its emotion never lifts. The whole 100 minutes ends up breezing by without the impact of something with more depth and attention to beauty in its exploration of insanity. It's casting, however, is pitched nicely - Wasikowska is charming without the overt niceties of the character of old, and its voice talent proves to be a true highlight.

Hunger
Hunger(2009)
½

A strong, daring, and dedicated projection of a simple story, Hunger is a film that takes risks in everything that it chooses. Its structure is fresh, its aesthetics grimy, its photography delicious, and its performances unflinching in their honesty. This is a forceful film taking assault on the senses and a battering towards empathy. Steve McQueen has constructed one of the most memorable film debuts in a decade of new faces, giving one of the most photographically sound and atmospherically real experience in recent years. His use of silence is captivating - forcing its audience into the visuals, and forcing us to truly absorb the atmosphere and essence of this hell. It's a film that has the kind of impact to embed its visuals into the viewer, while digging its humanity into your soul.

Bronson
Bronson(2009)

Brutal and beautiful, Bronson is a monsoon of unbridled violence married with an artistic flair that mimics its leads chaotic nature. Its a montage of blood and anger with a near aimless dedication from our titular fighter, that eventually leads itself an irony - Bronson's endeavour for fame sees a man never basking in its glory. He's a powerless soldier wounding those around without a reward or real purpose. And for this aspect, in what could have proven to be a killing point for the film, lends itself wonderfully to its tone and aesthetics. Nicholas Winding Refn never tries for more from his character - Bronson is an angry brute - and it proves to be a daring and provoking portrayal played with true magnetism from Tom Hardy. As Bronson, Hardy has given this simple character so much charisma and charm that he becomes likeable; a person of violence with the soul of a comedian. It's one of the finest performances of its year.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Such a wonderfully inventive and surreal experience. While almost alienating on an initial viewing, the film becomes a straight-forward example of fate and feelings. It's about the chemistry that binds us; something that can never be erased or manipulated. In a turn towards melancholy, Carrey plays against typecast with a brave performance, but it's Winslet's confused and kooky character that brings warmth and beauty. This is a brilliant film.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Humbling, harrowing, hard to digest; Precious is a harsh reality delivered to the screen with an unflinching determination of showcasing the evils of a modern day suburban world. Its tone is real, and its subjects grim, yet the film is captivating in its lessons - painted in ruthless pictures. Gabourey Sidibe is a revelation in her role, applying both the worldy inexperiences of a teenager with the ironic wisdoms learnt from these unfair lessons, delivering it with a quiet yet intimidatingly strong conviction. If she is the hero of the piece, then director Lee Daniels is her visual muse - telling her story with a straight edge. He never wavers into territory unfitting of the setting, and instead opts to bring a tone alarmingly in balance. And it works wonders. It's a simple film, stylistically and narratively, but its impact is undeniably strong - be it through shock or empathy.

Crazy Heart
Crazy Heart(2009)
½

A film all too familiar with a construction all too predictable, Crazy Heart is hardly anything we haven't seen before, but thanks to its sheer passion and persistence - the old girl still has some gas in the tank. With tender strokes and a warmth that makes it so inviting, its the kind of film that embraces the viewer, holds onto us, and lets us know that everything is going to turn out ok. We may be witnessing a man playing the same record over and over, but what we are also witnessing is the man finding the push to put on something new; to find a nudge to restart his love, and his life. Jeff Bridges gives his character this magnetic quality - we may never agree with Bad Blake, but we are there to look out for him. It isn't so much Bridges playing a country music star, as it is Bridges playing music. The man gives something that almost transcends itself into art.

Shutter Island

A psychotic thriller hearkening to the roots of it's genre in terms of style and tone, Scorsese's latest is a twisted film with a twisting narrative. The film is an exemplary example of storytelling; a high calbre genre piece that fires on all cylinders. Di Caprio is in top form as the rattled lead, Schoonmaker proves why she's one of the best in the business with her ferocious scene transitions, and Scorsese delivers a style grounded in the old - but with so much vigour for the new. Shutter Island is a piece that will surely grow in stature, with more time for its gritty aesthetics and winding narrative to be digested.

The Wolfman
The Wolfman(2010)
½

With a complete lack of chemistry between cast and a non-existent level of coherence in scene progression, The Wolfman is a film void of thrills, entertainment, or even audience care. Benicio Del Toro is cast as the fearsome lycanthrope, a character we are to care for, but turns in a lazy, stilted performance. If this were his intention, then the only person who possibly betters that intention is Anthony Hopkins, wavering over his lines as if his head in another space altogether. The film was marred by production hurdles, and it shows.

A Serious Man
½

Flat and dull - The Coen Brothers have once again given a film of tonal mastery; the only real downside being that this tonal control has given a film of bland wandering. A Serious Man is a simple film aiming to provoke thought through allegory, but it's main issue lies in the fact that the film is never endearing enough for it's themes to be given an impact. It's story is flat, it's characters unmoving, and it's ambiguities too little too late. The real winners of the film come through Deakins lensing of this simple living, and Burwell's strangely enticing score. Otherwise though, A Serious Man is a seriously half-baked film.

The Road
The Road(2009)

In it's depiction of a living nightmare, The Road is a bleak drudging of steps masquerading as a journey with hope. The film is dank, depressing, and gives no real light to justice and optimism. It's execution of this reality is flawless.
Director John Hillcoat has given this chaotic chasm a level of rawness that makes it palpable and encapsulating. While the film leads its clued audience nowhere, it still manages to drag us along willingly. Never does it falter in its shock and despair, given in its visuals setting a powerful textural mood, and through Mortensen's harrowing father - the muse of the tale who knows an inevitable fate. He and Smit-McPhee are the powerhouses at the centre of a world eating itself.

The Lovely Bones
½

Peter Jackson's journey into the connections of people and the worlds we live in is a fascinating, ambitious film that unfortunately gets lost in its imbalance. Though the film - for the most part - successfully pulls off its transitions between genre, it feels as though the polish ran thin in certain areas, causing its slight hiccups to be more noticeable then needed. As the film takes its turns from the surreality of a picturesque vision of heaven, to the reality of a hell on Earth being watched from above, rarely does the film become too jarring. It's a feat to be commended, as each is given a level of care that keeps each an individual showpiece, that manages to blend nicely. Yet, it's care seems dulled the more we spend in either side. As the pages unfold, the surreal can turn into the absurd, and the words in the real world lose their impact. The script begins to flake, and it becomes obvious that there was much lost potential in the chapters that flow through the film.
Regardless though, Jackson has delivered a tender project of beauty, with heavy forceful blows of tension that are well-timed. The film has been unfairly maligned by the masses.

An Education
An Education(2009)

The loss of innocence, the expanding of an isolated personal world, and the shattering of adolescence - 'An Education' delves into a swift entrance into the adult world for a teenager on the cusp, and how it isn't all that is expected. Carey Mulligan gives the performance of the year as the smart, but unwise, schoolgirl reading all about the world, but never really understanding it, and never living inside of it. A passionate girl, beyond her years, she gives a body to the adolescent archetype of rebellion and knowledge; only flirting with the potential for mistakes. Where the film truly lifts off though is through director Lone Scherfig's boldened contrast of the extravagent new world that is explored for our schoolgirl, and the controlling drabness of her real-world life. But, as always apparent, there are no shortcuts to the world of high life, be it through thievery, dishonesty, or luck. The drabness of the real-world is something to wade through.

Dragonball Evolution

So the script is lacking. So the characters are as thin as paper and as blunt as rock. So the script moves faster than it's characters flying fists. Dragonball Evolution is a bad film, is exactly what it was always going to be, but I'll be damned if there isn't a degree of fun to the project that keeps it watchable.

Garden State
Garden State(2004)

Zach Braff's melancholic look into the treadmill of early adult life and the quest to find one's self is magnetic and moving, at once a push to move on with life as we progress into responsibility, but also a statement backing this important stage of growth. The film is impressive in its level of exploration through simplicity, and its sharp - almost metaphorical - shot compositions.

Up in the Air
½

Ryan Bingham is isolated yet always amongst people; he is assured of his wants, which prove to be a mere illusion; he is a man embracing a lifestyle of monotony, negative to any change in his workplace. Ryan Bingham is the 21st century worker, a person who's life and job blur into one. Jason Reitman's look at a man of solidarity is a look at the workforce of the decade we live in - a balancing act that will always tip heavily in the favour of a job to support relationships that are difficult to hold together. The film shines a light on our future - our often inability to grasp it, but the push we take in finding our place and our happiness. It pushes away from the tedium of a working life and the evolution of the workplace, and pushes towards the interconnectivity of people, of being physically together.

Jason Reitman's script, in what is a deceptively simple story of change, is one of the smartest and most layered of the year. The film is a classic tale of growth in industry and personal lives, but it's invigoration and tone of the climate is timely, true, and tremendously enjoyable.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Brisk in pace yet short on thrills, high in effects yet lacking in spectacle - the third outing for Brendan Fraser and his pistol proves a complete misfire from the very beginning. This, the third in 'The Mummy' franchise, is entertainment with a lack of skill, wit, and any semblance of dedication to potential. The film is a mash of convenient plot elements thrown together to give it's audience characer relationships we care little for and scene progression that more often than not can confuse and irritate. It's divulging of plot elements is both lazy and - on the other hand - severly washed over, where details are given abruptly and pushingly . The saving grace is Fraser doing what he does best - playing the buffoon hero - but even his trying efforts can't save a script disaster and a pacing issue faster than it's leads wise-cracking antics. Rob Cohen - your revisiting to Chinese culture is an utter dissapointment.

Where the Wild Things Are

As a striking example of honing tone and originality, Spike Jonze's interpretation of a childhood longing for pride and status sits high on the list of experimental children's fables. The film is a melancholic, but all-the-while levitating, ponderance of escapism and the need for a place in society. It hits all the right notes in the many different facets of what it is to be a child, and the problems experienced in growing up, yet at the end still seems to be facing a slight block. The film's meandering and melancholy qualities can somewhat act as a slight deterrant, with it's creatures impersonal while entertaining. But slight discrepencies aside, Where the Wild Things Are is one of the finer examples of cinema befitting a child's world.

I Love You, Man
½

As a twisted love tale that turns cinema's model of the search for a relationship, 'I Love You, Man' proves to be an endearing and charming reshaping of the comedic outlook on couples. Rudd, as the reserved and nervous loner, and Segel as the erratic 30-year old child, prove to be a wonderfully matched couple. Had the film not had such obvious product placements and such an obvious ending, it may have reached higher.

The Hurt Locker

With a visual treat of raw despair and one of the more effective insights into the current struggles of war in the third world - The Hurt Locker certainly has it's strong points. The issue with the film however, is that these strong points sit on the surface, leaving the blank and sometimes monotonous struggles to push through - with little apparent meaning or purpose for something that has already been established in the beginning of the film. The Hurt Locker begins with a message - the Iraq war is a losing and difficult battle, but the film does very little to build on this.

Avatar
Avatar(2009)
½

Pushing ambition, production complexity, and relevant themes into a highly taut package - Avatar is a monumental film achievement to push the very boundaries of cinema. The film is a visual wonder, a sociological muse, and an example of the holllywood blockbuster being used to great original effect. The gamble and hype was almost too much to pull off, but the vision and creativity of one of cinema's most trustful minds has delivered something that stands firmly in the domain of family entertainment. The film isn't the game changer that has been reported, however, but then again - nothing ever will be.

500 Days of Summer

Smart, vibrant and human - (500) Days of Summer is an honest yet fantastical look at the interconnectivity between people and the encounters that pit us together. The film is life, relationships and reality in the space of a nutshell, at once a push towards the harsh truths of the world, but with a reminder of the faint hope that whispers unexpectedly to wash it away. While it's tones of indie fandom may lean towards a new-age cliche' of sorts, the film proves something of a ray of light from the beginning as it's narrator smashes any sense of this - this film is not a love story. It is a look at relationships, which hold so much more. It is a look at the chemistry that binds us, the chances in life, and the random acts in the possible notion of fate. At it's core - the film is about growth, and the relationships we hold before "the one".

Samson and Delilah

Raw, intense, and yet beautifully poetic. The quiet Samson and Delilah is a film of visual majesty and storytelling through gestures; it's dialogue means little, but it's pictures mean everything. The film is a rumination on lost youth in a degrading community, and the clear differences in race and culture that unfortunately still exist.

Paranormal Activity
½

A masterclass in hype. The issue with Paranormal Activity is that - for it's budget - the film is impressive, yet it is also this level of experience that begins to show as a weakness when taken in it's theatrical context. While the film knows how to scare, it tends to rarely push these scares to the extremes that it is begging for. It moves at a slowly inclining pace, yet tends to become more predictable as it's tension rises throughout. The film is watchable - even enjoyable at parts - but for it's level of showcase it's script becomes a telling sign of filmmakers learning their craft.

Up
Up(2009)
½

Pixar's most mature film to date is a wonderful blend of childish humour and adult entertainment. The film is a beautiful example of animation, filled with striking colour and faces that have experienced much. The artistry of the film makes the adventure so fantastical and captivating to follow; it's themes relevant to any timeframe and it's characters accessible to a broad range of ages. The film is right up there with the best from one of the most consistent studios in the filmmaking industry.

Inglourious Basterds
½

Self-indulgant, extraordinarily innacurate, and holding a cinematic style unbeffiting to it's source material - Inglorious Basterds is a mish-mash of style and substance, but with this film - Quentin Tarantino has come out ahead. In a reflection of the spaghetti-western flair that is used as inspiration, the film is a slow-burner with bursts of flame. It is exciting, yet it gives ample time to gel. Many scenes may tend to drag too long (a usual fault of the director), but as a make-up to this Tarantino delivers scene-on-scene with a clear departure from his usual style, that is executed successfully. Inglorious Basterds never protrudes itself too much and never cements itself as a film trying to be something that it isn't; instead, if offers a sly revisioning of the most well documented period in history, with glee and stylistic bravado. The film is fun, the film is different, and the film is able to indulge both director and audience.

Public Enemies

Technically and stylistically impressive, Public Enemies is a winding exploration of the romanticised early gangster-era America. While the film lacks any true insights into its characters, its bold deliverance of this time and its balance between the energy of its action and the energy between the leads makes for a worthwhile film experience.

Drag Me to Hell
½

Pushing for a unique blend of humour and horror, Sam Raimi has crafted a piece with peculiar scenes - what begins as a fright, ends in a laugh. In many respects the tone of the film is to poke fun at the low-budget horror that plagues screens - over-the-top gore from a carbon copy slasher. But don't be fooled by this often written about aspect of the film.

Drag Me To Hell has it's fair share of straight chills proving Raimi still understands the inner workings of a good scare. The suspense of some scenes works nicely in their own right, and the general spiral of the character's despair is catching. But what Raimi understands more than anything is the blandness that can be had from too much fright.

The continual transitions from thrill to chuckle are never jarring and never protrude as being tacked to a scene. Instead, they blend effortlessly; an engine that changes gear with ease as we move our grip from the arms of the side rests to the grips of our sides.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

A classy yet exciting picture, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a balanced, taut film that has brought the best out of it's many departments, making it a fierce competitor for the title of "best of the series". The film is a character study at heart, with magic as a side, allowing for Yates to make a matured film that aims to pull the viewer in a more unconventional way for the series. It is beautiful to look at, and exceptional in its transition from page to screen.

Bruno
Bruno(2009)

Short and punchy, Bruno is a film that aims to shock and inspire laughter through provocative scenes and underlying messages about our views on aspects in society that are considered different. It's humour is effective and its insights into the reactions against stereotype work well, but its provocation and limited range force the film to rerun its tracks. While the film will ultimately please, the main problem with Bruno is its short room to move in terms of comedy and message - the audience understands what is being said, and have devoured the tone of humour within the first half hour. Qualms aside though, for the limited time that Bruno runs for - it is funny. Sacha Baron Cohen understands this raw, documentary style filmmaking and while it may not have the same impact as his previous work (Borat), Bruno offers enough laughs and squirms.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Messy and absurd, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a film that harnesses the formula of it's predecessor, but makes the harsh mistake of putting it's gears into overdrive. Where the balance of action, humour, and even character growth worked well in the first, Bay instead decided to ham things to obscene levels in it's follow-up. The film is a poorly made sampling of story stitched together by predictable action scenes and dull humour. If it's a bunch of fighting robots that you're after, try checking out 'Year One' across the hall - you'll get the same effect.

Knocked Up
Knocked Up(2007)
½

Hugely infectious and highly memorable, Knocked Up blends a mix of drama and comedy into a cocktail of emotion that is rarely matched. It's insights into relationships,

Speed Racer
Speed Racer(2008)
½

A dazzling array of lights and whirring sounds propels Speed Racer into a heightened level of sensation and immersion. The film is a blistering showcase of eye candy and adrenalised tempo where the cartoon world of high-octane racing crashes into reality - with a unique force. The Wachowski brothers have crafted an enjoyable gem that entertains and intrigues. They're filmmaking eye has been sent into overdrive as the experimentations with editing, visual effects, and colour have been used to a rare extent.

But it pays off. Speed Racer is a film that pushes its viewers as fast as the roaring wheels of its cars, propelling us into the dizzying lights and splattered colouring that adorns the frame.

The Unborn
The Unborn(2009)

Horror 101: The Unborn is a film of cheap thrills and lacklustre scares. It envelopes itself into the same rudimentary basics of horror films that have been used time and again, churns out foreseeable scare tactics atop predictable plot turns, and holds very little under its shallow surface.

David Goyer - co-writer of the excellent 'Batman Begins' - has given his film baby the kind of care that an easily distracted mother gives her child. The film tries for a palpable substance - its pretensions of the notions of mirrors and demon mythologies lay bare - and it cries to the audience for a reaction. But it is never noticed.

The Unborn is a vapid film with little merit in its genre, and even less for the medium of film.

Rachel Getting Married

Absorbing and explicit in the reality that it exudes, Rachel Getting Married is a study of life and relationships, family and love, and the many paths that are undertaken through life. The film is an entrenching experience that pits its viewer into a crowd of familiar faces; we've never seen them, but yet we know them. It is this constant sense of familiarity and connection that runs throughout Jenny Lumet's screenplay that binds the viewer into the family.

Demme's experimental camera work has been given a perfect vehicle to be exercised in, and Hathaway gives a full realisation to a character of muddled confusion. Out of all of the familiar faces and sense of history that is garnered from this film, it is Hathaway's complex character that is ironically the easiest to come to terms with.

Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans

As thinly written as its creatures tolerance to daylight and as predictable as its (other) creatures transformation into a hideous beast once a month (werewolves in this case, not women), the latest entry in the Underworld saga is a bleak film with little point. It acts as a sequel to events that are already known with little fresh development to entice new audience goers. But at this level in the field - new members of the audience aren't expected, nor are people wanting more than a bash-up between two immortal races. And for that, Rise of the Lycans succeeds well.

The film's Romeo and Juliet daubs throughout the film act to counterbalance the bloodshed and brutality that the people crave. But even in the heat of battle, we are left craving for more. Tatapoulos' handling of action is novice, relying heavily on choppy editing to bring the illusion of hard hitting imagery. He wants the audience to revel in this war, yet never gives us enough of a taste throughout his overly dark imagery and single second shot lengths.

Really though, the impact we are left with is more of a cat scratch then a werewolf swipe.

Wendy and Lucy
½

Simplicity is the driving force of Wendy and Lucy - a film of truth and emotion wrought through an unusual look at the human spirit. Never wavering from the honesty of small town living, Wendy and Lucy is a film stuck in the slums - its character has endured hardships that continue to spiral, yet her persistence becomes a way of living on her way to achieving something in life.

Complementing this is Reichardt's keen eye for capturing beauty in the mundane. She has taken an impoverished, straight story and given it a treatment that never detracts from what is needed.

But while this approach of focusing on simplicity can often lead to obvious directing choices, it is the restrained performance from Williams that shines through her drab clothing and dirty hair. Her character is a woman travelling with a goal, but halted by the society around her.

Rumble Fish
Rumble Fish(1983)

With some of the most impressive visuals that I have ever witnessed in film and a European inspired design sense, Rumble Fish is a unique, engrossing, and highly memorable film. It could easily be argued that its style tends to detract from the characters and any relevant themes in the film, but it instead amplifies the need for insight and concentration as we wade through Coppola's beautiful noirish visuals. There isn't a single frame from the picture that couldn't be considered instantly iconic imagery.

Happy-Go-Lucky

Erratic and full of life - Happy-Go-Lucky is refreshingly optimistic and real, giving a light-hearted view on people and friendships in an increasingly cynical world. The film is a bubbly look into the approaches we take as we traverse through life, all the while injecting us with the contagious feelings of happiness and fulfilment. But more than anything, there is just so much to enjoy in this bright picture.

These notions of life being spent with vigour and brightness is painted into the character of Poppy Cross, who is inflated into this kooky reality by Sally Hawkins. Hawkins gives heart to this woman and peppers her with so many underlying thoughts. She is a pinnacle of optimism, but there are times when the burdens of the world seem too much even for the brightest of lights. She feels the want to spread this light, yet on often occasions she is read differently. Hawkins is beautiful in the role. She is kooky but real and colourful with an array of shades. Being with her and breathing the same morals that she bestows gives a stream of smiles.

But to mirror the zany and colourful nature of Poppy, director Mike Leigh has opted to use his paintbrush to its fullest potential. The screen is forever sprayed with dabs of contrasting colour - blues, pinks, greens, yellows - which only adds to the heightened sense of fresh optimism that the film exudes. The film is full of seemingly incidental shots of colour - from Poppy's dress attire to the local bar and school that she frequents.

Leigh has given his film a constant sense of realistic optimism and trying. There are continual barriers to make us question the effectiveness of our lead characters warmth, but it is her ultimate ideal of "no harm in trying" that solidifies her as an individual swayed only by her instinct. Happy-Go-Lucky is sweet, funny, and full of life - I haven't enjoyed spending time with a character as much as this one in a long time.

Snow Angels
Snow Angels(2007)

The breakdown of the family unit and the faults that we each hold binds Snow Angels into an absorbing and touching view on small town life, where the community is close yet the people can be distant. While small in scope there is a great deal of heart to the production - with fine performances and emotional scenes.

There is a lot to like in Gordon-Green's film of love in its many distant phases of its characters, but ultimately its small scope becomes a hindrance. Too often does the film feel like it has nothing truly special to say, and too often does it feel like a mere walk with these characters. Through its qualms though, Snow Angles manages to come out a very strong three stars.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Explosions that smoulder and a plot that never reaches far, the Day Earth Stood Still is a forgettable film that never takes any risks, never breaks any bounds, and never reaches its level of potential. The film has interesting moments of politics, some inspired visual design elements, and a sprinkling of adrenaline - but it ultimately fades as quickly as the arrival of its mysterious space spheres.

For the entirety of the film, it always feels as if it merely touches on its strongest aspects while focusing heavily on the droll in between. The execution of the lead up to a possible apocalyptic event of this proportion has the potential for insightful and exciting cinema, and while The Day the Earth Stood Still holds just enough to satisfy audience members - it remains something for the short term memory.

The film finds its true strides, however, in the notions of our race and our place on the planet. The film touches on the idea of the destructive nature of humans, our arrogance and failures. But it successfully takes the notion a step further by never highlighting our ignorance, instead showing that we are aware of our destructive nature yet still do little to avert it. Our arrogance pushes us to continue in the same manner, and the film - while never poking the idea too much - gives an interesting conversation regarding this very truthful fact.

In many ways this is an off branch from the typical philosophies of the genre, but apart from that there is very little that stands out in the film.

Let the Right One In

An uncompromisingly grim lesson about the line between needs and wants, Let the Right One In is intense, stylistic and heavily enjoyable. With a tone almost as still and chilling as the icy settings that it inhabits, the film is something that evens morbid events with the unusual connections between the characters. It's horror overtones counterbalance the more softened child romance at its core, all the while achieving it seamlessly - there are never reversions between the two tones, but instead a melding of the two. There is a palpable, true connection between these characters, where the violence in the film seems almost second nature.

But the notion of Let the Right One In that protrudes more than any other is the need for blood. The notion of its use for survival is split between the need and the want - explored through the pursuit of vengeance and its place. Our young, lonely character Oskar embodies the youthful resentment and want for revenge.

Next to Oscar though is his vampiric friend, played in a role seemingly far beyond the years of newcomer Lina Leandersson - who brings a strange wisdom and weariness to her child character. Her scenes are delivered with the voice of a well traveled individual, who holds so much so closely to the chest. Her character has a past - and while it is unspoken, we understand and warm to the character.

Let the Right One In is a fluid film - it is made with a delicate eye and the pen of someone delivering freshness into a tired tale. The twist on the myths of the vampire are given an insightful - albeit skimming - light where nothing is ever defined, but instead asks the audience to look further and to make their own thoughts on the history and place of this created world and its characters.

The Wrestler
The Wrestler(2008)

The Wrestler is as warmly inviting as it is shockingly confronting, and as gritty as it is true to life. The film is honesty and heartache, wrapped into an escapist life seen as a waste - only finding value and truth when it all seems too late. Where the Wrestler finds its true audience enticing factors lie not in its stage theatricality, but in the mulling of our battling bag of meat - traversing job to job, and senselessly wading through life.

More often than not, Aronofsky has given his film an almost documentarian outlook - there are constant tracking shots where we follow 'The Ram' in his everyday life. We track his journey and become an integral part in it; he feels that no one is there - a lonely battler - but the audience is put directly behind him. As the man walks through life, questions are asked about his choices - spending money to make money, and breaking skin to sleep in a bed at night.

The Wrestler is a film that both celebrates and pummels the sport at its core, highlighting the stage entertainment that it brings, but balancing it with the eminent dangers. It draws the line between theatricality and harm - where the audience and a buck is given priority over health and future, all in a very confronting nature. Aronofsky tends to rarely soften the blows like the sport condones, but instead makes the audience feel every second of it.

But while our leading character takes a physical battering, it is his emotional journey that can prove more painful. Rourke's transformation is all too real - his hardened face and wilful dedication gives the film an extra level of reality. 'The Ram' is a man that has experienced much, yet seems to have never gone anywhere in life, and Rourke's capturing of these heartfelt notions are immediately noticeable - he is a true standout for the year.

JCVD (Van Dammage)

Surreality and a raw intensity push JCVD into a surprising limelight, where emotion and insight is found in the place of the normal adrenalised absurdity from the star actors latter films. In many respects, JCVD is a film where its protagonist is speaking to the audience, and while it does this literally in certain instances, there is still a constant feeling that we are witnessing a hyper reality of the famed martial artist. There is a continuous blur between reality and the fictionalised nature of film, where even Van Damme confuses the two - thanks mainly to adoring fans.

But in this limelight of the star, there is a palpable sense of it dimming to a twilight - an end of a career - as we are being asked for a fresh start, a new beginning into a brighter, more insightful world.

If JCVD is the new direction that the man wishes to take, then we have much to look forward to - he truly is exceptional in the picture. While the film is short, it packs a mightily swift emotional kick where you just might change your outlook on the man's filming principles.

Just a quick side note: This film holds what is probably the most memorable opening shot of any film this year.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
½

A magical, fantastical encapsulation of life and the journey's we take, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film tied strongly to the concept of miracles and how the world and its people shapes us into who we are. At it's core, Benjamin Button makes an enlightening reflection of ageing, through its mirrored - yet still circular - life of the lead. He ages backwards, seemingly reversed from normality, yet experiences the same effects as a person growing normally. Roth's outlook on growing old pits a person as holding many of the same physical and mental deficiencies as being young, which is an odd yet true stamp in the film. The life journey of our abnormal wanderer gives full light to the prospect of the circular notion of life - we end where we began.

Fincher's crafting of the piece is exemplary. His transitions from era to era is seamless, and his visual eye of capturing a moment has never been better. But more than anything he is concerned with the story, and the film is storytelling at a rare peak. Even through it's hefty running time, the brisk pace and sheer likeable characters and scenarios makes the film effortless, yet immensely enjoyable, to watch.

Slumdog Millionaire
½

Like the India that it so vividly depicts, Slumdog Millionaire is an old-fashioned, unabashed romanticist of a film that holds the earmarks of modern filmmaking at its finest. The film's base levels of love, place, and destiny are familiar, but their representations are so refreshingly executed that the film is taken to an entirely new level.

The life of our on screen everyman hero is a soaring reflection of life and its many colours, and Boyle's deliverance of the many themes witnessed from our young slumdog are balanced with the utmost care. We are always questioning intent, hoping for a moral high ground, and pondering the ideals of fate in a world where there are so many controlling forces seemingly out of our grasp.

Slumdog Millionaire is a winner.

Gran Torino
Gran Torino(2009)

A raw, grounded film enveloped in the themes of cultural diversity, conflicts, and even cultural melding in a modernising America. Gran Torino is a solid and straight walk through an America in confusion - people frightened, people overly headstrong, people in misdirection. But at the core is the resolute veteran, a window to a more simplified and even past.

Eastwood has crafted a piece reflective of a more cynical outlook on the average life of this day, but even throughout the heartache there is much hope to be found in the film. We are always given concrete excuses to counterbalance the seeming downward spiral of the society represented to us and we are always given insight into the factors of immaturity and greed as a main cause of this spiral.

Eastwood's belligerent war veteran is a hardened realist, never a racist, and the man behind the camera has delivered filmmaking with the potential to push direction in the place of confusion - much like his on screen persona. While the film tends to jar itself with certain scenes that detract from the reality that it wants to exude, mainly in the veteran's hardening of a fellow man-to-be, Gran Torino holds a high degree of content that is must-watch picture making.

Twilight
Twilight(2008)

A superficial film of teen angst built upon clunky dialogue and shaky scene progression - Twilight is a film that initially feels like a production better left as an idea than a filmed entity. It's first half is awkward and moves no where through the following of the almost depressive lead character. But at the core of Twilight is its heart and the connection between its two leads, and once this romance begins to blossom the film manages to swing into a comfortable progression. Hardwicke's feminine touches are noticeable throughout the film - much focus and due attention is given to the connection of love, and it works well. The chemistry of the on-screen pair is sizzling, and it is this injection of modern romanticism that is a great thing to see. While the film takes a long while to hit its strides, and while its script foundations are dimmed, its emotion and escapism makes up for its lacklustre qualities.

Quarantine
Quarantine(2008)

Simple yet never bland; mysterious yet never hidden; Quarantine is a frightful exercise in audience immersion, becoming a film made for theatrical entertainment. Like a ghost train in the cinema, the film forces its viewers to partake in the twisted ordeals and experience the events of shock unwillingly undertaken by our on screen characters - first hand. The usage of the first person point of view in the film is put to its potential, ducking and weaving between dark corridors as we apprehensively tiptoe through the dark, yet never feels overdone or unbalanced. It is clear that under its surface - there really isn't much to the production and story of the film, but when experimentation like this is carried out successfully - it's buttons are clicked firmly and nothing more is truly needed. The film is disturbing enough to be memorable, yet never overspills its bloodshed or violence, instead making for a picture of genuine scare.

Quantum of Solace
½

Rushed and irresponsibly muddled, Bond's latest assignment proves to be a hazy affair used merely as an action show piece. Its story is never given time to gestate and its characters are never given any substance - we don't care for the allies, and we never fear the adversaries. But what tends to annoy even further with Quantum of Solace is the handling of its many action sequences. While Craig remains solid in his role and while Forster brings some interesting stylistic choices to the film, his understanding of an action scene is low. Too often is it hard to be enthralled by a scene that is constantly cutting back and forth, shot to shot. For what began as a brilliant character piece of mood, seduction and adrenaline in the predecessor film has degraded into an excuse for action relying on the single ideal of revenge - which in itself also becomes severely misused.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

Sharp, edgy, and refreshing - Kiss Kiss Bang Bang provides laughs and thrills in equal measure, delivered through the bumbling of our clueless yet likeable lead characters solving a mystery that, really, has nothing to do with them. The film allows for Downey Jnr's swift talking wit to meld with Kilmer's coolly collected quirks - giving moments of uproarious laughter and awkward chuckles. But more than anything it is the blending of genre that makes the film so impressive. It's reversions from comedy to action, mystery to drama are able to continually avoid any jarring or narrative halts that would otherwise be expected, allowing for a film that flows effortlessly from scene to scene.

Burn After Reading

Funny but flawed, the Coen brothers latest entry into their quirky catalogue of comedy aims to push the right buttons, but ultimately feels like a big tease. It shows brilliant glimpses, offers a stream of chuckles, but never seems to bury itself deep enough to become a truly funny affair. It feels short and could have easily used some more developed writing, instead relying on the comedic silliness that the actors exude, but it nevertheless manages to please. Pitt is a shining star - the true highlight of the picture.

Tokyo Story (T˘ky˘ monogatari)

The forgotten past and the forging of the future, Tokyo Story is a film concerned with memory and our dismissive nature of the past, be it either efficiency and progress taking the place of culture and history or the generational gaps providing barriers between the youth and the elders. The film is simple and focuses on relationship and emotion yet even in its small space there is still much that is being said. But these minimalist filming techniques often tend to make the film lag and postpone the delicate moments of teaching, bringing about long silences with little input.

Saw V
Saw V(2008)

A lacklustre affair that offers little in the grand scheme that this series is trying to create. Saw V is an inconsistent rush that pushes its pacing while detracting its story, making for a film that relies heavily on its usage of its many flashbacks to flesh out its waning characters. The film is aggravating in its further contradictions of the series previous ideals and unsatisfying in its promises and hopes.

WALL-E
WALL-E(2008)
½

A beautiful, charming feature that touches and motivates in unorthodox ways with narrative structuring and themes that are just as original. Wall-E is exemplary filmmaking, animation at its finest, and a piece of art to amuse the young, humour the old, and bring a touch of magic to everyone.

Magnolia
Magnolia(1999)
½

An astounding, beautifully pieced mosaic from director Paul Thomas Anderson, who weaves ideals, characters, and themes together into an identifiably disjointed set of portraits, but an unmistakably streamlined overall story. The clarity of Magnolia is the force that immediately stands out. The film takes a few steps before warming to us, but Anderson makes sure to give us introductions. We meet these characters, we learn of their lives, and we start to enjoy their company. But it isn't until we become truly familiar with them that their functioning on the grander scale becomes noticed. At it's most base level - Magnolia is a patchwork quilt of life and its citizens; each person has a different story to tell, but in the end it is the one story of life that connects us all - and we may just be closer to one another than we would think. And it is this streamlined approach to this delicate and challenging subject that makes Magnolia so commendable. Everything fits together so well - not perfectly, and that is the point - that it manages to fit a broad scope of ideas and representations of life into a singular (albeit lengthy) running time. Yet while each character has their own representations - forgiveness in Cruise's "TJ Mackey", need of direction from Macy - the film's ultimate layers lies in the truths and compassions of this world and their need in society. It is a beautiful film that holds the potential to move an audience in so many ways.

American Splendor

A humbled rumination on the prospects of a hero and a celebration of the everyday man, American Splendor is a sweetly bleak tale of life at a simple, base level. For what can be easily perceived as cynical through its drab quirks moulds itself into a form of understanding - Harvey Pekar is the everyman with ideas so relatable, and emotions so palpable. He's a strange man, who's life is more blurred between his comic persona and his real self than he would like to let on, but his unique imagination and outlooks make for film matter that is intriguing on both a thematic and stylistic level.

We are constantly thrust into questions and comparisons. Not only are we relating the real Pekar to Giamatti's portrayal, but we are comparing the documenting of reality with the paintings of the fiction - or what could be considered the other way around. Giamatti's scenes are gritty and drab, while Pekar's are finely pencilled and polished - almost surreal. We witness the character of Pekar in his evolution into the real picture - a shining light of unique substance at the end of what was a very - ordinary - life. But nevertheless, it's an ordinary life that makes for an insightful and strangely captivating film.

Tropic Thunder

A thoroughly enjoyable and well put together film pitting Hollywood's A-listers on an even playing field - acting as an ensemble cast and acting to parody the very medium they promote. Tropic Thunder is one of the funniest and most striking films of the year thus far. It succeeds in provoking the absurdities in the current state of film and highlights the overblown nature of the "celebrity" and their role in the media. But more than anything it is a hilarious, uproarious film that executes its laughs just as well as its provocations. Downey Jr.'s multiple roles are each as fresh and original as you would hope for and Black is so far in his element that he seems real. But the films two biggest surprises come through Stiller, who directs with an eye that delivers both restrained scenes of subtle chuckling and highlighted scenes of bursting laughter; and also Tom Cruise, who's comedic actions are as good as anyone else's on show in this feature.

The Big Lebowski

A self-contained, quirky world to be enjoyed by few thanks to lacklustre characters pointlessly journeying through strange events, filmed through strange eyes. The Big Lebowski is an unfunny comedy that never gives its extended audience much of a pay off in the stakes of fulfilled entertainment, but instead hopes to find a niche fitting to its twisted sensibilities. Roger Deakins work behind the camera and Jeff Bridges turn in front of the lens are the only commanding forces in the picture, whereas all else becomes lost in a quest for nothing. The films main reliance is on the same bland, calmed qualities of its title pacifist, leaving little memories of a film that never entices in the ways that it should.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

A lengthy, blurry, dream-like film that entices through a soft, steady and almost poetic tone. The Assassination of Jesse James is a film of tender progression that can often ease itself far enough into a meandering route, but somehow always comes out the better for it. The film is slow and drawn out, but retains a deep resonance through its striking themes and visual splendour. In many respects the film often feels like a mode of showcasing the talents of Roger Deakins, who weaves a visual tapestry so rich and real that it seeps into the lens, rather than be merely captured. But there is much more at the heart of this bold production; it's deliverance of the ideals of irony and hypocrisy remains a core to the film that only truly comes to the fore towards its final legs, building momentum along with the anticipation of the title act.

Affleck shines and Dominick exudes unique directing qualities, but more than anything the most impressive feat of the film is the curiosity that it retains. We know how it ends, yet we are still drawn to watch the proceedings beforehand.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

For what masquerades as a stupid stoner comedy, Harold and Kumar proves to hold much more depth and a much broader level of enjoyment than would be initially thought. The film holds some thoughtful underlying layers of senseless paranoia, insulting presumptions, and the stereotyping that has become commonplace in our society. But more than anything, the film is just a lot of fun, from the duo's frantic flee of the prison to their arrival at their final destination and all of the banter in-between. But more than anything, it is once more Neil Patrick Harris, playing Neil Patrick Harris, that steals the show from the pot smuggling title pair.

GoodFellas
GoodFellas(1990)

Dirty, violent, and impacting - Goodfellas is at once a swansong of the gangster era of organised crime and a look into the ironic lack of organisation that made these figures into icons. Goodfellas condones its criminals through entertainment but blasts them through the changing ethics of an evolving city. What one generation of criminal resents as a degrading act, another sees as a means in demand and a means to their rewards. These crimes are thought out and bountiful in their rewards, but the constant accidents and temperamental nature of these men are explored to the degree of delivering them as an unorganised group. It's almost as if Scorcese is showcasing these men as being the deserving reason that this era ended - because of their pride and stupidity.

The film is made extremely well - it never follows a solid story but instead invites us to walk the steps behind these characters, to experience this life, and to witness its many ugly sides.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Hellboy 2)
½

Far too overblown and confused about what it wants to convey, Hellboy II is a film too immersed in its fantasy roots to give us a plot with any depth and as such becomes a film whose characters suffer because of it. The quirkiness of the first film is furthered into absurdity, and the dark tones made way for comical lightness. In its aesthetics - Hellboy II is a wondrous feast to gaze into, but furthering the gaze into its underlying mechanics brings only a cartridge of blanks.

It seems that Del Toro's directorial reign is much more firm in this film, a reign that has made it into an indulgence for his imagination, and while his imagination can be often be a fascinating experience - it tends to lose its charm. The core problem with Hellboy II lies in its search for showcasing the weird and wacky, resulting in a subsequent disregard for true progression from the predecessor film. For what began as a title ensemble of weird creatures in the first film soon turns into an untamed glimpse at the true wackiness of this world. This is the obvious intention, but its handling is delivered poorly through the world that it is trying to show - this world. The Hellboy vision worked better when it was a more constrict affair that relied on the real problems of its characters, without the reliance on an overly painted fantasy world that lies under the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Strangers
½

A pointless and macabre affair with no direction, no plotting, and no sense. The Strangers fails on many points, but more than anything it feels like a film void of any story telling merit - nothing happens, there are no characters of note, and its plot is paper thin. For what the film relies upon solely is its twisted scares and techniques to thrill, and while there are select moments of tension, it tends to continually distance any chances of story resonance by resorting to the same filming techniques time and again, all the while looking back upon a script that would consist of jumbled notes sprawled hurriedly.

What makes The Strangers an even more infuriating affair is that its supporters will back its lack of direction as being the main purpose of the film. In essence, the fact that is has no point IS the point. To watch a film that has no reasoning to its making aside from cheap, predictable thrills is a quick ride to wasting your time. A film becomes truly gratuitous if it has no leg to stand on, and The Strangers only motive is its sick on screen brutality.

Dead Silence
Dead Silence(2007)

Atmospheric, passionate, and an enjoyable horror for the most part - Dead Silence is a film that finds its own quality increasing as its tempo rises and its running time extends. For what begins as a clunking film clutching to grab an audience soon turns into an homage that enjoys through familiarity with the freshness of passionate eyes. Dead Silence never extends further than what has been done before, but Wan's handling of the tension and his wonderful handling of the aesthetics are an impressive feat. But while the on screen execution works wonders, the heavy dialogue, abrupt story pacing, and short running time hinder the film in areas that considerably deteriorate it. As with the rest of the film's from the director's catalogue, Dead Silence proves there is much potential - but certain factors prove too overbearing to be discounted.

The Da Vinci Code
½

An overblown and over indulgent work that tries for too much in a time frame too small. For what begins as an interesting mystery unravels into absurdity, resembling a jigsaw puzzle that fits together more perfectly and unbelievably than the works from the title artist. Therein lies the films main problem - its pieces - which lie on the floor too many, with not enough notice to focus on their meanings. The film is strewn with interesting concepts and themes, most notable the "Last Supper" scene, but ultimately it seems Brown's need for shock and awe comes at the expense of hard hitting ideas. Too often does the film meander over something it should delve into, and too often does the film twist itself into preposterous proportions. The Da Vinci Code should be something to cause real controversy over the possibilities of realism, but instead we are delivered fantasy of a near insulting nature.

The Wild Bunch

A brutal western venture that aims to blur the normalities of story progression and the thematics prevalent of this genre. Possibly more than any other film of its category, The Wild Bunch confuses the notions of good and bad, right and wrong, as we merely follow certain "sides". Peckinpah's seeming purposeful resemblances of Holden and Ryan add extra layers to the uniform stealing, citizen welfare abandoning antics of the characters to make us wonder - is it really worth the bloodshed when neither man is good?

Click
Click(2006)

A film too light on the laughs and in a seeming lack of honest direction in the path that it looks to adopt - Click seems to be a failed attempt. But the film tends to surprise through something quite miraculous - its second half, with a complete tonal change, outshines and disseminates the previous failure of its first hour. Where lackluster jibes make way for emotional revelations, Click morphs itself from a film lacking in honest execution to become a truthful examination of life. Its impressive production values make for an impressive aesthetic, whilst Sandler is given more breathing space in a script that finds a broader scope than would be expected.

The Road (La Strada)

Giulietta Masina is wonderful. She is unique, and brimming with an overt positive attitude that charms through warmth; and La Strada is the perfect tool to showcase her original talents. Fellini's road bound journey is filmmaking of a straight structure with simple people, but involving complex relationships and innovative filming techniques. Rota's score complements the tenderness, while Quinn's brutal arrogance balances the steadiness of Fellini's lensing eye.

Taken
Taken(2009)
½

An interesting and heavily enjoyable film that never breaks any bounds with its subject material, but holds some unique surprises with its handling. Morel's competency in his conversion of the script to the screen is refreshing - his action takes are frenetic while his incidental character shots are given room to swell. But credit is also mainly noted towards Neeson, who turns Morel's keen eye into a sheer force of anticipation through a character that we enjoy following. But the main problem with the film is its pacing and the rushes that it takes far too often. Its abrupt push into the main story arc is too slimmed, almost unreal, and it becomes jarring - an intention from the developers that never unfolds in their interests. The film holds many memorable moments, and Neeson strikes firmly once again, but its unfortunately lacking script drags the film down where it should have furthered in its acceleration.

Au Hasard Balthazar

Bresson's cinematic entry into the immoralities of man succeeds greatly in its qualities of filmmaking, but falls far in its quest for delivering a film of truth and power. Following the life of a mistreated animal, we bare the labours of a donkey through its traversing of the French countryside. But through this harsh treatment, the animalistic nature of the townsfolk is deepened - not only to the laboured steed, but to the intermingling of the people. The film pushes hard to unearth the depths of man and our ability to degrade those around us, but the emotion that the film tries to illicit simply doesn't come through, mainly due to Bresson's over exaggeration of these people (it seems every man and his dog bares no moral fibre) and his constant contradictions in society through his wayward storytelling (longtime care suddenly turning to soured resentment).

At a base level, Au Hasard Balthazar is audacious, strong filmmaking with much to be learnt from. But its persistance becomes overbearing and its bleak qualities turn blank, overturning a film that overstays its course. But with that notion in mind, the films final shot is almost worth baring the drabness of before it.

Straw Dogs
Straw Dogs(1971)
½

Peckinpah's unsettling retelling of retaliation and rites of passage is a collected, masterful stroke of cinema that steadies itself, never losing sight of what it wants to tell us, as it gradually heightens its tension and provocation of the audience. Its central character's isolation becomes much more than a distanced foreigner, but a man emasculated - forced to prove his worth to those around him, where smarts become blurred with wits and courage fades away for brawn. The film is sprayed with Peckinpah's detailed eye for tempered realism, and Hoffman's implosive David - a force of man desperately straying from traditional showcases of male dominance.

Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria)
½

The formation of a friendship through a warm greeting, Nights of Cabiria transcends the structure of a character study to welcome forth an embodiment of life and the introduction to a lovable figure. Where Nights of Cabiria truly finds its strength is through its title character, an everyday woman with the attitude and aspiration for much more, who sucks the audience into her life - we care for her and are constantly on the look out for harm. We question the people she meets and warn her of venturing into predicaments. The film goes much further in creating an embodiment of raw reality, but the understanding of this fiery woman delves deeper than Fellini's pen or camera - the clincher comes through Masina's performance. She is temperamental, involving, and breathes a truly special quality into the face of an already ambitious woman. There are questions to be arisen through the films solidity on its thematics of life, but its ambiguity and sheer power overcome this small aspect.

His Girl Friday
½

Sharp to the point and streaming with chuckles, His Girl Friday rests on the sturdy shoulders of Grant and the commanding presence of Russel; befitting a film that focus on the notions of dishonesty - be it Grant's immoral newspaper editor or the crime caper happening behind the hilarious relationship quibbles. Though the script tends to meander in a line a little too straight at times, it is Grant's timing of delivery that makes the film a joy to watch.

Hancock
Hancock(2008)

A fun film spinning an interesting turn on a genre seeing much cinematic light at these times, Hancock is a pleasing film that never aims its sights too high - even though it sprays of a loss of potential. But where Hancock's main problem comes is through its constant swaying of genre, tone, and even direction. It never knows what it wants to be and never feels consolidated as a film, instead feeling like an underdone picture. Its main strengths lie in its humour and Smith's brilliant portrayal of this wayward hero. Otherwise, it becomes a fairly forgettable affair once the credits have rolled.

The Dark Knight
½

A bold example of an actioneering feat crafted with a flowing pen, The Dark Knight is a relentless anarchistic force of intrigue through the intricacies of plot and well developed themes. At its core it remains a sentiment to the ultimate goodness in human-beings, but its resonance through its sub-plots definitions and the impact of the character representations make for a film that can hold a truly invigorating film composition behind exhilarating sequences. The constant foreshadowing of events blends with the folding, mirroring nature of the screenplay - the film is always hinting, always snidely teasing its drapes, as it reverses (or reverts) to prior plot points.

But behind the wonderful shrouds and technical mastery of the screenplay, in front of the ambitiously twisted shots, and amidst the always prevalent atmospheric tension is Ledger's Joker - a wild force of ironic anarchy bred from mystery and delivering chaos. His portrayal is more of an immersion and his scenes aren't only the highlight of the film - they're a highlight of the extremities that the craft of acting can reach.

Superbad
Superbad(2007)
½

A teenage triumph for the modern ages, Superbad beats with the same sticks delivered from previous films of the genre, but due its tight grip on modern youth and hilarious takes on age and relationship divisions - it succeeds on multiple levels.

Cloverfield
Cloverfield(2008)
½

A unique adrenaline ride molded from mystery and thought, Cloverfield is a swift, enticing thriller that will leave its audience startled.

Event Horizon
½

A half-interesting plot housed into a half-complete movie assembled by a half-assed production team, Event Horizon has its interesting aspects and turns but ultimately falls far from a memorable film in either of the two genres that it steps heavy treads into. The potential was there for Event Horizon to be an endearing, stimulating science fiction horror journey, but due to its truncated running time, hokey script, and turgid performances - it shambles constantly.

The Mosquito Coast

Science vs. faith, The Mosquito Coast delves into the persistences of civilisation wrought onto the merits of fortune through hope or rewards through determination. Weir's delicate eye has lensed a gorgeous picture painted with the brush of a naturalist and with the moral clarity of a poet. The film is a supreme enjoyment that manages to pack much into it's running time, hitting its strides on regular notes. Had it entered its domains with more ferocious input then it could have been astonishing, but instead it suffices for an impacting feature - more than can be said about most films.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Greed and karma stricken onto an epic, open landscape - The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is morality told through grim drabness. Huston's capturing of an endless Mexican desert houses the isolation and slow-burning change in the men of the picture; mentally salivating over the potentials of their labour. Where the film truly excels is in pushing the audience to blur insanity with greed all the while questioning whether the pits of the souls are deep as we initially think. Where the film tends to lag, however, comes in it's uneven scoring, where some scenes flow effortlessly while others screech with a trying tone.

The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)
½

Truaffaut's command over the proceedings of 'The 400 Blows' is an inspiring aspect of a commendable film. The notions of the modern day "wolf story" are infused into the life of an impoverished youth, and through the boy's seeming struggles the screenplay asks - and wants - the audience to connect with the child and to feel a sorrowness for him. Unfortunately - we don't. The character hones his shovel well as his pit is dug further as the film progresses. Regardless though, it is Truffaut's command and the general aesthetic and pleasing moments of the film that win it over.

Thirteen Ghosts (13 Ghosts)

The pairing of Tony Shalhoub and Shannon Elizabeth is less believable than this highly outlandish plot. Fantasy is fine, but absurdities in film should never pass the page.

Sixteen Candles
½

Sparking with such pristine clarity of the years of adolescence, Sixteen Candles unfortunately smolders under a fairly forgettable finale. Hughes injected some wonderfully delivered notions of teenage troubles in the film first two-thirds as he throw the audience with an ideal found only by those with older wisdom - the obscure and ridiculous "factions" of high-school and the surmounting need to be known and be liked. The film pushes the typical concept of the popular students while all the while downgrading their status and class; why would anyone honestly want to be in a group that finds fun in acts of stupidity?

But eventually, the film becomes contrived and turns to the cliche' '80's conclusion that Hughes only helped solidify with films like this. Such awesome potential to begin with, that ends up molding itself into an above average flick. The film is a lot of fun, though.

Pan's Labyrinth
½

A beautiful nightmare full of mysticism and hard earned truths, Pan's Labyrinth delves into the nature of growth and the distinctions between the fantasies of youth and the realities of adulthood. The film isn't so much about the need for escapism from a brutal world, but about the reality of escaping youth itself and entering the domain of adulthood. The film tends to act as a soft sayonara to fantasy spectacles and an invite to the horrors of the world - told through its skillful blend of the realms of the fairytale and the latter parts of the second World War. But where the true strength of the film lies comes in its provocation of the audience and its demand for an outlook. It pokes our imagination and asks whether our believing of this scenario is as iron-clad as our young wanderer. After all - is it all real, and would you have the heart to believe otherwise?

The Incredible Hulk
½

For a two hour film, it feels as though very little actually happens in this latest re-incarnation/psuedo-sequel of the green giant, but for what is shown - it is enthralling. The film aimed at a different take on the ambivalent hero from Ang Lee's sorely disjointed film - and it succeeds. The Incredible Hulk is a film of entertainment, watching with adrenaline as Banner evades an ever persistent task force, and for this fact it is a film of supreme fun. Norton hits the needed notes with the scenes given to him, and Roth makes more than enough of his role that is sure to please moviegoers. But in the end, the film feels a half hour too short. Had an extra layer of character insight been injected into this concoction then we could have been treated to something special. But, alas, we will have to wait for the Letterier/Norton cut to see the true potential of this menacing beast.

The Brave One
½

What begins as an abysmal attempt at intellectualizing a generally simple (albeit thrilling) premise, The Brave One eventually finds it's own feet and finds a suitable enough style. Unfortunately for the film though, it's steadiness comes too late - its pretensions and overlooking of important story and character elements ultimately prove too much for the film to come back from. There are some interesting choices of camera take; from Foster's apprehensive re-entering into society to the ominous, yet open, streets of New York city yet at many times it feels as though the editing tended to stray away from the interests of the lens. Too many times is a quick flashback used where its use remains insolvent, and too many times are we left pondering whether Foster's performance was good. In the end - it was, but she was let down by factors outside her grip. Had some further layers been given time to unfold regarding the women that Foster's character used to be then some connection and understanding could have been made, but all we are left with is a women seeking justice for the death of her lover...whose name, purpose and personality evades me in my desperate attempts for recollection. Ah yes, that's right, I believe he's called a "MacGuffin".

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
½

Outlandish, wry, and thoroughly enthralling, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a return to old-fashioned escapism that provides one of the most sought after aspects of film - fun. The movie is an actioneering spectacle done right; infusing adrenaline with sharp humour while all the while retaining the needed qualities from previous showings. Times have changed for our character, but the enjoyment that his adventures exudes hasn't diminished at all.

The Happening

Like a typical Shyamalan trait - The Happening is bred out of mystery, unravels through progression, and concludes far too swiftly for the steadiness seen prior. There is an abundance of potential that becomes apparent, but the capitilisation to make for a memorable picture is never taken heavily enough. Yet while the film tends to keep falling into its own pot-holes, it is the constant pervasiveness of paranoia and ponderance that takes place in the picture that keeps us watching and keeps us thinking. The film is simple, but its timeliness and execution of an ideal is truthful and thoughtful. Its depiction never meanders outside of reality, and while its subtext is easily edible, its digestion may prove a little harder to come to terms with.

Badlands
Badlands(1974)

Wildly offsetting, wildly captivating, and wild in its own substance, Badlands is an inventive and thoughtful picture that holds motion in every department. Sheen's 'Dean-esque' portrayal supplements the wondrous visuals laden before the up-beat, jittering sound score. The film is not so much a tale of morals, but more a look into the psyche and the cause of actions, all the while probing the role of the celebrity and the role of wealth in a growing society.

Be Kind Rewind
½

While the films holds many marred aspects, Be Kind Rewind wins over ultimately due to the sheer fun that it exudes. For any cinephile or lover of movies, the film is a brief encyclopedia and 'I Spy' of the history of film, and through Gondry's passion and his actors wit - the film succeeds in combining nostalgia with a flair for something truly entertaining through originality.

Hollywoodland

Well made but familiar, Hollywoodland trundles the same filmic formula seen countless times already. From a production point of view - there isn't too much to fault, but the major problem comes through its lack of taking risks. Had the film stepped outside of its boundaries then it could have rocked the audience harder, but in its finalised state it acts as a mere reflection. We see, watch, and are entertained, but ultimately - we don't care for these characters.

The Fountain
The Fountain(2006)

Little intellectual backing in a highly ambitious project, The Fountain fails to exert the qualities that it tries hard to deliver. Constantly aiming to provoke thought but never providing enough to truly stimulate the mind, it ultimately becomes a stylized portrait of the realization of love and the conquering of death. To conquer death, one must embrace life. The visuals of the film are fascinating and Jackman is in fine form, but neither can surmount for the lack in the films whispering script.

North by Northwest
½

Thrilling, humorous, and one of the most fun times that I've had watching a single film in recent memory. The core strengths to North by Northwest come through the brilliance of its winding screenplay and the cocky charm of its lead - Cary Grant; tailored for this character. The film is an expertly crafted actioneer that intertwines intricate plot elements with highly enjoyable audience aspects. Had it not been for the inclusion of Hitchcock's annoying "macguffin", the film would be rated higher once over.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

A feature-length song that is lyrically uninteresting and narratively oblique. Subjectively I hated it; objectively it failed to inspire the critic in me. Sweeney Todd is an interesting film to look at, and nonetheless a highly ambitious film (Tim Burton, check), but like much of the director's back catalogue - ambition fails to execute a quality end product. Bias may sway but I still saw little of interest from a structure point of view in this movie that strives for difference but results in absurdity.

Psycho
Psycho(1960)

Iconography over pure substance; Psycho - when stripped down - is a bare, flat film moving in a confined space. It is a machine that is too well oiled and a model too well manicured for what it should deliver. Visually it is stunning - the much hyped shower scene is as close to perfection as filmmaking goes. But while the film looks good, it is here that the bump emerges. Simply, Hitchcock thinks too much; his actors look like puppets in a small confine. They can't move, and the script never allows them to. The dialogue is dry and uninvolving and the thematics of the film wear thin. It's status for a catalyst in a change in cinema is duly noted, but it is a film that is showing its scars.

Ikiru
Ikiru(1956)

A highly humanistic and sympathetic film, Ikiru endeavours to shine light on the dark recesses of a modernising world - the corporate sector. The mundanity of work and it's ability to strip us of a real sense of purpose in life is explored as a pinhole in the grander notion of our outlook of life - and death. It seems a strange point that life is cherished most when death is given a voice. With Kurosawa's brilliantly placed camera, segregating cast members as mere pylons in their environment, and the beautiful touches of Shimura in a class defining performance, Ikiru is a film that works well. Yet, while there are moments of tenderness and connection, it just feels as though the severity in the sombre tone of the film tends to draw back on the potential for audience connection to be taken to a peak. I was touched, but I was never moved like I should have been.

Breathless
Breathless(1961)
½

A reflective film that mirrors its own medium, Breathless is a film that seems to enjoy shooting down the merits of cinema while at the same time praising them, in this expressive and inventive art piece from Godard. Michel is the embodiment of living the life of a movie-star, "living dangerous until death", as he uses his Bogart impersonations; this twisted, absorbed persona drained from cinema, to live life as he sees it - through a screen.

But forget Godard's wonderful techniques and imagery, just watching Jean Seberg is enough to keep a smile throughout this film.

Iron Man
Iron Man(2008)
½

Snappy, sharp, and exhilarating, Iron Man is in a very different class of superhero films. It uses hip sarcasm in hand with political attacks, while all the while never alienating any member of the audience. Thanks to Downey Jnr.' s fantastic and often humorous portrayal of the rich genius and some of the more dazzling effects in film in recent years, Iron Man is sure to please. However, the film is almost on hyper speed through its progression - the two hour film feels like the length of a television episode, which tends to slightly hinder the film. It feels underdone, exposed, and through its rushes it never manages to push the more extreme buttons and further its own set boundaries. Had the film taken more risks in its portrayal of the world and more depth into its story and characters - it could have been something truly special.

Rash˘mon
Rash˘mon(1951)

A deep philosophical study embedded inside of an intrinsic narrative, Rashomon shows itself as a rumination on lies, deception, and the commonplace they hold in our deteriorating society. While Rashomon holds heavy subject matter and shines a relatively harsh light on humanity, it holds a form of levity through its bumpy score to its near whimsical characters, which manages to an act as a brilliant overlay highlighting man's ignorance of the meaning of truth. To lie is to step into immorality - yet it remains an ideal sorely lost to the larger community.

Kurosawa's film of a looping story being retold is a fascinating and wide depiction of a very simple premise. The film is something to treasure as a piece of cinema that seems to grow with time.

Enemy Mine
Enemy Mine(1985)
½

A potential masterpiece that tends to lose itself in several dumbed downed aspects, but nevertheless is a fine enough film in its executed form. Peterson's film of common ground in amongst traditional hostilities is a notion that seems to bode well in politics as the world progresses. The ideals presented in the film are striking and given a good enough treatment for most to enjoy its meaning. Quaid gives a steady performance, while Gosset is in his prime.

Once Upon a Time in America

Chronologically anamorphic and a pointed portrait of moral pits, the Prohibition era represented in Leone's expansive film is a landscape housing growth; the growth of friendship, society, efficiency through criminality, and betrayal. The film is a tight deliverance of difficult subject matter and sprawling decades, with the precision of Morricone's score coupled with the sound decoration in the editing adding the final layers to the visual wonders on screen. And, as this is a Leone film, it all comes to focus, but his final epic tends to blur this aim. The portrayal of an eternal youth in these men - as kids who never grow up - is handled in a wrong way through the explicit sexual overtones that barge their way as a showing of the lack of moral compass in these men. However, the ambiguity of the film allows for most down points to be referred, making way for a piece of cinema that peaks and slows at intervals to instill blatant entertainment with intrinsic awe. If anything, the film is likely to reflect its thematic growth through its watching audiences appreciation, and nothing more can be asked of a film than that.

Rescue Dawn
Rescue Dawn(2007)
½

Harsh and honest, Rescue Dawn pummels the same relentless execution from its manic director to deliver a film of brutal reality, where the ideas of the captive are thrown into focus. While the over layer of Rescue Dawn paints the heroic Americans overcoming the adversity of Vietcong prisons, Herzog manages to brush subtle daubs of a twist in this logic. The Vietnamese, in many aspects, are the captives of the film. Straying and weaving from enemy fire, they are bound to the Earth while their oppressors blindly fire on the unknown land below. Little Deiter may have been shown as the hero, which in many respects he is, but it is the idealisms of prison that are quietly explored through this portrait of progressive insanity. Though, even through it's bold style, it still feels as though Herzog was uncharacteristically holding back a little.

Michael Clayton
½

Trying desperately to seem important but failing at constant levels, Michael Clayton truncates it's audience too early in the picture through it's slow-burning, long-winded take on corporate scandal. The film finds its strides in the final twenty minutes, but it is too leveled and uninvolving in its slow lead up to have the audience care for the final turns to take place. Clooney's performance manages to strike well, however, thanks to his subtle inflictions of confusion; Michael Clayton is both an honourable man, yet also someone who frequents immorality.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Taut, endearing and most of all - fresh; Lumet's time-bending exercise in narrative storytelling may use techniques invented long before, but his execution of a very in-depth script is striking. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead pushes a simple plot to it's limits, refining individualised looks on morality and the repercussions of greed. Thanks to brilliance from it's talented cast and the proven ability to succeed in it's warped existential viewpoint, the film acts as a narrative that forces it's audience to think, assume, and watch the unfolding of revelations.

Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson's look at morals, presumptions, and the downward spiral of society becomes an effective look at a span in the past, where the world and industry changed and life began to turn. Boogie Nights manages to work so effectively in the sense that its layers are prevalent, yet so under shone in its entertaining and amusing exterior. While the film touches on many heavy subjects, it remains humorous and taut in its ability to keep the audience watching as these characters dig deeper. In many respects, the films pornographic story could act as a reflection of film at these times - from brilliance in the 1970's to degradation in the 1980's, yet what it also conveys is the change in lifestyle for society. The freedom and fun of the '70's makes way for the crime and downward spiral of the '80's.

Color Me Kubrick

Flat, dull, and exceedingly boring; Colour Me Kubrick merely meanders its way through con after con in a pointless screenplay with no plot. Malkovich does well in his part, but the highlights end there. For what could have been an encompassing film of Kubrick references, Colour Me Kubrick winds up as a waste of time. Spend your hours doing something more meangingful.

30 Days of Night

For what endeavours to be a vampiric film with a heightened reality, 30 Days of Night ultimately falls prey to the intangibilities and forced assumptions of its plot that it throws in the audiences direction. The premise begins well, but ends up proving too difficult a task to portray in a feature film. At one moment we witness carnage and temporary salvation at day 7, then a jump cut to day 18 where nothing happened in between. Are we merely meant to assume that these people have been safe in their hole for these long periods with no real sources of food, hydration and relievement?

Beowulf
Beowulf(2007)

Flat; a nothing of a film. Beowulf tries too hard at the wrong aspects, and fails at the right ones. It is a film with as much emotional depth as its pixelated actors blank expressions, and as much intelligence as its monsters incoherent mumblings and torturous cries. Zemeckis left audience resonance along with actors physical performances, and relied too heavily on the awe factor of trying to have his cartooned caricatures be as life-like as possible. With that said, however, for a film entirely shot in computer generated imagery - it is impressive. It's just too bad that technology hasn't advanced far enough to give some life to the eyes and some real movement to the face.

Punch-Drunk Love
½

Such vibrance in such a melancholic film, Punch-Drunk Love uses such a bright array of colours in combination with love enriched overtones of the score to bring a heightened level of surreality to a real world with real people. Sandler's turn from his usual comedy into this bleak, offset character of manic problems is a strange highlight to watch.

What tends to make the film so interesting is the inability to pinpoint it. It's tones are so unique, it's characters captivating, and it's world so relatable yet so different. The film is soaked with love in its French-new wave construction points, yet it remains so downtrodden in its mood that it becomes offsetting.

Before Sunset
½

Tracking shot after tracking shot...line of dialogue after line of dialogue, Before Sunset's real-time expose' of a conversation is enlightening through its simplicity, and captivating through its meandering. While the film tends to only heighten the problems of the first film, it somehow comes off the better picture for it. The intertwining of themes and ideas from the first film are transplanted beautifully in this as we follow the reality of cynicism vs. hope in love-lost lives; characters who reminisce and dream. The film has its many moments of truth in its many moments of talking, but it is ultimately the chemistry on and off the screen combined with the molding of the prior films breadcrumbs to blend this world smoothly that excels the film farther ahead.

Be ready for the conclusion - its a subtly moving and expertly conceived piece of cutting of a film; a true test of the films overlaying concept.

Rambo (Rambo IV)

Malicious, grim, sadistic, barbaric, gruesome, incessant, bloody : Rambo. Stallone's border-line exploitive reinvigoration of a past icon is exceptional in its ability to entertain and enthrall through a simple narrative, with simple characters, but with the sprinkles of thought and natural beauty. The serene surrounding of the natural forestation contrasts the grisly bloodshed and houses the ideals of faith in a faithless society. The film could have effectively used an extra time allotment to venture further into the mental stimulation that it merely teases; but, ultimately, it never tries for more than it should and instead acts as a final swansong, a tour de force of nature at it's most barbaric, but also picturesque, pitches.

Stardust
Stardust(2007)
½

Vibrant and echoing with good-natured fun, Stardust is an adventure that never overstays its charm and never pushes for more than it should. For what begins as a horribly paced piece of filmmaking, Stardust eventually finds its strides with long steps that prove to win over the audience through its free flowing joy.

Zodiac
Zodiac(2007)

Fincher's elongated suspense thriller of a dark chapter in 1960's San Fransisco is a taut, grim tale of obsession and the pitfalls that follow. While very little actually happens in the film, and the outcome is already widely known, the film is able to take grip of an audience through its tight plotting and meticulous editing. The film gives moments of suspense, even though we can see the outcome; and the film manages to entertain, even in long periods of plodding from our obsessive, though fateless, detectives. One of the finest ensembles of its year, coupled with one of the great pieces of editing of its time, Zodiac is a thriller that ticks all of the right boxes in its genre while also managing to step outside of its box on occasion.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

A highly individualistic work of art, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is an entrancing film of vision, vibrance, and vigour that, even through its minimalist plot, manages to inspire and provoke an emotional reaction. The encapsulation of the film is transporting; literally, through the eyes of Jean-Dominique, and expressively through the imagination. Thanks to the truly unique imagery of Kaminsi and the much to be respected work of the artist in Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is hypnotic through its usage of imagination in dullness.

3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma(2007)

Thanks to the pounding beat of Beltrami's score, the violent settings, and the characters of ambivalence, 3:10 to Yuma is a searing hearkening back to the westerns of the past. While the film is enjoyable and holds some fine scenes, it can't help but feel flat and uninvolving at points.

...more soon.

Into the Wild

Literally breathtaking. Penn's foray into the gaze of the world from youth is a compassionate look at life and the aspects of learning.

I'm speechless right now. The film is beauty, tenderness, and feels so real.

...more soon.

There Will Be Blood

From Greenwood's manic score to Day-Lewis' hypnotic portayal; from Elswit's barren landscapes to Anderson's edgy eye, There Will Be Blood is a psychotic portrait of greed that lashes its canvas with insanity, grit and a determination to succeed through it's unique abstinence.


**On a quick side note: this is the first 5 star film from me since 2004, which states just how numbing this film can be**

...more soon.

Eastern Promises

Authenticity is what makes Eastern promises work so well, and at the helm of the visual violence of Cronenberg and the new perfectionism of Mortensen, the film is in safe hands. Through it's gritty look at morality and the conflictions of culture, the impact of the film makes good of its foretold promises to showcase a film of unique tonal clarity in a grim world.

...more soon.

Juno
Juno(2007)

Intelligent and highly accessible, Juno is a film that fulfills unusual patches of charm and food for thought. For what the film portrays and for what patch of cinema it sits in, there is an obscene amount of layers to an otherwise simplistic story. Moments of emotion, intensity, levity and insight are sprinkled into this pseudo-reality, where real ideals are infused into an almost cartoonish world. The insight is genuine, yet the backdrop is strangely distracting, and the film is all the better for it.

What sets Juno apart from the rest of the highschool class lies not in it's "quirkiness" or "attitude", but merely the many truths that it delves into. The film touches base on the pre-conceived notions of relationships, class, status, and personality. Judgements are made, but in most scenarios those conceived thoughts are proved wrong. The character of our lead unique teenager pastes herself as an ill-equipped, inexperienced adolescent, yet her smarts and wit detract from this. She states how she is "coping with things way beyond her maturity level", but this notion proves forcibly incorrect coming from the level head on her shoulders as it stands next to the incompetence of others - the alienated father and the presumptuous father to be. The pregnancy was a mistake, but her handling of the situation is marked.

It is this much hyped and much proven script from debutant Diablo Cody that shines light on the aspects of life and love at it's stages, but also the quirks of normality. Can a relationship flourish after the adoption of your baby - both for the parents and the parents to be? But it is also the fine performances from those involved and the keen eye from Reitman that makes sure that the film is delivered without problems. Page's radiance emanates more brightly as the film, and coincidentally her character's pregnancy, progresses. Her Juno MacGuff is the anti-spawn of countless cliche's of this stage in life. She is intelligent, it's just this major bump that forces other to have pre-conceived notions about her life and choices. Yet, it is the understated performance from Garner that manages to keel the other side of this story. Her shades of unevenness for a balanced character is absorbing in what could be called one of her best performances yet.

However, while the screenplay is a marvel to watch in it's fleshed out birth, there are still many glowing problems. The language of these characters will quickly prove a hindrance to many watchers through its sheer unbelievability, and the first act of the film never pushes all of the buttons to avoid the slap of the indie sticker, which in some cases can be a bad move.

The story of Juno is very much the story of the film's deliverance. It's conception seems a little off and could prove as a mistake. The gestation grows on you as the progression accelerates. Yet by delivery time, the package is one of the sweetest, most affectionate and warming things you are likely to see. Juno isn't premature, and is most certainly not late in it's term, but instead is a healthy, bubbly, and highly enjoyable film.

Death Sentence
½

A violent and ambitious take on the notions of revenge, Death Sentence is a film of potential that winds up as a rollercoaster of violence, emotion, and quality. Alternating between a stylistic, moving and entertaining portrait to a blendered, contrived and rushed piece of work, the film faces demons of it's own in it's inability to trail correct decisions with further right-doings. However, thanks to a fine cinematographic eye from Wan and the sensibilities of timing from Bacon, the film becomes more than it should be. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the carpark scene; it's one of the finest examples of the tracking shot that I have seen thus far in cinema.

Atonement
Atonement(2007)
½

In these depicted changing times from elegance to malevolence, Atonement proves as a lavished portrait of emotion that delves into misconstrued perceptions and the unrequited love that acts as a consequence to this individualistic outlook. The film proves as a masterful and tightly gripped execution that rips into the heart of it's source material and daubs the screen with this emotion.

...more soon.

Lost In Translation
½

UPDATE: The power of this film continues to grow on repeat viewings. It's a film of emotion and subtle substance. It's means so much once delved, but means little on the surface, and it's resonance will prove to be a difficult thing to tap for some people. I don't like to re-rate films, but this more than deserves higher accolades. Up a half star, though, my personal bias wants much more. The feminine touch pushes the film to absolute brilliance.

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Strangely charming, awkwardly captivating, and ironically magnetic in it's blank qualities. Lost in Translation is a film that feels very hard to pin-point at times; it feels hollow, yet it remains likable to the end, and ultimately means nothing and everything at the same time.

There's an undisputed blank quality to Lost in Translation, an almost melancholic outlook that resonates with our main character's, and while there is no denying this seemingly hollow tone and narrative, the film still manages to bring quirky humour and subtle philosophies to us. The quandries that this film represents are something that can be experienced by each person as, after thought and concentration on the film's messages, we are left in our own melancholic state asking questions to ourself. Are we where we want to be in life? Is this path leading to a destination?

To further it's tones, Lost in Translation is a film to give clarity to people of either side of the age pool. Murray's sallow character feels blank, asking the question - HAVE I witnessed what I should have in life. Whereas Johansson's character of echoing confusion brings an aching truism to younger viewers - WILL I witness what I should in life. And it is here that the film is becoming "lost" to many viewers. It is not about what is being said, but more about what is being seen. The awkward pauses in conversation and lack of relevant scenes are not to be taken heavily. Rather, the film is more about enjoying the company of someone like you, that rare person. Can two blank souls find fulfillment for one another?

Sofia Coppola has crafted a finely tuned film that aims for much more than what may be initially seemed. The film aims to have the audience lost in this same confusion that the title bares, and you will be if you watch it in the traditional sense of film. However, if you can take a film as a study of character, of the world, and of the human condition, then you will find something much more real, much more relevant, and much more revelatory to your own life.

It's not about the dialogue, it's not about the story, it's not about the setting. Intead, this is a film about emotions, characters, and accompaniment, and that is how you should be approaching this.

No Country for Old Men
½

Relentless in it's visual execution and structurally bold, No Country for Old Men is an inditement on societal evolution and the change of the world, catering for the generational gaps. The film mirrors the horrifying collapse of worldly ethics and the lengths that people reach for personal gains. While the film's plot becomes a little thin and jaded at points, it nevertheless provides one of the most impacting thrillers of recent years and one of the finest visual delights of the yesteryear.

...more soon.

The Omega Man

A product of the 1970's, stuck firmly in it's time. The Omega Man is a film stricken by the style of it's decade and the aura of second class filmmaking. Had it not been for Heston, the B-Grade feel could have easily fallen several characters lower in the alphabet.

According to Sagal's interpretation of the Matheson novel, a global mutagen would turn the worlds population into an albino cult that feels the need to sew black robes in the fashion of segregating themselves from humanity's past. No thanks to a stream of plot holes, shivering dialogue, and characters that make the German Shepard in the latest update seem like an incredible performance, The Omega Man fails.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)
½

Gripping, captivating, and well made on all fronts, I Am Legend is a film that knows how to balance adrenaline with slow suspense. The result is a highly enjoyable feature that holds an immersing performance by Smith in an equally immersive world that even manages to throw some true thought into a bleak atmosphere. Allegories and questions of advancement are hidden qualities in an adaptation that molds few characters in a bygone world into an enjoyable piece of cinema.

At the heart of a dead world lies a single man: a survivor of advancement and a symbol of punishment to humanities striving for a seamless world. Societies need to conquer death (in this case - cancer) has been given an ambiguously allegorical light in I Am Legend to, on one note, show the human will trying to conquer the natural course in life and effectively conquer God. The film shows a punishment of this through its hellish, zombie-like plague affected who may act as Matheson's tool of discoursing society from its tireless rampage against death. But what makes this ideal in the film of combating creation and God so great is that its allegorical intentions are ambiguous. On a different note, the portrayal of a worldwide epidemic like this provokes the notion that God merely is inexistent; a notion forced by Smith as he bellows, "there is no God". The allegorical question asks whether a backlash like this is shown as punishment, or proof of the lack of a creator.

Or maybe this is reading too far into a film that caters highly on entertainment and thrills, which are given in abundance. Smith's lonely character trudging for a seemingly unfindable cure is a harrowing tale to watch at times. His isolation is a tale of both tears and laughs in a city all to himself. This balance of sprinkled humour in a horrifying situation are painted wondrously in the first act of the picture, as Neville practices golf on a jet wing and hires movies from a DVD store, all the while trying to live a normal life. But this need for normality takes its toll, and emotion eventually takes a stranglehold on the tiring battler: qualities given expertly by Smith in a near sole role for the film, who once more proves that his acting chops far exceed expectations and public recognition.

But where I Am Legend fails is in the same textbook reason that other thrillers fail - divulging the evil. The first act brings suspense and a slow anticipation. Smith's sole wanderings are the strong point of the film as there is a clear connection with the audience. But act two of the film begins plummeting as the evil is given a harsher light and thrills make way for visual pleasure. The nose dive is never overly sharp, but the incline is enough to worry an audience who had experienced some truly wonderful moments of film in the first half.

American Gangster
½

In it's execution, American Gangster is a finely made epic of the crime movement; in it's impact, it fails to make it's own unique claim on the genre. The film maneuvers itself well through it's tight plot and manages to bring some enlightening juxtapositions and comparisons into the world of crime and protection, but never manages to achieve anything new and instead feels all too familiar at points.

What makes American Gangster interesting is the duality of the film and the juxtapositions that are continually drawn into the bloodshed. Comparisons and questions are asked regarding the ethics of crime and the truths of protection as the two divided stories delve into each respectively. Washington's coolly collected Frank Lucas exclaims himself as a gentleman, while being prominent in a business that is anything but honorable. While Crowe's womanising Richie Roberts strives for nobility in a corrupt police scheme. These character juxtapositions become weaved into the comparisons of these two sides of the law as the manipulation of money and the power of crime tip the opposite side to bend to it's will, effectively turning both, in many respects, to one in the same.

The performances by these two dual leads provide the extra immersion into an already thick plot. Crowe's bronx accent is pitched greatly next to his bruting aura, yet always manages to make his character accessible and likable. And in another comparison, Washington's charm makes an otherwise conniving character into an engrossing and indelible picture of the organisation in crime.

But while realism is high and the capturing of an audience has been achieved, American Gangster ultimately fails to stand with its great brothers of the genre. Scott's direction never imbues the film with an identifiable style, and the camerawork never positions itself past tired conventions. We are treated to an entertaining, thoughtful and likable piece of cinema that pulls strides, but never widens its paces to step above what has been done before. But due to a lengthy script that allows humanity to enter a soulless world and with characters who portray these qualities with rawness, the par-quality of other departments is subdued.

American Gangster may have left a few of its cartridges at home and arrived a little underdone, but the film nevertheless winds up as a highlight in an impressive year of film.

The Breakfast Club

An examination on the segregation of groups in school, The Breakfast Club showcases stereotypically different people learning through their differences. The film reflects the shallow divides of youth and the materialistic differences that erect these social barriers, but delves into the quality that binds these people - heart. The learning curves of adolescence are shown through the simple but affecting premise of understanding. The film proves the dominant steps to maturity as being the understanding and relation to others and the idea that you learn the most from people unlike you.

John Hughes had an unparalleled insight into the mindset and angst of people at this time of life, and the Breakfast Club strengthens that ideal firmly. The Estevez monologue is worth a viewing in itself, and the all round performances of the crew fit together brilliantly.

The film feels a little flat at times and gears very slowly, but its insight into segregation is a marvel.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Seemingly confined in its humour, Fast Times At Ridgemont High pushes laughs through the reality of a way of life for a generation, but instead receives a much broader understanding from a more generalised audience. Showcasing the restrictions but also the limitless boundaries of life at this stage, the film adorns attention through its portrayal of academics, work, pressure, and the irony of learning through school but holding little knowledge about the world and relationships - the things that matter most.

What makes Fast Times At Ridgemont High so special is its ability to deliver to an audience with a scope much wider than expected and catered for. Its longevity has been proven through the understanding (both thematically and comedically) by generations to follow this film. In an evolving society, teenagers will experience the same situations, feelings, and personalities. And it is these personalities that make this film so likable. Many note that Sean Penn has come a long way from this film, but from a talent viewpoint - this isn't the case. As the forever happy, trippy, and distracted Spicoli: Penn delivers a personage up there with much of his later work.

But this isn't to undermine the roles of other soon-to-become stars, as the ensemble has been tightly screwed, but given a certain freedom, by director Amy Heckerling, who also tightens the framework of her film. And this notion is carried throughout. The film, while executed wonderfully, is very free flowing in its nature. There is no tried and tested narrative here, but merely the runnings of experiences for high schoolers of this time; undergoing the learnings of themselves and those around them. The framing, editing, and performances have been pushes to their heights here, yet the reality of the film holds the ability to suck an audience in and entertain through making us want to be a part of these clique's.

Disturbia
Disturbia(2007)
½

Clever and involving, Disturbia is a fine adaption of the past through the implementation of technology and issues of the present that are put to good use. The film hits its very constricted strides well as its modernising of past thrills and old intrigue is converted into a solid premise. Though, this modernising of old traits also tends to fault the film in its final stretch.

Remakes of generally good films can be a highly risky maneuver, and remakes of film cannon should prove to be downright suicide. Yet, the sheer likability and heightened realism of Disturbia tend to abolish comparisons of the past and instead allow the audience to revel in this transformational entertainment that works. While Rear Window was methodical, progressive and more clean, Disturbia provides an emphasis on a younger audience through heightened pacing and bursts of tension. In many regards, this tends to dull the intrigue a little more and strip the film of mystery that the original kept tightly veiled.

However, the general tones of paranoia and the obvious voyeurism are kept intact as we witness the community from the eyes of the watcher, perched in his sofa. And it is here that the audience involvement is coerced with the introduction of technology. We watch as our lead, Kale, watches; we surmise as our leads delve; and we experience the same voyeuristic nature of our housebound adolescent. While this reflected voyeurism isn't explored into length, it is instead implemented interestingly through the on screen happenings.

While Disturbia works in its anticipation and its momentary rushes of adrenaline, it becomes bogged down through a ridiculous and swift conclusion. The build up and the interest in these characters works, but the finale is left lingering in the realms of this genre. Though, thankfully one other stereotype of the genre has been dismissed due the fine, naturalistic performance of Shia LeBeouf - who steps into this role and convinces through his own personal aleviation of adrenaline as the film progresses.

While being a refreshing example of a remake that proves strong, Disturbia is not without its genre faults. But for what it strives for, it achieves in a very surprising fashion.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (AVP 2)
½

Forceful and rushed, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is as hollow as its monsters intellect and as pleasing as its predator's obligated hunt. The line between distinguishing which of the two alien races as being the predator of the war is blurred, but one thing is for certain: the audience is the prey; prey to a film that forces story deviations without payoff and dishes the absurd, plot-hole after plot-hole.

With a changed backdrop and a more relatable setting, "AVP:R" had the qualities to bring some human elements to an alien arc; and the film tries to accomplish this. Teen angst, family divisions, and unfulfilled love are the drops of humanity that the writers opted to counter balance the bloodshed and mutilations. Our build up sees cardboard characters in a pop-up setting with the problems of an afternoon teenage show to bring some emotion to an already hollow story. But with a payoff as delicate as a swift blade to the face - the humanity of the film dwindles quickly and its forceful nature mutates into a pointless tirade. We are given time to try and care about characters who are meaningless and simple in a story with about as much resolution as frosted glass.

But the thematic inconsistencies are not the only annoyingly blank qualities to the film as we are treated to illogical plot-hole, step by step. If a star cruiser crashes and berths a new breed of "super-adversary" prone to spread it's ill-will, then why send a single soldier to fight the battle and clean the mess? And if this Predator race is advanced enough to propel a ship to Earth in a mere couple of days, then why is there an absence of technology to warn them of an idiot civilian watching their careful moves from behind a tree?

The premise is a lost cause from the beginning, and the injections of tireless humanity only dwindled any hope of a weaving tale, so the visual implications of the film are the only basis for it's grounding. Yet, and in an astonishing further lack of form for this film, its feet stand in mud in this department, too. The imagery is murky, the scenes are dark, and the camera is weaving like a stitch maiden. The film is too dim to take a hold of the proceedings, and we are never given enough visual breath to comprehend these aliens and their horrendous yet intriguing looks.

With imagery too dark to grasp a scene and with absurdities lurking in as many corners of the script as aliens behind a wall, the film fails on just about all fronts. It is not a pleasing experience to squint through a stream of murky scenes to understand the happenings of this war, but when there is only one anti-hero in the picture - it's a safe bet on who is going to win each battle anyway, and that says everything about this film in a nutshell - pointless and predictable.

The Golden Compass
½

An engrossing and entertaining adventure through growth and the pursuit of free-will, The Golden Compass is a film marred by horrid marketing that has received an audience fate un-befitting to it's status as a film that implores some unique concepts in an equally unique world. Pullman's alternate universe is a mystifying and intriguing creation and thanks to some wondrous designs, these ideas have been given an appealing visual outlook on film.

But while the exterior qualities of the Golden Compass are alluring, it is the hidden connotations of religion and the underlying messages of freedom in a bound society that make for a much more insightful journey, rather than an effects splash like many others in this genre. If it weren't for the uproar from the Christian conglomerate, then the allegorical stitches would have been more unnoticed (due mainly to Weitz's shy direction). But instead, the film's qualities in this are much more highlighted, yet, the religious connotations come across as much more a reflection of the church and it's ideals than an outright promotion of atheism. The governing body of this world, the "Magisterium", is a clear (though overcooked) mirror of the Christian Church from the eyes of Pullman. The notions of the church constricting the needs for exploration and binding the factual facets of science are rippled into this governing body of the 'Compass' world. However, while this notation about the down points of the church are intriguing, the ideas tend to stray too far into bias perspective as Pullman inflicts that the church is ripping people's souls away from their vessel, used in the idea that one's soul is separate to themselves.

The ideas of the film are splashed further as it continues its gaze on the church by pondering over a person's free-will and the freedom for thought. Are the Magisterium's motives a mere manipulation, or are they pushing for what is "right" in a tightened society? Our main character, Lyra, reflects this quality in her quest, in a debut role played by the impressive Dakota Blue Richards, who steals scenes from a strong line-up.

...more soon.

Modern Times
Modern Times(1936)

Chaplin's comedic flair comes into conjunction with his cinematic prowess to produce a picture of audacity and hilarity where the entertainers qualities are proven both in front and behind the camera. The film lays the framework of a cityscape undergoing major societal changes and our leads magnify this quality through their hardships. Chaplin's bumbling, clumsy character of uncertainty almost acts as a reflection of these uncertain times; an incompetent man in an incompetent world. This is a time where work was thin, depression was looming, and the family unit was constricted.

But the film also tends to audaciously poke the film industry at the same time. Modern Times courageously sticks true to Chaplin's abstinence from sound and utilizes many scenes, most notable the quick flicker of a sound radio in a police station, to prove Chaplin's will to deliver his entertainment how it has been proven to be done best. The visual comedy of the actor has never been more precise and well thought out, and the visual eye of the director in Chaplin has taken a tight gaze at a time of depression but with the sparkle of light that seemed to be lacking in the historical context.

Where the film tends to truly excel, however, comes through its ability to never wane in its rythm and to never falter in its jesting deliverance. Where many silent films, in comparison to the progressions of cinema, tend to prove slow, Modern Times instead entertains at a constant stream. The framing is still and rarely pivots, allowing the on screen antics and chemistry to take hold and give focus to these surroundings.

In many ways, the title 'Modern Times' refers to many things. It could allude to the industrial changes and the work shortage of this depression, or it could reflect the director's sly provocations of a modernising film industry. Regardless of the film's underlying intentions, it remains a piece of cinema that highlights the comedic genre and proves as an example of humour that is untarnished, constantly reinvigorating, and simply timeless.

Days of Heaven
½

Tender immorality. Days of Heaven lavishes its exterior with beauty to oppose the deviance of its plot and the ethics of its characters to make for a picture laden with the splendor of serenity and the insight of needs, wants, and love. The film caters as a moving film through imagery as it captures an environment and a setting and is able to progress with minimal dialogue.

...more soon.

American Psycho
½

Whether it be psychotic or psychoanalytical, there is no denying that American Psycho emboldens thought and intelligent prowess in its construction in an otherwise atypical genre. Harron's adaptation proves as a smart satirical poke at perversions and a stab at societal status, while managing to be both a finely made picture with entertaining qualities.

American Pyscho is not without its personal qualms, yet it comes far from the depths that could have been. Bales performance alleviates the satire from turning him into a mere caricature as he delivers a genuinely terrifying, yet oddly magnetic role. His Patrick Bateman serves as the embroiled perfectionist reveling in his violent psychotic outburts where, in many ways, his character acts as a pointed reflection of the backstabbing and scheming of the corporate world. But the character envisages much more. Harron's symbolising of mirrors and the reflection of one's self allude to this mans own inner obsession, where his perfectionism sparks a complex to push himself above others and to continuously better himself; which works its way as the beginnings to explain his sadistic ways.

But it this sadism that eventually bogs the film down. The satirical overtones and hopes for laughs come at the expense of meaning. The film often finds itself stepping between the humourful ridicule of the corporate culture and a film that enjoys its sadistic barbarousness with a glee. This tends to halt the films analysis and switch it into quite a pointless affair with little to say.

American Psycho is an interesting and even enjoyable feature that finds itself marred from small holes expanding as the picture continues. Its making has encompassed some genuine thought through its careful framing and tightened screenplay at points, but the real reason to watch comes through Bale. His interpretation of the businessman we think we know is a delight to view.

Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette)
½

Emotionally evocative and likable to the end, Bicycle Thieves is a film firmly planted in humanity and its struggles in society, yet tells its tale in a line that proves a little too straight at times. The film is accessible through its ability to convey emotion, and through fine performances in a simple setting - we are made to care for our character who has lost his symbol of freedom and his ticket to a higher plane of living.

The problem with Bicycle Thieves is that it tends to take its notion of this society in a simplistic fashion. The film endeavors for realism and audience recognition with the hardships of our victim, and while it succeeds with this it becomes apparent that it does not succeed with anything else - simply because it doesn't have room to. The film focuses itself too finely on the singular problems in a simple story that, unfortunately, couples itself with simple dialogue and simple meandering. The ideology of the film arouses an intellectual response at points, through its symbols of independence and the ideals of the needs that make a hypocrite out of the most moral of men, but ultimately the film proves as a simple, albeit entertaining, and likable film.

The real winners of the picture come through the performances of Lamberto Maggiorani, who steadily builds the heightened desperation of a man trying to rise above the oppression of poverty, and Enzo Staiolo, who caters as the light that keeps the desperation in check. But the most undervalued goal of the film is the scoring, which pushes the setting and depression to higher levels.

Bicycle Thieves is a likable and emotional pursuit that we are taken on, but it has little to say in correlation to its status. Its simplicity could prove to date the film in years to come.

M
M(1931)

A masterwork from Lang that acts as a pioneering leap in cinema style and genre, where techniques are pushed and boundaries are extended, and acts as a pathological study in criminality and rights. The aesthetics of the film brim with Lang's flair for atmospheric tension and the usage of plot definition through imagery that results in a piece that works wonderfully in the director's personal transition from silent films to talkies.

What makes the film so interesting is its barren soundscape, where a complete absence of non-diegetic scoring becomes apparent from the opening credits, to the closing scenes. In moments of tension or in moments of ease and quiet story progression - the film remains silent, leaving Langs wondrous camera to speak its words to the viewer. This puts a focus on our main killer's calling trademark - a whistle that proves to be the only form of music in the entire picture; adding to Langs want for cinematic atmosphere and realism.

Furthermore, M never makes full use of itself to define its story depths or lay a concrete conclusion. Yet, this gives the narrative it's own sense of ambiguity and thought. The pathology is the basis for the story's implications, and Lang makes full means of this through his abrupt conclusion and teetering story lines.

Lorre's performance is great enough to almost have an audience sympathise with his sick character, while Langs ability for the encapsulation of a frightful atmosphere will keep audiences hooked through unconventional terms. The atmosphere, the mood, and the dark tension are the basis and thorough delivery of M, which packages itself as a brilliantly crafted example of cinema.

8 1/2
8 1/2(1963)

Dreamy and extensively surreal, 8 1/2 is an odyssey into the creative mindset - both visually and thematically - through it's reflexive formula of the filmmaking process, brought to the fore by the director and his character-counterpart. The film blends the illusions of fantasy, the memories of the past, and the realities of the present into a single mold, making for one of the more unique narrative structures to enter the cinematic domain.

Visually: 8 1/2 is trance inducing. The framing, lighting, and depth of field are utilised to mesmerise the audience in the same fashion as our struggling director, who relishes in the creative force inside his head, yet never manages to pen the ideas that swim through his subconscious. This overbearing reflexion of the film almost makes the project into one giant, snide laugh from Fellini in the direction of his producers. While suffering writers block, the best thing that Fellini could conjure was a piece that reflected this current state. The resultant is a film that delves not only into the struggles of finding inspiration, but also of the sheer creative magnitude that we can be pushed to when our creativity seems to be waning.

Mastroianni sums the film, and the director's intentions, in a wonderfully poetic line - "I really have nothing to say, but I want to say it all the same." And it is this cornerstone that makes the film so ever more provocative.

The Third Man

Mistrust, disloyalty, and the search for answers entangle their way into one of the most finely tuned screenplays delivered to the screen. The Third Man is an intricate mystery that beckons a thorough reading by it's audience through it's weaving narrative that sends the viewer through the same tests as our leading citizen detective. The usage of shadows and lighting in the imagery for the film is amazing, and coupled with the skewed framing and quick cuts of locals expressions, the film tends to make it's own visual claim. Yet, as deep as the film goes into it's exploration of morality and mistrust, there is still a strange levity to the film; making it almost amusing at points. This is mainly achieved through the jaunty, Viennese strumming of the sounds score, which feels almost out of place in a film that houses such a brutal story with such cunning characters. However, the push towards atmospheric capturing may explain this seeming downpoint. Add Orson Welles as one of the more enigmatic villains to come before us, and The Third Man proves to be a film of depth that will entertain and intrigue.

Touch of Evil
½

A film of conviction and visual awe, yet based along a string of intangibilities that never quite add up. Touch of Evil is a film that takes so many off shoots in it's narrative that it's incoherence turns into an illogical mess. Saved only by the screen sensibilities of Welles; the director tightens the images into the bleak, offsetting nature of the noir, and combines his own character of manic subtlety into a finely tuned performance. Touch of Evil is reverence without justification, and is heralded for the wrong reasons. It should be noted, however, that the film holds what could possibly be one of the greatest opening shots in cinema. There is still much to learn from the film, from the swiveling tracking shots to the mysterious lighting, just don't take notes from the awful script.

East of Eden
East of Eden(1955)
½

Intricate yet delicate, East of Eden delves into the pursuit of affection amidst rivalry. The film acts as a refined parable of the war of this time, scaled down to the struggles of a family. Dean is erratic and electric, while Massey is cooled and collected.

Barry Lyndon
Barry Lyndon(1975)

UPDATE:

Stanley Kubrick - the most annoying and admirable director. His films have been noted to have a certain maturing quality that alleviates each picture with repeat viewings, and never has that thought been so profound as with Barry Lyndon. It's hard to delve into a Kubrick film on first glance, as there is so much going on. Barry Lyndon is already starting to catch up with me.

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Methodical yet emotionally barren, Barry Lyndon gives a picturesque portrayal of a bygone era, yet in doing so, also manages to distance the audience at a great length. The affair is a striking picture of beauty and detail, but as nicely implemented as the visual qualities of the piece are, the characterisation tends to look marred due to the general tone of the times and of the film.

Very much a film of regality and sophistication, Barry Lyndon maneuvers itself through perfectionist framing in this droll environment. The film is still and often acts in a certain pretentiousness: a possible reflection of the sovereignty of this setting.

Telling the story of the rise in status and class of an ousted Irish rogue, told mainly in two distinct parts, Barry Lyndon is a film that is opened for an expansive consumption through it's departments. But the gamble of the piece is that Kubrick layed a heavy gaze on the sovereignty and times of sophistication for this man as a pose to events that may strike a higher level of entertainment for the audience. The most probable reason for this decision to showcase the most mundane potential of the story comes through the ideal that the search for fortune is not befitting to most people; even though many may have the means and want to achieve these goals.

Barry Lyndon is very much a retelling of the "rags to riches" story, but the podium for the film is placed once the structuring is noted. There is no levity and there is no moral highness for our lead character, who simply smirks and lucks his way through the ordeals of a hard life. We never feel emotion for the character and we never cheer on his cause, as his own moral ambivalence is shown at continuing glances. This, once again, showcases the distance from the film to the audience, but instead makes for a much more heightened focus on the filmmaking techniques and the immersion in these forgotten times.

Like a painting of vivid colour and vibrant placement, the cinematography for the piece makes for it's own artwork. Sumptuous and innovative, the film's exterior acts like a true delicacy that acts as an essential tool in the transporting nature of the film. Through the usage of special lenses, natural lighting is allowed to go hand in hand with perfectionist framing to make for a real and beautiful canvas to which Kubrick has painted onto. Candlelit scenes are flushed of colour, allowing for a soft, sepia-lie gradient to take effect as it slowly ripples with yellow lighting, and outdoor shots bring only what the sun and shading allow.

With the accompanying classical overture of sound scoring and the seemingly timeless set and costume decoration, Barry Lyndon becomes a film that almost feels as if it's dull characters and story of tedium are a purposeful tool used by Kubrick to exclaim the beauty of the surroundings and of his technical film mastery. Next to '2001: A Space Odyssey', this is Kubrick's greatest claim to technical fame, and it sure is a stunning affair to be witnessed.

Night at the Museum

Comedic cameo heaven can't save a film from the inadequacies of a dwindling, contrived script all the time. Yet while Night at the Museum is not the uproariously enjoyable adventure that it could be, it remains a film with enough fun to keep an audience entertained through the moments of lackluster jibes and torrid plot turns.

...more soon.

Metropolis
Metropolis(1927)

Innovative, stimulating, and highly intrinsic, Fritz Lang's Metropolis is one of the most visually inspired creations to enter cinema and proves to have acted as a benefactor in cinema's progression. While it's social implications are steadily becoming more identifiable through it's generalised ideals, it nevertheless manages to stimulate us through it's tight knit framework of the city life in an evolving community.

Night of the Living Dead
½

An exuberant and stylistic entry into cinema for Romero, Night of the Living Dead is a film that marvels through it's genius simplicity. The film looks, feels, and acts out as a proud B movie, yet holds the sophistication and thought to be regarded as much more.

...more soon.

Vertigo
Vertigo(1958)

Captivating, haunting, and emotionally atmospheric, Vertigo is a resonating force leaving its audience awe struck by its ferocious executions of emotion through its vibrant, yet grimly dark characters. Elegiac yet brisk in its output, the study of character and the interpretations of film and its impact on the human mindset force a change in audience perception and a change in filmic tradition.

Hitchcock's forceful parable of the human condition lies at its core through his characters who, in many regards, symbolize the power and danger of obsession, love, loss, and the inability for forward progression. The narrative has a steady incline (and final stroke at its conclusion) to push forth the ideal of a past experience best forgotten holding a strange allure to relive itself if one is unable to move forward and treat the past as the past. Vertigo laments itself as a harrowing outlook on lives and schemes crashing into one another with the dangers of obsession and its nature to drive ourselves into misconstrued paths. But while it gives this ideal to us as a whole, it also tends to broadcast the various points of obsession - obsessions of love, of pedantic perfection, of the unearthing of truths.

Stewart returns at Hitchcock's side in this thriller as the embodiment of this obsession and the catalyst of this dangerous pursuit for what he believes to be love. His heroism is often questioned throughout the film where a blurry line is formed between the deeds of his job and sometimes seemingly antagonistic ways. Yet, throughout this progression into his melancholic and manic behaviour, there is still a sheer likability to the character. Due to a true to tone performance from Stewart, the audience feels for his character even through his tirades of trying to abolish his unrequited love and turn it into a truth. However, the real show stopper of the picture comes through the motivator of this obsession - the woman that is wanted but should never be pursued. Kim Novak gives her role a widely under analysed spectrum in both behavioural and voice projections. Her beauty lights the screen, while her personality sets a sizzle.

Cinematographically, the colour scheme of the film tends to contradict the nature of shots, yet never actually hinders it. The choice of colours for the film imbues a deep vibrancy, and brings a distinction between attraction and repulsion. Novak's clothes remain stale and cold, a symbol of a danger that should not be pursued, while bright colours wanderously aim to steal the attention, but to no avail. Yet the shot structure proves the theory of framing rather then panning. Meticulous still frames are implored for the viewer's perusal, to once more force the gaze of the film's colouring and to study our characters in a more delicate manner. Hitchcock never tries to dazzle through camera ingenuity, but instead opts for placement to be the forte' of his shots, with an outcome just as impressive in this art form as anything created.

However, while the camera work instills a purposeful coldness, this does not mean that the film is without the flair for invention. Through the combined efforts of Bernard Herrman's hypnotic, mysterious sound composition and the invention of shots to reflect our leads 'Vertigo', the audience gets sucked into a trance-like state with the film, much again to reflect the conditions of our wandering lead. The hypnosis of the film is achieved through the visuals and the music, and takes the notion of cinema that extra step further as we engulf ourselves in this film and this narrative.

The Searchers
½

A film of vibrant simplicity yet holding deep characterization, The Searchers is a western sticking true to the guns of extensive plotting and innovative storytelling. In many ways, the films tends to create a transfixing facade over the audience where it's narrative remains straight, yet there is enough ambiguity and allure to depth that can be found when perused.

...more soon.

In Good Company

Coupling a poignant screenplay with smart direction, In Good Company alleviates itself from predictability into an intelligent, enjoyable, and emotional experience told through the situations of commercial coldness. The film exterior has a morose, almost downbeat tone as we trudge through stale depression with our characters, yet it's constant inflictions of subtle humour and social commentary make it stand out from it's genre.

With captivating wry smiles in awkward situations, the settings for the film act as a board with many scribbled notes of the corporate culture. The notion of societal evolution versus corporate benefit is etched to us on the screen through the inter-relationships of these characters and their lives in this ever changing world and it's industries. The presented concepts lay foundation to an analysis, and humourful provocation, of how business is growing more into an inhumane machine focused solely on monetary benefits without care for the workers who obtain said benefits.

In essence, In Good Company utilizes it's characters to fortify this backdrop of the corporate culture through the reflections of the hierarchy in business - the relationship between managerial positions and class workers - with a presented company that proves to be good indeed. Dennis Quaid steps into a role of the yesteryear - a man with a balance for work, family, friends and regular ideals, and a performance reflecting these traits with a comforting tenderness and striking dominating presence. Topher Grace suits up with the weight of the world on his character's shoulders, slumping and selling through work and life with an unknown, faded path ahead. A character embodying the prevalent changes in a profit hungry world, yet with lessons to learn from the harsh wisdoms of the past.

A morose level under depression can often be felt throughout the picture, as lives become easily destroyed due to the decisions of high end employers. But it is the humourful interjections throughout mirror-like scenes of authenticity throughout the relationships of love, knowledge, and friendship outside of the chilly office atmosphere that bring light to this otherwise dreary subject. The screenplay is often able to make the sad into the melancholic, which suits the picture beautifully. In Good Company is never meant to be a roaring pleasure of laughs, and never acts as a sweetener of romance, but rather delves into the real aspects of life through an everyday environment of this foodchain. The film is about synergy, and with a truth from it's departments that never try to outshine each other, In Good Company is a strangely touching and striking picture that breaks bounds while never entirely entering new grounds - and it works a treat.

Saw IV
Saw IV(2007)
½

Undercooked, sour, and dizzyingly hypocritical, the latest installment in the 'SAW' series proves that the year on year track record is beginning to take it's toll on this dissipating horror franchise. The film feels disjointed and acts like a slew of ideas that have been thrown together by too many conflicting points of view. While some ideas represented to us are entertaining, and sometimes even intellectually stimulating, we are ultimately left with a film that is beginning to stray far from it's predecessors ideals and merits.

Saw IV is very much a picture showcasing the tale of "better the devil you know" - this is a film made for fans, and it's makers seem completely disinterested in the rest of the movie going public; and for a film this far in the series - it would be foolish to do otherwise. But while studios can be comforted with their bases of loyalties, Saw IV proves to be greatly hindered due to small plot points with grand ramifications. Decisions have been made for the film and it's story progressions, some good, some bad, but the results of the film come off with a more ingrown distaste due to the consequences of small plot incisions - incisions that bare so deep into the skin of the franchise that the blood that lamented this series in the first place has been almost swiftly conceded. It becomes slightly disheartening to see the morals and ideals that stimulates thoughts from the earlier points in this grizzly series to be butchered to make way for an "audience pleasing" scene.

However, credit is due where it is earned, and while the film is certainly no prize winner, it's outcome is better than expected with the facts thrown onto the table. Few franchises can throw ingenuity and flair into a fourth installment like this film has, and few can turn a seemingly impossible task of converting the remnants of this film's predecessor into an endearing and striking film with further potential. Writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan tend to be progressing into their roles here as writers. Their work is impressive to a point, but there is still much room for improvement.

Ultimately though, a review for a film of this type is redundant. As mentioned, this is strictly fan macabre. If you enjoyed the previous films, then you will see this; if horror and torturous plot and visual mechanics are not your ideal screening, then you'll be steering clear. Critical consensus of a film like this matters not, for studios see only dollar signs as they take advantage of the fandom that was once deserved. We can only hope that the ingenuity left in this series is prolonged long enough to leave some shred of dignity.

Cabin Fever
Cabin Fever(2002)

More a comedic outlook on the gore of horror and the blood of tensioned action, Cabin Fever is a film that never quite knows what kind of film it is and never pushes itself into an endearing direction. The film has it's moments of laughs and cringes, but winds up an inevitable failure due to the fault's shown time and again by it's director. However, and in much luck for this muddled mess, the aftertaste of the film leaves a sweeter lingering thanks to a memorable and highly amusing conclusion, almost ridiculing the absurdities of the genre's this film laments.

American Beauty
½

....review coming soon.

2010
2010(1984)
½

Entertainment without intrigue, 2010: The Year We Make Contact is a much more traditional insight into science fiction and a much more basic interpretation of Clarke's novels. Never trying to mimic or outdo the integrity and marvel of '2001: A Space Odyssey', the film makes its own claims in it's own rights - it is much more accessible and acts as a decent fanfare from the predecessor. Yet, due to the film's conventionalities, it merely acts as it's own sole interpretation of the endless ambiguities layed by it's father in film.

While the underlying themes and notions of 2010 seem to merely recapitulate what has been delivered before, it manages to bring it's own weight to the fore through solidifying concepts. The film's lack of open-ended insight strays far from the universe created initially, but the backlash from delusional fans is unjust. 2010 acts as a fitting enough film to continue in this provocative series. It respects it's initiator enough to not intervene with it's status and respects it's source material enough to act as a bridge to the novel.

...more soon.

I.Q.
I.Q.(1994)

One of the worst movies you'll be likely to see. The single most idiotic premise filmed on celluloid and a great example of a movie that caters for just about no audience. The only wonder in the film comes through the nature that this tripe, somehow, did not kill the careers of anyone involved. This is the kind of film to, single handedly, lower your respect for some of your favourite actors. Tim Robbins, how could you?

Shameful, embarrassing, and something highly forgettable - avoid this film.

13 Going on 30
½

With just enough quirkiness crammed into a charming, accessible and surprisingly refreshing film, Suddenly 30 proves itself to be a fine example of a fun film sticking true to it's merits. Never over ripened and with only a dashing of sugar, this is a film that, while holding a premise of absurdity, allows itself to be an endearing and entertaining journey into the growth of attitude and persona with a well learned lesson at it's heart. The film may not hold an original plot, but for what it does - it does well.

...more soon.

The Killing
The Killing(1956)
½

The first feature length outing for one of cinemas most poignant and identifiable directors proves to be a film of intrigue, class, entertainment and works as a fitting proclamation on the potentials of it's maker. The Killing is a tight piece of deception, mistrust, violence and style, and in many ways acts as the sayonara to the atypical film noir as it gestures in the era of more provocative and experimental filmmaking.

What sets The Killing apart from many other pieces in this director's arsenal of variety comes through it's characterisation. The screenplay of the film involves much more dialogue than subsequent films of Kubrick, and through this we are given insight into the character's through the portrayal of the actor's, rather than the camera (as is the case with Kubrick's long winded style). However, what also sets The Killing apart from many other films in this genre is it's unwilling nature to adhere to a formal pacing and linear narrative. Time interchanges become entangled with cleverly written plot points and turns as we are thrust into the intermingling of entertainment with intricate concepts.

However, as different as this film may feel, it is still highly distinguishable as the work of Mr. Kubrick, handled through complex tracking shots and meticulous framing that assures itself in coaxing the audience to absorb the surroundings that these characters so oftenly interact with. Characters that create the perfect heist without a glitch gone wrong, but find the simplest of barriers blocking them all from the final prize. The film works well in noting the pitfalls of a pefectly capered plan - improvisation is a necessity as the planned checkpoints of any routine more often than not will be struck down due to the retaining mistrust between crew members.

Un Chien Andalou

More along the lines of an experiment in aesthetics rather than an ingrown example of cinema, Bunuel's innovative piece of surrealism is a film to admire for it's pioneering steps in the conversion of pictures to moving imagery. The film feels like the dabbings of a paintbrush in a seemingly randomised portrait - cohesive elements of film and a leveled rythm are distinguished immediately as we are thrust into this strange world, alternating between memorable imagery and incongruous concepts.

From beginning to end, Un Chien Andalou is filled with memorable imagery brought upon through an artist's insight into the cinematographic process. Dali's inflictions are felt throughout the iconic images of the eye splitting, the ant-ridden hand clutching through a door space, and the donkey corpse in the piano. The film never makes sense, but like all post-modernistic art - it doesn't need to. Instead, we are meant to sit and admire the visual implications of the film, rather than delve into it's non-existent philosophies.

However, what truly pushes this short film further into the minds of film enthusiast's comes through it's stunning editing, where techniques seem to be at a first here. The film's claims to cinematography and editing alone make the film canonical for lovers of the medium.

A technical masterpiece with translucent traditional film needs, Un Chien Andalou is a visual masterpiece in it's own right. The experiment pays off in the sense of pioneering film methods and burning images into the minds of the audience.

The Shining
The Shining(1980)

Stanley Kubrick's venture into the horror genre proves as a chilling, suspenseful, and thoroughly intricate tale of the human condition at it's most schizophrenically sadistic depths. The film is taut, looks wonderful, and is a finely tuned example of the highs of this medium, but most of all - it is scary, and it is the techniques that bring this scare factor that excel this film.

Through the abstinence of typical methods of frightening the audience, The Shining is an example of fulfilling the needs of the genre through alternate methods. Much like Hitchcock's portrait of horror reverence, 'Psycho', the scoring of the picture lays the main basis for the frights. There is a seeming stream of music in the picture, with further control through the alternations of volume, that help to emerge from the depths of the piece to the very fore to help build the suspense of a scene until it's climax is reached. In many respect's, the composition tends to mirror the underlying supernatural elements of the film, but like the exterior layer exclaims - these forces are never defined.

Much in the same way as the music heightens itself through scene installments, the overall pacing of the picture tends to hold a constant rise in weight and suspense. Like a reflection of the slowly dwindling grasp on reality of our character's, the film's rythm begins at a comfortable level - we understand the situation and relate with this family. However, as the months roll in the film and the minutes roll on our screens, the levity is lowered to depths below the surface - the paranormal takes hold of our sanity and we are forced into a state of losing rational thought as we are unable to truly delve into the meanings of the events given to us. As the film moves along, we are almost sent into a state of psychosis where reality is amorphic and time is displaced.

While The Shining may not be one of the more intellectual of the director's repertoire, it remains as one of the entertainment driven film's of Kubrick's collection (an inescapable hole of this genre). But it is the identifiable nature of this piece that excels this film to the fore, achieved through it's revolutionary cinematography. Kubrick combines his trademark tracking sequences with the fascination of the steady cam, where smooth visual textures are rendered on otherwise changing landscapes. The shots and sequences of this film would be near unachievable had this invention not been used, and it is Alcott's experimental nature with this device that sends through the dizzying nature of the film that works so well in furthering the spooks of the scoring.

As vibrant as the technics of The Shining are, a review of the piece would be lacking without giving due note to the fine performances of Jack Nicholson and Danny Lloyd, with the latter almost stealing the scenes off of the veteran actors.

Sunshine
Sunshine(2007)

Aspiring for the medium between intelligence and entertainment, Danny Boyle's "Sunshine" proves as a film to reignite a slowly dissipating genre.

...more soon.

Raging Bull
Raging Bull(1980)

UPDATE:

Seminal filmmaking here. Four and a half stars does not justify the sheer brutality and brilliance of this piece. Top billing.

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A brilliant achievement in filmmaking from every person involved. Scorcese's best, and a near career high for DeNiro, Raging Bull is a testosterone induced affair in one of the most captivating and real character studies ever made. If you want an example of a true director's film, than this is one to keep a wide eye out for. Every scene, with every frame, is picture perfect in it's execution and the transitioning through some extraordinary editing makes this film seem so much more than a simple boxing film. But, in essence, it truly is much more than the sport, as we are, instead, taken along the arduous and hard journey of Jake LaMotta. Do we care for the character? No. Are we forced to dislike him? Yes; and this is brought about through DeNiro's Oscar winning performance, which (in my mind) is just a little bit shy of his role in 'Taxi Driver'. Raging Bull is a film that never holds back anything in it's swift punches; the boxing scenes are choreographed in a stunning fashion, the supporting cast backs up a fiery LaMotta, and Scorcese, ah Scorcese, the Oscar statue should have been yours back in 1980 with this film, which is one of the greatest directorial achievements of all time.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes)

A film of breathtaking visual splendour, Aguirre: The Wrath of God is a film that stays finely in tune with the beauty of it's natural scenery while giving a vivid and real insight into the truths of madness and the thirst for power.

...more soon.

Once Upon a Time in the West

A spectacle set in scunge, Once Upon A Time in the West is a poet's tale that gives as much insight into the backdrops and times of the old west as the characters occupying them. The film is dirty, the film is cold, and the film is slow, but with the encompassing mastery of it's many departments, this is a film that is made for art and enjoyment.

Through the sweeping score by Morricone, the picturesque cinematography capturing a painter's view of a gritty ordeal, or the engrossing and detailed screenplay lavished out like a straight retelling, this a film that easily captures the artistic attention of the audience while also managing to bring a stream of smiles. A strange fashion is adorned through the pacing of the picture, however, where the film seems to take constant, purposeful pit-falls in it's rythm. Each scene seems deliberately set up to rise at a slow pace, coaxing the audience on in anticipation until reaching a climactic peak, where after the tone drops once more as a refreshed scene takes the fore. Many a time this tends to work where it truly shouldn't. But with gratitude towards the artistic inflection and overall tone of the piece, the alternations of the tone work like the bumpy ride of a stagecoach - the trip takes a while, but the scenery is beautiful enough to lay away the slow waits.

Yet, what truly sets Once Upon A Time in the West apart from it's many predecessors and successors comes through the notion that nothing is ever truly defined in the film. With plenty of dialogue nulled scenes, the audience is left to ponder over these character's, their ambitions, and the true driving force of the story. However, the characters lay as only a scattering of pebbles in contrast to the vast desert stretching before us. The film gives vivid insight and a sense of hearkening traditionalism in conveying the rugged, dry landscapes and atmosphere of this time. There are no "good guys" in the west, even our harmonica strumming lead actor is given a gritty ambivalence. There will be times where the motives and decisions of these men will be continuously questioned, but it is this realism that makes this film that further bit special.

Out of a fiery and swift career, Leone proves himself to be at his peak in terms of fulfilling a film's aesthetics. The cinematography streams and weaves, levering itself between the pensiveness and contemplation of the extreme close-up, where we almost feel absorbed into the notions being felt by these men of vengeance; or allowing the complete consumption of the expanse surrounding these ordeals through distanced, yet wonderfully framed and placed shots.

With the look of a painting and the force of a well oiled machine, Once Upon A Time in the West is cinema at one of it's rarest, highest rises. If ever there was a hard edged, dry opera with the kind of poetry told with few words, this film would be it.

Snatch
Snatch(2001)
½

Muddled, overdone, and flashy for all the wrong reasons, Snatch is a film that tries too hard at elevating its simple subject matter. It's an ironic coincidence in this fashion, where a basic story with basic characters becomes entangled to the extent of incoherency, much like the seemingly stroke-ridden character played by Brad Pitt. There are moments to laugh, and there are moments to catch the attention, but by the end of the film nothing surmounts to anything as we are left with a pretentious piece of filmmaking using the tricks of a freshly graduated film student.

Like the diamond that these many crooks are bent on snatching, this is a film that buffs itself to hold a shiny exterior, but means very little if you split and analyse it. It thinks it's a smart film, and boldly exclaims that through its splintered narrative and alternating editing. And while there are a couple of cards hidden up the sleeves of our hard edged ensemble, these are unfortunately shot to the back of the line.

To an extent, the film is well written in the sense that it implements an interesting idea - the travels of a diamond through the hands of various criminals ? and is able to form a basis for many humorous one liners and smirk worthy scenes. But really, the film relies too heavily on these concepts with the lack of the much needed follow-through. The strands conjoining our cast of characters becomes almost nonsensical for the audience as the constant switch between story arc?s makes it too hard for an audience member to keep up with the many characters.

However, in a fine example of a trait also serving as a hindrance, the editing for the piece is given wondrously to perform for the director?s wishes. The choppy takes and synchronization with the sound score is achieved well and looks good, but, this tends to only serve the film along the lines of style over substance and makes for a slipping grasp of conjoining harsh brutality with comedic levity. The idea is here, but the execution falls short.

The Illusionist

With a firm grasp on it's varied filmmaking aspects, The Illusionist proves to be a captivating affair to hold the attention and the intrigue of it's audience.

...more soon.

The Chronicles of Riddick

Aesthetical marvel and a magnetic lead character are the safe marks that excel this film from absurdity to acceptance. The film is enjoyable, and had potential to be great, but becomes marred by straying plots and horrid concepts that ruin an otherwise provoking screenplay. Take out Diesel and Ketih David and you're left with a pretty poor ensemble cast that reaches to levels far behind their potential, almost to the point of giving this film the same 'B-Grade' aura of the series introduction (Pitch Black).

Beerfest
Beerfest(2006)

Absurdity of an outrageous level, Beerfest is the kind of film that puts disclaimers warning against its content, yet glorifies these acts through audience manipulating heroes overcoming adversity. Part two hour beer commercial, part tasteless humour, Beerfest will bring a thirst for both a drink and a more refreshing comedy.

Having it's moments but always failing to follow through with the right paths, Beerfest is very much a loud party with black spots, much like the next morning for our binging characters. There are good moments, but these tend to be drowned out by the slew of over-performed antics that ruin an otherwise good affair. It's evident that the makers of the film have a flair of intelligence, but what tends to confound is why they choose such low brow turns in the story arc; turns that reach the levels of sheer idiocy. Many a time the film simply lacks any tact. It can be awkward, it can be stupid, and it can be downright bad, given through points that simply have no bearing on the story or comedic flavour.

However, like finding a tastier beer to flush out the toxins of a cheaper variety, the film manages to attempt a balance through some undershown, intelligent ideas and generally humourful scenes. Even after the bad taste of depressed humour at its most downtrodden, the audience may still find themselves smiling for our characters as they down one, two, or twenty drinks that comprise the premise of the film. And it is this premise that makes Beerfest furthermore awkward. Through its formulaic paths and its scringe-worthy scenes, the general plot for the film should immediately deter and prove to have little promise. It's a film that promotes without meaning to, and while this could be a dangerous thing, it still tends to entertain at the most crucial points. Just when it may lose the audience for good, it pulls out a gag that just may turn a laugh.

Idiotic and often lacking tact, Beerfest is a time out that will deliver in small amounts to those willing to sit through the drivel of a drunk. This is hardly thoughtful cinema, but for a film based entirely on an alcoholic drink and the means of drinking it quickest, this is to be expected.

Transformers
Transformers(2007)
½

Michael Bay may not be much of a story teller, but he does know how to get the heart pumping and adrenaline flowing through entertainment chocked cinema, and his latest offering - Transformers - is no different. Through the seamless integration of humour and action, Bay has transformed an unlikely pleasure into a bonafide hit. From typical film standards, Transformers fails abysmally, but for those without the expectations of a miracle, Transformers achieves everything it sets out to.

In many ways, this film could be considered the mega-blockbuster of a very Hollywood dominated year of cinema. Transformers encompasses action, explosions, jokes, hot bodies, and about as much depth as a wading pool. However, to put anything but this into the film would have only served as a hindrance. There is a seriously lacking story, made no easier by a ridiculous premise to begin with, and on these merits the film's nonsensical nature turns into an affair that will leave moments of bewilderment and critical dismissiveness. But once more the bases of entertainment hit further than analysis can delve as the story rusts are given constant oil changes through the form of action, laughs, and more action.

In a sequel dominated year of flashy effects and amped up visuals catered through enormous budgets, Transformers is a film that will likely take the prize of being the most visually inspiring film of the crop. Aesthetically, the film is near groundbreaking through sumptuous effects that will prove to leave the competition trailing behind. And the filmmakers are aware of this exterior splendour as they fill the massive 140 minute run-time with as many explosions and metal crunching robot fights as they can.

Though the film can become quite tiring at points through elongated scenes that often overstay their welcome, Transformers remains testament to the notion of cinema catering for the smile; but of course, the makers will be expecting plenty of dollars back as well.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is not without its many qualms, but all in all the fifth installment of the growing series proves as an expected adventure into the visual medium. The movie fills the wizarding cauldron to the brim and feels far too rushed: an element that was bound to happen through the decision of converting the longest book of the series, into the shortest film.

With a darker atmosphere and a more begrudged protagonist, this is a film that acts as a swift turn from the fruitful triumphs of wandering youth given in prior installments. To say that the "magic is lost in the film" like so many other reviewers is a naive way of looking at the series. There is levity and happiness to be found, but the change in tone is brought through the growing of our characters. They mature, so does the series.

However, the focal point of the film's downward spiral is achieved through the cramming of content. Giving a little more time to the picture would have helped, but true aid has been sorely missed through a screenplay that simply tries to fit too much in. A culling of chapters and a conjoining of plot points were what was needed here.

David Yates was an interesting addition to this series. He shows flair and brings a heightened sense of realism to the picture, but it is hard to look past the point of this feeling like a prerequisite for better things to come for the director. However, the real shining additions come in the form of Imelda Staunton, who brings a certain psychotic containment to a very different kind of enemy; and Evanna Lynch, who gives her character - Luna Lovegood - a dreamy and often "head in the clouds" exterior without bother.

Where the film is sure to bring enjoyment is through its entertainment through fireworks and lightshows. This film abstains from a more coherent story, but instead acts a heightened crowd-pleasure for those wanting action, effects, and calamity. The film never excels too far, yet it never slows down much, either.

Singin' in the Rain
½

Infectious and catching, Singin' in the Rain combines the vibrancy of song, the flamboyance of vaudeville, and the authenticity of broadway into a motion picture that is sure to kick the heels of each audience member. What sets the film apart from many others, however, is the ingenuity in it's screenplay and undertones that stand out just as much as the scintillating dance numbers given to us.

...more soon.

The Proposition

A searing and violent look into the gritty colonial past of a forgotten era of Australia acts as the basis for a dirty, striking, and surprisingly accessible film where issues of loyalty and morality become infused into a backdrop of racial prejudice and social inequalities of class. The Proposition is an affair that will shock, entertain, and give insight into a setting that has not been explored with such conviction in many years.

With an outback as expansive as the imagination can deliver, and with scenery beautiful in its simplicity, the audience is set down a jaded path. From the exterior layer the film may look manipulative as it tends to have the viewer sympathise with the criminals depicted before us. But instead, the screenplay brings a purposeful fade in the lines between the "good" and the "bad". What the film tells us is that at these times, there are no select two groups. Each person has their moral subjections that must be dismissed in order to live. This trait becomes further emphasised through the discrimination of native Aboriginals of this time, where slavery is considered to be a lucky break for these natives through the eyes of the settlers and police, who snark their way with a nonchalant ignorance in this new country.

The film is short, and at times this tends to be its main hindrance, yet this swift structuring makes the visual and tonal qualities much more striking as it acts as a quick, hard knock forced through a very fast paced film. Some extra time to further explore the rugged, dirty Australia of the past could have been a very interesting insight, and while it probably would have bolstered the film further, it is clear that the focus is to be set onto the main story of the cost of redemption and the highlights of the apparent fade in any defined moral associations.

With a picture perfect cast and a bloody, realistic outlook on a bygone era, The Proposition is a film that will entertain and intrigue. There was much room for improvement, but for what the film strives for ? it achieves.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Silly, bold, and strikingly infectious, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is a film that does the unthinkable - it takes aboard the dare of tweaking it's formula from it's original form to make it a much better film than the turgid affair that unfortunately met our senses previously. With a heightened ability to convey a set of more solid tonal qualities, this is a sequel that remains simplistic to the base, but is able to poke the right kind of fun and mix it nicely with a more endearing story and a more alluring aesthetical appeal.

...more soon.

The Machinist

An interesting film that is compelling enough to draw in the audience, but ultimately fails to take a proper grasp. The Machinist is a ride into some familiar territory, but with some enjoyably dark and psycho-erratic overtones the film is at least allowed to feel unique, whilst it's wheels tread through the whitewash that will feel like a similar case of "deja' vu" that our main character finds himself in.

The main problem with this film is that it tends to spread the concept of keeping things constantly shrouded in darkness a little too wide as we are never left with an identifiable end point. Instead, the film goes from gear to gear on a ride that feels like we are simply going through a set of tedious motions with no real end goal in sight. To add to this, the familiarity and lack of subplots pushes the audience to concentrate on finding answers for themselves, resulting in the uncovering of key plot aspects that become as bluntly clear as Bale's need for a meal.

The devotion of Bale, however, is something to marvel at. Much of the film will leave watchers in awe at an actor who is so immersed in this performance of a character who is hollow, erratic, and seemingly confused about even his own existence due the insomnia that plagues his will to live.

Much like an alternating lever, The Machinist is a film that has aspects that work, yet also balances itself with an equal amount of aspects that become nonsensical or simply derived. The screenplay has original concepts in it, such as the cryptic clues left in front of our insomniacs eyes and the overall results of this unavoidable lifestyle. But ultimately, the resulting revelations that are meant to bring unity to the misjointed prior plot points feels somewhat underwhelming as the audience will have either realised it for themselves, or simply see the apparent flaws in logic that are represented. On top of this, we are given a musical composition that, for the most part, tends to contradict the brooding and schizophrenic tone that the film is constantly trying to deliver.

The Machinist has it's enjoyable factors, and is quality enough to keep watching even for it's formulaic pitfalls. But, it will become apparent of just how faulty this machine ultimately feels, and how much a regular oil change would have helped it.

Fight Club
Fight Club(1999)
½

UPDATE:
A film that gets better with each extra viewing. My recent watch, being my third, was as fresh as it was the first time that I saw this extraordinary film. It's interesting to note that the fighting in the film is simply a by-product of the overall message and acts as background to the plethora of provocative material showcased around it. Fight Club is a film that strikes true as it "fights" against commercialism and the so called "needs" of a society that are spoon fed to us by the materials that we simply eat up and follow.

If anything, this is a reflexive film. Those die hard fans out there who supposedly understand the film and adhere to it's principles should immediately throw out the TV and DVD player that you watch this film on, as they are simply the materialistic possessions that this film so boldly exclaims as being wrong. For us realists, though, simply watch and enjoy the film for visual flair, it's provocative ideologies, and it's nature of being one of the most refreshing and original films of it's decade.

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Great film that gives insight into the mental prowess of the male just as much as the physical side.

Lenny
Lenny(1974)
½

With a raw authenticity and a striking establishment of a forgotten icon, Lenny is a film that holds true to it's source and the tonal qualities that were pressed and needed to be presented. Bob Fosse, with a short directorial career, has crafted a gem of a film that has become sadly misplaced in the years, but his work here outshines even the very monoliths of 1974 that had beat this film into submission.

Structurally, Lenny is a very rare piece. The film tends to hold an undergarment of a docudrama, through it's usage of direct interviews and lack of musical composition. For most projects, this aspect could have drearily downgraded the film by severely stilting the pacing. Here though, it tends to accompany the soft yet unyielding nature of the visual qualities. At the same time, the film tends to overlay those fabrics with the facade of being a biographical picture that aims to strike with the same maneuvers as it's leading man, a comedian who seemingly ushered in a new age of public acceptance towards the "obscene" and the fight against censorship.

Lenny is a film that holds many truisms to it as we listen with an understanding of the comedian's stance on his material. The public of this era sees only provocative obscenities, but the audiences of the later years are able to see the reality in what Lenny Bruce is saying. His harsh comments speak with an integrity and truth that identifies the flaws in the defenses of prejudice's and social acceptances. And through Hoffman's brilliant performance, we are able to see layers to a man who was destined to reach his self-destruction along his followed path; a man who morphed his life with the morphing of his material and critiquing of society and it's people.

Through a fine screenplay, Lenny is a film that brings a high volume of laughs, but allows itself to be balanced with a care for the progression of these character's. Hoffman gives inflictions of a true character of ambivalence from the audience. There are many points to question the man's morals, yet his stance is ever so powerful that a strange fade comes into focus between his life and his comedy. We laugh at his jokes, but the personal qualities behind the microphone provoke questions. Valerie Perrine gives the performance of her career as the wife of confusion and need. The real star, however, is director Bob Fosse, who has focused his attention on select film departments to get the most out of this film.

A rare feat for the film is that it succeeds in portraying the look, feel, and details of a 1950's America, slowly coming to terms with a generational gap that will shake the societal evolution like never before. The film is picturesque in it's tone - it is serious, but holds an overbearing cynicism and wry smirk that it shares with it's laughter hound. But the cinematography is able to take a further leap through the execution of some astonishing editing, where a vast amount of shots are compiled to add that final layer of visual complexity to an already meaningful film.

Tragic and moving, Lenny is a picture that will stay with you for quite a while. Have the patience to stick with it, and the rewards will be reaped. The only downpoint is that at times the film tends to bring some subtle contradictions to the table. Otherwise, this is perfect filmmaking.

Dead Poets Society
½

Simplistic and basic, yet harrowing and real, Dead Poet's Society is a film that brings a tunnel of emotional lifts and pits to make this a relevant and striking depiction of the breaking of the bounds.

...more soon.

Sideways
Sideways(2004)

Dark humour and heartfelt emotions of realism are what make this film such an enjoyable feature to watch. Sideways is the kind of film that cracks a wry smile in awkward situations, but where it truly excels comes through it's constant infusions of reality. It can be a very easy thing to become absorbed into the adventures of our drinking duo, but this makes the film ever more fun.

Essentially, Sideways is a film with a very juggled tone to it. The film tends to hold a melancholic, almost repressive undertone as we are thrust into a reflection of our main character, the depressive Miles. Our characters intentions are bleak, their lives overshadowed by either their lacking past, or the daunting future that awaits them. In juxtaposition to this comes the exterior layer of style; where upbeat music combines with a quirky array in cinematographic techniques to bring the illusion of levity (a possible metaphor for the impetuous Jack). On many angles, Sideways is a film that feels almost as fruity and assorted as the wines that our connoisseurs indulge in, a trait that is carried through in the screenplay.

To put it blankly - Sideways is funny, and in a blank way, too. The humour of the film brings laughs to the audience through the predicaments of our character's, with a spontaneity that these level lives choose to adopt. The screenplay takes a rightful turn, however, as it chooses to balance this sardonic humour with heartfelt emotions. Throughout the course of this alternating adventure there is a stark familiarity with our characters. We learn about and delve into the lives of these people in a very swift manner, which makes us truly care for the turns that take their toll as the film progresses. The irony comes into force through the fact that, as expertly crafted by Alexander Payne, we care for these characters even though we may not agree with the decisions that they make.

Sideways is a fun exploration into the lives of people who are often dismissed by cinema. But through some fine performances thrown into a compelling script, we feel all the better for meeting these characters. Who knows, for those old enough, you may be so captured by the film that a glass of Pino Noir may begin to take your fancy.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
½

Contrived nonsense, silly turns, and aimless story arcs hinder the third installment of this sea-faring series of films to a point where both fans and film lovers alike will be left scratching heads and backs by the long-winded finale'.

At its base, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a jumbled, tiring, and nonsensical film. From the initial appearance of our dirty sea characters it becomes obvious that this film will steer clear of any sort of cohesive story-telling. Instead however, we are thrown into a barrage of plot elements and ridiculous story turns that will prove as a match to even the most alert moviegoer. There are constant reaches at action, romance, and laughter, but inevitably the film feels void of any real life due it's fast paced, skimming narrative structure. By the end of the film, audiences will end up feeling water-logged by the hurl of inconsequential names, characters, and story pieces.

And it is here that the film takes an abnormal turn. We are given PLENTY of fighting and one liners that become jumbled into a fast paced boat ride, yet the film constantly fails in promoting due attention from the audience. Instead making way for a monotonous stream of tedious, and often pointless, scenes catering only for the popcorn eaters. Geoffrey Rush looks like a man going through the paces, Chow Yun-Fat was severely underused, and even Johnny Depp's once hilarious and unhinged screwball feels like a character that is becoming morphed into a cliche'd sequel trotter.

Yet, while the film is constantly marred by these terrible aspects, it allows for a fairly riveting and surprisingly "trilogy concluding cliche'" friendly ending, allowing for the audience to at least walk out of their viewing experience with the faintest shred of fulfillment to fill the void left by the previous two hours.

While it may be looked at as an inevitable outcome for a rushed and formulaic sequel, the third installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise proves as a severe drop in form from it's previous incarnations. The film is filled to the brim, to the point of crossing the line of silliness. This is absurd filmmaking that will never hold a level head no matter how many viewings are witnessed. A nice ending coupled with a sprinkling of intelligent concepts are the only things that allow this film to avoid the perils of the pit.

Hostel Part II
½

Not better, yet not worse, then the first film in this gratuitous film series, Hostel: Part II is a film that holds many sharp tools, but also throws a few blunt objects in the audience's direction, too. In many respects, it seems that this sequel has addressed the issues that degraded the first film, but yet ironically lacks some of the heart and sarcastic fun that the first 'frolic' had.

First assumptions of Hostel: Part II brings us the fact that this is, for the most part, a better made film than it's counterpart. An equal tone has been encompassed into a film that has a much tighter grasp on what it is trying to convey. The cinematography has been picked up and now resembles truly dark imagery, however, this tends to be juxtaposed to the often satirical turns that this narrative takes.

If there is one plus point to this film, then it is this - Roth gets great performances. The film is nearly worth sitting through just for Roger Bart alone, who adds layers to his character that allows him to stray from a cliche'd, carbon copied caricature like our sex-starved twenty-somethings from our first encounter. And while the rest of the cast supplements well, the narrative takes constant turns that never appeal. We are focused a little TOO much on the functioning of this hell house as we delve into our antagonists. As seen in previous films, unveiling the shroud of mystery often takes some of the scare out of the premise.

However, if you are able to look past the graphical gore and nonsensical, tedious narrative structuring, then you may actually find some "food for thought". The concept of America's ignorance and their view from the rest of the world is taken a step further by digging into the naivety of third world tourist's; taking the world and it's people for granted. But where this film is able to strike a further chord is by taking a subtle examination of the human psyche and our evolution from "animals". We have a choice, but is there still a degree of instinct embedded into us that alters our perceptions and actions?

Though, unluckily for Hostel: Part II, all of these concepts and and critically uplifting aspects seem like pieces of drifting wood in a river - they eventually get drowned out by the mess surrounding them. The violence is not the real problem here, instead it's the inability to capitalize on key concepts and make them truly work.

Hostel
Hostel(2006)
½

Through tonal confusion and messy decisions Hostel becomes a film that never lives up to it's fame. Eli Roth is a director who shows promise, and the performances and relations that he has built with his cast is an impressive aspect. But sadly the man is unable to makes a firm decision on whether this is a horror film, or a hokey spoof with intelligent concepts.

The torture scenes and shots of gratuitous violence are never gut wrenching to the point of their hype. Instead though, the stomach churning comes into force thanks mainly to the horrid score and laughable editing. The graphical interpretations are there, but the follow through with post production hindered the film greatly.

However, Hostel finds some redemption in it's ponderous sub contexts. The film gives the viewer a look at America's ignorance

Batman - Return to the Batcave
½

Absolute brilliance and the epitome of how a Television movie of this type should be constructed. Return to the Batcave, essentially, is a film that is difficult to fault as the film rolls with constant laughs, a natural progression, and likability that will put smiles on all faces. But where Return to the Batcave truly makes it's mark is through the fact that while the film has charm - it also back itself up with nicely implemented film elements. We are given a script that alludes to giving insight into the history of this often humoured show, while also giving plenty of due time for our two current heroes. Watching Adam West play Adam West is one of the most enjoyable viewing experiences that a television movie has to offer.

Logan's Run
Logan's Run(1976)
½

Not bad, at all really, but it becomes clear that Logan's Run is a film that experiences the flaws of cinema of the seventies, namely the look and feel of the film. Michael York is surprisingly compelling, and Jenny Agutter will make mouths drop through looks alone. A fine film if you can look past it's inadequacies of flamboyancy.

Cidade de Deus (City of God)

An insight into another culture has not been so vivid in many years as it was with City of God, a searing look at the decline, or rather - leveled brutality, of areas of Brazil. Beautiful yet barbaric, City of God is a film that entertains and teaches while supplying the audience with a wonderfully made picture. The film feels real, and this makes it quite an experience. However, there are a few misfires in this trigger happy film of diverging paths.

...pending review.

Reservoir Dogs

Ninety minutes of witty dialogue infused into bloodshed and hip pop music does not make for a good film, and that is pretty much exactly what this film is. Reservoir Dogs, despite it's enjoyability, is a pointless film. Tarantino used some nice cinematic techniques, crafted a script with smooth dialogue, and gave some interesting characters, but in the film's never ending reach towards depth, we are left with a shallow pit of mess that finds redemption only in it's style - the trait that many fans of Tarantino clinch to.

The Lake House
½

Ponderous, beautiful, and strangely compelling, The Lake House is an enjoyable film that has enough substance to stimulate the mind. However, stimulating the mind also makes the viewer pinpoint a film's inaccuracies in it's storytelling and, unluckily for the reunion of Reeves and Bullock, this film holds a fair few.

The premise for the film is absurd, but what is even more absurd is the character's reactions to this premise. Our two time-writing pen pals never seem perturbed or overly shocked at this time rift that they become entangled in, and instead allow for it to become a regular part of their lives, much like e-mail. What drags this plot hole down even further is the lack of explanation about this premise, where the script merely expects the audience to follow the ride as these two depressed people are.

However, and this is the lucky part for this film, the screenplay is clever enough and sticky enough to draw the audience in and to push them to keep watching. We are given moments of laughter, moments of awkwardness, moments of sorrow, and even moments of pondering thought. Thankfully David Auburn was intelligent enough to write a screenplay that forces the viewer to think, even after the final credit rolls by.

With more depth, more believability (ironically), and a general more raw and ingrown tone - The Lake House could have been a modern marvel of genre' bending cinema. Instead though, it remains as a film to cater to both sides of a relationship. Forget about the film's lack of explanation and instead allow yourself to follow the film's twisting path to it's ultimately horrifying, yet infinitely beautiful ending.

Soylent Green

A fine example of a film that is becoming lost in time, and near rightfully so. Soylent Green is the kind of movie that tends to age badly, and this is due to it's plot and general structuring. This would have been accepted as a smart science-fiction product of the '70's, but due to the fact that the film tends to meander off into pointless plot trajectories with characters that no one cares for, Soylent Green becomes a film that is easily forgotten. Heston performs greatly, and some of the ideas are striking, but after that the film becomes one big tedious affair that ends up saying very little in it's mashed messages.

Oldboy
Oldboy(2005)

Captivating, intriguing, intense, and original, Oldboy is a whirlwind of a film that packs plenty of punches, but also tends to miss at points through it's flurry of style and shock.
....more soon.

Leprechaun 4: In Space

Films like this make you wonder one thing - how could people be so moronic to waste their time and money in producing garbage like this and then promote it with the title of being a 'movie'. This is the definition of how everything in a movie can go wrong, no matter what the reasons for making said film are. Who cares if this was meant to be cheesy fun, it's deplorable nature makes even the most drugged up of people cringe in awkwardness. Easily one of the worst movies ever made.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

A hollow and drearily pointless film when looked at with further intentions than the focus of it's flashy fights and moronic messages. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film to enjoy for it's ingenuity to twist a dieing genre', but it's qualities begin to seriously lack when looked at with a serious disposition.

Hero
Hero(2004)
½

Astounding, stunning, and sumptuous, Hero is a film to act as candy for the eyes, the heart, and the soul. Combining a reflective narrative with the coupling of illustrious cinematographic techniques (and transitioning) with beautiful choreography, this is a film that looks and feels like a unique piece of art and, in many respects, a modern marvel for current cinema. However, do not let the film's visual qualities deter your attention from it's underlying beauty, because there is a surprisingly deep plot with meaningful and defined characters with a philosophical message to be found.

....more soon.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)
½

UPDATE: On a second viewing, the film is slightly better, however, the horrid score becomes even more obvious. Christopher Young should never be hired again.

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Spider-Man 3 is the definition of lazy film-making targeted to the masses. There are plenty of points for opportunity, but absolutely none were capitalised on. 'Spider-Man' was a good film that had a "tongue-in-cheek growing" tone to it; 'Spider-Man 2' took things to new levels in a near flawless film for entertainment; but 'Spider-Man 3', however, lives up to it's title of being a blockbuster. Simply put - Spider-Man 3 is film-making catered for the buck and, in essence, Spider-Man 3 is a money whore.

On the one hand, this film has some of the best special effects to ever put onto a screen, but it also has some of the worst sound scoring and narrative structure in recent times, and them some.

So, now that the only high point of Spider-Man 3 has been noted, just what went wrong? Well, everything really. From the get-go with this film, the screenplay of the film never reaches to any point farther than horrid cliche' and formulaic character establishment.

The tone of the film is completely jumbled and never allows for a cohesive rythm. At one point we are given a broodingly dark and vengeful atmosphere as we witness the web-slinger seek true revenge. However, a following scene turns this on it's head through a comedic rehash of John Travolta in 'Saturday Night Fever', in a scene that feels so out of place in the film that it will just about make you turn your head away.

All in all, Spider-Man 3 is a very strange film in it's outcome. This is a film that had plenty of time for it to have every crease ironed out in every department, yet it still remains as testament to how much emphasis is put on the profits. The film feels rushed and seemed doomed from the very moment that this painful script was allowed into production. The film may have some fun points, but for each laugh or gasp, we are given five cringes and brush-offs.

The Queen
The Queen(2006)
½

UPDATE: The best film of 2006.

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Stephen Frears has meticulously crafted a film that endears itself to unravel the enigma of the Royal Family of England, but most importantly the very withdrawn Queen Elizabeth II, who remains as being the very puzzling figurehead. The Queen is a film that gives rare insight into the political motivations and gears of Great Britain, but what it also delves into is the stark difference in outset of the British Government and the Monarchy, where a clear line between tradition and modernization is drawn as we witness a trouble for tradition in royalty to be changed to accustom the demand of the public. And it is here that an irony is also divulged - the royal family is expected cater for duty and to maintain past traditions, but they are also meant to act as the figure of predominance that caters for the public's best wishes. This factor is personified in the role of The Queen, who is played to perfection by Helen Mirren, where the audience becomes completely encapsulated in this seemingly methodist performance. This truly is one of the best films of the year, let alone just standing out from the strong British crowd, and gives insight into how governing bodies are beginning to hold a large fight over traditional royalty; where a republic seems to be in the "best interests". This is a surprisingly captivating film with a grand scale of political intrigue and should not be missed by film enthusiasts and those with a connection to these proceedings. Helen Mirren, your Oscar is on it's way.

A Clockwork Orange
½

UPDATE: Still not quite a five-star winner, but once again it proves that multiple viewings of Kubrick films bring out much depth. My second viewing extrapolated vastly on my first interpretation. A Clockwork Orange is MUCH more than a morality play; this is a film that acts as a political attack and as a warning to the leniency in corporal punishment.

This future shows a world where the youth, almost literally, rule the streets. They have no real concept of punishment or consequence, and thus wreak havoc for glee. This is further emphasised through Kubrick's conceptual foundation for the film - paradoxes. These hoodlums are treated like children, with caress and naivety, never striking them with due ramifications, and their "childish baby-like treatment" is shown through their milk drinking and domination over their parents. The paradox, however, comes full force when these "baby treated" teenagers seek out violence, rape, and robberies all for laughs and thrills. There is no concept of morals in these people, because those morals have never been enforced into them due to the ridiculous "progression" of the government.

The scary part is that, once more, Kubrick's vision of the future is beginning to unravel as something very, very believable. And, as the final scene weaves it's way towards us, we are given one last lashing to enforce this ideal - babies always get their way.

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A fantastic achievement from Kubrick that falls just short of holding itself in a state of perfection. A Clockwork Orange is a violent and uncompromising yet tragically sentimental look at crime and the ramifications that can follow acts of rage. Moral quandries are explored in this piece of art, a piece that utilizes a formula of contrasting natures that lays itself on constant paradoxes and juxtapositions of tenderness and tenacity, highlighted in the gentlemanly clothing adorning the brutal thugs and the sweeping, classical musical filling the acts of violence. The true standout of the film is without a doubt Malcolm McDowell, who gives cinema one of the greatest performances of a troubled youth looking past the moral voids of his life, looking for an inexistent meaning of his future. The film's messages are strong, it gives the audience an insight into the consequences of bad actions and that change in the persona can alter this, but, it also proves that change can be an easily manipulated thing that lay only on the surface of the individual. A Clockwork Orange is a Kubrick masterpiece with next to no falts (though it tends to drop a touch in the second act) and should be seen by everyone willing to endure acts of brooding violence, but the redemption that can follow this.

2001: A Space Odyssey

UPDATE: One of the greatest films ever made...easily. 2001: A Space Odyssey is the ultimate film of hypothesis and the ultimate example of how meaning can be so much more impacting through imagery, rather than words.

Open your mind to individual interpretation, because this film can be seen in many different lights.

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A groundbreaking film on all accounts, 2001: A Space Odyssey is an audio and visual delight as we delve into the unknown. 2001 is a film that gives insight into our past, our future, our bodies, and our minds, and through this there are many questions asked about our ourselves, our existence, and our future. Stanley Kubrick proves with this that he is one of the greatest directors to grace the screen and this is achieved through his sheer brilliance in creating extraordinary feats of visual flair and ideas. While the story for 2001 may be faded at points, we are still given a clear and thorough examination of a very possible future (though far beyond the year of 2001). This is a film that utilizes symbolism and musical composition perfectly in what makes for an experience much more than simple cinema - instead we are treated to moving art in the three stages that this film takes us on with each camera shot holding it's own meaning and artistic impression. This is also a film that conveys the human notion of curiosity and the ramifications, both good and bad, that this aspect of our nature can bring (evident in both HAL and the apes). Essentially, 2001 is a film that is open to interpretation, it's conclusion is as compelling as it is controversial, and through this the film holds more meaning (as confusing as this meaning may become). If you want an example of visual cinema at it's finest, look no further than 2001.

A History of Violence
½

Gritty and surprisingly accessible, A History of Violence is a captivating film that dares to tread in different film territory while also maintaining a level of easiness. In many ways, the film could be looked at as having a very jumbled rythm, but, as they say, revenge is swift.

Viggo Mortensen gives the performance of his career, a character that allows him to show tenderness and brutality in sharp turns. And, in many ways, the film and it's progression mimics the character given to us. We begin with a comfort and quite living that is conveyed for much of the film, but are quickly chucked into a flurry of action, and violence.

The film keeps the audience guessing, but at the same time is never involving enough in allowing the audience to make assessment's and to reach into a deep intellectual boundary. There are messages to be found here, along the lines of the prices of acts of heroics, of a haunting past with the ability to bite, and others, but the film never gives the audience enough time to truly process these ideals, and this is mostly conveyed in the sub-plots that skim by far too quickly.

In essence, A History of Violence gives the audience the true notion of revenge and lives true to the age-old saying, "revenge is swift". But, in many ways the audience will feel robbed as we are given something that had the ability to be extended further. The film does well and acts as a fine piece of the art, but should have delved further into what it is saying.

The Godfather, Part II
½

RE-REVIEW: A second viewing has made this film's greatness be known to me. A word of warning for every person wanting to see this picture - have a fresh understanding of the first film and it's characters, because The Godfather Part II is a VERY easy film to become lost in otherwise.

The script for this film is contrasting and immensely deep at the same time. The pacing of the scenes involving a young Vito Corleone (played in a fashion by Robert DeNiro that would make Brando proud) are slow and involving as we watch the character's rise to power. However, the switch to the current day, with a very different Michael Corleone, proves to be an affair that requires concentration and patience. In many ways, it is an assessment of the audience and their willingness to participate in a film that endears to be much more than the bloodshed entertainment that so many seem to love these films for.

In his scenes, Al Pacino is smouldering, cold, and barren, yet he remains an intensity that makes you loathe and love his character and performance at the same time. The nuances and silence of his character make it to be a performance to rival that of Marlon Brando's role in the previous film.

The Godfather Part II is a film is truly defined if you have had some spent time with the family already. The film can be enjoyed on it's own, but the understanding it taken to new levels with the predecessor taken into account. Is this the greatest sequel of all time? No. But, it is easy to why it is revered as such and it is easy to see why it has received such accolades in recent years.

300
300(2007)
½

Told like a myth, delivered like art, 300 is a film of grand visual splendour and immense entertainment that provides us with a very unusual basis. This is a film that is bold enough to take an age old recount and spin it into the fantasy realm. But that is what makes this film so compelling - it's willingness to lay path to new direction's of film.

The script for 300 is shoddy at best, that is a given, but when taking into account that this film is meant to only convey the battle of Thermopylae and give insight into the Spartan tenacity and barbarous nature, a good script is something that is not needed. The film set out to achieve a goal, and it has fulfilled that. The eye candy, a feast for the senses, is what 300 is trying to give the audience, and it achieves that in giant leaps.

Following along the lines of it's 'Sin City' brother, 300 is a film that utilizes a great deal of green screen and general visual effects to give the film a unique look and feel. The imagery of 300 has a subtle touch of sepia tone injected into each cell as we witness a long line of brown's and yellow's dulling the surroundings. But, this makes for a much more heightened emphasis on the bloodshed and bright red capes of the Spartans. The Spartans are seen as unique and bold, and their costuming showcases this.

The editing is also a fine piece of the picture. Coupling wonderful choreography that never fails to amaze, the editing is allowed to add a stylistic infusion to the piece to add to the mythic proportions that 300 is attempting to give. The film flows well (and easily, due to the constant battle progression), but it is the tricks of various speed timing and chopped takes that make the film flurried, yet beautiful.

300 is one of those films that is immensely enjoyable, and succeeds in everything that it was trying to be. This was never meant to be as personal as 'Gladiator', and was never meant to be as boisterous as 'Troy', but is instead meant to give a film that is, literally through David Wenham's character (who performs with a silent musing that makes his character a standout), told like a campfire story. This is not meant to be taken seriously, and don't look at it as such. Character progression and a deep analysis on ancient life would have only hindered this film.

The Prestige
The Prestige(2006)

Dull and underwhelming; The Prestige is a film that tries far too hard for such a simple premise and revelation. This film is not the 'original" film or the 'masterpiece" that SO many other people claim it to be. Rather, and to rap the film up in a nutshell, it uses one of the oldest and most cliche'd tricks in the book (of course, no spoilers will follow). Luckily, however, Christopher Nolan is a good enough director to keep this film from straying into the abyss that his brother's screenplay was spiraling into.

Firstly: "Are you watching closely?", is a tagline that fits the film, but provokes a challenge for the audience. And, evidentially, I was looking a little TOO closely. The "mind-boggling" twist that so many other reviewers have noted is, simply put, one of the most predicable and formulaic end revelations of recent years. Twenty minutes into the film and the twist became achingly clear. Further simple techniques used by Nolan and the incorporation of FAR too many clues left me positive on the film's unfolding by the half way mark. The fault here - Johnathan Nolan and a drearily hollow script.

However, many people will state that the film mimics the formula of an actual magic trick, where the suspense and curiosity regarding the unknown are the moments to treasure while the knowledge of the previous events will leave you underwhelmed. Much like an actual magic trick. However, this does not mean that it automatically makes for a good or insightful movie. Audience let down is a big no no, and the Nolan brothers have delivered that here.

Secondly: Hugh Jackman is miscast. He never fits his role properly and his accent is enough to make the audience blush for his embarrassment. Bale, as usual, is his charming self in this picture and his role suits well. The real star, however, comes from a severely underused David Bowie, as Nicolas Tesla, who gives his character the slight ambivalence and mystery that soaks into this smoke and mirrors movie.

The set design, cinematography, and general direction by Nolan, however, are the true crowning achievements here. This world is believable, these characters are believable, and while this story is nonsensical, it remains endearing until it's final turns.

The Prestige is a letdown, and there was far too much emphasis on it's final moments and provocation of taunting the audience to learn of those moments, that the film becomes shot down. Rather, watch the film to enjoy it, and try to be mystified, like the creators were hoping for.

The Graduate
The Graduate(1967)

A near perfectly made film with timeless and picturesque tonal qualties; The Graduate is a supreme example of film that showcases just how broad an audience demographic can become.

In many ways, this is a very deceptive film in what it is saying. It may look to be an entertaining, albeit stylistic, romp to be enjoyed. But, thanks to a deep screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry and even deeper cinematography by Robert Surtees, we are given insight into a portion of life that every single person faces - the faded years. Benjamin Braddock is the embodiment of the confusion and isolation of people of this age. Are we considered adolescent still? Or are we adults? Really, we're in between, and this is showcased through the (what many people will look at as being pointless) scene where Braddock is forced into a reclusive state in his pool while his 21st birthday turns into a joke at his direction.

Then along comes Mrs. Robinson, played to the point of being the inventor of the seducing woman cliche' by the wonderful Anne Bancroft, who gives Braddock the opportunity to walk past that gate and enter the adult dominion. Her offer - sex. But the screenplay continues down it's devious path with it's subliminal humour as we inexorably move through Braddock's following adult encounters - love; the force to wash away his confusion and tedious stage in life.

Dustin Hoffman made a huge impact in the circle with his portrayal of this complex, yet hollow, character in a performance that proves as a fine example of one of actings most difficult aspects - reacting to others performances. The reaction of Braddock are priceless throughout this piece about the coming of age.

Mention should also be made to the Simon and Garfunkle songs which not only help with the film's tonal qualities, but also give stark insight into the film's proceedings through some meaningful lyrics.

Director Mike Nichols has crafted a near masterpiece of a film that has the only single downpoint of leaving the audience wanting more of this hectic life displayed to us. The Graduate is a film that gives meaning through words, imagery, music, and even silence, and coupled with it's audience potential it is a film to be remembered for a very, very long time to come.

The Godfather

RE-REVIEW: The more time that you spend with the Corleone family, the more you grow accustomed to their awkward charm. My first viewing left me with a film that was good, but felt muddled. The second viewing, however, expanded greatly on the film and my interpretations of it. The Godfather, truly is, a fantastic achievement in movie making.

All of the facets of this film have been handled delicately with outstanding performances, great character emotion and development, picturesque settings, and a wondrous Italian score all collating to make for the atmosphere of the clandestine mob family.

In retrospect, this film would have to go down as one of, if not the single, greatest ensemble casting ever put to film. James Caan gives the fire and womanising traits to his character, Robert Duvall keeps collected in his business role, John Cazale gives Fredo a sense of warranted cluelessness, Al Pacino gives us the definition of a change in character as he turns into a smouldering and soulless leader, while Marlon Brando rightfully steals the show with his (now often mimicked) interpretation of a man of supreme power in the "mafia", but the characters traits extend to give us insight into a surprisingly gentle and understanding persona.

An awe-inspiring film that picks itself up onto stronger feet with each viewing. Hence it's timelessness and ranking among so many film lovers. On a side note, this film now shares the spot with 'The Wizard of Oz' for the highest rank gainers on my Favourites List.

Midnight Cowboy

A contradicting film that gives striking messages and impacting truths, yet contains a very hollow core in a wispy screenplay; yet, with that aspect taken into account, the messages become much more vivid.

In many ways, Midnight Cowboy is a rare film in the sense that it becomes heavily bolstered from performances alone. Joe Buck is a character of naivety and sincerity, yet holds the conflictions of these traits with his needs in an evolving society. While 'Ratso' Rizzo tends to be a character with immense vulnerability in the same society that forces the hardships and needs. The two roles are played to near perfection by each counterpart; Voight giving his character the interchanging sides of caress and cockiness, while Hoffman gives Ratso's disability a boost with a confusion and subtle wonder of possibilities.

Throughout Midnight Cowboy, there is a strong sub-text of homosexuality and the confusion (mentioned in the previous paragraph) that befalls people of this demographic. Yet, what makes the film so captivating is that it remains with enough ambiguity to allow the audience to make their own assumptions about our character's and their personal viewpoints and desires.

Upon viewing the film, it is easy to see why it obtained the Oscar, and Schlesinger is especially deserving of it, as he has crafted a piece that gives thought and entertainment the lifts a drearily pointless script into the light of a fulfilling film. The editing has a smooth rythm coupled with technical mastery, the camerawork gives further ideas towards our characters, and the song choice, mainly the iconic "Everybody's Talking At Me", by Nilssen, fit the picture perfectly.

Midnight Cowboy does have it's pitfalls, but from the production stage onwards it tends to lift and lift. This is a film with striking tones that allow difference of viewpoint, and contains some elements of filmmaking to marvel at.

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider(2007)

Razors aren't as straight-forward as this film. Cliche' has a new synonym, and garbage has a new grouping - both of those being 'Ghost Rider'. However, while other comic book heroes have a level of potential, this adaptation of the anti-hero dispells any potential that may have befallen the fiery rider.

The first pitfall of this film comes in it's casting. Mathew Long and Nicolas Cage are inspired choices, they are truly are, but Cage's age is beginning to show (facially) and the story development provides the first of many nonsensical plot points. Eva Mendes, acting aside, never fits this role enough to believable as a "grown up version" of the introductory girl. To add the acting into the spice pot - Mendes was laughable in this film and will appeal only for her chest (which, I may add makes her at least enjoyable to watch in scenes).

The story, once grounded down into it's very basic elements, had a level of intrigue. But, the Hollywood formula got the better of it yet again and turned into not only predictable drivel, but drivel that has the potential to make you feel the moronic nature of these characters. Major plot hole number two - the public, strangely enough, aren't perturbed or shocked that flaming skull motorbike rider is wreaking seeming havoc in their streets; "his head went into flames, and stuff" proves this notion. "Do you think I'm pretty?", proves the cliche' dialogue of this sad film.

Cage is enjoyable, and Peter Fonda is a nice inclusion, but the ONLY other plus point to this film comes in it's effects which deliver enough of what is needed. However, in the end this proves to be one of the worst superhero adventures made for film and should be forgotten...quickly.

The Secret
The Secret(2006)

......So many philosophers and great thinkers put forth their thoughts and analysis on what their opinion is to reach success in life. Their outcome - look at things positively.

Honestly, a sheep's stomach isn't as tripeful as this moronic and blatantly obvious insight into the reasonings behind past success. Any person with a notion of intelligence would look at this garbage and see only preaching of an order that makes mormons look like a secret clan. The messages in this are not only bleedingly obvious, but they are a fundamental that, simply put, can't be used properly in this society.

I would be giving this resounding borefest half a star, but I didn't see the film in it's entirety (and that is a very rare occurrance for me). Also, on a side note, I myself am a thinker, and not only could I comprehend what these tools were bantering about, but I had the wit to dismiss it. So should you.

Full Metal Jacket

An unflinching outlook on a gritty subject, Full Metal Jacket is an open fisted film that gives insight into something that has been seen countless times before, but with the most refreshing take of the subject since 'Apocalypse Now'.

In many ways, this is the most un-Kubrick film made. Simply because it's style, pacing, and meanings represent a different frame of mind then his other pieces. Earlier works gave a lot of room for ambiguity, but here Kubrick has crafted a film that gives the same messages as the countless others in the genre - war is bad. But instead, Kubrick opts to take this notion a few steps further. Kubrick doesn't just state that war is bad, he asks the viewer a question - what is the point of war? The Vietnam War, in general, was a waste of time and lives and this film boldly states that.

The inflictions of the barbaric nature of warfare are furthered with Kubrick's gaze into the changing and dehumanization of the recruits. They begin as people, but are turned into ruthless, remorseless killing machines. This is further exemplified through the characters of war journalism correspondents who are still trained with the notion that they are "born to kill". Also, as referenced by a main character, the duality of man and his intentions are also addressed. On the one hand we want peace, but on the other hand we are willing to kill, kill, and kill to achieve that goal. War in itself is a contradiction.

The pacing of the film is something to aquire. We get so drawn into the perfect capturing of boot camp and training that the thrust into the warfare becomes as an abrupt change. But that was the intention of Kubrick, and the intention continues to linger with a seemingly non existent plot, and a anti-climactic ending. This is war, and for those participating in it - it feel like it could stretch forever.

The real stealers of the film, however, are undoubtedly Ermey and D'Onofrio, who play their parts brillianty (albeit a little hammy of D'Onofrio's part at the end). And through these scenes (especially the shock middle section) we are treated to the only Kubrickian techniques that have been indulged in this picture. The camerawork, and ESPECIALLY the lighting give a clear and sharp response from the viewer regarding the emotional connections with the scene.

Full Metal Jacket is not the best film of the genre (far from it, really), but it is one of the most striking of war films through not only it's graphic imagery, but it's graphic meaning. If you're looking for a thought provoking film, then this is for you. If you're looking for an ambiguous affair, then look further.

Eyes Wide Shut

Drawn to the lengths of a football field, Eyes Wide Shut is a pointless, tedious, and nonsensical affair that tries too hard at too many wrong things. Kubrick's decade long absence from film can be felt throughout the majority of this piece as we briskly move past a picture that, simply put, gives a resounding message into a horrendously bad script.

The previous sentence may sound like a contradiction, but in actual fact it is far from it. Eyes Wide Shut is one of the most potentially brilliant films ever made. Ever. This could have been something to blow cinema of a modern age into pieces and this can be seen if you delve into what this film is saying; however, that delving can prove to be a torrid affair in itself. The top layers of sex, lust, and desire overshadow the themes that Kubrick was INTENDING to give the audience; themes such as morality, ethics, the balance of needs and understanding, and the contrasting differences between femininity and masculinity. In essence, Eyes Wide Shut is a piece that could have given insight into the human condition and our functioning in an evolving society.

Instead though, these themes are like pebbles thrown into a large pond - we simply lose sight of them throughout the mess surrounding it. The plot, the character interactions, the predicaments, the unfolding of events, are ALL a complete waste of time AND never add up to an ideal of any sort.

The technical brilliance of Kubrick, however, has been maintained with fragments. The camerawork and lighting, really, are the only things going for this picture. The long takes are often felt with equally long camera movements as we literally follow our characters.

Eyes Wide Shut has to be, without doubt, one of the most dissapointing films I have ever witnessed. The potential was mindblowing, it was something to make '2001: A Space Odyssey' seem like practise, but instead it became a film that blenderised blandness with style, and moral issues with a plot that never strikes a chord further than your pants. Give this one a miss unless you have time to kill or a Kubrick fan.
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UPDATE: Hmmm. Kubrick truly is a tricky director and his reputation as a director to ponder over is never more true than with this film. The more I think about it, the more captivated I am by the piece. I still see it as meaningless, but it's blender formula is becoming more apparent in it's intentions now. Multiple viewings may sway me.

Monty Python's And Now for Something Completely Different
½

The film that nigh on invented the modern look at the term "random", in a film that brings the utmost connotations of strangeness and insanity packed into a feature film. In saying that, it's a hard film to rate, due to it's zany nature. But, it is this quirkiness that makes it so enjoyable as we witness their sketches that mock political issues, the evolution of thought and response, and the everyday life of a common man. "Random" is a concept that is taken lightly until viewing this film.

The Silence of the Lambs

A taut thriller made in a spectacular fashion; but what makes this film so special is it's hard nature to define. The Silence of the Lambs is a film that seems to be constantly twisting itself into the genre's of a suspenseful thriller and a bloody horror, yet at the same time it never truly steps into either category. In many ways, this film is so unique in it's deliverance that it begins to contradict the ways that these types of films are typically made. The imagery and lighting of this film is, surprisingly, clear and bright (a far cry from thrillers of the past) and yet through a brilliant script and some exemplary camerawork in a the right situations, we remain on the edge of our seats, even though everything is mapped out in front of the our eyes. In many ways, this aspect works, but also in just as many ways - it does not. With these tonal qualities, this is a film that relies on a brooding nature through it's psychological torment as we begin to identify with these characters.

Hopkins plays the picture perfect role of Hannibal Lecter, it is through this role that another irony of the medium takes place. Throughout the film we are given insight into other inmates, who are represented as psychotic and loud; yet Dr. Lecter remains calm and collected, "his pulse never rose above 85", and it is through this that the chilling character is given to us. However, the most underrated performance comes from Jodie Foster, who in many ways tends to outperform even Hopkins.

The Silence of the Lambs is a film with light imagery, yet dark tones; repressed characters, yet extravagant predicaments. Visually, this is a film that refrains from over the top torment, but the scare factor becomes more apparent in it's abundance as you allow yourself to be immersed in the film and it's inflictions.

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

Death looks more accomodating than this film. No, that is not an exaggeration. Believe it or not; Sylvester Stallone actually has a lot of acting potential. He showed it in 'Rocky', 'First Blood', and 'Cop Land'. But, that begs the question - why did you do it, Sly? Were you boarding the gravy train of actioneers to make the forray into comedy? Because, even if so, this is the worst on the bunch.

Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa(2006)

What could have been a guilty pleasure at best has turned into a film to be proud to say that you enjoyed, and that's because this film is made so well and has climbed it's way out of the most deepest of ditches. I have been a long believer that the film series should have ended at the third one, but in the end it seems that those torturous moments in 'Rocky IV' and 'V' have paid off with this film, which makes itself to be possibly the next best in the series to the original.

Rocky Balboa is an emotional film that takes us along the new journey of our beloved hero. This is an ageing Rocky simply going through the motions where life provides no aims. There is a brilliant irony drawn with the character here - everywhere the man walks, he is known; people call out his name and treat him like a celebrity, but Rocky is a very alone person. His ideals and attitude are his own and there is no one to truly share a life with. Stallone has given this to us in a screenplay that brings both the connotations of a heartbreaking emotional sucker punch, along with the heavy hit of addrenaline that fuels these films. And this, of course, is what the audience comes for.

Stallone's directing in this piece is, simply, the best form he has ever been in. The performances he has acquired are delivered well (especially from himself, as he treads back into the real character from the original). The editing is sharp, the score is roosing, and the tonal qualities are pitched perfectly. But watching this film one thing becomes clear - Stallone has opted for style, and this is apparent through the final scenes where the film takes a different (but accomodating) turn to what would be expected.

A surprising, cheerful, and emotionally impacting film, Rocky Balboa is a film that sticks true to it's series bearings, but also has enough in itself to make for entertainment to a newer audience. Bumped up half a star for the sheer aplomb that Stallone has handled with this picture since way back in 'Rocky II'.

Kenny
Kenny(2008)

The king of one-liners for 2006 has arrived. You can keep 'Borat', 'Little Miss Sunshine', and the other comedies of yesteryear, for Kenny is a film that strikes with a swift punch with simple and generic, yet brilliant and downright hilarious humour that is easily grasped. Ok, so the film isn't as good as those previously mentioned here, but for the ability to convey humour in a suburban setting with such vivid realism hasn't been conveyed as well as this since way back with 'The Castle'. Kenny, simply put, is a film that glorifies and polishes the most unsanitary of things...and that is Australian humour to a tee. This is a finely crafted film with superb casting and rythm in a tight script on a low budget. While Kenny may be the title character (in a brilliant portrayal by Shane Jacobsen), it his Father-Ronald-who tends to steal the scenes with his quick wit humour and metaphorical references. However, the film does tend to drag itself at points as we are thrown back to the same cycle of gags. But, luckily, the film's rythm and sheer enjoyability make up for it's down points. In the end though, this a film that should only be viewed by people who, to be frank, have a sense of humour.

Queen of the Damned

......this film should be damned. I'll be damned if I ever watch this heap ever again. These actors have damned near damned their careers for acting in this damned film. Oh, and who's idea was it to cast Aaliyah in a starring role......in a vampire flick? This film = a damned waste of your time.

The World's Fastest Indian

A New Zealand production that charms and warms through it's sheer likability, but that does not mean that it remains as a solely entertainment driven film. The World's Fastest Indian is a film that runs smoothly along it's simplistic nature, which reverberates from the simple character of Burt Munro, as we are given story, cinematography, score, and characters that remain as the simple yet solid foundation to this film about perseverance. It is only in the moments of tension through the high speed race scenes that the extravagance is lifted to higher plains, and that is exactly how this film should have been made. Roger Donaldson has crafted a real hidden gem of a film here as we follow the path of a man who is defying the odds of age, with a personal philosophy of his thrown in for good measure. On paper, this is a cliche'd fish out of water, deadline race date film that may feel a little too straight for wider audiences. But through some brilliant direction (and excellent editing, which remains as the standout in the film) we are something to enjoy, and even something to ponder over at points. Hopkins accent is something to question at constant points (as it sounds Irish at best) but nevertheless his performance and ability to connect with chemistry with costars in each scene is what makes this film what it is. This is simple, straight, and sometimes silly, but it is an enjoyable affair of naivety and heart, which is something that is often lost in film nowadays.

Escape From Alcatraz

A lifeless and hollow film that never motivates the audience through conventional film qualities; qualities such as story and characters. Escape from Alcatraz is a film that sticks too hard to it's root of the escape of these characters, as eighty percent of the production is simply watching them go through the motions. Next to this aspect, there is no story to the picture, except to simply get out of the prison and avoid detection from guards and avoid the violent intentions of fellow inmates. The film tries, hard, at points to get a sense of sideplots through various external characters, and this has proved successful in other prison productions, but in the case of this film it simply comes across as a shallow attempt to make for a more endearing script....but then we are immediately thrust back into watching Eastwood scrape away at his cell wall. The film works on the merits of it's escape plot, but otherwise it is a very flat film that holds up no where for repeat viewings.

Kill Bill: Volume 2
½

A surprisingly different feeling film to it's predecessor; Kill Bill Vol. 2 is a film that fills the flaws of the first film, but in a stark case of irony, has flaws in itself that Vol. 1 fills. Together, the Kill Bill films would have been a truly great picture, but in their separate pieces they both tend to lack that final touch. The main flaw with the first film was that it tended to cut to the chase too quickly and had a very faded storyline, whereas the flaw in part two comes into fruition as the story and pacing tends to beat around the bush a little too much in a film that holds very little action than from what an audience would expect. From a directorial point of view, Tarantino seems to have abandoned the retro and contemporary feel of the first to make for a much more arcaic and traditional stylistic actioneer film, and in the case of Volume 2, this is not a bad thing. The camera shots and editing of this piece is stunning and it's clear that from a technical and artistic point of view Tarantino truly is a fine man of his craft. However, he continues to get bland and over the top performances from his actors, however, one could argue that this is intentional to fit into the style of the film, so in this case it is to be forgiven. Of the two films, Kill Bill Volume 2 is a better made film, but lacks the spark and entertainment value of the first. If it's story and characters you want, then this film is for you. If it's action, swords and blood that you want, then the predecessor is the film to be looking for.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)
½

A science fiction masterpiece created by Ridley Scott here and worthy of it's accolade for being known as one of the greatest science-fiction films of all time. There is a startling look at the future in this film interpretation of possible proceedings with much of what is in the society of this film slowly coming into fruition of the society of today. Harrison Ford was in his glory days when he did this film and it shows, he is great, but the real star of the piece is Rutger Hauer; who's bone-chilling replicant character has the paradoxic nature of being able to connect with the audience. The tagline for these replicants is 'more human than human' and much of the film delves into this aspect and makes it believable, and with the help of quality performances by all involved this aspect beomes realised. A real winner for this film is it's cinematography and subtle inclusions of symbolism, such as bonsai trees to signify man's hold on nature, which encompasses everything in the film and truly shows the audience that Scott was on the top of his game when creating this film. This is a near perfect film, the only gripe I have in the production is that it contains a slightly jumbled pacing (but, looking inside the piece this may actually convey the dispatched people of this society and the depression that looms overhead). Thoroughly recommended.

The Wiz
The Wiz(1978)

Avoid it. I turned this heap of crap off not long into the movie. It is atrocious, and something that should never have been made. To reiterate - AVOID IT.

The Beach
The Beach(2000)
½

A mish mash of teen drama, ridiculous artistry, and pointless messages.; The Beach is a film that fails on nearly all accounts. The only plus point to this film is DiCaprio's performance as he gives the inflictions of emotional confusion and an absorbing into the animalistic side that the beach is giving him. Otherwise, the film fails, and fails miserably. We never care for the characters, we never care for the story, and we never care for the unfolding events. The scenery is nice, and that's the only good thing that is to be obtained from this soppy mush.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
½

Gripping, captivating, and fun; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a western with a dirty flamboyance, and this makes it one of the true standouts in not only it's genre, but of cinema in the last fifty years. One could say that this is a director's film, and it's true that Leone's influence strikes every frame, but this is also just as much rounded from the point of view of other production aspects. The Morricone score is simply inspiring, as he manages to combine grittiness with lightness, and sombre tones with pounding beats, and it almost feels like the music in itself makes up for a large portion of the film's tone. To continue on the lines of the film's tone comes the fact that this is a very hard and brooding film, that still feels light, fun, exciting, and this is achieved through an excellent screenplay that captures our different characters through a civil war backdrop. And it's through these characters that very subtle questions of morality are asked, namely in the points of truth towards their labelling. These roles are delivered to us in neat packages from all involved. There really isn't any standout from either the bumbling Wallach, the calm Eastwood, or the delightfully quite evil from Van Cleef. The only, single, downpoint to the film is that it begs to hold a little more depth to it's production, considering that it's lengthy run time. But, in the end, the run time is no issue, as the film briskly runs along through it's addrenaline pumping story.

The Wizard of Oz

The classic family film and still one of the best. Lookout for a remake but don't expect it at all to top this.
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UPDATE: I severely underestimated this film. The Wizard of Oz is not only a good film, it is an exceptionally great film. This is the ultimate example of a cinematic classic as it's themes remain as strong as ever in a tightknit story that brings forth the true connotations of charm and wit. The screenplay is sharp, and we are given an insight into our dreams and nightmares, our surreal fantasies and harsh realities, and through a near flawless execution in a richly expensive production, The Wizard of Oz is one of the true greats of all time. The main reason for the film's greatness lay not in it's smart writing, nor it's direction or gallivanting performances, but rather for it's universal appeal where it is able to morph past it's childhood status and into a timeless movie to be enjoyed by all.

Super Size Me

Absolute bullshit. Of course eating McDonalds and only McDonalds for a month will put on weight, you moron. Eating ANY food with fat content will put on weight if you eat as much as this twit. Morgan Spurlock - your TV series had me captivated but the concept of this film is nonsense.

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane(1941)
½

Way ahead of it's time, Citizen Kane is a film that is, by default these days, heralded as the single greatest film of all time, and it's easy to see why this status is constantly pressured upon it. However, after a first viewing, I am very skeptical as to whether it truly deserves this acclaim, because from a personal viewpoint - it does not. Citizen Kane is a film to truly marvel at - it's strikes the true definition of perfection in almost every single facet of it's making to make for one of the most rounded and smoothest films ever created. It's main cause for it's ongoing claims comes through it's stunning and almost futuristic cinematography, where every single shot is handled with perfectionism and utmost care to delve into not only the characters and the scene, but to make for the epitome of cinematic artistry with techniques that many directors even today find hard to employ. I speak mainly of the wide scope, fish-eyed lense, and revolutionary deep focus that has made this a staple for film classes. Some may say the plot becomes faded and dull, but this is where the sheer genius of the screenplay comes into light, where we dig our way into an insight of people, power, and politics - all personified in the character of Charles Kane, who lives the American dream of the rags to riches story as he follows his path to become a newspaper tycoon, a megalomaniac that strives for control. This character would have been a very difficult role for most actors to play, but the debuting Orsen Welles give this character the nuanced inflictions of a man that is struggling to come to terms with his beliefs towards the world, it's people, and his place in it (evident in the eternal word - "Rosebud"). To continue in the lines of Welles debut, comes the fact that this is his first time as director and star of a motion picture, and also the debut of all others involved, as they make the transition from stage to screen. However, the main factor to why this film will dissapoint comes in it's tedious narrative and numbingly slow pacing, which seems to be a trademark of Welles. However, once again, the encapsulating script, electrifying performances, and eminent cinematography and score make this a film that simply must be seen by every living person with a degree of patience.
............the more I think about this film, the greater it becomes. Extra viewings could lament it's place as the all time greatest and best film, but for now it remains as something to simply marvel and wonder at for it's technical brilliance.

Joy Ride
Joy Ride(2001)

A surprisingly good thriller that takes a completely different road to what would be expected of it. Before viewing Joy Ride, I was predicting it to be a horrendous teen thrill affair, but through some fine writing, performances, and masterful direction by John Dahl (who is very underrated) we are treated to a rare film that abstains from expectation and tradition while still divulging a needed familiarity. It's no surprise, really, when you learn of the reasoning behind this film's taut style and gripping unfolding - screenwriter J.J. Abrams, who hasn't stepped a foot wrongly in each of his projects. But, while the screenplay is never truly bad, the overall story is left with plenty of plot holes and preposterous turns. However, thanks to Dahl's direction and the the ominous disconnection of the killer, those holes become filled with purely enjoyable cinema. Joy Ride (which is more appropriately titled 'Road Kill' in Australia) has many moments where we are hearkened back to the Spielberg thriller, 'Duel', but because of how fresh this film feels at points (thanks also to the naturalistic acting of Zahn) and it's sheer enjoyment factor, this proves to be a film that will surprise.

Romper Stomper
½

Gritty and scary in it's realism, Romper Stomper is a film that deservedly obtains it's high rating through it's display of malicious characters in a malicious setting. Romper Stomper - think of it as a modern day 'A Clockwork Orange', only with reason behind the attacks of the gangs; this is a film that gives insight (albeit faded at points) into the mindsets of Neo-Nazi 'soldiers' and their beliefs towards their countries. While the message of the film isn't as resounding or as personal as 'American History X', it is an ideal that strikes a very different chord - society in general. This comes to fruition as we listen to the ranting of lead character Hando (played excellenty by Crowe) who tells of cheap labourers forcing the native workforce out, and while it may seem wrong and barbaric, ultimately it is true. However, the films never takes the emotional road that it could have, but instead opts to magnate closer to obtaining a shock factor, which works brilliantly in conveying this life, but ends up ruining the narrative of this film. And, it is this non-existent narrative that ruins a potentially excellent film; we are given an insight, but never given a story or rythm, and because of this the messages of this film become muffled. The directing and acting is where the film truly picks itself up though, as Crowe becomes absorbed in his character of anger in scenes that are shot to levels of very high standards by Wright. Ultimately, Romper Stomper is a striking fare that will shock but never move, and because of this it becomes a film that is easily lost. It's depictions are barbaric, but these events and people are real and it's a sad thing that sections of society have deterioated this much (but, that is where films like this can help).

Babel
Babel(2006)
½

To say that this film is layered would be an understatement. Babel is one of the most in-depth, thought provoking, and ultimately best films of the year, making it a film with barely any faults. Babel is a film that gives a striking look at cultural and lingual differences and how this barrier can bring about not only confusion, but also paranoia and straight assumptions; for this reason, I would say that this is the best film to deal with a post 9/11 world so far. The film then continues itself to broaden into even lengthier areas as we witness the intertwining stories and fates of four families, spread across five continents, with five languages all tangling amongst the blurry facade of vastly different cultures, and this is brought to us - in a flawless fashion - through a wondrous script and captivating directorial mastery. Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu continues his sizzling form with this piece, that hearkens back to his previous efforts, as he has created his own world within this picture by giving a clear look and feeling to each of the differing stories. But while Innaritu gives the visual style to each story, it is the script that ties everything into the neat package as we learn that while these cultures and races may seem starkly contrasted, ultimately we are all intertwined into the same pool. However, the message to this film stops there, and that is really one of the only faults to the picture as the message is blurry and really feels slightly inconsequential to a world that, really, would understand this already. It's also worth noting the performances to this piece, as each part of this terrific ensemble is handled with sheer awe as they capture not only their characters, but the earth around them also; with Rinko Kikuchi, Adrianna Barraza, and Boubker Ait El Caid being the standouts. Babel is a film that, if you have patience to concentrate for this lengthy story, simply must be seen.

House of Wax
House of Wax(2005)
½

An average slasher flick that impresses little and bores on the level of wanting the characters to die so the credits come faster. With that being said however, there ARE some redeeming features to this film, mainly in the areas of some gratuitious violence (never a bad thing in this genre) and some nice set-work. The violence of this film is, surprisingly, "gore-tastic", and it works well on these merits through some very fine make-up and prosthetics work infused with CGI. After that, the plus points to this film come thin and far between as we are given yet another typical 'horror' film that becomes so predictable in its turns that you'll see the films unravelling framework far before the actual proceeding. However, one reason that this film simply must be seen by all audiences is for this reason - Paris Hilton's head impaled by a stick; the audience will be cheering, I know I sure as hell was. One big annoying factor to this film though, was that for such a violent display of sadistic malevolence - the tone of the picture really isn't very malevolent or brooding, like it should have been; all it does is pedal it's training wheels through a teen romp of stupidity...ah, but I guess there is the target audience.

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

A finely crafted film that has become the blueprint for mystery thrillers, and it's well deserved on that part. Rear Window is a film of complexites, while maintaining a general simple nature; it's a film that holds a style and script of many corresponding layers, while holding onto a very simple plot with simple settings. Technically, this is one of the finest achievements in cinema, and Hitchcock's reputation as being an auteur and perfectionist of the technicalities makes Rear Window a film to marvel at, and this comes from the brilliant cinematography (the initial panning shot is inspiring), the lighting and sets (which, considering this as being one giant stage, is a feat that would be hard to match even these days), the camera lenses and post effects, and of course the sharpness in the screenplay and general direction. And, it is those two last points where this film takes a true highlight onto itself as we actually care for and are interested in the lives of these other, inconsequential, characters, much like the main voyueristic character himself. But, in this great script, it just seems that we are delivered a conclusion of rushed proportions that leads to a feeling of an anti-climax. However, the complexities of this film assure that a second viewing is needed, so this rating could very easily be bumped up. This is the kind of film that could be talked about for hours, but I will leave with this - Rear Window is a fantastic film, that unfortunately just falls those certain few steps from being a 'masterpiece', but it remains a gripping and taut thriller and remains a cinematic staple.

Blood Diamond

A rare Hollywood insight into the culture of a vastly different nation that actually works on quite a grand scale. Edward Zwick has followed his fine form from 'The Last Samurai' to give us this, a film that delves into political, social, and even spiritual messages, all revolving around the conflict diamond trade that plagues the warring sides of a falling Africa. 'Blood Diamond' is a very finely made film, and it is also one of the most affecting films of recent times as it truly makes to think along the lines it represents; of greed, of control, and of hope in a seeming lost cause. DiCaprio may not have served a performance to the stature of that in 'The Departed', but he still does a fantastic job of portraying the mixed-emotions character of Danny Archer, with Jennifer Connelly supplementing him where it's needed. But, the real show stealer here is Djimon Hounsou, who is finally used to his potential in a role that unravels the talent present in this man. There really isn't a lot to fault in this, as it ends up only being subtleties that drags it down from an elusive spot; but, this film still stands firmly as testament to the potentials of this cast and crew and makes for one of the most riveting films of the past year.

Children of Men

Wow, London of the future is a really shitty place to be, as evident in two 2006 films - 'V for Vendetta' and now 'Children of Men'. Children of Men is a film with a brilliant, but also scarily real, plot at it's centre showcasing the inability to reproduce; and with the world turning as it is, this future may not be so far off. This is a film that rates highly in all of it's criteria; Cuaron is at the top of his directorial prowess as gets the most out of his departments. The cinematography is beautiful as we watch the camera pan itself through the horrendous cityscapes, which, speaking of, are portrayed brilliantly by the art department here as they give a real insight into this pre-apocalyptic world. And it is these factors, the stunning camerawork, the powerful screenplay, the picturesque settings, that truly captures the audience into this harrowing world. And also, who would have thought Clive Owen can act? Not me, that's for sure, but I've been pursuaded after this film. But, the one real fault in this is that it feels very muddled at times and feels like TOO much of the simple journey to safety. But, this is the kind of film that I can see getting better with each watch, so it's replay value with be retained quite highly. Conclusively, Children of Men is the kind of film to be enjoyed for it's look into possibilities and for it's ability to strike a tune in the respective filmmaking departments.

The Departed
The Departed(2006)
½

A very classy film in a very brutal setting, Martin Scorcese has returned to his guns and has created one of the best films of the year. The Departed has had a lot of Oscar and public hype, and it is well deserved, this is a bloody and conniving look at deception, loyalty, and motivation and it is brought to us in a brilliant screenplay that is anything but predictable. The script to The Departed keeps you on the edge of your seats, as it was designed too, and the constant twists and gut wrenching suspense will leave your eyes glued to the sizzling plot layed before you. The casting for this film, initially, may have look a little strange given actors like Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon in a film like this, but every single actor has given a fantastic performance - I would go as far as saying that portrayals were perfect. This is a true actors movie and Leonardo DiCaprio stands out firmly as the best of the lot with his edgy performance as Billy Costigan. However, it is some of the subtelties to The Departed that leave it a little far from that masterpiece it begs to be. Throughout the script there are little bits that feel unexplained properly, such as Costigan's recruitment, but these inconsistencies tend to blow over fairly quickly. And, of course, The Departed leaves you with a very ambiguous twist at it's conclusion - take it as you will. All in all, The Departed is a fantastic, wonderful achievement that should be seen by all.

Little Miss Sunshine
½

One of the standout and best films of the year. This is a film that is made to be enjoyed and bring a smile to the faces of it's audience; it's target market - everyone. It is near impossible to not be captured by the sheer charm and wit of Little Miss Sunshine, a comedy that hearkens back to the roots of simply making us smile. This is a film that could best be described as a black comedy, that glimmers with light in all places. An irony, maybe, but this is a film that runs itself off of those ironies in a screenplay that has all the marks of something far better than just being good - it is special. This is a film that immediately gives enormous character insight through only the first 15 minutes, the film then trundles itself along at a bristling place and never, ever falters. On a simple film treatment, this would be the definition of cliche' filmmaking; but, once shown in it's entirety, this is the definition of an indie masterpiece as it steers miles away from any form of predictability. Next to 'The Departed', this is also, easily, the best ensemble cast of the year - with each actor giving a great performance; the annoying thing being that no one truly stands out, but instead they are the foundation to one another, just as the characters of the film are. And, also, this is a film with a malleable message to be interpreted differently by those who view it. Watch this film, do not let it pass you by, because it will be highlighted in your memory as a film that dared to take reminiscent familiarities and twist them into the freshest film of the year.

The Pursuit of Happyness
½

Straight away this film has the connotations of being a real tear jerker and an emotional ride, and that's the kind of hype that this film has been getting. Has it fulfilled that hype? Yes, for the most part. 'The Pursuit of Happyness' is a title that is taken to literal levels in this picture as we witness Chris Gardner (in an excellent portrayal by Smith) ride the bumps of a penniless life to find fortune at the end. In some respects, this film could be considered as a modern variation of 'It's A Wonderful Life', where the film gives sucker punch after sucker punch at the main character until some form of resolve comes around at the end. And while this film may be an emotional rollercoaster, those sucker punches begin to become tedious as we learn that the pursuit for happiness can truly be a harsh and unforgiving journey. But those are the messages to this film, and while it may simplisitic, it remains as a resounding lesson and most importantly - it works. The Smith duo (Father and Son) have the best on screen chemistry of the year: Smith Snr. gives a fantastic Oscar calibre performance, while Smith Jnr. suplements the film with the hope and drive that is the force of this 'pursuit'. However, while the performances and direction are top notch, the screenplay feels a little shoddy at points, mainly coming in the form of scratchy written narration and the constant stream of misery that awaits us in this film. But, while this is predictable, it is ultimately enjoyable, fresh, and a film that will charm with simple nature. And, like it's said earlier, this film delivers on it's promise of emotion.

The Kentucky Fried Movie
½

One of the far better spoof films ever made, Kentucky Fried Movie is a bar that all comedy 'spoof' movies should be measured against. This is a film that derives ingredients of not only creating satirical humour of other films, but also infuses satire of life and society in general. One of the true highlights of this film's greatness is that it strays from typical slapstick, school humour present in such atrocities as the recent Scary Movie films, as it holds a far greater social relevance and irony that is sorely missed these days. This is the kind of comedy that David Zucker should be sticking to. And, with one final note, the Enter the Dragon scene is without a doubt one of the funniest scenes in a film of the 1970's, it's brilliant. "Send him to Detroi!"

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Dark humour of a very rare and unforgiving nature, Borat is a no bars comedy that has flavour to suit some, but not others. Like or loathe it, Borat is a very funny movie as it manages to bring an assortment of various types of humour into the one picture, however, the main problem with that aspect is that is allows a wider variety of people to be offended; but this is where the true genius and rarity of this film becomes founded. Never once does 'Borat' contain itself or dodge the mocking of a topic, but instead delves into humour that is so rare these days. And this change in humour is not a bad thing. The script and general tone of the film flows perfectly, though some of the predicaments are a little hard to believe, and with Cohen's genius interpretation of a foreigner learning the customs of a new nation, we are given the best comedy of the year - by far. However, with the general overtone of the picture taken into account, this is a mainly male orientated affair, as the Borat character becomes the epitome of sexist, prejudiced and ignorant; but again, this is not a bad change for comedy in cinema just as long as the audience is forgiving and understand the social satire present in this film.

Baby Geniuses

An exercise in torture; avoid at all costs. This rivals the pain and cringe factor of the latest torture methods of the recent James Bond film. An exaggeration? If you answered yes to that question, then you haven't been subjected to the travesty that is this film.

Superman II
Superman II(2006)

Finally, we have been given the version of a potentially fantastic film that was meant to be received. But, does it fill that potential now that it has finally reached our screens? The answer - a yes with two thumbs up. The Richard Donner cut, or should I say the REAL cut, of Superman II gives us a much more concise film that lays itself into the mould and tone of it's acclaimed predecessor. While it may not be as good as the first film (nothing in this genre is) it still runs rings around it's so called 're-carved edition'. Frankly, the Salkinds and Richard Lester shouldn't be making movies...oh wait, the irony is that they AREN"T anymore, and this film proves as the definition as to why. This proved that the series could have stepped into a much respectful series of films with depth, had they kept things as they are. Also, this edition gives a much better insight into the acting potential of this cast. Christopher Reeve is given some new scenes that involve a new side that we haven't seen from this character before, and it is through this that an even greater force of respect is bestowed upon his perfectionist performance. It is also a true delight to see Marlon Brando step back up to the plate (though, he would be rolling in his grave right now at the prospect of this film) as the estranged father, which once again solidifies the scenes in this film as a much more raw, believable and potent script. Some of the editing in this is unnecessarily choppy, and it's a shame that wrong stock footage had to be used at points, however, if I had to sum up why this film is so much better than the Lester/Theatrical version, then it would be this - the hocus pocus, magic is non-existent in this piece, and I am deeply grateful even if for just that.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Raking in past popular traits and infusing them with even more of the same is always a safe bet, and The Last Crusade incorporates this philiosophy very well by giving the audience what made the other Indiana James films so enjoyable. But, what sets this film apart is that it allows itself to take in a new setting and a new atmosphere as the humour, action, settings, and characters are taken to different levels. What makes this film so outrageously enjoyable, apart from the action (which is a given in this trilogy), is the interplay and banter between Ford and Connery (as Son and Father) as they escape, and chase, the perils of this film in a story and script that hearkens back to the sharpness of Raider of the Lost Ark. But, is this the best of the trilogy? Bet your life it isn't; it avoids the tight-knit calamity of Raiders, but comes out on top of the extravaganza present in Temple of Doom. The subtelties, really, are the only things that minorly drag this film down - coming in the form of whizzing pacing at the wrong points and some predicatble turns. As a whole however, this film has solidified the Indiana Jones trilogy as one of the greatest of all time, a rounded feat that not even Star Wars can topple.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

A much darker affair than the other Indiana Jones films, The Temple of Doom is heralded as a weak point in the trilogy - but there are never facts enough to point this out. If anything, this film has a far better pacing and rythm than the other films (that tend to feel stilted at points) and allows for action and chase scenes to take new meaning. The insightfulness and sheer wit of Raider of the Lost Ark is lost in this piece, however, through this film we are given a new perspective on our hero; we learn that he is truly a world round explorer and we learn of his ability and need for help at times. Lucas did a great job in giving us these aspects in a story that, while feeling much more brooding than it's predecessor, gives us a sense of wanted maturity and, of course, some exhilerating trademark action sequences (particularly the escape). And let's not forget Spielberg, who continues his trend of long take editing in even the most frantic of scenes, an approach that filmmakers of today sorely neglect. In the end, The Temple of Doom is a very nicely made film that, while still clearly not as good as Raider of the Lost Ark, still manages to stand firmly on two feet.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
½

A very, very well done film from a masterful duo - Lucas with the pen and Spielberg with the camera. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the definition of fine filmmaking from a variety of perspectives. Firstly, it shows how vital pre-production can be as we are given a smart script from Lucas that constantly throws quips back at itself (like screenplays should), and we are treated with sublminal casting. Secondly, through the production phase, we are shown just how high Spielberg's directorial prowess can reach as he is able to capitalise perfectly on the humour, romance, and of course the action of this fantastic script; and that isn't to mention the fine cinematography and set design. And thirdly, we are shown how a film is like an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, and the post-production phase is the piecing together of this talented tokens. Ford fits his role perfectly and it is clear that he was at his peak with the release of this film. Oh, and did I mention how riveting this script is? It succeeds everywhere, except for slight inadequacies through the realm of believability at points (such as pain threshold and avoiding an army). Nevertheless though, this is the kind of fun, exciting, rollercoaster ride of a film that blockbusters are made of, and because of this it is near flawless. A great piece of revered work from everyone involved in this adventuring tale.