Film Journal

FILM JOURNAL | April 2012

I look back at the films I watched through the previous month, whether they were brand new in the cinema or simply new to me. Dates are by UK release. Here are my thoughts.


 

This month has been very good. There’ve been some stinkers, but I’ve discovered plenty of absolute classics that have enriched my previously poor mind, whether they be long-standing favourites or others I’ve discovered at the recent Sundance London festival. What ones have you seen? And do you feel the same?

• Unmissable
Those pieces of work that prove cinema is one of humanity’s better endeavours.
Example: Apocalypse Now

• Recommended
Extraordinary films that are must-sees, but perhaps not considered masterpieces.
Example: Kick-Ass

• Avoid
Movies that exhibit technical ineptitude, cause severe ideological malaise, or both.
Example: Grown Ups

~ ~ ~

Beloved (Les bien-aimés)
About twenty minutes in, Beloved announces it’s in fact a musical. This curveball destroys any shred of integrity the rest of the movie has, including the relatively decent dialogue.

Stalker
• Recommended
Dense, enigmatic and profound. Tarkovsky’s possibly greatest achievement next to Solaris, like that equally fine film it deals with forces beyond human understanding. It’s an incredible meditation on what will happen if man can have his wishes granted, and the possible consequences.

Headhunters (Hodejegerne)
A Norwegian thriller of high calibre, Headhunters starts off slightly uneventful and safe, but soon crosses into Tarantino-esque batshit plot twists and bloody action. Highly entertaining.

American Pie: Reunion
Unnecessary, but hilarious. Jim and co. get back together one definitely, definitely last time for the lulz. Comedic set pieces worthy of the franchise ensue, but it does feel forced.

Poetry (Shi)
• Recommended
As delicate yet vivid as its sprightly protagonist, this is a remarkable story about a woman battling alzheimer’s, and trying to keep her rapist teenage grandson from going to prison. It doesn’t exactly sound uplifting, but the aching beauty in every frame suggests a higher frame of perspective from all the bad. Stunning.

The Cabin in the Woods
• Recommended
Joss Whedon outdoes himself with this deliriously enjoyable send up of / ode to the horror genre. It’s easy to say too much and spoil this movie, but the ingenuity and ‘nod, wink’ ethos of the entire endeavour creates a new meaning to the term ‘meta’.

21 Jump Street
Wait, we have a genuinely funny comedy? I thought those died long ago with every new Adam Sandler release. Fear not, for 21 Jump Street has two charming performances from Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, the latter displaying a surprisingly good comic turn. You’ll be quoting this one.

Lockout
It’s shoddily made, especially during CGI-heavy sections where it looks like the programmer had a ‘bring your toddler to work’ day, but Guy Pearce’s buoyantly sardonic performance as Snow, a wrongly-accused agent, is sent into an outer space prison filled with rioting convicts to rescue the President’s daughter, makes for a mildly engaging trip.

Finding North
A thoughtful documentary on the hidden food crisis in America, wherein struggling and hungry families have to make very bit of food stretch as far as possible. It’s definitely not a masterwork of cinema, but will absolutely get you having a second look at the term ‘famine’.

LUV
Where would you go with your young nephew on a day out? Theme park? The beach? How about the gun-riddled streets of Baltimore? An alternative coming-of-age tale, this occasionally powerful drama unfolds with compelling results.

For Ellen
This should’ve been a more affecting tale, but we’re left cold just like the snowy landscape where it’s set. Paul Dano seems unsuited for the role, despite his acting chops, and it all reeks too much of teenage angst. Despite this, it has a devastating ending.

Nobody Walks
Smug indie filmmaking. The characters are so annoying, they’ll have you tearing your hair out and throwing it in clumps at the screen – it gives independent cinema  a bad name.

Marley
• Recommended
A straightforward but absolutely fantastic documentary about the late, great Bob Marley. You’ll never fully understand the real extent of the reggae genius’ influence until you watch this expertly crafted biography. One love, man.

Filly Brown
Sassy wannabe rapper Filly Brown is faced with the proposition of going down the commercial route; she’ll be able to get her mother out of jail, but what faces her isn’t just the decline of her integrity – it’s her life in the balance. Fun, economic filmmaking that feels too much at times like a simple TV show, Filly Brown is just captivating enough to validate its existence.

Liberal Arts
The characters and subjects could have been yet more endlessly aggravating indie ‘observations’ of alienation and over young-person syndromes, but it’s actually welling with smart humour and populated with very real-feeling personalities. Ferociously Intelligent, but most importantly, ferociously heartfelt.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
Imagine a film student having a massive bout of diarrhoea on a strip of 35mm, and you’ve got this sorry piece of celluloid. Avoid. Like. The. Plague.

The Queen of Versailles
An oddly touching potrait of one of the world’s richest families feeling the economic crisis as hard as the rest of us. You may feel like hating them and their private jets and priceless artworks, but this doc doesn’t lay it on thick; it simply shows a family fighting it out financially. Riches to rags, indeed.

Chasing Ice
Thankfully not as slow as its subject matter, Chasing Ice is one man against the world. James Balog sets out to record the worldwide recession of glaciers, and the results are terrifying, not to mention the staggering scope of nature at work the footage captures. If you care about Earth, it’s essential.

Safety Not Guaranteed
‘I’ve only done this once before’. A few years ago, someone posted an ad asking for some willing soul to travel back in time with them. Whether they were joking or not has been the subject of much excited and hilarious debate, and Safety Not Guaranteed creates the fantastic premise of a group of fictional journalists going to check out if this guy is for real. Sweet, funny and dancing recklessly on the line between sci-fi and straight-up indie, it’s definitely one for checking out.

Avengers Assemble
• Recommended
So far, the most enjoyable movie of 2012 has been Avengers Assemble. Despite the horrific name change, its deft script perfectly balances the many characters, and takes great care in creating the right feel and scope for compelling banter between the hotshots, and one of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen. A shrewd marketing ploy it most definitely is, it’s also a real feat of writing, directing and casting. Fantastic.

Follow the editor @GaryGreenScreen

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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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Gary Green: Freelance film critic.

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