Film Journal


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.


Yep, I’ve prefixed my beloved journal with a stately ‘The’. Now it looks all proper like. But onto July, which started with abnormally bad weather (even for the UK), and ended with The Olympics: a healthy dose of movies kept me sane through the rain and the sport. July brought me an event movie (The Dark Knight Rises), some classic and contemporary horror (The Exorcist, The Innkeepers), and some real nutjobs (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Rubber).

• 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

~ ~ ~

Wild Bill [2011]
Directorial debuts aren’t usually this focused; Dexter Fletcher brings us a backyard Western, where an estranged dad attempts to forge a relationship with his hard-up (and hard) sons – while he’s not being chased down by old gun-toting acquaintances, that is. A surprise treat.

Following [1998]
Shot over numerous weekends with mates, Chris Nolan’s first feature is highly indicative of the narrative twists and turns to come in his later work. Short and monochrome, the tightly-packed Following is a darkly humourous and gripping tale about a desperate man and a fascinating subject.

Dancer in the Dark

Lars Von Trier may be persona non grata from the world’s most prestigious film fest, but that shouldn’t cast a dark Hitler-shaped shadow over his superb body of work. Bjork’s casting is a truly crazy idea that pays off dividends; this twisted musical is bleak, ultimately harrowing, yet almost bursts at the seams with life throughout.

God Bless America [2012]
 This one will speak to anyone who’s ever gotten angry at the air-heads on X Factor, or wanted to blow up those who actively preach nationalism and bigotry. Well, now you can watch someone else clean up for you – in this, Bobcast Goldthwaite’s latest engaging – if badly paced – Bonne and Clyde-styled romp.

A Royal Affair
(En kongelig affære) [2012]

• Recommended
Kudos, Kermode. On the behest of the quiffed UK film critic, I sought out this at (at the moment) little-known Danish film that was nearing the end of its UK theatrical run. Turns out it’s a complex character-driven epic about morality and forbidden love in the era of Enlightenment, that never once feels like a stifled period piece. Fan-bluddy-tastic.

Meet The Feebles [1989]
An oft-overlooked shiner from Peter Jackson’s back catalogue is a hilarious take on The Muppets. Puppet porn ensues, along with PJ’s typical flair for splatter-nastiness that’s evident in all his early output.

Killer Joe

Here’s some news: Matt McConaughey can seriously act. In fact, he’s always been able to – just an unfortunate taste for awful rom-coms in the last decade has tarnished his resumé. But Killer Joe helps grab back his deserved spot for best supporting actor working today (oh, and the final scene is finger-lickin’ good).

Michael [2012]
• Recommended
What’s the creepiest, most unsettling thing you can think of? Multiply that by ten, and you might get close to the absolute horror that goes on in Michael’s basement. Observational rather than direct, Michael is an exhaustingly gruelling portrait of one man’s very private life.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale [2010]
I’m not sure why I watched a Christmas flick in the middle of summer, but I’m glad I picked this one; this gleefully enjoyable take on the legend of Santa Claus is endearing, well-plotted and also periodically frightening.

Rubber [2010]
A rubber tyre comes alive and initiates a telekinetic head-exploding killing spree. Yes, that’s the plot of the film. While that’s intriguing enough on its own, the utterly bizarre framing device of spectators watching the action unfold from afar is a cerebral comment on the nature of film viewing, and raises the the picture into the echelons of warped genius. Have I mentioned the tyre blows people’s heads up?

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adéle Blanc-Sec

Starting off with a rousing Raiders of The Lost Ark-styled action scene, Luc Besson’s latest is as loopy as his other surprise hits. However, the story really loses itself to episodic scene-changing (a trope more than likely lifted from the source material), resulting in confusion over what the real main plot of the damn movie is.

My Neighbour Totoro [1988]
Apparently one of Studio Ghibli’s finest, this turned out to be a bit of a let-down. A beautiful relationship between two sisters are formed, under the watchful friendship of Totoro, a gigantic warm furry beast from the nearby forest. The characters are charming, but the story is stolid and uneventful.

The Amazing Spider-Man
More like The Reasonably Entertaining Spider-Man. Rebooted a few short years after the last cinematic imagining of Marvel’s most likeable superhero, the best thing about this is Andrew Garfield’s geek-chic Peter Parker; the worst is Rhys Ifan’s mug while he’s Lizard-fied. What’s wrong with your face?

Berberian Sound Studio [2012]
This type of movie should’ve been right up my street: an existential psycho-horror about art imitating life, and vice versa. Turns out it’s the most aggravating, badly directed and ponderous film I’ve seen so far in 2012. It’s insulting that the director believed we’d eat this turd up.


Your Sister’s Sister [2012]
While pandering slightly to the hipster-ish / indie-ish / pretentious(…-ish) crowd, Your Sister’s Sister is a refreshignly realistic take on some pretty darned awkward social situations, which occur when a hapless Mark Duplass goes to stay at his best friend’s father’s house. And it so happens that the best friend’s sister is staying at best friend’s father’s house… you get the picture.

World’s Greatest Dad [2009]
Truly tender and triumphal in gloriously perverse moments of genius, Robin Williams plays the titular Dad who embarks on a quest to make his asshole son a school hero by forging his suicide note. Beautiful, never dreary, and it’s got freakin’ Robin Williams!

Bad Taste
A fan favourite, and should be just for the fans. While Peter Jackson’s debut is suitably freakish and insane, it’s not much better than a student film on a technical level – however, it’s peppered with Jackson’s visual jokes and a handful of smart situational gags.

Before Sunrise [1995]
• Recommended
The closest cinema has gotten to portraying a real-life relationship. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s chemistry is astonishing, and their painfully honest musings on the practical reality of romantic love will resonate with every human being who is fortunate enough to watch. At its end, you’ll feel as if the two characters are out there in the world for real, still living their lives.

Roman Holiday
Audrie Hepburn was a beautiful lady. She’s fittingly cast, then, as a princess who goes rogue in the almost-as-beautiful city of Rome – this caper is full of heart, humour and other buzz words you’ll find on any 1950s movie poster. It’s ‘a wild ride’.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World [2012]
Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley star in this slightly loveable, slightly quirky, and slightly good end-of-days romance. Or is it a comedy? I don’t know, and the film sure doesn’t know either. Regardless, it’s a nice film. Yeah, you know. One of those.

The Frighteners
Another entry from Peter Jackson, this time the Michael J. Fox vehicle from the nineties. Nothing ever quite works – except a harrowing, brilliantly edited hospital murder scene in the film’s climax, which unfortunately doesn’t sit tonally with the rest of the picture (which I’m led to believe is somewhere between wacky buddy comedy, and deadpan, supernatural whodunnit). Add to this an awful, screen test cop-out ending.

Perfect Sense [2012]
This film works if only for the poignant ending, even if you could see it finishing the way it did from a mile away. This science fiction romance can be beautiful, if bloody bleak.

Out of Sight
A world-class opening twenty minutes sets the characters for Steven Soderbergh’s lauded crime caper, if it does indeed flag badly for the rest of its run-time. However, there’s no mistaking the makings of George Clooney as a blockbuster force to be reckoned with.

The Battles of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri) [1966] 
• Unmissable
Stylistically ahead of its time and topically as relevant today as it was nearly fifty years ago, The Battle of Algiers is constantly celebrated for its technical mastery, and broad-scoped yet intimate depictions of the people involved in war. A classic for a reason.

The Dark Knight Rises
• Recommended
Finally, the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has arrived – and happily, it’s another excellent slab of smart, complex blockbuster fare. Nolan ups the ‘epic’ and puts his foot down on ‘spectacle’, taking Bruce Wayne to depths (literally) the character has never been exposed to before. It’ll be a long while before someone else comes along and tops this as the greatest superhero trilogy in existence. 

Batman: Mask of The Phantasm [1993]
More Batman? Yep, I couldn’t get enough of the caped crusader, and this feature-length spin-off of the celebrated animated series delves into complex emotional territory. One scene stands out where a tormented Bruce kneels at his parents’ grave, asking for forgiveness for the fact he doesn’t feel the same pain for their deaths as he used to. Heavy stuff for a cartoon.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

gnisufnoC. gniyfirreT. revelC. diputS. gniyonnA. tnaillirB. gnitnuaH. brepus si eeL lyrehS.

Pusher [1997]
Before Drive… before Bronson… there was… a world without rules! Or, ahem, this native corker about small-time lowlifes getting involved in big-time drug dealing – all from Nicolas Winding Refn, the man who brought you Ryan Gosling kicking some guy’s skull in, and Tom Hardy kicking every guy’s skull in. Worryingly large debts are owed, and Nic directs without the idiosyncratic flashiness of his later works – which does wonders for this gritty crime picture.

The Exorcist
• Recommended
I dare anyone to beat The Exorcists opening scenes with Max Von Sydow. Such exquisitely framed shots, filled to the brim with different layers of meaning, sow the seeds for the deep feeling of dread that emanates through this horror classic. Fuck me Jesus, indeed.

Repulsion [1965]
 Making a film about psychosis is fun! Roman Polanski demonstrates that here, with his body-horror classic which stars Catherine Deneuvue (back when she wasn’t a hag). The girl clearly needs some help.

Julia’s Eyes (Los ojos de Julia)
Touchingly semantic without being overly symbolic, Julia’s Eyes sees our heroine attempting to solve the case of her murdered sister, all the while going through a rapidly increasing degenerative disease of the eyes. Some really clever shooting add to the mystery surrounding the culprit, and a storyline that has a perverse amount of plot twists help edge this into Class A thriller territory.

Scanners [1981]
A lot of people seem to love David Cronenberg; I, on the other hand, am losing my patience with his back catalogue. Scanners feels like it was written by a bored monkey, and most definitely acted by one too, with lead star Stephen Lack’s sublimely dreadful, unintentionally funny ‘performance’. DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, STEVE.

The Innkeepers
Ohmygoddon’tgodownintothebasement Ohmygoddon’tgodownintothebasement Ohmygoddon’tgodownintothebasement SHITSHE’SRIGHTBEHINDYOU (In other words, The Innkeepers is one of the best – and scariest – horror films in recent memory.)

Samsara [2012]
• Recommended
Samsara is a visual poem, observing instead of preaching, letting the planet we live on to speak for itself in mile-high IMAX windows that open out on wonders – and horrors – that were unknown to us, yet were always there. It’ll make you want to change the world.

Blazing Saddles

For all Mel Brooks’ comedy laurels, this is overrated nonsense – but the fourth wall-smashing climax is inspired. And Gene Wilder stars, so it’s not all bad.

Follow the editor @GaryGreenScreen

About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.


4 thoughts on “THE FILM JOURNAL | July 2012

  1. Did you just call Catherine Deneuve a hag?!

    Posted by loadedfilm | August 1, 2012, 5:25 pm
  2. Ace one Gary. How you watch so many films in so little time is beyond my reckoning. Dark Knight Rises and Roman Holiday summed up nicely although I have to disagree with your Totoro review. Each to their own though I guess. Definitely going to watch God Bless America soon.

    Posted by BradenFIF | August 3, 2012, 9:18 pm

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Gary Green: Freelance film critic.

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