Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I'm not really one to make New Years Resolutions but I did promise myself that I would watch more films that I haven't seen before in 2011, since I slacked off quite a bit in 2010. I also decided I would keep a month by month tally instead of attempting to compile them all at the end of the year, so here are the films I caught up with in January with a few notes:
Asylum (2008) *1/2
An extremely flat horror film from director David R. Ellis of the solid Final Destination 2 that has very little to recommend.
Bloody Birthday ****
TCM recently showed this terrific early eighties fright film, featuring a young Julie Brown among others, and I loved it. Severin's upcoming special edition disc of this film is one of my most-anticipated of 2011.
Blue Valentine *****
This truly exception film finally came to my area recently and it would have appeared on my top ten list from 2010 had I seen it sooner. Featuring incredibly heartbreaking and expertly realized performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gossling (who really got ripped off by the Academy this year), Blue Valentine is a tremendous work.
This still unreleased in the States film features the wonderful young Rupert Grint, in one of his only appearances away from the Harry Potter franchise. I found the first hour to be fairly effective but felt like it collapsed in on itself by the end. Still, Grint is terrific and the score by David Holmes is exceptional.
Somehow this sci-fi Gremlins inspired creature fest from the mid-eighties had escaped my viewing until now. It’s fairly enjoyable and any film feature Dee Wallace-Stone and M. Emmet Walsh is worth a look. It’s not extremely memorable but the hands-on creature effects are nice, in this age of CGI, and I can certainly think of a worse way to spend 80 or so minutes.
Easy A ****1/2
Another film that would have possibly been on my top ten list from 2010 had I seen it sooner. A damn near a perfect teen flick with a charismatic and winning performance from the extremely gifted Emma Stone, a young actress really worthy of getting excited about.
Critics weren’t too kind to this when it hit theaters a couple of years ago, especially Roger Ebert whose malicious and quite nasty review deservedly drew the wrath of a lot of folks, but I was quite taken with it. Consistently funny and finally mildly touching, Fanboys had me from the get-go. I was especially impressed with Kristen Bell, a charming actress so often underused.
Probably my favorite film from Noah Baumbach since Mr. Jealousy back in the nineties. It is so refreshing to see a modern film focusing on a guy who, let’s face it, is more than a bit of an asshole. Ben Stiller delivers perhaps his best performance since Permanent Midnight and Greta Gerwig continues to offer up proof that she is one of modern cinema’s most distinctive young voices. A great film…
I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale *****
John Cazale was a national treasure and this long overdue documentary is a fitting tribute to him. If you can get through this without tearing up at least a couple of times, I don’t know you.
I'm Still Here *****
Casey Affleck’s hilarious and savagely satirical mockumenatry on our national obsession with celebrity is an instant classic to me eyes. There were few films from 2010 that were as truly fascinating as this one.
Machine Girl ****
A dazzling piece of gore soaked insanity from Japanese Director Noboru Iguchi that is an audacious blast of adrenaline all the way through.
Miss March *
A dismal ‘comedy’ with barely a laugh in site that not even the brilliant Craig Robinson can save. Dreadful…
Night of the Devils ***
A strange 1972 Italian thriller from director Giorgio Ferroni that never really reaches the realms of the great like-minded films of the period but it's interesting enough to recommend. Fans of Bava's Black Sabbath will absolutely want to check it out and the score from Giorgio Gaslini is well-done.
Ninja Assassin **
Save for a few potent action scenes this film is surprisingly dull and the CGI blood outstays its welcome almost immediately.
Nude For Satan ***
Rita Calderoni haunts my dreams and she is unforgettable in this eerie and outlandish Italian production that never quite reaches greatness but it gets close.
Summer's Moon ***1/2
Another winner from Smash Cut director Lee Demarbre starring lovely Ashley Greene. Demarbre is a real talent and Summer's Moon is a terrific little thriller.
The American Soldier ****
My thoughts on this Fassbinder film can be read here.
The Beach Girls (1982) **1/2
Who in the hell is Debra Blee and why didn't she appear in more films? Honestly I should probably give this silly little sexploitation beach romp a lower score but there was something infectious about how joyously exploitative it is and Blee is really, really something.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed ****
Powerful performances from Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan highlight this terrific and tense British Kidnap thriller that felt a lot more fresh and vital than I expected it to.
The Extraordinary Seaman *
Ugh, this was really terrible and the fact that such a great director (John Frankenheimer) and wonderful cast (David Niven, Faye Dunaway, Alan Alda) were attached to it makes it all the more regrettable.
The Neptune Factor *1/2
I watched this mostly for Ben Gazzara and it's as poor as its reputation suggests. Terrible special effects and a hellishly sluggish pace capsize it at every turn.
Colin Farrell's thoughtful performance elevates this slow and jumbled war film centering on PTSD. Paz Vega and Christopher Lee also lend able support but it is Farrell that really makes this recommendable.
When Michael Calls ***
Another early seventies Ben Gazzara film I caught up with and this was much better than The Neptune Factor. This creepy little chiller also features Michael Douglas and I found it to be effectively eerie all the way through.
Women in Trouble **1/2
If I was rating just Carla Gugino as Elektra Luxx then this would get five stars. However the mesmerizing Gugino is only in Women in Trouble sporadically and it never comes together as a cohesive piece, despite the best efforts of a number ogf good actors including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin and scene-stealing Adrianne Palicki.
Finally, I caught up with two 2011 films at theaters:
The Green Hornet **
What a monumentally disappointing work this is. I am a huge fan of the writing team of Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, and Michel Gondry is one of my favorite young directors, so I had high hopes for The Green Hornet. Nothing really works here, save for a few inspired bits from Christoph Waltz. A real mis-fire all the way around.
The Mechanic ***
Longtime readers here will know how much I love Michael Winner’s original version of The Mechanic but you might not know that I am also a huge fan of Jason Statham so I had mixed feelings going into this. While it doesn’t touch the original, I found the new version of The Mechanic to be a perfectly acceptable modern action film and was a lot moodier and effective than I thought it would be.