T.S.M.'s Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews

The Yakuza
The Yakuza(1975)

Awesome. I think that the participation of two completely different, highly talented writers in the script might have harmed it, and that some of its power is diluted by everything being explained and stated three times or so, and I think Mitchum is perhaps miscast (I would have preferred Bill Holden, personally), but otherwise, it's great, I think. It's got its emotional beats, to be sure, but primarily it's a film that excels at kicking ass and taking names. I'm surprised at how well Pollack took to the material - it demonstrates considerable versatility from him, which is what I like to see. A really undervalued piece of work.

Ten Minutes Older
½

I don't know why I keep getting sucked into watching these portmanteau films. They're just not worth it. I liked the Schlöndorff segment, and maybe one or two of the others. Radford's seemed interesting, but it really isn't. Figgis' is intolerable. The Menzel and Godard ones, using stock footage, are unusual. I can't really remember the rest of them. Nor do I particularly want to. I'm sure I'll watch more of these, but for the life of me... I dunno why.

Apocalypse Now

Finally got to see the theatrical version, which puts "Redux" to shame, honestly. It's pretty amazing on BD, although I'd love to see it on the big screen at some stage. Kilgore's attack in particular - that's like something a lesser filmmaker would put together with special effects. And it's all real. The photography need not really be mentioned, although I'd forgotten how... Gordon Willis-ey Storaro gets at times. I think the film's mostly kept at eye-level as well, for that matter. This is probably one of the few war epics that would qualify as art. And it's difficult to watch any other Vietnam flicks after it.

Oklahoma!
Oklahoma!(1955)

I'll focus on the positives: the Todd-AO cinematography is impressive for the most part. Shirley Jones possesses exceptional hotness. James Whitmore is a badass of some degree. Rod Steiger is fascinating and nuanced and stuff - as always. Eddie Albert's in it. But most importantly, above all: I'll never, ever have to sit through that load of manure ever again.

Conviction
Conviction(2010)
½

It's not total balls, which makes it Tony Goldywn's best film by default. It's still pretty crappy though - the story just plods along without ever taking time to explore anything of remote interest. For instance, the transformation from trailer-trash mother to lawyer might have been interesting, but Betty Anne just kinda goes ahead and does it. There's no real sense of passing time, outside of Sam Rockwell's makeup. There are also interesting characters, like the cop played by Melissa Leo - but the screenplay seems more interested in selling Minnie Driver as Swank's sassy and funny best friend. Honestly, it would be far more rewarding to just go and watch the Emma Thompson scenes from [i]In the Name of the Father[/i].

One Hour Photo
½

It's a Coppola tribute done in the style of Kubrick. Which is an interesting mix - personally, I think it works. It's an unsettling film that moves well without resorting to hysteria and outlandishness (until the final act). Williams is really quite remarkable in this (but apart from Gary Cole, no one else really pulls their weight). I love Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography, and I quite like the score. In the grand scheme of things, it might not be a great film, but I've always found it to be gripping and effective.

Cabin in the Sky
½

Pretty good. It's quite simple, and I'm not sure that the fact that it's all a fever dream is quite permissible, but the film is pulled off with energy and fun. The performances are good across the board, and the writing is quite funny in places. It's a good debut for Minnelli, and only confirms my suspicions that he was much better working in the Academy ratio (why he gets praise heaped upon him for his CinemaScope stuff I'll never understand).

Diamonds Are Forever

I always think "Gee, I'm too hard on [i]Diamonds Are Forever[/i]. It's probably not [i]that[/i] bad." And then I watch it, and invariably I realize that no, I'm not too hard on it at all. It's pig swill. With a few floaty bits in it that are really worthwhile.

The fundamental problem with [i]Diamonds Are Forever[/i] lies in its plotting, which is lazy, stupid, and largely incoherent. Tom Mankiewicz' dialogue is hailed, and perhaps rightfully so - some scenes, like Tiffany Case's introduction, boast dialogue that really crackles, and elevates the film. As a substitute for rich characters (Dr. Metz, for instance, is a "renowned pacifist" who half-assedly protests against Blofeld's attacks at the end... for approximately 2 seconds, before doing his job), Mankiewicz gets by on droll, wry humour, and occasionally this works Charles Gray's irritable and sarcastic Blofeld is the film's highlight.

This still doesn't excuse the plotting, which I can only assume was hampered by some post-production cuts. The pacing is pretty terrible, and soon after Tiffany's intro the film as a whole sinks into an extremely dull stupor, until it just decides to bypass any semblance of plot development and "moves on." The best example of this is when we get a whole lot of hoo-hah about Tiffany evading Bond and the CIA, only for Bond to be waiting for her at her house not just in the next scene, but the next shot. Where... Plenty O'Toole has been killed... but... why is she there, again? It might seem like coherency is a big ask for a film like this, but when it has so little to offer in other areas, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable.

Not to harp on about the plotting, but apart from the fact that we get a reasonably buttoned-down affair about diamond smuggling that gives way to a very unconvincing space laser, we get this set-up about Blofeld's doubles that serves no other purpose than to set up the "wrong pussy" joke. The potential's there for it to add to the tension of the third act (which Blofeld is which, where's the real one, et cetera et cetera), but no. Instead we get a series of the most uninspired set pieces in the entire series (a lackluster car chase that is followed by another car chase that comes up even shorter in the luster department; an "Oh crap, Bond's going to be crushed by the elevator" moment followed by... another one later in the film), and a climax that is put to shame for sheer balls-to-the-wall thrills by [i]Steel Magnolias[/i].

Although I hate most of the film, you can't get much worse than the "big battle" at the end of this. With the [i]least convincing explosions ever[/i]. I don't mind dated special effects, really I don't, but these are terrible even by the standards of the time. Friggin' D.W. Griffith would have rejected that **** in 1915. The real nugget in the colostomy bag, though, is the fact that Bond's big face-off with Blofeld involves him... sitting in a crane. Which is just about the least cinematic climax possible, and services only Connery's laziness (it's still a more impassioned turn than his previous outing as Bond...). It's a Godsend when Jill St. John falls into the water for no good reason, just so Bond can [i]do something[/i].

The film abounds with obnoxiousness - Jimmy Dean's very loud performance is controlled and razor-sharp compared to what else is on offer. You've got Jill St. John's awful, awful turn as Tiffany Case - her overbearing and faux-sassy performance offends me more than the dead-eyed coasting of Lois Chiles and the like. She is offset somewhat by the... no, wait, the very loud and annoying Lana Wood. Whose impressive Bristols, admittedly, let her off the hook. Wint & Kidd are similarly obnoxious, although at least they provide a few laughs - Bruce Glover's performance isn't "good" by any barometer of sanity, but a couple of his deliveries and facial expressions are gold. (I loathe Barry's motif for them though. Sorry.) Don't get me wrong, I think there is a place for obnoxiousness in a Bond film - but it should be coming from Bond, and it should only tick off the other characters - not the viewer.

On the other end of the spectrum you get boring-ass performances like Bruce Cabot's. And Sean Connery's - as I say, he's better than he was in [i]You Only Live Twice[/i], but he's still slumming. He's only identifiable as Bond because you remember better movies. The thing with Connery is that he's not a great actor, but he's such a charismatic presence that it doesn't really matter. But when he doesn't care... it shows. Very much so.

I mentioned before that Gray gives the best performance, and I think he absolutely nails Mankiewicz' dialogue. He even turns the most perfunctory lines into something amusing. And of course, one can't talk about [i]Diamonds Are Forever[/i], without talking about Ed Bishop's incredibly endearing mini-performance as Klaus "Hergie" Hergershimer. He should have received a Hermioney Baddley-style Oscar nom for that performance. I like Dr. Metz as well, admittedly, as well as the Flaming Chinese Russian.

When all's said and done, I'm disappointed in myself for returning to the well to watch this, and doubting my own judgment. I'll be reluctant to watch it again - it's such a dull, joyless experience salved only by momentary sparks of wit and a handful of amusing oddities. It's better than several of the robotic post-Cubby installments, but for me, it's most certainly the worst of the "classic" Bonds.

Strindberg's Miss Julie - Royal Shakespeare Company

Another of these filmed play... things. This one shot on video, without any of the National Theatre's posturing. And... yeah, it's fairly dull for the most part, but the trio of core performances are pretty solid, especially the underrated Donal McCann. The play is decent enough - the usual class struggle bizzo - I wouldn't mind seeing a proper film of it.

Rango
Rango(2011)

It's a semi-cine-literate animated Western that borrows heavily from Roman Polanski and Sergio Leone. Just what the kiddies need. Actually, it's pretty good - Logan's script is full of humour (without resorting to cheap gags), and is fleet-footed. The animation is quite amazing in spots, and Verbinski, for all his flaws, sure knows how to put together an impressive set-piece. By and large, the voice work is very good too, with Ned Beatty's Noah Cross riff and Bill Nighy's against-type Southern outlaw... rattlesnake. It's a film with character, colour, and idiosyncrasy, something sorely lacking from most animated fare that isn't [i]Fantastic Mr. Fox[/i]. It's not... great or anything, but it's probably the first really decent film of the year.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
½

Surprisingly competent. Generally with these debut films where the director does seemingly everything, including adapting their own work, it's a little wonky, but not the case here. There are a few very good moments throughout, and the songs are solid as well. Structure, pacing, all that is good. Nothing ever comes close to greatness, but all in all, a decent film. I was thinking that this would be worlds away from [i]Rabbit Hole[/i], but it's not hard to see that the same guy made both.

Persona
Persona(1966)

Pretty nuts. Two absolutely [i]phenomenal[/i] performances from Ullmann and Andersson. Great cinematography, great direction. A film that very much stands alone. I didn't love it, [i]per se[/i], but it's impossible to deny that it's an important and singular piece of work. A real must-see.

Cursed
Cursed(2005)
½

Jesse Eisenberg as a werewolf. You know it makes sense. In general, this is pretty putrid. At first I thought "Well, at least it's got a bit of... style. Maybe." Turns out it doesn't. It's one of those "things happen to people who don't develop or grow over the course of the film" films. I suppose this must be representative of a lot of horror films. To this thing's credit, there are one or two amusing bits. But I forgot what they were already.

The Weather Man

I'm shocked to discover that this wasn't written by a first-time writer. It sure sounds like it. Overwritten to hell, with no concept or understanding of structure, or character. We spend a lot of time with the Nicolas Cage character, and get only a superficial rendering of him. And Cage is pretty damn terrible, as usual. Michael Caine is no better - he should be barred from American accents. It occasionally looks nice, I'll give it that.

M
M(1931)
½

It's really quite amazing to see a film where the director's vision exceeds the technology (or technique) readily available - the camera jitters and clunks all over the place, but the point is still made. It's a remarkable film to be sure, with a steady supply of genuinely great moments - my favourite is near the end, when we see the court of criminals all raise their hands to the unseen arrival of the police. I know everyone sings Lorre's praises, and he's great, but it's difficult to go past how truly awesome Otto Wernicke is as Lohmann. Also: the Masters of Cinema BD is remarkable. I want them to do the Mabuse films. Now.

The Three Sisters
½

A disappointment. Well, not really, I was expecting something like this, but not for it to be so... dull. It's another attempt at the "not quite theatre, not quite film" experience that Olivier and the National Theatre tried with Burge's [i]Othello[/i] - that was a far more successful endeavor. This really needs a bit more cinematic oomph that Olivier doesn't give it, although there are a handful of good moments. Weird point though: he used stock footage from [i]The Prince and the Showgirl[/i] at one point, so Marilyn Monroe can be seen in this film.

Zoku Sugata Sanshiro (Sanshiro Sugata 2) (Judo Saga II) (Judo Story II)
½

Man, Kurosawa sold out big-time. What a hack, going back to the well for a sequel. That's Brett Ratner stuff right there. Actually, this is a pretty dull film, lacking the narrative drive and... well, content of the original film. Everything about it feels like a step down. Like an [i]Iron Man 2[/i]-style step down. It's obvious that Kurosawa was hobbled by the fact that Toho were trying to build up to [i]The Avengers[/i]. Or something.

Hall Pass
Hall Pass(2011)

Pretty much horrendous. There's one gross-out moment that works - a "sneeze" that comes late in the film. Apart from that and the fact that the film used that "Walking on a Dream" song twice, I can't actually remember much from it. There's one point where J.B. Smoove and Stephen Merchant declare that they're bored of Sudekis and Wilson's antics, and decide to leave. I wish I had been presented with the same option. Extra points deducted for criminal misuse of the usually funny Richard Jenkins.

Andrei Rublev

From the co-writer of [i]The Nutracker in 3D[/i]. You know those films that have a massive reputation that they just can't live up to, and you finish them thinking "what's all the fuss about?" [i]This aint one of them.[/i] One of the most incredible films I've ever seen. And I'm sure most of it's going over my head, but as an examination of a troubled artist who has to suffer endlessly and overcome everything that happens... it's hugely compelling. If Tarovsky's point (to be reductive) is that you have to suffer for great art, then yeah, I'm with him all the way. And... now I want to see his other stuff. Very much so.

Psycho
Psycho(1960)
½

If this doesn't boast the best B&W cinematography ever, it comes very, very close. My first time watching it out of a school environment, and damn, is it massively entertaining. It's not a complete and utter favourite yet, but it's much closer now. The script structure is really a thing of beauty, shifting perspectives and tensions with such ease and fluency that it makes that kind of writing seem easy. Of course, it helps that Hitchcock's direction is so damn precise.

I'm a huge fan of Martin Balsam, but I became one after seeing [i]Breakfast at Tiffany's[/i] and [i]12 Angry Men[/i] sometime after seeing [i]Psycho[/i] first. So going back to rediscover one of his most famous roles was a treat. What an entrance. I think the highlight of the film, for me, is the scene between Balsam and Perkins - so perfect, as you watch the lie deteriorate, but it wouldn't work if the audience sympathy hadn't been shifted to Bates earlier.

It all looks so far ahead of its time, and every single frame is beautiful. The only thing that dates it, though, is the denouement with Simon Oakland's monologue. It clunks, it's not very cinematic, and it leaves very little to the imagination. That problem is almost allayed entirely by the last two shots, however. Perkins' smile silences all imitators.

The Ring
The Ring(2002)

Some stylish moments outweigh the overall "meh" factor. Every time Verbinski teeters on the brink of total hackdom, he pulls out an "Oh... interesting..." moment. That horse getting killed was... great fun. It's a film that's neither here nor there - it's never actually scary, never quite dull, never quite intriguing but never totally thin. If it has a problem, it's that it delivers on its thematic questions too well too quickly, making a lot of the 3rd act redundant. I would like to see the original, though.

Fast & Furious

Well, first things first - it's complete tosh, and worth nothing whatsoever. But it's... semi-enjoyable, compared to [i]Tokyo Drift[/i] anyway. The revenge plot propels the film well enough - it's **** on wheels, but what do you expect? It's odd that such a stupid film that takes itself so seriously [i]isn't[/i] completely and utterly tedious. The downside is it looks bland, bland, bland. And it sounds bland, bland, bland. It is just bland, bland, bland. It's sad that I was clamoring for the gaudy cartoonishness of the Cohen and Singleton enterprises. But the new one has The Rock in it, so it's obviously gonna be boss...

The Mexican
The Mexican(2001)
½

It doesn't work, but there are a few admirable things about it. Verbinski can tell a story visually (so why are the [i]Pirates[/i] films pretty light-on for that kind of stufF), and the film generally looks purdy. There are some nice scenes. But when you're doing one of these "stranger in a strange land" grotesques, you can't have a B-story that is entirely different in aesthetic and tone. It destroys the atmosphere of the piece utterly. Despite that fundamental flaw, it does bring us to a point where the protagonist kills a sympathetic character, which is intriguing and uncommon. Pitt and Roberts aren't terrible, but aren't especially good either. J.K. Simmons is miscast. Bob Balaban is awesome but underused. And Gene Hackman's cameo elevates the film briefly, while also making me realise how much I miss seeing him in movies.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

An aggressively boring film that lacks the rich presence of Paul Walker, or the thespianic might of Tyrese. The barnstorming Vin Diesel manages to bring his usual brand of cinematic justice to the role of "Whatsisface" at the very end, but it's too little too late. Lin directs without flair, and I watch without interest.

2 Fast 2 Furious

Evocative and profound. Actually, this is a skerrick less craptacular than Rob Cohen's original film, insofar as it is isn't a blatant rip-off of [i]Point Break[/i], and there's a bit of actual visual flair here and there. And it's got Ajax from [i]The Warriors[/i]. Then again, the first one had Ted Levine, so I guess they kinda level out there. Singleton manages to make a couple of the sequences exciting though, so that's something. And the bit with the rat and the bucket is messed up. Interesting too that in Eva Mendes they found a screen presence as bland as Paul Walker - it's a sad state of affairs when the most vibrant performance of your movie belongs to Tyrese.

The Heartbreak Kid

Actively atrocious and hugely unpleasant. If the Farrellys want to do their gross-out thing they have to establish it in the first act - giving Jerry Stiller blue dialogue doesn't count. This is just a stupid and misguided film that thinks it can be built purely on Ben Stiller's sarcasm and Danny McBride's oddness. Malin Akerman has no comedic sensibilities [i]at all[/i] - a shock, I know.

Fever Pitch
Fever Pitch(2005)

When I first heard that this film starred Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, I though "Well, that's going to be annoying and vaguely intolerable." And... I was right! I haven't seen the original [i]Fever Pitch[/i], and I'm sure there's something of a story in there, but for a romantic comedy this has... no jokes. Or next to no jokes. Which makes it something of a failure, I should think. Goes into the bin with 99% of all romantic comedies made since... 1990, or somewhere around then.

The Baron of Arizona
½

An excellent subject for Fuller's sensationalistic style, and for the most part it comes off quite well. It sometimes clunks and groans, but Vincent Price manages to be very entertaining in the lead - he's enjoying himself and giving life to the character, which is what you want. It's quite a remarkable story, and although I'm sure there are massive liberties taken, it's a decent sophomore effort for Fuller.

The Adjustment Bureau
½

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have chemistry. I was amazed by this entirely, since chemistry between leads is something I haven't seen in a new film for a long time. A long time. That's basically the only real asset that he film's got, apart from one rather impressive little sequence that is an achievement of sorts on the part of first-time director George Nolfi and John Toll (it comes late in the film). Apart from a rather charming and somewhat entertaining first act though, the film takes itself just a bit too seriously, and spirals into the realm of snoozefestation.

The Social Network

Hell yeah. As I suspected, it's a closer spiritual successor to [i]Network[/i] than anything else, although Sorkin isn't as angry as Chayefsky. But the audience might end up angrier at the end of this - depending on who their sympathies lie. There's no good/evil divide here at all - just what separates the successful from the fools. Flawless execution - there are a few key scenes where the writing just blew me away. And the "In the Hall of the Mountain King" tilt-shift race is amazing.

Career best work from Fincher, Sorkin, and Eisenberg - the Oscars should be in the bag (even if they're not). Eisenberg in particular is extraordinary - some of the most unreadable facial expressions I've ever seen. It's almost art. Great support from Garfield, Timberlake, Hammer, Minghella, Mara, and a special mention for David Selby, who is quite amusing and dry in a very minor role. And I went out and picked the soundtrack up too... can't wait to see this thing again.

[b]3rd viewing:[/b]

Well, I'm afraid [i]Exit Through the Gift Shop[/i] has genuinely pipped this at the post for my favourite film of 2010, but this is still a superb accomplishment in every regard. It's honestly the kind of film (yes) that people don't make anymore, and I wish there were more of. For me, it really sits alongside the great "corridors of power" films of yesteryear, like [i]Advise & Consent[/i] and [i]Network[/i].

I am not, was not, and never will be on Facebook itself, so it always shocks me when people come up to me and say "Shouldn't you be on Facebook if you liked [i]The Social Network[/i] so much?" To me, the film sums up everything that's so utterly horrid about the laughable idea of "online social networking" - Zuckerberg starts the film in a crowded pub interacting with an actual human being, and ends it in the dark all alone with the substitute being a picture of that human being on his computer. He's a remorseless machine of a human. I find him utterly repugnant, but what makes him work is that he falls into the category of "magnificent ********," in so far as he's entertaining even when he goes beyond the pale. I still wouldn't want to be him.

What I like is that no matter how ridiculous and absurd the Winklevii are, they're the only characters in the film who have an actual genuine, enduring friendship with someone else. It may not be subtle, but I think the fact that the last time you see them and Div, they're hugging one another, while Zuckeberg recoils from any physical contact, speaks volumes. That and the fact that Zuckerberg's attention is very rarely on another human being, with the notable exception being the soulless mover and shaker, Sean Parker. Of course it's not "one of the greatest films ever made" or "an American landmark" or whatever Peter Travers called it, but I think it certainly is a movie of the now, with something to say that speaks to me directly. That it's done with impeccable polish and a good deal of wit just sweetens the deal.

Shirin
Shirin(2009)
½

Surprisingly enough, an Iranian film that is purely images of the female members of the audience of another film is... not the balls-to-the-wall extravaganza you would be prepared for. I like the concept, but truth be told, there's not enough here for a 90 minute film. The strength of the concept has been delivered in the first 20 minutes or so - the rest of it is just Kiarostami telling a story in an unconventional style. That's all well and good, but it really becomes a chore in the long run, and the least involving of Kiarostami's experiments.

Seven Beauties (Pasqualino Settebellezze)
½

Well... that's quite something. Very original, very distinct... I don't know if I took to it altogether, but Giannini is absolutely fantastic. And it's not often that you see a story about such a resilient coward. There are a few real bravura moments, and I think for the most part I like Wertmüller's style, however dated it might be. Not quite the film I was expecting, to say the least. Quite hilarious in parts, truth be told.

The Way Back
The Way Back(2011)
½

A good film, and very much a Peter Weir film, through and through. The film's focus is most certainly on environment - where the characters have come from, and how they are affected by their surroundings. It's fairly straightforward, and I'm not sure that it's an incredibly dense work, but it's quite well executed, and beautifully shot.

Inside Job
Inside Job(2010)
½

Well, as someone who wasn't affected by the Global Financial Crisis, I can say that this... probably doesn't affect me as much as others. It's quite well done though, and most of it is explained well to a layman such as myself. Some of it is really infuriating, especially seeing these powerful figures just shamelessly lie through their teeth. They've all got such punchable faces. Also, I'd never realized how much Douglas Urbanski really [i]does[/i] look like Larry Summers.

The Transformers - The Movie
½

Well, I thought, "at least it's going to be better than the Bay film." Turns out it's kinda not, truth be told. Just as soulless an empty as the modern wrecking piles. I really don't think this concept works when delivered at feature-length - I liked the TV series just fine, because A: it's brief, and B: it had one of the most fun villain dynamics on the small screen. Or the big screen.

In this film, they seem more insistent on killing off three of the major characters in the first half hour, so that some schmucky other characters , voiced by such diverse talent as Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, and Judd Nelson (!) can take center stage. Which is kinda a cop-out: when I watch a bloody [i]Transformers[/i] cartoon, I want Peter Cullen being authoritative and awesome, and Frank Welker arguing with... well, with himself. When you take away the Starscream/Megatron stuff from [i]Transformers[/i], you're [i]really[/i] left with nothing but a shameless, over-extended TV commercial. I must say though, the musical choices in the film are utterly hilarious and totally inappropriate, so kudos is deserved there.

Salt
Salt(2010)
½

Garbage. Its real flaws lie in the woefully written script - for starters, you've got non-characters with non-characterizations (not helped by the non-performances), which makes the "betrayals" pretty easy to predict, then you've got truly flat and sometimes risible dialogue. But the big problem is the film's pacing - it sets something up and then pays it off in the scene following. So you essentially get an episodic thriller. Which something that doesn't exist, because it doesn't work. And what the hell is Andre Braugher doing in this film? Does he even have a line? My God, he's a superb actor, why is he being used as an [i]extra[/i]?! Noyce's direction isn't totally awful, and he's probably the only person behind the camera actually [i]doing[/i] anything. And boy, do I miss the days when films were more interested in selling a complete experience instead of a launch-pad for a franchise.

Tickets
Tickets(2005)
½

Pretty good. Olmi's segment was a bit trying, although it ultimately works, Kiarostami's segment is decent, but Loach's is a real corker. Very naturalistic performances, a very strong story - funny, dramatic, and it flows beautifully. Certainly makes me want to check out more of his stuff. The package overall works, I think, probably because the segments cross-pollinate their characters, and there are no real breaks between them. So it feels more like a complete experience than other portmanteau films.

A Tale of Two Cities

One of those stories that is just so powerful that it's almost impossible to dilute it, as long as you stick to the fundamentals. The attempts during the 30s made by MGM to adapt both Shakespeare and Dickens aren't very cinematic and are frankly outmoded totally by the British accomplishments of the following decade, but this is probably the best of that crop, despite Jack Conway's sluggish direction. He does handle the conclusion well, though, and the storming of the Bastille is quite thrilling (although I think that has more to do with Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur's involvement).

Ronald Colman was one of those genuinely great actors. People can harp on about the Method all they want - there's just as much truth, honesty, and conviction in classical performances like this. Colman, for all his tics and affectations, always delivers. The rest of the cast is basically an assembly of the usual suspects, with two standouts: Basil Rathbone, as a truly horrendous aristocrat, and Edna May Oliver as Miss Pross. And frankly, any film that features Edna May Oliver (or EMO, as the kids on the streets are calling her these days), kicking ass and taking names is worth the price of admission. She's a more potent badass than all your Bronsons, your Eastwoods, and your Norris...sus combined.

Certified Copy (Copie Conforme)
½

Quite a beautiful film, and a work of Kiarostami through and through. Binoche's performance is really quite amazing, and I think Shimell is quite effective as well. It's wonderful that a film so deliberately incomplete, that demands such audience participation can be this captivating on the surface as well - that's why I think Kiarostami appeals to me, he seems more interested in drawing the viewer in wholesale than making absolute statements. Here's hoping that his Japanese follow-up will be just as good.

The Wind Will Carry Us
½

A bit less captivating that Kiarostami's other films, although it still fits squarely into his idea of "incomplete cinema." Well, it's not his idea, but I'm not really familiar with anyone else who does it overtly (Chris Nolan, of all people, seems to be dabbling with it of late). Ford is the earliest user of it that I know, and it makes perfect sense - involve the viewer by getting them to speculate, and then never prove them wrong. This one probably demands a rewatch, but it was still quite interesting in fits and starts. One reference (I assume it's a reference, I may be wrong) to a [i]A Taste of Cherry[/i], where an unseen character digging a hole hands the protagonist a human leg bone, is alternately hilarious and horrible.

The MacKintosh Man
½

A real dud. I don't know what the hell Paul Newman is doing with his accent here - how the character manages to convince anyone with it is beyond me. There are 2 good sequences - a car chase through rugged little Irish roads, and an escape sequence where Newman knees a woman in the groin and pistol-whips Michael Horden. It's quite absurd, naturally. The later part of that escape sequence is very [i]No Country for Old Men[/i], except instead of shooting the dog, Newman... drowns it. Classy! Otherwise this is a particularly stupid and languid film, not helped by the fact that its tagline gives away a third-act plot development, no less.

Too Late the Hero

Another underrated gem from Aldrich, with a stellar cast. This is a bit less exploratory and meaty as Aldrich's other stuff, but it's nonetheless highly entertaining from start to finish. The climax, in particular, is magnificent - Caine and Robertson making their mad dash for freedom in long shots, so that they're indistinguishable, while we get choice closeups of the pursuing Japanese, and the complacent observer in Harry Andrews. Great stuff. Ken Takakura is really terrific, but the best performance for me came from Denholm Elliot, who is ultimately cast against type to some degree.

Close-up (Nema-ye Nazdik)

Incredibly moving. I didn't know that the people playing the parts were the [i]actual subjects[/i] until after the film, which has provided quite an aftershock. It is sometimes difficult to concentrate on Kiarostami's stuff, since it is outwardly languid and not kinetic in any way, but when the "drama" starts to unfold, it's hard to think of cinema more captivating than this. And what a beautiful ending.

Stuck on You
Stuck on You(2003)
½

Well, it's a one note joke stretched out for 2 hours. The Farrellys don't really go anywhere [i]overly[/i] interesting with it, and it's pretty light on for gags, although the Frankie Muniz cameo is pretty funny. The only other thing I was really laughing at was Seymour Cassel and his scooter. Otherwise, very limp stuff.

The Turning Point

Herbert Ross really wasn't much of a director, was he? (Apart from [i]The Seven-Per-Cent Solution[/i], which is all sorts of awesome). This is about as flat-footed as you can get, especially for a film about ballet. What surprises me most is the sequences where Yuri seduces Emilia, because that's pretty good, nice and atmospheric with some arresting visuals. Anne Bancroft almost saves the film though - she really was terrific. Shirley MacLaine is good too, but I don't think much of the rest of the cast (apart from a wonderfully sleazy Anthony Zerbe).

Five Dedicated to Ozu + Roads of Kiarostami
½

There's an odd appeal to a string of five DV shots of a beach with no connective tissue or narrative or anything. I don't know what that appeal is, but there's something there. I really wanted to know if that bit of wood that had broken off from the bigger bit of wood would get caught by the water. No, really.

Shallow Hal
Shallow Hal(2001)
½

The biggest surprise about this is that it's not complete crap. Well maybe it is, but I enjoyed it. I think the Farrellys' have really got heart, and when they work on bringing out some genuine emotion amongst all the gross-out humour, they're onto something. And this demonstrates some kind of an effort. It's a good story, although the idea that morbid obesity is something that people should be A-OK with doesn't really wash. And Jason Alexander's "dog tail" is a bit too much.

Me, Myself & Irene
½

Meh. Apart from some great physical comedy where Carrey fights himself, as well as Charlie's wunderkind "sons," there's not much enjoyment to be had here. Strangely enough, it wasn't Renee Zelleweger irritating the buggery of me, moreso the very thin and lackluster script. I'm amazed that this was so popular when it came out - I never saw it back then, and... now I know why.

Kingpin
Kingpin(1996)

It's one of those normal "[i]Witness[/i]-meets-[i]The Hustler[/i]-with-Randy Quaid doing a strip routine" films. That you see all the time. Actually, this is kinda wretched, with a couple of laughs scattered throughout, but with clunky plot mechanics and one of the least satisfying conclusions that I've ever seen. I was honestly shocked when the Farrelly's possessory credit came up at the end, because I really thought there was going to be at least 5 or 6 more minutes of story. Apparently not.

Dumb and Dumber
½

Yeah, it's funny. It's not especially well made, but when it works, I couldn't help myself from laughing - especially during Lloyd's fantasy sequence that turns into a violent kung-fu movie. I guess this kinda ruined Jeff Daniels' career outright, and I've never been a big fan of Jim Carrey's mugging, but they're both fine here. Some of the gags are a bit too telegraphed and obvious - the ones that work are the totally idiosyncratic and random ones.

Cheyenne Autumn

Unengaging and stilted for the most part, which is disappointing since the subject of a waylaid tribe trying to find home, while the white folk are wracked with guilt and torn by indecision over the whole thing is fertile ground indeed. The photography is stunning, as would be expected, and there are some really great moments (Malden staggering through the dead bodies is magnificent), but about an hour and 20 minutes into the film, we enter this bizarre comedic segment that is astonishingly wrong-headed and totally inappropriate.

We've just had nearly an hour and a half of serious, dour commentary about racial relationships, the similarities between the Cheyenne and the white folk, as well as their differences, and then we get treated to something out of [i]The Hallelujah Trail[/i], with Jimmy Stewart and Arthur Kennedy cameoing as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday for basically no reason whatsoever. All sorts of wacky, Fordian hijinks ensue, and the main plot is abandoned for the next 20 minutes.

I'm all for a bit of levity, but A) it was already being provided by the Johnson/Carey combo (unobrtrusively), and B), you're about halfway through the film. You can't just go ahead and introduce a massive structural and tonal shift that late in the game without cause or preamble. It just about kills the film stone dead. I guess it was the only way that Ford could get in his machismo absurdity and the mutation of legend themes in the most obvious and loud way possible. By comparison, it would be like if the car chase from [i]The Blues Brothers[/i] was spliced into the middle of [i]Schindler's List[/i], or if the Wayne/McLaglen fist-fight from [i]The Quiet Man[/i] was spliced into the middle of [i]The Grapes of Wrath[/i].

Thankfully the film returns its focus to Widmark et al, and Gilbert Roland gets an opportunity to deliver a really excellent performance. And as mentioned, the cinematography is great, and it's a treat to see how Ford handles Super Panavision 70, creating some really striking images. Alex North's score is suitably... loud and roadshowy. All in all, it's not a stinker, but boy does it have issues.

On Tour (Tournée)
½

A decent comedy, a sort of deeper and more outwardly complex [i]...All the Marbles[/i] in a way. That's what it reminded me of, I guess. There are some very good scenes, and Amalric is great to watch. I'm not sure that his direction is altogether stellar, and I'm not really sure that it's all that substantial, but it was diverting enough.

Tomorrow Never Dies

I hadn't seen this in what feels like a couple of years ago. It... aint a grower, that's for sure. It's actually pretty terrible, when all is said and done. A Bond film in name only. I say that because it doesn't even cosmetically feel like a Bond film, let alone nail the fundamentals. It shouldn't be rocket surgery: It's a Bond film, for God's sake.

I'll get the things I like out of the way first: Jonathan Pryce being #1. It's a shameless, hamtastic performance, but I think you're allowed to do that when you're playing a Bond villain in a film with a plot as ludicrous as this. He's one of the few sparks of life in this generic mess. He actually needed to do [i]more[/i] of the crazy kung-fu mocking, methinks. If only the character had been written better - a progressive spiral into real madness would have served the film well. Alas, not to be.

Secondly, for the most part, I like Robert Elswit's cinematography. Good use of shadows, colours, et cetera. It's a shame that the second unit stuff looks bland, coupled with the fact that Roger Spottiswoode isn't much of a director at all. There is one motif though, that does work - the screens constantly reflected in Carver's glasses, which eventually give way to flames at the end. Obvious, but at least it's something.

Thirdly, there are a couple of British thesps in minor roles that are very enjoyable: bona-fide badasses Geoffrey Palmer and Michael Byrne, as well as Julian Fellowes as an amusingly delicate Minister of Defence (surprisingly, he whinges less than Geoffrey Keen's Frederick Gray). Those performances provide... very little comfort, however.

I must confess that I don't mind the pre-title sequence, and that it is reasonably well put together, even if it is just stuff blowing up. I would have preferred if the whole thing had played out in the war room on view screens, only to reveal Brosnan as he escapes the explosion. But after Sheryl Crow's horrendous rendition of some song that I must assume is entitled "See Your Eeyore Eyes," we get a protracted sequence in which Bond is absent, and the [i]entire setup of the villain's gambit is revealed[/i].

This is a no-no. Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum understood this, and I mention them because this film is very clearly modeled on their efforts in the late 70s, as well as the other Gilbert film, [i]You Only Live Twice[/i]. You have to actually let Bond discover things for the audience. If you know everything before Bond does, you're just waiting for him to discover it - everything is a matter of rote, and you don't need to really pay attention until Bond catches up with you. Apart from the fact that Carver will get broadcasting rights in China, which is a throwaway element that has next to nothing to do with the plot, [i]we learn nothing new plot-wise for the rest of the film[/i].

This is a pretty bad storytelling blunder, but it's just one of the many things wrong with this film. The writing is so bad that you can come up with better one-liners while you're watching, long before Bruce Fierstein's attempt is delivered by the ineffectual Pierce Brosnan. I have problems with his [i]GoldenEye[/i] turn, but at least it demonstrated some degree of effort - this is just a lazy, empty performance that is a harbinger of the crap to come in his next two films.

Teri Hatcher is similarly forced and awful, and Ricky Jay... does nothing. Literally. The film suggests that he's a drug addict, but Jay acts as though he doesn't realize he's on a film set. He might as well be sitting at home, playing with a deck of cards, eating a burger or some such. He probably emotes more in such circumstances. And then you have Gotz Otto, a faux-Red Grant, who at least elicits some menace. Michelle Yeoh kicks people and shoots pipes (Hi-yah!), but the character of Wai Lin... has no character. She's a tough agent like Bond... only a woman! How progressive! They've only been doing that since 1977... and even XXX had more character. At least she had a dead boyfriend or something. And had some sort of perverse joy in one-upping Bond. And couldn't drive. [i]That[/i] was progressive.

What else is wrong with this crapfest... oh, yes, the score. How could I forget, since it blares non-stop for the entire runtime. This film of course begins David Arnold's dark reign over the composition of the James Bond films that ensues to this day, and what a horrible tenure it has been. In this, not only does he provide chugging monotony that doesn't match the pace of the action at all, but he sees fit to provide a little stinger at the end of each of Q's lines when Desmond Llewellyn manages to stumble into the film. Which is supposed to be... funny? Cute? I don't know. And then, of course, we get the full James Bond theme when Bond uses... a remote control. How positively Bondian.

Even that pales next to the over-dramatic scoring of the sinking of the [i]Devonshire[/i], or when Bond and Lin are trapped by a helicopter, or when Bond is taking off in a plane... this is a Bond film! It's not really dramatic! No one's got cancer! No one's overcoming racial prejudice to become a great musician! No one's losing their innocence in a profound and intellectually stimulating way! No one dies tragically! Oh, wait, someone does, and that brings me to my [i]next[/i] point (and final, I promise).

The film sets itself up with two elements that could potentially be exciting/interesting. The first is the idea of the media manipulating world events, and Bond having to fight an unscrupulous media mogul. The second is the fact that that mogul's wife is one of Bond's old flames. Now: forgetting the fact that this media mogul has a friggin' [i]stealth boat[/i], and is therefore not of this world, how in the hell does the whole media thing have anything to do at all with the way the plot plays out? Does Carver actually smear Bond at any point? Does Bond have to be particularly clandestine, lest he get MI6 in big trouble? Apparently not. Stromberg was obsessed with the sea - his lair was underwater, and he used a ship that swallows other submarines. Drax was obsessed with space, so he hijacks space shuttles and has a space station. Blofeld is obsessed with cats and is played by Charles Gray, so he dresses in drag. It all makes sense. Elliot Carver is Rupert Murdoch, therefore: stealth boat. What?

Then you've got Paris Carver, and there's a big to-do about the fact that she's one of Bond's ex-flames. Except it all plays out in a way that is essentially no different to Bond never having met the woman before, and taking her to bed. There are a few plot mechanics here and there which work a bit differently, but that's about it. Is there any commentary on how a woman ends up after Bond's through with her? Maybe. A throwaway line by Alec Trevelyan in [i]GoldenEye[/i] did as much. Is Bond supposed to be in love with Paris? Perhaps. He seems pretty hung up about her. He seems pretty upset when she dies... except in the very next scene he's having an absolute ball playing with his new remote-control car. Maybe he'll follow up that with some good, solid mourning- oh, wait, no. It's Joe Don Baker goofing off. Never mind.

I have spoken about this film far more than I really should have. I've seen it far too many times. This aint a Bond film though. Where's the wit? Where's the indulgence? Where's the class? I don't really need to hear Moneypenny make the "cunning linguist" joke. Lois Maxwell never stooped so low. If you took away the gunbarrel at the start, and all instances of the Bond theme, this would be Generic American 90s Action Film #192. There are more offensive Bond films out there, but there aren't many.

Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)

Dull, boring, et cetera. Amateurishly made. I kinda felt odd after watching [i]The Battle of Algiers[/i], and not totally satisfied, but now I'm clamoring to watch it again after this hackfest. These people use their ideologies like Pokemon, waging battles of painful simplicity and speaking in non-parables. And it runs over 2 hours. I've only seen [i]Dogtooth[/i] of the other Oscar nominees for Foreign-Language film, but that film kicks this one in the posterior, well and truly. This is the kind of film that has a title card for every passage of time, even if it's been... a month or a day or whatever. Pathetic.

A Taste of Honey
½

A good film, but probably one of my least favourite of the British New Wave films that I've seen. The acting is good across the board, but the film shows its stageyness a little bit too often - which is surprising, given the mostly authentic feel of the locations. The visuals in particular are very naturalistic - I suspect that my problem lies somewhere in the writing, but I'd have to read the play (or see it performed) to know for sure. Obviously.

My Blueberry Nights
½

I guess I can see why this is considered a misstep in some circles - something, somewhere, just doesn't click. I don't know what it is. But it's pretty entertaining for the most part, although I'm not really sure that Norah Jones works. David Strathairn, as per usual is extraordinary, and the cinematography is great.

Being Julia
Being Julia(2004)

Not a particularly good film, although the climax is excellent. It's almost worth suffering through the rest of it to get to the scene where Julia begins to kick ass and take names. Annette Bening's artificiality is used to her advantage here, and she manages a very sincere moment at the very end of the film. The rest of it is witless sauntering, a supposed comedy without any actual laughs. It's tiresome, and not served very well by some terrible camerawork. A mixed bag, in general. But why are Americans playing Poms, and vice-versa? Odd.

Sugata Sanshiro (Judo Saga) (Judo Story)
½

Kursosawa really wears the Western influences on his sleeves in this, his debut feature. It's a shame that it exists only in a mangled form - the stuff described by the intertitles sounds fascinating. What survives works though, and there are a few really great stylistic moments that hint at what is to come from Kurosawa down the track. Honestly, it's basically like any other sports movie, I guess, except it's got a bit of moral enlightenment chucked in for good measure. It's not a great film, and it is derivative, but it's worth a look.

Rabbit Hole
Rabbit Hole(2010)

Nicole Kidman finally delivers a performance that tops her turn in [i]BMX Bandits[/i]. I wasn't really looking forward to this at all - people moping about losing their kid isn't really my idea of entertainment, but this is refreshingly funny, with a sharp wit and a strong acting ensemble. When I say funny, I don't mean it's a laugh riot, but there are actually laughs throughout, while it also succeeds dramatically. Honestly, the three funniest narrative films of 2010 I saw were [i]The Fighter[/i], [i]The Social Network[/i] and this. Comedies truly are awful these days. I'm actually surprised that the film didn't received more Oscar love - it's far "worthier" than a lot of the nominated stuff. Just what does Aaron Eckhart have to do? (Play gay.)

The Fast and the Furious

Is this the one with John Ireland? Apparently not. I had enough trouble getting through [i]Point Break[/i] - imagine my difficulty with the even stupider knock-off. I prefer my video games interactive, in all honesty. Not even Ted Levine makes this worthwhile. I guess I'm mystified by the whole appeal of this franchise, but I'm guessing it will surely be revealed in the later installments, as these rich characters embark on an epic journey of human understanding and moral fortitude. That's what I'm guessing at this point, anyway.

My Own Private Idaho
½

Interesting and original... in its... lack of originality, I guess. I think Van Sant's interpretation of the [i]Henry IV[/i] plays are legit and interesting enough to be of merit. And there are a few sequences that are quite... uh... something. The real star of the show is River Phoenix, who really was a proper screen presence, even in his youth. The film also gets bonus marks for being one of the few films in which Keanu Reeves isn't totally awful.

Hereafter
Hereafter(2010)
½

Dullness. Sounds like a rough draft, which it was. Only once or twice does Morgan's wit break through. I suppose it's fair enough that a film about mourning and death be this glum, but it would have been nicer if it had some proper structure, pacing, and character. The kid is hilariously bad - his reaction to the London underground bombing makes Kirk's reaction to his son's death in [i]The Search for Spock[/i] look like an acting masterclass. It is a total absence of emotion. If I want to see Clint Eastwood tackle supernatural themes, I'll just go back to [i]High Plains Drifter[/i], thank you very much.

The True Story of Jesse James

A real disappointment - a clunky, sloppy film that only occasionally displays a few of Ray's valuable directorial flourishes. A big, big problem is the fact that Robert Walker is the lead. That's enough to kill any film. Never mind the fact that his support is... Jeffrey Hunter and... Hope Lange. Both of whom are nearly as bad. Even Agnes Moorehead brings nothing to the table. The flashback structure might have been interesting had it provided some really disparate, [i]Rashomon[/i]-ey perspectives, but not. They basically glorify James as a good dude who lost his way. I suspect that Andrew Dominik's film might have rendered all previous Jesse James films obsolete. Apart from a handful of good moments, the film's only other asset is Carl Thayler as an appropriately simpering Robert Ford.

Flags of Our Fathers
½

An unusual film - I don't know of any other film that looks at this aspect of propaganda. It lacks a certain energy, and I don't think that Tom Stern's aping of Janusz Kaminski's desaturated imagery works here (it does in [i]Letters from Iwo Jima[/i]), but it is well written, and served, for the most part, by an adept cast. In the intervening years since I first saw this, there are so many faces that I recognise now: Jon Polito, John Slattery, Robert Patrick, Tom McCarthy, David Rasche (Sledge Hammer in a Clint Eastwood film!) and of course, master thespian Paul Walker.

A couple of sequences that are very good are the re-enactment of the flag raising, where the line between reality and fakery is effectively blurred, and a scene in which Phillippe discovers the mangled body of his dead friend - we never see it, only Phillippe's reaction is seen, briefly, as he's in silhouette most of the time. It might be ripped wholesale from [i]The Searchers[/i], but then everyone does that. I also like how Eastwood keeps that photograph ever-present, even subtly in some shots, like a haunting presence that snaps at the heels of the three protagonists at every turn. All in all, it's a decent film, but [i]Letters[/i] is clearly the more impassioned work.

Darkness Falls

A very special class of poo. There are a few shots that are OK. That's about it. My mind honestly started drifting after the 10 minute mark, as I begun to wonder why "The Bridge" was a real failure in Billy Joel's canon. It was a much more intellectually stimulating internal dialogue that I was holding with myself, compared to the thought of actually processing this junk.

Eyes of Laura Mars

As silly as a wheel. I actually couldn't help but laugh during the scene in the car with Brad Dourif, Faye Dunaway, and Rene Auberjonois all delivering the most ridiculous performances of their career, in the most ridiculous costumes they've ever worn. And this is supposed to be a contemporary thriller. Props to Tommy Lee Jones, who manages to nail the (superfluous) final monologue, and of course The Kersh, who manages a few stylish moments in a largely daft film (in particular, love that shot from the interior of a funeral house that opens up to a lush exterior, only for a pack of journalists to come charging down the frame). Also, why is Raul Julia billed as "R.J."?

Donnie Brasco

A very well made film, I think. Two excellent performances from Pacino and Depp, and a fine supporting cast. Actually, I think Depp really needs to go back to these sorts of grounded roles, with [i]What's Eating Gilbert Grape?[/i] being another example. I actually think that it brings out the best in him, rather than the incessant goofballing that he does now. It seems like odd material for Newell, but he does a really good job, bringing out the tension and the contradictions of what Pistone goes through. I continue to be impressed with Paul Attanasio's work. And the film gets extra points for the use of "What Goes Up..."

Exit Through The Gift Shop

One of the best documentaries I've ever seen. Astonishing, funny, sad, thought-provoking, and wildly entertaining. What's more, the film's excellence only validates the point that Banksy makes, whether he likes it or not. It is best, however, if you know absolutely nothing going in. This has immediately beaten out all competition to be my favourite film of 2010. See it. Now.

Tamara Drewe
Tamara Drewe(2010)
½

Bizarre film, that knowingly (and openly) rips off [i]Far From the Madding Crowd[/i]. I'm not sure that this is the way to do it though, as the tonal shifts kill the film outright. I still do not understand the appeal of Arteton, although thankfully she's more of a supporting, inactive character, despite above-title billing and being the title character. Roger Allam is awesome, and the film's few laughs generally come from him. Tamsin Grieg is unexpectedly excellent too, but the rest of the film is a wash. Dominic Cooper and Luke Evans sure are boring chaps.

Liam
Liam(2001)
½

A good concept that would have been much better served by a more subtle touch, in both writing and direction. The film's hysterics are not charming or exciting, and within a matter of 10 minutes the narrative has settled into dull repetition. Although some of the set-ups are adequately paid off in the third act, it's not enough to save what is a fairly unmoving experience on the whole. Nicely shot, though.

Zelig
Zelig(1983)
½

Quite a novel effort - I would say that I was amused by it, without being totally engrossed. The satire is dead-on, as per the norm for Allen. I suppose this is a part of [i]F for Fake[/i]'s lineage, which would then lead into [i]This is Spinal Tap[/i], but for sheer technical emulation of archival footage, this is unmatched. It's nearly seamless. The best part of the film is probably the White Room Recordings: very funny stuff.

The Last Kiss
½

Truly loathsome. Even if it weren't for Goldwyn's flat, unimaginative direction, we'd still be saddled with an ensemble of the most awful characters ever to grace the screen. And yet we're supposed to care for them. The women are all shrill, shrieking lunatics, the men are all dour sad-sacks. The film makes the wild assertion that sometimes relationships don't work, except for when they do, except sometimes you've got to work at it, or perhaps not even engage in the relationship at all. Well done.

To Be or Not to Be

Absolutely hilarious. Loved Jack Benny's performance. This outstrips the remake in every way, shape and form. It's tighter, the timing is perfect, and it's as smart as a whip. Lubitsch plied his trade in "pleasant" film, and this one is no exception, even if it is about Nazis. I rather like Alexander Korda's efforts, and I'm surprised in some ways that this was one of his productions, but it bears all the top-notch hallmarks of his other works. That being said, it's undeniably Lubitsch's film. A great ensemble, and a great film.

Gumshoe
Gumshoe(1971)

A good concept that doesn't totally come off, but it's got some witty banter and some nice visuals to spare. I like that Finney's madness is kept a bit ambiguous, but I think that the film would have been better served if it had embraced the noir stylings more. Still, it's interesting to look at the early works of folks like Frears and DP Chris Menges. Was a bit disappointed by Frank Finlay's performance though - way too mundane a role for someone of his calibre.

Solo Con Tu Pareja

A stellar debut. Funny, touching, and original. I was wondering if the hallmarks of Cuarón's later work would be inherent in his first film, and they certainly are, although the techniques have certainly been refined in each film since. This guy is honestly one of the best working today. That also goes, obviously, for Emmanuel Lubiezki, whose work here is stunning as always. I also dug the performances. Can't believe that this didn't get released in the US until 15 years after its original release.

The Razor's Edge
½

One of Zanuck's "Very Important" films, and time hasn't been kind to it. It is unwieldy, it is bloated, and there is some shameless hamfisted acting going on here. I expect it from Tyrone Power (who is probably better than he usually is in this sort of role), I don't expect it from Gene Tierney, or Clifton Webb. Tierney gets let off for being gorgeous - I plan to go back in time and marry that woman. I'll even take the craziness.

Anne Baxter is an odd case - her delivery is as forced as can be, but with a single expression she can speak volumes, which she does when her character has been reintroduced as a drunk. Rare to see a performance that hits both ends of the spectrum for different faculties.

Apart from the performances, there are a few other issues: it's an overly convoluted plot for something so simplistic, and Goulding's camera is needlessly hyperactive. It's a decent film, with some strong scenes, but it needed some tighter script editing, and someone more talented than Goulding (Preminger). Though I must mention that Herbert Marshall delivers a fine performance as the author of the book - a weary and droll performance that deserves more attention than those of his ostentatious co-stars.

Love Story
Love Story(1970)

Quite wretched. Which isn't a surprise at all. I wasn't so much put off by the very ordinary performances by MacGraw and O'Neal, moreso the fact that it's a nothing film. John Marley is cool, and Ray Milland's OK, but otherwise this thing hasn't aged well. I'm not so surprised that it was a hit - more surprised that it was showered with love by the Academy. But then, that was the same year that they showered [i]Airport[/i] with love, so I guess I'm not surprised at all.

The Mortal Storm
½

Not exactly a subtle or graceful propaganda film, but it is a classy production, as it comes from the MGM stable. Stewart and Sullavan aren't anything special in this, but at least they're better than the always-boring Robert Young. The real star of the show is Frank Morgan - a turn of quiet conviction and power. I'm a bit disappointed by later Borzage - the Murnau influences seem to have fallen away, apart from a few sequences here and there, particularly the ending.

Prick Up Your Ears

Clumsy biopic that borrows from both [i]Citizen Kane[/i] (although it ultimately abandons that structure - to its detriment), and [i]Amadeus[/i]. The end product is only sporadically interesting and rarely cinematic, buoyed by some terrific performances from Gary Oldman, Alfred Molina, Vanessa Redgrave, and an amusing little turn by the underrated Richard Wilson. The dialogue is witty, but the lack of a cohesive, consistent story structure and a failure to actually dig deep into its subject leads me to consider this something of a misfire, albeit an interesting one.

The Song of Bernadette

A very strong prestige pic from Fox, showcasing the talents of everyone involved. Henry King, along with his DP, crafts some magnificent, highly evocative images, and he's helped by a top-notch ensemble, including career-best turns from Jennifer Jones and Gladys Cooper, as well as Lee J. Cobb, Anne Revere, Charles Bickford, and an underrated Vincent Price. Alfred Newman's score is a little overbearing, but still effective when needs be. There are a few sequences which are really very strong, especially when Bernadette discovers the spring.

The Next Three Days

I honestly liked Haggis better when he was hamfistedly trying to ram his politics down our throats. At least he was trying to say something, at least he was going somewhere. In attempting an action/thriller, he falls miserably on most fronts - perhaps Russell Crowe's performance is the only thing in this that isn't totally inept. The whole thing is just badly directed and cut - all close-ups, so the geography of every scene is lost. It is briefly exciting towards the end, but you just don't care anymore. You want out. Thank God Haggis never got to helm a Bond film.

L'Avventura
L'Avventura(1960)

Good fun. Actually, I was expecting something a bit more "coat-draped-over-shoulders" than this, even if I'm not a wild fan of it. It kept me engaged for is (considerable) runtime. I'm usually not big on films that chuck out narrative, but this one does it well, almost playfully. The characters and visuals are a robust enough foundation. And Gabriele Ferzetti is a cool dude, even if he is playing a hapless scumbag.

The Hit
The Hit(1984)

Wow. Surprisingly awesome in many way. After 9 films of vanilla visuals, I was shocked at how visually arresting [i]The Hit[/i] is. Not to mention how well written and acted it is too. Everyone in it is perfect - even Bill Hunter. Have to admit that I was distracted by the fact that he's watching a VFL match between Hawthorn and Fitzroy, but the commentary is from a Carlton/Essendon match. Sheesh, movies are silly. Anyway, this falls short of greatness only because of Terence Stamp's voice over at the end, which makes the whole point of the ordeal way too obvious.

Picnic
Picnic(1955)
½

I had to suffer through a pan-and-scan version, which was not pleasant at all, but I think the film is well made enough for it to work, even if I've only seen half of it, technically. Or less. Bill Holden is excellent as usual, but a little too old for the role I think. Actually the whole ensemble is great, but Kim Novak is a dubious talent indeed. Acting-wise anyway. It's surprisingly frank for a Hollywood film about sexual anxiety in the 50s.

Grizzly Man
Grizzly Man(2005)

Quite remarkable. I think that [i]The White Diamond[/i] edges it out a bit, but only by a hair. The scene where Herzog listens to Treadwell's final moments is incredibly moving. The pilot recounting the story of how he discovered the bodies is absolutely shocking, and it's just a guy talking. And he's not even all that perturbed, not visibly. It's incredible. The man was a total lunatic though.

The Offence
The Offence(1973)

An unsettling drama, and a considerable one. I didn't even realise it was based on a play until it was all over, which is a testament to Lumet's ability to "open things up" as they say. His wonderfully cinematic touches, like the snap-flashbacks from [i]The Pawnbroker[/i], or Connery's hands framing his face, then Trevor Howard's, are all part and parcel of why it works. Ian Bannen though, gives the best turn here, although the ambiguities that Connery brings to his character reveal hidden depths, in so far as his acting range is concerned. I suppose the most important question is: Is Johnson actually the perpetrator or not?

The Grifters
The Grifters(1990)
½

Unusual choice of material in some ways for Frears, although the through-line of misogyny and duplicitous wheeling and dealing could make it a sequel of sorts to [i]Dangerous Liasons[/i]. This film isn't totally satisfying - part of it has to do with the fact that John Cusack can not, nor has he ever been able to, [i]carry a film[/i]. Bening fares better, but Huston is the real star of the show, and she's marvelous. An interesting film that unfortunately falls just shy of excellence.

Sanctum
Sanctum(2011)

A genuine turd. It's not even a spectacular failure - just a thoroughly boring one. Such awful writing would be bad enough if it weren't augmented by some atrocious acting from the likes of Ioan Gruffudd and Richard Roxburgh. I should have known, after the awful [i]Kokoda[/i], that Grierson has no storytelling skills, but he's actually getting worse. At least this was free. I would say this is predictable, but it isn't, since you're probably inclined to predict a better film than what you get.

Terms of Endearment
½

A bit too wild and woolly with its themes to be totally successful, but as a believable portrait of a mother and daughter relationship, it works. The third act is comfortably the best, with the progression of Winger's cancer and everyone else's intensifying reactions being very realistically done. MacLaine, Winger, and Nicholson are all very good (Nicholson in particular being a laugh riot - Brooks is also very good at comedic reveals). It does, however, lack the cohesion of Brooks' two best films.

Gypsy
Gypsy(1962)
½

I don't know why LeRoy did this - he's always more adept at handling much heavier fare, like [i]I Am a Fugitive...[/i], [i]Waterloo Bridge[/i], [i]Little Caesar[/i]. The best parts of [i]Quo Vadis[/i] and [i]Random Harvest[/i] are the ones where he's dealing with dark undertones (or overtones, as the case may be). This is just a wrong fit altogether. The same goes for Rosalind Russell, who I love dearly, but it just not believable as someone who could have been a great Broadway (or vaudeville) star. That being said, she's still the best thing in it.

Chéri
Chéri(2009)
½

Well, it aint [i]Dangerous Liasons[/i], that's for sure. Actually, it aint much of anything. Light on content, light on character, light on just about every aspect. There's nothing impressive about this besides the costumes. People might mistake Pfeiffer's sullen turn for a good performance, but I'm not sold. And I don't know what the hell Kathy Bates is doing. Hampton and Frears are better than this.

Straw Dogs
Straw Dogs(1971)

Excellent. I'm not sure that Peckinpah meant to make such an anti-American film (in fact I'm positive), but that's most certainly what it feels like, with David's arrogance/ignorance/hypocrisy serving as the foundation for the overall piece. The use of parallel action here is more accomplished than it is in any other Peckinpah film, which is no small feat. A sort of flipside to Preminger's British grotesque, [i]Bunny Lake is Missing[/i], with the sights this time being set on the protagonist (or antagonist, according to Peckinpah), instead of the environment itself.

Dogtooth (Kynodontas)

Well... it's different, I'll give it that. I found myself more and more engrossed as it went in, and as horrific as some scenes are, Lanthimos has a wicked sense of humour. I think the film works very well as a protest against censorship, blind conformism, et cetera. It raises some very interesting questions about what is taken for granted in society, and just what in particular defines our perspective on what is strange and foreign. So yeah, fun for the whole family.

How Do You Know

Completely bloody awful. I started looking at my watch 10 minutes in and couldn't stop until the end. This is a film that's been in the making for a while, and boy, does it [i]not[/i] show. The characters in it are clearly from some sort of bizarro land, because they don't behave like beings identifiable as human. Brooks, in his heyday, seemed to really [i]get[/i] people, even if they were heightened. They were worth watching. That is not the case here. This is 2 hours too long.

Dirty Pretty Things

A corker of an inciting incident (finding a heart blocking a toilet - what fun), and a strong story foundation, but the actual screenwriting here leaves a lot to be desired. The characters have no dimension, although they are well acted, with the exception of an inadequate and miscast Audrey Tautou, and the ethical dilemma faced by the main character is never fully or satisfactorily explored, with the film instead focusing on just how imperative it is for the characters to get to New York (obviously a much safer city than London. Obviously). A disappointment.

The Ghost Goes West
½

A decent Robert Donat vehicle that is perhaps most valuable for its exploration of the crass nature of American culture, or more precisely, the complete misunderstanding and homogenization of foreign cultures at the hands of Americans - and for that matter, it's probably more of a comment about Hollywood than anything. It's not a great film (despite a few quality moments, mostly to do with the ghost), but it's more probing than contemporaneous films of similar ilk.

Paris Je T'aime
½

More consistently enjoyable than other anthology films. Not great overall, but there aren't [i]too[/i] many duds in here - Wes Craven's short being the worst. I liked the Coen and Cuaron shorts in particular, but the best is Alexander Payne's. I think what makes this work is how brief the shorts are, keeping the overall package tidy and brisk. Don't know that I'd ever revisit it, though.

Artists and Models

Perhaps if I'd gone through these Martin/Lewis pics in reverse order, I would have enjoyed this one most, and [i]Parnders[/i] least, instead of vice-versa. Even the presence of Shirley MacLaine can't save this, although I am again intrigued by Tashlin's commentary and self-aware gags. I'd like to see how he handles a better vehicle.

You're Never Too Young

A cut-rate redo of [i]The Major and the Minor[/i], minus the charm. It's amazing how many scenes mimic that earlier film - Taurog is almost aping Wilder (and not altogether well). Wilder wisely chose [i]not[/i] to finish his film with an extended water chase, though.

Living It Up
Living It Up(1954)
½

This starts off a bit better than the other Martin/Lewis films I've seen, basically because it has... a plot. A sorta Capra-esque plot, which works, but then the film basically spends no time doing anything with the plot, and all of its time with extended sketches that... shouldn't have been extended.

Human Nature
Human Nature(2002)
½

Interesting concept, rubbish execution. Kaufman's best stuff works because there's something identifiable to connect with - there's nothing in this film to that effect. I think only Tim Robbins, of the principal cast, is of note, although Robert Forster is very good in a small role. I'm surprised at how clumsy the whole thing is, given the people involved.

Hollywood or Bust

Pretty much barren, apart from the self-referential gags (although the pimping of both Paramount and VistaVision becomes tiresome), and the gambling scene where the Lewis/Martin combo [i]really[/i] works. The rest of it is a non-event, although the songs are OK.

Pardners
Pardners(1956)

Patent nonsense, and Jerry Lewis skirts the very fine line between funny and annoying. Although he falls squarely into the annoying category more often than not, there are some genuinely funny moments, enough for me to enjoy the overall film, lazy and flimsy though it is. Lots of stock Paramount Western players in this, like Jack Elam and Lee Van Cleef, and... Agnes Moorehead? What the hell.

True Grit
True Grit(2010)

A disappointment lacking in vigor and purpose. I wasn't overly impressed with Hathaway's [i]True Grit[/i], but I think I liked this even [i]less[/i], which is a surprise to say the least. I think across the board, the acting is better (but I prefer both the Duke and Duvall as Cogburn and Pepper), and it looks nice for the most part (a country mile from Deakins' best work, though), but I just... couldn't... give a crap about Mattie. And the film doesn't work if you couldn't care less whether Mattie succeeds or fails. I don't get the feeling that the Coens care that much about her either - and their best work is always marked by how well they handle their protagonist. This is a film whose purpose, as far as my limited mind can divine, is non-existent. Which wouldn't exactly matter if it were just plain entertaining. But it isn't.

Spanglish
Spanglish(2004)

A real misfire, this one. As usual, Brooks is able to conjure up an enticing and unique enough situation, but this time he botches it. Badly. I think Adam Sandler is part of the problem - I don't think he's bad in the part, but he is miscast. Tea Leoni is so one-note, she might as well have been twirling a 'tache. Cloris Leachman is probably the best thing in the film, but her character is pretty much useless plot-wise (clunkily shoved in by Brooks to further demonstrate his point about parental influence - there are better ways of doing it). It's also Brooks' worst directed film, but then he was always more of a writer.

The Pirate
The Pirate(1948)

Still can't get into Minnelli's musicals. In this case, I just don't like the pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland for starters - they're both serial over-actors, and are at their best when their counterpart is able to temper their performances. Put 'em together and it's sorta overwhelming, and not in a good way. Although Kelly's acrobatics are extraordinary as usual. Mostly though, I'm increasingly frustrated by how thin these films are, so that Kelly gets more footage to strut his stuff. I wouldn't mind that stuff if it perhaps served the story, or if the story was robust enough to support it in the first place, but that just doesn't seem to be happening. I still vastly prefer Minnelli's dramas.

Vera Drake
Vera Drake(2004)

Impressive. Yet again Leigh plays with perspective, drawing the film's power from being able to paint everyone in different ways as the story evolves. What did strike me is that an abnormally high number of Leigh regulars are in this - it's just about all of them in the one spot. The story is still a topical one, and I don't think Leigh comes crashing down on one side or the other in particular, although it's pretty clear how he feels about certain aspects of the whole abortion thingo. Imelda Staunton is deserved all the plaudits she received for the role - and more.

Intolerable Cruelty
½

A strange, strange film, with a couple of truly great scenes in it. It never really comes together as a whole though - there are so many disparate elements in it that collide and never really form anything. It's still the most accomplished rom-com of recent times, despite being a mess. It's certainly the best looking rom-com of recent times. And I dig Clooney's performance. And no matter which way you slice it, it's far less offensive than the woeful [i]Ladykillers[/i] redo.

The Dilemma
The Dilemma(2011)

Guess what: it stinks. I for one did not see that coming. At all. No sir. You know you're in big trouble when the most dynamic and engaging performance in the film is afforded by... Channing Tatum. Horrible, icky muck, the worst thing that Ron Howard's ever done, and that's really, [i]really[/i] saying something. Completely and utterly without value.

Mystery Street

Lacks any real energy or vitality, which is a shame, because Ricardo Montalban makes for a natural and engaging lead. The focus on forensic science is interesting - not quite sure why the film had to be a love letter to Harvard, though. Elsa Lanchester is the film's other highlight, in a typically eccentric turn.

Act of Violence
½

Good flick, not really noir in the most purest sense, although the visuals and a few of the characters might lead you to believe otherwise. Van Heflin and Robert Ryan are very good - in fact, I was more shocked by the revelation that Ryan's character wasn't a nutter after all than anything else in the film. Strong direction from Zinnemann and effective pacing, too. But by God, Mary Astor was starting to look [i]old[/i]...

The High and the Mighty
½

There are two great things about this film: the score, and Robert Stack. Absolutely terrific, those two things. Nothing else, however, has really stood the test of time - and in fact, it's not even all that good by 1954's standards. The suspense is limited, the climax is anything but, and it took 2 hours and 20 minutes to get there. The characters are non-events (as much of a hoot as it was to see Phil Harris on screen), as as for conflict, what conflict? Any time conflict is brought up, it's usually resolved in that scene, or the next time we focus on those characters. I like Wellman's use of CinemaScope, its' better than most films of that period visually, but still, kinda a non-event. At least things would happen in the [i]Airport[/i] films.

The Big Lebowski
½

Along with [i]Rushmore[/i] in the same year, probably one of the most original comedies of the last few decades. This is better, although Anderson would improve with later efforts. I love how The Dude is just kinda bounced around the plot without ever actually instigating anything himself, and yet his involvement is always key. The whole cast nails it, and that chair gag is still the funniest sight gag I've ever seen.

Life Is Sweet

Feels less substantial than Leigh's other films, with the performances being a bit more overwrought than usual. It's decent enough, but apart from the relationship between Jane Horrocks' character and her mother, most everything else is worn on sleeves, leaving the cathartic scenes towards the end a bit weaker.

Fargo
Fargo(1996)
½

Hasn't aged a bit. Still feels fresh and distinctive. Granted, it loses a bit of its impact on second viewing, but most films do. The writing is impeccable, and serviced perfectly by the performances and direction. Macy is extraordinary, in particular, as is McDormand of course. It's funny to think how perfect a companion piece [i]No Country for Old Men[/i] ended up being, given that it was an adaptation. Except this looks positively buoyant next to that film, since the evil is qualified and has a reason, and the hero is indefatigable.

Career Girls
Career Girls(1997)

I continue to enjoy my run through Mike Leigh's films. This one's use of flashback is particularly effective, as is Katrin Catlidge's performance (didn't realise she had passed away; very sad). Lynda Steadman, on the other hand, is a bit too mechanical and forced. As par for the course in Leigh's films, there's no plot, but you still get the requisite climactic scene, which is quite sobering in this instance. Quite a good film.

Miller's Crossing
½

A beautiful film indeed. Perfectly executed in basically every regard, and entertaining on several levels. One of the best stories about friendship/love you could dream up, even if the idea of a detached protagonist playing both sides in a gang war isn't especially original. I love the cast, from Byrne to Finney to Polito et al. Carter Burwell's best score, I think. And that final shot is just terrific. Funny to boot. Still one of the best things the Coens have ever done.

Murphy's Romance
½

Not a good film. Typical 80s blandness, and even more flat-footed than [i]Norma Rae[/i]. This time not even Sally Field is putting in a good effort. There are a few shots that look nice, but that's about it. James Garner is OK, but it's hard to believe that [i]this[/i] is the performance that he got his sole Oscar nomination for. Carole King's score is horrendous.

Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon(1980)

If I'm going to call a spade a spade, then this is complete crap. No question. It [i]does[/i] have kitsch value, but even that diminishes on repeat viewing. When looking at it seriously, the title sequence is the best thing about it. When you're not, there's obviously fun to be had, but even that's kinda limited. I had previously thought the action sequences, at the very least, to be quite entertaining, but I'm surprised at how lethargic they are - the climax is basically Dalton shooting people without ever being shot back at, while Jones sits in a chair and looks determined (ever the passive protagonist). It's funny at first, but the appeal wears off.

I think Peter Wyngarde is best in show. He demonstrates more self-awareness than anyone else in the cast - possibly because he can hide his face. Unlike Topol though, he's funny without being totally awful. Dalton plays it with iambic pentameter, and Brian Blessed SHOUTS, naturally. Von Sydow is nothing but a clothes horse. I like the moments of self-aware humour the best - there's a volley of them during Ming's wedding at the end, but it's too little too late. The film is overall is unfortunately a chore - ultimately I like the idea of it being a campy "so bad its good" experience, but the reality of it is sadly removed from that. It's just bad.

Images
Images(1972)

Wonderfully unhinged film, and very unusual for Altman, who specializes in being more of a distant observer to the proceedings in his films (what with his long lenses and all that). This is very intimate, compared to his other stuff - even moreso than [i]Secret Honor[/i] or [i]3 Women[/i]. I don't quite like it as much as those films, though - they offered a bit more to chew on, but this is nonetheless impressive, with masterful cinematography from the always great Vilmos Zsigmond, and a decidedly atypical score John Williams score. Possibly Susannah York's finest performance - most certainly her most daring.

The Fighter
The Fighter(2010)

An uncommonly good boxing film. Although the boxing itself isn't all that important - in fact, the fights themselves are probably the least compelling part of the film itself, save for Russell's interesting and effective choice to mimic television-style coverage. Outside of the ring, the film jabs ever so gently at boxing cliches while presenting a compelling ensemble of rather wild (and yet realistic) characters (outside of Wahlberg and Adams). Leo and Bale are quite extraordinary. Probably most surprising about the film is just how funny it is too. Perhaps Russell should direct scripts written by others more often.

127 Hours
127 Hours(2010)

Comfortably Danny Boyle's best film - he apparently avoided his usual third act blues by cutting it altogether. And it definitely works. The film works on two levels - on the surface, the story of Aron Ralston and his physical and psychological ordeal (Boyle and Beaufoy do a particularly good job of presenting Ralston's line of thinking as it devolves and evolves throughout the film), but there's also the more distant, almost methodical examination of survival instincts inherent in human beings. Or animals in general. It's suitably toe curling when it needs to be without becoming trashy or bluntly explicit.

Anyway, James Franco really went out on a limb for this role. He's quite disarming. In short, [i]127 Hours[/i] rocks. It's quite handily done. And so on and so forth...

Slumdog Millionaire
½

Doesn't hold up on second viewing. There's not much to it at all really, beyond two very good performances from Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan, who bring depth to their roles that probably isn't inherent in the script. I think the kid playing the youngest version of Jamal is also pretty good, but there's not much to be said for the rest of the cast. There's very little about this story that feels, well, [i]Indian[/i] for want of a better word. Probably the most disturbing thing about it is that it suggests that people from vastly foreign cultures (to my own, of course), are just as glued to their TV sets as we are. But then Beaufoy and/or Boyle don't really comment on it, it's more a matter of fact. Sad stuff indeed.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
½

Just as fetid as the other films. And even more empty. The flashbacks are engaging in a hilarious and trashy way - at least they have a bit of verve and colour to them, instead of the blandy McBlandness of the main plot. I hope that people realise that you could condense the plot of this entire series into one film. It wouldn't even be that hard.

Topsy-Turvy
Topsy-Turvy(1999)

An impressive and engrossing achievement. Took me back to seeing [i]The Mikado[/i] on stage as a young 'un. Admirable that Leigh can approach a semi-biopic, semi-stage adapation, and maintain the same character-driven style of his other films. The entire ensemble is very good, with Broadbent, Corduner, and Spall being the best in show. And as usual, Leigh saves his very best for the last scenes. Which is as it should be.

Trainspotting
½

For whatever reason, the film still just doesn't do it for me totally. There are some bravura moments, and I like Boyle's kinetic style (for the most part), but the film always seems to me to be rather... empty. For lack of a better word. Perhaps that's the point, but it's not an overly satisfactory viewing experience. The third act suffers from Boyleism, with a bit of a clunky gear-shift into a rather dull situation that doesn't particularly play out in an interesting fashion. The other two acts, while not transcendent or anything, were much stronger.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party
½

Not substantial, but rather infectious and entertaining. This type of music's not really my bag, but I found the whole thing enjoyable all the same. I'm surprised at how much I like Dave Chappelle's sense of humour, even when it's at its most infantile. I thought Gondry's structure here was also very good, stronger than (a few of) his narrative flicks anyway.

The Life of David Gale
½

A very stupid movie. Thematically bereft, and built entirely on the supposed "power" of its "plot twists," except those twists are telegraphed clearly about 30 minutes into the film. It was far too easy to figure out not just the ending, but the specifics. What makes it even sadder is that the film tries to present the "twist" as a double twist, just so that Kate Winslet gets two opportunities to cry. She's terrible in it, by the way. There's very little to recommend this, apart from the fact that Rhona Mitra is a fine lass.

High Hopes
High Hopes(1988)
½

Not really as refined as some of Leigh's later works. The class commentary is let down by the rather hamfisted and obvious presentation of the middle and upper-middle classes, which is a let down. Still, the film has its moments, especially a cringe-inducing "party" held for two of the characters' ailing grandmother.

The Dreamers
The Dreamers(2004)

A bit of a disappointment. Not really all that engaging on the acting, writing, or cinematographic fronts. The most interesting thing in the film, perhaps the thing that keeps it afloat, is Bertolucci's use of cinema history, and the characters' exploration of that history. The rest of what's going on is rather facile and obvious, and it doesn't seem as though Bertolucci had a whole heap to say that was genuinely interesting. I wouldn't call it a bad film, though. Just an underwhelming one.

The Thorn in the Heart

Actually very good. Much stronger than the previous two films Gondry made before it. What starts off as a curious piece (why would Gondry make a film about his aunt and cousin?) becomes something much more interesting, as the relationship between the two subjects becomes more and more clear. While being set against the aunt's enduring popularity left over from her years as a (progressive) school teacher. Despite some rather melancholy elements, the feature overall is quite effervescent, which is an interesting approach.

Another Year
Another Year(2010)
½

Marvelous. Funny, but very sad. Very poignant as well. All power to Lesley Manville for her exceptional performance, but I think that Ruth Sheen is worthy of kudos as well. To be honest, the whole cast is. The final shot is just heartbreaking. I suspect that it's a film I'll come back to time and time again over the years.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

Well, it's a ball of fun when it's at its best, I'll give it that. [i]A Double Life[/i] meets [i]Repulsion[/i] except not really in the league of either of them. You could chuck in a number of other films to that mix too. I like that Aronofsky is dabbling within "trashy" arenas - not something that most other filmmakers seem willing to do these days, although [i]The Wrestler[/i] is ultimately far more successful in most regards. Natalie Portman, however, exhibits talent that one could never have guessed at given that, well, she was criminally boring in the Star Wars prequels. And a few other things. The film overall, I like, but I certainly don't love it.

Burlesque
Burlesque(2010)
½

Terrifying. In every regard. Cher's closeups are the most horrific things I've ever seen committed to celluloid. Christina Aguilera has all the charm and allure of Charlton Heston in a dress. And her voice hurts my ears - seriously. An inept film, and I'm a worse person for having seen it.

Happy-Go-Lucky

My patience was being tested for a lot of the film, but the last act makes it all worthwhile, and throws everything into perspective. The film's similarities to [i]Naked[/i] are interesting - ostensibly it's the flip side of the coin, but Poppy's involvement in the lives of others seems to have the same detrimental (or perhaps positive? hmm) effect. Hawkins might be deliberately obnoxious most of the time, but she nails the critical moments. Eddie Marsan is similarly impressive.

Be Kind Rewind
½

Seems as though it's one of those films where a novel concept was conceived, or maybe, say, one good scene was written, and then everything else was built around it, without care or interest. Although I think Gondry's ending is strong, where he makes a comment about the power of the moving image over the written word, but it's not earned. The rest of the film is populated by psychopaths who make arbitrary decisions that can't be out of character, because they have no character. A mess.

The Science of Sleep

There's all manner of $4 insults I could level at this. Twee? Indulgent? Lethargic? Vacuous? It is all of this, and yet it is less. An unending eye-roller of a film, something akin to [i]I Heart Huckabees[/i], and yet even worse. Gondry seems to be very happy with his idea, but I just can't stand quirk for quirk's sake. There's got to be some substance, or meaning, or goal, which is what Charlie Kaufman afforded [i]Eternal Sunshine[/i]. This, however, is just masturbation.

Winter's Bone
½

Nothing special. The first half in particular is a film of stock-standard walking and talking, without any real colour or, to be reductive, entertainment value. The second half picks up, but it's still a rather dour and uninvolving experience. The film's chief asset is the acting, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, who do very good work with what they're given.

Naked
Naked(1993)
½

A great film in every regard, and one of the most incredible and incendiary performances ever from David Thewlis. It's alternately hilarious and horrifying, an odd effect that few filmmakers are ever able to truly achieve. You want to look away, and yet a part of you wants to stay in this repugnant universe. You want Johnny to stay; you want him to go. You hate him and you sympathise with him. Very savvy filmmaking, and I look forward to seeing more of Leigh's films.

The Killer Elite

Rather horrendous. The Peckinpah themes of honor and friendship are haphazardly thrown into the film at random intervals, and stick to nothing. Everyone's quite terrible in it, and I can't help but shake the feeling that the entire thing is a massive mickey-take. It might work if that were the case, save for the fact that it's not all that funny.

Kinsey
Kinsey(2004)
½

Perhaps disappointing after Condon's unusual and enthralling approach to a real-life figure in [i]Gods and Monsters[/i], but the film earns points for generating some interesting dramatic situations, as well as the unusual cast that has been assembled. Tim Curry is squandered though, which is a minor crime. Although he's joined by Oliver Platt and Chris O'Donnell, which was giving me all sorts of horrid flashbacks to a certain 90s swashbuckler that will go unnamed and otherwise unremembered. Anyway, for someone who was unfamiliar with the work of Kinsey, the film is instructive and well made, but not a particularly remarkable piece of filmmaking.

Ratatouille
Ratatouille(2007)

Enjoyed it more the second time around, but still my least favourite of Brad Bird's three films. But I'd put it around the upper-middle of the Pixar tree. Some of the plotting seems rather perfunctory (for instance, Skinner's involvement after Linguini gets the restaurant serves little function, and is really a matter of rote), and I don't think that the character ensemble is anywhere near as strongly drawn as it is in Bird's other films. That being said, Anton Ego is probably the best character he's ever created, and Peter O'Toole's voicing of him is probably the most entertaining voicing of an animated character in recent times.

Aria
Aria(1988)
½

As with most of these short film collections, some of the films work, some of them don't. I liked the Roeg, Sturridge, and Temple segments. To a slightly lesser degree, I also enjoyed Ken Russell and Derek Jarman's efforts. The rest, not so much. Still, even if the overall product isn't entirely satisfying, it's a lot more focused and coherent than a lot of these things. But that's not saying much.

Random Harvest
½

An uncommonly superb romance, for a major studio film. The film's chief assets are threefold - Greer Garson, Ronald Colman, and Mervyn LeRoy. Apart from Colman, who was only better in [i]A Double Life[/i], this is career-best work for the bunch of them. A shame that the Warner DVD blurb gives away the fulcrum point of the second act. Which was infuriating, but the film lost none of its power because of it. A great film, and it surprises me that it took me this long to get around to it.

Tangled
Tangled(2010)

Still not hitting the highs of the Disney Renaissance, but the guiding hand of John Lasseter seems to be steering Disney toward something far more palatable than the [i]Brother Bear[/i]-[i]Home on the Range[/i]-[i]Chicken Little[/i] nightmare. Greno and Howard successfully blend the punchy humour and tight plotting of the "Renaissance" flicks, with the style of the great Disney romances of the 50s. And the horse is a hoot. And he doesn't even talk, which is a relief.

Never Say Never Again

Interesting what a 5-plus year hiatus between viewings can do for you. I've always flip-flopped on [i]Never Say Never Again[/i] over the years. When I first watched it I was appalled by its... unofficialness. It was so nasty. Then I saw it a few more times and found it to be reasonably entertaining, probably as much as the lower-tier EON productions. Then I went back to scorning it for its unoficialness.

But now that I've grown out of infantile and rather sad concepts such as brand loyalty, I can assess the film on a bit more of an even keel. And although it's got some problems (the most egregious appearing in the final act, which aint a good sign), I found it to be a highly entertaining ride, and one of the more visually layered Bond films ever made.

It's got the right mix of sex, humour, suspense and action that every Bond film should have. God knows how many EON productions have failed to get the right mix. In fact, they haven't hit that perfect mix since Cubby Broccoli died, with perhaps one exception. There are some awful goofball moments here and there: the horse jumping off the cliff is terrible by anyone's standard, for starters, and when you move the death of Largo in the [i]Thunderball[/i] formula underwater, when Domino has no reason to be in attendance, it just doesn't work at all.

Some other things that don't work: Max Von Sydow as Blofeld (too grandfatherly, too Santa-ish) and Michel Legrand's score - which I don't particularly dislike, it's just that Legrand and Bond isn't really a great mix, and not because it's not Barry. I mean, it's got individuality, it's distinctly Legrand, and there are even a few segments that are top-notch (like the loading of the missiles), it's just one of those chalk-and-cheese picks.

Apart from a few other snafus though, the film is a lot of fun. And that can be boiled down, largely, to two performances: Klaus Maria Brandauer and Barbara Carrera. First, Brandauer - a performance peppered with all sorts of delightfully amusing idiosyncrasies and odd tics. It's a vivid and self-aware turn by an accomplished foreign actor - something that EON would like to think it's done in recent years, but has failed. Dominic Greene in particular is a poor man's Maximilian Largo. There's so much about Brandauer's performance that makes no sense, and that's the idea - this guy is off the hook, Zorin-style (perhaps more so) and it makes for great viewing.

Carrera is cut from much the same cloth, but she takes everything to an even more ridiculous and colourful level. She even manages to make descending a staircase both decadent and villainous. Speaking of which, part of what I really enjoyed about this viewing of [i]Never Say Never Again[/i] is Kershner's use of motifs. For Fatima Blush, it's her high-heeled shoes - she's introduced with them, for some segments it's all that we see of her, clacking away at a brisk pace. The ostentatious nature of her character is summed up with a few shots of her feet. Fantastic economy, and I'd like to know where you can see that kind of thing happening in an "official Bond film."

Similarly, the technologically-minded Largo is introduced on view-screens, employs two-way mirrors... same principle. Visuals that underlay or reveal character. Proper filmmaking. Probably more than the film itself deserves, to be honest, but there you have it. Douglas Slocombe's done better work, but him on bad day is better than most on a good day. Even he's got something going on - the classical soft, luminous close-ups for Basinger and Carrera, rather mundane and straightforward lightning for Connery and Brandauer.

There's probably a lot more I could go on about, from the hilarity of Edward Fox's imperious M to waxing lyrical about the exceptional bodily forms of both Basinger and Carrera, but I've devoted too much text and thought to a film that... yeah, it's not great, but it's nowhere near as bad as what most people would paint it as. And for what it's worth, it's better than a significant percentage of the "official" Bond films, I can give you the tip.

The Dead
The Dead(1987)

One of the better swansongs for any filmmaker of longevity. Although the film is brief, Huston plays his cards close to the chest until the final 10 minutes or so, where all is made abundantly clear (not that it's a mystery as to what it's all about - it can be figured out rather quickly too, but Huston's playing a more subtle game, even by his standards). Terrific performances all 'round, but both Donals McCann and Donnelly are exceptional.

Mademoiselle
Mademoiselle(1966)

What an unusual and interesting post-Oscar career move for Richardson. Easily his most visually arresting film. It's a story that is fairly ludicrous on paper, but Richardson and Moreau make it work very well. Although the film's moments are probably more effective than the whole, it's still quite a fascinating entry in Richardson's rather diverse 60s canon.

White Dog
White Dog(1982)

Not really a subtle film. Interesting though, and not at all the usual lazy finger-wagging at racism that Hollywood likes to indulge in now and then to feel good about themselves. I like that Fuller is looking at aspects of racism that aren't usually looked at, especially the cultural and social indoctrination of bigotry. The film might have been better served if a few truly goofy and hysterical moments had been excised, but then the film might have lost some of its personality (and as a Fuller film, it has it in spades). Also: Burl Ives > Everyone.

The Messenger
½

Moverman sets himself up with an interesting and compelling situation and then doesn't really do a whole lot with it. As it progresses, the film gradually began to lose its grip on me, especially when dealing with the Samantha Morton subplot, which is less interesting than it has any right to be. Harrelson is terrific, but I'm afraid that Ben Foster is far too mechanical an actor. All he conveys is an actor's thought process, not a character's, which rather detracts from the experience. Still, the film has its poignant and strong scenes, especially in the two instances in which Steve Buscemi appears.

Chimes at Midnight
½

Magnificent in every respect. One of the absolute best Shakespeare films ever. And a corking piece of work in its own right. The acting is wonderful - Welles' best performance by far. Gielgud is always great when it comes to Shakespeare, so the power of his turn comes as no surprise, but two other performances that impressed me greatly were Norman Rodway's suitably absurd Hotspur, and Keith Baxter's Hal - the arc of that character is drawn as perfectly as it could be. His final line, which is usually played for laughs in [i]Henry V[/i], is given completely new meaning by Welles, and it serves as an ideal conclusion (given that he has to stop his story in the second act of another play altogether).

Even if it weren't great as a film of Shakespeare, it would still have the Battle of Shrewsbury, which is one of the best cinematic battles ever committed to celluloid. It's almost an evolution of [i]Alexander Nevsky[/i]'s Battle on the Ice, and it's not hard to pick which later films it influenced. Although the new British DVD of this is watchable, I'd love to one day see this given a premium home video presentation - it would be something to behold.

Blue Valentine
½

Not quite as substantial as it and others think it is. Cianfrance's direction is nothing to write home about, and neither is the writing. What is very good, however, is the performances, Gosling in particular. He's quite a magnetic performer, disappearing completely into his character. You forget that you're watching an actor. Williams is good as well, although he role is less sympathetic and probably harder to connect to. Not a bad film, not a great one... somewhere in the middle.

Inside Man
Inside Man(2006)

I've always thought this to be a slick, polished, very entertaining heist flick, but what strikes me is that I actually enjoy the characters. I enjoy spending 2 hours with these people, (well... not Jodie Foster). I think that's the film's real asset, even with all of its plot convolutions (which are clearly presented - a refreshing change of pace for a modern thriller). This doesn't stack up to Lee's more considerable works of course, but he shows a versatile and assured hand here. I haven't seen the only other film he's done in the intervening years - I hear tell that it stinks.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner(1982)
½

Quite remarkable. Although I couldn't remember a lot of the film since seeing it a few years ago, a lot of it came flooding back as soon as it started up. Apart from the photography, I think the film's chief asset is Hauer/Batty. That's a real gem of a character, realised perfectly by Hauer. He deserved a better career after that. As far as noir/sci-fi cross-pollination goes, this is probably as good as it will ever get.

Fort Apache
Fort Apache(1948)
½

Good, but it doesn't really deserve its reputation. In fact, it never really has any energy until the last 20 minutes. The rest of the film is just the usual John Ford tomfoolery, with what seems like his [i]entire[/i] stock company milling about and goofing off. The only really worthwhile turn of the bunch (apart from Ward Bond, who is solid), is Henry Fonda, who is really terrific as the prickly and arrogant Thursday. The end is quite good - a bit of a twist to Ford's usual admiration and defense of The Lie.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Something else entirely. I found the film difficult when I first watched it 6 or so years ago, and for the first half I think I felt largely the same. But as soon as the intermission hit, and then for the rest of the film after that, I slowly started to realize that the film had a complete hold over me. The stargate sequence might be the most mesmerising thing ever committed to film. I love the HAL stuff and all, but it's really the stargate that got me.

Both times I've watched it, I get the unshakable feeling that it's about vanity somehow. There are a few examples here and there that I could probably write about, but I think it'll require annual viewings from now on before I can really get a handle on it, I'm sure. For now I'm just content to be gobsmacked by the effects and photography for two and a half hours. I think the next time I watch it I might try it as a double bill with [i]Fantasia[/i].

Mannequin
Mannequin(1937)

Limp MGM melodrama. The pairing of Joan Crawford and Spencer Tracy must have seemed clever at the time - retrospect isn't nearly so kind. The plot chugs along, and Borzage gives it no spark, flair, or life. He seems as bored as the audience. Looking at the trajectory of Borzage's output from the late 20s to the late 30s, I can safely say that the it's true: Fox was the directors' studio, whereas MGM was all about its stars.

Hot Blood
Hot Blood(1956)

Crap. The first dud I've seen from Ray, and it's pretty much without any merit whatsoever. Although it's only 80-odd minutes, it's painfully lethargic, and although it offers the promise of perhaps getting a glimpse into gypsy lifestyle and culture... we don't really get it. Apart from some dancing and singing and whipping. I was particularly disappointed with Ray's use of CinemaScope, which is about as bland and lifeless as you can get, with a few exceptions.

Ordet (The Word)
½

Profoundly moving, and although it might be a bit too easy to call it a "deeply religious" experience, that's precisely what it is, even for an agnostic such as myself. I was expecting something more aggressive and overwhelming from Dreyer, since my only other experience with his films to date has been the extraordinary [i]Passion of Joan of Arc[/i]. Although the camera isn't doing all sorts of cartwheels and amazing stuff in the film, the cinematography and direction is no less striking than the earlier film, in its own way. Particularly Dreyer's incredibly sparse use of close-ups; when we finally do get a close-up, the effect is tremendous. After only seeing two of his films, I get the feeling that I'm watching the work of a complete master of the form. Can't wait to delve deeper into his filmography.

Junebug
Junebug(2005)
½

It's an indie film, you see. So it's about feelings and stuff. It's actually OK, but it's nothing spectacular or even hugely interesting in the long run. The real appeal is Amy Adams performance, which is great. Ben McKenzie alternates between being interesting and being pretty awful. The rest of the cast is so-so, but then the writing doesn't afford them all that many opportunities.

...And Justice for All

Fantastic tragicomedy, turning the Baltimore courts into, essentially a carnival. The film's intent, however, isn't purely satirical. It certainly doesn't feel like an American film, much more European, where a scene of great mirth and oddity will be followed up by horrible (and ironic) tragedy.

I think what appeals to me most is the fact that the protagonist is a good man, who makes bad decisions. Not morally bad decisions, but pragmatically bad decisions, and as a result he fails everyone in his life, one way or another. Even at the end, when he does the right thing, he signs his own death warrant and technically fails his client (a superb John Forsythe). It's a very loud Pacino performance, one of the first, but it has an integrity to it and none of the mocking/cartoonish affectations that plagued his career through the 80s/90s/now.

The Tourist
The Tourist(2010)

And in one fell swoop, von Donnersmarck destroys all of the goodwill he built up with [i]The Lives of Others[/i]. A turdacious and putrifient film, so much so that it deserves made-up words. Depp and Jolie, supposedly the "romantic leads" have no chemistry - in fact, they would only have been believable if they had been retroactively outed. And then you have Paul Bettany playing the Most Irritating Screen Character of 2010, who does things for no reason and does them badly.

The film is so poorly set up and written, that the structure itself gives away the twist within five minutes of the opening logo. And my God, what a stupid twist it is. It's not as though it takes any degree of scrutiny to poke holes in it - if you can remember even a brief moment from any given moment of film (the true challenge), you'll come across something that Officially Makes No Sense. Somewhat amusingly, when the "climax" of the film reaches its unutterably boring apex and seems to not go anywhere, a frustrated Timothy Dalton marches in out of nowhere and tells Bettany's snipers to fire, thankfully allowing everyone to exit the theatre and never speak of the experience again.

Hustle
Hustle(1975)

Was Bob Aldrich the most misunderstood/under-appreciated filmmaker of his time? Maybe. I was expecting stock-standard 70s cop thriller nonsense from this, and the opening reel led me to think that I was spot on, but no, it turns out it's typically un-typical Aldrich fare. You've got non-committal and detached cops essentially making a monster out of Ben Johnson, a murder victim's father, due to their callous indifference. That's great.

Then, it turns out that the cops' way of repenting for what they've done (only subconsciously, mind you), is to create a massive fiction surrounding another murder. It's a mean jab at the other cop films of the time (and later on as well), and it's refreshing at that. Great ending, too.

Ivanhoe
Ivanhoe(1952)
½

Starts off limply, but builds momentum in the second and third acts and is overall satisfying. Although the racism issue seems to be the center of Thorpe's film, it's never quite given the full heft that it might have in the hands of a more skilled filmmaker. As it stands, the real attraction is the action, and it's very very good. The siege in particular is great fun, and the sight of Finlay Currie kicking ass and taking names is worth the price of admission alone. Also, I'll just say it now: Liz Taylor, never hotter. Although why she rebukes the badass George Sanders for hope of being with the wooden Robert Taylor makes no sense, on a "Cheating-on-Anne-Archer-with-Glenn-Close" level.

To Be or Not to Be

A failure, and a fairly miserable one at that. Whoever had the brilliant idea of building a film with Mel Brooks in the lead role is an idiot. I suspect it was Mel Brooks, actually. He's fine in those little supporting roles he gives himself in his own films, but as a leading man, he's just inadequate. It might be saved by the presence of Anne Bancroft, but she's given absolutely nothing to work with. The few gags that might have perhaps been funny are telegraphed long in advance, removing any of their power. And Charles Durning's Oscar nomination is a mystery of the highest order.

Badlands
Badlands(1974)

Malick's best film. No dithering about - just cold, hard narrative and message. And yet it's abstract, too - it's "depressing" in the usual sense, without being outright devastating or altogether shocking. The matter-of-fact treatment of Kit's exploits, coupled with Spacek's disenchanted and almost bored narration set it apart entirely. And what a shock it is to see Malick himself in an extended cameo...

Stop Making Sense
½

[i]That's[/i] how you do a concert movie. Fantastic Jordan Cronenweth cinematography, a great lineup of songs, all punctuated by David Byrne's wonderful buffoonery. "Burning Down the House" is an absolute corker. If only this amount of care and imagination were put into all concert films. And, heck, if only Jonathan Demme always made films this good.

Vertigo
Vertigo(1958)

Hmm. As a second viewing for me, this is interesting, as on my first viewing I seem to have ignored the fact that this is one of the greatest things ever. It's not my favourite Hitchcock - I haven't developed the sentimental attachment to it that I have to a few of his other films, but I can pretty much say without shadow of a doubt that this is his best. It's incredible, undeniable, haunting... and I wouldn't really call it a thriller at all. More a supercharged noir/romance. Although "supercharged" is too reductive and mundane a term.

The score defies classification too - in all honesty you could have set it to [i]Rocky IV[/i] and it would have made the film an instant masterpiece. The Bass/Herrman combo is an extremely potent one, whether it's a Hitchcock film or a Scorsese one, but the opening to [i]Vertigo[/i] is probably their best collaboration. You just fall forward into it, without realising that it's just a title sequence.

The plot itself takes a few liberties, but it doesn't matter. It's a great story, and the character development is quite extraordinary. Scotty is transformed into something truly repulsive, making the casting of the affable Jimmy Stewart a stroke of genius. And Kim Novak, well... nice chest. I think the thing that stuck with me the most in the film, apart from the score, is what is perhaps the most extraordinary use of colour in any film, particularly the ever-present, ever-dueling reds and greens.

In short, maybe it is "only a bloody movie," but it's a pretty darn good one.

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
½

Unjustly maligned, I think. The women are fine, the guys are funny, it's lensed by Gordon Willis, what's not to like? Jose Ferrer demonstrates that even in his advanced age, he still had the capacity for awesomeness. It's much lighter than a lot of Allen's other stuff around that period (except for [i]Broadway Danny Rose[/i], which is far cleverer and much more charming), but it's effective entertainment.

Sullivan's Travels

Very good. Not anywhere near as nasty as most Hollywood satires, but then it doesn't wholly fit into that subgenre. Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake aren't the greatest performers around, but I like them just fine, and they've got the appropriate chemistry. I disliked the third-act device of amnesia, and the rather forced and obvious ending, but no matter. An entertaining piece of work all the same.

Without a Clue

Nice little gem of a film. Nothing extraordinary, just a solid, well made and well cast comedy. Ben Kingsley is a wonderful Watson, and Michael Caine demonstrates that his comedy chops were well and truly intact in the 80s. And Paul Freeman as Moriarty is gold - a shame, perhaps, that the best cinematic Moriarty appears in a parody/subversion of the Holmes tales.

Long Day's Journey Into Night

The cruel abuse of [i]Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?[/i] without the rapier wit or the funny. And just a smidgen more realistic. The elliptical behaviour the younger James (abuse, apology, abuse) is so incredibly frustrating, but familiar. The cast is roundly excellent, with Ralph Richardson's haughty indignation finally giving way into something much more heartbreaking in his later moments. Technically, it's a marvel - anyone who complains that this is "stagey" obviously isn't paying enough attention to how it's directed. Those final shots are staggering.

The King of Kings

Such hokum. Devoid of complexity, nuance, subtelty... just like any other DeMille film. However, he's like Capra - a driving force of earnestness that is so overwhelming that you just go along with the material. It's technically flawless filmmaking - the earthquake is spectacular, for instance. H.B. Warner seems to have based his performance on stained-glass windows, which isn't really a problem for a silent film. The only real performance of note, though, is Joseph Schildkraut as Judas Iscariot, who portrays a rather consistent and heartbreaking decline into hell for the character.

Oh, and the two-strip Technicolor is very, very cool.

Sherlock Holmes - Dressed to Kill

The blandest and most paint-by-numbers of the Rathbone/Bruce Holmes adventures. I thought it might improve on second viewing, but that is not the case. The plot is rather easy to figure out from the first few minutes, making it frustrating that it takes the World's Greatest Detective 50 more minutes to work it out. The villains have no idiosyncrasies, no real character to distinguish them from a random extra. And the absences of Dennis Hoey's Lestrade is felt. If only the series had terminated one film earlier, they could have gone out with a bang, rather than a whimper.

Terror by Night

Great. I would have thought that 10 films in, Neill wouldn't really have anything else up his sleeve (especially since some of the later entries are particularly tired,) but this is a diamond in the rough. Set almost entirely on a train, the film has an odd hum, a rhythmic flow to it, with each scene punctuated by loud shots of the train hurtling through the night. The plot itself is solid, with the final gambit being a lot of fun. One complaint: Renee Godfrey's accent is one of the strangest things ever.

Days of Being Wild (A Fei zheng chuan)

More of an "admire from afar" afair like my experience with [i]2046[/i] rather than the outright love of [i]Chungking Express[/i], but I did enjoy this quite a bit. Apart from the rather unique and intoxicating visual style of Wong, he seems to have a knack for presenting situations that are entirely unfamiliar in a cinematic context - or at least they seem that way. I'm certainly liking what I've seen of his work so far, and am certainly looking forward to getting around to [i]In the Mood for Love[/i].

Wild At Heart
½

On the [i]Blue Velvet[/i] level of comprehension for me. I liked this slightly less, though. It's more the moments that I enjoyed, rather than the whole - specifically, when the film is mischievously satirical (the use of both Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe to that end is quite a lot of fun). And Diane Ladd is wonderful. I was astonished at how good that casting was - I kept thinking "Gee, she looks like she almost [i]could[/i] be Laura Dern's mother!"

And then I realised that I was an idiot.

The Conformist

Cold and mean. But great too. Storaro continues his 100% batting average with me, with some of the most fascinating and instantly memorable images committed to film. The story itself is its own beast entirely, rendered by top-notch performances. I love the locations, in particular - very oppressive, and opulent at the same time (or are they sets? Surely not.) And what a shocker of an ending.

Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis)

Now, I have a counterargument to anyone who insinuates that there is no such thing as the "perfect film." What a magnificent piece of work. An instant top tier favourite of mine, and I'd say it's the greatest French film that I've seen. A magnificent world, populated with some of the most involving and exciting characters ever devised (with my favourite being Lacenaire, who is chip-on-shoulder personified). An extraordinary film that everyone should see.

Transamerica
Transamerica(2006)

Very good - although the premise is obviously a gimmicky one (or, at least, it had the potential to be), Tucker manages to steer the film into several interesting situations that exploit the character dynamics to the full. It's solid storytelling. Huffman is exceptional. A very difficult performance that she handles magnificently. Fionnula Flanagan starts off ridiculous, but her performance eventually mellows and is eventually on par with Huffman.

The Wild Blue Yonder
½

Tedious. I like the segments with Brad Dourif, and I'm sure the concept itself is a fascinating one, but Herzog doesn't really do enough to earn endless minutes of archival footage set to crazy music. Unlike his other docos, he doesn't really find a story... it's just a lot of... well, nonsense, really.

Sherlock Holmes and the Woman in Green
½

Less satisfying on second viewing - I'm sorta mystified as to why I held it in such high regard. It might have something to do with Henry Daniell as Moriarty, who plays the role so damn cold. It might have been a definitive Moriarty, if he'd been given any real screentime of note. Even the scene he shares with Rathbone (two Warner villains collide!) is far too brief. Still, a solid enough story, and quite a nifty plot in some ways.

Sherlock Holmes in Pursuit to Algiers

Very good. Fun story, where the Rathbone Holmes is portrayed as more of a master manipulator, rather than an incisive mystery-solver. Bruce's bumbling Watson is put to good use, and the story moves at a rapid pace. Sometimes there's not much to identify these individual Universal Holmes adventures, but this one puts a different enough spin on the old formula to be satisfying.

Starman
Starman(1984)

Good concept, marred by some terrible writing and one critical casting mistake. For starters, although [i]E.T.[/i], this film's cousin, is ostensibly more "childish," at least Spielberg knew how to lay it all out effectively - in this, we get a useless subplot with Charles Martin Smith and Richard Jaeckel, who are the government representation trying to hunt down Jeff Bridges. It contributes nothing to the plot, and gives us no real insight. Compare that to the more vague and abstract portrayal of the Peter Coyote character in [i]E.T.[/i], which is far more effective. And even then the motives of the Coyote character are quite clear - Jaeckel just wants to kill Jeff Bridges because, well, he's the bad guy.

The casting problem is Karen Allen. She's obviously great as a feisty firebrand in [i]Raiders of the Lost Ark[/i], but as a miserable widow she just doesn't cut it. She's boring, she can't deliver on whatever drama might be extracted from the material, and it's just a wrong-headed choice in general. Perhaps if the character were allowed to get more hysterical, it might have worked, but she's surprisingly mellow and unquestioning for someone who's been kidnapped by an alien who has taken the form of her dead husband. What is good is Jeff Bridges: the film is actually very funny and endearing when it's in "comedy of manners" mode, and Bridges completely inhabits the role. If only the film itself were a better-constructed vehicle for the performance.

The Lion in Winter

Time for this one to make its way into my top 10. Finally. Just a beautiful film, from the acting, to the writing, to the direction, to the music (especially the music), to the cinematography... I just adore it. My favourite Christmas film by far. Career best performances for basically everyone involved. I think it makes for a great companion piece to [i]Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?[/i], although that's dealing more with the absence of children in a marital relationship, whereas this is more a... surplus.

I also like that Goldman returned to John and Richard in [i]Robin and Marian[/i]. There are certainly shades of their earlier incarnations in the way that he wrote them there. By God, he was talented - moreso than his brother, in my book. I'd love to see the other Goldman/Harvey collaboration, [i]They Might Be Giants[/i]. Hell, I'd like to see anything else by Harvey, just out of curiosity. This should be the textbook example for how to make a film out of a play.

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi)

Exceedingly simple, but bloody brilliant. Runs just under an hour, and yeah, it does feel a bit short, but it's based on what would seem to be a fairly minor historical event, that has been woven into a fable of sorts. The comedic porter that Kurosawa adds to the story teeters just on the edge of being obnoxious without falling in, so he stays in the realm of actually being funny. It's remarkable to think that Kurosawa was making films this good [i]this[/i] early in his career.

Garbo Talks
Garbo Talks(1984)

Flat as a tack - Ron Silver as a leading man is a concept that just doesn't work. I like him as a character actor, though. The film has no energy at all, but it picks up in the final reel, when Anne Bancroft delivers quite a stunning scene all in one take. Very effective, very moving. In fact, the cutting style in the film is quite remarkable - few close-ups, few cuts, everything played out in master shots. I don't know if it's by design, of Lumet just being lazy, though. Oh, and this is probably the only film I've seen with a [i]good[/i] cameo by Harvey Fierstein.

Dangerous Liaisons
½

Hated it when I first saw it, but after 5 or so years of, erm, maturity, I love it. This is Malkovich's best performance, by far. He gets the biggest laughs for the most minute facial expression (and some rather obvious ones too). Although Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman are kinda terrible, it works within the context of the story and their roles in it. And a young Peter Capaldi was a surprising sight indeed. Great flick though. And I love Fenton's score for it, too.

Courage Under Fire
½

Maybe I was just fatigued after all the overblown, overcooked Zwickian crap, but I actually liked this one. In spite of the hilarious sequences in which Meg Ryan expects to be taken seriously as an actress - those scenes are a hoot. The rest is a clunky sort of [i]Rashomon[/i]-lite, but what was surprising is that it's an American film that condemns the lie, and is about getting the truth out there, no matter how ugly it might be. A rarity, to be sure.

Defiance
Defiance(2009)
½

A film about nothing at all, whatsoever. Russian Jews wander into the forest to escape genocide, and then do very little. Sometimes they shoot Nazis, when the mood strikes them. Sometimes there's conflict, which is usually resolved by Liev Schrieber getting the ump and sodding off for the majority of the runtime. It's like a Hallmark version of [i]Come and See[/i]. And, I normally like Eduardo Serra, but his work with Zwick is terrible. Schizophrenic zooms and probably the dullest colour scheme imaginable. A pointless film.

Love and Other Drugs

I would have thought that in the 24 years since [i]About Last Night...[/i], Edward Zwick might have acquired a few tricks, a bit of finesse, a bit of skill. Not so! The film is, like [i]About Last Night...[/i], a film told through sex scenes and montages. Except now... someone's got Parkinson's! And someone else is a Viagra salesman (the focus, seemingly, of the film, which has no actual impact on the plot). Josh Gad is a strange individual, and I'm perplexed as to why he is being recorded on film. To Zwick's credit, he's got a pair of fairly good leads who do have chemistry. But the film's focus is on the wrong thing entirely, until it's too late. He should go back to making- oh, wait, he's not much chop at epics, either.

The Siege
The Siege(1998)

A cracking, trim, and lithe first half hour magically disintegrates into wild nonsense for the rest of the film. Thing is, even if the story is handled ineptly, the film basically forecasts the '00s. Quite extraordinary. There's a good film in here somewhere, but that version of it involves cutting out Annette Bening and Tony Shalhoub entirely.

About Last Night

The funniest thing in the film is Rob Lowe's acting efforts. Or lack thereof. No, that's not fair, he's trying, really, really hard, but he's got a bankruptcy of talent. The film itself is a bit of a letdown in the end, but there are scenes that work. It's basically a film told through montages and sex scenes. Demi Moore was a fine lass back in the day, though.

Vincent & Theo
½

Very interesting, although it feels incomplete (which it is). That is to say, as it stands, the film's focus on Vincent feels unnecessary - it's Theo's story here that's much more interesting, and much more gripping, in how the other story impacts it directly (in more ways than one). Occasionally the script is a little too obvious, but those moments are few and far between. One of the more unique and distinctive biopics (or, double biopic in this case) out there, but then that's to be expected from someone as eclectic as Altman.

Tron Legacy
Tron Legacy(2010)

I can't decide whether it's half-baked or overcooked. A bit of both, really. Full of visual razzle-dazzle, but it still doesn't have that slight disorienting and totally unique look that Lisberger's original had (I loved the look of the 70mm live action elements of the original - now it's all digital). Daft Punk's score is effective, as is Claudio Miranda's cinematography... but the acting and the writing sucks. Terribly.

Garrett Hedlund is not an exciting individual, Olivia Wilde is a fine lass, but she just makes googly eyes all the time, and Jeff Bridges isn't reprising Kevin Flynn, he's reprising The Dude. Which might be alright, if it weren't unintentionally hilarious. The story becomes a mess in the end, with the character of Tron going through the most dubious changes. How does a program, of all things, get sentimental, and defect? The Cillian Murphy cameo is an obvious hook for a sequel - shame, since he's probably the most interesting thing in the film. A worthy successor to David Warner, which Digital Jeff Bridges certainly isn't.

So, basically it feels like the original [i]TRON[/i]. Gee, it looked nice, but it's got nothing under the hood. Despite that universe having [i]massive[/i] potential for interesting storytelling. No one seems to be able to do it, though. I like some of Kosinski's style, but he suffers from Kerry Conran fever. Huge ambition, but none of the skill required to achieve it.

The Search
The Search(1948)
½

Tremendous. Almost Zinnemann's best film. An extremely moving, powerful, and simple story, told in a no-nonsense way. The setting, war-torn Germany, isn't buttered up at all - the place just looks a damn mess. There are no big stars in the cast (well... Monty Clift became a star, sure, but he wasn't at that point), but everyone turns in a great performance, especially Clift, the little kid, and Aline MacMahon. One of the absolute best Hollywood films of the era - needs to be more widely seen.

Major Dundee
Major Dundee(1965)

Damn, there's a masterpiece in here somewhere. Or maybe there never was, since Columbia downgraded Peckinpah's budged just before shooting it, turning it into a gritty Panavision pic, rather than a sweeping 70mm epic. Still, what Peckinpah managed to pull off is very impressive, and hugely entertaining. Heston's work here is very good, playing off a more impressive Richard Harris - a titanic battle of wills similar to another Heston "failure" from '65, Reed's [i]The Agony and the Ecstasy[/i]. What a shame it is that the rest of Peckinpah's footage, including his trademark slow-mo action scenes, are apparently lost for all time.

Under the Volcano

Excellent. Blackly comic, but also a disturbing alcoholic drama. And also a meditation on the nature of men. It's beautifully shot, and Huston manages the material in his own distinctive way. The real star of the show is of course Albert Finney, who staggers drunkenly for 2 hours and makes it all believable. Jackie Bisset and Anthony Andrews provide fine support. Amazing that Huston could produce such a focused and robust piece of work at [i]that[/i] age.

The Formula
The Formula(1980)
½

Horrendous. Sets itself up with a potentially/maybe interesting opening, and then instantly becomes The Most Boring Murder Mystery Ever. 70% of the film is a very bored George C. Scott walking and talking with someone about... whatever. I started to fixate on a crack in the cornice. Marlon Brando is absolutely terrible in it too. He's usually made fun of for being unintelligible when he actually is - here he's genuinely unintelligible. Is there a more prosaic and dull Best Director winner than Avildsen out there? Actually, no, there isn't. I've looked.

Underworld, U.S.A.

Very, very good. Fuller's strong visuals aside, it's a very good revenge story, more complicated than the usual [i]Yojimbo[/i]-stock, since Cliff Robertson is playing both sides on one level, and then both sides within the criminal organization. He's actually very good in this, and most of the cast is solid. Very strong thriller.

The Crimson Kimono
½

Rather solid and boundary pushing for its day, until it reaches the third act, where it all goes out the window. It's rather disappointing, as Fuller had made the transition from "murder mystery" to "love triangle drama" rather smoothly and effectively, but the resolution to the murder mystery is very sloppy. Especially when the "Mac" character appears out of nowhere for a few shots at he end. The acting is...OK, but Fuller is the real star here, his robust visuals aided by a very stark and no-nonsense cutting style.

Scandal Sheet
½

A knockout! What a marvelous little gem. Based on a Sam Fuller novel, the story in this one is a real corker, one that's built on strong knowledge differentials. As a result the suspense is ratcheted up to the nth degree. Karlson's direction is terrific, as is Broderick Crawford. Also wonderful: Donna Reed. John Derek fares less well, but he's tolerable. A great, irony-heavy noir.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Exemplary. A very mature, film, strongly told by Richardson. It seethes rather than rants. It's not quite kitchen-sink either - Richardson seems to have moved slightly away from the realm of Osborne by this time, and into something slightly... well, Frenchier. The cutting style certainly seems closer to the French new wave rather than the English, and it works. Tom Courtenay is terrific in his debut, and so is everyone else in the film, frankly. It's a shame Tony Richardson is forgotten these days.

Shockproof
Shockproof(1949)
½

Decent noir that moves quite well, although the ending is a complete and utter cop out, with a perplexing choice to just give up made by the antagonist. Still, it has some very strong moments, and Sirk shows a bit of flair now and then. I think Cornel Wilde did OK, but Patricia Knight is largely unconvincing. Howard St. John gets a good little role for his film debut. A worthwhile effort, all in all.

It Happened in Hollywood

A nice little gem that's been tucked away for some time. The Film Foundation's restoration is stellar, though. It boasts a story by Samuel Fuller (good), with Richard Dix and Fay Wray as its stars (erm... oh.) But they both surprised me, Dix in particular. It's not a particularly complex or nuanced performance, but it's quite genuine. The story itself is very good, I thought, one of integrity vs. prosperity and all that stuff, built around the sound conversion of late-20s Hollywood. Although clunky at times and corny, Lachman manages to pull off a few nifty sequences, including an unusual barfight, and a party attended by a massive cast of Hollywood stand-ins.

In America
In America(2003)

Very solid, clearly heartfelt work from Jim Sheridan. I haven't seen either of his two films since this, but I'm going to assume that they're not much chop based on what I've heard (and who's in them.) Although I was worried that the story would steer itself into purely trite cliches time and time again, Sheridan manages to dodge most of those pitfalls. It's a delightful and emotional experience, no doubt.

Young Mr. Lincoln
½

More of that 1939 magic. This one's another John Ford classic - a masterpiece of his, perhaps. This is one of the best Fonda performances I've seen - he totally inhabits the character of Lincoln, which plays to all of his strengths as a performer. As per the course for Ford's films, the visuals are impeccable and layered, and Lamar Trotti's story is very strong. Interesting that Ford decided to use Ward Bond as a villain, and a particularly reprehensible one at that. Somewhat surprisingly, it works.

Airplane!
Airplane!(1980)

There are a few gags that don't work, and there are a few that just go on too long, but it's impossible to deny that the thing is funny. It just is. For me, the highlight (apart from Elmer Bernstein's wonderful lampooning of Alfred Newman) is the roles played by the veterans: Stack, Bridges, Graves, Nielsen, Billingsley (wait, how many people from this flick have fallen off the perch lately? Sheesh.) The sunglasses gag is easily right up there in one of my top 5 visual gags of all time. Just perfect. Also, the way that the dirty sailor next to the jukebox starts dancing when "Stayin' Alive" fires up never fails to send me into loud, boorish peals of laughter. I think that the ZAZ team refined their work for [i]The Naked Gun[/i] though, comfortably.

L'Atalante
L'Atalante(1934)

It's probably a cliche to say "What a shame it is Vigo never directed another film," but there you have it. Marvelous, simple, little film. The visuals are marvelous, as is the acting. What a wonderful creation Jules is, and Michel Simon plays it to the hilt - memorably so. It's a corking little gem that should really be more well known. I honestly hadn't heard of it until just a few months ago. But then I'm just ignorant.

Make Way for Tomorrow
½

Basically a masterpiece. Hauntingly genuine, completely heartbreaking. Bondi and Moore are astonishing as the old couple - you totally forget that you're watching a pair of actors. You forget that you're watching characters - these are [i]people[/i]. I agree with McCarey - he should have got his Best Director Oscar for this, not [i]The Awful Truth[/i]. Sad, sad stuff. And very true. The influence on [i]Tokyo Story[/i] is clear - although the filmmaking in the later film is easily more notable, this one got to me a bit more.

Lost Highway
Lost Highway(1997)

Yeah, that's kinda very awesome. Gripping throughout. Don't have a clue what it means, but I didn't expect to on first viewing. I liked the cinematography in this one slightly more than the other Lynch pics, with the possible exception of [i]The Elephant Man[/i]. Also in the long line of incoherent, rambling thoughts: Robert Loggia is awesome. I already knew that, but this confirmed it.

Megamind
Megamind(2010)

It's DreamWorks. So it's average (yes, I'm aware that [i]How to Train Your Dragon[/i] came out recently, but that's an exception). Actually, the plot is OK, there are one or two interesting (if predictable) turns, but the gags are just achingly lame. This is pretty much on par with [i]Despicable Me[/i], although the animation quality in this is marginally superior. It has J.K. Simmons in it, so it's not all bad. Although [i]Watchmen[/i] no longer holds the crown for "Boringest and Most Obvious Song Choices Ever."

Side Street
Side Street(1950)
½

Robust if unremarkable noir. Some strong visuals and a good plot, but it runs out of steam in the third act, and Granger can't carry the film. Also, it had Charles McGraw in it, but he hardly even spoke. That aint right. Still, there are some great moments - one of the deaths in the final moments is particularly memorable in its staging. Reminded me of [i]Panic in the Streets[/i] in some ways, although the comparisons are purely superficial.

They Live by Night

Excellent. Puts Altman's later adaptation, [i]Thieves Like Us[/i] to shame - interesting, considering that Farley Granger isn't much of an actor. But he does have chemistry with Cathy O'Donnell, oddly enough. The real star of the show is Ray, who manages to hit every beat pretty much dead on without ever being obtrusive or showy. One of the more interesting choices is his continual usage of aerial shots whenever Bowie is high-tailing it in an automobile. A forerunner to [i]Bonnie & Clyde[/i] - in some respects, I like it a little better, even if Penn's classic is the superior effort overall.

Madame Bovary
½

Interesting approach, although the film never really takes off. I like the casting - particularly Van Heflin as Dr. Bovary. Louis Jourdan isn't given enough to work with, though. I think Minnelli comfortably works much better in the Academy ratio than he does with CinemaScope. Some of the shots are quite beautiful, including a mesmerising spinning shot where Jones and Jourdan just... keep... dancing. A solid enough film, but not really a great one. Standard MGM prestige stuff.

Serenity
Serenity(2005)

I liked Chiwitel Ejiofor, both in terms of performance and character. Well written, well acted. The rest... perhaps it stems from not really having watched much of [i]Firefly[/i], perhaps it stems from not really digging Whedon's brand of witless snark, perhaps it stems from the fact that a lot of these actors are not very well known for a [i]very good reason[/i]... but I didn't wholly enjoy the experience. Apart from a few sequences, the nifty tracking shot included, I thought little of Whedon's direction. The story is solid though, so I went with it. I just wasn't really sold. Nor am I interested in exploring [i]Firefly[/i]. In the slightest.

Sherlock Holmes in the House of Fear
½

Predictable after a while, but still a rather entertaining Holmes adventure. It's got more of what appears to be Bruce adlibbing, which can be hilarious at the right moment, and of course Dennis Hoey's incomparable Inspector Lestrade. A good, solid plot straight from Doyle, too. Neill's overuse of dutch angles is a bit distracting, but nothing too damaging.

The Scarlet Claw

Disappointingly flat-footed Rathbone/Bruce entry in Universal's Sherlock Holmes run. There are some moments that are very strong (the monster, although chintzy, is quite surreal for such a stock-standard studio pic), and the plot is good, but Rathbone appears to be [i]too[/i] disengaged, and the thing just plods along for no good reason.

Born Yesterday
½

Dated, like a lot of Cukor's less notable work. I'm sure it would have been great at the time, but it's awfully stiff in retrospect. Even William Holden isn't terribly interesting. The film hammers its point home hard, and it's kinda a problem since there's nothing much else to go on. And I'm sorry, I just can't stand Judy Holliday (she beat Swanson, Davis, and Baxter to an Oscar that year? Pfft.)

Battle for Haditha
½

Not bad. Could have benefitted from a shaper narrative focus and form, but in general it works. The acting is a little amateurish, though. Broomfield seems to be in his element during the action sequences - less so during the more intimate, quieter moments, which don't really gel. Still, a surprisingly decent effort.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Or, [i]How to Be a Dragon in Marginal 3D[/i]. Continues the cinematic tradition of bland Narnia films, although they've finally stopped being [i]Lord of the Rings[/i]-lite. The allegory is still there, although one line at the end basically tears that all down and says "The Lion is Jesus!" Otherwise... not much to speak of. The leads are all incredibly boring, apart from the Eustace character, who is mostly annoying, but at least there's something going on there. Shooting a fantasy film on digital video seems counter-productive to me. Apted is better than his predecessor, Andrew Adamson, but not by enough. They really needed someone with vision to breathe fire into this franchise - I can't see them continuing on to do the rest of the books at this rate.

Legends of the Fall
½

Unfocused, sloppy, and often daffy melodrama. The performances range from slightly competent to wholly inept. The story runs wild all over the place (three narrators!), and Zwick's direction is typically heavy-handed, with the sheer [i]importance[/i] of every moment hammered home without remorse. Damn thing just goes on and on - Zwick just doesn't understand brevity (although the other films of his that I've seen move much better).

Ronin
Ronin(1998)

Cold and personality free. Mildly entertaining, sure, even exciting at times, but mostly incoherent. A whole lot of people shooting each other and backstabbing one another with very little point to the whole proceeding. "But they're like Ronin, see?" Yeah, no. I liked Skarsgård and Reno - this is well into De Niro's boring phase, and the Irish accents from McElhone and Pryce give Brad Pitt a run for his money in terms of sheer awfulosity. There are moments that are sheer very much Frankenheimer, but it feels like a pale shadow of his classic work.

Great Expectations

I can see why this is regarded as a misfire - a big problem is, somewhat surprisingly (or maybe not, I dunno), is Ethan Hawke, who is well cast, but doesn't quite step up to the plate. Pip or, er, Finn, has to be earnest and sincere - not all the time, obviously, as it's critical that he drifts out of that state, but Hawke just doesn't sell it in some key scenes. Apart from that though, I quite enjoyed it - of course, these contemporary "updates" wear their eras on their sleeves, perhaps to their detriment, but Cuarón and Glazer managed to extract the core of Dickens' story and make it work. The tracking shot where Finn goes to the function, through a revolving door, is quite remarkable (although it pales when you consider what Cuarón did later.)

Best performance: Chris Cooper. His work at the launch of Finn's gallery is just heartbreaking.

A Little Princess

Now I understand how and why Cuarón got the [i]Prisoner of Azkaban[/i] gig. Although the story and script are fairly paint-by-numbers, the visual quality and vividness of the environment are ratcheted up to eleven, without being obtrusive and obvious. And as a result you've got a great kid's flick, where the story is told visually. Corking flick - deserves to be more prominent than a lot of mysteriously popular, considerably more boring children's fare from American studios.

I Heart Huckabees

Russell suffers from Cimino Syndrome, or disappear-up-own-clacker-itis. Not that the film isn't mildly entertaining in an abstract way from time to time, but the whole thing really is just obnoxiously indulgent and smacks of insincerity from everyone who isn't either David O. Russell or Mark Wahlberg. Jude Law also provides a semi-decent turn. It's a shame that the set videos are more entertaining than the film itself.

Enough
Enough(2002)

A delightfully frothy comedy in which an abused woman decides to kill her husband. Jennifer Lopez commands the screen as "Slim," a no-nonsense woman who cries all the time. Her comedic timing is impeccable - many critics were off the mark when they criticised her performance. What they did not understand was that she was ironising.

Apted directs with a feather-light, almost Lubitschian touch, allowing the characters to dither about in a highly amusing fashion. But one cannot properly assess the film without taking into consideration its most daring feat - the casting of both Bill Campbell and Noah Wyle as villains. Truly, more threatening personalities have not graced the silver screen. Not to mention the presence of the roguish and charming Dan Futterman, who asserts his considerable screen presence with reckless abandon.

This was written by Nicholas Kazan, who has stumbled in the past with "serious" dramas like [i]Reversal of Fortune[/i], and was probably living in the shadow of his hack father Elia Kazan, who memorable foisted such shallow trifles on us as [i]A Streetcar Named Desire[/i], [i]East of Eden[/i], and [i]On the Waterfront[/i]. And don't get me started on [i]A Tree Grows in Brooklyn[/i]. Sentimental codswallop. But now, the son has truly escaped that stigma, crafting a piece of work that subtly jabs at things such as character, story, structure, emotion, and common sense, by abandoning them all.

Truly a masterpiece that I am honored to have been given the privilege to enjoy in the comfort of my home. A worthwhile way to spend 2 hours, indeed. To cap it all off, a wonderful, Waxman-esque score by the maestro David Arnold just makes the whole experience [i]that[/i] much more transcendent.

Extreme Measures

Complete and utter tosh. A fart of a film. So we've got an attempt by Hugh Grant to play seriously (he can do it - [i]Bitter Moon[/i] is proof positive), but instead we get this sarcastic git who I couldn't believe at any given point even when I [i]knew[/i] he was innocent. The film lacks any levity or wit or form - it's hard to believe that Tony Gilroy wrote this thing. I guess he sucked for a while there. Apted's direction is boring, and even Gene Hackman is useless. J.K. Simmons briefly brings his own brand of excellence, but it's too little too late. I'm going to assume that [i]Did You Hear About the Morgans?[/i] is the better Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker film. Surely.

Swingers
Swingers(1996)

A pleasant surprise, although my overriding thought throughout the thing was that "BY GOD, Favreau and Vaughn have put on a lot of weight over the years." It's fast, funny, and real. I haven't seen [i]Go[/i] yet, but it strikes me as unfortunate that Liman didn't continue more down this vein, rather than becoming a very very generic action director. And Favreau writes better than he directs. Although [i]Couples Retreat[/i] might have mooted that point - I wouldn't know. Nor do I need to.

Jumper
Jumper(2008)

The worst Hayden Christensen/Samuel L. Jackson film of the 00s. No, really. The pitch for it must have been roughly...

"So, there are people. And they can teleport. And there are people hunting them."

"I see. And what [i]happens[/i]?"

"There are sequels."

"Right. What happens in the first one, though?"

"...there are people. And they can teleport. And there are people hunting them."

"Sold."

Unfortunately, Jamie Bell suffers from "Rickman in [i]Prince of Thieves[/i]-syndrome," which is to say that he has sadly been duped into delivering a good and memorable performance in an utterly worthless film.

I Am Love
I Am Love(2010)

Superb. I must admit that although the opening titles grabbed me, the first half I had a little bit of trouble with... the direction is very, well... busy. But after that point I found it oddly captivating, and from then on it's exceptionally well done. Great acting, great writing, great directing, and a very good score, I must say. I don't know that I [i]love[/i] it per se, but I certainly enjoyed it and would rank it amongst the year's best.

Vera Cruz
Vera Cruz(1954)

Excellent. If it had lived up to its first act, I would have called it one of the best Westerns of that period. Maybe of all time. As it stands, it doesn't, but it's still a wonderfully Aldrich...ian off-kilter stab at a potentially familiar story. The character dynamics are almost unique, and Lancaster is just dynamite. Cooper fares less well... mostly because he's boring, but even he's better than Sara Montiel. George Macready is terrific but underused, and Cesar Romero is an effective heavy. Oh, and in Lancaster's gang you've got Jack Elam, Ernie Borgnine, and Charles Bronson. Not too shabby. Anyway, it's spectacular, it's fun, and it's different.

Little Dorrit (Nobody's Fault) (Little Dorrit's Story)
½

So it's a 6 hour long flick, but after about half an hour I was in there for the full thing, in a single sitting. Wholly engrossing, a wonderful story rendered... perhaps a bit stiflingly at first, but once it hits its stride it just plain works. Some great performances in there from the like of Derek Jacobi, Alec Guinness, and the constantly underrated Roshan Seth. A long haul, to be sure, but certainly worth it.

Midnight
Midnight(1939)

Another great flick from 1939. Just great fun, perfectly cast from top to bottom, with a rather novel take on a stock-standard concept. I don't know that I'm a huge fan of Don Ameche, but he's certainly good here. Colbert is outstanding, as is John Barrymore. Best in show is probably Monty Wooley for a brief but memorable role at the end. Wouldn't mind checking out some other Leisen flicks - he's forgotten, perhaps unjustly.

Days of Heaven

Quite enchanting, but then I'd say that about [i]xXx: The Next Level[/i] if it had the same cinematography and used "The Aquarium" liberally. That being said, perhaps with the notably niggling presence of Richard Gere, it's quite a striking film, just as unconventional and distinct as the other two Malick films I've seen. I get the feeling I'll need to look at these films again in six months time or so. Every shot in the damn thing is just about perfect. It's as if God were in cahoots with the DP. Or if He was the DP.

Interiors
Interiors(1978)
½

Quite incredible. Engrossing, economic, and powerful. Great ensemble cast, but Geraldine Page is absolutely amazing. The clear standout. Just a gobsmackingly good performance. The use of (or lack of colour) is tremendously effective, and rather obviously thrown into sharp relief when Maureen Stapleton arrives, wearing red continually. Basically, I loved everything about this.

The Pearl of Death
½

Stock-standard Rathbone/Bruce entry, but still quite a bit of fun. The "creeper" element seems to come in out of nowhere - although it ties into the main plot eventually, the introduction is clumsy. Dennis Hoey continues to be hilarious as Lestrade - his reaction to Watson hiding the eponymous pearl in his mouth a [i]second[/i] time is priceless.

Sherlock Holmes in the Spider Woman

Excellent Rathbone/Bruce adventure. Benefits greatly from the presence of Gale Sondergaard as the antagonist - a true match for Rathbone's Holmes. The plot moves in a rather predictable fashion, and Rathbone essentially does a blackface routine... but otherwise it's a lot of fun.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold
½

Well, I don't have much time for concert films... and I absolutely loathe country music... but this was alright, I guess. Really well shot, and Demme lets the direction match the tone and pace of the music, which might seem elementary, but there's some real thought in there. Other than that, though... it is what it is.

Girl, Interrupted
½

Merely OK. Ryder tries to act, but isn't really up to snuff, truth be told. Admirable effort, but in the critical moments she just rings false, continually. Not so for Jolie. If only she were always this good. It's a bit of a joke that she won the Best "Supporting" Actress trophy, considering that she does her utmost to steal the film from everyone else. And succeeds. Whoopi Goldberg and Vanessa Redgrave also do pretty good jobs. But the film in general is just a bit too dry, given the material.

The Ninth Gate

Doesn't really work, but held my attention throughout. I guess Corso is supposed to be obsessed with his task, but neither Depp or the writers (or Polanski) ever [i]really[/i] convey that. It's all rather uninvolving, and it almost completely disintegrates in the third act, but it's nonetheless accomplished in some departments. I liked the score, like the look. It has an atmosphere. But knowing that Polanski is capable of superior work with similar content, it's hard not to be disappointed.

Brewster McCloud
½

Probably subversive for the sake of being subversive. And I'm guessing that drugs were involved somewhere along the line. I don't know if it's a good film or not, but I enjoyed it. It has its drier moments, which I probably liked. And Michael Murphy's Bullitt-esque Shaft (!) is pretty funny. And Stacy Keach's bizarre cameo is one for the ages. One of the more unhinged Altman flicks.

The Horse Whisperer
½

There's nothing funnier than failed Oscar bait when viewed in retrospect. This is a non-story, and it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to tell it in the most soppy, listless way possible. I kept having to remind myself that Redford once made refined, focused dramas like [i]Ordinary People[/i] and [i]Quiz Show[/i]. Films built on conflict and character. This is a film built on some great Robert Richardson cinematography and one of the most blandly typical Thomas Newman scores ever. I wanted to go all [i]Blazing Saddles[/i] on it and punch the horse in the face, but it's the [i]least[/i] of the film's problems. In fact, everyone just seems to forget about the horse and start worrying about themselves. Stupid and infuriating film.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

Yeah. It's half a film. That's a problem that's not going away until July. It's a big ask to go into a theatre and be presented 1 and a half acts. So it's kinda difficult to levy any kind of probing criticism beyond "oh, what a shameless money grab."

The camping scenes drag. No two ways about it. They did in the book, and they do here. Fortunately, Yates and Kloves seem intent on giving every scene at least [i]something[/i] worthwhile, be it character or action, and while it doesn't always work, they hit the mark enough of the time to keep the attention.

There are a few sequences that are incredibly suspenseful, including the opening chase suburban London, the mad dash out of the Ministry from Yaxley (the best of the newly added characters), and the slow-mo knife throw. That being said, Yates hasn't quite got the hang of "creepy" yet, with the Godric's Hollow sequence being a touch flat.

The acting of the main trio, while still not stellar and astonishing, is a far cry from what was on offer a few films ago. They're not just goofing off and overacting, they have some sort of objective, and the intent to inhabit real life characters (no matter how ridiculous the situations might get). There are parts when the dialogue gets particularly corny, but Kloves manages to poke fun at it enough that it all comes out in the wash.

Eduardo Serra's cinematography is solid, but not really up to Delbonnel's par of the previous film. I like Alexandre Desplat's score the more I hear it - very Williams-esque in parts, but also distinct and individual a lot of the time. It's a shame that in this flick we don't really get to see a lot of the great British thespian ensemble that has been the main attraction for me in recent years, but they'll be there in full force for [i]Part 2[/i].

So, yeah. Long story short... it's half a film. Some of these "split in two" sequels though work well as individual films, mostly because they can be tailored like that. Or, like [i]The Three Musketeers[/i], they provide a natural and satisfactory mid-point. Not so for [i]Deathly Hallows[/i], but they've probably picked the best spot possible. We'll see how well this stands up with the proper context, though.

The Three Musketeers

Wow. What a tremendous amount of fun. And not the complete butchery of Dumas that I was expecting at all! Just a slight butchery. Or a maiming, perhaps. But still, while they fool around with the specifics of the story and lose pretty much all of the nuance, they keep a lot of the strongest and most unconventional beats (including Constance's and Buckingham's murder, which I was sure they'd chicken out of).

Sidney's direction is vibrant - he's on par with Curtiz here in terms of just how to stage and shoot swashbuckling action. Gene Kelly overacts - no great surprise, but it's worth it just to see him fight. A proto-Jackie Chan if ever there was one. The rest of the cast does fine, although a lot of characters get short-changed (Aramis, Porthos, Rochefort). Of course, it's nowhere near touching Lester's films, but it blows the 1993 Disney abortion right out of the water.

The Grim Reaper (La commare secca)
½

Fascinating structural exercise, beautifully directed by Bertolucci. It's not completely and wholly captivating, but more an "admire from afar" film. I've heard the [i]Rashomon[/i] comparison and it is apt, but this isn't a carbon copy. It seems more experimental, less expository... maybe less effective, but that doesn't matter. It's a worthwhile watch.

Mrs. Henderson Presents
½

A pleasantly frothy Britpic that isn't particularly challenging or deep, but breezes through rather nicely. The, uh, showgirls are an advantage, to be sure. Frears handling of the musical numbers is a little disappointing and boring, but everything else is done fine. The performances from the support cast are a little uneven, but I liked Dench, Hoskins, and even Christopher Guest, who seems to be one of the few Yanks who can pull off a... decent English accent. I'm glad that the motivation for Henderson is revealed at the end, because for a while there it was simply a case of things happening for no reason whatsoever.

2046
2046(2005)

Quite interesting. I wouldn't say I was completely and wholly engrossed, but it's fascinating nonetheless. Beautifully shot, to boot. A lot of familiar faces in there, all doing top-notch work - Leung in particular. I look forward to checking out more of Wong's stuff - it's certainly distinctive and unique.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
½

Apparently this was 50 minutes longer before Warner Bros had their way with it. I don't know that it needed that much extra, but it needed something. Mind you, the majority of the film's problems stem from the novel, in which A: Nothing much is achieved in terms of the ongoing saga, and the core of it is something rather abstract (ergo, the link between Harry and Voldemort), and B: The climax stems from a subplot, and is hence divorced entirely from the majority of the action going on for the rest of the story.

Still, it's far from being bad. It moves well, and the supporting ensemble of British thesps is entertaining as always. Rickman is a highlight as he is in all the flicks, but George Harris gets the film's killer moment (which got the biggest laugh of any joke of [i]any[/i] of the films when I saw it in theatres). Imelda Staunton is pretty much intolerable, but then that is the desired effect. And it's great to see the wonderful Robert Hardy in an extended role, for what is ultimately his series swansong.

I think Yates took time in adapting to the cinematic form - this is a fairly restrained film, although I like some of the political overtones he brought to it. The cinematography from Slawomir Idziak is a touch bland. Stuart Craig's set design continues to be exceptional, and I really loved Nicholas Hooper's score. Biggest below-the-line problem is Mark Day's editing though - it's downright awful in some instances. All in all, it was a difficult book to adapt, and Michael Goldenberg does a serviceable job, but when watched as an individual installment, it's hard to shake the feeling that [i]Order of the Phoenix[/i] is slightly unsatisfying.

Inland Empire

Yeah... bit above my pay grade, I'm afraid. I was engrossed for the first half hour, but it lost me in the ensuing... two and a half hours. Laura Dern is quite astonishing though. And Grace Zabriskie should be in everything.

Pelle the Conqueror (Pelle Erobreren)

Quite effective. I had some minor issues with the story structure, which loosens a bit too frequently to little effect, but the central dynamic between von Sydow and Pelle is great. The characters are very recognisable, very real, particularly the influence of the father on the son (although not in the typical way it is presented in films).

Tokyo-Ga
Tokyo-Ga(2003)
½

Charmingly off-kilter doco. I think it's better when Wenders is exploring Tokyo itself and how Ozu approached the city, rather than when he's talking to Ozu's collaborators, but those segments still work as well. And Werner Herzog shows up out of nowhere. Wenders doesn't even bother translating him - you don't need to. It's perhaps a bit uneven, but certainly engaging throughout.

Tokyo Story (Tôkyô monogatari)

Needed more car chases and loose women. In all seriousness though, it's quite an effective film. I'm particularly in admiration of Ozu's capacity to be biting (not that the film is relentlessly or continually so) without ever at all being hysterical or heightened. It's all very realistic. I don't know that it was really my cup of tea, so I didn't really love it; more appreciated it. From afar.

Balibo
Balibo(2009)
½

It's good. LaPaglia and Isaac in particular do really good jobs, but unfortunately the most compelling part of the story is the flashbacks. Still, it's quite powerful and harrowing in parts, and Connolly's approach is occasionally an interesting one. It's not really all that accomplished though, and perhaps a wee bit disappointing.

Monsters
Monsters(2010)
½

One of the biggest wastes of time I've had the misfortune to drag myself into town for. Just a nothing film, populated by either vacant or douchey characters, a plot that telegraphs everything that's going to happen well in advance, doesn't do anything with any of its given situations, and then presents itself as though its poignant or something.

Heaven's Gate
½

It's a 3.5 hour film built around a performance by Kris Kristofferson. Of course it killed New Hollywood. In retrospect it's one of those "Well, of [i]course[/i] Elton John was gay" moments. That being said, it's exquisitely photographed, and I really dug the main theme. But the casting is just bizarre, and Cimino does indeed disappear up his own clacker. There are flashes of brilliance, but they're way too brief in a film [i]this[/i] long.

Ready to Wear (Prêt-à-Porter)

Not quite as bad as its reputation. Not all that great, either. Very middle of the work stuff from Altman - essentially a fashion version of [i]Nashville[/i]. There are a few moments and subplots that work, and a lot that don't. Surprisingly, I thought the only real standout was Kim Basinger, whose turn as an airheaded TV journalist is exceedingly funny. Ultimately though, too many of Altman's points and insinuations are just bloody obvious (individuals in the fashion industry are vapid and self-obsessed? Do go on.)

Caddyshack
Caddyshack(1980)
½

Just as sloppy as every other non-Landis hugely-adored 80s comedy from this troupe. Although this one I liked a bit better than most, generally due to the presence of Rodney Dangerfield, who walks away with most of the scenes he was in. And Henry Wilcoxon! I hadn't seen him in anything beyond [i]The Ten Commandments[/i]. So, yeah, it was funny, I liked it, but it really has no form or shape to it. It's just stuff that happens.

Strange Days
Strange Days(1995)

I'm almost tempted to say that this is a bad film that's just trying really really hard to be a good one. I liked it in fits and starts (Bigelow's bravura handling of the POV sequences is admirable), but it's a complete structural nightmare - the inciting incident doesn't come until the 50 minute mark, and we get 20 minutes of denoument and a second climax after the true climax. I think the acting is reasonably OK, and the concept is good (but some of the dialogue is woeful). It took a while for me to realise that "Yeah, this is actually trash," so credit where credit's due.

A Walk with Love and Death
½

Interesting, I'll give it that. Is it a political film with an apolitical stance, or is it vice-versa, or is it neither? Am I looking at this thing the wrong way? Odds are I am, but there's enough in there to chew on for the time being. I think I'll have to revisit it at some stage, perhaps when I've seen more of Huston's stuff. The acting is a little uneven, but it looks nice and purdy - and the score is good, too. An unusual flick, that's for sure.

The Majestic
The Majestic(2001)
½

If you took all the flaws from Frank Darabont's first two films (which I actually like, but probably not as much as the rest of the world does), and then you amplified them, and took out many of the assets from those first two features, and then put Jim Carrey in the lead role, you pretty much get [i]The Majestic[/i]. It's indulgent and simple-minded. No two ways about it. Problem is it provides all sorts of juicy morsels of plot points; the HUAC stuff in particular is great... in theory. Not so much in execution. Lazy, sloppy writing, and Darabont's handling of it is none too inspired either. I did like quasi-Amy Smart, though.

Thief
Thief(1981)

Liked it quite a bit. If cast right, James Caan can be quite effective. Donald Thorin's cinematography is great - I initially assumed it was Spinotti, but that is apparently not a case. The whole thing reeks of Mann, but it's not steeped in self-importance - it's got a sense of fun (and humour, somewhat surprisingly). If only Mann had continued to remember just how valuable narrative thrust, and action derived from character, can actually be.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

A bit of a disappointment, truth be told. It never quite gelled for me. There are individual scenes that I like quite a bit, but the product as a whole left me cold. I like Warren Oates' performance though - very interesting and unusual, and it's always nice to see a supporting character player get a starring role. Gig Young is also quietly awesome. Maybe the title led me to expect something other than what was essentially a love story for its entire first act. Maybe.

The White Diamond (Diamante Blanco)
½

Wonderful. Herzog seems less interested in finding a strict narrative to follow, and more interested in finding characters that might inhabit that type of narrative and thereby provide a guiding substitute. The dual figures of Dorrington and Marc Anthony are just as engrossing as any narrative characters you could find. Dorrington in particular is great, although hard to watch - introduced as a sort of exuberant, corny eccentric, he turns out to be a haunted man, and his testimony of the accident that continues to trouble him is quite moving. The photography is quite beautiful, and as I've said before, and others have too - Herzog could narrate anything and it'd be worth listening to.

The Harder They Fall

Yeah... Bogey's looking pretty ill here. And sounding it too. He's got no real energy for the most part, but he can still command the screen when he needs to. Fortunately, he gets some terrific support from Rod Steiger, who unilaterally steals the show in one of his most fun performances. Robson's handling of the "fights" is terrific as well - hopefully I can check out [i]Champion[/i] at some point as well.

Home from the Hill

Horrendous. A lumbering, plodding beast of a soap opera that spends most of its time sauntering around doing nothing, or going around in circles. This is exacerbated by some woeful dialogue and acting - even Mitchum, who can usually be counted on for some entertainment, seems bored. George Hamilton is a joke - Peppard fares slightly better. It takes Minnelli and the writers 2 1/2 hours to tell this very thin story, but you could make a pretty educated guess as to where it's going after about 20 minutes.

Jimmy Carter Man From Plains
½

Decent little doco that doesn't so much explore what makes Jimmy Carter tick as it does demonstrate how he goes about his business. And it's certainly not all one-sided. Although Demme starts out by portraying Carter as some sort of indefatigable grass-roots hero, he's not afraid to show that the former president is occasionally evasive and perhaps even still geared towards spin when on tour for his controversial book, [i]Palestine: Peace not Apartheid[/i]. Although something a bit more insightful might have been welcome, this certainly works.

In a Lonely Place

A film where the protagonist is called Dixon Steele - and yet it's not a porn film. This is somewhat disappointing. Nevertheless, a fine film, with whip-smart writing and terrific performances from Bogey and Gloria Grahame (the best of her roles that I've seen thus far). There are some striking similarities to [i]Bigger Than Life[/i], notably the threatening deterioration of the protagonist, but it's a reveal here rather than a pro- or regression in the case of Mason's drugged-up school teacher. I'm certainly enjoying my Nicholas Ray run thus far.

The Most Beautiful (Ichiban utsukushiku)
½

A propaganda film that is very much dated. I hate calling anything "dated," since it's a pretty lazy criticism, but it certainly applies here. A Japanese film in which women are asked to perform at a 50% increase of productivity, only for them to band together against the management... and demand that they do [i]more[/i] work. It wouldn't matter if there was some sort of effective dramatic framework to convey the message of "do more work, and we will win the war," but there isn't. The filmmaking is sound though, as you would expect, but the overall product is too thin and quaint to work anymore.

Sherlock Holmes Faces Death

The propaganda facade is gone, but unfortunately this one's a bit limp. It's bereft of atmosphere, and even Rathbone seems a little bored. Bruce gets more to do though, which is OK. One particularly pointless sequence involves Holmes setting up a human chessboard, while using an analogous standard chess board to figure out a puzzle. When he reaches the end of the puzzle, he comes to such a generic conclusion that the human chessboard had absolutely no purpose at all. Neither did the smaller chessboard, for that matter, but Neill gets to unsubtly plant clues as to who the bad guy is. Not much of an excuse.

Sherlock Holmes in Washington
½

It's kinda shameful to have the most iconic English hero of all time go over to America and basically prattle on and on about how great America is. It'd be like Superman going to London and just saying "Gee, you guys are great. No, really. Back home, everything sucks but here, here you've got it made." But that's obviously a by-product of it being a Universal propaganda film. Otherwise it's a competent and enjoyable thriller. Rathbone's routine as a fussy art collector is excellent.

Dead Reckoning
½

Alternately clumsy and derivative, but still a fair bit of fun due to some sharp writing and the always charismatic Bogey. Lizabeth Scott is downright awful, though. The story structure is weak - there's very little use for the flashback device other than to provide cheap narration - by the time we've come back to the present, there's nowhere for Bogey to go other than to just return to the main storyline - in effect, him telling the story to the priest is utterly useless (or, the [i]Forrest Gump[/i] effect, as it might be called). Still... cool to see William Prince in his younger years.

Up the River
Up the River(1930)

Terrible print that Fox have committed to DVD, but I'm guessing it's the only surviving one. There are lots of seconds-long segments that have been lost, so the end result is continuously unintentionally amusing. This film is notable only for the fact that it's the debut for both Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart - and it's very easy to see that they'll both be stars later on. They just have a quality that everyone else in the film lacks. The story itself is unfocused and sloppy - I still have no idea whose story it was supposed to be.

When Willie Comes Marching Home

Well... Dan Dailey's OK in this one, and the situation of a lauded (supposed) hero being forced to stay out of the war through bureaucracy is interesting. As soon as the film abandons that, however, and turns into an adventure, it becomes boring. Not a total waste though - the strength of Ford's visuals carries it through occasionally. And Corrine Calvet is easy on the eyes.

Melvin and Howard

Pretty disappointing. Just flat, I think. Jason Robards is great, but he's only in it for about 5 minutes. Mary Steenburgen is also very good (and, somewhat surprisingly, sexy), but I found it very difficult to care for Melvin. An interesting approach to the story by the screenwriter, but I don't think that it altogether works or is satisfying.

La Luna
La Luna(1979)

Well... that's quite something. Not quite as bat**** crazy as I expected, and surprisingly good. Bertolucci treads a very fine line between something that could be pure and utter schlock, and a more mature spin on the Oedipus story. I was afraid that the, uh, [i]leap[/i] shall we say, would be so utterly unbelievable that it would kill the film stone dead right away, but Bertolucci pretty much sets it up from the first shot. Almost every single scene has something that is leading towards Clayburgh pleasuring her son. It's done to such a degree that the, uh, [i]leap[/i] into incest is nearly reasonable. [i]Nearly[/i].

The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu)

Quite remarkable, the more that I think about it. Renoir's own unique brand of... tragicomedy? Comes to the fore here in surprising and amazing ways. Some of the writing is quite extraordinary in terms of logistics, keeping track of all the characters, how they relate to each other, and where they physically are. It's pre-Altman, and yet it's firing on more synapses than he ever did. I don't know that I love it, but I know that I'll revisit it.

Boys Don't Cry

Bloody hell. Extraordinary story - handled correctly by Peirce. There's a wrong way to do this, and if it were a spec script that a studio foisted on just any hack it would have been an unmitigated disaster - moreso than usual. Swank's performance is phenomenal - gutsy and completely believable. You forget that you're watching a performance. And Peter Sarsgaard is once again exceptional in support. Terrific film, but not exactly one I'm going to be going back to often.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Wasn't sure that I would like this as much away from all the hype of its Boxing Day release, and... yeah, I didn't necessarily like it quite as much. But I still liked it quite a bit. It's ultimately a bit too cold and uninvolving - which is going to pretty much be the case when your protagonist is always merely an observer. So I think the problems lie really with Roth and Swicord (and yes, it is [i]Forrest Gump[/i] all over again, but it's much, much better). Everything else is pretty much on point, from the acting to the direction to the standout Desplat score. It's a film that uses modern technology to present itself in a classical way while being a story that would never have been filmed in Hollywood back in the day. So, yeah... it's an odd thing.

1900 (Novecento)
½

Oh, you know, it's just one of those 5 hour films you see where Donald Sutherland headbutts a cat. You know. In all seriousness though it's a pretty impressive, although very taxing piece of work. Storaro's cinematography, as expected, is superb, as is Morricone's score. The acting is a little inconsistent, but I really liked Sutherland's work - the guy is just scary here. But I guess nobody ever told Bertolucci that brevity is the soul of wit.

Seven (Se7en)

Bleak as buggery. I'd only seen it once, several years ago, and was wondering if it'd still stand up - it does. In fact, knowing what's coming gives everything a completely different shade. It's not particularly hard to get through, but I'm surprised that it made such a huge amount of money at the box office - by extension, I must assume that people thought it was "cool," and that's a disturbing thought indeed. Spacey won Best Supporting Actor in 1995, but I can tell you that it was for the wrong film entirely.

The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)

Very solid. A good story told well. Strong acting, strong characters... just a good all-round film. I was about to say that I didn't really like the cinematography, but then I recalled the film's centerpiece - an extraordinary tracking shot that has to be seen to be believed (although there is a slightly perceptible seam). I actually can't wait to see what Billy Ray does with this. It's good material, so if he hits it out of the park he might finally start getting the attention he deserves.

What Price Glory?
½

Wow. What a misfire. A complete hodge-podge of seemingly disparate elements - it's hard to believe that [i]this[/i] is a remake. [i]MASH[/i] would turn out to be something vaguely similar in some respects, in terms of doing the war-comedy with pathos, but Altman sure did it a heck of a lot better. This doesn't even really feel like much of a Ford film. There's men being silly over women, and... that's about it. Cagney's OK, but mainly... meh.

The Fisher King
½

Wonderful. From the first 10 minutes alone, I was hooked. While I can see why Gilliam would do a film like this, it's decidedly more cheery than his other non-Python stuff. Not that I'm complaining. A trio of really, really great performances from Bridges, Williams, and Ruehl. And some beautiful cinematography from Roger Pratt. A great film, and certainly one that I'll go back to frequently.

Under Capricorn

What a chore. Pretty much nothing outside of Jack Cardiff's cinematography works here, although there are a few decidedly Hitchcockian moments, and Cotten has a couple of good scenes. In the words of the Joker, it was "so... boring."

Made in Dagenham
½

I'm not really in the target audience, truth be told. Cole doesn't handle the ensemble all that well - there are too many characters that we want to know more about, and too man that we couldn't give a stuff about. Bob Hoskins, in particular, falls off the face of the film about halfway through, after he's delivered his important scene. Some strong performances though, particularly from Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike, and Miranda Richardson.

Mulholland Drive
½

Some kind of masterpiece, I guess. Either way, I loved it. A delightful puzzle of a film that functions as a sort of toy for the audience to tinker with. Just when you think you have something figured out, something else will come in out of left field and make you completely change your mind. Oh, and I now understand why Naomi Watts is a star.

Rise of the Footsoldier
½

Bad. Very bad. Woefully constructed - it basically presents a protagonist for the first two acts, and then suddenly it's about a whole other bunch of guys, who were apparently the crux of the story. And why is Don Beech in there? Guh. At it's best, which is infrequent, it feels like television anyway. I'm sure there's an interesting story to be told there, but this aint the way to tell it.

Cul-de-Sac
Cul-de-Sac(1966)
½

I liked it to a certain degree, but I'm not entirely sure that it works. It's quirky, it's funny, it's different, but it really runs out of steam in the second act and seems to become all too circuitous. It picks up in the third act, though. Pleasance is great, but perhaps he goes a bit too far overboard at times.

Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte
½

Good, but not great. Unfortunately, it's way too long. Aldrich doesn't keep up the intensity/humour as well as he does in [i]What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?[/i], and the De Havilland/Davis dynamic isn't as strong as the Crawford/Davis one. That being said, I loved seeing De Havilland play a complete and utter bitch.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Excellent. Great balance of drama and comedy - Allen's segment got more than a few genuine laughs from me. Landau hits the other section out of the park, but I think my favourite performance is Alan Alda's. I think the real appeal of the film is how Allen tackles cliches by giving them a realistic context. I haven't seen that done in this way very often, so it really appealed to me.

Knife in the Water

Great little flick. Good writing, good acting, good direction. Stellar debut for Polanski, but somehow I was expecting something a little more... bloodthirsty. I'm not complaining though. I was also surprised at how amusing it was at times. These kinds of films always seem to stand the test of time.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
½

Bloody marvelous. A great Sherlock Holmes adventure, but what really sets it apart is that it had me emotionally engaged. Robert Stephens doesn't come up in conversation enough when people are talking about the best Sherlock Holmeses, but he does something great with it. Turns him into more of a melancholy character, but it's still superficially fun. The supporting cast is fine - once again, Wilder makes the best possible use of Clive Revill. Apart from Wilder/Diamond and Stephens, I think that the MVP has to be Miklos Rozsa. Wonderful score. And immediately one of my favourite Holmes films. Screw Ritchie and his empty-headed thing. [i]This[/i] is Sherlock Holmes on film.

The Egg and I
½

Nice little diverting comedy. I still don't like MacFred, but Colbert is great. Pa Kettle is an annoying twerp, but Marjorie Main as Ma Kettle is great. It's funny enough, but the thing is Colbert's character is an idiot. And that's basically the whole point of the story. Women are silly. Well, OK then.

The New World

Frustrating but rewarding. A film about walking through fields and not talking. Except not really. It kinda gets boring when Colin Farrell sods off (and believe me, that's not something I'd ever though I'd say about a film), mainly because John Rolfe is a dull character played with dullness by Christian Bale, but when they get to England it takes on a whole new dimension. Funny how an immaculate, symmetrical garden can be more terrifying than any untamed American wilderness. Flawed but beautiful.

No Time for Love

Very nice. Robust little rom-com that came as quite a surprise to me. Namely - it stars MacFred... and I liked it. Even stranger - I liked him in it. Very well cast. As is Colbert, but Best on Ground is Richard Haydn. I haven't seen (or heard) him in much, but he certainly owns [i]The Sound of Music[/i] and [i]Alice in Wonderland[/i], too. Look forward to seeing more of Leisen's stuff. I imagine I'll be getting around to [i]Midnight[/i] soon enough.

Wheel of Time
½

Interesting, sure, but perhaps a little bit too loose and languid. Compared to [i]Encounters at the End of the World[/i] it's a letdown. I learned stuff though, so I suppose mission accomplished for Herzog and friends. And damn... that guy's the best narrator ever.

The Town
The Town(2010)
½

Competent thriller from Affleck, not really up to the par of his debut work but respectable nonetheless. Affleck himself still can't really act, try as he might. Jeremy Renner, however, is wonderful. Cagney-esque. As soon as he's on screen, he's the guy you're watching. [i]That[/i] guy is an actor, [i]that[/i] guy is a star. Not Affleck. Jon Hamm also does as well as he can with a thankless role - he's playing a cliched type of character with idiosyncrasies that disguise the familiarity. Rebecca Hall, as usual, is very good. As is Pete Posthlewaite.

I'm surprised, however, that this was shot by Robert Elswit - because it doesn't look all that good, for the most part. This is only Affleck's second film, but his first effort was a lot better in almost every capacity. Hopefully he takes on more interesting material next time. Even if he doesn't he'll have a strong career ahead of him as an actor's director, as long as he doesn't step in front of the camera himself.

Shampoo
Shampoo(1975)

Very disappointing, when you consider that it's a product of Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, Warren Beatty, and a pretty solid cast. And the fact that it got some decent AMPAS love. I normally like Beatty's productions, in spite of the fact that I am on the opposite end of the political spectrum to him - there's usually some aspect that overwhelms the flaws. But this is just so... dull and obvious that it made me realize that all of Beatty's screenplays are undercooked in one way or another. There are, however, some very good scenes, particularly the last one, so it's not a total waste.

Bluebeard's Eighth Wife

An excellent entry into the Lubitsch canon. Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert are perfect in their roles, with chemistry to spare. David Niven and Edward Everett Horton provide fine support. It's just a lot of fun.

I Met Him in Paris
½

Pretty standard stuff, but Melvyn Douglas is really good. I'm glad Colbert ended up with him, and not Robert Young, a.k.a., the most non-descript actor to have stalked the halls of Hollywood during that period. It's all quite predicable, but fairly charming. The two "friends" are extremely nasty to one another though... that aint cool.

Klute
Klute(1971)

Excellent. Fonda is firing on all cylinders - Sutherland is doing just serviceable work, but it doesn't matter. Visually, it's stupendous. I think Gordon Willis is quickly becoming one of my favourite cinematographers. It's chock-full of atmosphere, and Pakula ratchets up the tension to nearly unbearable degrees (nearly jumped out of my seat towards the end when the heavy suddenly lunges towards Fonda). I should really take a look at [i]The Parralax View[/i].

Maid of Salem

A pre-[i]Crucible[/i] look at the Salem witch hunts... while certain plot devices and developments are familiar and intriguing, a lot of it just feels formulaic and plodding. Fred MacMurray's casting is just plain wrong - never mind the fact that I just plain can't stand the dude. Colbert fares better, but not by much - the dialogue is a hilarious attempt at old-timey speak, and in a film so obviously borne from the studio system, it just doesn't work.

Three Cornered Moon

Misfiring screwball comedy/drama/thing. Colbert is good, as is Mary Boland, but nothing else quite clicks. The guy who plays the doctor is so, so terrible. Using the depression as a device is quite interesting, but it's never really expounded upon - it's hard to feel sympathy for a family who is starving and yet they live in this massive, opulent, fully furnished house.

Broadway Danny Rose
½

Superb. I'm starting to turn around on Allen - two exemplary viewings in a row have washed away the taste of his more recent, lazy work. Mia Farrow in particular was a shock - I've only ever seen her play waifs. Pretty much everything in the film worked for me - no qualms to speak of. I'll be sure to pick up a copy of my own at some stage - I can see it getting a fair workout.

Oh! What A Lovely War
½

Unconventional satire - an unusual hodge-podge of wartime songs and accounts of what the powers that were said at the time. The damning satire of it works, but the material itself isn't really suited to be a film, and so the feature as a whole doesn't entirely work. Attenborough and his cinematographer do everything they can to disguise that fact - their work is top-notch. The last shot is extraordinary. Great supporting cast too, but even though he's my favourite actor, I'm hard-pressed to understand just how Olivier snagged a BAFTA for this.

Pi
Pi(1998)
½

Very interesting debut. Sometimes the amateurism seeps through (particularly in the case of the lead actor), but it's entertaining, brisk, and original. It's also quite absurd, and unashamedly so, which is a real bonus. I suppose Aronofsky really has done something very different with each of his films, but [i]Black Swan[/i], I guess, will herald a return to the psychological thriller genre for him. I'm highly curious as to how it's turned out.

Born to Be Bad

Low-rent [i]All About Eve[/i], but it's not really fair to compare it to one of the greatest films ever made - especially since it came out in the same year. [i]Closer[/i] also came to mind. Fontaine is quite good, as is Robert Ryan, but the real star of the show is Mel Ferrer - he steals every scene. Which is surprising, since I've never known him to have scene-stealing capabilities. Quite a solid film.

Eraserhead
Eraserhead(1977)

...oh, yeah, sure. One of those films you feel like you've seen a hundred times before.

Except not. I know nothing other than the fact that this kind of stuff is [i]way[/i] above my intellectual pay grade.

That and the fact that I won't be able to sleep now.

I probably shouldn't even be giving it a ranking, since it defies such classifications. But what the heck. Who honestly cares, anyway?

A Damsel in Distress
½

Clumsy, and Joan Fontaine had not yet discovered how to act, but it's entertaining due to three things: Fred Astaire, George Burns, and Gracie Allen. The Burns/Allen routine in particular had me laughing out loud throughout. Montagu Love also gets a good comedic role, which is a pleasant change from his usual heavies. The dance routines are spectacular, but obviously sideline the plot, which is unfortunate. Not as good as the Astaire/Rogers flicks, but still OK nonetheless.

Sling Blade
Sling Blade(1996)
½

Merely OK. Good concept and story development, but the Oscar baiting is shameless. Thornton's performance is like Stiller in [i]Simple Jack[/i] or Eric Cartman trying to get into the Special Olympics. The quiet moments are fine, but it's very difficult to take the film seriously as soon as he opens his mouth. Of course there's a lot of black comedy peppered throughout, which is good - it's essentially [i]Being There: The Homicidal Years[/i]. I liked the score while they were at the hospital, but hated the rest of it. And it takes too long. But as I say, the progression, the arcs, the themes, all that - they're sound. I don't think Thornton should have directed it, though.

Vida Sin Rumbo
½

Amateurish and horrendously acted. Not all that well directed either. Willem Dafoe is good - everyone else is terrible. And given that this is very much a character-driven work (supposedly), it doesn't work. Interesting ideas swirling about somewhere in there, but they're never really extrapolated. A disappointment.

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
½

Reasonably good fun. The propaganda element is so cheesy that it becomes a joke in and of itself. Rathbone is awesome, Nigel Bruce is hilarious... Lionel Atwill is a serviceable Moriarty. It's all very brisk and well made, but nothing really remarkable. I does incorporate Doyle elements, which is a plus for the Universal wartime pics

The List of Adrian Messenger
½

Quaint but still typically subversive, as is to be expected by Huston. Scott has a lot of fun in the lead roles, but I'm not sure that all of the cameos are strictly legit throughout the film proper. There are a few that look a bit different when they are "revealed" at the end. Best thing about the film is easily Goldsmith's score - it really elevates everything to a higher level. Overall it's a disposable but fun curio.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
½

Decent thriller that is way too long, but reasonably entertaining. The only real selling point is Noomi Rapace - without her, you've got nothing. It spends too much time ****ing about in the first hour or so - I hope Zallian's script for the Fincher adaptation has the leads meet within the first half hour, or 40 minutes at the most. I wasn't overly impressed with Oplev's direction, but once it gets going it moves along well, which is hugely important for a thriller.

Manhunter
Manhunter(1986)

I think I have to qualify this with "without having read the novel": It's pretty good. I have to assume that a lot of changes were made, because it seems like it's very much a Michael Mann film on every level, and only the psychotic aspects of it feel foreign. But it's a good Michael Mann film, principally because the characters are strong, and the action [i]keeps moving[/i]. Unfortunate that William Petersen, one of the most "nothing" actors on the planet has to carry the lead, but he's backed up well by the supporting cast. I will say this though: if [i]The Age of Innocence[/i] was a film about cufflinks, this is a film about sunsets.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
½

Interesting, and beautifully photographed, but something didn't quite click for me. I'm not entirely sure what it was - a second viewing might remedy that under more ideal circumstances. I liked the way everything played out, I liked the characters... so yeah, I really don't know why I didn't like the whole thing more. Scenes, yes. But not the film as a whole. Maybe it was Beatty... odd performance from him, and it doesn't quite work all the time.

The Clock
The Clock(1945)

Handsomely mounted romance - well structured, well shot, and well acted. Perhaps Judy Garland isn't so nuanced at this stage in her career, but Robert Walker is both charming and kinda innately creepy at the same time. It works nonetheless. The real standout is Keenan Wynn's single-take drunken performance, which must go for about 4 or 5 minutes. Very entertaining. Some beautiful shots from Minnelli, too - the most striking one being Walker, on a speeding subway, shooting straight into a close-up as he desperately searches for Garland. Haven't seen that one before.

Ride the High Country

Excellent. A really well-made tribute to a couple of B-western stars. I think McCrea is a better actor than Scott, but Scott surprisingly handles the humour very, very well. I don't think much of the other two leads, but the pack of antagonists that includes L.Q. Jones and Warren Oates are great. Peckinpah's hand is less evident visually here (obviously he had to develop, duh) but the common themes are there, front and centre.

Thoroughly Modern Millie
½

Well, there's two and a half hours of my life that I'll never get back. An exceptionally bad turd of a film. Perhaps the most obnoxious movie musical of the 1960s. Even [i]Camelot[/i] was more fun. Andrews, who I normally find very entertaining, is rubbish here - Mary Tyler Moore should be slapped, and Carol Channing... gah! Then you've got the always exciting John Gavin, and young James Fox - I haven't seen [i]Performance[/i], but Fox claims that his drug problems began before that. It was probably due to this thing. A better and less misleading title would have been [i]Pointless **** Happens For No Reason: The Musical[/i].

The Ipcress File

Good fun. Almost a halfway-world between Bond and le Carre. Caine is great, but I think the standout of the film is Nigel Green - I've always found him entertaining, and this was a particularly meaty role. Furie's direction is a little inconsistent - sometimes the unorthodox framing is quite interesting and effective - at other times it's just overwhelming and distracting. John Barry's score is great - generally a dead certainty, it seems.

Bolt
Bolt(2008)

Let's see... a Disney film about a talking dog where the lead vocal "talents" are Miley Cyrus and John Travolta. It's a damn shame that the film works, because it would have been a very easy target. It looks nice, it's animated well, and it's a good concept - a dog actor finds himself in a [i]Truman Show[/i] situation. Of course this is resolved with formula, formula, formula, but it's regulated and well edited. There should be no surprise that it made bank. Oh, and Susie Essman as a streetwise cat - inspired.

Howl's Moving Castle

Beautiful film. Full of the invention and imagination that marks Miyazaki's other films. His story structure is also quite different to more Western storytelling - he keeps building and building for almost three quarters of the film, before resolving everything rapidly. It basically works because his characters are so strong. Very impressive, and I hope to see more of his stuff.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

The kind of thing Disney and Don Bluth and Jim Henson had little financial success with in the 80s. Except this, I like a lot more. Technically speaking, it's the best and most innovative non-mocap computer animation I've seen since [i]WALL-E[/i]. Snyder brings his live-action skillset and applies it well - it's a visual dazzle, moreso than his previous efforts. He's got a better cast here than he's ever had before (and potentially the greatest Australian cast assembled in recent years), and a great musical score, which is again a first for a Snyder feature.

The script admittedly has some issues - trying too hard to satisfy the fans of the novel results in too many useless characters, which results in some clunky plot movement. It's never anything major though, and it moves along at a steady clip. Snyder always seems to operate on a level of "coolness" rather than any type of serious filmmaking, and Australian owls in helmets was always going to be a tough sell. And it's bombing financially, so it clearly didn't work, but points for trying. I certainly thought it was worth the price of admission. I had fun. But the goddamn Owl City song sucks.

Death and the Maiden
½

Gee, I guess this was a play, huh. Extremely stagebound stuff here, and the fault doesn't lie with Polanski - it's genuinely the writers fault. Every single passage of dialogue sounds indigenous to the theatre - not to the cinema. Some plays work when you just port them over without any tweaking - but not this one. That being said, it's quite well acted and staged, and it's a good story, no doubts there. Stuart Wilson, surprisingly, was the best of the trio, in the least showy part, although Kingsley's uninterrupted single-take monologue is very impressive. It's not a wholly successful film, but it's an entertaining one once you know what you're in for.

The Last Wave
½

Quite interesting. Very cold, very distant, and very hard to get involved in, but fascinating to watch from afar, is basically the feeling I got from this. Compelling scenes and situations without the piece as a whole working in the way that other films might. To be honest, I don't quite know what to think. Chamberlain surprised me - his expression in the final shot is probably the best bit of acting he ever did. It made me wish that Weir had made more films in Australia, though - perhaps our industry might have had a bit more of an identity, instead of the floundering we've had for years and years. This is basically the kind of film we should have been more commonly making.

My Neighbor Totoro

Miyazaki is like old-school Disney - great fun, but his work is peppered with all kinds of crazy and scary stuff that has no rhyme or reason. Not that I mind - the Catbus in My Neigbor Totoro is simultaneously the greatest and strangest thing ever. The story itself probably isn't much to speak of, and I think the resolution is weak (as it was with Ponyo), but it's solid children's fare. Nice score, too.

Scandal (Shubun)
½

A bit disappointing, but still quite good. Although a lot of the flourishes are inimitably Kurosawa, the story itself feels very given to American cliches and constructs. Takashi Shimura is really what makes the film work - he's great in what turns out to be the central role. I think a lack of clarity in the first act really dampens what could have been a more significant film.

Wee Willie Winkie
½

Very odd film. A mish-mash of Kipling, John Ford, and Shirley Temple. It doesn't quite work, but it's still reasonably entertaining, thanks largely to C. Aubrey Smith and Victor McLaglen. Ford's handling of the material, by and large, is rather straightforward, and he only really gets an opportunity to shine in the action sequences, which while brief are marvelous to look at.

Marnie
Marnie(1964)

Interesting stuff! Feels like an amalgam of a lot of previous Hitch features, and yet it is something else entirely at the same time. Hendren, though, aint much of an actress. It's good casting, very good casting for that role, but there are some scenes that she just doesn't have the chops to pull off. Diane Baker ("Take this thing back to Baltimore!" - I hadn't realized!) doesn't do much better with what was potentially a very juicy role. But Connery is just awesome. I still think that it was only really Lumet who brought out some genuine "acting" from him, but this is a really solid role for him, and he pulls it off. Basically though, it's what is to be expected from upper-tier Hitchcock. Proficiency and wit.

A Simple Plan

Terrific. It invites you to guess what's going to happen next, and allows you to be right so often that when the final wrinkle emerges, it's a true surprise. Very well constructed I thought, but restrained direction from Raimi, who for some reason I expected to be more... kinetic and showy. Paxton might not have had the chops to really nail the lead character, but Thornton and Fonda are great. Also, it was nice to remember that there was once a day and age where Danny Elfman didn't suck.

Four for Texas
½

A stinker. Basically an excuse for Sinatra and Dino to hang out with exceptionally beautiful women and drink excessively. And then sorta put in some kind of effort when the cameras roll. Although they only do that from time to time. Charles Bronson's in there, and Victor Buono... and the Three Stooges... yeah, I didn't know what was going on either. Although it did have Ursula Andress in a see-through dress. So I guess it was worthwhile.

A Chorus Line

Well... it is what it is. It would have been very difficult to make this work adequately as a film, and it most certainly doesn't, although Attenborough has a few tricks up his sleeve that he deploys to varied levels of success. Thankfully, Michael Douglas never sings. I was afraid that was going to happen. So much of it is incredibly lame, and not all that funny, but... it's not a complete turd. Just a misguided project.

The Miracle Woman
½

A strong enough story that manages to overcome alternately limp and showy handling by Capra. It's clear that he was still finding his feet with this film. Stanwyck is very good - David Manners is one of the least convincing blind people I've ever seen. I wonder if Richard Brooks looked to this when he tackled Elmer Gantry - there are a few similarities.

Seconds
Seconds(1966)
½

Interesting... at times it feels more like "John Frankenheimer experiments with all sorts of neat gizmos" than anything else though. Hudson gets better as the film goes on. Great concept, and it's highly atmospheric too... and there are some great scenes. Ultimately I think that Frankenheimer's style overwhelms the material too often for it to really work, though.

Despicable Me

Strictly kiddies fare only. I had been duped, thanks to word of mouth and strong reviews, that this might be something more substantial, a real Oscar player, and a pleasant surprise. It's none of those things. There's a few choice jokes in there and a fairly good turn from Carrell in the lead role, but other than that... nothing under the hood. Avoid unless you were born 'round the turn of the millennium.

Women in Love
½

Not exactly my cup of tea, but very interesting nonetheless. Terrific cinematography, and a very unique directorial approach from Russell. I was entertained in fits and starts, but I think the best sequence would have to be Alan Bates having at the fig. Hilarious stuff. And Kronsteen showed up! What a hoot. Surprising but great ending.

Encounters at the End of the World

Wonderful. The first of Herzog's documentaries that I've seen, and he certainly has a different approach. I'd normally be annoyed by something that is as unfocused and sprawling as this, but... it's all just so interesting. There's no other way to put it. And the lone penguin... haunting.

Avanti!
Avanti!(1972)
½

Overlong and plodding for the most part. I don't buy the love story between Jack Lemmon and Juliet Mills for a second. Something about them just doesn't work at all. It's sporadically funny, but a fairly thin premise overall. Still, one member of the cast manages to rise above the pack and make the endeavour worthwhile - Clive Revill. He steals every single scene he's in. I've seen (and heard) him in a few things before, and he's never really stood out to me, but Wilder really gave him a plum role here.

A Patch of Blue

Superb drama. Well written (largely) well directed, and well acted. Shelley Winters is just frightful. Poitier is awesome as usual. And Elizabeth Hartman is heartbreaking. Also, one of the best Jerry Goldsmith scores, I reckon (although there are a lot that could lay claim to that title). Interesting story, and more complex than the usual "disability" film.

Wake in Fright

Highly disturbing, stone-cold flick that is easily amongst the best Australian output (despite being helmed by a Canadian). Just when you think it couldn't get any bleaker, any more horrific, it just keeps going and going and going. One of the best performances from Donald Pleasance, I think. It's almost a horror film, except the terror stems from human behavior rather than something outlandish. I doubt it would inspire anyone to come down here, anyway...

Way Out West
Way Out West(1937)
½

Weak. Lame. Hasn't aged well. Some of the Laurel & Hardy shtick is funny. A lot of it isn't. Maybe I'm just an old Scrooge. But I wasn't laughing. It certainly didn't hit the 5-laugh-quota. I'm not going out of my way to see any of their other stuff, that's for sure.

The Last of the Mohicans
½

Beautiful but a touch empty, I think. Disappointing, but still entertaining. I think the cast is uniformly good, I like the score, I like the look of it, but I don't know whether it's supposed to be a proper "serious" film or just an action flick. I tend to think it's closer to the latter. Mann struck a much better balance with his next film, that's for sure. Apart from a few recognizable elements, it certainly doesn't feel like a Michael Mann film either, but I suppose it was a bit of a passion project for him. There are some sequences in there that are great, such as the time at the fort and the last 10 or so minutes, but otherwise... eh. I hope that Manhunter has more to offer.

In This Our Life
½

Pedestrian Warners melodrama, but two vital factors give it a bit of spark - the always superb Olivia deHavilland, and John Huston, who provides visual energy and a great deal of drive to Howard Koch's often laborious script. I suppose it's primarily a Bette Davis vehicle - she's fun to watch, sure, but this really isn't up there in the pantheon of her finer performances. Not an overly edifying experience, but whatever. Demonstrates that Huston was an effective workman, for sure.

The Body Snatcher
½

Wow. Spoke too soon about the Val Lewton pics. Loved this one to bits. Really really dark content considering the time period it was made in. Karloff kills a dog with a shovel, for God's sake. Speaking of which, he is ten kinds of awesome in this. Probably his best performance, at least that I've seen. He's having a ball. Also terrific is Henry Daniell, one of the most underrated actors of the period. Difficult role, but he hits it out of the park. The film has a lot of relevance today, I think... you could easily use it in one of them stem-cell debates. I've also conclusively decided that Bob Wise was a completely kick-ass filmmaker. He knew a thing or two about atmosphere, when it came to horror flicks.

Harold and Maude
½

A very different kind of film. I suspect that Wes Anderson owes a lot to it. It's intermittently hilarious - particularly during Harold's various suicides (I'm beginning to think they're real). I liked the songs as well. Something about it failed to totally capture me in the way that I thought it might, but I certainly admired it. It was certainly ahead of its time.

I Walked With a Zombie

Meh. I'm not big on the Val Lewton pics. Nice atmosphere, but bereft of pretty much everything else. The cheap actors work at their pay grades, and it's fairly intolerable. Some beautiful shots throughout the film, which I expected of Tourneur, but essentially, I was bored. I understand some people think these films are marvelous, but they're not my cup of tea.

Men of Boys Town

Lee J. Cobb replacing Henry Hull is really quite odd, but that's the least of the film's issues. Taurog and company try to do too much and forget to give the film any sort of focus or story. There's all sorts of cheap manipulation that tries to elicit tears, but it all falls flat because none of it means anything. Tracy does what he can, and he doesn't tarnish his Oscar-winning character, but the film itself is overlong and wasteful.

There's also an unintentionally hilarious sequence in which the priest, played by Tracy, beckons a small child to search for "candy" under his desk. While he's sitting at it.

Boys Town
Boys Town(1938)

Very good MGM fare. Mickey Rooney is good until he has to emote, which fortunately isn't very often. The rest of the kids are pretty annoying, but Henry Hull and Spencer Tracy make it worth watching. And Taurog manages to take pretty mundane visual material and make it occasionally exciting. It's a film of its time, but still quite effective I think. Very well written.

Igby Goes Down
½

A well-acted film, and fairly enjoyable for the most part, but I think Steers is way too much in love with his protagonist - and it's a problem when the protagonist is such a little wanker. I was happy to see Goldblum beat the stuffing out of him. Actually, everyone in this is pretty unlikable, and I found it increasingly difficult to connect to as it went on, but the comedy is sharp and on point, so it gets a pass.

Nicholas and Alexandra
½

Based on the strength of The Lion in Winter and Robin and Marian alone, I'd say that James Goldman is one of my top 5 screenwriters. This isn't quite up to that astronomical par, but it's still a fascinating and unconventional biopic. Goldman's task was actually impossible, I think - he had one protagonist that was as weak as water, and another that was a selfish b*tch. It doesn't quite work, and as a result both he and Schaffner look elsewhere for the real meat of the film. While they find it in characters such as Rasputin (Tom Baker goes above and beyond) and Lenin, the film loses focus as a result, and starts to ramble. It looks gorgeous though, courtesy of the great Freddie Young, and there's a fine bevy of supporting characters - including Larry Olivier, apparently in prepping stages for his decade of intermittently entertaining hammery (which Schaffner would bring to its apex in The Boys from Brazil, funnily enough).

Bigger Than Life

Brilliant film. Cutting-edge, really. I often think it's daft to call a performance "brave," but I might break my rule and assign that moniker to Mason's turn here. I can't say it's one of his best, because he has so many, but it's right up there. I love Ray's approach and style - can't wait to check out more of his stuff. This strikes me as a film that should be much better-known.

Some Came Running

Very, very good. There's one or two elements that aren't quite satisfactorily wrapped up, mostly to do with Dino's character, and I'm not really sold on Martha Hyer at all, but apart from that it's all gravy. Arthur Kennedy is made of awesome, as is MacLaine. I figure that Sinatra and Martin weren't swigging coloured water, there. Elmer Bernstein's score is wonderful (if occasionally reminiscent of Sweet Smell of Success), and the cinematography is quite breathtaking. I'm not the biggest fan of Minnelli's style, but it doesn't matter when he's got material like this to work with. He made this in the year that he won his Oscar, but I can safely say that he won it for the wrong film.

The Other Guys

I actually like McKay's features quite a bit. I feel as though I shouldn't, but whatever. Ferrell and Wahlberg are hilarious, but the best in show has to be, yet again, Michael Keaton. "Pimps Don't Cry" needs an Oscar nom. It's well produced, and like all good parodies it satisfies the demands of its genre while poking fun at them. Chad from In the Loop cameos as well, which was a pleasant surprise.

Gods and Monsters
½

Great. A total surprise. McKellen is fantastic in what is probably the role of his career. The same goes for Brendan Fraser (well, it's either this or The Quiet American... slim pickings from that career, otherwise). Very sharp and clever writing from Condon, and he brings it to the screen with vigour and wit. Although apparently now he's directing the last two Twilight films. Such a waste... although I wasn't massively impressed with Dreamgirls, so maybe he's a one hit wonder.

W.
W.(2008)

This is perhaps the antitheses to Nixon. Although it shares a lot in common with its predecessor (parental issues, an inadequate but determined protagonist, a wicked ensemble and a fractured narrative) it's almost a parody. A comparison might be Beat the Devil, which was Huston's jab at The Maltese Falcon. I was initially put off by W. when I first saw it - it felt like the debut film of an unsure director, rather than the 18th feature of a seasoned Academy Award recipient. I don't feel the same way now and while I think the success of the film is certainly arguable, I think it's very enjoyable, and quite amusing at times.

Brolin is the rock that the entire thing is built on and he hits it out of the park. Thandie Newton is kinda hilarious as Condoleezza Rice. The same goes for Scott Glenn as Donald Rumsfeld. Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell is very clearly Weiser and Stone's saint in all this, but even he's not off the hook. The cinematography and music leave quite a bit to be desired, especially when Stone's previous collaborators are taken into account, but that doesn't particularly damage the film. I think it will be looked on more favourably in later years.

Nixon
Nixon(1995)

Wow. It's been about three years since I saw this. I was blown away by it then and love it even more now. A monolithic achievement on every single level, from the acting, to the writing, to the cinematography, to the direction, to the score. The way that Stone and his co-writers are able to extract a fully satisfying narrative out of Nixon's life is extraordinary and unique. The seemingly hap-hazard story structure was once lost on me, but now I can appreciate the full power of it.

The critical fulcrum point being the scene at the Lincoln monument. It's heartbreaking. You have a protagonist who up to that point has been the relentless underdog, and you can't help but feel for him. But in that scene he realizes that no matter how hard he tries, he'll never be John Kennedy. And then it's a rapid decline, until he really starts to be come loathsome. There's a great scene soon after with Pat where he comes across as a loon - essentially, the world's most powerful man has a massive persecution complex. Scary stuff.

I've heard that people feel that Stone isn't harsh enough to Nixon himself, but I disagree entirely. It's more about how Nixon's character is revealed, rather than developed - when he starts baying for blood, we see that the people who have known him longest aren't surprised in the slightest. He becomes slimy and hypocritical, and lashes out at his most faithful devotees. By the penultimate scenes, he's become a genuine scumbag, but he never accepts or understands that. It's really very tragic.

It's basically a great companion piece to JFK, and would make for a nice coda to Stone's Vietnam trilogy as well. He's at the very peak of his powers here, and now I think that this is really his masterpiece. It's the culmination of everything that he has explored before that point as a filmmaker, and yet it goes beyond that. It's Shakespearean, it's operatic, and by God is it cinematic.

Platoon
Platoon(1986)
½

Surprisingly, one that has improved in stature for me. While it's not an amateurish film, it's never struck me as one that has come from a seasoned professional (that's because it isn't, I guess), but it's really quite powerful. Looking beyond Stone's foot-stamping about Vietnam, the human story at its core is really strong. Like a lot of Stone's work, it's about father figures - dueling father figures, in this case. Another of Stone's fascinations seems to be people who desperately want to be one thing but inherently cannot be anything more than a dark shadow of their aspirations - and this is present in Platoon too, albeit in an embryonic form. As for the cast... terrific. Berenger is terrifying. But John C. McGinley just about walks away with the film for his facial expression at the end. Hilarious and sad at the same time.

Scarface
Scarface(1983)
½

I think the lyrics for "Push it to the Limit" must have been derived from Oliver Stone's treatment for the film. It's as silly as a wheel and less enjoyable on a second viewing - it becomes especially tedious after Robert Loggia is killed off. Pacino is a hoot, sure - until you realize that this really didn't do a lot for his career. It turned him into a shameless ham, for the most part. The women are gorgeous, Moroder's score is fantastic, and the cinematography is highly effective, but the damn thing just runs way too long, considering that it's essentially a cartoon. I'm amused by the dedication to Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht at the end - because those were two guys who understood the value of brevity.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue

Apart from a few moments of goofiness that go too far, loved it. The best work I've seen from both Robards and David Warner. I was surprised to see David Warner given a proper role... I've only ever seen him relegated to relatively small villainous roles (which he usually knocks out of the park... best damn thing in Titanic, anyway). Stella Stevens is the business. Loved the Goldsmith score. Great little story. I hope that the rest of the Peckinpah canon proves to be just as rewarding.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
½

Can't really say that this is a return to form for Stone, because it's not, but his hand here is far more assured than it's been in years. It's a shame then, that the script isn't quite up to snuff - it winds its way through cliche after cliche offering some juicy dialogue, but not much in the way of any real wattage. Stone's never been a subtle filmmaker, and it's nice to see him embrace that fact once again after some conservative and half-hearted efforts. He's got a great cast at his disposal (yes, even LaBeouf acquits himself pretty well) and for the most part he uses them effectively. Especially Josh Brolin, who is proving to be a boon for Stone. One thing I didn't expect to return from the original: David Byrne. And Charlie Sheen's cameo is priceless. It also makes the ending to the original all the more depressing.

Wall Street
Wall Street(1987)

A film that surprisingly gets better with each viewing. Charlie Sheen is probably inadequate, and Darryl Hannah is a man, but the rest of the cast is pretty damn good. This is Michael Douglas' most iconic role for a reason - he's great. It's also one of my favourite performances from Martin Sheen. This was before Oliver Stone began totally cutting loose stylistically, but you can see he's heading in that direction. The real strength of the film is the script - it unfolds in an economic and effective way. And manages to say something. Great score from Stewart Copeland, too.

The Wrong Man
½

Extremely well made film, and an interesting direction for Hitchcock, but a little dry, I think. Fonda is excellent, and Vera Miles is astonishingly good. It's quite a disturbing story when all is said and told, even though it all works out in the end. However, I didn't really feel any connection to the film... it was all quite distant and detached. Good Herrman score, though.

Popeye
Popeye(1980)

http://calculonresponds.ytmnd.com/

The Mosquito Coast

I... get the hate, I guess, but I don't agree with it. To be fair, this is a film that could have been a masterpiece and doesn't really reach those heights, but I think what is there is excellent. One of Ford's best performances - surprising to see him play someone so unsympathetic. A complete and utter sh*t, basically. Typically great cinematography from John Seale, a wonderful score from Maurice Jarre, and a script from none other than Paul Schrader. I'd love to read the novel just so I could find out what is supposedly so horrifically wrong with this film.

Bitter Moon
Bitter Moon(1992)

Fascinating spin on melodrama. The four leads are (almost) perfect. Hugh Grant has never been better, as far as I'm aware. I think sometimes Peter Coyote's role goes beyond his capabilities as an actor, but those moments are few and far between. I love the way the whole thing unfolds, and all the characters are great. A fine piece of work.

The Bitter Tea of General Yen

Disappointingly limp, and totally lacking any spark whatsoever. It's a shame, since it's visually quite striking at times, and it boasts one of the more interesting dream sequences I've seen. It's not typically Capra Corn, but it features several of his worst traits, namely the overt preaching. Unimpressive on the whole.

... All the Marbles

Well, if this is the worst of Aldrich, sign me up for the rest. A highly amusing romp with a stellar turn from Peter Falk. Highly unusual too - aint too many films about female wrestlers made by prominent filmmakers. I'll say this about Aldrich - of what little I've seen of his work, it's certainly distinct. Now... this isn't a great film, and DeVol's score occasionally becomes very irritating, but it's good, harmless fun. A nice little swansong for Aldrich.

21 Grams
21 Grams(2003)
½

Yeah... OK. I appreciate Iñárritu's technique and approach, but I just personally don't find it overly interesting. Especially since he does his utmost to make his protagonists, that he supposedly wants us to empathise with, the most reprehensible and awful human beings on the planet. It's well acted, well shot, and fairly well written... it's just not really my cup of tea.

The Pursuit of Happyness
½

Went into it expecting sentimental glop, and... well, maybe that's precisely what it is, but damned if it isn't effective. Comfortably the best Will Smith vehicle I've seen - he gives it his all, and demonstrates that he actually does have the capacity to be a very, very good actor if he's got the right material to work with (which he rarely does). He really needs to start working with better filmmakers, though. This one was teal-and-orange'd to death, almost. But whatever... I enjoyed it. It got to me. Better than The ******g Blind Side, that's for sure.

Beat the Devil
½

An amusing effort that perhaps doesn't hit all the marks that it wants to. Ahead of its time in terms of spoofing a popular genre (except this is actually funny - something we're robbed of with modern parodies). The cast is great, with Robert Morley and Jennifer Jones being the standouts. I also thought it looked quite nice. Typically eclectic work from Huston, but certainly worthwhile.

Cocoon
Cocoon(1985)
½

Boo. What an absolute load of cobblers. A structural nightmare that grows increasingly more and more stupid as it progresses. The premise of the film is essentially "Doddering old idiots having fun." If I wanted to see that, I'd watch A View to a Kill. At least someone died in that film. I kept wishing someone would die in this. And I don't think that was an unreasonable request. This film makes Wilford Brimley lame - yeah, that's how bad it is. Steve Guttenberg is our heroic leading man who becomes useless about halfway through the film, and Don Ameche wins an Oscar because his stunt double can breakdance. Hume Cronyn cheats on Jessica Tandy, Brian Dennehy is an alien, and I conclusively discover that Ron Howard is the worst prominent filmmaker of the last 30 years!

The Expendables
½

Lame trash that is hardly an excuse for anything. A bunch of old guys and nobodies get together and don't really have all that much fun. I could go on at length about how bad the film is, but it would be wasting even more of my time. It looked terrible, too. It's a shame, since Rocky Balboa showed perhaps some semblance of promise from Stallone as a maker of not particularly great but at least solid works of entertainment. But this and Rambo show that he has no demonstrable understanding of what made his earlier films so well-loved and appreciated. Unfortunately, the consumers continue to reward his negligence. I suspect that part of it has to do with his interfacing with twerps like Harry Knowles, and apparently taking them seriously. It's both his loss and the audience's.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

A failure, perhaps of epic proportions, but a fascinating one nonetheless that kept my rapt attention for its extended runtime. Biggest problem: Jovovich. Like Jean Seberg before her, she tries really, really hard, but just can't handle the role, which is perhaps one of the most difficult ones in existence. Secondly: Way too much time spent on the Battle of Orleans, and hence the whole film is lopsided. Thirdly: Besson's sense of humour is often intrusive and inappropriate. However, apart from all that, it remains, I think, a fascinating examination of the character. I don't know what Besson thinks of Joan, but essentially she's not the angelic hero that we're used to (and that the mini-series in the same year portrayed her as), but rather a total nutcase and firebrand who is terrified of herself. I haven't seen that approach to Joan before, and I think it comes off rather well. This is quite an oddball film, and certainly not your typical medieval epic (Besson's style is fully intact, for starters), but one that appealed to me personally in several ways.

Lady and the Tramp

A classic, although not really in the upper echelon of Disney classics for me. The stakes are too low, for starters. But the songs are great (particularly "He's a Tramp") and there is of course the iconic spaghetti scene. It's a nice film, and probably one I would have liked to have seen as a kid. One grievance: I was watching a panned and scanned copy, to my dismay. I'd love to see the original CinemaScope presentation of the film, since Sleeping Beauty was so stunning (although that was Cinerama, IIRC).

Dawn of the Dead
½

An effective and taut zombie flick that functions well as a thriller. It has its moments of stupid, yes, and the characters leave much to be desired, as expected. But in terms of being a zombie film... I think it's pretty good. It's the best of Snyder's films, I think, because he hits everything he's really aiming for here, and there aren't really that many crippling flaws. I guess on the whole I like his work, with a heavy dosage of moderation.

X-Men Origins - Wolverine
½

Jesus wept. What the hell is that. This makes Brett Ratner's The Last Stand look like a friggin' Bergman film. Comfortably one of the most woeful action films... no scratch that, one of the most woeful films I've seen of late. An absolute colostomy bag of craptastic CGI, dire writing, and bizarre interpretive experiments which I assume are meant to be passed off as acting performances. I do not understand the function or purpose of this film, nor do I want to. I basically want my 1 hour and 45 minutes back, pronto. And they're saying now that Aronofsky might direct the sequel? Good luck, buddy.

School Daze
School Daze(1988)

Well intentioned, but all over the place thematically, and as a narrative. It has its musical moments, its comedy moments, and its dramatic moments, but Lee has no idea as to how to balance them. Taken in the context of his next film, Do the Right Thing, it is perhaps fortunate that he tried and failed here, so that he could bring everything together beautifully there. Laurence Fishburne, however, rises above the problems and gives a superb performance. Overall though, Lee's point is too muddled, and the project too misguided. Still, an interesting failure.

The Set-Up
The Set-Up(1949)

A real corker of a boxing film. If you'd told me a year ago that Robert Wise, of West Side Story and The Sound of Music fame, had directed a great boxing film, I wouldn't have believed you. Turns out he did two of them. I think Somebody Up There Likes Me is slightly better, or perhaps I just liked it more. The Set-Up, regardless, is a perfect technical exercise that also has a lot of heart. Probably Robert Ryan's finest performance, at least that I've seen. I love films that play out in real-time, and this is no exception.

The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups)

Excellent. My first Truffaut film, and I look forward to going through the rest of the Doinel films at some stage - what a superb character he is. It's not flashy, it's not self-important, it's just economic and powerful. I particularly liked the way in which it unfolded... certainly not following an easily discernible formula, but rather a steadily progressing downward spiral. Great ending, as well.

International House
½

Nice little parody of Grand Hotel that is just as muddled and ungainly as that flick. Some characters work, some don't, but the film chugs along at a good pace, so you don't really notice. As soon as Fields enters the proceedings, he takes over, which is fortunate. I liked Bela Lugosi, Gracie Allen, and George Burns too. There's also an odd cameo from Sterling Holloway, who would of course later go on to voice Winnie the Pooh for Disney (and several other characters, such as Kaa).

It's a Gift
It's a Gift(1934)
½

Breezy little flick that gives Fields all the leeway he needs to shine. The three-level sequence is a hoot. Again, it's not quite reaching the heights of The Bank Dick, but whatever. I don't understand how Baby LeRoy got star billing though... he's in about two scenes.

You Can't Cheat an Honest Man
½

Minor Fields vehicle... very funny when he's on screen, and limp when he's not. The whole dummy thing is just plain lame... The film overall would have been better if it had just been Fields non-stop, a la The Bank Dick. As for Fields himself, the fluency of the pratfalls is nothing short of amazing.

Slaughterhouse-Five

A highly intriguing and different kind of movie. Having only seen Hill's two most famous films, which are quite breezy, I was surprised by this material. I like the way it works, it uses a different kind of cinematic language to his other films, and yet it is just as (if not more) effective. Ron Liebman... gah. Why wasn't this guy more popular? He's totally on fire here, stealing every single scene that Valerie Perrine's not in. She steals her scenes by not wearing anything. Which is cheating, but I'm not complaining.

My Little Chickadee
½

Fairly amusing... but too much time is dedicated to the framework of a plot that exists outside the West/Fields routine. The two of them work superbly together, though. West is actually more ridiculous than Fields... no small feat. Not really a patch on The Bank Dick, but pretty entertaining anyway.

The Bank Dick

Awesome. Great fun. It's basically a vehicle for Fields, and there's no shame in that. By and large, it's just random crap happening and then Fields doing his thing, but it's genuinely uproarious. And he even punches a guy straight out a window. By the end, during the truly great car chase, I was pretty much in stitches.

Saludos Amigos

Very modest, but interesting from a historical standpoint as the first of Disney's wartime package films. There aren't any genuine standout sequences, but the 16mm film segments are nice enough. It basically functions as a travelogue seen through the eyes of Disney. I'm sure children would still find it diverting and amusing.

Hakuchi (The Idiot)

Compromised, and obviously so. To the film's detriment, I think. The pacing is all out of whack, and as a result it never finds its feet in the critical moments. I agree with Kurosawa's sentiments - if they needed to cut it, they should have done it lengthways. What exists hints at brilliance - some exceptional performances, and the incredible sense for composition that Kurosawa had... but I just cannot embrace this butchered version at all. Makes me want to go and read the novel, though.

The Bad and the Beautiful

Superb melodrama, with an almost Wilder-esque cynical edge. I liked Minnelli's direction here way more than in any of the other films of his I've seen. And this is probably one of Kirk Douglas's finest performances. I'm not exactly sure what Gloria Grahame did to win an Oscar, but whatever. The rest of the cast is terrific, and the ending is perfect. I look forward to seeing more of Minnelli's non-musicals.

Absence Of Malice
½

A touch disappointing, given the talent involved. Newman is terrific as always, though. The film itself is just too dry, and never really gets off the ground, which is a shame since the story is fairly intriguing and different. Dave Grusin's score almost kills the film outright though - it's just woeful. I'm surprised Pollack didn't really take to the material as well as he should have, but all in all the film feels like it's just 5 years or so too late. It certainly looks and sounds like something from the mid-70s.

Watchmen
Watchmen(2009)
½

Well, all I got out of it is that I'm going to have "I'm Your Boogie Man" stuck in my head for days. This was my second viewing, and it basically confirmed a lot of my thoughts - it's far too literal an adaptation. Moore's text is there, almost embalmed, but the subtext is totally absent. This isn't adaptation, it's mere translation. I don't really know if it can ever be effectively adapted, I'd agree with Moore's viewpoint in that it's essentially un-adaptable, but I'd like to see someone try again in the future. It's superficially quite entertaining in fits and starts, and Snyder occasionally exhibits... not brilliance, but savvy. But then he goes and does something thunderingly obvious, hamfisted, and stupid to follow it up. On the acting side of things... eh. I think Jackie Earle Haley's performance was grossly overrated - it's a dime-store rip off of Bale's Eastwood Throat Cancer growl most of the time... and comes across as rather daft. The real standout is Jeffrey Dean Morgan - what a shame he's dead for the vast majority of the runtime.

Freaks
Freaks(1932)
½

Quite cutting-edge for its time... I think it's lost a lot of its sting, although the penultimate scene is hugely disturbing, and ultimately vindicates the rest of the film. As difficult as it is to watch the "freaks," some of the acting is... painful, to say the least. It's... different, I guess, but it didn't interest me a whole lot.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
½

Loved this. Absolutely hilarious from start to finish. If it's not a parody, then there's something wrong, but there's no way it can be anything but. This is the first time I've been able to fully embrace and enjoy Nic Cage in any role. He's doing a Kinski performance, basically, and it's mesmerizing. Although a lot of the wackiest bits are in the trailer, there a lot of fun to be had here. Especially when Cage threatens an old woman at gunpoint, telling her that she's "what's wrong with this country." Didn't even recognize Brad Dourif until his third scene - he plays a voice of reason in this film. That's how crazy it is. Oh, and Michael Shannon is a cop. Good grief. And Eva Mendes acts, too!

Melody Time
Melody Time(1948)
½

In the vein of Fantasia, but not really as coherent. A real jumble of shorts, but an entertaining one nonetheless. I particularly liked the "Bumble Boogie" segment. It's a charming little diversion, and rather typical for Disney, but it's quite fortunate that they eventually returned to full narrative features.

The Good Earth

These Chinese... are not so Chinese. I was expecting a typical MGM prestige pic, but this is surprisingly energetic and innovative. Muni overacts but Rainer is good - I hated Walter Connoly, but that might have had more to do with the character. The real quality of this film is found in Franklin's direction, and some very modern editing techniques that I never thought I'd see in a film of this kind. It's a fairly good story as well. It'd be interesting to see it re-done with a more... suitable cast.

The Kids Are All Right
½

It's a good film, but I was more impressed with the acting than anything. I don't think the writing is quite as good as it should have been, and you can pretty much guess where everything's going to go pretty quickly. Benning, Moore, and Ruffalo hit it out of the park, though. And... uh... the kids are... all right. It'll probably get all kinds of love from Oscar, and it deserves it in the acting categories, but I'd be disappointed if it got in anywhere else (Ruffalo in particular is long overdue for an nomination).

The Major and the Minor

Billy Wilder had an unfair advantage: he was a genuine genius. This is a terrific little comedy/romance - there are laughs throughout, and the relationship is believable. It's predictable, and it even foreshadows Some Like it Hot to a degree, but it's great fun regardless. Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland are just about perfect. Loved the ending, too.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

I feel much the same way about this as I do The Girlfriend Experience. Fascinating, absolutely riveting as a storytelling and technical exercise, but not conventionally involving. I was surprised by the superb performances coming from a cast that I usually wouldn't think much of, and Soderbergh's hand is assured even in his debut. It's a difficult film to really talk about on first impression - seems like a work that is meant to be dwelled on. I'll be sure to revisit it in a year or so and see what I think then.

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
½

Holy crap. I loved this thing. One of the most incredible and unique Westerns I've ever seen. First of all, Kris Kristofferson delivers a fine performance, so it's clear that at least a few planets aligned. Secondly, this is probably the greatest performance I've seen from James Coburn. It's staggering at times. Basically every scene has something new and interesting to offer, which is a marvel. And Slim Pickens' death scene is perhaps one of the most moving I've encountered. What a great, great film.

Lifeboat
Lifeboat(1944)

Terrific. I love films like this, where the dialogue also functions as action. Brilliant ensemble, shown off with great technical mastery from Hitchcock. Tallulah Bankhead is so much fun to watch. Even in those constraints, it's interesting to see how much of Hitchock's personal touch is prevalent. Avoids the pitfall of being too propagandaish by injecting a touch of ambiguity as well, which I quite liked.

Unconquered
Unconquered(1947)

Boasts all the worst traits of DeMille and few of the best. Overlong, schlocky, poorly acted, and pretty much inert. The spectacle is dull and empty, Goddard is boring, and Coop is Coop. I like Coop, but in moderation, and with strong support. He hasn't got it here. It's not altogether woeful, and I guess Ward Bond gives it a bit of spark, but... bah. Disappointing.

Countdown
Countdown(1968)
½

Decidedly cruddy sophomore feature from Robert Altman. He obviously didn't pick up his distinctive style until MASH - this is just basically television. In Panavision. Small comfort. James Caan is kinda terrible, but Robert Duvall brings whatever he can to the table. The ending is perhaps one of the most anti-climactic I've ever seen.

Vampires Suck

Christ.

Extra points earned for the dead-on impersonation of Kristen Stewart.

Videodrome
Videodrome(1983)
½

Daft, sure, but there was no way it couldn't be. It's a lot of fun, and it's highly entertaining stuff - James Woods is terrific, and the pacing is almost perfect. It's brief too, which is good for a film like this. Although the film's subtext and commentary is very blunt, it retains some power that manages to overcome the inherent goofyness of the whole endeavour.

State of the Union

Capra essentially reworks this into a Mr. Smith redux, but it works like gangbusters. A great cast, with everyone firing on all cylinders. Van Johnson is surprisingly good as goofy comic relief. The Tracy/Hepburn thing isn't milked for all its worth, as it was in Adam's Rib, but it doesn't really matter, since they both get the opportunity to shine again. And it ends with a long Tracy diatribe as Hepburn watches on, tearing up... amusingly enough. But this is very solid later work from Capra I think... typical, preachy, and never boring.

The Honey Pot
½

A bit disappointing, given the stellar talent on tap, but still quite an entertaining feature - a sort of forerunner to Sleuth for Mankiewicz. As always, Rex Harrison is completely awesome, but Cliff Robertson is less effective, and is unfortunately... boring. I don't know that he was right for the role - it's a very difficult and unusual character... come to think if it, I don't know who would be right for it. Mankiewicz' stellar wit is on display here, perhaps not at the height of its power, but it is indeed there. All in all, it's a charming little diversion with some great little self-aware moments.

Tobacco Road
Tobacco Road(1941)

Aside from the unmitigated hotness of an underused Gene Tierney, this is just a waste. Too overtly comedic to succeed dramatically, and then in turn, the comedy is so shrill and idiotic that it's not amusing in the slightest. I hated all of the characters, except those played by future Preminger stalwarts Tierney and Dana Andrews. William Tracy earns the vast majority of my ire, though... shameless.

Manhattan
Manhattan(1979)
½

Loved it. Absolutely marvelous, and instantly my favourite Allen film. Above all else, it's visually resplendent - both Allen and Gordon Willis conjure up some beautiful images, with some of the best use of a 2.35:1 frame I've seen anywhere. The choice of Gershwin music is inspired, and the cast is uniformly excellent, although Mariel Hemingway's voice started to grate on me a bit. I want a High-Def copy of this quick-sharpish.

Swing Time
Swing Time(1936)
½

Lauded by some as the best of the Astaire/Rogers films, I can't help but feel that the Mark Sandrich efforts are a lot better. It might be due to the lack of Edward Everett Horton, but this just has less verve and humour to it, I think. And that's really what keeps me watching these things - not the opulent dance numbers that were obviously the main attraction back in the day. That being said, I think Stevens handles those parts better than Sandrich ever did. It's an OK film overall though.

The Tenant
The Tenant(1976)
½

Bloody mad and crazy. But great. When he wants to go all creepy, Polanski is unmatched, as far as I've seen. And he does... fairly well in the lead role. There are perhaps a few times that he doesn't stack up, but it's of no concern. The supporting cast is perfect, and the writing and direction is just wonderful. It's probably the least favourite of the apartment trilogy, at least for the moment, but I think it's the one that's easily most open to interpretation and discussion.

In & Out
In & Out(1997)
½

Pretty much what you'd expect from a mid-90s comedy. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and goes all over the place in terms of focus, but it's pretty funny. For every joke that misses, there are about two that hit. Or maybe 1.5. It's pretty much all Kevin Kline's show... he makes it work, although Tom Selleck is fairly amusing as well. The ending is very weak, though.

The French Connection II
½

Starts off pretty listlessly, but picks up for the second half. The heroin scenes are harrowing, and Hackman's performance is great, especially the extended dialogue of the "Mickey Mantle" scene. The film has less energy and verve than the original, which is a problem since that's what the original was really built on, but it's certainly nice to see Hackman reprise his greatest role. Perhaps a little underwhelming in the sight of its predecessor, but still quite serviceable and entertaining. And the ending is a corker.

The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (Die 1000 Augen des Dr. Mabuse) (Diabolical Dr. Mabuse)

Very, very excellent and awesome and stuff. That's my articulate summation. Basically a barrel of fun that is both progressive and a throwback. Loved Frobe, loved Werner Peters, loved Dawn Addams (Peter Van Eyck is perhaps a tad bland, but whatever). The characters are all so entertaining on their own merits, and the plot moves at a cracking pace. I enjoyed it so much that I think I really should go back and check out the few highly regarded Lang films I didn't give a fair shake (M in particular I watched while under a fever, and lapsed in an out of consciousness... not wise). But basically, a real kick-ass swan song, I'd say. And, more surprisingly - a great third installment in a trilogy.

The Straight Story

Great little film. I guess I'm seeing all of Lynch's uncharacteristic films before I get into his more typical work, but I'm enjoying it all the same (well... maybe not Dune). While outwardly simple, the film works in very very subtle ways, and Lynch's handling of fairly straightforward material is interesting. It's as though it's a story that could easily be handled by some hack and it would still work, but it's what Lynch brings to the table that makes it stand out. I'm also greatly amused by the opening title of "Walt Disney pictures presents a David Lynch film"...

Rhapsody in August
½

Good, but not great. Ultimately, it just feels way too blunt and simplistic in parts where it probably needed to be more modulated and nuanced. The agony of Nagasaki is basically forced down our throats, and while the film ultimately revolves around that, the more powerful moments are diluted by the continual references and reinforcements of the facts. Richard Gere managed to not annoy me though, so Kurosawa truly is a master.

Night and Day

Bleh. Fails to check either of the two essentials for a biopic - Interesting main character, and interesting story. I'm sure the truth of Cole Porter's life is much more interesting - this is just an excuse to whack a bunch of his tunes into a film and put bums on seats that way. The actors do what they can with the material, as does Curtiz, but it's overlong and just plain boring. Monty Woolley injects some life into proceedings though... playing himself.

The Milky Way
½

So ends the brief Harold Lloyd kick. While not as entertaining as The Cat's-Paw, this is a pretty charming screwball flick, and features the first enjoyable performance I've seen by Adolphe Menjou, even if he is just hamming his way through proceedings. Like The Cat's-Paw, the humour doesn't particularly come from Lloyd, as it does everyone else's reactions to him, which is quite disparate from how the silents worked.

Frankenstein
Frankenstein(1931)
½

Pretty much what I expected - not really an actor's showcase, and the story feels way too oversimplified and truncated, but it's fairly well-paced. Not to mention brief. The real star of the show is Whale, I think, who really knows how to ramp up the atmosphere. There's something about a Hollywood set of an exterior that is far creepier than an actual exterior.

The Cat's Paw

Racist, sure, but taken within its context, it's a lot of fun. Taylor's direction is very lively and engaging, and Lloyd does very well in a sound film. It's less zany than his silents, but perhaps more amusing, what with the satirical shift in material (and I likes me good satire). George Barbier is awesome, as well. A terrific little gem that deserves to be remembered.

Why Worry?
Why Worry?(1923)
½

Less charming than the other two Lloyd silents I've seen, and decidedly wacky in its intent. It starts off quite cleverly, with Lloyd bumbling through a revolution without realizing what's going on at all, and simply assuming that the natives are incredibly lazy. Then he gets dragged into the conflict, and it's probably less funny, but it moves along quite nicely. A mild diversion that only runs for an hour, and not really in the same league as the other Lloyd stuff I've seen, but pretty good nonetheless.

Girl Shy
Girl Shy(1924)

Not quite on the same level as Safety Last!, but still very enjoyable, and quite clever. Thin on plot, but Lloyd is very very entertaining to watch. It's all rather predictable, but the logistics of each situation is highly impressive. A charming film.

A History of Violence

Exemplary. Reminded me of Unforgiven. A lot. But that's a good thing. It could basically be a western, honestly - all the tropes seem to be there. The performances are all top-notch, and William Hurt kicks ass in an unconventional role for him. That guy can act more with just his eyes than most others can with their entire array of faculties. He just has to be cast right, I guess. I also loved Howard Shore's score. I've enjoyed Cronenberg's Oscar-bait - I guess it's time to get into his more typical work now...

Safety Last!
Safety Last!(1923)

A clever and brisk little comedy, the first of Lloyd that I've seen. I already like him more than Chaplin, that's for sure. It's very tightly written - everything seemingly happens for a reason, which is to be admired in that early stage of screen comedy. Lloyd himself is perfect, and best of all, it's genuinely funny.

Born to Kill
Born to Kill(1947)
½

Good little noir from Bob Wise, demonstrating his exceptional versatility. Trevor and Tierney are dynamite, and the rest of the cast acquits itself pretty well too. The film has a mean streak to it, something you wouldn't normally expect from Wise, but he pulls it off nicely. Some of the writing is very sharp as well.

The Great Lie

Typical WB Davis vehicle, that is only really buoyed by Mary Astor's electric performance. Surprising, given that she was the only lacklustre element of The Maltese Falcon that same year. She steals the movie from a bland Davis, and thank God she did - it's a film that sets up the potential for great drama, but ends up botching every opportunity. I don't think much of Goulding - while I'm sure he was a very prestigious studio hack in his day, his work doesn't date all that well.

Experiment in Terror

Excellent film, a slow-burning thriller that is meticulous in its build-up and pay-off. Edwards demonstrates innovation and invention in ways I never expected from him. Lee Remick. That's a sentence, right there. Some genuinely disturbing moments, and a great Mancini score... just a cracking piece of work that is more obscure than it should be.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
½

Didn't set my world on fire, but it was quite funny and exuberant. Bill Pope rocks. To be honest, when I left the theatre, I was still thinking about The Ghost Writer, but whatever. It's a nice enough film, but I can't really overcome the hipster element and embrace it fully. Standout performance: Chris Evans, channeling Will Arnett, it seems.

Wise Blood
Wise Blood(1979)

Interesting, but not really my cup of tea. I found it impenetrable at times, despite having a rich vein of black humour to it. Dourif is fantastic, and he really holds the feature together, but overall I think it's a tad disappointing. Boasts the wackiest Alex North score I've ever heard...

Don't Look Now
½

The first of Roeg's films that I've seen, and the verdict is... interesting, if not immediately captivating. I was impressed by the technical aspects of the film, particularly the cinematography and the editing, as well as the highly atmospheric quality to the film. I was, however, a touch bored (although mystified and somewhat compelled) for much of the runtime, until the last 5 minutes or so threw everything into perspective. It's a work I suspect I might enjoy much more on a second viewing.

The Ghost Writer
½

Hell yes. Loved it. Apart from Olivia Williams and the bit parts (Wilkinson, Belushi, Hutton, Wallach) I wouldn't call it an acting powerhouse per se, but it's an exceptional exercise in suspense and in generating suspense from a given environment. The ending is so good, that I might just be high on that, but I'd say that it's one of the best films of the year, comfortably.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Effective and economic film, the first I've seen from Ken Loach. Murphy's performance is exceptional - he truly is one of the most valuable players in the business at the moment. Barry Ackroyd creates some stunning imagery, and the story itself, while very much adhering to a tried and true formula, has power and weight to it.

Morning Glory
½

Fairly good film. Sherman's direction is uninteresting and at times ineffective, but the performances are uniformly strong. Particularly Doug Fairbanks Jr, who is really underrated I think. Hepburn's performance is quite memorable, but the ending is a tad ridiculous. Possibly the weakest of her four Oscar-winning turns, but they're all great.

Menace II Society
½

About on par with Boyz 'N The Hood - in that it's merely OK. I like the Hughes Brothers' style, and the cinematography was quite good, but the acting is a bit limp, with the exception of Jada Pinkett. The writing is also quite clunky in terms of progression and cohesion - it's a shame because the ending is so good, and almost makes up for the other inadequacies.

The Garden of Eden
½

Pretty good. Breezy and amusing - moreso than his later films, Milestone really knew how to hold the whole picture together. It's a shame that he lost that knack. This is pretty simple fare, but told well, I think, and reasonably well acted. Milestone's direction is fairly straightforward and workmanlike, but for this type of film that's all you really need. A pleasant enough viewing.

The Three Caballeros
½

Nifty and trippy little wartime feature. The only real standout is the title track, which is a lot of fun. The mixing with live-action is quite revolutionary and effective for its age, although you can really seams now, obviously. It gets really weird and wacky in the second half, and there's some bizarre and almost "Pink Elephants on Parade"-esque material. Overall, it has more in common with Fantasia than I would have predicted, although it's not really within the same parish as that classic.

Into the West
½

Jim Sheridan probably should have directed this, but overall it's perfectly serviceable family fare. Gabriel Byrne is awesome - one of the most underrated actors of the 90s. He even shines in utter turds like The Man in the Iron Mask, so when he's actually given good material, he really runs with it. Some great character actors pop up, including David Kelly, Jim Norton, and a young Brendan Gleeson as a corrupt cop. I thought the film could have done with a more distinctly western flavour instead of the very Irish feeling, just to hone what I think Sheridan was going for. I loved Newton Thomas Sigel's cinematography, as I often do, and Patrick Doyle delivers a memorable score. I'm not sure what Ellen Barkin was doing in the film though. Thankless role that she pulls off, but it just seems like odd casting.

The Nazis Strike
½

A bit dryer than the first film, but still quite engaging. Not very thoughtful though, but then it would be silly to expect such a thing. The monumental cock-up of Chamberlain et al feels like the centerpiece, but Capra and Litvak wisely avoid a holier-than-thou attitude in regards to that.

Five Graves to Cairo

Terrific stuff. Preachy at times, but Wilder maintains a good pace and some solid suspense, allowing the film to function without the context of war. Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter aren't the most nuanced performers, but I enjoyed watching them here, and Erich von Stroheim brings his usual level of awesome. And there was a young Peter Van Eyck as well, which was nice to see. The standout though, as he so often is for me, was Akim Tamiroff. Hilarious comic relief throughout the film, but the look on his face in the penultimate scene is heartbreaking. Wilder still seems to be finding his feet as a director, but I think this is a very solid early entry in his canon.

The Negro Soldier

Stifling and lame really, and it's disappointing, since the dramatized framework was interesting to start off with. It doesn't present any differences between the "Negro soldier" and any other soldier though, which is good, and in a historical context it might be important, but unlike the other film it feels quite redundant now. Which, again, is probably good.

War Comes to America
½

Good, but the series sorta runs out of steam at this point. The flag-waving is a little bit tiresome in the first half, but then it takes a surprisingly critical look at the American awareness of the war, and the delayed action of their participation. It's perhaps not as critical as it should be, but a welcome change nonetheless.

The Battle of China

I don't know whether it's a lack of greater knowledge of the context of the Chinese theatre of war, or something else, but this entry just feels limp in comparison to others. I was fairly bored throughout, and some elements, such as the Burma shenanigans, felt skimmed over.

Why We Fight - The Battle of Russia
½

Any doco that liberally uses clips from Alexander Nevsky is OK in my book. Almost as good as Divide and Conquer, but it really didn't need to be split up into two parts. A little bit too long perhaps, when taken in context with the other entries, but still quite informative and well-rendered.

The Battle of Britain
½

Maybe it's fatigue from having this stuff presented in a slightly more vigorous fashion in Guy Hamilton's Battle of Britain, but this certainly feels like a lesser entry in the Why We Fight series. Due to the nature of the campaign, it gets very monotonous very quickly. The footage is quite spectacular, though.

Why We Fight - Divide and Conquer

Outside of the first film, this is probably the best of the Why We Fight series, just because it outlines the push into France by the Germans with brevity and clarity. The animations are rather neat, and the whole thing is well-presented in layman's terms. For an American propaganda film, it's very exciting stuff.

Prelude to War, (Why We Fight, 1)

A very strong start to the series, with all the flag waving self-adoration you would expect from a Capra production. Naturally, everything is laid out with simplicity and bias, but it manages to be entertaining as well, thanks in no small part to the contribution of Walter Huston as narrator.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon(1991)

Atrocious. Shockingly so. Coming off being perhaps the best screenwriter of the 80s, I can't believe that Kasdan turned out this utter dreck. Every single character's behavior is utterly perplexing, and then they all take pains to explain out loud what they are feeling, and that makes even less sense. The inciting incident of the whole film rings false, and everything that follows does likewise. The thing with The Big Chill, despite its flaws, is that it presented interesting situations, and semi-charming characters. This does neither. It feels like Altman borrowed from it to make Short Cuts at times, but even if he did so, he made the far superior film. A tedious, thorough disappointment.

The Tamarind Seed
½

Well paced, well acted, and well written, but lacking in any real atmosphere beyond what Freddie Young and John Barry provide. Within 10 seconds of the film opening, there's a very Bondian aesthetic, with a Binder title sequence that presupposes his seminal work on The Spy Who Loved Me. I don't know that it's a particularly effective film, and maybe my irrational love of Edwards' films clouds my judgment, but I thought it was reasonably entertaining. Although the absence of Henry Mancini was quite odd.

The Company
The Company(2003)

Not really a proper film, just a showcase for dance sequences. The refusal to actually present characters and story is somewhat disappointing, but the film manages to hold together to a degree, and chugs along at a fairly good pace. Malcolm McDowell does well, everyone else is fairly bland, apart from the unprofessional actors, who are unsurprisingly believable. It works as an insight into the more technical aspects of ballet, but it's very thin stuff overall.

The Godless Girl
½

Typical, but engaging stuff from DeMille. It's as blunt as blunt can be, and laughably preachy - the wicked atheists are made to look right fools in front of the righteous and devout - but it is spectacular, and visually inventive. It's more grandiose than a film about juvenile delinquents has any right to be, but there's something amusing about the way that DeMille just bombards the audience until they accept his point and move on. Good fun, either way.

Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz(2007)
½

I loved this when I saw it in theatres, and nothing's changed. It has me in stitches from start to finish. I never would have thought that fusing Midsomer Murders with Bad Boys II would function as a film, but it works like gangbusters. As enjoyable as Pegg and Frost are, the real gold is in the supporting cast, which is chock full of people you would never expect to see in this kind of film. There's some sort of perverse joy in seeing Jim Broadbent and Timothy Dalton team up as bad guys. I think the Andys probably provide the most consistent laughs, but in general it's uproarious. It also works as an action film, which is unusual for a parody. Also, funny thing: David Arnold's score is quite an effective parody of modern action scores. And it sounds exactly like his Bond scores. I wonder how that happened.

The Road (La Strada)
½

A gem. I wasn't enamored with the other Fellini stuff I'd seen at all, but I really loved this one. Maybe it's the one foot in neo-realism that did it for me, but I found it very easy to connect to the characters, I cared about all three of them, and I was fascinated by the situations they found themselves in. A magnificent trio of performances from Quinn, Masina, and Basehart too - Basehart in particular being a revelation, his turn as the fool being about as far away from his 20th Century Fox persona as possible. It reminded me of seeing Richard Widmark as the Dauphin in Preminger's Saint Joan - an unexpected casting against type. This works much better though. I like the film more and more as I continue to dwell upon it, and in my book, that's a good sign.

Shaun of the Dead
½

Clever, novel, but not really my cup of tea. I liked it a bit more this time, but not by much. I think Pegg does a really good job, and that it's clear even from his debut that Wright will be a big name in the mainstream, but I just find it a very difficult film to engage with overall, and I don't find it overly funny. Also, Bill Nighy is completely underused - a criminal offense.

Green Card
Green Card(1990)
½

It is what it is. Better than a lot of romantic comedies of the period, that's for sure, and while it's probably the least significant or interesting of all of Weir's films that I've seen so far, I found it to be fairly enjoyable. MacDowell is predictably dull, but Depardieu is very effective and charming. Hans Zimmer meanwhile is apparently aping Maurice Jarre...

Come and See (Idi i smotri)
½

Utterly extraordinary. Almost hypnotic - it's not as though a whole lot happens, and yet it certainly doesn't feel like an overlong film at all. I was vaguely reminded of Ivan's Childhood at the start, but it soon moved into something else entirely. It's a very pure form of cinema. For all intents and purposes, it could have been silent and still have registered all its power. It would be something worth seeing on the big screen I think. I haven't quite seen anything like it before.

Iris
Iris(2001)

Oscar bait done right. Quite affecting, some career best work from the whole cast, particularly Broadbent. He basically carries the film, actually, so I'm surprised that he bagged a Best Supporting Actor trophy for his work... category fraud I'm sure. Eyre knows how to handle the material, it never gets bogged down in piss-farting about like so many other of these types of films do. Quite a pleasant surprise.

Pirate Radio (The Boat That Rocked)
½

Astonishingly lazy filmmaking. Curtis' minus Ben Elton gets very tired very quick. The jokes creak and groan, there's even a whole subset of reincarnated "Captain Darling" jokes except this time the guy is called "Twatt" (Jack Davenport, naturally). Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, and Rhys Ifans bring something to the table, but everyone else is just on autopilot. Curtis really should have looked closer at how the classic Ealing comedies worked - I think with that sort of model, this premise could have worked, but this thing just has no story, no conflict, no nothing. I'm all for feel-good films, but they've got to be at least life-affirming, and not make me want to self-harm. And Ken Branagh, sporting an Olivier-Circa-National Theatre look, makes a total fool of himself, and not in a charming way. That being said, I was amused that Emma Thompson cameos as the "protagonist"'s mother.

Annie Oakley
Annie Oakley(1935)
½

Yech. I hated Alice Adams, and this aint much of a follow-up for Stevens. We're invited in with the pretense of getting to learn about Annie Oakley, and instead we get some half-assed love triangle story that has nothing whatsoever to do with the real story of Annie Oakley. It's just utterly pointless from start to finish. Not to mention the awful, humiliating portrayal of Sitting Bull as the quaint comic relief. I feel like I'm alone in vastly preferring Stevens' 50s work to his earlier stuff, but to hell with it. As for Annie Oakley, I'd much rather watch Altman's Buffalo Bill and the Indians, any day of the week.

Young and Innocent
½

Nothing particularly remarkable, but it chugs along, the characters are entertaining, and it's all very Hitchcockian. Well, as much as it could have been in the 30s. Pilbeam is a looker, but not much of an actress - De Marney acquits himself slightly better. Overall, it feels a lot more stripped back and perfunctory than most of Hitchcock's films, but I can't say I wasn't entertained.

Steamboat Round The Bend
½

I'd call this a great family film if it weren't for the horrendous racist stereotypes. Shame about that, because otherwise it's quite a charming little diversion. It's perhaps a little bit disappointing considering that it's nestled in-between The Informer and Prisoner of Shark Island in Ford's chronology, but I suppose I shouldn't have expected a Will Rogers vehicle to be in the same parish. As he is in his other two collaborations with Ford, Rogers is a delight, and the whole deal is quite brisk. The support cast, outside of Eugene Pallette, is perhaps a bit weak, but Rogers takes the reins more often than not to steer the film back on course.

Street Angel
Street Angel(1928)

I think the more I see of Borzage's work, the more I enjoy him. His choices here are particularly inspired - one shot of Farrell looking on in despair while the silhouettes of a crowd mills past is very striking. Might be the best of Gaynor's triple-Oscar-winning performances of that year. Perhaps not quite as impressive as Seventh Heaven overall, and the story is decidedly simple and thin, but it's a beautifully crafted piece of work.

Out of Sight
Out of Sight(1998)

Cracking light thriller that is stylish and sexy, without being overly vapid and trashy. Clooney is great, and it's not difficult to see why he quickly became one of the biggest movie stars of the past 10 years. Lopez is a surprise - she acquits herself quite well, although it's not exactly an astonishing performance, it's a good one. The cinematography is beautiful, Coates' distinctive editing gives the film a unique flavour and, as a pleasant surprise, Michael Keaton pops up, reprising his role as Ray Nicolette. I haven't really enjoyed any of the other Leonard films however, so this is really the best of the lot in my opinion.

Tender Mercies

A familiar story, done in what still feels like a very fresh way. I haven't seen much of Beresford's work, but this is by far his most striking and unique work directorially. I don't think this is my favourite Duvall performance, not by a long shot, but it's a magnificent, restrained turn from him, and I generally like it when a film can avoid hysteria (such as The Remains of the Day). I do so loathe country music with a passion, but I was able to overcome that and really enjoy the film. Crazy Heart pales in comparison.

Donzoko (The Lower Depths)

As is expected, exceptionally solid work from Kurosawa. A totally different beast to Renoir's version, Kurosawa's film is far more downbeat, and its origins as a play are perhaps more apparent. Nevertheless, he manages to overcome the more stagebound elements by making the flophouse feel like a very real place, populated with all sorts of wonderful characters. The acting is uniformly great, and the ending is one of the most striking I've seen in a long time.

The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

Brilliant. Beautiful. Simple. Toy Story 3 has some serious Oscar competition. Some of the most charming animation I've ever seen, and told in such a pure fashion, with no dialogue to speak of at all. It's as emotional and profound as any other animated film I've seen in recent years, and the more I think about it, the more I think I loved it. When it gets released properly, I'm sure I'll go and take another look. One thing's for sure: I'm going to have to investigate the works of Jacques Tati.

Little Shop of Horrors

To its credit, the songs are good, so that checks the first box for any musical. And Steve Martin is a hoot, as are most of the "guest stars." To its detriment: everything else. You know it's troublesome when the only character you care about is the abusive scumbag boyfriend of the love interest. The leads are boring, it's not all that funny, and Oz's direction is just too stifling. I guess I liked the plant as well, but this is pretty lame.

Les Bas-fonds (The Lower Depths) (Underground) (Underworld)

Fantastic. La Grande Illusion I admired, but this I really connected to. Gabin is astonishing, as is the bulk of the cast, and Renoir's direction, while offbeat at first, really serves the material well. The duality of the story really appealed to me, and it's handled quite deftly. There's also a wonderful sense of place, and there are so many memorable characters - each of them is distinct, which is surprising given that the film runs for only an hour and a half, and some of them only appear in passing. Looking forward to seeing what else Renoir has to offer.

Young Winston

Surprisingly very good. I assumed it had fallen into obscurity for a reason - not so. While it's evident to see that Attenborough is already trying to be David Lean, a parish he wouldn't enter until Gandhi a decade later, this works wonderfully. I think if you can stage a grand epic biopic and propel it in such a way that it doesn't feel overlong, you've won. I think with biopics you've either got to have a great narrative or a great character - this falls into the category of the latter. Churchill himself is fascinating, even if the film overall really feels like Churchill Begins (it ends with him lighting what is presumably his first cigar. Then he jumps off a building and flies into the night.) Good cast as well - Simon Ward really does carry the film, which is another pleasant surprise, and Anne Bancroft's work here is really top-notch.

Dragonwyck
Dragonwyck(1946)
½

Not exactly a smashing debut for Mankiewicz, but a fine film nonetheless. Tierney is quite good, as usual, and I was surprised at how adept Glenn Langan was for his role. Vincent Price brings the goods in certain scenes, but I feel that he comes up short when the genuine drama comes to the fore. And Walter Huston is a joy as usual. I think Mankiewicz was really finding his feet as a director, and that's even evident in The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, which has more stylistic flourishes than his best work, but ultimately serves to be half-hearted and distracting.

Burnt by the Sun 2
½

It's called Burnt by the Sun 2 supposedly, but this print was simply called Exodus as far as I can recall. I ended up wishing I was watching Preminger's film instead. As a fan of the first Burnt by the Sun I can safely say that this is an utter load of tosh. There are some good sequences, but they're few and far between. The rest is just boring, pretentious nonsense that goes on for 2 and a half hours. I don't mind bad CG in arthouse flicks, but this had sequences built around the CG, and it just ends up turning those sequences into jokes. Most importantly, the character of Kotov is all but absent from proceedings, and when you're making a sequel to a film where he's the main attraction, that's a big mistake. This ended with "The end of part one" which makes me shudder to think what else lurks out there. IMDb lists the runtime as being a full three hours, so if I accidentally walked out on a half-hour second part, so be it.

Fitzcarraldo
Fitzcarraldo(1982)

Total insanity. Some of the craziest filmmaking I've ever seen. I wonder just how much of Herzog is reflected in Kinski's performance. Truly awe-inspiring stuff, and the most monumental achievement of the three Herzog films I've seen so far, although I found Aguirre and Rescue Dawn to be more immediately gripping. Narrow margin between them all so far, though... looking forward to delving deeper into Herzog's filmography.

Fat City
Fat City(1972)

Holy crap. I'd never even heard of this before, but it's exceptional. One of John Huston's finest films, without a doubt. Even at this later stage of his career, his direction has a lot of... virility to it, even though it very much feels like a product of the best kind of 70s filmmaking. Under Huston's experienced hand, Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, and Susan Tyrell all do great work, and Connie Hall's cinematography is unrivaled as usual. It's a boxing film, but with a hint of that Last Picture Show-style hopelessness and grit. It sorta reminded me of that film, and Five Easy Pieces, but also some kitchen-sink films as well. And it's one of those ones that I think I enjoyed the more I think about it, which is always a nice bonus.

The Haunting
The Haunting(1963)

Wow. I must admit, I'd never really thought of Wise as a stylist, but this is very impressive directorial effort. Chock-full of atmosphere, Wise's expertise and diversity is really apparent here, I think. The performances are very good, considering the genre, although I think Julie Harris overacts just a wee bit too much. Richard Johnson is awesome, as is Claire Bloom. Russ Tamblyn is just kinda... there, but he does well with what he's got. One of the more effective "horror" films I've seen.

Heaven Can Wait

Typical, but roundly excellent film from Lubitsch. The cast is terrific - Don Ameche, Gene Tierney, Charles Coburn, Eugene Palette, et cetera, and the colour cinematography is quite fetching. Some good laughs (and some passages of dialogue with hilariously dirty connotations, which I'm guessing wasn't a mistake), but also with some very strong bittersweet moments.

The Spirit of St. Louis
½

Starts off well, but really loses its lustre once it's actually covering the flight. Unusual material for Wilder to tackle, and although some portions display the same kind of visual knack he exhibited on better films, the whole thing feels insubstantial - which isn't good when you're running over 2 hours. The CinemaScope cinematography is impressive, and Stewart does well despite being way too old for the role, but overall, there's not much to recommend this. Taken within the constraints of the time it was made, and the type of film it is, however, it does have some merit.

Hour of the Gun
½

A more somber film than Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. A very different film altogether actually, but I find it interesting to compare a given filmmaker's coverage of a historical event, if they did it twice (a la Mankiewicz). I like Garner and Robards, but I don't know that they work all that well together. While I think the film is interesting, it's not altogether enjoyable. Some segments, however, are very good, and I think the writing is really top-notch. Perhaps Sturges was just a little too laid-back at this stage in his career. It supposedly hews closer to history - I guess I prefer the version that "printed the legend."

Body Heat
Body Heat(1981)
½

Tremendous update of Double Indemnity. Sharp writing and impressive direction from Kasdan, considering it's his directorial debut. Turner isn't particularly nuanced, but who honestly cares when she's strutting about in the nip? Hurt is very interesting, and brings all the idiosyncrasies that you would expect from him (although you wouldn't have so much "expected" them in 1981). I loved the cinematography as well, quite a striking looking film. The real star of the show, however, might just be John Barry. I won't say it's one of his best scores, because there are too many that I could call his "best," but this is a real cracker.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Excellent work. I understand the raving about Amalric now, at least to some extent. An novel approach to the material, that I think really works. Very naturalistic performances, no showboating (not that anyone really can in those circumstances). More focused than Before Night Falls, both stylistically and in its narrative, although I don't think one is leaps and bounds ahead of the other. Curious to take a look at the rest of Schnabel's work.

The Fearless Vampire Killers
½

Ugh. No thanks. While it's interesting to see a filmmaker bring his distinctive style to more farcical and lighthearted fare, this is just arduous, and only vaguely amusing. It's a shame, since it really picks up in the last half hour and has some energy to it, but everything beforehand is just painfully listless.

The Hallelujah Trail

Very disappointing. Lee Remick in a bathtub is one of the few redeeming features. Lancaster and Pleasance do well, but the rest is just a wash. At 2 1/2 hours, it's exceedingly tedious, unfunny, and most certainly not a demonstration of "how the west was fun." The cinematography is quite good, but Sturges just isn't suited to the material at all. I guess there's a reason that "Sturges comedy" doesn't refer to John.

The Cars That Ate Paris
½

Good Lord. Just stupid, and not charmingly so. This country's obsession with petrol is just plain embarrassing in retrospect. There's certainly some interesting ideas being thrown about by Weir, and some black humour, but the film just feels too stilted, and not kooky enough to genuinely work. Even at this early stage though, Weir demonstrates that he's got an inherently cinematic eye.

One, Two, Three

Great fun, one of Wilder's best laugh-out-loud ventures. Once it hits the third act, its pace is relentless, almost at the same rate as His Girl Friday (which makes it all the more disappointing that Wilder's The Front Page is so limp comparatively). One of Cagney's best turns as well, but the whole supporting cast is in top form, except perhaps Horst Bucholz, who was reputedly troublesome on set - and it shows to a degree. His grandstanding isn't as fun as Cagney's, and he just lays it on way too thick in certain scenes. But nevertheless, an excellent feature from Wilder.

Inception
Inception(2010)

Full-blooded moviemaking that puts all other mainstream features to shame. Apart from perhaps sex, this film has everything you could possibly want from a cinematic experience. It's the kind of film that reminds you why you shouldn't simply wait for the DVD. A uniformly excellent cast, spearheaded by perhaps one of DiCaprio's finest performances, and one of the most astonishing set-pieces ever with the hotel fight. A magnificent film that I look forward to seeing time and time again.

The Way We Were
½

Good film, I guess - well acted, well directed, and the script was obviously very tightly edited, but the thing has no real soul to it. Despite the best efforts of Pollack, Redford (who was surprisingly impressive) and Streisand, the whole thing just left me shrugging - it felt insubstantial at times, especially when it had no right to, dealing with HUAC and the like. That's interesting fodder, and it's explored here, but never really through to its conclusion. The history is merely the dressing for the film, but when it's at the center of the film's appeal, it should be more worthwhile, I'd think. Still, it's a far better romance from Pollack than [i]Out of Africa[/i], that's for sure...

The Fortune Cookie
½

Disappointingly limp work from Wilder; cynical but with no bite. From one point of view, it could be looked at as a comical version of Double Indemnity, except it's not especially funny (but a direct reference is indeed made). Even Lemmon isn't particularly interesting, but what buoys the whole show is Walter Matthau, delivering one of his best performances. He's on fire here, and he invigorates proceedings whenever he's on screen. A well-deserved Oscar win for him, but overall disappointing otherwise. I'm not overly excited by what I'm seeing of later Wilder, but I do hear good things about The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes...

Separate Tables

Excellent, although more of a triumph of Rattigan's writing rather than anything Mann brings to the... table. The casting is interesting... I think Lancaster and Hayworth acquit themselves fairly well, but Niven's work here is incredible, particularly in the last scene, which is perfect. I like that it's basically Niven playing off his own on-screen persona, but then subverting it. He displays a range of emotion I never thought possible from him. Wendy Hiller is similarly on top form, and the two of them won deserved Oscars for their work. The other nominee from the film was Deborah Kerr, and she's... awful. I'm shocked at how bad her work is here. It's overwrought to the point of being a joke. Massively disappointing turn from her.

The supporting cast is also strong, with Gladys Cooper being outright loathsome, Rod Taylor uncharacteristically providing comic relief, and Felix Aylmer doing what he always does - bringing the awesome in an unassuming and quiet way. One thing struck me though - the film is perhaps too brief if anything. There's material for a full 2 hours here.

Schizopolis
Schizopolis(1996)

A bizarre piece of work that is fascinating in fits and starts, but tedious at other times. I'm surprised at how adept Soderbergh is to actually performing - he's quite fun to watch actually, and the writing is very witty and humorous. Ultimately, while I think a lot of the ideas being brought to the table are fascinating and original, the film just doesn't really mesh in the way it needs to, and feels unsatisfying by the time it's over. I'd like to see it again though, at some stage.

The Dark Knight

An exhausting film, but in a good way. It's fully realized to a degree unlike any other work of popular entertainment made in recent times - it's a complete world that is well populated, and broad in it scope despite being largely constrained to a single city. I think, for me, it boils down to a story of three good men who unite to destroy the devil. The devil then takes the purest of them and corrupts him, by expounding on the compromises of the other two. There's something so... literary about that kind of story, something incredibly robust and strong. Remains my favourite of Nolan's films, and I doubt that a rewatch of "Inception" this Thursday will change that, but we'll see.