“When daddy kill me I won’t be forgotten. I’m recording my story for the scientists in the future. In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub.” — Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild
|Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012, USA)
A lot of this film is metaphor and archetype, and I’m not sure how far we’re supposed to take it. I guess the question is whether the film has something to say to us beyond merely stirring our emotions, which it does in a powerful way. When the aurochs catch up with Hushpuppy and she masters her fears, you know you’re witnessing something important. Maybe the movie is also trying to tell us to be less judgmental, to accept life as it is lived by many and to see the beauty in it. If so, it says that rather well. It’s a beautiful, haunting, sad but sometimes funny movie. Hushpuppy, like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, will move into your head and stay there. I hope the young actress gets her Oscar.
|The Front Line (2011, S. Korea)
If you’re into war flicks, this is a great one, right up there with Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. But it’s probably not like the war movies you normally see, since it tells about the Korean war from a perspective Americans don’t know much about and generally don’t ever think about: the Korean one. The story follows two small units, one South Korean, one North Korean, as they fight again and again for possession of a hill along what will become the border between the two countries; one side taking possession, then the other, always with great loss of life and destruction. This was Korea’s Civil War, and the movie, at least to this American, conjures up names like Antietam and Gettysburg. Definitely one for the guys, violent and disturbing, but deep and meaningful.
|Cloud Atlas (2012, USA)
I wasn’t going to comment on Cloud Atlas until I’d re-read the novel and perhaps taken in a second viewing of the movie, but I’ll offer a few highly subjective comments now, pending a full review. Explaining the novel would take too much space, other than to say it contains six interwoven stories from separate eras, moving from a sea voyage in the mid-1800s forward to a post-apocalyptic future, then back again, stressing the interrelatedness of all of us, present, past, and future, and presenting a strong argument for being good: the message is a moral one. I think the directors got it right and stayed as faithful to the novel as they could. They abandoned the one-through-six and back again structure of the book, breaking the stories into smaller segments with frequent jumps back and forth, but I think that makes the story more comprehensible to viewers, many of whom will never read the book. I initially didn’t like seeing the same actors playing different roles (Tom Hanks plays six characters; Jim Sturgess plays seven), but as the movie went on I got why the directors did it and began to appreciate their idea. All in all, I loved it. And as I said, I will definitely see it again.
|Prometheus (2012, USA/UK)
Not just another installment in the Alien franchise, but a movie with real meaning. Or so they said. Apart from a few ritual mentions of religion and the origin of mankind, what I saw was just another installment in the Alien franchise. Sexy girl in underwear fighting off a terrifying thing? Check. Interior of alien craft with huge gun? Check. Dank & dripping tunnels that look like they’re made of guts? Check. Severed android head laying on the floor and speaking? Check. Face octopus? Check. Tell you what, though, special effects just keep getting better, and the effects here are so good the movie’s worth watching for that reason alone. Well, that and Noomi Rapace. Okay, forget the special effects. Noomi.
|Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2012, UK)
I normally don’t have much to say about romances. I rarely watch them unless forced to by my wife. But I have yet to see a bad Ewan McGregor movie, so I ordered this one on my own and forced my wife to watch it. We both loved it. The story almost verges on being educational, the scenery is gorgeous, the acting is fine, and the romance isn’t too cloying. This is one most guys can watch, I think. With their wives.
|Moonrise Kingdom (2012, USA)
Very sweet, scaled perfectly to the small kingdom briefly shared by pre-teen heroes Sam and Suzy. Where Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited was messily adult, Moonrise Kingdom is an adult vision of pre-pubescent childhood, right down to the elaborate dollhouse set of Suzy’s parents’ house, reminiscent of the cutaway ship set from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I guess all Wes Anderson movies fold in on themselves, full of references to earlier movies … that at least is how I saw a lot of this movie, with bits reminding me of this and other bits reminding me of that. Suzy’s dad (Bill Murray) reminded me of the patriarch in The Royal Tennenbaums; Sam reminded me of the kid in Rushmore; I’m sure references to Bottle Rocket and The Fantastic Mr. Fox were in there too. If you love Wes Anderson movies, you’ll love Moonrise Kingdom.
|Men in Black 3 (2012, USA)
Remembering the second sequel, I came to the third with low expectations but came away happily surprised. I guess that’s how it goes with sequels … the second one always sucks; the third gets back to what was so good about the first one. In this case the good stuff is not the aliens but the backstory of how Agents K and J came to be what they are, and there are some cool revelations, especially at the end. Josh Brolin playing a younger Tommy Lee Jones is a hoot, and Emma Thompson … wow! Men in Black 3 is good fun.
|Safety Not Guaranteed (2012, USA)
I could be mean and say that in this movie Mark Duplass plays John Krasinski and Aubrey Plaza plays Ellen Page, but I won’t. True, much about this movie is derivative of other off-beat indies, but it has its own charm and the time-travel angle is interesting. Actually I wish the screenwriters had included a segment on what happens after the jump … the movie is so short, another 15 minutes would have been enjoyable … but since the makers wanted to concentrate on the romance more than the time travel, the ending is satisfactory as is. My wife and I both enjoyed watching this.
|Looper (2012, USA/China)
I expected some decent sci-fi but didn’t see anything here that hasn’t been chewed over in other time travel movies, and sadly enough the cars and gadgets of the notional year 2044 are cheesy and fakey. People want to see Bruce Willis doing his Die Hard thing, blood on his face and a machine gun in each hand, blowing away bad buys left and right. Looper gives ’em what they want. Want some Matrix along with your Die Hard? You’ll love the long black leather dusters worn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s fellow time travelers. Want some Carrie? Here, have a vengeful telekinetic child! It hit me strongly, about halfway through, that nothing about this movie is sincere: it’s meant to make money, not to blow your mind. Looper is entertaining enough for what it is … but don’t get your hopes up.
|Killer Joe (2012, USA)
The full title is Killer Joe: A Twisted Redneck Trailer Park Murder Story, and that’s exactly what it is. I am so tempted to give Killer Joe four stars: I know I’ll watch it again and again, like Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers. Sometimes I sit down to watch a movie about low-lifes and can’t get past the first 20 minutes. The low-lifes in this movie got their hooks into me right away. Not so my wife: the squalor, nastiness, sudden and shocking violence, and dark sexual themes drove her from the room, and I’ve never known her to voluntarily avert her eyes from Matthew McConaughey. But me? I couldn’t not watch. So what’s the difference between this trailer trash movie and all the others? Black humor, and plenty of it. If you’re a Pulp Fiction fan, you’ll love this movie. But be warned, it truly is a celebration of evil.
Knew It Was Crap But Watched It Anyway
|The Expendables 2 (2012, USA)
Simple-minded action for the kind of couch potato who watches WWF on TV and actually believes Hollywood “tough guy” actors have real life cred. I suppose it’s meant to be tongue in cheek, but the movie is so cheesy and slapdash I can’t even appreciate it ironically, as I might something they’d show on MST3K. Utter, utter trash. Sometimes I shame myself, the shit I watch.
© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.