“I don’t need an invitation if there’s no house.” — Colin Farrell as Jerry Dandridge in Fright Night
|Hugo (2011, USA)
I read a few harsh reviews of this movie and even saw some Facebook and Twitter posts putting it down, and I don’t get it. Hugo is terrific, one of the best family films I’ve seen in years, genuinely worth watching, a movie with something to say. If this is the last movie Martin Scorcese makes, he’s going out on a high note. It’s an homage to the early pioneers of film, surprisingly educational and I believe historically accurate, and the story used to frame this history of early cinema — the story of the young boy Hugo — is full of wonder and beauty. The sets are marvelous, steam and ironworks galore, and the level of detail in the background — historical figures in the train station, little dramas playing out behind the main characters — is almost Terry Gilliam-like. Like I said, I don’t understand why some don’t like this movie, unless perhaps they simply don’t like seeing Sacha Baron Cohen on screen (I admit I don’t like being reminded of his existence either), but that is such a small thing to object to. Hugo is not merely marvelous, it gives good weight – you get your money’s worth, and more. I won’t just watch it again, I’ll pop for the Blu-Ray DVD and add it to my library!
|The Thing (2011, USA)
What the hell, I’ll give it three stars. It seems to be a prequel to the excellent 1982 The Thing, in that it deals with what happens at the Norwegian ice station prior to the start of the earlier movie, but really, it’s a remake in that the plot and action are essentially the same. But that is not meant to put it down. It’s scary, and that’s the whole point. If you were a fan of the 1982 version, you should enjoy this version as well.
|In Time (2011, USA)
Low budget made-for-TV-ish sci-fi flick with two attractive actors. Sadly, Timberlake and Seyfried weren’t enough to keep my interest, and the premise — that everyone’s maximum physical age is 25 — is belied by several actors who are clearly much older. Despite the gratuitous violence they throw in to keep your interest, the movie is excruciatingly slow-paced.
|The Ides of March (2011, USA)
When I saw that Clooney both starred and directed, my first thought was “vanity project,” but The Ides of March turned out to be a thoughtful and quite cynical movie about politics. I wouldn’t call it a political thriller, exactly – though the story is entirely fictional, it feels truthful, almost like a docudrama. The pacing is slow and deliberate, but the revelations keep coming, and it builds suspensefully toward a climax of personal betrayal and compromise. After watching this I never want to dirty my soul by participating in the political process again, and I suspect that will be your reaction as well.
|Inside Job (2010, USA)
Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel said of Inside Job: “This scathing expose should be enough to alarm people all over the political spectrum.” Well, it obviously isn’t alarming enough, because no one has done a damn thing about the greed, corruption, inverted values, and outright criminal activity that decimated our 401Ks and home values four years ago. Not one damn thing. This is about the third scathing expose of Wall Street I’ve seen, and all they do is frustrate me. Yes, it’s good … but if no one is going to do anything about the underlying crimes, what’s the point?
|50/50 (2011, USA)
This one sat on top of my DVR for two weeks. I kept putting off watching it because, you know, cancer … but when I finally got around to watching it I was amused, touched, and moved. I did not expect 50/50 to be so good. I’m glad it was. Do watch it.
|The Adventures of Tintin (2011, USA)
Some critics characterize this movie as a frenetic whirlwind of spectacular action with nothing at its core. Well, you could equally say that about any of the Indiana Jones movies. Screw that high-minded nonsense; if you want core go watch Jane Eyre. I wanted a frenetic whirlwind of spectacular action, and Tintin delivered. Not only that, the enhanced-by-some-kind-of-computer-animation-magic scenes are fabulous, the stuff of dreams. I could spend hours looking at the detail in the background. Great fun. Will I remember the storyline a year from now? Who cares!
|Special (2006, USA)
Don’t know how I missed hearing about this movie, apparently the inspiration for Woody Harrelson’s more recent Defendor. Unlike Defendor, the deluded superhero of Special is not a man of limited intelligence; instead, he’s a solitary underachiever who enters a state of drug-induced schizophrenia wherein he believes he has superpowers and can read minds telepathically. Otherwise Defendor pretty much copied Special (I now like Harrelson’s movie less, knowing it ripped off so much of this one). You can interpret Special in many different ways; probably the easiest take is that Les simply imagines everything. But the script leaves you an out if you want to believe some of what Les experiences is real, and that’s fun too. I’d rate Special higher if only I understood the final scene. Knowing whether Les is simply insane or has become an actual superhero is the key to the ending, and I didn’t have the key.
|Tower Heist (2011, USA)
This was better than I thought it would be, especially after viewing the trailers on the DVD, all of which were aimed at a 10- to 12-year-old audience. The cast is engaging, and it’s fun to see Eddie Murphy up to his fast-talking tricks again. But the story is so full of holes and logical gaps, there’s no suspense … nothing in this movie could possibly happen in real life, and that left me feeling empty, as if I had dined on air. One thing, though: Alan Alda plays a sociopathic Bernie Madoff type, and it hit me that he’d be awesome if they ever make a serious docudrama about the man. Maybe this was a practice run? Hey, I can hope.
|Fright Night (2011, USA)
That rarest of rarities, the good vampire movie. This one, I’m pleased to note, includes bits of vampire lore not normally seen on screen, and seems to be at least partially based on Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s novels The Strain and The Fall (I know there’s a third but I have not read it). So not only does this movie contain rarified vampire lore, it gets right down to business when Jerry, the vampire master next door, comes a-knocking (hint: don’t let him in). There’s also an abundance of tongue in cheek humor, as when Charley, Amy, and Jane run down the vampire while trying to escape, and the vampire, clinging to the bottom of the car, claws through the floorboard of the car. Charley, horrified, says “It’s a fucked up vampire hand,” and Jane, his mother, says “Charley, fucking kick him!” Good stuff. I could watch this again.
© 2012, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.