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Monthly Report: December 2012

In the middle of the christmas hoopla, I found a surprisingly large amount of time for movies. At 30 films seen, December is probably my most intense month of the year cinematically speaking. Surprising indeed. There was a lot of good stuff, and little that was outright bad, so it’s a good slew of movies to close out the year with.

American Reunion (Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, 2012)
Well, it’s better than the last four straight-to-DVD American Pie films. Not that that’s saying much. The nostalgia factor is what makes American Reunion work, in two ways. First, by having the audience remember the first parts of the series, and then by having a fondness for the old times be a centerpiece of the plot as well. It’s a good thing this is handled effectively, because the actual humor is often derivative, and while there are certainly some laughs to be had here, they don’t always hit the mark. If this is the end of the series, it’s a respectable way to close the doors, at least. Except there’s reportedly another film being planned, so I guess not. God damn it.
3/5

The Grey (Joe Carnahan, 2011)
What a terrific survival film. All the visceral elements were extraordinarily well done. I felt the plane crash. I felt the snow. I felt the cold water. And then there’s the wolves, who are as menacing as any movie monster I’ve seen in recent memory (except maybe the shark in Jaws.) Add in the spiritual elements of the story, and you have one great awesome package of a film. I mean, hell, it made me spontaneously applaud in my couch. That never happens.
5/5

Silent Night (Steven C. Miller, 2012)
Malcolm McDowell is really funny here in an Alan Rickman Sheriff of Nottingham way, where it seems like he’s not even part of the same movie as everyone else. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is weak humdrum slasher stuff. Skip this one.
2/5

harry_brown03

Harry Brown (Daniel Barber, 2009)
Gran Torino‘s story in Attack the Block‘s setting, only with the violence ramped way up and with Michael Caine in the lead. This is certainly to oversimplify things, obviously, but it should give you some idea of what the film’s about. While the subject of a retiree turning vigilante is a field ripe for social commentary, there’s nothing done along these lines. No, this is a bloody revenge thriller through and through, and as such, it works really well. Caine is great, and it’s a treat to see him in a lead role these days.
4/5

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Posted by on 2 January, 2013 in Monthly Report

 

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The Films I Watched In 2012 Awards

With 2012 drawing to an end, it’s time for my second annual year end awards. Just like last year, I have not had time to fully delve into all the films released this year to the degree I would like to, so I once again focus on what I saw this year, no matter when it was released.

Thus, I’m happy to present A Swede Talks Movies’ The Films I Watched In 2012 Awards!

I saw 204 movies this year (not counting rewatches), which is a slight step down from last year’s 229. This is fine, and expected. In matters not movie-related, this year was busier than the last one for me. I still got a lot of good watching done, knocking off some long-standing entries from my List of Shame, starting to explore new directors like Buster Keaton and Ingmar Bergman, venturing into Iranian cinema for the first time, and much more.

So without further ado, here are some random silly highly prestigious categories, and their respective victors!

Skärmavbild 2012-12-28 kl. 14.18.03Best Beatdown of a Puny God Award
Winner: The Avengers

I’m sure mine wasn’t the only theater in the world to erupt with laughter when Hulk went to town on Loki. I could hardly breathe myself due to laughing so hard. Unexpected, brutal, and hilarious. Surely one of the greatest moments in 2012 film.

Skärmavbild 2012-12-28 kl. 14.29.27Walken Award for Best Show-Stealing Performance In A Bad Film
Winner: Malcolm McDowell – Silent Night

Silent Night was quite the run-of-the-mill slasher flick, with nothing remarkable taking place throughout its running time. Nothing, that is, except for Malcolm McDowell as grumpy and in-charge Sheriff James Cooper. He is wildly off-key compared to the rest of the cast, chewing the scenery at every turn, and the writers seem to have expected this, as they’ve given him way funnier lines than anyone else in the film. “Big mistake: bringing a flamethrower to a gun fight!” If there is a reason to see the movie – and to be perfectly frank, there isn’t really – it’s McDowell.

GoodFellasBest Film That I Should Have Seen A Long Time Ago Award
Winner: Goodfellas
Runner-up: Jaws

I would say that Goodfellas and Jaws are the two movies I’ve gotten the most “You haven’t seen that one!?” comments about these last few years. It feels good to have finally gotten around to them, especially since both turned out to be pretty great films. Goodfellas is the richer of the two in my eyes, but it’s a close call. Prediction: If this category returns next year, I’d say Schindler’s List might be a potential frontrunner.

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Posted by on 30 December, 2012 in Year End Awards

 

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Monthly Report: July 2012

As I warned in my last blog post, my blogging is currently kept at a low pace. I spent last week in sunny Bulgaria, relaxing and having a good time, and now I’m currently in the middle of moving to my new apartment. I hardly find time to watch any movies, let alone write about them. Hell, I haven’t even found the time to check out The Dark Knight Rises yet. Sad face.

Still, I did get to satisfy my cinematic hunger earlier in July. The yearly local fair was in town, and that’s always a good place to pick up cheap DVDs. The selection isn’t excellent and is mostly comprised of newer releases, which is a large part of why I only watched two films the past month that were made earlier than 2009. So much for expanding my horizons. The two older films were among the best I saw this past, funnily enough.

Limitless (Neil Burger, 2011)
An appealing what-if scenario: what if you had a pill that makes you super-smart, highly focused, and gives you flawless memory? The mind spins with thoughts of what one could accomplish with such a thing. Limitless has Bradley Cooper get his hands on a pill like this, and then tells a story that may not be all that clever, but which is certainly not boring. I could have done with less stupidity exhibited by the supposedly hyper-intelligent protagonist, and the narration rears its ugly head a bit too often, but this is a flashy and fun thriller nonetheless. I was entertained.
3/5

Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)
This is my kind of crime movie. Smart, funny, fresh, and peppered with actual characters rather than plot chess pieces. Hell of a cast too, with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez threatening to immolate the movie with their mad chemistry. Possibly my favorite Soderbergh.
5/5

Welcome to the Rileys (Jake Scott, 2010)
A well-acted grief drama with the occasional funny bits. The main drawback here is a story that, while told well, isn’t particularly interesting. Parents have lost their child, then the guy happens upon a surrogate, and… that’s kind of it. It’s an enjoyable watch, but not very memorable.
3/5

The Hangover Part II (Todd Phillips, 2011)
I will give some credit here for showing that the characters have learned something from their ordeals in the first movie, but this also presents a problem that shows that a sequel to The Hangover is a pretty bad idea. In the first one, the three heroes were trying to find their missing friend. The friend is essentially a MacGuffin, but there’s also a definite fascination present with finding out just what the hell happened during the night, and the hows and the whys. In this second film, however, it’s as though they don’t care to the same extent. “Yeah, crazy shit went down, but whatever. Been there, done that. Let’s just find our buddy.” The film becomes all about the MacGuffin, and most of the plot ends up an irrelevant tangent. Other issues include a way too similar structure to the first one, and the fact that the majority of the jokes fall flat. This is a very lazy sequel to a really funny film.
2/5

Devil (John Erick Dowdle, 2010)
If judged as a horror movie by the amount of scares and atmosphere it provides, this one falls short. As a whodunnit mystery, however, it works well enough. Not that the payoff is necessarily satisfying, but the ride towards it is fun, with enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Sometimes the chase is better than the catch, after all. Decent film overall.
3/5

Let Me In (Matt Reeves, 2010)
A very cool vampire movie that blends its supernatural horror effectively with a coming-of-age story. Suitably creepy, with some good acting to boot, particularly from young Chloe Moretz. And yet despite all this, it’s hard for me to call this movie worthwhile in a world where the Swedish film Let the Right One In, which is based on the same novel, exists. Mostly everything that Let Me In does well, Let the Right One In does a bit better, and there’s not enough real difference between the two to make Reeves’ film an interesting alternate take on the story. This one gets a good grade, but I’d still recommend you stick to the Swedish movie.
4/5

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Robert Schwentke, 2009)
One thing among many that I liked about this time travel romance was how it plays things different from most time travel flicks. For me, the appeal of many movies in the genre is to discover the cool solutions the film-makers have come up with to deal with the obstacles in the story. In The Time Traveler’s Wife, the really intriguing thing is how much effort have been spent to think of the obstacles themselves, and then resolve them according to the rules of the plot and in as logical a fashion as possible. It’s hard to explain properly, but it makes for a different and fascinating experience. I wish the film would have been a little slower, though. Some breathers here and there to mull over the implications of everything would have been welcome. Still, this is a clever and touching film, and certainly a better time travel romance than, say, Kate & Leopold.
4/5

Gamer (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, 2009)
No movie that has as much stuff going on as this one should be this damn boring. Dumb plot, and the worst of quick-cut shaky-cam action. Massively disappointing, considering how much I adore Crank from the same directing duo. To hell with this film.
1/5

Get the Gringo (Adrian Grunberg, 2012)
I like the idea of a Mexican prison that’s more like a mall for bums than a correctional facility. The story starts out well enough, but it loses steam early on thanks to predictable plot elements and uninteresting characters. Mel Gibson tries his hardest to salvage things with the kind of Gibson-y performance one might expect from him – think Payback with worse material – but it’s just not enough.
2/5

Lockout (James Mather & Stephen St. Leger, 2012)
The opening scene of Lockout has Guy Pearce‘s character being interrogated. He keeps mouthing off smartass comments, earning himself repeated punches to the face. This is fun, but it’s all downhill once you realize that he’ll keep spewing “wise”cracks the whole film through. Like, every single time he opens his mouth. It gets old really fast. The rest of the characters are equally annoying, the sci-fi prison story is a confoundingly dumb one and takes forever to get going, the action is sparse and lackluster, and the ending is an exercise in contrivance. It’s one thing for an action film to be stupid and insubstantial, but this one is also really dull. Avoid!
1/5

Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011)
A harrowing and visceral experience, genuinely unsettling and quite mystefying. Compelling from start to weird ending. I can’t even begin to explain the film, but I certainly found it fascinating. Give this one a go. You might not like it, but it’s worth that risk.
4/5

The Raven (James McTeigue, 2012)
First of all: I know this is John Cusack‘s flesh and blood on the screen, but the whole performance is so Nicolas Cage, in everything from the random shouting to the hair. Now then, the movie. Without looking anything up, I’m going to assume that a certain degree of liberties were taken with the life of Edgar Allen Poe for this one. Maybe he really was some kind of sleuth towards the end of his life and had to deal with the kidnapping of his girlfriend and a serial killer who patterned his murders after Poe’s stories, though I doubt it. This film is a pretty solid yarn. Not great, but it satisfies for the moment.
3/5

Rites of Spring (Padraig Reynolds, 2011)
Weak horror of the slasher variety. The acting is uneven, and the reliance on Dutch tilts gets quite annoying. These problems are especially prominent in the films early goings where the focus is on the dual storyline of an abduction and a kidnapping. I was ready to call this movie terrible at this point, but it does pick up a bit after the halfway mark or so, when the proverbial shit hits the fan and the action ramps up. It doesn’t become great or even particularly good, but it shows a certain focus by the people involved, and it’s clear that they know what they want to do. I still wouldn’t recommend this film, but credit where credit is due.
2/5

Made (Jon Favreau, 2001)
A spiritual sequel to Doug Liman‘s superb Swingers. Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn once again play a set of best buddies, though the dynamic here is different with Favreau in serious taking-care-of-business mode and Vaughn as an obnoxious fuck-up. The realistic tone from Swingers is kept intact, though the plot here is of the crime variety. The true strength of the movie is Vaughn, who so convincingly plays the kind of character you just want to slap in the face to try to lessen the stupidity that flows forth from within him. The story itself doesn’t matter as much as the ways his character messes it up, and it makes for a fresh take on the genre. Made is also worth seeing for Peter Falk‘s teriffic supporting turn as a low-rung gangster boss.
4/5

Detention (Joseph Kahn, 2011)
While not a complete success on all fronts, this rapid-paced parodic blend of both high school films and slasher flicks definitely can’t be faulted for not having its own identity. The jargon employed by the characters get a bit too much at times, and the ridiculous plot contrivances toward the climax serve little purpose, but I applaud the effort of trying to do something different. Kahn’s past experience with making music videos is apparent throughout, but this still feels like a confident piece of filmmaking. Enjoyable.
3/5

Total # of new films seen: 15
Average score: 2.9 / 5
Best film of the month: Out of Sight
Worst film of the month: Lockout

 
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Posted by on 2 August, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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Review – Prometheus (2012)

I wasn’t keeping up with all the advertising for Prometheus that arrived before its release. I saw a trailer for it at cinema once, and a friend insisted that I just had to see this one clip of Guy Pearce giving a speech. Neither told me a whole lot. I skipped the rest of all the viral marketing stuff, for the usual reasons. I went in knowing precious little about this movie, and having now seen it, I’m convinced this was the right course of action. There is nothing to be gained by having knowledge of a film where the lack of knowledge plays such an integral part.

Comparisons between Prometheus and Alien are inevitable. Prometheus was first conceived to be a prequel installment in the Alien saga, but then reports came in that no, it wouldn’t be, but it would be like an “embryo” to Alien. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is between those two phrasings, but whatever. Even so, Prometheus is indeed a sci-fi movie made by Alien director Ridley Scott. It isn’t Alien, but there are times where it’s certainly trying to be. Not even counting certain broad strokes in the plot department, there are enough blatant references and callbacks throughout the film that anyone who has seen Alien before will be reminded of it, even if they have no prior knowledge of who directed it.

Set in the end of the 21st century, a science expedition from Earth searching for the origin of mankind arrives at a distant planet. Then stuff happens. How’s that for a spoiler-free plot synopsis? No, you don’t want to know anything more.

There is a lot of things I like about Prometheus, and the part that has really stuck with me these 1.5 days since I saw it is the acting. Two performances in particular stand out. The most immediately striking is that of Michael Fassbender in the role of the android David. Mannered, polite, efficient, and with movements that are just a tad off for a human being. And yet there are depths to the character, both of intent and of emotion. The other strong performance is that of Noomi Rapace, of Millenium trilogy fame. I had been a bit concerned about the Swedish actress’ transition to Hollywood; she did okay in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, but her character was so flat and unnecessary that she might as well not have been in it at all. Not the kind of thing to jump-start a new phase in one’s career. Her Prometheus performance is just what the doctor ordered, however. She plays Elizabeth Shaw, an archaeologist whose religious beliefs gives her added incentive to take part in the expedition. Particularly in the second half of the movie, Rapace shows a great affinity for the action genre with teriffic sustained power. Here is where her performance rivals her star-making one as Lisbeth Salander, and if this doesn’t lead to more big roles for her, I don’t know what will. That she does this without her character coming off as merely Ellen Ripley 2.0 is all the more impressive.

Without going into spoiler-y specifics, there are scenes in this film that I found almost spellbinding in their own ways. Some parts are pure visual spectacle to ooh and aah at. Others made me clench my teeth in suspense. Above all else, however, it’s the mysterious nature of everything that really got to me. There are times where Prometheus feels really nightmarish in a way, where you’re tossed from one situation to the next and aren’t sure what’s really going on at all. Highly effective stuff, and this is where I’m glad I stayed away from most of the promotional material. It felt like anything could happen. The film also doesn’t shy away from presenting some interesting thematic questions. Why is there this need for these people to find out who their creators are? What does the human-created android think about this? It all adds further weight to the more visceral moments of the movie.

Prometheus isn’t flawless, however. The first third or so of the film is a bit lacking. A movie like this needs a set-up phase to explain some of its key concepts and introduce its characters, but this one doesn’t quite keep things as interesting as one might hope. Compare this to Alien, where a similar portion keeps piling on a sense of foreboding dread more effectively. Another issues I had was with some of the dialogue, which feels stilted and awkward. I’m not ruling out that this was intentional – something to show the difference between our time and the future – but it’s still more distracting than immersive.

The dialogue problem is reasonably easy to look past. But had its first act been stronger, I wouldn’t hesitate to put Prometheus up there with the original Alien film in terms of personal enjoyment. As it is, it doesn’t quite measure up. The atmosphere isn’t quite as thick, and while the plot engages the mind to a better extent, it lacks something of Alien’s sheer gutsiness.

That said, it puts in a more than admirable effort. After all, “not as good as Alien” doesn’t say a whole lot considering what a great film that one is, and I wouldn’t even be comparing the two if Scott didn’t make it clear that he wanted there to be connection between the two. Standing on its own to legs, Prometheus is a thrilling and captivating sci-fi flick, and one well worth seeing in theater to get the full scope of what it wants to show you.

Score: 4/5

A closing note on the 3D: Don’t bother with it. There is a scene or two where it really adds something to the movie, but for the most part, it’s neither here nor there. I wouldn’t shell out the extra cash for it.

 
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Posted by on 4 June, 2012 in Reviews

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2000

The 10 movies on this list might not average out as the best movie year of all time or anything, but it is extremely top-heavy. The top three films here are ones I really truly adore for different reasons, and would all have a good shot at making the grade were I to compilea Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time list. They’re that good, and they’re all from the same year.

As this list series of mine now gets set to leave the aughts and head into the 90s, we’re entering years where more films I saw for the first time back in the day will show up more. As I talked about in my post on how I became a movie lover, the 2000s were largely a dead zone for me in terms of film-watching, and the majority had to be caught up with in the last few years. I watched more movies in the 90s, many of which still hold up to this day. This presents interesting dilemmas with determining how much of my appreciation for these films is due to nostalgia. In some cases, just remembering the films can be tricky. For instance, #8 on this list is a film I think I saw in theater at the time and later bought on VHS (remember those?), but I haven’t seen it in over 10 years. Can I be certain that #8 is the right spot for it on this list? Sure I can. My memories of the film places it above #9 and below #7 at this moment in time. Opinions and likings always change, sometime from day to day. But this list reflects what I feel today. And today, I look back on #8 very fondly indeed.

Note: This list goes by the release years listed on IMDB.

10 – BEST IN SHOW (Christopher Guest)

“Now tell me, which one of these dogs would you want to have as your wide receiver on your football team?”

All of Christopher Guest‘s mockumentaries are worth seeing, but Best in Show is the sharpest one in my book. This film revolves around a dog show, and we are introduced to a number of the off-beat characters who compete in it. It’s a laugh riot, and since most of it is improvised, the whole movie is imbued with a fairly naturalistic feel. Cast stand-out: Fred Willard as a spectacularly incompetent commentator.

9 – CAST AWAY (Robert Zemeckis)

“Hello! Anybody?”

The opening part does drag a bit, and while I personally love the ending, some have decried it as being overly melodramatic. What most everyone agree on is that the middle part, the real meat of the movie, is superb. It’s just Tom Hanks being forced to survive on a desert island by himself. It takes skillful hands both behind and in front of the camera to keep things interesting despite only having one character on screen, and Robert Zemeckis and Hanks pull it off masterfully. Cast Away also accomplishes the significant feat of making audiences care deeply about… a volleyball.

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Posted by on 8 February, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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