12 Months of Movies 2010: D-F

It was around this time that I realised that I saw a fair few French films this year and that a lot of them did nothing for me. How can I be against French cinema? Truly,  I am a monster! Animation makes a strong showing, idiots leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth.

Date Night to Four Lions!

Date Night

Have you noticed that so many comedies are either anaemic or just totally terrible? Date Night leans towards the former, but strong performances from its leads anchor it towards the acceptably funny. Where Date Night gets it most right is by having already married off Carrell and Fey. The “let’s spice up our marriage oh no hit men!” concept is much better than the “we’re middle aged and we’re on our first date and it’s not going so well and oh no hit men!”

With a fair few laughs Date Night is better than it could have been but this is entirely because of the heavy lifting done by Steve Carell and Tina Fey. The script is perfunctory, with improv and talented actors largely pulling it off despite themselves. Fun but inessential. (And I realise at this point that I forgot to give special mention to James Franco and Mila Kunis, who absolutely kill in their one scene – part of which was in the trailer).

Despicable Me

Steve Carell anchors another CG movie. The thing about CG these days is that Pixar no longer holds the monopoly on quality. While we still have to put up with excrement like Ice Age and Shrek, we also end up with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Despicable Me. The general trend is upward, and Despicable Me is not a particularly outstanding example of animated cinema but it’s funny and it’s sweet.

You’ve seen it a thousand times before (well, you have if you’re me), but it’s enjoyable anyway.

Easy A

This movie was strangely popular with critics, a proposition that I can’t understand. While I saw in excess of a hundred films this year, I still didn’t see everything that I could have, and that involved steering clear of the more obviously “bad” films. So maybe if I’d seen more bad films Easy A would have been great – but as it was, it was a waste. Emma Stone can carry a movie, but not one as lame as this.

Yes, it’s The Scarlet Letter adapted for the modern age with a really good cast – a cast that does nothing. Stupid American high school morality rears its ugly head to produce a film that I don’t want to identify with in any capacity. If you use Emma Stone to good effect but squander Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Thomas Hayden Church and Lisa Kudrow, you have done the world a bland disservice.

Not worth the time or effort.

Edge Of Darkness

Mel Gibson released a movie in 2010? What was he thinking? Poor guy’s daughter gets murdered, then Big Nuclear irradiates his milk so he force feeds it to Danny Huston. Not particularly interesting remake of an old BBC series, memorable only for the hilarious nuclear milk. Seeing as I’ve already told you about it, I’ve saved you the effort.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

I’m going to disappoint everyone in my analysis of this film by saying that I chose to take it entirely literally. I don’t believe there’s any point in making a hoax documentary, even if you are Banksy, modern art’s enfant terrible. Why did this film have to cause so much controversy? Simply put, it didn’t. It begins as a documentary simply about street art and it evolves into something else entirely. It is very, very entertaining, an examination of several strong characters – not least of which is Thierry Guetta.

Maybe Banksy trolled me – for reasons that I will never go into with someone who’s yet to see the film – but I don’t care. I had a great time and was completely unprepared for what I saw. A definite recommendation no matter what the “truth” is.

The Expendables

You know, this movie was supposed to be stupid fun. Instead, it’s just stupid. An all star cast of people from movies I’ve never seen team up to save a South American island from the evil clutches of an ex-CIA agent (Eric Roberts, naturally). With dialogue rendered almost unintelligble by years of drug and steroid abuse, it’s hard to figure out what anyone is saying in The Expendables. It’s harder still to understand why Jason Statham, a man who actually has a future, signed up for this. Mickey Rourke, he who wants bird, shows up and earns his paycheck. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are in it for a few seconds to make homoerotic innuendo and then leave.

A relic and one best left untouched.

Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox is my kinda movie. Not everyone likes Wes Anderson, but I do. This combines two of my favourite things: Wes Anderson and animation. George Clooney’s sole good movie of the 2009/2010 period is a charming examination of a family in peril. Coincidentally, they are foxes. This whole movie is really sweet and funny and quirky and you’re likely to either love or hate it. As Wes Anderson has made some of my favourite movies of the last fifteen odd years, I’m of the loving inclination.

Father Of My Children

A movie that came to us through a haze of controversy, as its distribution was arranged around the time that its distributor was losing one of its cinema venues due to greediness. This film allegedly parallels that, but to me it wasn’t interesting enough to justify the heartache.

A film producer’s production company is in dire financial straits, so he takes desperate measures and his wife and children have to pick up the pieces. I’m not putting this one down to a lack of identification because if I used that excuse for every movie then there would be no point in seeing any movie. No, the problem with Father of My Children is that it posited dull characters and asked us to care about them and the predicaments that they essentially created for themselves. The titular father spends so much of the early parts of the film driving fast and talking on the phone that I expected him to get into a fatal car accident and for his family to have to pick up the pieces the rest of the way.

A cold film that tries to force its heart on the audience, it’s just another distant French film that allegedly speaks the truth.

Fish Tank

Poverty stricken chav dreams of achieving so much more, but has to escape the council estates to do so! Featuring the memorable line “If I’m a fuck face, that makes you a cunt face”, Fish Tank was a fascinating if slow examination of a girl with aspirations. Strong performances from the lead and Michael Fassbender, whose character turns from supportive to utterly sinister on the turn of a dime, make this a film that is hard to watch but well worth the effort. It’s small and it’s subtle and kind of depressing (there really are people like this!) but should not be discounted for all that.

Five Minutes Of Heaven

Ireland, back in the day: bad scene, right? Now, in the modern day, Paul Nesbit meets up with Liam Neeson, the man who killed his brother back in the days of unrest. Nesbit and Neeson manage to play off each other very well without actually having much (if any) screen time together.

Two very good actors make this film about the effect that a single traumatic event can have on peoples’ lives powerful indeed, and a worthy follow up to Downfall.

Four Lions

The big controversial film of 2010, written and directed by an utter dick. I say this of Chris Morris in my capacity as having seen him in full force at the Sydney Film Festival, starting with a ten minute diatribe about what it took to make this movie, and then ripping the festival’s coordinator, Claire Stewart, to unfair pieces. He was funny, but he wasn’t nice. He’s the sort of man who will make you laugh and piss you off at the same time.

When asked what I thought of Four Lions – and I was quite often, surprisingly – my ultimate decision was “funny, but not a good movie”. I think I stand by that. It’s the story of idiot wannabe terrorists who want to be terrorists for no reason easily discerned from the script. There are good jokes but there’s no cohesion and the characters are directionless idiots. There was one truly shocking moment that made me glad I hadn’t seen the trailer first – and, indeed, the film has some surprises to offer – but overall you might feel a little bit dirty or insulted by Four Lions. I had no knee jerk qualms to the actual subject matter – few cows are too sacred for me – but a suicide bomber comedy has every right to be funnier than this.

Next time! Gasland to Iron Man 2!

One Response

  1. Mark January 8, 2011

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