A list of the top five films I’ve had the pleasure to see and review this year…and the five turkeys I had to sit through, by Jason Day film critic for TotalMK.
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Five of the best
I think this was the most satisfying film I saw all year, if satisfaction is measured in terms of eye-popping visuals, general all-round entertainment and a good look at Dwayne Johnson’s mountainous physique (albeit one frustratingly hidden underneath layers of occluding clothing).
He plays a search and rescue officer, which is extremely fortunate for everyone else in the film, as a massive earthquake strikes the titular fault-line, sending part of California careering into the Pacific.
Don’t get me wrong, this is no Citizen Kane (1941) in terms of cinematic achievement. But I didn’t traipse to my local multiplex for that. I went to see thrill-a-second, nerve-jarring, effects-heavy movie larks and on this front San Andreas goes beyond just delivering.
Colin Farrell piled on the pounds for Dogtooth (2010) director Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist comedy about the ridiculousness of human relationships, set in a future where people are turned into animals if they don’t find love within a specified time at Olivia Colman’s hotel for singletons, emotional/sexual rejects or people whose partners just happen to have gone on an overseas work trip.
The path to true love is one constructed on uneven foundations but with amusingly shaped paving slabs and this film scores best with its depiction of the bizarre lengths we go to in the search for sexual and personal fulfilment. The top-drawer, weird acting comes from a cast that includes Rachel Weisz, Ben Wishaw and the beguiling Léa Seydoux.
It’s refreshing to see a film about people in their later years that doesn’t involve a terminal or degenerative medical condition.
Charlotte Rampling is on commanding form as a woman on the verge of celebrating her 45th wedding anniversary when a letter arrives saying that the remains of her husband’s (a bumblingly, boorishly effective Tom Courteney) long-dead first love have been recovered in the mountain range where he last saw her, decades ago. The couple’s relationship is put under the microscope as emotions and regrets long-hidden rise to the surface, much like the recently resurrected Katja.
Ryan Reynolds is a funny fella. Most of the time he stars in utter stinkers, frat-boy-goes-wild comedies or below-par comic book adaptations, of relatively little cinematic worth.
Then he throws a few curve balls a critics way, like this year’s Woman In Gold, Mississippi Grind and this decidedly odd but wonderfully inventive ‘comedy’.
Comedy in the biggest inverted commas as he plays a schizophrenic merrily murdering his colleagues after being told to do so by his cat.
And very good he is too. The frenetic, disjointed style adopted by director Marjane Satrapi results in a a genre mash-up of comedy, drama, horror and musical, perfectly complementing the unbalanced mental state of the lead character and makes for a film that should at least be admired for its daring.
Not technically released in the UK this year, but a film I happily revisited via the medium of Google Play, something I am equally happy to have become acquainted with.
Erich von Stroheim’s original version of Frank Norris’ novel McTeague (1899) weighed in at a mighty nine hours or so and was then drastically and perhaps criminally slashed to a little over two by the fledgling studio MGM, unsure of how to handle, promote and release such a monstrous amount of celluloid.
This edit, reconstructed from stills von Stroheim left his son, still retains the power to dazzle, astonish and enthral with its depiction of a little marriage between a lottery winner and her simple-minded dentist husband descending into miserliness, madness and murder as she determines to keep every last cent of her winnings in her possession. A powerful, cruelly ironic tract on the evils of money.
Five of the worst
I didn’t submit a review for this film, as one of my other reviewers caught this at a festival and raved about it, as almost every other critic has, almost without exception.
Let me stand proud and alone then as one critic who disliked this frigid, sexless affair. Films about love which is thwarted or repressed need to eventually have some sort of emotional pay-off for their audience, a reward for delayed coitus. This film offers no such reward.
Director Todd Haynes clearly wants to evoke the lush and textually rich melodramas of the 1950’s, such as those directed by the great Douglas Sirk, but singularly fails to stir his viewers with anything other than the odd glance of longing and some stunning fifties costuming. All that surface glitter is not necessarily filmic gold.
I like to think I’m a pretty even-minded critic. True to the aims of this blog, I like to produce fair and informed reviews which take into account the difficulties inherent in producing films with competing interests from an array of talented professionals.
Therefore, I never thought I would see the day I actually walk out of a cinema before a film has finished. But here it is, A Little Chaos.
A Little Action Needed more like as practically nothing happens in this dull, turgid piece of pointlessness about a female gardner (Kate Winslet) at the court of King Louis XIV (Alan Rickman). Rickman also directs, which is the problem…he doesn’t know the basics. One day, I will revisit this film to ‘finish the job’, so to speak – probably when Alzheimer’s robs me of all sense.
A film which is so obvious in all departments should probably not use the clunky plot device of hidden memories and regression hypnotherapy.
Not only does this film use them, it lets everything hang on them, despite the film screaming to us right from the get go what will happen and why. Emma Watson regresses from Wizard college to the Shrink’s couch, with no discernible improvement as an actor. Ethan Hawke is the detective trying to sort out why (or whether) her father has been sexually abusing her.
The game is afoot! (With the aid of a Zimmer Frame). I reluctantly add this here as I originally gave this film three out five stars.
It’s a judgement I stand by as there is much to recommend, but it still shuffles about like a confused and restless nonagenarian.
Ian McKellan has the title role, as a confused Sherlock struggling to recall the importance of his last ever case though the fog of dementia. It’s painfully slow start and too languid pace make it difficult to truly endear it across the board. A disappointment for me as a reviewer, rather than a disaster as a film though.
The most overly hyped movie event of the year…but that’s enough of the Mail Online’s right-side scrollbar of shame, which went into overdrive when this boring, clinically clean adaptation of P.D. James’ ‘yuppy S&M’ erotic novel hit the screen.
The fame of the source material overwhelms what is a fairly tepid danger-sex-for-the-upper-classes flick. Stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson and director Sam Taylor-Johnson do what they can to make it bearable, but they’re merely going through the well-paid motions. Expect the other books to hit the screen anytime soon.