The roaring twenties spring back to life in a visually and aurally dazzling assault on the senses from Romeo & Juliet/Moulin Rouge director Baz Lurhmann that is both exhilarating and exhausting yet the veteran director’s decision to essentially flip the traditional movie structure by revealing all his cinematic tricks in the first act is a decision that will come back to haunt him as the movie has nowhere to go but down and with each passing minute finds itself quickly decelerating until the point where what should be the emotional climax ends up feeling empty, inert and ultimately disappointing.
The Darkest Hour oozes cheese at every turn from cut-rate special effects to a script that surely numbers a scant few pages to the oftentimes groan worthy dialogue this is a film that screams straight to video or TV movie of the week. It is nigh dumbfounding then to realize that the film opened wide in theatres during Christmas Day back in 2011 giving money paying moviegoers one big lump of coal as a gift in exchange for their hard-earned dollars.
Skyfall (2012) is the James Bond movie you never knew you wanted full of awe-inspiring cinematography, gripping performances and a return to classical filmmaking devoid of any excessive use of shaky cam or nausea-inducing editing that has plagued modern action films which includes the awful previous Bond installment, Quantum of Solace. Director Sam Mendes has managed to keep enough of the core Bond elements intact while fusing them with a viscerally riveting cinematic experience that works wonders as never before precisely because the film does something totally unexpected by focusing on talking over action.
The entire time watching Tom Hopper’s Les Miserables (2012) I couldn’t help thinking of a man walking over a tightrope, his balance bar glued to his hands while he cautiously navigates over a gaping chasm below. Everything seems to be going well when suddenly a gust of wind builds up and disturbs the man’s mental state so much so that it throws his balance off. In desperation he basically lurches forward and attempts to complete the walk all the while swaying back and forth in a dizzying rush for survival. Les Miserables, the movie based on the famous musical which in turn is based on an even more famous book, feels very much like a swaying man on a tightrope as the movie swings wildly from almost pure cinematic bliss to often times gutter trash. So violent are these fluctuations that viewers will find themselves exhausted, giddy or just plain ready to unceremoniously throw up with motion sickness.
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln contains yet another mesmerizing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis who is almost assured another golden statue come the Academy Awards. However, the movie as a whole is a decidedly mixed bag that contains far too many typical fairy tale Spielberg flourishes that feel at odds with the subject material. For a two and a half hour movie there is certainly a lot going on here but the expected emotional climax never arrives leaving the film stuck in a kind of no-man’s land where many viewers might feel inherently detached instead of being highly invested.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) is an oftentimes mesmerizing slice of life parable that manages to meld gripping drama with childhood fantasy in a mostly electric fashion. Although it does occasionally stumble in certain aspects overall most audience members will simply fall in love with the movie due in large part to young actress Quvenzhané Wallis who creates a wonderfully precocious character that simply dominates whatever scene she is in. Admittedly, this is not the film for everyone considering the subject matter and lack of grandiose plot but those who want to experience something different might find themselves enraptured by it.
Ben Affleck turns in a triumphant directorial effort helming Argo (2012) making the film gripping, topical and most of all, highly entertaining. It may or may not be the best film you see this year but it is sure to be a crowd pleaser and at the very least will remind everyone that truth is most definitely stranger than fiction.
Actor/Director/Writer/Composer RZA attempts to craft a loving homage to the chop-socky martial arts films of the late 1960s-early 1970s yet despite the array of talent involved the end product is a near absolute mess with humour that constantly misfires, zombie-like acting and miserably filmed action sequences. The plot is totally inconsequential but that is to be expected yet every attempt made to imbue the film with edgy coolness ends up instead grating to the point of abject pain so much so that many will feel compelled to either walk out of the cinema or ram their thumbs with disdain into their eye-sockets.