Movies 2013

I didn’t see as many movies this year as I usually do (see 2010, 2011, 2012). The reason: Breaking Bad (see below) which, multiplying its 62 episodes by 48 minutes, is the equivalent of about twenty-eight (28) 1.75-hour films.

★★★★ – Best movies I saw this year

Upstream Color (trailer): Nine years after the amazing Primer, one of my favourite sci-fi movies, director/actor/composer/etc. Shane Carruth does it again. If only every movie could be so engaging, puzzling, and thought-provoking. I’ve seen it again, read articles, and am currently watching it a third time, carefully, in twenty-minute doses. I’m not sure it can really be described: perhaps the atmosphere of The Tree of Life and the intrigue of Stalker? Just see it.


All Is Lost (trailer): Harrowing, maybe partly because I was feeling a bit out to sea myself when I saw it, but it’s a great almost-wordless performance by Robert Redford (in contrast to George Clooney’s yabbering in the similarly-themed Gravity—see below). It draws you in and onto the sea with the unnamed man.


Before Midnight (trailer): I haven’t seen the prior instalments in this series, Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). No matter—this stands alone as a brilliantly talky movie with surprising and subtle revelations about friendship and marriage. Both Hawke and Delpy are great.


Captain Phillips (trailer): I’ve never liked Tom Hanks, and/or the movies he’s acted in. Although I’m not as sure that this quite deserves my four-star rating overall, Hanks’ incredibly affecting scene at the end puts it over the top: one of the most emotionally impactful things I saw this year, following a relentlessly tense—and believable—hour and a half or so.


Breaking Bad: Not a movie, but then I don’t watch television and I saw this at my own pace and without ads, which made it seem more like a series of films. I don’t watch television because of advertisements and quality. Breaking Bad, at least via Netflix on my iPad, didn’t have those issues; but it definitely reminded me of the third reason I don’t own a television: time commitment. I don’t regret the time I spent here, but it did cost me a number of movies in the theatre this year: there’s only so much video I can take. At any rate, despite a couple of weak episodes, this was an incredibly consistent long piece ultimately dealing with many forms of ambiguity. It was not (usually) broken into neat little episodes, and I often found myself watching from midway through one episode to most of the way through the next, without noticing or having troubles picking up the next time. The last “half season” was pretty brilliant—with the arguable exception of the last episode (see for instance Emily Nussbaum’s piece in the New Yorker, The Closure-Happy “Breaking Bad” Finale). Will I watch another series? Probably not. But it was fun to be in on the cultural phenomenon of the moment, and the VIFF interview session with series creator Vince Gilligan, on the eve of the finale, was one of my favourite live events of the year.




★★★½ – Definitely worth seeing

12 Years a Slave (trailer): It was great. And yet. Was it the music? There was something that distracted or diminished the film. Was it the usually good Brad Pitt, whose character didn’t quite gel? Was it editing? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll watch it again some time to try to pick it apart a bit better.

Safety Not Guaranteed (trailer): I was casting about on Netflix and found this great little movie. It’s funny and poignant and sometimes surprising: a film about some young journalists from Seattle pursuing a story about a fellow who posts an ad looking for a time travel companion.

Blue Jasmine (trailer): Essentially a tour de force by Cate Blanchett, but also Woody Allen seems to have been stronger again recently.

Europa Report (trailer): Most underrated? Much sci-fi seems to be totally unrealistic and/or over-the-top. I read somewhere that NASA consulted on this. It shows in the more measured, and therefore realistic and suspenseful, tone.

Gravity (trailer): Like a roller coaster ride. Incredible visuals. There were just three problems: George Clooney’s inane chatter; some religious bullshit; and—sigh—sound in space.

Philomena (trailer): About what you’d expect, but in a good way. Some complained it was anti-Catholic. I say: more, please.

Nebraska (trailer): Saw this at VIFF. Sure, Bruce Dern was great. But overall it felt slightly slight; and I didn’t like being so obviously expected to laugh at some of the characters—this wasn’t gracefully done.

Chinese Take-Away (trailer): Funny and affecting indie film about a couple of guys who can’t speak each others’ language, searching.

★★★ – If you’re bored and you’ve seen the above, rent these

Oldeuboi (trailer): I watched this 2003 original on Netflix as the reviews of this year’s remake made me curious. It was often quite watchable, but ultimately over the top.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (trailer): Yes, well done again. But I’ve had enough of these all-evil characters, Khan or not: I hate superhero movies and this hovers dangerously close. I want an exploration/aliens film next time out with this franchise (and perhaps that word is itself damning).

Rap is War (trailer): Another VIFF film; didn’t see enough this year. Interesting documentary on an underground Cuban rap outfit; would have been better if it had been shorter.

★★½ – Credit for effort

Camera Shy (trailer): IMDB: “This dark comedy follows a corrupt city councilman whose life spins out of control after a mysterious cameraman begins terrorizing him.” Kind of amusing, and not an awful film, but ultimately a sort of amateur proof-of-concept effort.

★★ – Please promise me you won’t see even if you’re curious

The Conjuring: The worst movie I’ve seen in a long while; I haven’t seen many horror films, but this seemed to be an amateur re-hashing of the few that I have. Fortunately my friend had free tickets. Boring, often-awful acting, and docked an extra star for claiming to be based on a “true” story. Anyone in the audience who took the laugh-out-loud claims in the title cards at face value should not be allowed to vote. Or at least to see movies.

The Place Beyond the Pines: What a dreadful movie. By turns maudlin, amateurish, boring, and improbable, it was at times laugh-out-loud awful–particularly when Gosling was playing Gosling parodying Gosling in Drive. And then it turned into a made-for-TV movie.

Predators (2010): Why on earth did I watch this? I must have been drunk. I have to be more careful with Netflix. Laughably awful.

Event Horizon (1997): Another unintentionally horrific sci-fi. I don’t understand why the production crew and actors would persevere when it should have been obvious that they were working on a stinker. Acting, dialog, and especially premise were terrible.

Movies 2012

Here’s a list of the movies I saw this past year, sorted by rating (and within each rating, the chronological order in which I saw them).

★★★★ – Best movies I saw this year

Piña (trailer): Stunning. See it. See it. I’m not even a casual dance fan–well, maybe I am now. Human motion and music and meaning. Absolutely lovely. Perhaps the best application of 3D I’ve seen, though that’s not saying much in terms of quality (Avatar, ugh) or quantity. It worked here some of the time: though i realized that its otherworldliness may come from all objects, foreground and background, being in focus. I’m not a stickler for realism, though; this is just another medium. Anyway, would be interesting to see it flat. But overall, highly recommended. I got lost in its worlds and stories and sounds and beauty.I want to see it again, and that’s very rare for me.


Amour (trailer): So many movies just won’t take the time necessary to portray a life. This one does. Sad and harrowing, it gives the sense of gradual loss and all the space—and yes, loneliness—of growing old. I saw this at VIFF.


The Hunt (trailer): I thought this was brilliant because it could be seen from both sides: Mads Mikkelsen as Lucas seemed at times an ambiguous figure even though we knew the real story—indeed how we might all doubt him. It really centres around his performance, and it’s a great one. Another VIFF film.


The Master (trailer): The brilliant acting almost overshadowed everything else. I could not stop simply watching Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I think there will be a lot to pick up on second watching. I think that the general acquiescence to a mad and cultish figure was riveting and believable.


Celebration Day (trailer): I don’t listen to “classic rock.” But I grew up on Led Zeppelin; a friend and I were talking about seeing their 1980 tour, which was scuttled on John Bonham‘s death (his son Jason fills in on drums here). The band regrouped for one night five years ago, and that concert is documented in this film. While I thought the performances were generally brilliant—Kashmir in particular—I was particularly struck by a couple of other things. First, the film proves that musicianship, even rock musicianship, does not or need not decline with age: these guys were about sixty here and they’re sounding better than ever. Second, I now agree with Plant’s decision not to have extended this performance into a tour. These felt like last performances to  me: while I don’t enjoy listening to this music regularly, as it’s so overplayed, I cannot imagine what it would be like to sing it. A time and place, nicely visited here but that can now be lovingly put away.


Holy Motors (trailer): Another film I want to re-watch. There’s been a lot of discussion about what it all means, and my knowledge of film history isn’t strong enough to pick up the references. But it was purely entertaining and intriguing. Give me this over superheroes any day.


★★★½ – Definitely worth seeing

  • Shame (trailer): Depicts well something I’m tempted to say would be very difficult to do: the declination of pleasure to obsession to compulsion. No joy, but no particular sadness either, until it has consequences, which here may be set up a little too obviously. Still, recommended.
  • Monseir Lazhar (trailer): Surprisingly less than the sum of its parts. On paper a lovely, human story; but it didn’t deliver quite the impact that might have been expectedâ??or at least that I did. Kudos for not going over the top, but it didn’t quite reach the  top, either: a delicate balance between subtle and slight. Worth seeing, though, for several excellent performances.
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (trailer): Immediately bought the book and read through to fill in some blanks and inconsistencies that I suspect we’re lost in the translation from novel to screen–unless I was having an off night. The usual objections to the rich American family that doesn’t seem ever to go to work, but overall an effective, harrowing story of parental bewilderment: those who have not been through it (parenthood, that is) may be scared off; those who have, like me, will recognize and perhaps shudder despite the degree of strife. Very engaging and full of effective tension; Tilda Swinton is great as usual.
  • A Separation (trailer): Interesting cultural limitations and twists on a Western–or is that just human contemporary–situation and setting. Some loose ends: the wife’s story wasn’t fully developed, I didn’t think. But a minor qualm. Just the right developing ambiguity and the central figure of the daughter Termeh was brilliantly written and played. Recommended.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (trailer): Not as good as the original Swedish movie of 2009, though it probably had better music. Probably should get an award for best trailer, though. Watched this on my iPad.
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi (trailer): Perhaps not the most obvious movie for a vegan, but the care and artistry of this guy are inspiring. I would eat his food if I had the chance.
  • Moonrise Kingdom (trailer): Wes Anderson nuttiness. A tonne of fun.
  • Monsters (trailer): Surprisingly affecting sci-fi, proving you just don’t need big-budget special effects to succeed.
  • Coast Modern (site): alternately inspiring—West Coast architecture is home—and depressing: I won’t ever have a home anything like these. Very nicely done.
  • Pearl Jam 20 (trailer): I stopped listening a few years ago, though one of their recent Vancouver concerts was a lot of fun. I took a look at this partly out of curiosity after reading Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge. It’s tempting to see Pearl Jam as a salvage job for the Seattle scene. Workmanlike and dependable; though not really “grunge,” if that even means anything. Watched on iPad.
  • Take This Waltz (trailer): Rising and falling of lust and love. I like Sarah Polley‘s films. Watched on iPad.
  • Life of Pi (trailer): I haven’t read the book. The movie was visually stunning, but was screwed up by nonsensical (is there any other kind?) religious mumbo-jumbo; and the current-day scenes were really weak.
  • Sleepwalk with Me (trailer): Mike Birbiglia is a funny guy. But this movie is mostly a rehash of material you will have heard if you’re a This American Life fan. Given that these were old jokes to me—perhaps I should have known from the title—it’s hard for me to judge how well they work in this medium. Given also that many of the stories seem to have arisen from Birbiglia’s actual experience, it will be interesting to see where he goes from here, unless he’s continued to have more crazy experiences. Still, worth seeing if you haven’t heard his routines. Watched on iPad.
  • Argo (trailer): As good as Hollywood gets, probably. Docked half a star for offending Canadians (not to mention Iranians, probably) and for the writers failing to take thirty seconds to Google the take-off speed of a 747: it’s about 160-180 miles per hour, so police cars couldn’t keep up.
  • Django Unchained: (trailer): Like Inglourious Basterds, a mixed bag. A lot of what Tarantino does seems just to be to use violence to string together scenes in support of some admittedly good writing (not to mention great acting). I wish he’d try a different kind of film. I actually thought that Django had the weakest Tarantino scene ever—the prattle about the pre-KKK masks. Not funny: just really dim. I was surprised.

★★★ – If you’re bored and you’ve seen the above, rent these


My father took me to see Alien when it came out in 1979. He had also introduced me to 2001: a space odyssey, which I consider one of the best movies ever made, and probably still the best science fiction film (the likes of Star Wars are for me unimaginative in this sense, essentially Westerns in space). I really liked the original, then saw the first few Alien sequels, which weren’t so much sci-fi as sort of military-meets-monster movies, and lost interest.

Good science fiction at the movies is rare. Really rare: in the past couple of years, the only things I’ve seen that qualify would be Melancholia (trailer); Inception; and Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979—trailer). Arguably only Inception was science fiction, and it was a letdown; Stalker was brilliant but arguably not sci-fi; and Melancholia didn’t have science fiction concepts at its centre.

So I had pinned my hopes this year on Prometheus (trailer), the much-hyped sort-of-prequel to Alien. Ridley Scott was back as director; H.R. Giger was again responsible for set design; and the initial “viral” advertising campaigns—see for instance the TED talk from 2023—made it look potentially clever.

Alas. Despite being absolutely visually stunning, much of the rest of the film was either stupid (the whole story of the origin of life on earth), puzzling (unintentionally, as far as I could tell on first viewing), or cringe-inducing (the dialogue). Or all three simultaneously, but I’ll deal with these one at a time.

I expected there to be far more exploration of the (yes, tired) religion versus science “debate.” I’m a pretty staunch atheist, though given the right treatment this sort of thing can at least offer some interesting banter. But here it really wasn’t anything more than the topic of a few weak asides, never developed. I didn’t really believe that Dr. Shaw, supposedly a leading archaeologist of the late 21st century, could be a religious nut like some of those still hanging on in our own era. However, what wasn’t explained at all was how an alien race with identical DNA to humans could seed life on what was, from appearances, a lifeless earth using a sort of decomposed body and have all the other species evolve, or arise, or something: away from human form? You might explain our close genetic relatives in this way, but how (and when) would insects, never mind dinosaurs, have arisen? None of this makes any sense if you give it more than a second’s thought. Even Star Trek had a more coherent, though similar, origin story in the episode The Chase.

The puzzling bit for me was the motivations behind the founding race or civilization, and those apparently competing with it. Having created us, they seemed out to eradicate us—um, I think—until stopped by a hodgepodge of related but unrelated monsters and viruses and worms and such, all breeding and morphing into each other and working in concert—I think. I might go see the film again just to ensure I didn’t miss something here, but I’m pretty sure it was glossed over or left without satisfactory explanation; and I don’t think this was entirely intentional. Some sort of motivations should have been apparent in order to tell an interesting story.

And oh, the dialogue. Though Noomi Rapace (Dr. Shaw) and Michael Fassbender (David the artificial life form) were great in spots, all actors had some embarrassingly poorly written lines to read. I won’t bother quoting them here.

Worse, many of the characters simply aren’t believable. Sorry, but you’re just not going to spend a trillion dollars on a ship and staff it with a crew who seems to have been selected at random from the local pub. What I think is happening here is that the old stereotype of scientists as socially inept dweebs in white lab coats has been replaced with the “cool”—and stupid. And the decisions they make! After travelling so far and for so long, to jeopardize everything by immediately doing an EVA when it’s almost nightfall, removing helmets, and generally being reckless, is laughable. Then again, a more realistic bunch probably wouldn’t have triggered all the action.

The apparently illogical story and the bad dialogue may be explained by the presence of the writer Damon Lindelof. I found out a few days before I saw Prometheus that he was involved, and my expectations were immediately lowered; he was responsible for Lost, a ridiculous bit of television rubbish which I was compelled to watch for reasons I won’t get into here. That story was similarly unsure of itself, essentially a shaggy dog affair that had not a clue how to establish or maintain or wrap up any kind of internal consistency. Lindelof seems to be going for profundity via obscurity; whether he is incapable of constructing a coherent story universe, or is just lazy, is an open question.

One more thing: I didn’t care for the music. After hearing many great film scores in recent years, from Philip Glass to Trent Reznor to carefully selected classical pieces as in The Tree of Life, this dull orchestral score was a disappointment, and for me, out of place.

The film ends making obvious way for a sequel. It’s a shame that, given the mess we have here, the next part of the story will be so much more intriguing left as a mystery than put to celluloid by this hapless crew.


Movies 2011

Here’s a list of the movies I saw this past year, sorted by rating (and within rating, just the chronological order in which I saw them). In 2011 I mostly gave up on Hollywood, so I didn’t see as many films as in 2010 as I was sometimes too lazy to walk to Vancity Theatre or Pacific Cinémathèque!

★★★★★ – All-Time Best Movies

2001: a space odyssey, 1968 (trailer): The Granville 7 showed this just once in August and I almost missed it. I hadn’t seen it in a theatre for decades. A movie about the evolution of intelligence, and one of the best ever made in any genre. Doesn’t seem to lose any of its impact over time. I used to wonder why no one seems ever to have attempted anything like it, but when you think about it it’s obvious. Stunning.

★★★★ – Best movies I saw this year

The King’s Speech (trailer): The cynic in me might have found this a little cloying but I was won over. Just very well done and acted and written, and quite endearing.

Small Town Murder Songs (trailer): Underrated outside the indie circuit, this film, very Canadian in a good way, sports a solid story arc supported by a stunning soundtrack and an excellent ensemble. Reminiscent of Cohen Brothers and perhaps Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter.

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake: Not conceived as a movie, perhaps, but I saw all the videos, by Seamus Murphy, presented together at the Vancity Theatre. An already striking record becomes absolutely devastating. The best popular music can still amaze, and these are brilliant pieces of video art. There’s no trailer, but a good sample video would be In the Dark Places, perhaps my favourite track from the album.

Stalker, 1979 (trailer): Not for the meek or easily “bored,” that’s for sure. There is no good way of explaining this movie: it is an exploration that spares no expense in the service of time or “entertainment.” It’s essentially a journey to a mythical place of magic promise and what happens to three people—a guide (the Stalker) and his two charges—along the way. Science fiction/philosophy. Incredibly engaging and absolutely fascinating. I have to see it again.

Melancholia (trailer): I hated a couple of Lars von Trier’s movies of 10-15 years ago (Breaking the WavesDancer in the Dark—though the latter was due partly to my aversion to Bjork) enough that I’d avoided seeing anything since. (I won’t get into his stupid Nazi comments at Cannes.) But this is a masterpiece of characterization, puzzlement, and sci-fi dread done right: simultaneously a bang and a desperate whimper.

Café de flore (trailer): Another movie I have to see again: there’s more here than meets the eye; or maybe I was just too dense to fully grok all the connections the first time through. Even without fully being onside with any supernatural bullshit, this is a great exploration of dealing with just being adrift. And maybe found again, but you’re never really sure.

★★★½ – Definitely worth seeing

  • Blue Valentine (trailer): Excellent tracing of a marriage breakdown.
  • Biutiful (trailer): Slightly disappointing, but I always like Iñárritu‘s style.
  • Win Win (trailer): Great character study. The year’s best closing titles music—The National: Think You Can Wait.
  • Bill Cunningham New York (trailer): Endearing character. Ultimately I’m just not that interested in fashion, so it probably didn’t have the impact it would for those who are.
  • The Miles Davis Story (trailer): Felt a bit cobbled together, which of course it was. But with Miles’ music, there’s a certain quality that is achieved by default.
  • 180º South (trailer): Inspiring adventure movie. I’ve always wanted to go to South America. Perhaps not precisely in this way, but it has its pull.
  • Pianomania (trailer): Fascinating exploration of piano selection, tuning, and repair; but what really makes it stand out is some of the performances.
  • Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (trailer): Slightly disappointing, perhaps because some of the religion and politics wasn’t of as much interest to me as the—sometimes resulting and related—music. Which is amazing.
  • Drive (trailer): A stylish, ripping crime yarn.
  • Andrew Bird: Fever Year (site): The best music documentary I saw last year. Bird really is brilliant, and this was well put together. I can’t wait to see him when he comes to Vancouver this year.
  • The Descendants (trailer): Represents much of what I think is wrong with Hollywood. Despite its quality, it has a children’s storybook feel: everything is spelled out very carefully, and there are no real subtleties, nothing to think about. I grant it an extra half star for George Clooney’s surprisingly powerful performance in the final hospital scene, in which he says farewell to his comatose and terminal wife, who had been cheating on him.
  • The Artist (trailer): Similar to The Descendants, very straightforward. But also very well put together, and you have to credit all the actors for their silent performances, which must have been very demanding.

★★★ – If you’re bored and you’ve seen the above, rent these

  • Source Code (trailer): Fell flat as a sort of sci-fi Groundhog Day, perhaps because even within its genre it simply wasn’t believable.
  • Foo Fighters: Back and Forth (trailer): The first film I rented on my iPad. It’s a shallow and uncritical overview of the band’s history, as it’s told by the band. I’m not sure why I have an occasional attraction to their music. Perhaps it’s what Pitchfork said: the Foo Fighters are “excellent at being mainstream.”
  • Die Stille for Bach (The Silence Before Bach) (scene): Manages, somehow, to make Bach boring, despite a few good performances.
  • Take Shelter (trailer): Docked half a star for its pat ambiguous final scene. Good performances but it falls apart a bit.

★★ – Please promise me you won’t see even if you’re curious

The Tree of Life

I saw Terence Malick‘s The Tree of Life this morning. This will obviously be a controversial film; it already is, having won the Palme d’Or at Cannes after getting some boos from audiences there. But its opening in North America should throw this controversy into relief.

My take on the film is probably going to be different than many. As an atheist, I bypass—with relative ease—the religious mumbo-jumbo that is the film’s real weakness. I tend to agree with Roger Ebert when he writes, “The only other film I’ve seen with this boldness of vision is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.” That film was about the evolution of intelligence; this one is about the evolution of connection.

I don’t think The Tree of Life succeeds near as well as Kubrick’s film. But that was one of the greatest films of all time (I often wonder why 2001 has never really been emulated). This is more than a valiant effort, and as such it flies in the face of most films.

The way in which The Tree of Life collects together a number of moments in the life of the central characters, unencumbered by the need to move a plot forward as the central device, is its strength and the source of its impact. Life is a long arc; there are no convenient major plot points every few days or months. The story and the insight is completely in the moments between. I grew up in the shadow of the era depicted in the film, but I’ve spent all my time since in cities—not unlike Jack—and this may still be the mode suburban people live in still.

These moments are captured or evoked beautifully, through great acting and sometimes astonishing cinematography. The film is generous enough to give you time to think. That is rare.

And the way of nature versus the way of grace? I think it’s conscious human effort and love that makes the difference, but ultimately we are nature and “god” of course has nothing to with it.

There’s not much more to say; in many ways The Tree of Life defies description. Just go see it.

Movies 2010

Here’s a list of the movies I saw this year, categorized by rating. It was a pretty good year; I plan to keep this up and do a post at the end of 2011 as I find it easy to forget the films I’ve seen.

★★★★ – Best movies I saw this year

  • I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, director): Sublime. I often pair this with The Secret In Their Eyes from last year as movies I strongly recommend. Great acting, great story, humanity. Just see it.
  • Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, director) – The best Canadian film I can remember seeing in ages. (VIFF)
  • Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950): Saw this in the theatre for the first time this year. One of the greats.
  • The Social Network (David Fincher, director) – A rare movie with smart dialog that moves at a clip that doesn’t pander to an (imagined) lowest common denominator. Oddly inspiring.

★★★½ – Definitely worth seeing

  • Aftershock – Surprisingly affecting movie based around the Tangshan earthquake of 1976. (VIFF)
  • Cannot Live Without You – Happened upon this Taiwanese film when looking for something to see one night. Probably hard to find, but worthwhile searching out.
  • The Duel – This was almost a four-star movie for me. Very well done. Read the Chekhov short story first. (VIFF)
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Lots of fun. Some of it disturbing.
  • The Hurt Locker – Not as brilliant as some would have you believe. The bravado of the ending really rubbed me the wrong way (perhaps it was the music).
  • Jack Goes Boating – Philip Seymour Hoffman stars and, for the first time, directs. Very human movie with a great ensemble.
  • The Kids Are All Right – If you can avoid debating the politics and how realistic it really is, and just enjoy it, it’s great.
  • Mother – Emotionally harrowing South Korean film.
  • Please Give – Rare to see such a simple, human movie. Great performances, and good to see women as the main characters.
  • Rabbit Hole – Generally underrated, it seems. Insight into loss and recovery.
  • Restrepo – More than anything else, as if we needed more convincing, a reminder of the futility of the Afghanistan campaign.
  • A Solitary Man – Seemingly underrated; I didn’t hear a lot about this film. Good work from Michael Douglas.
  • True Grit – Can’t go wrong with the Coen Brothers. Good Western romp.
  • Un Prophète – Harrowing and very well done.
  • Winter’s Bone – Close to four stars; the main character is brilliantly played but it’s debatable how realistic her character is.

★★★ – If you’re bored and you’ve seen the above, rent these

  • Date Night – Funny enough but ultimately pretty lightweight.
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop – Mostly diverting. Docked half a star for trying too hard to be hip.
  • Get Low – Fell surprisingly flat to me.
  • Ghost Writer – Not bad, but didn’t stay with me.
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire – Just not as compelling as the original. I didn’t bother to see the third instalment.
  • Green Zone – Superseded by Restrepo, perhaps, but not as bad as some made it out to be.
  • Greenberg – Lightweight fun.
  • Inception – Everyone says I should see this again. Until I do, it lingers as a letdown. Not nearly as convoluted as advertised (or as Nolan’s Memento). I suspect people who feel the same way I do about this movie would enjoy Primer; perhaps the press that Inception got will help Shane Carruth fund A Topiary.
  • Never Let Me Go – Not as bad as some reviews would have it, but oddly not as affecting as it could have been, or very nearly was.

★★ – Please promise me you won’t see these even if you’re curious

  • Splice – What on earth went wrong here? I still haven’t quite decided, but the whole thing wasn’t just silly in the end, it was oddly stiff.
  • Tron: Legacy – Boring, with cringe-inducing dialog. I didn’t even notice the 3D, given the rest. Easily the worst film I saw all year. Luckily Jeff Bridges got to redeem himself the next week in True Grit (see above).