Film Round-up: May, June & July

During the past 3 slow months worth of blogging, I have seen many different films that have not enjoyed the benefit of a review. To try to catch up I offer a long collection of small reviews of most of the films I have watched in the last three months that did not get a review until now. A total of 24 films, a couple of which will get longer in-depth reviews. The highlights of the list are Weekend and Sunshine, both very different but very pleasant surprises.

I apologize in advance if this gets a little long. Enjoy:

The French Connection (1971)

Genre: Action/Thriller

Cast: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey

Director: William Friedkin

Writers: Ernest Tidyman, Robin Moore (original novel), Howard Hanks

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

Starring Gene Hackman in a now famous role as tough cop Jimmy Doyle, The French Connection is an intense thriller that takes place in the harsh New York winter of 1970.

Most of the success of the film is due to its intensity and realism, displaying some of the most exciting chase sequences ever put on film. These have surprisingly lost little of their power over time, feeling current even today (minus antiquated vehicles and fashion). The cast is also excellent, further enriching the well-crafted dynamic between cops, informants, low-lives and criminals. I just wish the film had focused less on the details and intricacies of case-solving and criminal chasing and more on character-building.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Genre: Drama/Suspense

Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Mark Strong

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Writers: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan, John Le Carré (original novel)

Rating: 4/5 (very good)

An exquisitely paced, adapted screenplay brought to life in the big screen with elegance, finesse and richness by a wonderful ensemble of actors and writers.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a spy thriller that sinuously moves through an intricate web of lies, deceit and double identities. In the midst of the game is George Smiley, masterfully played with craft and subdued intensity by Gary Oldman. The events covered in the film take place circa 1973 at the top of the British Intelligence Service, aptly referred to as “The Circus”. After a secret operation conducted in Hungary ended terribly, the agency was reorganized, firing its top two officials, among which was George Smiley.
After a brief stint as a retiree, Smiley is given the mission to find a Soviet mole at the top of the same agency that forced him out at the height of the Cold War, an assignment that is risky and incredibly difficult, requiring a sharp mind to put all the loose ends together.

Though following the details and twists of the film may not have been the easiest task (it would have benefited from a longer running time), the writers and director Tomas Alfredson did a fine job at condensing and summarizing a complex story with a host of varied characters taking part inside a very interesting game. The pace works with the nature of the piece, allowing audiences to get immersed into the story, building the suspense to a very satisfying and well-crafted finale.

New Year’s Eve (2011)

Genre: Comedy/Romance

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert de Niro, Halle Berry, Ashton Kutcher, Jon Bon Jovi, Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Hilary Swank, Abigail Breslin, Lea Michele.

Director: Garry Marshall

Writer: Katherine Fugate

Rating: 1.5/5 (poor)

What a sham!
Another iteration of the same idea of the film Valentine’s Day proves to be even less satisfying when it takes place in New York City at the turn of the year. Once again a large number of actors of all ages and different levels of success have their own little plots and take turns in boring us with stale characters and unconvincing romance set against a very improbable set of events.

The Guard (2011)

Genre: Comedy/Drama

Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle

Director/Writer: John Michael McDonagh

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

The brilliant simplicity of The Guard can be summarized within the first sequence of the film as a group of drunken young guys speed along a country road. The next shot takes us to Sergeant Gerry Boyle snoozing away inside his cop car, woken up as the car zooms by. A couple of seconds later a loud crash is heard just a few feet ahead. Our cop reacts contrary to our expectations, seemingly annoyed rather than terrified. Lazily, he gets out of his car to inspect the gruesome scene until, once again, the Sergeant defies our expectations by taking some cash out of the dead men’s wallets.

This is the kind of dark unorthodox humor that defines The Guard, an Irish comedy that plays with the audience, challenging our sense of morality. Our protagonist, played with skill and comedic timing by Brendan Gleeson is a practical man who having seen it all, is rather unmoved by the questions of morality we would normally struggle with. He gets the job done without more effort than it is required, never working past his shift. Though he may seem heartless to some, he has a shred of decency that keeps him, for example, from accepting a bribe from a local mobster, eventually taking it upon himself to stop drug smugglers.

We, as the audience, never know whether The Guard is pretending to be racist, stupid and a degenerate, or whether it is all a facade to a valiant hero who is quietly seeking for love and companionship. At the end, we are a little less unsure, but the doubts remain nonetheless.

Even though the film is rather modest and inconsequential, it has many pleasures, none greater than the comedic facility of Brendan Gleeson opposite a straight-laced Don Cheadle playing FBI Agent Wendell Everett.

Sunshine (2007)

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans.

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Alex Garland

Rating: 4.5/5 (excellent)

♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦

Inspired by fellow blogger Scott from Front Room Cinema, I watched Danny Boyle‘s Sunshine expecting a great deal. As soon as the film begins, I was taken by its visual beauty, displaying the Sun in all its magnificence, relying on its sheer scale and luminosity to leave a lasting impression on the viewer. As the story progressed, I was also impressed by its unrelenting tension, its undeniable entertainment value and the strength of the performances.

Danny Boyle manages to craft an original concept in which humanity, sometime in the future, faces extinction because the source of all life, the Sun, has been dying, no longer capable of providing enough heat. The solution was to send a team of top scientists to deploy a huge bomb of sorts into the sun, thus reigniting the core of the dying star. It is a concept that bears similarities to other sci-fi films, yet the way the film is delivered feels fresh and contemporary, albeit borrowing ideas from famous franchises like Alien, Armaggedon and Contact.

The cast is very diverse, combining actors from television with a couple of established names like Cillian Murphy and a surprisingly intense and entertaining Chris Evans. The performances, along with the claustrophobic and alienating surroundings combine to make a very stylish piece of cinema.
There is a certain degree of predictability that keep it from being a truly remarkable sci-fi but that doesn’t take much away from the overall experience.

Beginners (2011)

Genre: Drama/Romance

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Goran Visnjic, Mélanie Laurent

Director/Writer: Mike Mills

Rating: 2.5/5 (average)

A charming story about family and love. Beginners is delivered in style by Ewan McGregor as Oliver, and Christopher Plummer as Hal in an Oscar winning role. Both performances are deserving of praise as they are layered and complex, full of contradictions and incredibly touching at times, especially when they both share the screen.

The pace and delivery of the film is a bit frustrating though, sometimes even confusing, getting in the way of the story. The rest of the cast choices are a bit off putting, especially Goran Visnjic who just looks uncomfortable as Andy, a gay man in an open relationship with a much older and sickly Hal.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Genre: Action/Thriller

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg

Director: Brad Bird

Writers: Josh Applebaum, André Nemec

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

Tom Cruise gets back to his methodical ass-kicking ways in an exciting, suspenseful and smart sequel to an already bloated franchise led by the charismatic agent Ethan Hunt.

To freshen up the franchise, the studio enlisted Brad Bird, mastermind behind successful animated features like The Incredibles and Ratatouille. His film is highlighted by the clever orchestration of the action sequences, starting with the highly improbable break-in of the Kremlin followed by the visually stunning “exchange” at the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building.
The screenplay, as expected, is a bit thin in terms of characterization, coming off as a bit inconsequential to the proceedings despite the efforts of writers that tried to make the film feel a bit more personal and emotional. All in all, this is close to being the best film of the franchise.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & 2 (2010-11)

Genre: Fantasy/Drama

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grin, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman

Director: David Yates

Writers: Steve Kloves, J.K. Rowling

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

Despite Hollywood’s insistence on splitting the final Harry Potter book into a two-part finale, both films should be looked at together since the first is very much an incomplete set-up made up of loose ends.
To a non-fanatic of the series like myself who has still managed to watch all the films, yet never bothered to watch them in order or remembered every nuance of the story, to follow the finale of the famous franchise proves to be a difficult task.
The first part is mostly a catch-up game, as we are quickly thrown into the thick of things, rallying for Harry and his friends in their improbable quest against a very powerful foe. There are several new subplots and barely any time to make sense of it all as we slowly unravel the mystery that leads to Voldemort‘s ultimate defeat.
The second part feels like a more complete film and, as expected, the most emotionally charged of the entire franchise, not only pitting the young Harry into a battle for life, but also focusing on the many problems that litter friendships and past relationships. Of the three main characters, Daniel Radcliffe as Harry keeps being, in my modest opinion, the least satisfying actor of the bunch, often adopting weird facial expressions that are supposed to stand for joy, sadness and stress, but only feel as very conscious acting decisions. Once again, it is the less than conventional rapport between Hermione and Ron Wesley that seems the most natural and interesting to watch. The rest of the cast keeps being impressive, especially the very convincing Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.
In general terms, the two-part odyssey clocking in at just over 5 hours of film, concludes the story of Harry Potter in a very memorable fashion.

28 Days Later (2002)

Genre: Horror/Suspense

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Naomie Harris

Director: Danny Boyle

Writer: Alex Garland

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

In an attempt to get a bit more acquainted with Mr. Danny Boyle, I finally got to watching his famous take on a zombie Armageddon.

Set in England, 28 Days Later crucially avoids the events that led to humanity’s collapse, choosing to focus on a small group of survivors headed by Cillian Murphy, first introduced to us waking up at a deserted hospital. Though modest in terms of budget, the film convincingly displays central London as an oasis of tranquility, where silence becomes suspenseful and danger lurks in the shadows.
Part of the appeal can also be found in the zombies themselves, portrayed as angrier and blood-thirsty relatives to the slower, more predictable predecessors.
The performances are also very convincing, especially Cillian Murphy as the vulnerable Jim, and Brendan Gleeson as the protective and father-like Frank who gives the film much of its emotional punch.
Sadly, the film does become a bit stale and uninteresting towards the end, as the zombies remain mostly at a distance and the story is limited by a big mansion turned military fort where seemingly decent men begin to act like savages.

21 Jump Street (2012)

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill

Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

Writers: Michael Bacall, Jonah Hill

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

An ad-hoc comedy that manages to be consistently funny in a similar fashion to films like SuperBad and Pineapple Express. Starring the prolific duo of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, the film is a trip from beginning to end as the two go from being high-schoolers, to joining the police academy, to failing in the most embarrassing way possible as cops, to undercover policemen placed back in high school trying to prevent a potent drug from getting into the market. Whenever the film goes for the unexpected, taking a few risks along the way, it usually lands in funny territory, relying on the comedic timing of the cast.

Though the comedic style is a bit too silly and over the top to really be considered great, this is certainly one of the most enjoyable films of 2012. A especially surprising accomplishment for Mr. Tatum who seems to be have learned a thing or two over the years about comedy and acting.

The Good Shepherd (2006)

Genre: Drama

Cast: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Robert De Niro, William Hurt, Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin

Director: Robert De Niro

Writer: Eric Roth

Rating: 2.5/5 (average)

Dull and excruciatingly long, this is The Good Shepherd, a rare product of Robert De Niro‘s directorial pursuits.

This is a spy film without the intrigue, the suspense or, at the very least, the dialectic value that we come to expect from pieces of this sort. The cast, though extraordinary by name, mostly takes a backseat with uninspiring roles lacking pzazz. As much as it is about lies, double identities and strategizing, our main character embodied by Matt Damon can only hint to being midly interesting, losing much of his personality as soon as he is out of college.

Especially troublesome are the repetitive and unnecessary suggestions to a central theme, often thrown in rather forcefully into the dialogue. There is a lot about not trusting anyone and losing oneself in one’s duty, as well as a letter that was supposed to give the film some punch only to feel as the rest: lifeless and glum.

Rio (2011)

Genre: Animated/Comedy

Cast (voice): Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, George Lopez

Director/Writer: Carlos Saldanha

Rating: 2.5/5 (average)

Rio is a good time, but not much more than that. Though atypical in contemporary animated features, the choices for voice cast were definitely questionable. Blu, voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, comes across as an annoying and whining main character who has little appeal. Anne Hathaway, playing Blu’s love interest, does her best with what she gets, which isn’t all that much; while George Lopez has far too recognizable a voice, unable to blend with his character.

As a whole, the film feels formulaic, sticking to every trick in the Hollywood book and providing us, as is common practice in animated films, with far more exciting characters surrounding uninspiring leads.

Though setting the film in Rio de Janeiro was an inspired choice that defined its flavor. Rio seems like a missed opportunity, rarely catching a glimpse of the beautiful beaches and the lively jungle, opting to focus on life at the “favelas” in a very superficial way. Sometimes the film needed a pause or a breather to feel less ad-hoc and rushed, but it never got one.

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Genre: Animated

Cast (voice): Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman

Director: Jennifer Yuh

Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger

Rating: 3/5 (above average)

Though excruciatingly annoying to some, Jack Black returns as his mildly sedated turn as Po, the charming Panda whose eating habits continue to be more impressive than his Kung Fu moves.

The choice to make a sequel though expected, felt a bit forced, taking away much of what made the first film such a charming piece about unlikely heroics and believing in oneself.

This second part continues in similar fashion as Po struggles to assert himself due to a clouded past, but doing so almost entirely without the help of master Shifu, who was at least half the fun in the first film, voiced by the everlasting Dustin Hoffman.

In any case, following a film that felt whole and successful was always going to be hard, necessarily introducing a host of new characters that pose, more or less, the same threats as the foe we saw in the first part. Though mostly a rehash of the same tricks and childlike humor, Kung Fu Panda 2 manages to be just above average for its lively animation, charming characters and silly humor.

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Genre: Parody/Comedy

Cast: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Tom Cruise, Nick Nolte, Mathew McConaughey

Director: Ben Stiller

Writers: Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller, Etan Cohen

Rating: 2.5/5 (average)

Parodies are tricky. Can you really take them seriously and criticize them based on what we typically expect from a film? Can they even be compared to other types of comedy? Tropic Thunder, much like the Scary Movie franchise, knows no rules or boundaries. There is certainly nothing fancy or profound about this directorial effort by Ben Stiller but, is it at least funny and entertaining?: Only sometimes.

Tropic  Thunder relies on a rather impressive cast made up of Robert Downey Jr. playing an Australian actor playing a black man pretending to be at war in a movie that suddenly turns very real. If that’s not enough of a challenge for an actor, I don’t know what is. He is the highlight of the film for me.

Alongside him, we find Jack Black playing his typical obnoxious self, and Ben Stiller comfortably playing a rather “slow” movie star who must try to recover from his previous fiasco playing an “all-the-way retarded” character. The film also features some interesting cameos. While Tom Cruise’s role as an amoral studio head is rather entertaining to watch, a little less effective are Mathew McConaughey as an agent that just seems like an extension of himself, and an always disheveled Nick Nolte as a Vietnam veteran with a doubtful past.

Tropic Thunder has moments of brilliant parody which make it one of the more refined attempts in this genre. Is it enough to be above mediocrity?: Just about.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Genre: Action/Thriller

Cast: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt

Director/Writers: George Nolfi, Philip K. Dick

Rating: 2/5 (bellow average)

An incredibly lack-luster adapted screenplay from a short-story turned feature film starring a surprisingly flat Matt Damon and an unconvincing Emily Blunt. The Adjustment Bureau feels very much like The Matrix minus the cool agents, replaced by dull men with odd powers and top hats. Without the awesome fighting sequences, replaced by a cat-and-mouse game of door opening and closing. Without the dodging of bullets, replaced by characters making sure they turn door knobs in the right direction; and without the high-octane finale, replaced by an anti-climatic resolution at the top of a nondescript building in midtown Manhattan.

This Means War (2012)

Genre: Romance/Comedy

Cast: Reese Whiterspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy and Chelsea Handler.

Director: mcG

Writers: Timothy Dowling, Simon Kingber

Rating: 1/5 (very bad)

Probably the worst film Ive had the displeasure of watching this year. I can’t for the life of me understand what made three talented actors sign-up to this unfunny, unexciting, uninspiring and extremely tacky mockery of what a film should be.
In fact, it says a lot about a movie when you have an Oscar winner like Reese Whiterspoon and two great up-and-coming actors like Tom Hardy and Chris Pine be overshadowed by the irreverent and politically incorrect Chelsea Handler who, even in a performance that feels like she’s reading her lines, provides the only resemblance of humor of this disaster of a film.
Must avoid at all cost!

Chronicle (2012)

Genre: Suspense/ Thriller

Cast: Dane Dehaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan

Director/Writer: Josh Trank, Mike Landis

Rating: 3.5/5 (good)

One of the few positive surprises so far this year. Chronicle takes the fashionable documentary-style film popularized by The Blair Witch Project, and turns it into a powerful tool that is suspenseful, eerily realistic and close to the action.

Chronicle is a superhero film gone wrong, as young guys must grapple with newly found powers that are almost infinite, and choose whether to do good, or misuse them to catastrophic effects.

Benefiting the realism is an unknown set of actors, most of which deliver in convincing fashion, especially Dane Dehaan, as the troubled self-conscious teenager who lives with an abusive father and has no social life. His turn as an unlikely “superhuman” proves to be a curse that puts him on a downward spiral towards mayhem and death.

Though mostly satisfying in the lead-up to its conclusion, Chronicle is an original take on superheroes, teenage angst and documentary-style films.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

Cast: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemmsworth

Director: Rupert Sanders

Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini

Rating: 2/5 (bellow average)

Everything you have read is true. Snow White and the Huntsman is a fancy visual treat carried with determination by the scene-stealing Charlize Theron, who must sadly share the screen with a vastly underwhelming actress named Kristen Stewart who, in all honesty, does not hold a candle in terms of merriness and beauty to the evil witch of this story.

Not only is Mrs. Pattison a limited actress who still has a lot to learn, but the casting in itself is a bit odd considering the unmerry like abilities of our lead to capture what is supposed to be the lovely and tender character of Snow White.

Though an interesting retooling of the original story, the film quickly falls apart at the seams by feeling rushed, formulaic and tacky. Equally disappointing is the less than satisfying Chris Hemmsworth in another Thor-like role.

Spirited Away (2001)

Genre: Animated

Cast (voice): Rumi Hiiragi (Chihiro/Sen), Miyu Irino (Haku), Mari Natsuki (Yubaba/Zeniba)

Director/Writer: Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: 3/5 (above average)

I expected more. Spirited Away was sold to me as the crown jewel of the acclaimed Studio Ghibli  and what I got was more than your average animated feature, but less, far less than a masterpiece.

There is certainly a lot to dissect and analyze about this very peculiar piece to which I intend to get to in a more in-depth review as part of my ongoing IMDB Top 250 series. Stay tune for that!

2012 (2011)

Genre: Action/Thriller

Cast: John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover

Director/Writer: Roland Emmerich

Rating: 1.5/5 (poor)

Roland Emmerich, the maker of just about every over-the-top action extravaganza, finds himself at the helm of yet another film of this kind. The always present common man lead is taken by the very average John Cusack who does nothing special to bring this film to a respectable level. The action, which is surprisingly scattered despite the doomsday scenario, is a bit too ridiculous, an embarrassment of riches in CGI, feeling more like a video game than a believable film.

While films like Independence Day gain a lot from the comedic timing of Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, 2012 tries to offer some of the same in the form of caricaturesque character that are unfunny and unconvincing. If you want a film that follows every rule in the Hollywood book and offers lackluster action with tons of CGI, this is the film for you, but hopefully you don’t.

Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Genre: Horror/Suspense

Cast: Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Olivia Dudley

Director: Bradley Parker

Writers: Oren Peli, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke

Rating: 2/5 (bellow average)

Beyond the fascinating setting and surprising cinematography, Chernobyl Diaries does not manage to offer more in terms of scares than your standard house of horrors could. To start with, there are many expected elements that seem to dominate every horror film ever made. From the deserted ghost town that is not really deserted, to the abandoned buildings with surprises around every corner, to the ominous presence of angry animals, to the clouded nighttime that offers a very limited field of vision.

To add to the calamity is an unconvincing cast led by a Jesse McCartney that seems out of his element. There are a few decent performances, but not enough to make up for the faults of a film with a rather weak storyline that doesn’t bother to go beyond the commonplace and offer any surprises.

Weekend (2011)

Genre: Romance/Drama

Cast: Tom Cullen, Chris New

Director: Andrew Haigh

Rating: 4/5 (very good)

A gem of a film that goes well beyond stereotypes to offer a touching and genuine romance. It deserves a longer in-depth review, so I will limit myself to saying I will get to it very soon. Stay tune for that!

Ted (2012)

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane (Ted)

Director/Writer: Seth MacFarlane

Rating: 3/5 (above average)

Not long ago, Seth MacFarlane could do no wrong. Family Guy was a barrier-breaking animated show at the peak of its power and popularity and, as the mastermind, he was given another time slot for his racier and “wronger” American Dad.

Lately, Seth MacFarlane shows have hit a low point, perhaps having run their course, far away from their best days. Currently, the ideas for the episodes seem safer, more commonplace and, in turn, less funny. His is a brand of comedy that rallies on dark political incorrectness, but with Ted, he falls back on what is safe and expected, taking just a few risks along the way, but never quite managing to hit comedic gold.

The premise of Ted, as odd as it may seem, is not altogether original. The history of animated characters blending with humans might not be long, but there are examples of it being done on film before. While Ted is, by far, the more interesting, funny and unpredictable character in the film, there are a few instances in which he just comes across as trying too hard and sounding and looking a bit too much like Peter Griffin from Family Guy (which the film makes fun of). The relationship between Mark Wahlberg and the near-perfect CGI creature that is Ted is one of the film’s greatest pleasures, feeding off each other as if their relationship was real. It is in the unconvincing and unnecessary subplots that the film gets lost in, offering stale characters that do not go beyond the caricaturesque level. Similarly, Mila Kunis seems to always be in the periphery, no matter how hard she tries to give some life and appeal to a rather weak significant other.

Ted does offer laughs and there are a couple of hilarious moments, but the comedy is not always consistent and the story far too common to deserve more praise.


Please offer your thoughts, this summary took far too long! 😛

9 thoughts on “Film Round-up: May, June & July

  1. whoa a lot of movies for 3 months for sure 😉

    I actually love Beginners, it’s one of my favorites from 2011.
    Sad that you thought that way of Spirited Away, to me it’s one of the best animations ever made.

    I’d really like to see weekend and sunshine.

    And as for This means war and snow white & huntsman, agreed!

    1. We have to agree to disagree when it comes to Beginners and Spirited Away. I didn’t like the construction and pace of the first, while I thought the famous anime was just a bit too random and weird for my taste.

  2. Nice list and mini reviews, Niels! I like The French Connection more than you, I think it’s a classic in its own right. I agree w/ you on the rating of Adjustment Bureau, ‘Huntsman’, Jump Street and Sunshine. I haven’t seen This Means War yet but even w/ Tom Hardy, it just looks horrible. I’m not generally a fan of anime films, but Spirited Away was interesting. I probably would rate it about the same as you though as it was a bit too weird for my taste at times.

    Btw, here’s my review of Ruby Sparks that you asked me on my blog:

    1. That was certainly part of the problem for me with Spirited Away. It just felt a bit too random and weird all the way through. I didn’t quite connect at an emotional level either.
      This Means War is not worth it. Avoid it!
      Glad you agree with a good part of my reviews. I’ll definitely check out your review for Ruby Sparks, thanks for the link.

  3. Hi Niels, nice batch of mini-reviews! I’m glad I’m not alone on Tropic Thunder — I don’t really get the appeal for that one at all. Your high praise for Sunshine has me even more curious to finally check that out.

    Also, more power to you for sitting through New Year’s Eve, This Means War and 2012. That’s some rough viewing right there. 😀

  4. This is a considerably long list so I’m going to stick to the movies that I’ve seen. I’m actually shocked that YOU gave 21 Jumpstreet a good rating. Not the most belly splitting comedy, but I had a blast watching it with friends.
    This Means War – I loved it (and looking at Chris Pine)! Of course I didn’t have high expectations especially in terms of action. I expected it to be ridiculous and improbable, which it was. They just went with it and threw logic out the window. There’s no way CIA agents would be able to get away with 90% of what they did.
    Snow White and the Huntsman – agreed. I still can’t figure out why they cast Kristen Stewart. Were they afraid no one would want to see it and they wanted to bring in the TwiHards? Cherize Theron is simply stunning. Period. Segue Have you seen Mirror MIrror?
    2012 – Fell asleep on purpose during the movie. I felt that was a better use of my time, even though I adore John Cusack.
    Tropic Thunder -stopped watching it after a half an hour. I keep telling myself I’ll finish it someday…
    Harry Potter – I made the mistake of watching it after reading the books. The movie was such a departure from what actually happened that sadly I was not impressed. They showed the basic ideas of the plot, but I guess changed a lot of the details for cinematic effect.
    Ghost Protocol – I agree. Probably my fav of the sequels.

  5. Hey!

    Nick from here. Doing some scout work for the LAMB. We’re wanting to make an email newsletter for community features as well as a list we’re making similar to Sight & Sound’s best movies of all time list. Just need an email! Email me at npowe131 at

  6. Wow! a lot of movie watching! Thanks for the update. Great to see it.

    A little surprised by some of the scores: Tropic Thunder lower than 21 Jump St.

    Spirited Away and The Adjustment Bureau lower than I expected. However, it’s nice to see the differing thoughts.

    Some great watching. A wonderful mix.

  7. I personally rate The French Connection a little higher…you’re right to highlight the gritty realism which I think stands it apart from many of the pretenders but the performances are also top notch and I think the film gets better with each viewing.

    I also thought Beginners was excellent…a thoughtful, well written romantic drama that gives the genre more respect than so any romantic comedies that play to the lowest common denominator.

    I agree with your sentiments about Chronicle…I liked it but there were some issues – the characterisation, although fairly multi-layered still felt one-dimensional thanks to a handy bit of stereotyping.

    Glad you liked Weekend…I think Weekend and Beginners work well as a double-bill.

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