Films viewed in 2011

Posts Tagged ‘suspense’

426. Good

In Drama on January 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM

Dir. Vicente Amorim

A literature professor is pulled in different directions to advance his career and eventually his life in Nazi Germany.

MY TAKE

Vincente Amorim’s film adaptation of Good posits that the pride of nationalism and the possibility of a great blow-job while in a Nazi uniform were enough to sweep “good” men into an evil regime. One of these theories is more believable than the other. Regardless, there’s an obvious appeal to exploring what fueled the Führer’s followers beyond pure anti-Semitism. Viggo Mortensen once again makes for a captivating character study and believably melts away his heroic aura in favour of a brainy, if not overwhelmed, academic. Watching his work be praised and then co-opted into distorted euthanasia theories gives the story a compelling moral compass, which only dips south a couple of times.

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228. Apollo 18

In Horror on September 6, 2011 at 3:04 PM

Dir. Gonzalo López-Gallego

Decades-old found footage from NASA’s abandoned Apollo 18 mission reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.

MY TAKE

The “Found-footage” subgenre of horror isn’t going anywhere, but Apollo 18 should have gone back to the editing room. “Blair Witch in Space” actually looks better than all the others, but struggles to maintain its diegetic logic more than most – especially at the end. The epilogue title card may be the most laughable I’ve ever seen. Seeing the film with a bunch of Quebecois friends also made me realize how much the dialogue is just control room bafflegab and acronyms that don’t even mean much in English.

198. Silent Hill

In Canadian on August 30, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Dir. Christophe Gans

A woman goes in search for her daughter, within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill. Based on the video game.

MY TAKE

Saying this is a step-above most video game adaptations still isn’t saying much. The difference here is that Silent Hill really feels like a horror film first, despite its origins. I  also give the film points for the strange absence of male characters. The story, however, is overlong, but it’s nice to see screenwriter Roger Avery put his Canadian passport to use for CanCon points (pre-manslaughter charges, of course).

196. Straw Dogs

In Drama on August 30, 2011 at 10:53 AM

Dir. Sam Pechinpaw

A young American and his English wife come to rural England and face increasingly vicious local harassment.

MY TAKE

Home invasion films have almost become a sub-genre of psychological-thrillers, exploiting our carnal instincts to defend family at all costs. Straw Dogs takes this idea to the next level, not only by having Dustin Hoffman play a pacifist mathematician, but also because he’s protecting his girlfriend and a murder. The rape scene still stands out as controversial, but I think what was once read as a sad transformation into violence is now just considered justified heroism. I’m curious how the upcoming remake will treat everything.

181. Small Town Murder Songs

In Canadian on August 26, 2011 at 9:33 AM

Dir. Ed Gass-Donnelly

An aging police officer from a small Ontario Mennonite town hides a violent past until a local murder upsets the calm of his newly reformed life.

MY TAKE

The mood is great, the soundtrack is amazing, but the script is too coy for its own good. The comparisons to a Coen brother’s film are made easier with Peter Stormare in the starring role, but Small Town Murder Songs is closer to A Serious Man than Fargo. More intelligent dialogue and some attempt at resolution (even misleading) would have helped the film go a long way.

178. The Rite

In Horror on August 25, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Dir. Mikael Håfström

An American seminary student questioning his faith travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.

MY TAKE

Right or wrong, exorcism movies always seem to work for me. Nothing ever lives up to the 1973 landmark film, but The Rite has some great moments. I do, however, feel there was a missed opportunity with the yet-to-be priest administering a dying woman’s final rights. The breach of protocol was a perfect catalyst for possession, but instead it just became a character turning point.  I’ll have to write the alternate version myself one day.

160. Battle in Seattle

In Drama on August 22, 2011 at 1:49 PM

Dir. Stuart Townsend

Activists protest a meeting of the World Trade Organization, and riots erupt in the streets.

MY TAKE

I’m always annoyed how the litany of causes competing to get their message across at world summits ends in meaninless property damage and violence. This film, however, does a good job at illustrating how sincere efforts to demonstrate can be co-opted and compromised by “direct action”.  The all-angles approach to the story, on the other hand, could have benefited from being a bit more narrowly presented so the ending didn’t feel so contrived.

150. Insidious

In Horror on August 19, 2011 at 1:04 PM

Dir. James Wan

A family looks to prevent evil spirits from trapping their comatose child in a realm called The Further.

MY TAKE

Sometimes advertising the filmmakers’ pedigree can set-up the wrong expectations for a movie (see Fair Game review), but with Insidious, I thought it provided effective misdirection. The Saw guys are known as gore specialists, so their restraint here actually increases the tension. I was periodically spooked but thought they went a bit too far decorating The Further.

144. The French Connection

In Drama on August 18, 2011 at 2:15 PM

Dir. William Friedkin

A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.

MY TAKE

The French Connection cleaned up at the 1971 Oscars, but all anyone talks about today is the chase sequence. I can appreciate the lopsided praise. The film is a smart and tight thriller overall, but the tension earned by a chase in busy streets, with clear dangers and a distinct trajectory set a standard rarely met to this day. I don’t hear much about the sequel, but I’m curious.

129. Safe

In Drama on August 16, 2011 at 4:28 PM

Dir. Todd Haynes

An affluent and unexceptional homemaker in the suburbs develops multiple chemical sensitivity.

MY TAKE

By the time this movie makes its point, I had almost lost interest. The sterile and obsessive execution clearly compliments the material, but isn’t always a rewarding viewing experience. Julianne Moore, however, allows for empathy even when it might not otherwise be warranted. The praise heaped on this movie feels purposely polarizing.