DDDDDD – Exceptional and unparalleled
DDDDD – Excellent, a special film
DDDD – High enjoyable, recommended
DDD – Worth watching, but unexceptional or flawed
DD – Bland, dull, average
D – Cinematic cancer
The Wrestler (2009) Mickey Rourke, Maria Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood. Dir: Darren Aronofsky.
An ailing washed-up wrestler tries to rebuild a life for himself outside the ring. Rourke is simply perfect as a man who can only succeed in a world where all the conflicts are staged. A testament to the power of strong storytelling and spot-on casting.
One Million Years BC (1967) Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Percy Roberts, Robert Brown. Dir: Don Chaffrey
Banished from his tribe, Tumak meets Raquel Welch and joins her tribe before clashing with his old one. Amazing how often a giant dinosaur can sneak up behind you. Very silly, but worth seeing for the Harryhausen dinosaurs and that bikini.
Planet Terror (2007) Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Jeff Fahey. Dir: Robert Rodriguez
Part of the Grindhouse double bill, a go-go dancer quits her job then encounters her old boyfriend in a small town just before it’s invaded by zombies. Perhaps a little too knowing, but generally a great fun parody, though it would’ve been braver had it replicated the budgets of old.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Caroline Fuller. Dir: David Fincher
The life and loves of a man who ages backward, starting old and growing younger. An experiment in how many sentimental gimmicks you can squeeze into one film. Long, uneven and largely meaningless, it would’ve been better if Benjamin had a personality.
Che Part One (2008) Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Santiaga Cabrera, Vladimir Cruz. Dir: Steven Soderburgh.
The story of Che Guevera’s guerrilla campaign which led to the Cuban Revolution. Beautifully cinematic reconstruction of Guevera’s quest to liberate Cuba, which shows his beliefs, ideals and methodologies well, but offers very little insight into his personality, motivations or past.
8½ (1963) Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo. Dir: Federico Fellini
A director embarks on his 8½ film, with no idea where it’s going or what it’s about. Witty, surreal and occasionally profound, Fellini strikingly dissects the creative process and how it can make someone face their own weaknesses, failings and vulnerabilities. There’s nothing quite like it.
Bronson (2008) Tom Hardy, Matt King, Terry Stone, Amanda Burton. Dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
The life of Britain’s most violent and notorious prisoner. The darker side of the pursuit of fame, an imaginative, stark and occasionally surreal tale of a man trapped within the persona he made for himself. Hardy is electrifying as the lead – flipping from terrifying, hilarious and inevitably, to pitiful.
Dirty Harry (1971) Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson. Dir: Don Siegel
The first outing for Harry Callahan as he pursues a serial killer with little regard to the rules. So much of this has become cliché now, but it still remains an entertaining and exciting ride, even if it is a little hard to take too seriously.
Knife in the Water (1962) Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz. Dir: Roman Polanski
A cocky man invites a young drifter to join him and his wife for a yacht trip. Tense film of rivalry, dominance and sexual tension. Perhaps more interesting than exciting, but as a low budget debut thriller it really is quite impressive.