Monday, October 03, 2011

September Film Highlights

Visit ye olde 50 Word Film Reviews blog for more stuff.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox. Dir: Rupert Wyatt.

While discovering a cure for his father’s Alzheimers, a doctor engineers an intelligent ape. Squeezes so much plot into its running time that it starts to stretch credibility and doesn’t have room to make its human characters interesting. But it’s a fun ride and has a suitably thrilling climax.


Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Ciaron Hinds, Toby Jones, John Hurt. Dir: Tomas Alfredson.

A retired spy is tasked with rooting out a spy at the top of MI6. Superbly plotted spy thriller. Successfully condenses a complex novel into a compelling story, focusing on period detail and sense of decline instead of complex backstory, though this does neglect a few in the incredible cast.


Battle Royale (2000) Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Takeshi Kitano. Dir: Kinji Fukasaku.

A class of unruly school kids are taken to an island and forced to fight to the death. Not entirely convinced this isn't exploitation dressed up as dystopian drama. Nevertheless, it's electrifying drama which shows desperate teens as being no different to us, and subject to life’s same disappointments.


Kill List (2011) Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, MyAnna Buring, Emma Fryer. Dir: Ben Wheatley.

A retired hitman reluctantly accepts one more contract, but strange things begin to happen. Starts as a domestic drama, evolves into gangster thriller and ends a full-blooded horror. The leads’ gritty performances are superb, but writer/director Wheatley stands out as an up-and-comer to be reckoned with. Not for the squeamish.

The Saved Hitler's Brain! (1969) Walter Stocker, Audrey Caire, Carlos Rivas, John Holland, Marshall Reed. Dir: David Bradley.

A scientist is kidnapped by Nazis and taken to South America where Hitler’s head still lives. First 20 minutes were shot years later (incompetently) to extend the duration. The remainder takes a simple plot and makes it convoluted, yet still dull. If only Hitler’s hilarious head was on screen more.


The Skin I Live In (2011) Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo. Dir: Pedro Almodóvar.

A surgeon keeps a girl prisoner in his home and user her as test substitute for his new enhanced skin. Part Frankenstein, part Eyes Without A Face, but unlike either. It takes its subject completely seriously, avoiding excesses and exploring psychological terror and sexual obsession. An elegant, deeply unsettling experience.


The Guard (2011) Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, Michael Og Lane, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan. Dir: John Michael McDonagh.

A difficult and eccentric parochial Irish cop must help an FBI agent tracking drug traffickers. A film about disappointment, where no one is quite happy with how life has turned out. Fortunately, the dialogue’s killer and Gleeson absolutely priceless as the loveably corrupt guard. Hilarious melancholy entertainment.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Alan Tilvern, Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Mel Blanc. Dir: Robert Zemeckis, Richard Williams.

A cartoon character appeals to a down-and-out private eye for help when he’s framed for murder. All the more impressive for its pre-computer animation construction, with Hoskins and Lloyd working wonders. A fitting tribute to the golden age of animation – even if they don’t always get the timing right.