Tuesday, March 20, 2012

February Film Highlights

Bit late this month, but you could always just look at the blog instead.

The Iron Lady (2011) Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Stuart Heard. Dir: Phyllida Lloyd.

Elderly Margaret Thatcher reflects on her rise to power and political career. Makes its case for Thatcher as a formidable, yet human, force to be reckoned with, but her divisive policies remain an awkward elephant in the room. Without Streeps excellent performance, it’s little more than a daytime TV melodrama.


Bullets Over Broadway (1994) John Cusack, Dianne Weist, Jennifer Tilly, Chazz Palminteri, Joe Viterelli, Jack Warden, Jim Broadbent, Rob Reiner, Tracey Ullman. Dir: Woody Allen.

A playwright reluctantly accepts a gangster's money to stage his play, but then must suffer his girlfriend as his star. Entertaining backstage farce with a great cast and standout turns from Weist and Broadbent. Asides from being laugh-heavy it’s also a great satire on pretentious artists, their commitment and integrity.


Steamboat Bill Jr.(1928) Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron, Tom McGuire. Dir: Buster Keaton.

A father struggling to save his Steamboat is shocked to discover his son’s become a dandy. Keaton displays his skill at mise-en-scene with some of his most memorable visuals and most elaborate visual gags. With an endearing story and exciting climax, he’s at the absolute hilarious height of his powers.


Village of the Damned(1960) George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens, Michael Gwynn. Dir: Wolf Rilla.

A village’s population black-out at the same time; when they awake, the women are pregnant. Sci-fi horror where invaders take on the uncanny form of children, chillingly emotionless and cruel, yet still childlike. Intelligently written, economical handling is its strength and weakness, there’s more potential beyond its short running time.


The Muppets (2011) Jason Siegal, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jack Black, Peter Linz, Steve Whitmore, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz. Dir: James Bobin.

A Muppet fan discovers their studio is being demolished and tries to re-group the gang to save it. Canny revival that appeals to old fans so they’ll bring the kids. Some gags misfire, but successfully restores the gang back to their daft, anarchic roots. Songs are good, but cameos a bit disappointing.


Thirst (2009) Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Hae-sook. Dir: Park Chan-wook.

A priest survives a botched medical experiment but develops a taste for blood, and lust. A witty refreshingly different vampire thriller, one that blends faith questioning, domestic drama and film noir with lashings of black comedy. It’s less a horror, but a love story, one that’s pleasingly demented.


War Horse (2011) Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Marsan. Dir: Steven Spielberg.

A boy raises and trains a horse, but when WW1 comes, both are called into battle. With a script so acclaimed, why would you change it? Spielberg and Co smother it with sentimental goo and blunt its edges with cosy characterisations. Looks great, but not a patch on the play.


Divorce, Italian Style (1961) Marcello Mastroianni, Daniela Rocca, Stefania Sandrelli, Leopoldo Trieste, Odoardo Spadaro. Dir: Pietro Germi.

Unable to divorce his wife, an Italian nobleman tricks her into having an affair so he can honour-kill her. If Ealing Studios ever made a trip to Italy – clever satire on the ludicrous contradictions of traditional Sicilian relationships, brought to screen with style and wit and a great star performance.