Fish Tank (2009)
I watched this because of Michael Fassbender. There I said it. I'm glad I ended up watching it though. It's a well shot and well acted film about a young girl living in a council estate who develops feelings for her mother's handsome Irish boyfriend. There's plenty to be said of the film as a text, and you can interpret it in any which way, especially with an eye for social realism. It's a thematically deep film, and it's successful in convincingly portraying the emotional development of this girl. However, it's a little slow. Could've used a trim here and there just to speed things up. Other than that, this is a fantastic film.
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011)
The cast. Oh my god the cast. Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Nick Kroll among others. The plot? I couldn't care less about the plot. However, this is a surprisingly heartwarming and hilarious movie about a group of friends who want to celebrate their last holiday in the summer home before its sold with an orgy. At first the film sort of stumbles with its awkward premise and its thinly drawn characters, but as the film goes on, and sketches the background details of these friends, without belaboring the details, the cast fills out, and the humour comes alive. It helps that everybody is fairly charming and quick-witted, and there appears to be a healthy level of improvisation. What sort of diminishes the movie is the romance that develops between the main character and the real estate agent in charge of selling the house. In a surprising move, the climax of the film sweeps it aside and goes straight the emotional catharsis of the orgy. It works! This is a good comedy, not quite to the level of The Hangover or Bridesmaids, but this style of ensemble comedy with a focus on the dialogue is greatly appreciated.
Ryan Gosling, amirite? There's a good looking fellow. The opening scene of Drive is fantastic: a car chase that's not quite a car chase, one that's cerebral and intelligent but tense nonetheless. Certainly emblematic of the rest of the film. Then, the credits sequence, hot pink cursive writing set to night time scenes and a killer French synthpop jam. These are all ingredients for a fantastic movie. I liked Drive a lot. Gosling is amazing, even though he's hardly doing anything. The violence is spectacularly shocking, when there is. Albert Brooks is really good, and so is Ron Perlman. So what's the problem? Not enough Gosling driving. There just isn't enough of him doing what he's best at. The car chase is also bizarrely shot, with odd editing choices, giving the viewer a wrong sense of geography. But the rest of the movie is good. I don't really have much to say about this movie. It's good, but it's not great. It's really really good, but not great.
The Guard (2011)
Here's an hilarious movie in the same vein as Bad Santa or any of those foul-mouthed bastard and the people who love them. Except, it's Brendan Gleeson as an Irish cop, one of the Garda, and Don Cheadle, strait-laced cop from America comes to track down some drug smugglers. This is a film to watch for its screenplay and its dialogue rather than its plot. Mark Strong, the UK's leading villain in all films, delivers a strong performance as an Englishman looking for some violence. Everybody's pretty funny, and despite the film being made in Ireland by Irish people, there doesn't seem to be a lot of specifically Irish humour. It's simply people swearing at each other for two hours. Not a bad way to pass the time.
Final Destination 5 (2011)
I have some sort of affection for the series as a whole. The first one is clever, in that it removes the slasher from the slasher movie, and the second one is amazing for just upping the stakes to an incredible degree. However, the next two were of diminishing returns. Hopefully this fifth one would do something interesting? Well, it does and it doesn't. This one adds the dimension of taking a life in order to appease death, so Miles Fisher, one of my favourite people in the world, ends up trying to murder people. The setpieces are cool, I guess, but nothing as spectacular as the second film. It's the end that really fucking does it. Does anybody remember the end of The Mist? How fucking mean it is? Well, Final Destination 5 is even meaner, if that's possible. The requisite twist ending is impossible to see coming, and it's utterly nihilistic. It's fucking mean and I love it because of it.
Soderbergh is a filmmaker who has almost exhausted my patience. Traffic, Erin Brockovitch, the Ocean's Trilogy, Out of Sight and the Limey are all terrific movies. However, Soderbergh punctuates his career with misfires such as Full Frontal and the Che two parter. I only made it through about an hour of Che before I fell asleep. It's painfully boring. So when Soderbergh makes a more commercial picture, I'm interested. Where will it end up? Like Traffic or like Solaris? Contagion is a fast-paced medical thriller, which is an automatic thumbs up from me, really. Plus, it is meant to be hyper realistic, and its attention to detail is amazing. The cast is uniformly excellent, including Gwyneth Paltrow's exceedingly disturbing death scene in the first ten minutes of the movie. The second half of the movie suffers a bit from a lack of direction. Only two or three characters have a goal by the second half and the rest of the cast simply wanders around until the denouement. Still, it's slickly made and goes to show that Soderbergh is one of the greatest cinematographers in the business.
Fright Night (2011)
This was one of my most anticipated films of the year. I have great affection for the original, despite not seeing it in almost ten years. I remember it being witty, frightening, hilarious and altogether charming. I expected something of the same from the remake, especially because of its acting pedigree. Yes, the Tenth Doctor plays a Criss Angel type of arsehole, and he even uses the same accent from his tenure on Doctor Who. Of course, this was not the only engaging part of Fright Night. Rather, it is a clever movie that suffers only from its dismal CGI effects. There are numerous scenes of palpable suspense, like when the main character is attempting to sneak out of the vampire's house while the villain watches reality TV and drinks beer. Instead of the charming debonair Chris Sarandon, this film features a rugged and animalistic Colin Farrell, who just oozes sex and violence. It's a restrained performance, in which the possibility of violence is more threatening than the display of aggression. The film is equal parts funny and scary, including a hilarious turn from James Franco's younger brother in a small role as a stoned bully who gets his throat ripped out. I enjoyed the movie more than I thought I would.
Friends with Kids (2011)
Again, here is another movie that I watched if only because of the cast. Jon Hamm, Kirsten Wiig, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd and some other fine actors all star in Friends with Kids, written and directed by Hamm's partner, who stars as one of two platonic friends who have a kid together with the aim of not falling in love and of course, they end up falling in love. The story beats are boring, but the cast is charming. Hamm's partner is a terrifically weak actress in comparison to the rest of the cast, though. Her own dialogue sounds stilted and forced in her mouth. If you had this cast together, wouldn't you let them improv the shit out of everything? Well, they weren't allowed or at least it didn't end up in the final cut. This is a movie that screaming to be let loose from the director's quiet dialogue. It shakes the frame with potential energy but focuses on small scenes of warmth. Luckily the film moves into real emotion by the end, and it concludes with a heartwarming scene. It's the barebones of romantic comedy, but the cast keeps it barely alive.