There aren’t many people who can forget Richard Kelly’s debut film Donnie Darko. Majority of them are still trying to work out what actually happened besides the fact Jack Gynehall’s character got laid in the final half. Therefore there was understandably a lot of buzz about his follow up film Southland Tales. In the seven years since Kelly made Donnie Darko it has become a cult and critical hit and the hype surrounding this recent work was equally as positive, especially when it got accepted in to
Gone Baby GoneAn absolute classic if I ever saw one. Who knew Ben Affleck had the potential to direct, write and produce in such an exceptional manner? Okay we knew he had the balls after his writing debut with BFF Matt Damon won them an Oscar for Good Will Hunting but Gone Baby Gone is beyond and better than that. The camera work is great and Affleck directs his cast and crew very well. But the real clincher here is the story. Affleck is so masterful in his direction and writing that he leads the audience one way and then all of a sudden you’re thrown in to a completely different situation darker and more difficult than before. This is the kind of film that once you see it, you don’t forget it and it truly makes you question your personal morals and ethics. The Academy made a massive oversight in not selected this film as a contender for best picture. One of my favourite films period.
Sukiayaki Western Django A swashbuckling ride with big guns, big explosions and a big cameo from Quentin Tarantino. Takashi Miike (a director who makes a ridiculously large amount of films each year) throws everything at you in this exploitive action romp which is slightly kooky and a tad bit fun.
Body of Lies
One of the most underrated movies of the year, Russel Crowe and Leonardo Dicaprio face of in this tense spy-thriller which had me biting my nails the whole way. The story is complex, the locations are mind blowing and in true Ridley Scott fashion the camera work/techniques are exceptionally innovative. The story centres on CIA agent Roger Ferris played by Dicaprio who uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of
Brilliant, unsettling and hilarious are perhaps three words I’d use to describe this little gem of a black comedy. Or is it? It’s hard to define as a black comedy when there are definitely elements of horror. But whatever genre you want to throw it in Teeth is just a little bit awesome. In a nutshell Teeth is about a teenage virgin named Dawn who discovers, through a series of unfortunate incidents, she has teeth in her vagina. Yes, that’s right I said teeth in her vadge (a phenomenon popular in mythology in civilisations throughout the world know as vagina dentata). And if you think she’s unlucky wait to you see the how the handful of douches that try to pop her cherry end up. Lets just say there are certain scenes that the male audience may find . .er . . .uncomfortable. An indie film with a cast of unknowns, you can tell lead actress Jess Weixler is going to be a star. I loved how the director mocks how Hollywood has made showing female genitalia in films taboo and the sex scenes are shown from both the man AND the women’s perspective (for once). But what I truly adore is once you put the shocking concept of the film aside, Teeth is essentially about a young women who comes to accept her flaws and use them to her advantage. Who would have thought a film about a fang filled giny could present a strong message on female empowerment?
Undoubtedly one of my favourite films of the year! But despite the impressive cast RocknRolla didn’t seem to attract much of an audience. After a few colossal failures RocknRolla is a return to form for Guy Ritchie and my favourite film of his to date. “What?! But nothing can be better than Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” I hear you say. Oh but it is. At least for me personally anyway. A shade lighter than his previous gangster flicks RocknRolla is funny, fast paced and packed to the brim with action. The ensemble cast ticks all the performance boxes with Toby Kebbell delivering an absolutely smashing performance as drug-addicted rocker Johnny. Plus the jerking exchange between Thandie Newton and Gerard Butler is one of the best dance scenes I’ve seen since Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.
We Own the Night
2008 hasn’t been a great year for Mark Wahlberg film wise. His show Entourage has continued its roaring success and in his personal life fiancée Rhea Durham popped out another son for him. But for some reason the films he has starred in haven’t bode well with critics despite his stellar performances. We Own the Night was the exception. Applauded by critics for the superb camera work and dark, thrilling atmosphere created by writer/director James Gray, We Own the Night was accepted in to the Cannes Film Festival and received a standing ovation after it screened. The problem was, no one saw this movie. Okay, that’s a lie. There were some people who saw it but frankly all nine of us are going to have trouble spreading the good word about this film. The script and concept is superb and the acting is nothing short of brilliant. Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix play brothers on different sides of the law who team up to protect their families from the Russian mafia. Gray, Wahlberg and
Legendary director Brian De Palm of Scarface and The Untouchables fame stepped outside his comfort zone to make this fictional drama which won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival for best director. Redacted is a montage of stories about U.S. soldiers fighting in the Iraq conflict, focusing on the modern forms of media covering the war and is designed to make you feel like you’re actually there with the soldiers. This film is truly unique compared to everything else De Palma has done in his career which spans almost half a century. It’s raw, fast paced and you can tell you’re in the hands of a veteran director. I think the Redacted tag line does a better job of describing the film than I can - “Truth is the first casualty of war”.
Be Kind RewindAnother notable mention is Be Kind Rewind starring Jack Black and Mos Def . Although it lacked the budget and special effects of some of the other comedies released this year, Be Kind Rewind had more heart than all of them put together and featured some of the best spoofs of
Another film about soldiers in the war in
I’ll try and keep this brief because I already covered this film extensively in August but Savages is that rare kind of a movie that has the ability to connect with each of us on some level. Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman star as dysfunctional siblings Wendy and John Savage who are forced to confront the issues in their own lives when they to try looking after their father who has recently been diagnosed with dementia. Yet another black comedy to add to the list and I’m sure there’s a fair few people who have seen this due to Laura Linney’s Oscar nomination for the role but this film is so affecting I had to include it anyway.
How She Move
It’s easy to understand why no one wanted to watch another dance movie in `08 after such atrocious efforts like Step Up 2 The Streets and Make It Happen (my front runner for the worst film of the year). Essentially that’s what How She Move is; a dance film. But there’s a difference. Unlike the dozens of bubblegum pieces that fill this genre, the movie is authentic and sheds light on a genuine, not fictional, underground movement of step dancing. It’s not filled with the lofty, predictable storylines of other dance movies instead it looks at the gritty ghetto filled with sex, drugs, death and darkness. It examines family relationships in the face of losing a loved one to heroin and it looks at the failing education system for lower-class black Americans. Plus there are some wicked cool dance scenes. On the whole, How She Move will leave you feeling like you saw something substantial rather than just another popcorn dance movie. Despite being an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival where it was the surprise hit of the event, How She Move failed to make a dent at the global box office particularly in
Maybe the best Aussie film of the year and definitely the best documentary Not Quite Hollywood is an exciting debut for director Mark Hartley. The doco delves deep in to the world of Ozploitation cinema, popular in the 70s and 80s which is a hybrid of one of my favourite genres; exploitation cinema. A fascinating look at an undocumented portion of Australian film history it also features interviews from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Jamie-Lee Curtis and Dennis Hopper. To read more see my August post titled Rude, crude and totally attractive.
Funny and oh so dark at the same time. In
Tuesday, 30 December 2008