Summer Movie Round-Up

Last year I watched 35 movies in the cinema as part of my 100 movie project (more on that later). This year, with summer on its last limp legs, I am up to a grand total of eight. With the Oscars less than a week away, it seems as good a time as any to go through them (I won’t be rating them yet though).

The posters pictured below are the properties of their respective studios.
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Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Another year of (hopefully) 100 movies kicked off with several loud bangs thanks to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The film does not shy away from pyrotechnics and seems to take delight in framing its explosions in the most ludicrous way possible. The traditionally tame period setting has no effect on this; Ritchie knows what he likes from his films and he runs with that. The banter between his leads Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law is what holds the otherwise confusing narrative together. The supporting cast, especially Noomi Rapace, is underused, although Jared Harris’ criminal mastermind Moriarty is well depicted. One brilliant slo-mo heavy escape sequence in particular stands out from what is ultimately an “alright” movie.

The Descendants

It is quite possible that this gem will be sitting near the top of my movies list come the end of 2012. These days it isn’t a far-fetched generalisation that if George Clooney is in a movie it’s usually pretty good, but The Descendants manages to lift his average up even further. If you’ve seen the likes of  Little Miss Sunshine you will know what kind of atmosphere to expect: That of a touching family-centred drama with scattered but genuine laughs. Throw in the charming Hawaiian setting and a breakout performance from Shailene Woodley and you have a winner. Maybe not a Best Picture winner, but a winner nonetheless.

Hugo

Martin Scorcese’s incredible achievement of crafting such a rock-solid family friendly film in glorious 3D, in virtually his first attempt at both, cannot be understated. The golden hues and bright-eyed leads bring the story of a scavenging orphan to vivid life, featuring arguably the best use of the third dimension since Avatar. By the time Scorsese brings the tale around to the point he really wants to make about his life’s passion – film itself – it is very hard not to be transfixed. A subdued but still hilarious supporting turn from Sacha Baron Cohen only adds to the whole package.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Seeing this on the same night as Hugo was jarring to say the least, as David Fincher’s adapted version of the Swedish novel phenomenon holds back very little of the horrific subject matter present in the original story. Rape and torture scenes are present and accounted for, which makes more sense when you realise Fincher was the director of Seven and Zodiac. But he also helmed The Social Network, which shows in the slick way each scene is put together. Rooney Mara’s title character is a petulant powerhouse and Daniel Craig holds his own opposite her as the reporter who starts the gripping plot in motion. The whole production is given an impressive additional layer by the Oscar-winning duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who know how to score a tense scene.

The Muppets

Wow. Even though I had never watched a whole episode of The Muppet Show before in my life, I fell in love with this movie almost instantly. Jason Segel’s admirable experience with puppets (evidenced by the brilliant finale of Forgetting Sarah Marshall) pays dividends when combined with the countless laugh-out-loud and heartwarming moments throughout. Each of the many celebrity cameos is memorable and the Oscar-nominated Bret McKenzie song “Man or Muppet” is pure gold. Just wow.

Chronicle

I don’t even know where the idea for a mash-up of the found footage film and the superhero flick came from, but in the case of Chronicle the result is pretty amazing. The story of three friends who find a meteor granting them telepathic powers is filled with more new-ish ideas than cliches and the whole thing feels remarkably fresh because of it.  The trailers will tell you that the film goes to some pretty dark places, which it does (plus the ending is quite weak), but it also features some well-shot sequences of honest teenage joy. Just try not to smile at the first flying scene.

Any Questions For Ben?

Seeing this was the result of poor planning to see The Vow on Valentine’s Day, but the alternative turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. The writers behind The Castle and The Dish, as well as the likes of Frontline and Thank God You’re Here, manage to turn out a fairly decent Australian comedy. It may suffer as much from a lack of focus as its soul-searching protagonist does, especially in its meandering first half, but the natural comedic timing of lead actor Josh Lawson, the down to earth charm of Rachael Taylor and some goofy supporting performances ultimately make it a recommendable watch.

This Means War

I’m really starting to wonder if we should start expecting to see product placement in every second shot of every movie that comes out these days. There is a LOT of it in This Means War, but that is the least of its problems. I didn’t care about the relationships between Reese Witherspoon’s character and either of her two love interests as much as I did about the arguably more important dynamic between the two friends on either side of her. Shame that it got next to no relative screen time. Needless exposition and contrivances rule the day by the end of the film, which is a little too Hollywood-neat to be believable. There are some really funny moments here though, mostly involving Tom Hardy.

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