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The year in film 10 June 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in Film News.
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Long time no speak le web. After a prolonged hiatus due to the demands of higher education your humble critic has returned to lead you by the hand through the minefield of modern entertainment.

General impressions of the year at the cinema so far haven’t been great. After being swamped with superheroes last summer, this year we’ve been treated to just one super-powered adventure: X Men Origins: Wolverine, which turned out to be rubbish, made worse by the perplexing decision to render pointless the character of Deadpool, one of Marvels less well known gems.

My personal picks of the year to date are The Wrestler, Let the Right One In (a modern-masterpiece which demands to be seen when the Blu-ray/DVD drops) and Star Trek, which turned out to be much better than anyone rightfully expected. Star Trek is an interesting case of a franchise reboot appealing not just to the established fanbase but newcomers as well. Effectively a two hour joyride J.J. Abrams must be commended for his sterling work and after the underrated M:I-3 has comfortably made the jump from TV to film.

The biggest stinkers: Angels and Demons, Terminator Salvation and the aforementioned Wolverine. I kind of expected it of Angels and Demons, proving the old adage true that you can’t make a good film out of a bad script, and to a certain extent Wolverine after its troubled production, but not Terminator. Despite Charlie’s Angel director McG being given the reigns I was confident it would at least be better than Terminator 3 after watching the gritty trailer and of course the fact that Christian Bale was part of the film. Turned out I was wrong. Bale has had a bad wrap since his infamous onset outburst and the unfortunate decision to give him a stupid voice as Batman, but he’s still a quality actor with presence seeping out of the screen. Yet here he’s anonymous, it may as well be Steven Segal for all the effort he put into it. This isn’t helped by some underwhelming and derivative set-pieces, plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon (if skynet has Kyle, why don’t they kill him?) and self consciously flashy direction that serves no purpose (see the single shot helicopter crash near the start). Disappointing is an understatement.

There have been a couple of other disappointments as well. Coraline failed to live up to Henry Selick’s A Nightmare Before Christmas (Tim Burton didn’t direct it as most people seem to think), there’s no doubt it looked amazing in 3D but it lacked substance and the charm which Nightmare had in spades. Crank 2 was more of the same but with an inferior soundtrack (am I getting too old for this already?), and Synecdoche, New York turned out to be one confusing plot conceit too many that I am assured gets better on repeat viewings. State of Play meanwhile was ruined for me by the fact that the John Simm/David Morrisey BBC series was massively superior (and only a fiver in HMV!), just stay behind the camera dammit Affleck!

Finally on to the good. In the Loop is easily the funniest film of the year, with some of the most creative swearing in the history of cinema. It looses its way a little when it makes the move to America but still so many of the laughs score big it’s hard to complain. Observe and Report got a lot of stick when it first came out but I admired the dark heart at the centre of this Seth Rogen comedy. Shame it came out barely a month after the insipid Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Drag Me to Hell proved to be a fine return to form for Sam Raimi after more than twenty years since he unleashed The Evil Dead on an unsuspecting world. While it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of Evil Dead 2 it’s still one of the best horror films in years with a deliciously sinister final twist (which you’ll probably see a mile off). Special mention must also go to little seen french film Anything for Her, after last year’s equally brilliant Tell No One the french are quickly proving themselves to be the premiere crafters of modern marital thrillers, shame about the soppy ending though.

So far them it’s not been all bad but with the likes of Transformers 2, Bruno and Public Enemies on the way there’s still a lot to look forward to, happy viewing.

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