Reviews

12ish More Days of Movies

Albert DeSantis serves up another generous helping in his increasingly inaccurately named 12ish Days series of movie reviews.

By Albert DeSantis
Published December 20, 2010

It's still really cold outside. Should one be fighting holiday traffic for Christmas shopping? Heck, no! Let's watch some movies instead!

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Great, tense, dark thriller about a woman (Gemma Arterton) who is abducted by two men (Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston) and held for ransom. There are a whole lot of twists, a big one about 30 minutes in that would be a shame to spoil, but the twists progress logically, unlike in most thrillers where the scare comes from characters acting stupid. With only three actors and barely any action, it keeps you riveted.

Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer

A particularly nasty, low budget C-movie that I watched by accident. Did you know there's two movies released 2010 named Cyrus? This one is a cheeseball, cheap horror movie that can't decide if it's camp or gruesome torture porn or flip psychological "analysis" barely based on a "true story". The one saving grace is Lance Henriksen, who deserves better than bunk like this.

Guns

This miniseries won a boatload of Gemni awards, was partly shot in the Hammer, and has Elisha Cuthbert in it. Guns is a Traffic-style multi-character drama that follows gun running in Canada, and it's a bit of a sloggy drag. But it does get you to know the characters, even if clichés abound ("You're off the Patterson case!" someone snaps). However, it's redeemed by anytime Colm Feore as a nasty crime boss snarls his lines not-so-veiled menace.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money

A documentary about Jack Abramoff, a young Republican-turned-movie producer-turned-Washington lobbyist-turned-convict. There are a lot of various talking heads but the filmmakers spice it up with flashy editing and a pop soundtrack. It may be a bit too long but it does show how deep the shady influence lobbyists in the US are, and that Abramoff's isn't a disease but a symptom of corruption.

Casino Jack

A fictionalized account of Jack Abramoff's rise and fall that sticks fairly closely to the facts (although, to be honest, after sitting through two separate accounts of Abramoff's swindling, I'm still not sure exactly what happened). Kevin Spacey's scenery-chewing performance as a self-deluded Abramoff is fascinating. Also, this movie was partly shot in the Hammer because it features the unmistakable orange sign of the City Motor Hotel, doubling for a mob hangout in Miami.

The Tourist

Stars Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in a movie the main purpose of which seems to be putting two perfectly pretty movie stars together. Too bad nobody worked on the script, which is basically a dreadful bore about a mystery woman who hooks up with some hapless schumck and then the aforementioned hapless schmuck is chased around. Aside from a few chuckles and sturdy acting by the stars, the entire set-up is a Three's Company episode with some lame gunplay tossed in.

Red Scorpion

Remember how I said Jack Abramoff was a movie producer? Well, this is one of the films he worked on, a slice of cinematic '80s cold war propaganda pure action cheese starring Dolph Lundgren as a Russian solider who is thrown out of the army as he comes to sympathize with local rebels fighting back against evil commies. The only good action beat is a truck chase basically taken beat-for-beat from Raiders and the last 8 minutes pack some silly punch.

Let Me In

This American remake of the Swedish movie/novel Let The Right One In proves that a good story works no matter the language. A bullied kid (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends a young girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) in his apartment complex, not knowing she is actually a vampire. Let Me In combines loneliness, horror, coming of age, tragedy and bloodsucking into a compelling film, effectively directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) that's striking in every frame.

The Last Airbender

Director M. Night Shyamalan has made two great movies, Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, and a few not-so-great ones (to put it kindly). Now he adapts the story of Avatar: The Last Airbender about a jesus-like kid (Noah Ringer) who has the power to manipulate the elements. Directorially, Shyamalan's movie looks better than most generic fantasy romps, but the movie's plot is incomprehensible, the acting ranges from wooden to campy, and what the hell is one of the reporters from "The Daily Show" doing here?

The King's Speech

A surprisingly emotional film about Prince Albert (Colin Firth) and how he learned to control his stammering speech impediment with the help of a speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). It has a bit of a prince-and-the-pauper vibe where the stuffy royal gets life lessons from a commoner, but the performance by Rush is entertaining and Firth is touchingly sympathetic whenever he awkwardly stutters.

Black Swan

The cool thing about Director Darren Aronofsky's ballet-psyho-sexual thriller is that with slightly worse direction and/or acting it could be a late-night Skinemax flick. But that's why it's so cool! Natalie Portman is a dancer who is consumed with getting the lead in Swan Lake and reality around her starts to crumble as she gets involved with the ballet director (Vincent Cassel) and another dancer (Mila Kunis). Freaky and enthralling with great performances and Aronofsky's visceral direction.

Charlie St. Cloud

This is a pretty lame melodrama that could have been tolerable with a better lead. Instead, it's Zac Effron as a guy whose brother died in a car accident and who, overcome with guilt, mopes and plays ball with the ghost / vision of his little brother. After a solid hour of Effron blankly indicating sadness, a plot finally does kick in for about 15 minutes. Then the ending is a cheat. Damn you, Zac Effron!

127 Hours

Also known colloquially as "That Flick Where James Franco Cuts His Frickin' Arm." Maybe not Director Danny Boyle's (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) best but one of his strangest. Franco is a hiker who gets his hand stuck in a rock and tries to survive and that's pretty much it. Boyle finds various ways to play with a small rock space using snappy editing and surreal interludes to show the character's mind breaking down. It's really hard to watch since you know what is coming but oddly uplifting by the end.

Christmas Town

I don't exactly get into "The Christmas Spirt" until probably Xmas Eve and I've got a bunch of Bailey's and nog in me, but as I said before, I'll watch anything with Canuck actress/former DS9er Nicole deBoer in it. Liz (deBoer) is a workaholic mom who takes her somewhat annoying son to a special town where elf-like people work. Obsessed with Christmas, the town is unintentionally creepy, and even though it's achingly cheesy deBoer is an affable lead and the flick's hard to hate entirely. It's just downright wholesome.

The Social Network

The story of how Mark Zuckerberg founded / stole Facebook and the power struggle that ensued afterwards is still one of the best movies of 2010. The performances from everyone, even freakin' Justin Timberlake, is great. Director David Fincher spices up what could have been a visually boring movie, and rapid-fire dialogue by Aaron Sorkin is a lot of fun to listen to.

Tron

Groundbreaking when it first appeared, the early '80s CGI may be dated but it's still a neat looking flick. Human Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) gets sucked into a computer world and is forced to fight for his freedom with another program, Tron (Bruce Boxlinger) and confront the evil Master Control Program. The film lags in a lot of places, teeters on being goofy, but the light cycles and disc fights are sweet. Also, David Warner as the bad guy hams it up shamelessly. But that's a good thing.

Tron: Legacy

The 30-years-later sequel shares some of the original's problems, but also provides a lot of visual bang. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) is sucked into the same computer world, forced to fight for his freedom, and find his missing dad, Kevin (Jeff Bridges, again). The best thing is seeing Bridges play three characters (Young Flynn, Old Flynn, Clu). The action scenes pop, it's paced a lot zippier than the original, digital Clu is a cool creation, and the music by Daft Punk is fantastic.

Albert DeSantis watches a lot of movies and TV and has been since childhood. More recently, he has written movie reviews for View Magazine in Hamilton for a few years (This may have warped his mind). The two best flicks ever are The Empire Strikes Back and Aliens. Both are sequels. Go Cats!

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