One of the benefits of being an amateur movie reviewer is that I don't have to see any movie that I don't want to. If it looks like the kind of movie I won't enjoy, I simply won't see it, plain and simple. Unlike most professional reviewers, I rate the films I see based on how much I enjoyed it (in comparison with how much I expected to enjoy it) and to what lengths I would go to see it again. On a scale of one to ten (or one-half star to five stars), I tend to give a movie that I am about to see a rating somewhere between 6 and 7 out of ten before the movie even starts. For a film to fall all the way to a rating of 1-3 out of ten takes some doing, as it would have to be monumentally crappy for it to fall that far. As a result, nearly 75-80% of the movies that I see usually end up with at least a passing grade (5/10).
Review submitted by Mark David Campbell
I wasn't sure going in to see The Dilemma if it was going to be a comedy with dark understones or a drama with occasional funny moments. Given the presence of Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, I was leaning toward the former. Regrettably, director Ron Howard and his cast never really seem to make up their mind, pinballing from one choice to the other without staying put long enough to really be classified as either one.
The first movie to come out in a calendar year is usually bad. We expect it to be bad. After all, why would any studio dump it into the frozen cinematic wasteland of January if they actually expected an audience? And all of these points are valid. Also valid, usually, are the opinions of professional critics, whose job it is to decry films like this, which, let's face it, don't hold a candle to the Oscar-bait films that are still in theaters, films like The King's Speech, Black Swan, True Grit, 127 Hours, The Fighter, Blue Valentine, and the like.
But I am here to tell you: Season of the Witch is NOT THAT BAD.
Review submitted by Chris Maitland
The Western genre has always appealed to me. I've seen a good number of classic westerns, including a good deal of Clint Eastwood's classics. When it comes to True Grit, I haven't seen the John Wayne original. I have heard great things about it, but haven't gotten around to seeing it. On the other hand, The Coen Brothers update of True Grit, is the best Western I have seen in quite some time.
Mike Leigh has championed the social-realist style of film-making throughout his career. Growing up in the harsh working-class area of Salford tends to influence your world view, and Leigh’s films offer an uncompromising position on the drama of everyday reality, warts and all. But while there are many similar film-makers who tend misrepresent social realism as glib cynicism, Leigh has recently veered away from that. After All or Nothing and Vera Drake Leigh slipped out of the trap of grimness and made Happy-Go-Lucky, a film which challenged our attitudes towards the routines of existence. And now we see Leigh tackle issues of age and social confinements in Another Year.
While Leigh’s films are never plot heavy, Another Year centres on aging couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), who live a modest but rather fulfilling life as a geologist and counselor respectively. Only their happiness is contrasted with their friends and relatives. Gerri’s work colleague Mary (Lesley Manville) is single, aging, and in deep denial as she covers her unhappiness with a smile and plenty of booze. Ken, Tom’s workaholic friend, is too afraid to retire and spends most of his free time downing cans of lager. And when Tom’s brother Ronnie becomes a widower, we fail to see any emotions and regret behind the blank façade.
This is all introduced by a stand-out and independent scene which sums up the movie. Gerri has an impromptu session with a working-class woman (Imelda Staunton, on one of her best performances) who can’t sleep. Gerri works hard and carefully on the woman’s feelings, but she’s defensive and resistant. And here we’re introduced to the theme of the film: denial. For it is denial that seems to be the key factor for unhappiness in all of Tom and Jerri’s friends. Mary, the most fascinating of the film’s characters (and if Manville is denied an Oscar it will be a tragedy), is in denial about her unhappiness, convinced she’s living the free and fun life of a bachelorette, forever pining for Tom and Jerri’s son Joe (who is many years her junior), as if he’s the gateway to sharing the family self-satisfaction. Ken doesn’t understand life out of work, and Ronnie was devoid of emotion, as a father and a husband. It’s a moving but sad portrait of how the working-class can cover up their emotions and ruin their lives in doing so.
Review submitted by Mark David Campbell
As a father to a young daughter who just looooooves going to the movies (the apple didn't fall far from the tree in that regard), it is often incumbent upon me to satisfy her craving for cinema. Of course, she's at an age when most films that appear in theaters are a no-no... too much violence, profanity, innuendo, etc. Which just leaves, basically, kids' movies. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I don't mind sitting through kiddie fare if the film's creators at least made an attempt to reach out to adult audiences. You know, films like How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3, Tangled, and even Despicable Me, to an extent.
Review submitted by Chris Maitland
It's December, which means awards season is right around the corner. December is the month where most of the studios release their "Oscar bait" films and quite frankly, it's an exciting time of the year for moviegoers. As a film fan, it's exciting to see which award contenders are worthy of the hype and the ones that fall short. The Fighter is in the former camp and is deserving of all of the nominations it's going to get.
With so many movies these days being filmed, converted or showcased in 3D, it's appropriate that some vital questions be asked: Firstly, is a 3D element really necessary? Secondly, does it enhance the story and really, truly add that extra "dimension" to the film? And finally, is there enough of a story to keep up with with the effects without being totally overshadowed by them?
One could make a case that Dwayne (formerly "The Rock") Johnson was one of the bigger action stars of the past decade. With films like The Rundown, The Scorpion King, Walking Tall and The Other Guys under his belt, it is certainly not a stretch to imagine Johnson in a balls-out action film such as Faster. The thing about Johnson is, however, that his biggest asset onscreen is his personality and charisma; this is what turns mostly mediocre films into films that are at least enjoyable. His one super-serious actioner, Doom, was a flop in just about every way, and Faster is Johnson's first foray into R-rated territory since then. Regrettably, it's a road he should have left alone.
For whatever reason, screenwriters Tony and Joe Gayton (whose previous writing credits include duds such as Murder By Numbers and Bulletproof) decided to give most of the characters in Faster descriptions rather than names. Perhaps this was to give the film an air of mystery or anonymity; but what it actually did was make the players less characters and more like caricatures, mere faces with no more soul or depth than a cardboard cutout.
As the story of Harry Potter nears its end, you’d expect the films to get better. The climax is nearing, the subject matter is darker, and so the ante is upped in terms of visuals, performance, etc. Only, the series is getting slightly worse, and the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is probably the most disappointing yet. Being half of a book it’s a veritable non-starter of a movie, complete with forced mini-resolution, and borrowing a lot from a better franchise.
In this story Harry finds himself as an outlaw on the run. The Ministry of Magic has been taken over by the evil Lord Voldemort and his cohorts who are forming a new dictatorship: one in which us regular humans will be considered lesser creatures, and crushed into submission. But Voldemort must destroy Potter first. So our hero flees with his allies, most importantly Ron and Hermione whose relationship is threatened by Harry’s bond with the spritely lass. Feeling alone, Harry must work to find one of the “Horcruxes” that make Voldemort’s soul invincible, and destroy it. But he doesn’t know how and must revisit his tragic past in order to change the future.
In a way, the latest Harry Potter film is no different from the others, but therein lies a major problem. The whole movie franchise suffers from Poor Adaptation Syndrome. Writers fail to acknowledge the vast difference between plots and characters in a novel and in a movie, and so attempt to squeeze in as many elements of a 400 page book into a 120 minute film. So what we see are characters appearing and disappearing faster than corpses dropping in a Rob Zombie flick. These characters often have one important line or piece of information, and then disappear. In this film, for example, we see Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody and Domhnall Gleeson (Brendan’s actual son) as Bill Weasley given about 3-4 minutes of screen time and then they completely disappear, having zero narrative function. In the novels they’re afforded more time but in a film it’s so brief it’s pointless from a narrative perspective. This was the exact same problem that made The Golden Compass such a bad film of a great book, and we will never see the sequels made. This latest Potter film goes a step further and forces a sort of climax by reintroducing a character from one of the earlier Potter films and then perish as if he’s some sort of Obi Wan figure. But not only does this pale in comparison to the death of Dumbledore in the previous film, but it’s hard to care about a character that appeared several years ago and doesn’t do much here. It’s like making a 2-hour movie and trying to make us feel for someone who has 2 minutes presence in the entire film. A more ambitious writing team would tear apart the books and restructure it drastically to work as a film. Indeed, the series has had so much padding and so many diversions that it would probably work better as a trilogy.