Category Archives: 2012

Movies released in 2012.

Guest Review: Dredd

Director: Pete Travis
Year: 2012
Score: 7.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Dammit I ALWAYS cry at the end of Titanic!

Dammit I ALWAYS cry at the end of Titanic!

I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Dredd. Tainted as the character was by the horrendous iteration that could best be described as Sylvester Stallone with a saucepan on his head, the only reason I actually watched it was because my wife fancied a film before she went to bed and we needed one of a specific length of time. With a sigh, I fired up the 95 minute long Dredd and sat back, preparing myself for what would no doubt be 45 minutes of being bored before falling asleep. As it turns out, Dredd turned out to be much better than I dared hope it would be.

In the violent near future, Judges dish out harsh and instant punishment to criminals on the street. The story follows Judge Dredd and a trainee as they find themselves trapped in a tower block, locked down by ruthless drug lord Ma-Ma. Rather than traditional coke or heroin, the drug of choice is called Slo-Mo; a futuristic reality altering psychedelic that slows down the user’s perception of time. This is cleverly utilised in a plot that builds to a crescendo as wave after wave are thrown at Dredd to try and stop him reaching the summit.

Karl Urban’s Dredd is very different to Stallone’s as there is little to no effort to try and create depth of character; he’s all about justice and PAIN. Cold and abrupt, Dredd is everything that he should be and his relentless progress through the tower block keeps you gripped and filled with suspense throughout.

Dredd feels like it could quite easily accommodate a sequel if the right plot was found; in the same way that The Raid and The Raid 2 build on each other I imagine the same could be applied here. It’s worth a gamble on if you fancy an action film, as it’s solid and it does what it says on the tin.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

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Guest Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Director: Drew Goddard
Year: 2012
Score: 7.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

"Wow, my hair looks a lot more ginger than I thought it did. Probably due a cut as well."

“Wow, my hair looks a lot more ginger than I thought it did. Probably due a cut as well.”

This is a very intriguing film because the horror is underlying rather than in your face, and so you find yourself almost overlooking the action that’s going on in front of you. As it happens, that’s a testament to how well the film is shot.

As a group of five friends head out to a cabin in the woods (duh), they are watched by what appears to be a team of government officials in some large complex. Once there, they find themselves set upon by zombies and, in a bid to escape, stumble across the real story that they are playing out.

The Cabin in the Woods has a very clever premise and, as mentioned above, is extremely well executed. What may have been a ten-a-penny zombie horror film is wrapped around something much darker, showing the indifference of man towards suffering when it is perceived as necessary. It’s poignant as it’s actually believable; it doesn’t feel like were the governments of the world given a similar situation this would be too far from what might happen (of course I realise this is nonsense but you know what I mean).

At no point does The Cabin in the Woods feel like a horror film, as the horror is incidental to the story. It’s absorbing and it keeps hold of you as it turns from zombie slasher to over the top government conspiracy almost seamlessly, and offers an alternative to a genre that too often becomes lazy and repetitive.

The only comment I have on it though is the clips of Japan; having finished watching it and spent some time thinking about how the plot works, not only does it not make any sense it is completely at odds with the whole premise of the plot. Why roughly 14 seconds of film incidental to the story bothered me isn’t clear, but it did. Just thought I’d mention it.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Guest Review: The Woman in Black

Director: James Watkins
Year: 2012
Score: 5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

Note the pictures on the wall – they were stolen from the walls of Hogwarts to act as a comforter to Daniel Radcliffe in the hope that his acting would improve. Didn’t work, but worth a go.

I’m a huge fan of The Woman in Black. I’ve been scared by the theatre production and chilled by the book, so I was over the moon to hear that it was coming to film. As I expectantly sat down with my popcorn and my bottle of cider, I was hoping to see the story taken to terrifying new levels. Unfortunately, the only frightening thing about this film is Daniel Radcliffe’s acting.

It follows the story of Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer mourning the death of his wife and caring for his son who takes up the job of sorting through the effects of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow at the dark and overbearing Eel Marsh House. Whilst there he finds himself pursued by the film’s namesake, and embarks on a journey to try and solve her mystery before she tears him and the village apart. The story, whilst not true to Susan Hill’s original, is still reasonably strong, and there are a couple of occasional strong horror moments which do capture the isolated terror for which the plot is renowned. Sadly however these moments are few and far between, instead opting for the lazy and disappointing jumpiness that horror films resort to when they run out of inspiration. It’s a shame as there’s nothing worse than building to a crescendo of uneasiness and dread, only to have it spoiled by the boogie man jumping out and shrieking at you in a jumpy but ultimately unsatisfying manner.

The real disappointment however is Daniel Radcliffe’s performance as Arthur Kipps. He turns in a display which could be described as wooden at best and distracting at worst. You know that thing where you’re watching a film and all of a sudden Christopher Walken comes on and you go “oh look! It’s Christopher Walken”? It’s a bit like that, but you’re thinking “Oh look! It’s Daniel Radcliffe and he’s really not doing a very good job is he?” It’s one of those distractingly bad performances usually reserved for Nicolas Cage.

I would wholeheartedly encourage you to take a trip to the theatre and see The Woman in Black; it’s bloody brilliant. The film sadly does not live up to expectations, and is as forgettable as it is disappointing.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Extended Edition

Director: Peter Jackson
Year: 2012 (theatrical version) / 2013 (extended edition)
Score: 7/10

The real reason for the extended edition, of course, was so we finally get naked dwarves. The fans... go... wild.

The real reason for the extended edition, of course, was so we finally get naked dwarves. The fans… go… wild.

I’m a big fan of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and my initial viewing of the theatrical (non-extended) version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in 48fps 3D, left me quite impressed but a tad concerned. It was an immensely fun ride, with Jackson’s familiar brand of humour-infused action, constant winks at the fans, a largely excellent cast (both new and returning), and a brilliant adaptation of the novel’s crucial ‘Riddles in the Dark’ chapter in the final act. Mostly it was just great to be back in Jackson’s immersive world; it isn’t quite Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, but it’s equally impressive in its own ways.

I did, however, have reservations about the film’s length, the sense that many of the action sequences were shoe-horned in to pad it out as the first part of a trilogy (case in point: the entirely unnecessary rock-monster boxing match scene), the decision to split a fairly short children’s book into three lengthy films, and the often slavish beat-for-beat recreations of moments/sequences/arcs from the original trilogy. In a sense all of these concerns come down to the fact that this isn’t just a film adaptation of the novel; it’s very specifically JACKSON’S adaptation, in the style, vein and scope of his Lord of the Rings. That means we lose the childish frivolity and lightness I remember from the novel, and instead get a dose of Sauron-y seriousness and a bunch of extra bits, all designed to create parity with the original trilogy so this (together with the next two movies) will serve as a stylistically and narratively cohesive prequel trilogy.

I can't decide if the Great Goblin's chin testicles are as bad as or worse than Peter Griffin's.

I can’t decide if the Great Goblin’s chin testicles are as bad as or worse than Peter Griffin’s.

Watching the extended edition in preparation for the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I had roughly the same response but if anything my concerns grew: this is, after all, an even longer version – 13 minutes of additional footage! – of a movie I already regarded as bloated. For some reason I disliked the Great Goblin character (portrayed by Barry Humphries) more this time round. On the other hand, I found the emotional climax (Bilbo finding his courage and being accepted by Thorin) considerably more affecting, though I don’t recall any changes to the scene in this version that would have made it so. I also noticed and enjoyed the dwarves’ theme music, within Howard Shore’s excellent-as-always score, more than I previously recall.

For anyone choosing between the theatrical and extended versions, the bottom line for me is this: when I watch the trilogy in the future, I’ll be putting aside my concerns about length and unnecessary action set-pieces and ill-advised movie-splitting, so I might as well take the completist route and watch the extended version; the extra bits aren’t by any means fatal to the overall length, and they tend to play OK in a home cinema environment. Or maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment.

Guest Review: Sinister

Director: Scott Derrickson
Year: 2012
Score: 6.5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Still from Sinister

Suddenly Mrs. Wilson regretted her decision to answer the ‘Homeschool Substitute Teacher Wanted’ ad.

Sinister is a strange film, as it doesn’t really sit right as a horror film. As you might imagine, a horror film’s most pressing aim is to be scary; some are really bad at it admittedly, but that is the ultimate aim that it should be striving for. Sinister on the other hand doesn’t feel scary, nor does it feel at any point that it is trying to be scary. This sounds like a criticism and a sure sign that this film is a failure, but in practice it’s actually quite an interesting film. The best way I can describe it is if you imagine a version of Kiss the Girls in which the serial killer is a ghost.

Quick summary: writer moves to a house where some murdering occurred, and whilst unpacking finds a projector and box of home films in the attic; writer watches them and finds that they’re snuff films, continues to watch them anyway, then spooky stuff occurs. It’s quite an odd sensation watching this film; you’re waiting for the horror and it just never happens, but at the same time it tows you along in a relatively interesting plot. It’s almost like it’s a failed horror film that’s fluked its way into being a thriller.

Compared to its peers (Paranormal Activity and Insidious), Sinister fails. It doesn’t make the cut as a horror film, and those (like me) who were expecting to be scared will find their nerves intact and trousers unsoiled. So much does it fail in fact, by rights I would have scored this perhaps a three out of ten were it being judged purely as a horror. In isolation however, Sinister is interesting and rather than a good plot poorly executed, it would fall into the category ‘Not what we were looking for but we’ll take it’.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Resolution

Directors: Justin Benson & Aaron Scott Moorhead
Year: 2012
Score: 6.5/10

These three UFO cultists are played by writer/co-director Justin Benson, co-director Aaron Moorhead, and producer David Clarke Johnson, Jr. Based on the content of the film, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out that all three are genuinely members of a UFO cult.

These three UFO cultists are played by writer/co-director Justin Benson, co-director Aaron Moorhead, and producer David Clarke Johnson, Jr. Based on the content of the film, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out that all three are genuinely members of a UFO cult.

Intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying low budget horror movie with a central premise I’m loathe to discuss for fear of spoiling it. Suffice it to say this isn’t the kind of horror movie that aims to freak you out with shocking imagery, or by laying the tension-signifying music on thick, or by over-using violence or gore. Instead it puts two well-drawn characters into a relatively realistic situation, then gradually throws ‘unexplained phenomena’ at them with explanations that all consist of well-worn horror tropes, and then takes a left turn to subvert and comment on those tropes. Its meta nature has inevitably led to comparisons with The Cabin in the Woods; I prefer this one, but they really are vastly different in what they’re trying to do and why they turn meta. It’s reasonably well-made and the two leads – unknowns Peter Cilella and Vinny Curran – do well with the material. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending even though I realise it was consistent with the premise.

Guest Review: Paranormal Activity 4

Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Year: 2012
Score: 7/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Re-enacting the chest buster scene from Alien, but with less successful results.

Re-enacting the chestburster scene from Alien, but with less successful results.

Whilst the original was polarising between those who thought it was scary and those that thought it was dross, the second and third instalments were pretty much filed unanimously under dross. Why they bothered with a fourth (and fifth) was a bit beyond me, however I was pleasantly and terrifiedly surprised at how reinvigorated the franchise had become.

Breaking from the norm by starring a family outside of the cursed genealogical pool for the first time, there’s little to no effort made this time out to generate empathy in the characters. It is purely like watching CCTV footage of a family, and you don’t really bond with them at any point. That said, that’s part of what makes this one scary; it induces the sort of raw fear that you’d actually get from watching something real. There were moments (oh God were there moments) that you can see coming, you know they’re coming, and they’re toe curlingly frightening to watch unfold.

I would liken this much more to The Last Exorcism, one of the best horror films in recent times, than I would its Paranormal predecessors. It’s frightening, fresh and clever (especially the scenes with the Xbox Kinect), and well worth your time if you love a good horror film.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Guest Review: Alex Cross

Director: Rob Cohen
Year: 2012
Score: 5/10
Reviewer: Drew Pontikis

Seriously, don't look – there's a really tiny guy standing behind you!

Seriously, don’t look – there’s a really tiny guy standing behind you!

Where Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls bravely went first, Alex Cross stumbles clumsily behind. Gone are the days of Morgan Freeman’s deep and atmosphere-creating character as the piercing sunlight of Tyler Perry’s new hard-man character glares painfully into the hungover eyes of the detective thriller genre.

This is a reasonably entertaining thriller, rescued from the depths of cinematic obscurity by a frankly superb performance from a steroid-pumped former Lost cry baby Matthew Fox as the crazed bad guy Picasso. There is actually a fairly strong roster of acting talent; John C. McGinley (of Scrubs’ Dr. Cox fame) and Jean Reno both take reasonably large roles but unfortunately both fail to sparkle to the extent that we’ve seen so many times before.

The problem for Alex Cross is the film’s namesake’s association with the character’s previous outings, and not least because of the change of actor. There’s a change of pace to the film from its predecessors, leaving behind clinical and calculating detective work and embracing a new world of cage fighting and rocket launchers. Were this film called Tommy Knox: Detective Badass then it would be enjoyable in its own right, however sadly for most it will be forever cast into the bargain bin labelled ‘difficult third album’.

As with all ‘film of the books’, Alex Cross is at the behest of the plot laid out before in another medium. Sadly it hasn’t made the transition as effortlessly as many others have, but Rob Cohen’s new vision of the character is still worth a watch.

Drew Pontikis is an avid gamer and film fanatic. A fan of racing sims, first person shooters and horror films, Drew is notable for talking almost exclusively using Futurama quotes. Follow him on Twitter as @drew060609 or read his game reviews at http://obscenegaming.wordpress.com.

Review: Adventures in the Sin Bin [a.k.a. Sin Bin]

Director: Billy Federighi
Year: 2012
Score: 4/10

Get it? The numbing condoms are called 'Everwood' and have a picture of a hockey stick on the box? This is literally the best joke of the whole movie.

Get it? The numbing condoms are called ‘Everwood’ and have a picture of a hockey stick on the box? This is literally the best joke of the whole movie.

Formulaic, forgettable attempt at a teen coming-of-age sex comedy. It has occasional moments of sweetness, such as those involving the relationship between the protagonist and his brother, and it’s good to see Jeff Garlin, Gillian Jacobs and Tim Blake Nelson (all in small roles), even when wasted in a movie of this calibre. I don’t usually regret watching movies – even the bad ones usually have some redeeming features, or are worth watching to cross off my list – but this one is worthy of regret. Every review of it other than mine seems to draw attention to perceived similarities to (or shameless ripping off of) the style of Wes Anderson, but I didn’t really notice any.

Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Director: Wes Anderson
Year: 2012
Score: 5.5/10

This movie is basically Titanic for pedophiles and ailurophiles.

This movie is basically Titanic for pedophiles and ailurophiles.

I’m finally starting to realise I’m not really a fan of Wes Anderson. With the notable exception of Fantastic Mr. Fox, I’ve never loved any of his films, and even those I’ve liked have been more cases of appreciation than proper enjoyment. There’s certainly stuff to appreciate in this one: fine performances, an impressive cast, some lovely shots, assured direction, a bit of wry humour. Despite all this, the story left me cold and it all seemed a bit stale and inconsequential by the end. Is there something I’m not getting? I’m open to joining the Anderson cult, but I’m afraid I’ll fail the entrance exam if it requires me to summarise the point of this movie or what I gained from it.

Review: Flight

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Year: 2012
Score: 8/10

Solid portrait of a man struggling with alcoholism (and, to a lesser degree, drug addiction). Its three greatest strengths are a faultless performance from Denzel Washington, a thoughtful and realistic approach to the subject matter, and an incredibly gripping sequence in the first act that sets off everything that follows. As for its weaknesses: there’s an occasional inconsistency in the tone, some parts of the ending could have been better, and it doesn’t pack quite the emotional punch it should.

Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Year: 2012
Score: 9.5/10

Wow. Probably the best movie I watched in 2013, a year in which I watched 365 movies. One of those movies that reminds me why I love movies – this is what they can be and what they can make me feel. I loved it so much I watched it thrice (once for myself, twice to share), and the second and third times through it hit me just as hard. A word of caution: it won’t please everyone, and some might find it baffling or plotless or pretentious, but I found it none of those things. It sung to me! Quvenzhané Wallis is an absolute revelation, and seeing her brilliance I was compelled to seek out and watch Silver Linings Playbook to confirm my suspicion that she was robbed at the Oscars (though really, it’s somewhat incredible that she was nominated at all). Great soundtrack too – I still find myself spontaneously humming it quite often.

Review: Stitches

Director: Conor McMahon
Year: 2012
Score: 1.5/10

I’ve enjoyed Ross Noble’s stand-up in the past and made the mistake of thinking a movie with him in the lead role would be worth watching. It isn’t. Imagine a horror-comedy with no scares or laughs, terrible performances all round, a pointless plot constructed solely of various clichés cobbled together, fairly shitty special effects, and extremely over-the-top gore masquerading as hilarious death scenes. Now that you’ve done that, you don’t need to waste your time watching this. The second worst movie I saw in 2013.

Review: Les Misérables

Director: Tom Hooper
Year: 2012
Score: 8/10

I came to this without having read the book or seen the musical; all I knew was that bad things would happen and mercifully Anne Hathaway wouldn’t last long. I thoroughly enjoyed it – much more than I thought I would. While some have dismissed Tom Hooper’s ‘gimmick’ of recording the actors’ vocals live on set (as opposed to them lip-synching to pre-recorded vocals), I found it to be very effective: unlike almost every other musical movie I’ve seen, there wasn’t obvious lip-synching to take me out of the moment. The performances are all great, both dramatically and musically, except for Russell Crowe whose vocals are jarringly terrible. The songs are very catchy (it’s not hard to see why the musical has been so successful for three decades) and Hooper’s direction is incredibly dynamic, which is perfect for a movie of this genre, style and scope. A few things bugged me, such as the character Éponine (apparently we’re supposed to feel sympathetic towards her; I just found her irritating and wished she’d be quiet), but overall I was very impressed.

Review: Compliance

Director: Craig Zobel
Year: 2012
Score: 7/10

Interesting and mostly well-made movie based on real-life events in which a prank caller to a fast food restaurant convinced the manager and others that he was a cop and that a young female employee had just stolen money from a customer. It explores all the issues that make the incident worthy of movie treatment: authority, groupthink, compliance, and the remarkable human ability to rationalise our abhorrent behaviour on the basis that we’re just ‘following orders’. At times it’s uncomfortably voyeuristic, but nothing feels gratuitous. If I didn’t know it was based on a real incident I would have found much of it hard to believe – but from what I’ve read it’s quite faithful to what really happened. Ann Dowd is great as the manager, and all the employee characters come across as authentic. Two main criticisms: it doesn’t know how to end (most of the final fifteen minutes feels slipshod and lacking in cohesion), and occasionally our attention is drawn to the subtext too obviously (e.g. a character telling the prank caller “I’ll do everything that you need!”).

Review: Liberal Arts

Director: Josh Radnor
Year: 2012
Score: 7/10

Romantic comedy(ish) written and directed by its star, Josh Radnor, who is apparently in a sitcom I don’t watch. It falls into several idealism traps: Radnor idealises his central romantic interest, the much younger college student Zibby (played by an Olsen sister but not one from Full House), thereby making her talk and behave almost entirely unlike a real person; he idealises the college experience to the point where inability to move past it is his character’s central trait; and he idealises books, a recurrent feature of the film that gets very old by the end. The subplot involving a troubled student who Radnor’s character connects with is a misstep. Despite this, it’s very likeable, funny at times, and once or twice it zigs when you might expect a zag. In terms of performances, Olsen is good, Radnor himself is unmemorable, and Richard Jenkins and Alison Janney are (as always) great in support. Zac Efron pops up to overplay a gimmicky cameo role.

Review: Django Unchained

Director: Quentin Tarantino
Year: 2012
Score: 7.5/10

Tarantino’s slavery revenge epic is a lot of fun, stylish as always, and has some very memorable characters (particularly Schultz, Stephen and Django himself). It doesn’t have a whole lot of substance, but when it comes to Tarantino movies I don’t think substance is the attraction. Tarantino’s cameo is jarring solely because of the terrible fake Aussie accent he attempts.