Another week another batch of movies to comment on, including a few belated words on the latest Bond entry "Skyfall".
Skyfall (2012) - B+
After the disappointment of "Quantum of Solace" Bond gets the reinvigorating jab he needed with "Skyfall", a lean and gorgeously photographed continuation of the franchise. Daniel Craig once again impresses in his third outing as the legendary spy, but around him auteur Sam Mendes stages an excellent action flick. The set-pieces are coherent and thrilling whilst Javier Bardem injects radical amounts of uneasy menace into his distinctive turn as the villain. The story isn't breathtaking, but it works competently enough, allowing the filmmakers to focus on fascinating character arcs, kinetic action beats and spicy little touches to help freshen up smaller supporting elements of the formula. Likely to leave you shaken and stirred.
Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999) - D+
Given that this forgotten teen thriller gestated within the mind of "Scream" scribe Kevin Williamson, it's weird to observe that the biggest flaw is sloppy writing. Helen Mirren is fantastic as the title character, a ruthless teacher intent on sabotaging a promising student's future, but the young cast (including Katie Holmes) are disappointingly wet. The picture opens with an enjoyably snarky classroom exchange and home invasion set-up, but things ultimately devolve into bloodless nonsense with lashings of weak comedy. The finale is ridiculous in a contrived rather than fun sense, with the poorly formed characters robbing Williamson's film of any logical motivation.
Dredd (2012) - A-
Lean, gnarly and exhilarating, "Dredd" is the adaptation this comic-book antihero has been waiting for. Director Pete Travis winds a tight action narrative around a well realized and blood drenched dystopia. The narrative sees Judge Dredd (played with grumpy stamina by Karl Urban) and a rookie recruit take on a gang leader, forced to do battle with her scurvy minions in a locked down apartment complex. The picture earns its 18 rating effortlessly, although it's not just all shock tactics, there are legitimately rewarding moments of nasty carnage on show too. Tight and efficient with a surprisingly distinct visual palette, "Dredd" is a skilfully assembled joy.
The Campaign (2012) - C
A great cast and a premise flush with possibilities are somewhat wasted in this inoffensive but wholly unmemorable farce. Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play electoral competitors here, vying to represent a small community in Washington. There are a few amusing sequences and a selection of committed comic performances, but the belly laugh quota is soft and the satirical edge decidedly blunt. Not awful, but unlikely to be remembered beyond this year.
Pet Sematary - (1989) - B-
Creepily assembled but diabolically acted, this Stephen King adaptation still manages to rank comfortably above average. Director Mary Lambert has an eye for unsettling imagery whilst King's script juggles threat, grief and even a little black comedy interestingly. The acting is dire (with the exception of Fred Gwynne) and the musical motifs dated, but there are still some rewarding thrills to be derived from this menacing frightener.
Daniel Kelly, 2012