Argo (2012) - A-
Further confirmation that Ben Affleck is a major directorial talent. This compelling vision of the real, declassified retrieval of Iranian hostages in the 70s is a remarkably strong thriller, inhabited by a delightful cast and incredibly suspenseful final act. Affleck sets the scene believably and respectfully, applying a solid leading performance in the process. He's the least flashy of the cast, but deserves kudos for taking a quiet part and working impressively striking character tics into the mix. Exciting, educational and beautifully made, "Argo" is a deserved candidate for the impinging awards season.
Mimic (1997) - D
A case of an incredibly gifted film-maker producing a largely terrible film. Guillermo Del Toro cribs shamelessly from "Jurassic Park" and "Aliens" in this story of scientists combating mutant bugs, but the obvious parallels only do this tiresome genre entry a greater disservice. The performances are unmemorable and characterization non-existent, leaving viewers with only the formulaic narrative and dodgy digitals for any slivers of entertainment. Del Toro, usually an accomplished master of suspense, fails to concoct any real fear here, the attack sequences are repetitive and bloodless with predictable jump scares also eating up frustrating amounts of the film's baggy 113 minutes. A dull flick, although thankfully its director has moved onto genuinely great things, leaving this as an unfortunate blip on his now golden CV.
Shame (2011) - A-
Steve McQueen's understated and harrowing follow-up to "Hunger" is a masterclass in refined performance and courageous shot selection. A quiet slice of life picture, "Shame" focuses on Brandon, a successful man who harbours a debilitating addiction to sex. Michael Fassbender taps into a wide range of emotions as Brandon and Carrie Mulligan is equally compelling as his troubled sibling. Long, continuous takes and a beautifully melancholic score complement the film nicely, with the ending morphing into an artfully choreographed ballet of self-destruction. Not an uplifting picture, but one boasting more truth than most. Its depiction of addiction is comparable to Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting".
Ten Years (2012) - B+
For a Good Time, Call... (2012) - B
A really pleasant surprise, marking yet another small film from 2012 that deserved more exposure. Running at a swift 83 minutes and offering tremendous comic performances from Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller, "For a Good Time, Call..." is smutty and sweet in just the right dosages. The leads play a pair of cash-strapped girls who start a phone sex line for monetary relief, finding friendship and potential love along the way. The movie is honest, energetic and most crucially of all pretty funny. A very likable comedy, in an era where pictures like "Project X" render such a commodity rare.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) - D+
Diabolically paced picture that feels more like an episode of a modestly budgeted TV show than a feature film. The cast are as gormless as ever (there is no spark between Pattinson and Stewart), and whilst the saga continues to notably improve its production values with each entry, much of the action and digital effects remain uninspired and unintentionally goofy. A predictably soppy indie soundtrack and a ridiculously contrived plot reveal at the end cement this effort as a clunker. Better than "New Moon", but after the minor ground made by 2010's "Eclipse" this feels like a retreat in quality.
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2012