20 February 2013

Movie Review: This is 40


This is 40
2012, 134mins, 15
Director: Judd Apatow
Writer: Judd Apatow
Cast includes: Leslie Mann, Paul Rudd, Maude Apatow, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks, Melissa McCarthy
UK Release Date: 14th February 2013

In 2009 Judd Apatow conducted a brave film-making experiment with his third directorial feature “Funny People”, subverting audience expectation by moving away from the broader comedic beats of his previous work, aiming to deliver a final product adorned with heightened maturity. The film was a masterstroke, breathing a new lease of life into an artistically strangled Adam Sandler, using its length runtime to fully examine the torments of a heartbroken clown. Of course the Box-Office results were disastrous. Such is life. It is surprising then, that Apatow’s follow-up “This is 40” should also be such an unconventional studio gambit, a left of field attempt to illustrate the domestic woes of marriage during middle-age. Taking two supporting characters from his frat-boy classic “Knocked Up” and promoting them to leads is an interesting device, and one the film-maker executes with insight and his typical razor-sharp ability to carve crude giggles from the mundane. I’m not sure “This is 40” is as rewardingly courageous as “Funny People”, but it’s an enticing feature none the less.

Debbie (Leslie Mann) and Pete (Paul Rudd) are both about to turn 40, the former struggling with the fact her youth is officially behind her. In a bid to ensure the future retains promise, Debbie begins to enforce new rules in the household; attempting to dispel arguments, kick dirty habits and eradicate junk food. The propositions are met with lukewarm snark by the couple’s young daughters and begin to strain Debbie and Pete’s relationship further. Without his creature comforts Pete becomes anxious concerning his failing record label and scrounging father (an ace Albert Brooks). Debbie on the other hand has to contest with a potentially thieving employee Desi (Megan Fox) and the vehement protests of older daughter Sadie (Maude Apatow).

“This is 40” is clearly a personal film for Apatow, several of the key players (wife Leslie Mann and his two daughters) play focal characters, the set-pieces devised in the picture feeling like they were ripped straight from his own history. The feature has loose connective tissue, but also adopts a sprawling aesthetic, playing like a series of vignettes for a large portion of proceedings. Financial crisis, sexual woes, parental issues and child-rearing complications are all addressed intuitively, Apatow remaining both a natural conveyer of organic storytelling and amusing comedy. “This is 40” is clearly aiming to identify with its audience, using every tool and idea at its disposal to do so, Apatow wrapping it together tightly with a bow of merriment, allowing his expansive medicine to go down smoothly. The picture has a personality and offers genuine insights, evidenced by the fact that at 134 minutes the movie feels full. It’s a feature that retains the maturation exampled in “Funny People”, a nice indication that Apatow has genuine ambition when it comes to telling stories about ordinary people.

Both Rudd and Mann thrive in smartly crafted roles, Apatow evolving both characters into deeply flawed yet inherently likable figures. Their rapport is effortless and the arguing is a joy to behold, both performers oscillating comfortably between venomous instances of classy comic delivery, and more honest moments of distress and nervousness. Their marriage is never detailed as a sure thing, Apatow retaining no illusions concerning its imperfections. However this only adds to the breadth “This is 40” offers and benefits cute, small sequences of adoration such as one set in the context of a hotel getaway. It’s not all bitterness here, there’s a sweetness to savour too.

The laughs are thick and juicy; supporting characters such as a sleazy Jason Segel, outrageous Melissa McCarthy and game Megan Fox helping to instil proceedings with a definitively light touch. “This is 40” is a character piece, fascinated by the central relationship, using anybody outside their immediate dynamic as a catalyst or method of emotional exploration, no figure fails to serve at least a minute purpose within the greater scheme of Apatow’s musings. The comedy factor is crucial, but it’s nice to see Apatow using cartoonish archetypes to fuel his exploration of marital challenges, as opposed to utilizing them for screen-stealing tomfoolery. There are over the top sequences of hilarity, but essentially every portion of this thoughtful piece is in thrall to Debbie and Pete, helping us to understand their differences and similarities more completely.

The cinematography and suburban environments are brought to life using glowing, primary colours by Phedon Papamichael, allowing “This is 40” to emanate an attractive look. In comparison to Janusz Kaminski’s phenomenal work on “Funny People”, Papamichael’s work may seem a little less substantive and picturesque, but it aids Apatow’s bubbly visual style and calm editorial hand. “This is 40” is an encouraging continuation of Apatow’s development as a film-maker, showcasing an affinity for less spectacular facets of modern day living (midlife meltdowns don’t really compare with unplanned pregnancies and terminally ill celebrities). It’s a pleasing viewing experience and one more interested in grounded domestic truths than most mainstream Hollywood comedies.  
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013

16 February 2013

Movie Review: A Good Day to Die Hard



A Good Day to Die Hard
2013, 97mins, 12
Director: John Moore
Writer: Skip Woods
Cast includes: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Yuliya Snigir, Radivoje Bukvic, Cole Hauser
UK Release Date: 14th February 2013

1988’s “Die Hard” stands tall as one of the greatest American action films of all time, a magnificent feature primed with a lean premise, great characters and several legendary  set-pieces. Its impact on the genre is tangible to this day, and it made a star out of a then unknown Bruce Willis. The sequels have been of varying quality but are still a must see. The great thing being that you could almost certainly stream the older films online or simply rent them from an online rental provider. The latest “A Good Day to Die Hard” taking the action out of the USA, and placing super-cop John McClane in Russia. The change of scenery doesn’t really jazz up the formula much, nor indeed does the join the dots screenplay courtesy of Skip Woods (“The A-Team”), but assured direction from John Moore (“Max Payne”) and a chirpy chemistry between leads Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney (playing John’s son Jack) allow this fifth entry to flourish as a satisfactory popcorn detour. It’s not sophisticated and lacks any of the innovation which characterised the classic ’88 endeavour, but “A Good Day to Die Hard” is so slickly entertaining and confidently pieced together that its inferiority to the original very quickly becomes a mild concern.

Concerned about the whereabouts of his AWOL son Jack (Jai Courtney), John McClane (Bruce Willis) locates the boy in Russia and makes it his business to bring him home. Upon arrival John learns Jack has become embroiled in the prosecution of political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch), it later transpiring that the lad is a CIA spook tasked with getting Komarov out of Russia alive so he might testify against corrupt bureaucrat Chagarin (Sergei Kolesnikov). Opting to help Jack on his mission, John soon sees a simple extraction plan go south, with Chagarin’s forces, including Komarov’s deceitful daughter (Yuliya Snigir), violently attempting to halt them at every turn.

John Moore is a much underrated director in Hollywood, often written off as a journeyman of no remarkable worth, the film-maker has actually delivered some quality fare over his short career. Moore’s 2001 debut “Behind Enemy Lines” remains an effective actioner, but gambits like the superior 2006 remake of “The Omen” and his beautifully photographed noir nightmare “Max Payne” were unfairly disregarded by journalists keen on labelling the Irishman a hack. His work on “A Good Day to Die Hard” confirms Moore as a genre director of skill and visceral dexterity, one only has to look at the frantic and compellingly stitched together car chase in the first third of this picture to understand his gifts. No, he’s not a man particularly blessed in the region of complex character development or dynamic narrative structure, but boy howdy, does he know how to shoot vehicles colliding into each other. All of the action in “A Good Day to Die Hard” is excellently realised, even if it exists on a plain of super-reality distantly removed from the grounded beats of McClane’s first outing. There’s not much point in complaining that these movies now extend suspension of disbelief to extremes, that’s just the direction this franchise has taken, for better or worse. You only have to look at its equally ludicrous 2007 predecessor “Die Hard 4.0” for further evidence of this indisputable fact.

It’s probably correct to assess this isn’t Willis’ most magnetic turn as McClane, but he gets the job done efficiently. His performance here is probably on a par with the McClane sighted in “Die Hard 4.0”, but this time his sidekick is spikier. Jai Courtney is good value as Jack, concocting an edgy yet enjoyable rapport with Willis, who frankly looks happy to have another soldier with whom to share the heroic mantle. Courtney is charismatic and physically imposing, continuing on from the stoic shift he displayed in “Jack Reacher”; broadening his range ever so slightly with his capably snarky turn here. The duo make for an affable set of protagonists, which is convenient, as “A Good Day to Die Hard” lacks a concrete menace. The screenplay doesn’t even attempt to build a nemesis in the legendary Hans Gruber mould, instead opting to use betrayals, vile politics and weirdo henchmen for the majority of its evil firepower. As the chief heavy Radivoje Bukvic is appropriately left of field, though potentially a bit soft. More striking is the work of Sebastian Koch, who floats through the adventure mysteriously, never quite committing to which side of the conflict he belongs.

Skip Woods isn’t a writer with a promising oeuvre. His most recent forays “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “The A-Team” were passable hunks of junk redeemed by lively casting; they certainly weren’t showpieces of screenwriting craft. His script for “A Good Day to Die Hard” is still pretty conventional and relies on the action and thespians for the majority of its triumphs, albeit there’s a little more identity and ambition evident here than with his previous work. The emotional moments between the McClane clan are hit and miss (the final shot laughable, although Moore is probably as much to blame for that), but the functional story propels itself forward with welcome degrees of momentum. Again Moore and his editor might be more deserving of the credit on that front, but given how jittery some of Woods’ other attempts at storytelling have been, I’m going to give him mild props for “A Good Day to Die Hard”. McClane gets the best lines, several of which are quite funny, but an additional dialogue polish from another scribe wouldn’t have gone amiss. Some of the expository speech in “A Good Day to Die Hard” is pretty limp, even if the father/son bantering generally finds its mark.

The picture looks very pleasing, Moore and his cinematographer Jonathan Sela continuing their pattern of making attractive images together. At no point is “A Good Day to Die Hard” dull, and for my money that’s all that matters. It isn’t a revelatory or genre defining work like the first entry in this now storied series, but it delivers the adrenaline-pumping goods with explosive aplomb. A work of intense cinematic mastery “A Good Day to Die Hard” is not, but this fifth instalment is still much more gratifying than it has any right to be. Ignore the probable critical backlash and give it a chance. 

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013

14 February 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies



Warm Bodies
2013, 98mins, 12
Director: Jonathan Levine 
Writer: Jonathan Levine, Issac Marion (novel)
Cast includes: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry
UK Release Date: 8th February 2013

No antagonist in the horror genre has received more revisionist attention in recent years than the zombie. Whether it be the updated speedy and super savage beasts of Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” or the satirically mounted undead of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland”, it’s fair to say those brain-craving walking corpses haven’t been strangers to the silver screen of late. “Warm Bodies” takes the whole conceit one step further, charting the growth of a romantic relationship between human and infected host. Based on Isaac Marion’s clever novel, “Warm Bodies” is a cut above the shallow supernatural lusting of “Twilight”, but it still can’t match the gripping bite of its source. Having a talented director like Jonathan Levine at the helm (he of 2006’s underrated slasher “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” and 2011’s heartfelt “50/50”) helps matters enormously, but unfortunately even a film-maker of such promise struggles with the family friendly neutering the property has undergone. It’s a serviceable picture, strongly visualised and capably performed, but it lacks the edge which might have ascended it toward greatness.

R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie. He has been for an unidentifiable period of time and can’t remember how or why. Most of the population share his condition, the planet having fallen into apocalyptic disrepute, with only pockets of human survivors colonising small corners of the globe. Whilst out hunting, R and his fellow zombies overcome a squad of the living salvaging for medical supplies. After a brief and one-sided skirmish, R kills Perry (Dave Franco) but takes his girlfriend Julie (Teresa Palmer) hostage, feeling an unspoken connection with the quivering young girl. As time passes and R inherits some of Perry’s memory, he begins to fall in love with Julie, and much to her dismay, she begins to feel the same way about her cold-blooded protector. Their connection begins to trigger a change in the other zombies, but leader of the human resistance and Julie’s father General Grigio (John Malkovich) remains intent on wiping out the flesh-mongering threat once and for all.

Whatever faults “Warm Bodies” may harbour, the picture’s cast don’t rank amongst them. The sharp ensemble connects appropriately with the material, like Levine finding a nice balance between the comedy and drama of the scenario. Hoult is particularly expressive as R, using an unusually probing interior monologue and some tiny, sweet expressions to combat the inherently limited movements a zombie struggles against. His chemistry with the charismatic Palmer sells the central romance, Levine even going so far as to delicately address some of the complexities of their friendship. How will Julie react to the fact R devoured Perry? Is the damage wrought by zombie attack too severe for inter-species forgiveness? What are the sexual ethics of a zombie-laden world? Well actually the final question doesn’t get much of a look in, which is a pity because it was a fascinating cornerstone of Marion’s text. The author examined the carnal emptiness of zombie intercourse and the complications of a romantic dynamic between human and corpse with inspired confidence. Levine has clearly been instructed to make “Warm Bodies” teen appropriate, a sturdy financial move for sure, but one which does the narrative no favours. This cleansing of the book carries over into the rushed finale, much of the forceful catharsis and viciousness of the novel’s denouement sacrificed to accommodate some muddled, bloodless combat and a rosier ultimate outcome. It might not bother those uninitiated with Marion’s work, but it certainly disappointed me.

Levine outsmarts the obvious budget restraints by largely staging the picture over two plains, the first an abandoned airport where the zombie hoards thrive, the other the walled city where the human resistance hides. Both sets are expansive and detailed with admirable atmospheres of hopelessness and despair. The production value in “Warm Bodies” is relatively high, except when it comes to the CGI baddies known as “Bonies”. These skeletal creatures are soulless monsters, used by Levine as an example of the zombie infection at its most lethal. Unfortunately the CGI used to render them is patchy, a pity as their lean design is actually pretty creepy.

The script has a sincerity and earnestness that elevates it above the hollow posing of “Twilight”, the central dynamic actually possessing some heft and heat here. “Warm Bodies” maintains a strong line in self-awareness, especially where Rob Corddry’s zombie sidekick is concerned. Despite being buried under a layer of believable make-up the comedian still displays whiplash skill with a punch line, helping the movie on its way to a respectable giggle quotient. Ironically for a picture about the dead, “Warm Bodies”’ funny-bone is very much alive; this tool going some way toward rectifying the narrative shortcomings and bottled finale.

Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders deliver a solid musical score, helping Levine’s creation to both honour and expose some of the zombie sub-genre’s odder conventions. “Warm Bodies” is a tolerable work, made with the absolute best of intentions by a respectable young director. However as a fan of the book it’s hard to overlook some of the glaring tonal and structural differences, all of which have a deterrent effect on the motion picture. Funnily enough this is one film I’d recommend only for those oblivious to its previous incarnation. Fans of Marion’s initial literary foray are liable to be left shrugging by this noble but imperfect cinematic translation.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013

11 February 2013

This Week in Capsule Reviews - 11/02/2013

Another hit, of short, quick reviews for a few recently digested titles.

 Sinister (2012) - C+

Watchable horror film has an atmospheric set-up and promising screenplay, but is letdown by its scaremongering middle portion due to workmanlike direction and repetitious frights. However props should be awarded for the creepy musical score, eerie 8MM cinematography and an ending which admittedly concludes on a brave and satisfying note. Had the movie limited its jump scare quota and attempted something more memorably unsettling during the flabby boo-moment riddled second act it might have been something special. As it stands, "Sinister" is an acceptable way to whittle down 100 minutes, but only marginally rises above the label of so-so.

Jaws 2 (1978) - C

Sequel has some nice moments, but is incomparable to the classic original. Scheider is on fine form as Brody, but the absence of Shaw and Dreyfuss is felt, with the shark stocked final act amounting to little more than "Friday the 13th" with less blood and more fins. There are interesting sequences hinting at Brody's fear of water, but the film-makers tend to overlook these elements in favour of passable but unspectacular action. A lack of community and panic doesn't help, "Jaws 2" opting for backroom wheeler-dealing over the iconic communal hysteria of Spielberg's resort in distress. The animatronic shark also appears much too frequently. Easily the best sequel in the series, but only to be watched by genre historians, completists or those with lower standards when it comes to creature features.

The Raid (2012) -B 

Hectic actioner blends phenomenal set-piece direction with an ethos of non-stop carnage, but beyond that feels a little empty. There's not much commentary or deeper meaning to be unearthed here, as a group of police barrel through an apartment complex to nab a crime kingpin. Thin on character dynamics and narrative meat, but the action is shot with a confidence and bravado that can't be faked. Fun, but possibly not worth the extensive hype it's garnered.

 Rosemary's Baby (1968) - A 

Masterpiece of the macabre, Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" is a chilling embodiment of paranoia. Farrow gives a committed turn as a woman who may have inadvertently become impregnated by the spawn of Satan, Polanski creating a nice contrast between the unusual and the ordinary with an average New York and some searingly disturbing imagery. Dream sequences and demonic sex are all played subtly and with disturbing confidence, the climax even managing to derive some dark, miserable laughs from proceedings. A horror classic and essential viewing for those studying questionable narrators in both movies and screenwriting.

Straw Dogs (2011) - B- 

Having never seen the original I was able to approach this retread purely on its own terms. Director Rod Lurie avoids the vapid style most genre remakes adopt, instead looking to lace this update with complicated characters and an admirable stab at wider social commentary. Some of its observations feel dated (I assume they're preserved from the 70s vision) and a tad chauvinistic, but the dynamics and set-pieces are tense without being over-bearing. Kate Bosworth doesn't really have the dramatic chops to keep up with the rest of the cast, who range from competent (Skarsgard) to really rather good (a sensitive Marsden).I'm not sure how fans of the original relate toward it, but for me "Straw Dogs" circa 2011 is a better than average thriller.

 Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013

10 February 2013

Movie Review: Celeste & Jesse Forever



Celeste and Jesse Forever 
2012, 92mins, 15
Director: Lee Toland Krieger 
Writer (s): Will McCormack, Rashida Jones 
Cast includes: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina 
UK Release Date: 7th December 2012

“Celeste & Jesse Forever” is a remarkable film; understated for sure, but massively impressive in its commitment to the depiction of a complex, adult relationship. Break-up films are nothing new, but this entry into the sub-genre comes complete with an authenticity few other examples boast, topped off by a pair of sensational performances courtesy of leads Rashida Jones (who also penned the marvellous screenplay) and former SNL buffoon Andy Samberg. The picture moves beyond simply detailing the typical repercussions of romantic fallout, instead latching its talons onto the notion of losing your best-friend and most trusted confidante in the process. Fuelled with laughter and a painful but rewarding emotional catharsis, the movie is an unbridled joy, an ode to a time before vacuous Katherine Heigl vehicles became the accepted norm for rom-com product. 

Jesse (Andy Samberg) and Celeste (Rashida Jones) have been BFFs since school, and remain so, despite an impinging divorce settlement. Their friends remain uncomfortable with the pair’s proximity following the failure of their marital gambit, but it’s abundantly clear that slacker Jesse and successful industry analyst Celeste aren’t quite ready to let go. After a misjudged carnal encounter, Celeste and Jesse are driven apart, Celeste’s rejection pushing Jesse into a state of angered disappointment, leading to him pursuing an intense rebound relationship with an elegant acquaintance (Rebecca Dayan). Out of the blue Jesse confesses that he is to be a father, leaving Celeste in a state of regret and turmoil, the emptiness left by Jesse’s departure causing her to question all elements of life, including business obligations with a seemingly vacant pop star (Emma Roberts, continuing to display little screen presence). She begins to pine for the affection of her soul mate, despite interest from a charming interloper (Chris Messina).

Rashida Jones is the unsung hero of this mini-masterpiece, the actress bringing a sharp, erudite script and wonderfully sympathetic central performance to the party. The writing suggests an artist influenced by the better works of Nora Ephron, channelling her focus into the curious and identifiable dynamic, sparking likable but flawed characters off each other for maximum dramatic potency. Of course there are some big laughs too, Jones not neglecting her comedic talents or those of the fellow title star, but it’s the sincerity and ambition which undercuts the involving narrative that surprises most radically. There’s a sweet poignancy and genuine tear-jerker aesthetic to the storytelling in “Celeste & Jesse Forever”, the film balancing a potentially hopeful future against the debilitating sadness concrete finality and lonely perdition can incur among young souls. Heart-breaking, engaging and life-affirming. Just the way a good separation flick should be.

Samberg confidently moves out of his goofy comfort zone here, there’s still silliness within the role, but the comedian asserts genuine pathos and confusion as well. He and Jones share an easy affable chemistry, convincing as a duo hopelessly in love and enamoured with each other, but unable to make it work smoothly alongside their differing lifestyle choices. The supporting cast are pretty solid (aside from the uninspired Roberts), but director Lee Toland Krieger correctly distributes the majority of his creative focus upon the conflicted buddies at the movie’s core. Through his rich and largely unflinching fixation on Celeste and Jesse the film-maker is able to unravel subtle nuances which axe the usual crux of rom-com artifice, deploying other figures in the world to flesh out the anxieties of the detached couple, instead of burdening his magnificently affecting work with unnecessary baggage. For the most part that is. The only major flaw with “Jesse & Celeste Forever” is the mediocre tangential wanderings into Celeste’s professional life, the movie opting to wean out an unconvincing connection with the initially detestable starlet depicted lifelessly by Roberts. True this portion of the piece gives Elijah Wood welcome chance to stretch his comedic muscles, but it also slows the pace and detracts from the gripping main arc.

The movie pulls no punches and remains fully grounded in reality for the duration, with just enough well timed giggles and relatable moments of amusing self-loathing to balance out the wondrously heart wrenching dramatic sweep. It’s a shame this delightful and courageous romance didn't garner more respect last year, because in the right hands I genuinely believe it to be of the same calibre as indie-darling turned sleeper hit “(500) Days of Summer”. That film was engrossing because it bravely staggered into romantic arenas that Hollywood generally overlooks in favour of simple boy meets girl fluff, delivering valuable insights and high quality entertainment value in the process. I for one feel much the same about “Celeste & Jesse Forever”. It’s a magical detour for those seeking rich and enlightened viewing. 

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013

6 February 2013

Radio Danland - "The Impossible" and Horror Remakes

Latest edition of The Arts Show with me and Andrew Gaudion. Originally broadcast on 06/02/13 for RaW1251am. Featured content includes reviews of "The Impossible", "V/H/S" and musings on the current trend of horror remakes.

Originally recorded for RaW1251am, 2013

5 February 2013

Radio Danland - "Django Unchained" Review - RaW1251am


Here’s my audio review of “Django Unchained” with Andrew Gaudion. The review is located in the final quarter of this episode of the Arts Show – currently hosted by me on RaW1251am.

RaW1251am is the University of Warwick's radio station.

This Week in Capsule Reviews - 05/02/2013

Some capsule movie reviews, new and old....

V/H/S (2012) - B

Series of horror vignettes are ripe with good material, but notably short of anything particularly great. Each of the shorts are at least watchable, linked by a thin overarching burglary plot, which predictably goes south for the thieves. The highlight is a haunting shot entirely through video-chat with a mean twist, otherwise it's competently executed genre fodder from a bunch of young film-makers who display moderate promise. Reasonably fun, but hardly as memorable as handheld classics like "The Blair Witch Project".

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - A

Incredibly rich and harrowing study of abuse and the significant mental side affects it can incur. As a woman fleeing a dubious cult, Elizabeth Olsen is fantastic, bringing an ethereal uncertainly and deep sense of confusion and sickness to her work. Paranoia runs rampant, the film-maker preferring to use long takes, eerie silence and jarring sound effects to instill the feature with an unsettling aesthetic. Draws the audience in and slowly holds them for the entirety of its disturbing duration. Sensationally understated fare.

House at the End of the Street (2012) - D

A pair of decent genre performances by Jennifer Lawrence and Elizabeth Shue can't redeem this hopelessly directed mystery. Mark Tonderai sets the tone with a spastic opening segment that cribs feebly from "Halloween", using some of the most intrusive MTV style film-making known to man. The hyper edits and silly jump cuts continue as the thriller slowly (and I mean slowly) builds purpose, forcing its capable cast to grapple with rote characterization. A few of the numerous boo scares find their mark, but for the most part its generic execution robs "House at the End of the Street" of even guilty pleasure status. I'm not sure if the final shot is a direct homage to "Psycho" or just a clumsy coincidence. Either way, it doesn't do this watered down offering any favours.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) - B+

Compelling recount of the attempt to nab Osama Bin Laden, directed with energy and ferocity by Bigelow. As the woman spearheading the effort to capture the perp, Jessica Chastain is superb, the film thusly finding a nice balance between human struggle, political roadblocks and tense action. Very impressive, with a great musical score and probing screenplay to boot.

The Imposter (2012) - B+

Gripping film that splices traditional documentary technique with impressively rendered cinematic reenactments. The focus of the piece is so absurd that the less you know going in, the better the experience is going to be. Strongly executed, surpassing its made for TV edits with tactical reveals and intelligently placed shocks. Not one you're likely to forget promptly.

Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013