Good Vibrations (2013) - B
Northern Irish production impresses mightily for two thirds of its run-time, before delivering a last act riddled with loose ends and rose-tinted frustrations. Richard Dormer is fantastic as Terri Hooley, the unofficial god of Northern Ireland's punk scene, finding quirks, charms and naturalistic faults in this well-meaning but often confused man's ambitions. The picture looks great, cribbing from the Shane Meadow's visual textbook in its use of stock footage, creating a genuine atmosphere of a country in turmoil amid the personal drama. Unfortunately the mature and balanced story which engrosses for about 70 minutes gives way to a breezy and rushed conclusion, leaving several narrative question marks up in the air, overlooking the numerous misdeeds of Hooley in favour of total glorification. None the less, it's an entertaining biopic.
Taken 2 (2012) - C
Less xenophobic and morally dubious than its predecessor, but equally lacking in the energetic charge which allowed that picture to launch big at the box-office. Bit of a catch-22. Liam Neeson puts in more effort than expected on this second go around the terrorist thrashing roundabout, and whilst the genre cliches and tropes are stacked high, the picture at least cracks forward with agreeable momentum. Completely forgettable but less egregious than its reputation suggests. A steadier hand in the editing suite would have been much to the film's benefit however.
The Hunt (2012) - A-
Authentic drama in which an innocent school-teacher is labelled a pedophile by a child. As the falsely accused main character Mads Mikkelsen is fantastic, churning out understated torment and suffering with tragic honesty. The film looks and sounds nice, but it's the uncomfortable mood, harsh truths and stunning performances which power it toward greatness. Both the story and supporting characters are complex, with a variety of layers and perspectives offered in order to enhance the feeling of absolute confusion engulfing both a man's mind and the social sphere he inhabits. Compelling, engrossing and extremely thought-provoking. A sophisticated and intelligent example of film for adults.
Michael (2012) - B+
Gripping and restrained look at several months in the company of a pedophile and the 10 year-old he keeps locked in his basement. The film establishes the viewpoint of an unnamed onlooker, quietly letting not much of anything unfold around it for 95 grueling minutes. We see the man (portrayed excellently by Michael Fuith) go about his daily tasks, enjoy a moderate social life and experience success in work, all the time mistreating a child in the most horrific way imaginable. The fact he generously feeds, interacts and presents gifts to his hostage only humanizes the protagonist and makes the picture's organic reality even more unsettling. Very well made, but only recommended for those made of tough stuff. An interest in the muted aesthetic of Austrian cinema would also be a bonus.
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013