1. The Artist — A black-and-white silent film about the death of silent films. You’ve avoided the Oscar winner long enough. Ignore the backlash, and the backlash to the backlash, and give it a shot. It will charm your pants off. As Prisco noted in his review: Every year, there seems to be a film that comes along so magical and original, so clever and poignant and fascinating, that you immediately and irrevocably fall passionately in love with it. Until next year. Michel Hazanavicius, whose claim to fame appears to be creating the French Austin Powers, seems to have struck lightning with The Artist, an homage to the decline of the silent film era. While it’s not quite the bold experimental film that I’d love to give it credit for, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air. Hazanavicius made an actual silent film, complete with jaunty piano and string score, exaggerated gesture, dialogue cards, and in glorious black and white with two French leads famous mostly for being in his French espionage farces. There’s bound to be folks who want to cast it off as gimmicky, and it definitely suffers from some exceedingly slow pacing at points, but for me, this is the kind of film that reminds you why Turner Classic Movies exists and why those old-timey films they exhibit still have impact. The Artist is the most wonderful and delightful film I’ve seen all year, and my clear favorite. So far. Until next year.
2. Jeff, Who Lives at Home: The Jason Segel and Ed Helms film directed by the Duplass Brothers didn’t gain a lot of traction in theaters, but honestly, it’s one of the best this year, a film that will quietly sneak up on you. As I noted in my review, “Low-key and sweet, there’s a quiet poignancy to Jeff, Who Lives at Home that takes an extra beat to flower, but at a short 83-minutes, the film manages to be modest and emotionally satisfying, if not somewhat meandering. The meandering, however, almost seems by design, as though to illustrate the random, illogical and seemingly insignificant nature of the very twists and turns that lead to the climactic events in our lives. The movie doesn’t exactly beat you over the head with substance, but the simple theme resounds. Segel is, as always, amiable and winsome, and Sarandon is flat-out radiant.
3. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows — TK, while noting that the original was uneven and problematic, suggested that the sequel is stronger and better, an entertaining two hours with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law: “Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows is, for the most part, an enjoyable combination of detective story, action movie, and period piece. The performances are resoundingly enjoyable, despite the occasionally glaring stumbles in Downey’s performance — more attributable to the writing than the actor, but blame can be passed all around. Yet with Ritchie’s slick, inventive direction and a well-scripted story of nefariousness and Holmes’ and Moriarty’s keen battle of wits, it overcomes its few missteps and outshines its predecessor.
4. The FP — Here’s your shitballs fun flick of the month. Prisco enjoyed the hell out of this movie, a fine-ass example of a so-bad-it’s-great flick: “This thing looks like it was shot for the lint-dusted pocket change sitting in a bedside jar and three handjobs to be delivered later. The concept is absolutely donkeyballs ludicrious: underground street gangs roam the countryside of rural California settling their disputes with showdowns on the Beat-Beat Revolution dance machine. The entire thing is steeped in a late eighties veneer with characters spouting an exaggerated hip-hop patois — calling each other “nig” and “bitch” and requesting someone “check a look” at things. With a lily-white cast — save for the remarkable lone Asian — it’s a fucking risk. And it pays off. The FP cannot possibly be taken seriously as a film, and yet they hold the joke like a particularly long bong hit. It’s completely juvenile, incredibly derogatory, aggressively cheesy, and insanely hilarious. It’s a manic daisy chain of Double Dragon fucking The Warriors boning Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo humping 8 Mile. It’s an ungodly, sticky, fucked-up mess, and I loved it til the last glorious frame.
5. 21 Jump Street: TK gave 21 Jump Street a modest review, singling out Charming Potato — Yes! Charming Potato — for his great comedic performance. In fact, it was my very own turning point with Mr. Potato, and I’m not even embarrassed to admit that I watched this film a second time over the weekend: “That’s not to say that the film is a total loss. Its opening scenes are genuinely funny, and you’ll find yourself guffawing on more than one occasion. Hill and Tatum have a surprisingly sweet chemistry together, and their well-meaning ignoramuses are actually quite enjoyable. In fact, what I was most stunned by was our man Charming Potato himself — he’s funny in this. I don’t mean point-and-laugh funny; I mean he’s got some genuine comedic timing and he plays off Hill with a mischievous sense of silliness that took me aback. It may well be that this is the niche Tatum belongs in — that of a cute, sweet, but dumb-as-a-sack-of-gravel guy without pretense or, well, any real depth. “
6. Safe House — Prisco didn’t care for Safe House noting in his review that it’s a “dry, trite, melodramatic “thriller” that spends its time jerking between jittery Tiny Baysian Penis explosivo and dreary intervention sessions where Denzel tries to talk Ryan Reynolds out of being a secret agent.” But if you’re a big fan of Denzel, as I am, I think Safe House is worth the viewing, as Prisco also gives high marks to Denzel’s performance: “Denzel Washington is fucking ultrasuede in this movie. He’s so cool and calm and smooth that he literally shoots people with a casual strut. He doesn’t care that there’s gunfire around him, or that people are beating each other up. If he had a cigarette and newspaper, he’d been drinking espresso in a cafe while the tables exploded around him. Even when he’s in fight sequences, he’s like fucking Fonzie. He projects “Don’t Give a Shit.” I’m pretty sure there are whole scenes where he just fired the prop gun because he felt like it, and they arbitrarily intercut bad guys laying there dead or falling off the roof just because he’s fucking Denzel.”
7. Mirror Mirror: It’s a kid’s movie, and according to Joanna’s review, your kid could do a lot worse than Mirror Mirror: “So it’s all here, snow, glass, apple and all. And, oh yes, true love’s kiss. It’s refreshingly fun without any snarky “hip” or “modern” references that might take you out of the story book feel. Nobody raps, slangs or break dances. Sure, there’s a completely bananas Bollywood dance number at the end, but even that feels quaint in comparison to the usual “edginess” that plague fairytales nowadays. If you’re looking for Freudian interpretations, overtly feminist revisions or meta snark, you’ve come to the wrong “Snow White.” Does the film feel overlong? Absolutely. Why have one attack in the snowy woods scene when you can have four or five? Does the slapstick get a little tiresome? For adults, almost certainly. But it’s not really for them, is it? It’s for the kids, and the kids at heart. It’s a shiny little candied apple of a film. Go ahead. One little bite won’t hurt you.”