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  • Leviathan 2012

    ★★★★ Watched 26 Oct, 2013

    Mesmerising, disorienting, alien. The Upstream Color of deep-sea fishing documentaries.

  • Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters 2012

    ★★★ Watched 18 Aug, 2013

    Brief Encounters is apt, as Gregory Crewdson doesn't care about the before or after of his meticulously constructed dioramas, only the moment his shutter opens. Inspired by the directorial work of Lynch and Hitchcock, he builds complete narratives, impeccably staged and lit, as photographs that sell for the price of a house. His process is examined here through behind-the-scenes footage and interviews covering many of the shoots for his Beneath the Roses collection.

  • Dial M for Murder 1954

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 26 Jul, 2013

    Even with prior knowledge of its intricate internal logic and the one tiny assumption that threatens to unravel the perfect murder, it’s still engrossing to witness the precision and economy that Hitchcock wields here: five key characters, three locations (two of which appear for a sum total of about three minutes), a restrained camera and a subtle yet wicked sense of humour. Re-watching this film is like listening to someone clearly explain a technical concept you’re familiar with, nodding along as they hit each beat, and wishing you could do so as eloquently.

  • Computer Chess 2013

    Watched 23 Jul, 2013

    Its impeccable affectation is so perfect you might question its heritage, but make no mistake: this is a present-day undertaking that wants to recall David Brent, but lacks the heart and structure required to balance out its crushing tedium. Occasional moments of greatness punctuate great swathes of period-accurate, observational awkwardness, but it all amounts to very little in the way of outcomes, and I failed to find evidence of the cleverness reported by so many of its devoted fans.

  • I Think We're Alone Now 2008

    Watched 25 Mar, 2013

    Sean Donnelly’s study of two infatuated fans isn’t enlightening or endearing, it’s just plain mean-spirited.

  • Total Recall 2012

    ★★★ Watched 04 Mar, 2013

    A surprisingly slavish remake of a film I enjoyed but never mustered any long-term fondness for. This, like its predecessor, fails to do anything useful with the “am I dreaming or is this reality” dilemma that befalls the central Farrell/Schwarzenegger character, arguably wringing even less from it than Verhoeven did. At least his tongue was in his cheek.

    The production team admirably apes Blade Runner by way of Minority Report, and there’s plenty of big dumb action set pieces to…

  • Dredd 2012

    ★★ Watched 02 Feb, 2013

    Not even the great Avon Barksdale can elevate this beyond a gritty, humourless and mostly pretty ordinary shoot-’em-up. Visually it veers from inconsistently graded to shoddily composited, and its gimmicky slow-mo effects seem a gratuitous excuse to incorporate the latest high-speed gadget in saturated technicolor.

  • Zero Dark Thirty 2012

    ★★★★½ Watched 31 Jan, 2013

    Kathryn Bigelow’s fictionalised account of the CIA’s decade-long hunt for America’s most-wanted aggressor trades factual accuracy for cinematic play-by-plays, but does so with minimal posturing and an even-handed approach to depictions of the US government’s less-appetising foreign policies.

    The second act lags, and the plaudits for Jessica Chastain’s showy heroine might be unfounded, but as the final thirty minutes unfolds — a gripping tour de force without fanfare or exploitation — these blemishes soon fade. It’s a flawless, respectful conclusion; Bin Laden’s slain figure depicted only as a blurred background or fleeting digital camera preview.

  • The Master 2012

    ★★½ Watched 24 Jan, 2013

    PTA’s long-awaited and uncompromising chronicle of cultdom, the elusive nature of power, and the deep need for acceptance in the wake of debilitating post-war angst is as over-stuffed with on-screen talent as it is lacking in coherent engagement. Hoffman and Phoenix lay themselves bare, but are hampered by a failure to fulfil a basic tenet of the medium: there isn’t a soltitary developed character for which to feel an ounce of identification or sympathy.

    Phoenix is a marvel as he…

  • Holy Motors 2012

    ★★ Watched 27 Jan, 2013

    An inscrutable premise that takes the viewer’s initial intrigue and slowly strangles it to death.

  • The Loneliest Planet 2011

    ★★★½ Watched 23 Jan, 2013

    A masterclass in observational cinema that will try your patience even as you’re glued to watching almost nothing happen. For me, half an hour shorter and it might have been something quite special.

  • Argo 2012

    ★★★★ Watched 22 Jan, 2013

    An austere thriller that occasionally recalls Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out, in impeccably authentic brown and biege. Affleck helms admirably, but can’t avoid favouring his own character’s sentimental backstory over those of the foreign diplomats central to his plot. Draws some amusing parallels between the CIA and Hollywood (Arkin and Goodman are superb representing the latter), two hegemonies in the business of playing make believe.