Best Big Popcorn, Empty Brain
"This mortal form grows weak. I require sustenance!" (Chris Hemsworth as Thor)
I hadn't planned on seeing Thor, but I'm glad I did! So much fun, with a great cast featuring beefy blond Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and Anthony Hopkins, all directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Most Pre-Raphaelite Jane Eyre ever
"How very French!" (Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax)
Mia Wasikowska was a smart, prickly Jane; Michael Fassbender an attractive, rough-around-the-edges, thankfully-not-too handsome Mr. Rochester; and the cast is completed by a host of great supporters like Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax. The director is Cary Fukunaga and I have no idea where he's come from, except he's young and incredibly talented. I've seen every English-language version of Jane Eyre EVER, including all the TV adaptations. This one is hauntingly Pre-Raphaelite, as it lingers on exquisitely lit profiles of Jane, her abundant reddish-blonde hair, and dark, rumbling views of the moors, all naturally lit. I especially love the shot of Jane, after her escape from Fairfield Hall, curled up in the heather, seen from overhead. The Pre-Raphaelites would have gone nuts for that shot. PRB fans, look at Wasikowska and compare her to Lizzie Siddal (Dante Gabriel Rossetti's wife)... see a similarity? I certainly do. The first image is Lizzie Siddal as "Ophelia", painted by John Everett Millais. The second is Wasikowska as Jane.
Charmingest Woody Allen Film in Zonks
Luis Buñuel: "A man in love with a woman from a different era. I see a photograph!"
Man Ray: "I see a film!"
Gil: "I see insurmountable problem!"
Salvador Dalí: "I see rhinoceros!"
(Adrien de Van as Luis Buñuel, Tom Cordier as Man Ray, Owen Wilson as Gil, and Arien Brody as Salvador Dalí.)
Midnight in Paris is a total delight, dolloped with vintage neurotic Woody Allen (Owen Wilson in the lead role), and scattered with gems that hearken back to some of his writing (hint: "The Kugelmass Episode"). What a cast! Owen Wilson is the confused contemporary Hollywood screenplay writer who yearns for his imagined version of Paris in the 1920s and 30s. I'm not giving much away by telling you that Adrian Brody's take on the young Salvador Dalí is worth the price of admission alone. It's very playful and expansively quotable (so you know I had to love it), so... here's another, which gives you an idea of how much fun it is... a perfect summer movie.
Ernest Hemingway: "You liked my book?"
Gil: "Liked? I loved all of your work."
Ernest Hemingway: "Yes. It was a good book because it was an honest book, and that's what war does to men. And there's nothing fine and noble about dying in the mud unless you die gracefully. And then it's not only noble but brave."
(Corey Stoll as Hemingway and Owen Wilson as Gil.)
Most Frustratingly Almost Brilliant
"The only way to be happy is to love. Unless you love, your life will flash by." (Jessica Chastain as Mrs. O'Brien)
Terence Mallick is a visionary artist. I went to The Tree of Life humming with wonder at what I would see. I was so moved by the story of this family of three boys growing up in 1950s Texas, and the flashforwards to one of them (Sean Penn) in the middle of a personal crisis. SPOILER ALERT: You may have heard about the beautifully created footage of the birth of our world, and the existential life-after-death exploration. I've no doubt it's supposed to meld together seamlessly and powerfully. It didn't for me, and I was gnashing my teeth for days afterwards, thinking on how close it came to being something... more... I don't know what. I still applaud Mallick for doing what he does, for trying what it is he's trying to do. I'm still glad I saw it. I'm grateful that such an artist exists. I just wish... GRRRRR.
Best End to Remarkable Series
"Harry Potter, the boy who lived... come to die." (Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort)
Wow, they did a great job with the last two Harry Potter films, which covered the last book of J. K. Rowling's amazing series. I finally saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two and was left blissfully happy in how they served the story, and gobsmacked by the effects and visual splendour. J. K. Rowling's own story is amazing... the fact that the seven books are the triumph they are is the stuff of film; and the films themselves!... eight great romps through Harry's story, in a series unmatched by any in film. Of course, part of me is also relieved that it's over, but not because of any negative feeling; I just wanted completion, and that's what we got most satifsyingly.
Worst Value, Best Arse
"You don't remember anything?" (Olivia Wilde as Ella)
There's only one thing worth remembering about Cowboys and Aliens (2011), and that's the best bottom on earth or in space; what can I say?... Daniel Craig looks great in chaps.
A fine cast and a great premise (why shouldn't aliens have landed 100 years ago?), which soon devolved into a... SPOILER ALERT... shoot-'em-up-like-we-have-a-hope-in-hell-except-oh-wait-of-course-we-do-because-this-is-a-Hollywood-movie. Sigh. Save your time and money.