Alien (dir. Ridley Scott, 1979)
First out of the gate, an oldie but goodie, which may just be the understatement of the year. Forget Citizen Kane and Vertigo, Alien is where it’s at. Maybe not, but if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour ASAP. I watched Alien with someone who hadn’t, and even more implausibly had no idea about That One Scene. Ah, to be young and impressionable again, but the fact is, Alien never fails to deliver, even on the umpteenth viewing.
Shamus (dir. Buzz Kulik, 1973)
Burt Reynolds was, at one point in time during the 70s, a major movie star if there ever was one. Shamus presents him as a fashionably low-rent playboy slash private eye, who loves ‘em and leaves ‘em on the pool table to go hunting for McGuffins. Don’t watch it for the plot, watch it for the groovy time capsule popcorn flick it always was.
Magneettimies (dir. Arto Halonen, 2009)
Pekka Streng was the Nick Drake of Finland, releasing two obscure and idiosyncratic solo albums in the 70s before passing away at the tender age of 26. Arto Halonen has directed a charming documentary about Streng’s life, interviewing lots of people for whom his music meant and still means the world. Would this movie exist if Streng was still around? Hard to say.
Alcan Highway (aka Alaska Highway, dir. Aleksi Salmenperä, 2013)
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of getting away from it all, buying an old truck that hasn’t been running since the Eisenhower administration, fixing it up and driving thousands of miles around Alaska and Canada just to get from nowhere to somewhere that’s also nowhere? Luckily for us procrastinators, we can now watch a documentary about that particular dream from the comfort of our own armchairs. Suggested tagline: Everyone needs a hobby. Or, how about this one: In Alaska, nobody can hear you curse. And of course Buckaroo Banzai‘s famous adage fits like a glove: No matter where you go, there you are.
Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (dir. Ramona S. Diaz, 2012)
Rags-to-riches stories don’t come much more endearing than this: A totally unknown Filipino singer is spotted on YouTube by a famous American band desperately in need of a new vocalist. Singer auditions, everyone loves him, he gets the job, tours the world and injects new life to the dinosaur band. There, I just saved you from two hours of watching Arnel Pineda’s journey (sic), but if you’re a fan of the band, watch the movie by all means.
Once Me Twice (dir. Mikko Edelman, 2012)
No, I don’t get the title either. As an aside, the director and I went to high school together, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. There is a lot to like about the movie – the cutting is excellent, for one – but in the end what we’re dealing with is an amateur effort that does not quite succeed in presenting a coherent story. It goes without saying that there’s no shortage of professional efforts that fail in the same way, so take a look and judge for yourself – the whole movie is available on the Internets for your viewing pleasure, see below.
Kirikou ja paha noita (Kirikou et la sorcière, dir. Michel Ocelot, 1998)
The success of this, the first Kirikou movie, must have come as a surprise to the makers, seeing as the sequel most definitely does not pick up things from where its precedessor leaves them. Maybe not viewing them in order was for the better. Anyway, both installments are charming (and feature lots of gratuitous cartoon nudity, see above), so thumbs up it is once again.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
Saw this in 3D at BFI Imax in London. The previous 3D movie I saw was Avatar, so it didn’t take much to be more impressed than that. My expectations weren’t sky high either, which is probably why I walked away entertained. The visuals were top-notch, the writing predictably less so. (If you have an hour or three to spare, see Film Crit Hulk’s detailed tear-down of ASM2.)
So much of this movie does not make any sort of sense that it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the ride. (Did I just describe Suspiria?) I wouldn’t recommend watching ASM2 on a plane though, not that they’re going to feature it as an in-flight movie anyway without cutting most of the first 10 minutes. And what was Paul Giamatti doing in this? I guess his children must be getting to college age.