Coraline (Henry Selick) ***1/2 - I finally caught up with this. I'm surprised by how actually kind of scary this film is and not just as a kids' film. It's actually pretty creepy as a film period. Henry Selick blends both creepy and whimsical visuals very well (sometimes at the same time) and Dakota Fanning gives probably my favorite performance from her. It may not be as good as Nightmare Before Christmas but it's pretty darn close.
Holy Motors (Leos Carax) **** - Who says art house films can't be fun? This sure is! At least for me. If you're into film, acting or the arts, it will probably be for you too. The film's strange, bizarre structure where an actor drives around in a limo acting vignettes is a stupendously unpredictable tribute to both the art of acting and of film in general. The film is a strange, weird but joyous ride that mixes shocks, drama and laughter in almost equal doses. I'm guessing this is what happens if a Godard film and Bunuel film meet and have a baby. These types of films for me can be either pure joy or pure torture (...and the latter can be a good thing or a bad thing). This is definitely pure joy. One of the best films of 2012, for sure.
Exit Through The Gift Shop (Banksy) **** - It's probably one of the most unusual and most fun documentaries I have ever seen (or mockumentary for some people). It's tough to describe it. It's about a French immigrant who decides to film everything in his life and decided to concentrate on street artists, particularly the British anarchic artist Banksy....who directed the film. It's such an unusual film and not your typical documentary. It's often very funny and actually has a lot to say about the nature of arts and artists.
Kill, Baby, Kill (Mario Bava) *** - The cheesy title is rather misleading. This is not a cheapo exploitation/slasher flick. It's actually a pretty spooky ghost story about a malevolent ghost of a little girl that's plaguing a town. The climax was a tad disappointing but the build-up to it was pretty great. Director Mario Bava's use of production design, cinematography and just plain atmospheric effects was quite effective in illiciting chills.
Moon (Duncan Jones) ***1/2 - Sam Rockwell gives an amazing performance as the lone crew member aboard a mining facility in the moon. Thought-provoking and intelligent (and adult) science fiction films that don't rely on eye-candy action scenes to propel their stories are increasingly rare these days so this piece is a breath of fresh air. It cannot be said enough: Sam Rockwell was magnificent and was robbed of an Oscar.
The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson) **** - As a filmmaker, Paul Thomas Anderson's evolution is probably one of the most fascinating and interesting ones for me. His early works contains lots of moments of brilliance but also some deep flaws and he's been developing into one of the most fascinating cinematic voices of his generation. There's a lot to chew on in his latest one. It's very easy to simply dismiss this as pure pretentious twaddle but I think there's way too many layers, too many complexities and ambiguities and to simply just brush it aside is a disservice. Is it a thinly veiled scathing attack on Scientology? Yes and no. Is it a critique on organized religion and New Age mumbo-jumbo? Yes and no. Is it a character study? Yes and no. It's all of these things and it's none of these things. It's a film whose contents and themes will be hotly debated for years to come. What's undeniable though is that it is a extremely well-crafted film, the cinematography and the score are superb. In addition to that, Joaquin Phoenix probably gives his career-best performance in this film and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams make an impressive impact as well. It's not the most accessible or the easiest film to digest but it's certainly truly unforgettable.
Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi) ** - I should like this movie. I'm a film buff. I'm also a huge fan of Hitchcock. A movie about the making of Psycho and Hitchcock's working relationship with his wife should be up my alley, right? Nah. The film largely missed the mark. Sure, it actually starts very promisingly with good moments scattered here and there and the final 15 minutes or so is quite good but it came too little too late. A huge bulk of the film feels like forced, padded drama with Hitchcock being haunted by Ed Gein and becoming jealous of his wife working and hanging out with another writer. It's all a bit obvious, generic and frankly even dull. It sinks the film. The good moments in it only highlight how much of a missed opportunity this movie is.