Foxcatcher (2015)

FoxcatcherTired of living in his older brother’s shadow, and having recently spoken at an elementary school in his brother’s place, Mark Shultz (Channing Tatum) signs with wealthy wrestling enthusiast John du Pont (Steve Carrell) and agrees to represent Team Foxcatcher at the 1987 World Wrestling Championships. Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) is also approached, but is unable to relocate to Pennsylvania, finally giving Mark the opportunity to strike out alone. When du Pont introduces Mark to cocaine, however, the young wrestler becomes dependent on the drug and his performance soon deteriorates. No longer in the spotlight, du Pont re-doubles his efforts to sign Dave — finally incentivising him to uproot his family and move. Betrayed, Mark isolates himself from the rest of the team as they prepare for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

Based on a true story, albeit an unbelievable and to this day inexplicable one, Foxcatcher chronicles life at Foxcatcher Farm in the late eighties and nineties. Director Bennett Miller documents the development — and subsequent decline — of Mark and Paul’s relationship, and attempts to explore the various repurcussions of their rift. For anyone unfamiliar with the story, or even the sport of wrestling, the ending will likely come as a complete surprise. (And that’s after du Pont has recast his prodigy as his mentor and entered competitive wrestling himself, aged 50.) Obviously, it would be unfair to go into detail here, but it is important to say that the film doesn’t end in Seoul. This decidedly isn’t a sports movie, just as Miller’s Moneyball wasn’t, only rather than concentrate on mathematical probability his latest film looks at psychological unpredictability.

That’s not the only story here, however, with the critical acclaim the film has received also highlighting the work that has gone into the three main performances. That said, while it’s true that Miller has pushed his actors such celebration might be premature. Tatum is very convincing as Mark, here portrayed as guileless and gullible yet ultimately genuine; but as credible as his performance is it isn’t exactly compelling to watch. Carell, meanwhile, is playing little more than a caricature — comparable to his work as Gru on Despicable Me. The prosthetics are impressive, as is Carell’s commitment, but it neither constitutes characterisation. Writers E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman may reference du Pont’s love of birds and his compulsive tendencies, but the closest they come to explaining his disturbed mindset is to give him the industry-standard “mommy issues”. In fact, the most revelatory performance comes not from Tatum, Carell or a balding and bloated Ruffallo but from Sienna Miller as the latter’s wife.

That said, Foxcatcher is intermittently intense, and a number of stand-out scenes go some way to explaining the film’s ubiquity going into awards season. The fights, as they should, each tell a story, but Foxcather is at its most memorable outside of the ring; a late-night intrusion at Mark’s guest house is incredibly uncomfortable to watch, and by virtue of Tatum’s undress hints at a homoerotic subtext that is never fully developed, while the heavily trailed scenes showing du Pont enter his gymnasium gun in hand and later chase his mother’s horses from their stables are each unsettling in their own way. The most impactful, however, follows Mark’s first defeat at the Olympics, after which he attacks himself before binging on room service. It take’s Dave’s intervention, and a night in the gym (watched silently through a window by du Pont), to get back into shape before the next morning’s weigh-in. The brothers’ reconciliation over an exercise bike holds a power that much of the rest of the film unfortunately lacks.

The main problem with Foxcatcher is that it lacks a focal point. Is this the story of John, Dave or Mark? The film doesn’t seem to know, and with none of the above given a complete arc to fully flesh out their characters the narrative is denied any coherent shape. John is largely missing from the first act, Dave from the second and Mark from the third. Even anti-sports movies need to give you someone to champion.

3-Stars

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The Impossible (2013)

The ImpossibleArriving in Thailand for a much-needed Christmas vacation, the Bensen family – father Henry (McGregor), mother Maria (Watts) and their three children Lucas (Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) – all head straight for the pool. But just days into their stay, on the morning of December 26th, a freak tsunami hits their coastal retreat and devastates the surrounding area. Read more of this post

September 2012 – It’s all the deep end

After a dry spell that lasted for most of the summer season, the heavens this month finally opened and washed a handful of decent movies into cinemas. Along with a couple of Great White sharks.

September delivered Alex Garland’s stylish Dredd 3D, Peter Strickland’s acclaimed Berberian Sound Studio and two characteristically accomplished performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the first in Looney Tune-esque thriller Premium Rush and the second in time-travel paradox Looper. Nothing could quite compare to LAIKA’s ParaNorman, however, a beautifully subversive horror-comedy from the studio that brought us Coraline.

Not that the month was without its share of duds. A Few Best Men got things off to a disastrous start, while Oliver Stone’s Savages and Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love made sure that you never took the cinematic Indian summer for granted. It was Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil: Retribution that made for the month’s biggest disappointment, however, as it gave up on narrative altogether and instead settled for teasing the next instalment.

Fitting into neither camp were the likes of Anna Karenina and Killing Them Softly, two films that worked on one level but failed to engage in any memorable way. Meanwhile, Bait, an Australian shark-attack film I had to import from the U.S. after months of anticipation, managed to periodically entertain, and Liberal Arts, a film I saw ahead of its October release, left me feeling sorely nostalgic for my own student days.

Away from the multiplex, I signed up at Dundee Contemporary Arts for an eight week course in science fiction cinema. With Metropolis and Invasion of the Body Snatchers out of the way, I look forward to catching up with the likes of Brazil, Silent Running and Moon on the big screen in the weeks ahead.

I ended September with Casino Royale, for this month’s edition of BlogalongaBond. Only Quantum of Solace now remains before Skyfall ends this 23 month endeavour.

Film of the month: ParaNorman

Find Any Film launch Reaction Replay competition

If you’ve been to the cinema at all since its launch in 2011, you will no doubt be familiar with FindAnyFilm.com‘s Moments Worth Paying For campaign.

Aiming to encourage the legitimate streaming, downloading and purchase of films, Find Any Film is one of the U.K.’s leading services, offering over 36,000 titles covering television and film, which are available across cinema, DVD and Blu-ray.

The ads themselves, trailered before the latest releases, feature a cross-section of movielovers reacting to various movie moments. In this vein, Find Any Film are holding a competition called Reaction Replay that could win you and your friends a four star trip to New York City. Runner-up prizes include nine iPad 2 16gbs and 30 £50 blinkbox download vouchers.

All entrants have to do is visit the organization’s official Facebook page, search for their favourite film using the Find Any Film search engine and upload a photograph of themselves reacting to it. The competitors who generate the most votes by sharing the images with their friends are in with a chance of winning.

Reaction Replay, which went live today, will run for the next six weeks. You can find out more here.

Haywire (2012)

Having arranged to meet her employer at a lonely diner in Upstate New York, Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is instead attacked by Aaron (Channing Tatum), a fellow contract operative with whom she worked on an assignment in Barcelona. Escaping with a young civilian named Scott (Michael Angarano) Mallory seeks revenge on Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), the man who set her up. Along the way, Mallory explains the circumstances that led to her situation, detailing the job in Barcelona and the repercussions it had on a later trip to Dublin, during which she was betrayed by British agent Paul (Michael Fassbender).

Steven Soderbergh’s latest step towards retirement, Haywire, is not an easy film to like. Opening with loaded glances galore and vague references to various European capital cities, an almighty slab of backstory is then dropped on Angarano’s Scott as the audience tries desperately to catch up. Many have attributed the film’s failings to newcomer Carano, a mixed martial artist plucked from the ring and tasked with carrying her own movie, but in my eyes it is Soderbergh’s direction that is the film’s biggest weakness. A convoluted and confused plot, a series of pencil sketched antagonists and a poorly integrated non-linear structure results in a film which ticks along with no real tension or pace.

Considering her lack of experience, Carano actually fares rather well. While she mightn’t offer a particularly emotional performance, you’d be misremembering if you were to claim that other genre stalwarts such as Boure or Bond were particularly prone to public displays of affection themselves. Kane carries herself with confidence and authority, holding her own against the likes of Fassbender’s man behind the donkey punch, government agent Michael Douglas and Puss In Beards himself, while also managing to compel the narrative on her own terms. Where she might pass admirably through the film’s quieter moments, she truly excels during the film’s numerous action beats. The walls shake with every punch, you feel every fall and when a deer jumps out in front of Kane’s speeding car, you may as well be behind the wheel.

Despite the best efforts of all involved, then, Haywire is plagued by a slapdash attitude towards plot, a strangely incongruous soundtrack and a beach-set denoument which seems desperately low on the air-punching glee of similar revenge-driven movies. Next time you decide to have tumble-weed blow across the runway during a third-act scene-setter, Soderbergh, try at least to make it ironic.

Shame (2011)

Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is an affluent, attractive thirty-something living on his own in New York. He is also a sex addict. Having customised a lifestyle which allows him to work around his compulsions, Brandon has found ways to sate his sexual appetite whether at work, at home or on a night out with his unsuspecting workmates and adulterer boss (James Badge Dale). Into this meticulously rehearsed charade walks sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan), the yin to Brandon’s yang, whose arrival marks the beginning of a downfall which will impact both of them equally.

A film centring on sex addiction was never going to be an easy sell. Their second collaboration since 2008’s Hunger, Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender refuse to shy away from their chosen subject matter, wearing their NC-17 certificate as a badge of honour as they broach this enduring taboo head on, decreeing nothing off limits in their endeavour to do justice to something others might exploit. From a set of artfully crumpled bedsheets rises a naked Fassbender, baiting audiences to compose themselves, allowing the the filmmakers to press on in the knowledge that audiences are over any initial embarrassment.

McQueen’s visuals are striking in their subtlety, the camera allowed to linger on the minutea of Brandon’s life as he waits for his next hit, score, conquest. The character sleepwalks through life, enlivened only when finally introduced to a woman as interested in intellectual intercourse as she is sex. Their interactions are effortless, charming, as Fassbender is allowed to breathe some life into his troubled soul, a fleeting moment of banter with a sullied waiter hinting at a personality we are suddenly reluctant to see go to waste.

Mulligan’s Sissy, meanwhile, externalises where her brother internalises, ending his practices calm with a whirlwind of emotion and idiosyncrasies. Introduced as an incessant presence on Brandon’s answering machine, it’s not long until Sissy runs out of patience and arrives not so much on his doorstep as in his shower. While Mulligan’s performance might be every bit as naked as Fassbender’s, a second act Blues rendition of New York, New York belies a vulnerability and inner emptiness that no amount of gratuitous nudity could ever hope to truly express.

Beautifully ugly, passively provocative and quietly confident, Shame is a movie which approaches a difficult subject matter with respect and sobriety. More a film about addiction in general, it is an achingly honest portrayal of a man struggling to control potentially insurmountable compulsions, a few last minute contrivances doing little to detract from one of the most powerful movies released last year.

Underworld: Awakening (2012)

Awoken from stasis in a world she barely recognises, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is forced to adapt to a new age in vampire/lycan conflict: one which now has to contend with humanity as well. Escaping from Antigen laboratories in pursuit of Michael Corvin (stock footage of Scott Speedman), racked with visions she is convinced come from Corvin’s perceptions, Selene tracks her prey to an underground habitat crawling in lycans, only to be confronted not by the love of her lifelessness, but a young hybrid (India Eisley) cowering in the shadows. With both the humans and lycans hot in pursuit, Selene plans an attack on the Antigen facility with the help of a fellow vampire named David (Theo James) and a disillusioned detective (Michael Ealy) out for revenge.

I can still remember the excitement leading up to the first Underworld movie’s release. VAMPIRES! WEREWOLVES! GUNS! Indeed, this unshakeable anticipation proved strong enough to fool me into loving every second of it; heck, I even saw it again the following weekend. The truth is, however, that given how much potential the premise holds, the Underworld films have never really been up to par. For all the slick, billowing flair of trench coats, Gothic stylings and lycra-clad Kate Beckinsale, it is undeniably clear that none of it really adds up. Three films and nine years later, nothing’s really changed.

The truth is that nobody really wants to see vampires and werewolves – two horror mainstays – shooting each other to piece, just like nobody really wants to see vampires and werewolves vying for the affections of Kristen Stewart. The result is hugely undramatic, as two groups of snarling prosthetics take aim, only for one side to jump around in a harness while the other explodes in a shitstorm of special effects, and uninvolving, as the sheer homogeny of the action sequences begin to verge on self-parody. It is a problem that the filmmakers never really managed to solve, with the original trilogy entertaining but never really delivering on anything other than schoolboy fantasies.

With the likes of Die Hard and Indiana Jones returning from retirement for the increasingly mandatory fourth instalment, it really is telling that this trend has now fallen far enough for the substantially less seminal Underworld series to follow suit. With lead actor Scott Speedman declining to return, the filmmakers have been left with an inexplicable hole at the centre of the narrative, and, rather than writing his character out of the script between movies (in all seriousness, it’s not like he would be missed), the decision has been made to relegate him to some awkward limbo while the series is not so much rebooted as brought back as some sort of place holder on the off-chance that Speedman ever comes around.

The result is a storyline that simply repeats that of the orginal film, albeit with Speedman’s hybrid replaced with that of relative newcomer India Eisley, Bill Nighy traded in for Charles Dance and a slightly bigger lycan drawn up to keep everyone knee-deep in things to gurn at. The whole thing is so Aliens-lite that you half expect Selene to don a giant metal exoskeleton in time for the final assault on the lycan queen king’s lair. What could have simply been a bit of gory fun is instead reduced to a derivative retread of the first instalment, unfathomably buried under the weight of needless back story. The whole opening act is wasted bringing an audience – comprised solely of Underworld fans – up to speed with a story which couldn’t be more self explanatory if it tried.

That said, Underworld: Awakening – this time co-directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein – isn’t entirely joyless, neatly side-stepping the position of worst in the series. Just as it has clung unknowingly to the flaws that have permeated the franchise from day one, the filmmakers are as ever well aware of what keeps audiences coming back for more: the fight scenes are characteristically spectacular (if a little repetitive), the transformations are still next to none, and Beckinsale is still absolutely captivating in that leather catsuit. However, there’s only so often you can watch a character jump off of things before the fatigue begins to set in.

With everyone involved apparently unwilling to give up until they finally get it right, this is simply another slight to a masochistically dedicated fan-base. The biggest problem with Underworld: Awakening is that this is still not the movie that the premise deserves, the attraction of vampires vs. werewolves once again dulled by the misguided determination to basically remake The Matrix but without all of the memorable (?!) characters. And that is a big problem.

The Artist (2011)

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a bygone idol of a no longer silent era, is watching helplessly as his career trundles to an end. One of his last acts as a beloved Hollywood star is to tutor a young actress named Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) following a chance encounter during an impromptu photo-shoot. Despite an undeniable mutual attraction, Valentin lets his pride get the better of him, burning bridges with the young actress and refusing to embrace the encroaching talkies and in the process resigning himself and his upcoming movies to obscurity. Dropped by his studio and abandoned by his wife, Miller is left to grow bitter with only his trusty driver (James Cromwell) and trustier canine for company.

With reports that a number of ignorant Liverpudlians are demanding their money back having not anticipated The Artist being a silent, black and white film from *gasp* a foreign country, it is difficult to argue that Michel Hazanavicius’ darling has indeed been over-hyped. That said, with considerable Oscar buzz and a staggered release which means that everybody – even people who knew nothing about it – saw it before I did, I was worried that the finished product might not live up to my already towering expectations. Despite the best attempts of the world’s worst cinema audience, however, I needn’t have worried.

For, while the novelty of what at first appears to amount to a half-told story does take some getting used to, any initial unease soon gives way as the story’s charms lull you into immersion. There are those who will inevitably complain that the narrative is half-baked and unoriginal, but, just as with Avatar before it, the simplicity of the plot only helps serve to highlight the innovation and creativity on show elsewhere. When the characters are so expressive, the visuals are so striking and the sound design is so counter-intuitively compelling, who really needs a memorable twist or some gaudy gimmickry in order to distract them from the film’s inherent majesty.

Perhaps the biggest joy in The Artist is just the sheer talent on show. Without language barriers to overcome, Hazanavicius was able to pick and choose the performers best suited for the parts at hand. Dujardin and Bejo are both astounding in the lead roles, thriving in the film’s Old Hollywood setting and duly rising to the challenges inherent in making a silent movie. Immensely talented, the performers dabble in dance and tap, all the while imbuing their silent performances with absolute verve and emotion. John Goodman and Malcolm McDowell, meanwhile, simmer in the background, while the film’s secret weapon – a charmingly animate dog – threatens to steal the show from beneath them.

The Artist is quite simply pure cinema; an homage to a storytelling format that is still as relevant today as it has ever been. In an age of CGI and 3D (never mind sound and colour), it is refreshing to see such a stripped back expression of moviemaking that is every bit as capable of telling an arresting story as the latest pixilated popcorn movie. If you want your money back having seen this then there really is nothing left for us to talk about.

The Darkest Hour 3D (2012)

Ben (Max Minghella) and Sean (Emile Hirsch) are two internet entrepreneurs visiting Moscow to sell their party-finding social network and make a fortune. Double crossed moments after landing by an ungentlemanly Swede practised in the ancient foreign art of generally being a bit of a dick, the two American’s seek solace in one of the bars that their product was designed to help locate. Spying two fellow tourists, the foursome’s plans are quickly dashed by a strange light display that suddenly turns into a full-blown alien invasion. With only a handful of light bulbs and the occasional car alarm to help them identify their invisible – but sporadically visible – attackers, they make their way to the American embassy in search of a way home.

Poor Moscow. Having just finished rebuilding their precious Kremlin after Brad Bird blew it to pieces in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the populace are swiftly repaid for their efforts by an alien invasion sent to quickly knock it down again, along with the rest of Russia (and planet Earth for that matter). While the involvement of  Timur Bekmambetov as producer might have been enough to spare us the prospect of another New York-set disaster movie, it sadly doesn’t spare us the contractual unsympathetic American protagonists. This is very much your bog standard sci-fi thriller, only with a slightly different green-screen backdrop.

There is one thing that does set The Darkerst Hour apart from its peers, however, and that’s the fact that its alien invaders are little more than invisible balls of light (make of that what you will) who have decided to decimate our planet in pursuit of our remaining fossil fuels. As you might expect, the fact that all you ever glimpse of our annihilators is a warm glimmer does have an unfortunate impact on the film’s success as a thriller. Unlike the invisible killer at the centre of the far superior Final Destination franchise, the antagonists here have no plan, no apparent motive, and no intricate chain reaction to signpost the next casualty. In The Darkest Hour, victims merely disintigrate, at random, with little cause for alarm, or indeed, thrills.

This distinct lack of threat is only further exasperated by the stupidity of the plot. Considering the aliens are introduced as a flurry of aurora-like phenomenon, gently floating to Earth, the fact that they suddenly begin disintigrating people, dogs and buildings comes as a bit of a surprise. They can blast through walls, lasso people with electric whips and drain even the smallest of batteries in their pursuit of some ambiguous energy, yet they are rendered completely powerless by a feeble pane of glass and improbably impenetrable bird cage. Seriously, despite our heroes’ phones dying at the moment of first contact – because the aforementioned effect they have on electricity – they happily power up the moment they are of use to the story.

Perhaps the most overt attack on your suspension of disbelief comes the moment our heroes are knocked into the Moscow river. Despite falling in at precisely the same time, at precisely the same location, and swiftly washed to safety, one character somehow winds up miles inland, in the middle of an infested train station. Setting off on the inevitable rescue mission, with a microwave gun built from scratch in a matter of hours from spare parts apparently throwing themselves to hand, the film duly carries on for another 20 minutes despite the fact that you’ve ceased caring what happens, not only to the hateful band of survivors, but the human race in general.

The Darkest Hour really is an affront to audience intelligence, as director Chris Gorak seems to put more thought into the opening credits than the rest of the film’s elements combined. If you’re the sort of person who believes that a bus can intuit turns and obstructions just so long as enough electricity is charging through its battery, this is the movie for you. For anyone else, go see anything else released this week. Literally, anything.

Fails of the Year – 2011

Forever wishing to give cinema the benefit of the doubt – especially as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo appear to be in such capable hands – I have decided to hold off on judging the year’s best films until I have had the opportunity to catch up on a few more. I feel no such responsibility with making similar conclusions regarding the year’s most unforgivable affronts to the medium of film, however, and with my predictions only proving partially accurate, a few glaring oversights coming back to bore me as the year drew on, here are the top ten movies that left me wishing I could have found my life’s driving passion in sport or music instead.

10. Apollo 18

While it is generally accepted that low-budget found-footage movies will delay the money shot until the last possible moment – when they know for sure how much money they have left to spend on it, no doubt – Apollo 18 takes this rule of thumb to the extreme. Divulging little more about its central trio than that they like barbeques and dislike accidentally rubbing jalapenio juice into their crotches, director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego ensures that by the end of our tenure aboard the titular space ship alongside our fellow astronauts we are wishing we could finish them off ourselves. There is a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon, and it appears to be because it was so damn boring the last time.

9. Take Me Home Tonight

What is it about the 80s that provokes such unwavering nostalgia? With Hollywood throwing back with films such as The Rocker and Hot Tub Time Machine, there appears to be a perfectly renewable audience for movies that channel boomboxes, Farrah hair and Back to the Future. Starring Topher Grace, a particularly desperate looking Anna Farris and – in a turn of events that will no doubt turn the world inside out – an overweight comic actor who is even more hateful than Jack Black and Zach Galifianakis combined, this movie is aimed exclusively at the type of person who longs to have been alive in the 80s, where they could “do it” on a trampoline and solve all of life’s problems by riding a giant metal ball into a swimming pool – the director, then.

8. Bad Teacher

Much has been made of the similarities between Bad Teacher and curmudgeonly classic Bad Santa. To me, however, any such comparisons end swiftly with the titular prefix. Where the latter was subversive, witty and oddly charming, Bad Teacher is a one dimensional, derivative and woefully crass exercise in Bad Filmmaking. Cameron Diaz’s Halsey is a bad teacher because she makes her pupils watch TV instead of read books, because she dresses inappropriately at the sponsored car wash and because she plans her next boob-job when she should be marking papers. Hilarious, huh?

7. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

I get it, fat people are funny. Three movies in, though, you might imagine that Regency Enterprise had something more to say – some flesh to add to the premise’s big bones and trademark fat suit. Interpreting this criticism as a categorical need for more fat people to laugh at, the studio has duly provided us with Brandon T. Jackson as the rapper son of Malcolm Turner’s cross-dressing undercover agent. Seriously, with some of the rubbish that has been accepted into Juilliard in recent years, I’m really failing to understand how it is still so prestigious? With Turner having now been in the role for over a decade – A DECADE! – we can only hope that this spells the end of Big Momma’s Franchise.

6. New Year’s Eve

Imagine every base-level romantic comedy you’ve seen in the last 10 years. Now imagine watching them all again, at once, without any of the pleasure – however guilty – and all of the bits that make you wish you could swallow your own face. With dire performances, a self-congratulatorally indulgent narrative and jokes that are almost (but importantly not even) hysterically unfunny, New Year’s Eve is to cinema what the ball drop is apparently to New Yorkers: a hollow and desperately sad piece of pig-ignorant Americana that you can feel actively sucking the splendour out of life, one cameo at a time.

5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

With Megan Fox ostracised for calling MICHAEL BAY a Nazi (Poland must be the only country he hasn’t blown up), and the film’s director echoing star Shia LaBeouf’s admission that the second film really was utter pants, it looked like Transformers: Dark of the Moon was on track to be at least watchable; a first for the franchise. Instead, it was business as usual at the pixel factory as the robots fight, the girl pouts and Sam Witwicky runs, runs as fast as he can lest he pause long enough to have to try on a new facial expression. With the trilogy finally – mercifully – over, perhaps now we can leave Bay to his career-long mid-life crisis and get on tempting our brains out of Autobot-induced hibernation. No, I can’t tell what’s going on in the picture either.

4. Green Lantern

Considering how much time I’ve spent banging on about the merits of silly superheroes (of which Hellboy is still by and far the best), the irony – or is it hypocrasy? – of my distaste for Green Lantern has certainly not gone unnoticed. For while it might forgo the tiresome “darker is better” mantra that has been redefining Hollywood ever since Christopher Nolan cleared his throat with Batman Begins, it is a movie completely lacking in any talent and/or workable humour to offset the story’s resounding hocum. All the talk of the emerald energy of willpower and yellow power of fear is frankly too much, and with appalling special effects to match the script my biggest fear is that Green Lantern might have played right into Nolan’s gritty hands.

3. Cowboys and Aliens

Renamed after Cowboys and Aliens and More Aliens and Convenient Phoenix Metaphors and Indians and Sam Rockwell and God and a Hummingbird performed poorly with test audiences, Cowboys and Aliens was one of the most obnoxious, humourlous and darn right ridiculous movies released his summer. Side-lining Harrison Ford (why? WHY?) in favour of Old Expressionless and Plot Point #4 (dutifully reprising her role from last year’s Tron: Legacy), John Favreau effectively made the anti-Iron Man: a comic book adaptation that took itself far too seriously. Ford is the best thing in Cowboys and Aliens by a good Kessel Run – and that’s coming from someone who really likes hummingbirds.

2. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Rather than confronting the issues harmonised by the planet’s critics, Rob Marshall’s apparent overhaul never makes it beneath the surface. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a pale imitation of a once great, and then at least competent, franchise; a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns in action. Shot largely in the dark and depriving Jack Sparrow of a sparring partner (wasting the character in the thankless role of straight man), this latest adaptation of the Disneyland attraction is anything but a roller-coaster ride, providing precisely zero swash for your buckle.

1. Sucker Punch

I forgive you for being enticed by the stylish and action-packed trailer. After all, I was right there with you. It made the film look sleek, layered and, above all, coherent. A squad of asylum inmates escape into an alternate reality, Alice in Wonderland style, and must fight an array of fantastical monsters for a series of items that will lead to their freedom in the real world – sound about right? Turns out, however, that these items were little more than a map from the next room, a lighter from a visiting suit’s pocket, a kitchen knife from their workplace, a key from around their orderly’s neck and a not-so-mysterious “sacrifice”. Not a steampunked zombie Nazi in sight.

Also worthy of mention: The Green Hornet, Red Riding Hood, 30: Minutes or Less, The Three MusketeersImmortals, AbductionColombiana, Conan the BarbarianProm, The Hangover: Part II, Horrible Bosses, Just Go With It.