Texas Killing Fields (2011)

I'm gonna do this quick, this film doesn't deserve better. Don't be fooled by the solid cast or the great visuals, this is an utter piece of shit. Either the script was completely useless, or someone screwed this up in the editing.

The story is excruciatingly badly written. The film moves from one scene to the next, seemingly unaware of any kind of narrative continuity or logic, resulting a disjointed, almost rambling storytelling. Even on a scene by scene basis this makes absolutely no sense. Characters change behavior, from moment to moment, and it often feels like large chunks of the film is simply missing.

This is nothing short of a spectacular show of inept, almost retarded filmmaking. How retarded, you ask? Well, just watch for the GIGANTIC shadows cast by the camera crew barely a minute into the film.

Avoid at all cost.


The 20 Best Movies I Saw In 2011

Following up on The 20 Worst Movies I Saw In 2011, here's a list of the best films I saw last year. Some great experiences along the way, but it still seems like 2011 wasn't quite as good as 2010.

20. Rare Exports

I loved this alternative take on Santa Claus. Never mind that the film is Finnish, I can see this becoming a regular December film for me.

19. The Warrior's Way

This silly combination of Asian swordplay and western, set in America, with American actors, but a Korean lead who rarely speaks, shouldn't really work, but it did anyway. The film looks gorgeous, and the story is a classic tale of redemption, and how to kill a man with a herring.

18. Machete

When Robert Rodriguez brings his A-game he's a force to be reckoned with. A good old-fashioned B-movie with loads of style, a killer cast, and a sorely needed lead role for Danny Trejo. Machete don't text, but he sure as hell entertains.

17. Fright Night (2011)

One of the biggest surprises of the year. I fully expected to hate everything about this film, but for some reason it all kind of worked beautifully. Go figure.

16. Holy Flying Circus

This TV movie is about the problems the Monty Python group encountered during the release of Life of Brian in 1979. Half of the actors portraying the group don't really work, but the other half are perfect. This film captures the style of the show (Michael Palin's wife is played by a man), while giving us a glimpse of the real issues behind the silliness.

15. Faster

Another one of those B-movies that aren't afraid to embrace its B-movie nature. A perfect revenge film, with some surprisingly effective performances, and a stunning look.

14. The Rite

Exorcisms still freak me out. Combine this with a story about a guy who doubts religion, and you've got a really interesting take on demon possessions. Nothing beats The Exorcist (1973), obviously, but you can still make a good film in this genre, without trying to top that masterpiece. Plus, Anthony Hopkins hasn't been this good since Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).

13. Drive Angry

No, I don't want to hear anything. This kick ass film did it for me on every level, and I'm not going to apologize. Bloody action, a severely f***able Amber Heard, cool as a cucumber William Fichtner, and Nicolas Cage hasn't looked this committed since Face/Off (1997).

12. Gasland

Director Josh Fox's deeply personal take on the environmental problems caused by fracking - the process that extracts natural gas from the ground. Very moody and very engaging. This is not just a good documentary. It's simply a good film.

11. Stool Pigeon

An intense and heartbreaking Hong Kong thriller that reminds me of all the great Asian films I saw in the '90s. Only reason it isn't higher up on the list is the rather slow start.

10. Page Eight

An very slight thriller about an intelligence officer who is thrust into a moral dilemma, following a report that puts the government in a very uncomfortable position. A pleasantly subdued performance by Bill Nighy, with solid support from Rachel Weisz, Michael Gambon, and Ralph Fiennes.

9. Apollo 18

A found-footage film about the failed Apollo 18 mission that discovers something bad on the moon. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole film, and I loved the visual style, which cleverly matches footage from the real lunar missions.

8. Trolljegeren

This Norwegian faux-documentary about a troll hunter had just the right mix of humor and scares. I found it quite irresistible.

7. The Last Exorcism

This tight little horror movie took the faux-documentary style and give it a little twist. Plus, anything with demons freak me the hell out! Haven't seen lead actor Patrick Fabian since 1999. Hope to see more of him in the future.

6. I Saw the Devil

A bitter, but highly effective Korean revenge film, so tough and driven that you can't help but feel ashamed that you love it so much. Actors Lee Byung-Hun and Choi Min-Sik are ferocious in the two lead roles, and director Kim Jee-Woon is one of the most dependable Korean helmers.

5. TRON: Legacy

Much to my surprise I found this followup to the classic science fiction fiasco TRON (1982) to be quite amazing. Beautiful designs, a story with real pathos, and one of the best scores of the year. The only flaw: The young CGI version of Jeff Bridges.

4. Source Code

One of the truly original films from 2011, a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day (1993) and a great followup to Moon (2009) from director Duncan Jones.

3. Margin Call

This tight little thriller had a simple premise, a stellar cast, and a perfect mood. Director J.C. Chandor is a name we need to keep an eye on, while star Zachary Quinto proves he can play something else than serial killers and aliens.

2. Kung Fu Panda 2

This is one irresistible panda. The sequel was less funny than the original, but more touching. The visual style, however, is breathtakingly beautiful.

1. Super 8

This film oozes nostalgia and love for movies. JJ Abrams managed to make a Spielberg film in 2011. Good thing, because Spielberg himself can't make that kind of film any more.


That's it. Now we've got to make it through the Oscars and we'll be all done with 2011.


The 20 Worst Movies I Saw In 2011

Last year I published my Top and Bottom lists on this very blog, and I found it quite useful to have them available online at any time, so why not repeat the success? No need to overcomplicate things, so here's my list of the 20 most awful films I saw last year....

20. Sucker Punch

The trailer looked gorgeous, Zach Snyder's other films were so cool, but he should not be writing scripts himself, he's just not smart enough. This was a long, boring, misguided film, about as much fun as watching someone else play a video game.

19. Cowboys and Aliens

Unforgivably dull and utterly predictable. We may not have seen cowboys and aliens together in a film before, but every character, every scene, every plot point was familiar.

18. The Silent House

This Spanish one-shot movie might have worked, but the story is just too simple and the ending is preposterous.

Read the full review here.

17. Sharktopus

You don't expect too much going into a film like this, but it's okay to at least expect to be entertained on a B-movie level. This film does have its moments, but it just doesn't quite come together in the end. It's too average.

16. Priest

On some level the core concept had some validity, I guess, but there are just so many wrong choices and missed opportunities here. It feels as if the film was put together by a committee. And stop casting Cam Gigandet will you?

15. Season of the Witch

I love a silly Nicolas Cage movie as much as the next guy, but this period-possession film was just to damn sloppy for its own good.

14. Green Lantern

The character is silly, the story is nonsense, and Ryan Reynolds buzzing around with a CGI body is just not my idea of fun. I'm baffled that this charming actor failed to bring any kind of heart to this story.

13. Red Riding Hood

Should have been sexy, hip, and cool. That's why they hired the Twilight director. Instead this was badly written, unintentionally funny and looked cheap. Worst Gary Oldman performance since The Fifth Element (1997).

12. Burlesque

Christian Aguilera sings? Cher sings? That should work on some level, right? Well, it didn't. And STOP casting Cam Gigandet!

11. Dirch

This Danish biopic about the beloved Danish entertainer Dirch Passer only worked if you knew everything about him going in. It fails to capture the mood and look of the time period, and star Nikolaj Lie Kaas is just not as good as he should be. And the script was a mumbling checklist of famous Passer events.

10. Thor

Director Kenneth Branagh brings nothing to this noisy mess. The story is ludicrous and the film is a freak show of bad costumes and mediocre CGI. As for Natalie Portman? Stop looking so beautiful. No, I mean it! At this point it's becoming a major distraction.

9. True Grit

I don't really like the Coen brothers, save for a few of their earlier films, but this unnecessary remake is even worse than No Country for Old Men (2007). Jeff Bridges might as well be speaking Klingon, and the ending makes me hate everything even more.

8. I Love You Phillip Morris

I've lost everything for Jim Carrey since I found out he's one of those anti-vaccination lunatics, who really should be put down, before they kill too many people with their nonsense, but I saw this film before I found that out, and I still hated it and his performance. A disgusting, charmless film.

7. Into Eternity

Ostensibly a documentary about the dangers of nuclear waste. The film covers many interesting angles, but the message is muddled, and the cinematic style is so manipulative that it actually hurts the film. If the director lies so much with his images, how much does he lie with his words?

6. Paul

This should have been a slam-dunk. Two Roswell geeks meet an actual alien. Hilarity ensues. Unfortunately Simon Pegg and Nick Frost forgot to include ANYTHING funny or original in the film.

5. Adèle and the Secret of the Mummy

Is there anything more annoying or useless than French humor? This obnoxious film wants to be a bit Indiana Jones like, but it's just too damn French. Story is a mess, and hot french babe Louise Bourgoin in the lead is utterly devoid of charm. Luc Besson can't make movies any more.

4. Tree of Life

This is a bit of a cheat, because this really isn't a film, it's a poem. A rambling story about life and death, or something. I don't really care. This is not what I want from a film, period.

3. Smukke Mennesker

Obnoxious and untalented painter, turned film-critic, turned director Mikkel Munk Falsk sucked enough a** to get a chance to direct this unintelligent ripoff of Happiness (1998). No word on whether the 12 people who saw the film thinks he succeeded, but in my opinion this is the kind of film that should ban you from the film-business for all eternity.

2. Red State

Director Kevin Smith thinks he made a clever religious-horror-thriller. He didn't. He made an incompetent, rambling, boring, ugly, stupid piece of sh*t that solidifies our suspicion: Smith can't write anymore. And can't really direct either. Second year in a row he makes the Bottom 3 list.

1. Your Highness

When the credits rolled on this piece of sh*t I knew I had seen the worst film of the year, and a solid candidate for the worst film ever made. This is the brainchild of Danny McBride, who can't act, can't write, and isn't funny. Why he has a career is as baffling as anything. Why would anyone make a film like this, unless they were mentally handicapped?


That's it, my Bottom 20 list for 2011. Stay tuned for the Top 20 list.


How To Be a Pretentious Film Geek on Facebook


Spend any amount of time discussing movies on the interwebs - Facebook in particular - you'll notice a certain pattern emerging, especially when you're dealing with self-important film geeks. For someone like myself, who actually enjoy movies and love Hollywood escapism, it can be a little difficult to keep up, so with help from a few friends I've put together this guide.

Follow these simple rules, and you too can pretend to be a pretentious film geek on Facebook.


The first rule

Only post about "important" and obscure film. We all need to kick back with a good Steven Segal film every now and then, just to stay sane, but be careful not to mention that kind of film on Facebook.

The tantalizing title rule

When mentioning non-English films - meaning more or less all the time - be sure to use the original title. Pick the most obscure if there's more than one.

The knowingly namedrop rule

Always describe a film as "director-name's "title" (year)". This will make the film sound more important. It makes it sound as if you subscribe to the auteur theory (that sounds French, which is good), and gives the impression that you know the director and his work, I mean, you KNOW him.

The less-than-obvious link rule

Always provide a link when you post about a film, but never just use the IMDb link. Find a poster, preferably a French one. Or link to a subtitled YouTube video.

The critical critique rule

Say bad things about good films, say good things about obscure film, say obscure things about bad films.

The ferocious frequency rule

People notice when you post something. They don't notice when you don't post something, so compress a few days of film watching and post them all on the same day, with two hour intervals, to make it appears as if you have a very important film marathon.

Make sure no automatic Xbox achievements are posted on your wall in the interim.

The always have alternatives rule

Cover the fact that you haven't been watching movies, because Discovery is running an American Chopper marathon by posting links to obscure bootleg soundtracks and claim you're "dreaming yourself away to Venice in the 15th century".

The overzealous sentence rule

Use many words. Like so: "The themes are quite nihilistic, in a post-modern, cathartic sense. The overt anthropomorphism notwithstanding." No I don't know what that means either, but no one will challenge you if you make your posts complicated enough.

Use phrases like , "mise-en-scène", "Cinéma vérité", "enfant terrible" and "je ne sais quoi." Anything French really. Also throw in terms like: "Narrative structure", "neo-realism", "new wave", or "pre-Code." Talk about themes as often as possible.

Don't just write "I'm watching Die Hard for the 20th time." Instead, make it seem as if the fact that you're watching this film is the single most important event happening in the world right now. For example: "I'm watching incarcerated director John McTiernan's brilliantly subversive ode to modern action movies Le Die Hard (1988) for the umpteenth time, while pondering if things had turned out differently had a stockbroker really thrown himself out of that window."

The short rule

Or go for the minimalistic approach.

"Dramatic. Introspective. Trains. Cooking." (This obviously refers to Under Siege 2).

The top 10 films rule

These are the top pretentious titles you must mention at some point:
  • Blow-Up (1966)
  • Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932)
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
  • I am Cuba (1964)
  • Jules and Jim (1962)
  • M (1931)
  • Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
  • Nanook of the North (1922)
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
  • That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
I use the English titles here, which obviously you must never do.

The top 10 directors rule

Basically, as long as you claim to watch anything by these guys, you'll be fine. Got nuts, you can't go wrong (except if you confuse John Cassavetes with his son Nick).
  • Michelangelo Antonioni
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • John Cassavetes
  • Sergei Eisenstein
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Federico Fellini
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Akira Kurosawa
  • Yasujirō Ozu
  • Jean Renoir

Anything Swedish from before 1980 is fine, as well as anything silent (No, not Mel Brooks' Silent Movie).

Avoid anything popular, like Star Wars, Batman movies, Spielberg movies, any box-office hit, or Citizen Kane (it's just too damn popular).

And finally...

Whenever possible mention your own unseen art-film project.



Being a pretentious film geek on Facebook is hard work. Never just sit back and enjoy a film, there's no time for that. Always find an angle in what you're watching. And remember: If you're having fun, you're not doing it right.


Whisper of the Heart (1995)

We start 2012 with another Studio Ghibli release. Whisper of The Heart, directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, is one of the second tier films - meaning that it's not from the master Hayao Miyazaki himself, but still up to his standards in every way.

This is the completely ordinary story about a completely ordinary young girl, Shizuku Tsukishima, who lives in a crammed apartment with her parents and her older sister. It's the story about how she falls in love, struggles in school, thinks about her future, and dreams big dreams. It begins when Shizuku spots a reoccurring name in all the books she borrows from the library. Of course she can't help but dream up a perfect guy to go with that check-out history, but she's constantly distracted by a local boy, who always seems to catch her at the most inconvenient moments.

The life of a teenager may look utterly simple, even pointless at times, especially when viewed from the vantage point of experience and age. But we all know there's nothing simple about it, when you're in it. Shizuku's world seems to overwhelm her with possibilities on a daily basis, and Whisper of The Heart aims for nothing more than to capture that sensation.

That means it's full of the kind of problems a teenage girl would have, from the mundane (getting chores done, fighting with her big sister), to the all-too familiar (embarrassing episodes in class), the lyrical (the mystery boy, her attempts to be a writer) and even the magical, with a few almost surreal flights of fancy. The film is never condescending. However small Shizuku's problems may seem in the larger scheme of things, they fill her life up, and the film treats them with sincerity and respect.

This high-def release from StudioCanal in England is quite stunning to look at, and of course features original Japanese dialogue, with English subtitles. The extras consist of storyboards, some background artwork, trailers and TV spots. There's a 30 minute montage called "4 masterpieces of Naohisa Inoue", plus an 8 minute featurette about the English voice actors. Cute, but not relevant, since the original language is obviously the way to go.

The story and the film are rooted in reality on almost every level, even the animation style is suitably straightforward. I'm tempted to call it simple, but anyone who has ever put pen to paper, knows there's nothing simple about drawing anything that just looks real. At times an almost magical realism bubbles to the surface, particularly in a sequence, where Shizuku pursues a cat, who appears to ride the train by itself. The only real departure from reality is during a few elaborate dream sequences, when the story Shizuku is trying to write comes to life. I saw some images from these scenes, before I had seen the film and couldn't quite make them fit into the plot. They make Whisper of The Heart look similar to some of the more famous Miyazaki films, which is a bit misleading.

Whisper of The Heart is deceptively uncomplicated at times. It delivers its simple, beautiful story with a bare minimum of bells and whistles, and perhaps this is why it's so utterly irresistible.

Thanks to StudioCanal and Edith Chappey for making this review possible.