Ted (dir. Seth MacFarlane)
In any other director’s hands the tale of a teddy bear come-to-life and growing up to be a thirty-year-old no good swearing pothead would probably have fallen apart. The need to insert morales and sugar sweet endings ruins many a decent comedy. But Seth MacFarlane, creator of the Family Guy TV series, knows how to treat this material properly. Not properly that is. Ted is filled with jokes. Most of the indecent and inappropriate, and most of them very funny. MacFarlane knows that the only way to do good comedy is by allowing everything, and absolutely everything, to be a target. Many will be offended. Many more will have a joyous evening.
The Campaign (dir. Jay Roach)
The Campaign fails where Ted succeeds. Exactly because of that sugarsweet ending, in which it is suggested that politics can be fair and honest. If that ending is ironic, than it fails to be funny. Quite a problem in a comedy. If it is sincere, than it is incredibly hypocritic. For the rest of the film is a story of politics played as dirty as possible; between Will Ferrell’s career politician without any morals and Zach Galifianakis’ malleable idiot backed by a corrupt industry. The Campaign offers a number of good laughs, gets by on the charm of its lead actors (for a while), but ultimately fails to punch hard enough.
Hope Springs (dir. David Frankel)
Another film carried by the performances of its two leads. David Frankel’s film about a middle-aged couple trying to regain their intimacy, under the guidance of Steve Carell’s relationship counselor, could easily have been uncomfortable, awkward, or simply boring and schmaltzy. And it must be admitted that the film is somewhat saccharine. But Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep act the stars out of the skies. Two fantastic performances; text book examples of movie star screen acting that younger generations of carefully handpicked and marketed ‘stars’ should admire and study closely.
Dredd 3D (dir. Pete Travis)
A 1995 effort to adapt the British comic 2000 AD failed spectacularly, mostly because Sylvester Stallone felt the need to take of the iconic helmet of his hero cop-judge-executioner Judge Dredd. Dredd 3D is considerably better. A very decent action romp and buddy cup. Ridiculously violent and brutal. Dredd 3D does not try to hide the fascist overtones of this dystopic vision of the future, in which the only way to deal with crime is to execute drugs dealers on the spot. Karl Urban’s chin was born to play the role of Dredd, but Olivia Thirlby also holds up as rookie Judge Anderson. Also: best use of 3D this year so far.
Iron Sky (dir. Timo Vuorensola)
The Finnish makers of this film spent years making it. Shooting the film scene by scene as soon as they had a little bit of funding. The result shows this troubled process. Iron Sky is an incoherent set of scenes. Some are spectacular, some are funny, some are just silly. Nazis from the moon come back to conquer earth, in a space ship powered by an Ipad. If this sounds terrible, please do note that this film is also clearly a work of love by people who care deeply about blockbusters and exploitation cinema. And considering the budget and the production process, the visual effects are really good. The film should land director Timo Vuorensola a proper Hollywood gig.