July 2011 was not great for films that could make Best of the Year lists.

SUPER 8 – five stars
This one film achieved so much of what is possible with a great script, extremely talented acting and skilled directing. Compared to everything else we saw in July, Super 8 warranted all the superlatives, including the ones bestowed on the other movies even though they don’t deserve them.
The skill of the young actors was drawn out cleverly by both the storyline and the directing. The increasing drama and danger was shown on the faces and in the dynamics within the group of youngsters, with no false steps or lapses. Anyone looking for signs of a healthy movie industry can take great heart from this super cast.

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LITTLE WHITE LIES – three stars
Ensemble pieces, especially of the French variety, can throw rich characters into a melting pot and achieve some great performances. The star of Lies is Francois Cluzet who can portray a dozen emotions with slight facial changes. And when he explodes the whole impact is tremendous theatre. In fact, all the men provide sterling performances, the clever pacing of the storyline giving them all opportunities to shine. The weaknesses revolve around the women’s roles, especially when the hackneyed Marion Cotillard character becomes pregnant, even though much is made of the condom scene earlier.

SLEEPING BEAUTY – three stars
Apart from falling into the same trap as Special Treatment (see below) of very out-dated stereotypes of the men who frequent special services, a number of other subplots rang true. “Stuff” happens to people like Emily Browning’s central character, as if the ability to navigate modern life is no longer taught or learned. The dysfunctional parent card does not need to be played every time, especially as we know most parents – most people – have varying degrees of future shock (and pace-of-change slippage). The director played one very false card, however. There is nothing in the central character’s background that would make her scream so long and loud about a dead body.

THOR – two stars
The special effects and storyline hold together much better on this movie than the two below, and some of the acting even strays from wooden. And, at times, there was even a little concern about the human characters. Yet the guts of the story has no real depth because all the set pieces were just that, not giving us anything or anyone to really care about. A shame.

GREEN LANTERN – one star
It seems many comic-to-film attempts fall on the same stony ground – the special effects barely match the comic art and the human characters fail to achieve the grit of the source. Here’s a quick checklist of ways to fail:
– pretty boys playing the lead roles
– pretty girls who are not allowed to act
– special effects that light the screen but not the story
– slipshod story continuity
– paper-thin villains that hold nothing of their comic origins
Don’t know why but it seems the Marvel comics translate to film better than D.C.

TRANSFORMERS – one star
See above – plus how come the all-powerful “bad” transformers can kill, it seems, millions of other humans except the fumbling so-called heroes. And destroy every other building except the one the heroes are inside. Just a plain, dumb movie that even a 5-year-old would think was weak.

SPECIAL TREATMENT – one star
Despite the wonderful cinematography, the cardboard cutout characters failed to interest or impress, leaving the film a vapid and sterile exercise, just like the lives portrayed. The attempt to draw comparisons between the prostitute and the psychoanalyst failed, the supposed links so shallow that the screenplay could have been written by a high-school student of literature. The fat, rich men and the passé fantasies were trite and lacking in any update of the last 100 years. The hype was not met.

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