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41- The Troll Hunter [4.0]

The story of a group of Norwegian film students that set out to capture real-life trolls on camera after learning their existence has been covered up for years by a government conspiracy.

At one point early on in The Troll Hunter, a character says “We are patiently waiting for something to happen.” Regardless if this was a wink at the audience or not, I certainly felt the same way. The film doesn’t add much to the shaky camera, found footage genre, and suffers most when attempting to be political. The troll CGI (that’s something you don’t say everyday) looks best in broad daylight but doesn’t fare as well when the cameraman has to turn on night-vision. For a low budget film, it’s still somewhat impressive, and makes me wish that the filmmakers took a different visual approach to the material.

40- The Last Station [6.5]

A historical drama that illustrates Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s struggle to balance fame and wealth with his commitment to a life devoid of material things.

At times a bit too melodramatic for my taste, The Last Station is nevertheless a well-acted story about Leo Tolstoy’s last days. The highlights on the acting front are Christopher Plummer as the renowned writer and Helen Miren as his wife, Sofya. The Last Station is most interesting when dealing with the ideas of the author’s works and how it affects the people around him, including himself. I’m still grappling, though, with the decision to have all the actor’s speak in English accents as opposed to Russian.

39- The American [4.0]

As an assassin, Jack is constantly on the move and always alone. After a job in Sweden ends more harshly than expected for this American abroad, Jack retreats to the Italian countryside. He relishes being away from death for a spell as he holes up in a small medieval town. While there, Jack takes an assignment to construct a weapon for a mysterious contact.

Anton Corbijn is an exceptional photographer. His debut film Control was a beautifully shot biopic about Ian Curtis and Joy Division. The American is also a pleasure to look at, but it is awfully boring to watch. I’m not sure if it’s writer Rowan JoffĂ© or author Martin Booth’s (whose book the movie is based on) fault, but they waited entirely too long to get the audience invested in the protagonist. Regardless, it is my hope that Corbijn can find the right material that doesn’t feel like such a chore.

38- The Killer Inside Me [6.5]

Based on the novel by legendary pulp writer Jim Thompson, it’s the story of handsome, charming, unassuming small town sheriff’s deputy Lou Ford.

Casey Affleck superbly played a quiet man with an obsession in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Working in similar territory in the brutally violent The Killer Inside Me, he once again proves himself to be a very capable actor. With a voice that barely rises above a whisper, Affleck’s Lou Ford is quite frightening. Jessica Alba, on the other hand, continues to lessen the impact of every movie she appears in.

Despite having not read the 1952 novel the film is based on, I believe that the film sinks under the weight of its source material. There are wonderfully written scenes (some of which are absolutely horrifying to watch), but The Killer Inside Me may have fared better with more editing. Even still, it’s good enough to have me interested in reading the novel to see how the film fares in comparison.

37- Rango [8.5]

A household pet goes on an adventure to discover its true self.

At times an examination of purpose and identity, the stunningly refreshing Rango is one of if not the most adult-oriented animated films to hit almost 4,000 theaters. Say what you will about director Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean films, but that franchise’s financial success allowed for an expensive miracle like this to be financed and released.

Featuring Hans Zimmer’s most inspired score in ages, this western was put together in an unconventional fashion: as oppose to having the actors just do their voice-over work, they got to act out their scenes on a stage and have industry magicians ILM record everything. In addition to a terrific script, I believe this process went a long way towards making the film so unique. Rango is also the first time in recent memory that an eccentric performance by Johnny Depp felt welcomed. Parents may want to think twice about taking the little ones.

36- Rare Exports [5.0]

It’s the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an ‘archeological’ dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But this particular Santa isn’t the one you want coming to town.

Rare Exports feels like the work of a Finnish Steven Spielberg. With an overblown score lifted from any number of films in the 80s, this play on the myth of Santa is more homage than an original work. I appreciate what Jalmari Helander tried to do, but despite a few laughs and scares, Rare Exports doesn’t turn out to be worthy of the company of its influences.

35- Rubber [1.0]

The story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life. As Robert roams the bleak landscape, he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes without having to move.

After reading the synopsis or watching a trailer, you have to know what you are getting into with a film like Rubber. Even still, with a run-time of just over eighty minutes, this exercise in meta manages to feel like an eternity.

Less of a movie and more of an experience, director Quentin Dupieux (who worked on the soundtrack with Justice’s Gaspard Auge) begins with a fourth wall breaking speech by Stephen Spirella’s Lieutenant Chad. Either you buy into his points about nonsense in cinema, or Rubber is going to be a terrible time for you. As a short film, it could have been terrific. Time will tell if this killer tire flick will end up as part of the art house midnight circuit (for which it seems intended).