50/50 (2011)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

It occurred to me only after having watched this that there have been two comedies in recent years about a protagonist facing a possibly terminal disease with Seth Rogen functioning as a sidekick: 50/50 is, of course, one of them, with the other being Funny People. Funny People was far blacker than 50/50. The latter is actually a rather sweet film at its core, though it does feature a scene in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt cracks up at the sight of a corpse being rolled away on a stretcher, so clearly, it’s not all sunlight.

This was a funnier film than Funny People, with a tighter narrative and better characters, and better relationships between the characters. All in all, it was very good. Yet…I don’t know…I sort of respected how messy Funny People was. It didn’t have a clear message at all, and maybe it was a braver film for having a completely unlikeable protagonist. All of that said, I would highly recommend 50/50. Not so much the other, even though I liked it.

By the way, 50/50 is far less of a buddy film than the advertisements make it out to be. JGL is clearly the star. This is the best I’ve liked him in anything I’ve seen with him.

Contraband (2012)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

After about ten minutes of Contraband, I thought that I had it pretty much pegged as a standard “criminal with a heart of gold needs to come out of retirement for one last job” action film, and I was about ready to write it off. But as the plot unfurled and twists were parceled out, I realized this was really more of a suspense film. And it ain’t bad. But maybe it ain’t great either.

I’m torn on it. In a lot of ways, it’s a much smaller film than I imagined it being–which is to say, there really isn’t much action in this one at all apart from a shoot-out midway through that almost seems out of place, as if the filmmakers knew that they couldn’t just do a story about smuggling. But I think that was Contraband’s strength.

The Woman in Black (2012)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Serviceable. If you want a few good scares, you’ll find them in The Woman in Black. I can’t quite detach in my mind Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter–he still has a boyish quality about him, and maybe it’s a bit difficult to completely take him seriously.

The Woman in Black almost seemed more an exercise in creating a mood than it did an actual film. It is very good at raising the hairs on the back of your neck, but for me, there felt something somehow lacking in the narrative. I always felt as though it was building to something more than it eventually delivered, and the ending just felt misjudged, perhaps because the pay-off was only barely set-up very early on in the movie.

Basically, it wasn’t the sort of horror film I went to bed thinking about. It’s passing entertainment–you watch it and move on with your life. Nothing wrong with that.