#18 Splice

Final theatrical poster
Directed by Vincenzo Natali
Produced by Steve Hoban
Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay by Vincenzo Natali
Doug Taylor
Antoinette Terry Bryant
Story by Vincenzo Natali
Antoinette Terry Bryant
Starring Adrien Brody
Sarah Polley
Delphine Chanéac
Music by Cyrille Aufort
Cinematography Tetsuo Nagata
Editing by Michele Conroy
Studio Copperheart Entertainment

Okay.  This is where my love for Sci-Fi will manifest.  The next two films may not be anyone else’s top 25, but I have to represent with what I consider the best in the genre this year. 

I was excited about Splice solely from the short clip I saw in December 2009.   The creature looked amazing.  (And yes.  I am a sucker for “creature features”–The FlyMimic–to name a few– awesome!)  But I also had some concerns–these movies can easily turn into cheese when executed poorly–Species, anyone? 

So, I waited…and boy, was I rewarded.  I loved it.  It did not reinvent the sci-fi/horror wheel, but it did add a few reshaped spokes. 

Vincenzo Natali’s (Cube) direction must be noted first.  He changes the mood and tone a few times and never loses the audience.  By focusing on the basic, human relationship of the three leads rather the science/gory angle, he is able to achieve what most in this genre have trouble with–empathy.  It helps that the script is intelligent –bringing up questions about ethics and morality.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley were the right choices for the main characters.  They are strong, capable and 100% believable as somewhat “mad” scientists. 

The true marvel of this film is DREN–the creature created by said mad scientists.  She is a technological wonder, in the story and in the making of the film.  A mixture of CG and live action–it is a beautiful rendition of a whole new being.  Dren played by Delphine Chaneac is both exotic beauty and scary monster.  She is one of the most original creatures I’ve seen in a long time.  BRAVO!

The film is thought provoking, scary, intriguing and fun!  That is a lot to pull off successfully–but it works.   Splice is proof that an old formula can be rejuvenated by a new idea and good execution.

Resources: Wikipedia


#19 Animal Kingdom

Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Michôd
Produced by Liz Watts
Written by David Michôd
Starring Ben Mendelsohn
Joel Edgerton
Guy Pearce
Luke Ford
Jacki Weaver
Sullivan Stapleton
and introducing James Frecheville
Music by Antony Partos
Cinematography Adam Arkapaw
Editing by Luke Doolan
Studio Screen Australia

Animal Kingdom is what I call a slow burn.  Starts as a simple character study of a family surrounded and entrenched in crime and viewed from an outsider (orphaned, estranged grandson).  It continues to escalate in tension and in fear, until the stress is almost unbearable.  Then whoosh! the flames ignite.  Intense.

Beautifully crafted.  Psychologically suspenseful and revealing.  Newcomer James Frencheville, as the new addition to the established family is perfect, although I was not sure at first.  He felt detached and monotone–but as the story progresses you realize that was part of his brilliant performance.  Nice.

All the actors here are incredible.  But the stand out is Jacki Weaver–and she is nominated for a deserving Oscar for it!  WOW!  As the matriarch of the family and the emotional anchor her portrayal is phenomenal.  Layered and surprising.  I want her to win–out of all the fine nominees–Jacki Weaver truly gave the BEST supporting performance of the year. 

I do not want to say anymore to spoil your experience.  Trust me.  You need to see it!

Resources:  Wikipedia