15. Barbara (B+)
Germany's submission to the Oscars this year, which didn't get nominated, but consequently made many "should have been nominated" lists. Sort of a companion piece to The Lives of Others
, it follows an Eastern German physician exiled to the boonies for requesting permission to leave for West Berlin. The film does a great job of conjuring up the atmosphere of pervasive distrust in a surveilance state, while the doctors try to go about doing their jobs as best they can. The lead actress, Nina Hoss, is superb. The plot, at a certain point, becomes quite predictable, but it's well-executed.
16. Side Effects (B+)
Steven Soderbergh's allegedly final theatrical release, after his progressive disengagement from cinema since the failure of his two-part Che Guevara biopic caused him to start complaining about how cinema is dead, blah blah blah.
In any event, this thriller makes a good case for why he should stick around. While he's spent the last few years largely fiddling with genre films rather than aiming big, he's good even at that, and the story has earned a lot of comparisons to Hitchcock in reviews, which I think is probably on target. One of the biggest pleasures of the film is simply that it allows its protagonist to be quite smart in dealing with the bad guys once what's going on becomes apparent.
Catherine Zeta-Jones (showing up in a Soderbergh film for the first time since Traffic
, I believe) is a bit of a miscast, though (or else, she and Soderbergh take the wrong tack with her scenes); she too obviously has "villain" stamped on her forehead. Rooney Mara and Jude Law are both in top form, though.
Cinema: 6 (+2)
Home Video: 9