Category: Top Lists


My Top 20 Films of 2016

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Let me just blow away some cobwebs here, brush off some dust there, and ok, we are good to go! Hello blog readers, it has certainly been awhile. Apologies for not producing a great amount of material across this site, but if you follow me hopefully you’ll see I’ve been busy contributing to sites such as ‘The Scruffy Nerf Herder‘ and ‘The Hollywood News‘, but I do feel bad leaving my little ol’ blog alone in the dark. However, there is only ever one place I would come to post my list of the year. And what a funny old year it has been. It has been a year of unexpected twists, both on the screen and off. In a year where uncertainty hung heavy in the air, the movies were still there to provide us with respite (even if it’s one of the more lack-lustre summer seasons we’ve had in awhile). It was still a year that managed to impress, and to demonstrate, I’ve bumped up my list to discuss 20 of this year’s finest! Buckle up! (This list only takes into account the films released in the UK from January to December).

Honourable mentions 

Midnight Special
Hail, Caesar!
Doctor Strange
10 Cloverfield Lane
Tickled

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20. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dir: Gareth Edwards)

Rogue One was never a sure thing. It was coming off a wave of fairly negative re-shoot rumours, let alone having to shake off the stigma of being a Star Wars prequel. Yet the first in a number of planned spin-off movies has proven to be an absolute treat for Star Wars fans. Following the group of rebel spies who stole the plans of the original Death Star, Rogue One opens the field for stories which allow for a different take on the galaxy far, far away, all the while maintaining a distinctive Star Wars feel. Edwards’ rough and ready approach gives this addition to the franchise a great edge, leading to a final act which pulses with engaging action and a number of fan-pleasing delights. The contained nature of it also allows for a refreshing blockbuster experience that feels contained and precise. Check out my full review here.

 

19. The Nice Guys (Dir: Shane Black)theniceguys

From the first pluck of the groovy bass line over a smoggy backdrop of 70’s LA, I knew there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy Shane Black’s latest contribution to the Hollywood buddy picture. And boy, does it take you for a ride. So pulp fiction you can almost see the dog-eared pages of this paperback detective tale browning in the sun, Black takes you on a tour of 70’s LA with one of the best on-screen pairings of the year in the form of Ryan Gosling and Russel Crowe’s hapless, yet somehow productive, P.I’s. With a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, Cadillac’s, sleazy parties and colourful voice-overs complement Black’s trademark irreverence and wit, amounting in what is a fun, occasionally very dark buddy movie that can hold a candle to Black’s iconic back catalogue. Is there a full review to check out? You bet your rear posterior there is. Click here to read more.

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18. Moana (Dir: Ron Clements & John Musker) 

2016 has proven to be something of a banner year for Disney (more on that later), with Moana representing a refreshing take on the Disney princess archetype, giving us their most satisfying take so far in the studio’s current animation resurgence. Celebrating polynesian culture, Moana‘s brilliance is also demonstrated by the stunning animation on display (it is easily the most beautiful film they have made since The Princess and the Frog) and a collection of truly memorable songs from the pen of Hamilton‘s Lin Manuel-Miranda and Opetaia Foa’i. The character of Moana, beautifully voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, should stand to be a great role model for young girls in the years to come; a Disney princess not characterised by a quest to win the heart of a prince, but more by a quest of self-discovery. And I haven’t even begun to mention Dwayne Johnson’s energetic turn as demigod Maui. A glorious Disney film that proves that the studio can change to match new generations.

 

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17. Bone Tomahawk (Dir: S. Craig Zahler)

Let us all take a moment to thank Kurt Russel for making the time to put his stunning Hateful Eight moustache to use in another, superior western. Zahler’s western is more than just Kurt Russel playing a small town sheriff. What we have here is a western by setting but a horror film by nature. As Russell puts a band of men together to go find some kidnapped townspeople, they enter a hellish world populated by a cannibalistic tribe, who remain an ominous presence throughout, until we reach the startlingly violent and shocking final act. There are horrors in here that have to be seen to be believed, and even then you may that you can’t bear to look. At times a beautifully shot western, but all the while a nerve-shredding monster story that has a prevailing sense of dread. Skin-crawlingly good.

americanhoney16. American Honey (Dir: Andrea Arnold) 

Andrea Arnold’s latest film, after her startling debut Red Road, the highly impressive Fish Tank and her rather draining Wuthering Heights adaptation, sees her uproot from an English landscape to present an American road-trip movie that comes with what is now her trademark emotional rawness and textured aesthetic. American Honey very much presents an America that feels authentic, one that is both beautiful and ugly often in the same moment. We follow Sasha Lane (a fantastic discovery) as she leaves her broken home in Oklahoma to join a pack of fellow strays on a trip across America to make money, sometimes by by unconventional means. It is a film populated by attention-grabbing performances, not just from the outstanding Lane, but an incendiary turn from LaBeouf. It may be a little long for its own good, but there is something so intoxicating, so arresting, about the rawness of Arnold’s cinematography and a improvisational spirit that is hard not to be enticed by.

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15. Star Trek Beyond (Dir: Justin Lin)

My favourite of this years somewhat lack-lustre summer blockbusters, Star Trek Beyond is a pure unbridled celebration of everything Star Trek has come to embody in its 50 year history. Here is a future that is built on the level of cooperation between humans and species of all walks of life, all working together to allow for strong diplomatic ties, celebrating our differences and thriving as a result. Beyond gracefully portrays this utopia through a story which is all about legacy, both for the franchise as a whole and the characters within it. Star Trek has always been best when focusing on its characters, and this feature refocuses the attention on the Enterprise crew, leading to the first film in this rebooted series that feels truly  designed to find the best balance for both the legions of pre-existing fans and new audiences alike. It is a film which has provided a great deal of joy and emotion for me (a casual Trekker, not a full-on Trekkie) and as a fan of sci-fi cinema. It is a celebration of everything, and everyone, that this franchise has to offer. Full review is beaming up, right over right here!

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14. Zootropolis (Dir: Bryon Howard & Rich Moore)

Who would have thought going in to the year that a Disney movie populated by furry anthropomorphic animals would come to be one of the most timely tales of the year. Along with the colourful trimmings, Zootropolis explores racial stereotyping, discrimination in the workplace, as well as the reach of governmental power. All that, and there’s still room for a Shakira pop track. It also happens to be richly detailed and imaginatively designed, often populating the background with visual gags, from cheap puns to subtle gags. It is often a little too referential for its own good, but the maturity in which it it deals with its incredibly prescient themes. A rewarding experience for all ages, and a sure-fire classic for Disney. Like I said, it has been one hell of a banner year for the house that Walt built. Full review? Sure, check it here.

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13. Green Room (Dir: Jeremy Saulnier)

In a year where many of the world’s brightest stars passed away, none felt quite as tragic as the passing of Anton Yelchin. A hugely promising talent who, at only 27, had left a considerable mark in both indie and mainstream Hollywood cinema (see above for his final turn aboard the Enterprise), one of his final films stands as a testament to the brave and daring choices he often made in his short career. Green Room is a tour-de-force of suspense cinema, with Saulnier demonstrating that his debut (Blue Ruin, equally nerve-shredding) was no fluke, as we witness a young punk band try to fight their way out of a neo-Nazis club after they stumble across something that they shouldn’t have seen. What follows is John Carpenter-esque exercise in tension, often exploding in moments of shocking violence. One of the most intense cinematic experience to have been had this year.

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12. Kubo and the Two Strings (Dir: Travis Knight) 

Laika animation studios have been slowly crafting a formidable name for themselves when it comes to crafting stop-motion, tales which have the capability to be as scary as they are amazingly crafted. Kubo and the Two Strings represents perhaps their best work so far, telling a story ingrained in Japanese culture, following young Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson) as he takes on the Moon King with his magical guitar and the aid of his friends, a talking monkey (Charlize Theron) and a samurai beetle (Matthew McConaughey). It all amounts to a tale that is beautifully crafted and incredibly heart-felt, often pillaging depths of emotion in an uncompromising fashion, often taking you very much by surprise. It also happens to feature one of the year’s best scores, courtesy of Dario Marianelli. A magical, stunning delight.

 

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11. Hell or High Water (Dir: David Mackenzie)

This has been one hell of a year for incredibly taut thrillers, its a wonder I still have nerves to spare. With a script courtesy of Taylor Sheridan (who scripted last year’s Sicario), Hell of High Water features one of the tightest and most efficient screenplays of the year, the dialogue ringing with wit, authenticity and inventiveness. It also helps that it features career-best performances from a subdued Chris Pine and an on-edge Ben Foster, and that’s without taking into consideration the presence of Jeff Bridges, who could quite easily ride out the rest of his years playing aged small-town sheriffs, he’d hear no complaints from me. Mackenzie keeps proceedings moving at a breakneck pace, allowing for this wild west thriller to truly sizzle under the West Texan sun.

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10. Your Name (Dir: Makoto Shinkai)

While it may look like Studio Ghibli may be on the way out (their apparent final feature When Marnie Was There, also released here is certainly worth checking out), but if Your Name is anything to go by, Toho will certainly not be at a loss for stunning Anime’s to distribute. Taking a body-swap concept and flipping it on its head in a surprising and highly emotional fashion. To say too much would ruin the ride, but Your Name is a film which will keep you constantly on edge, giving you two engaging characters, set against a backdrop of stunningly realised animation, richly depicting both rural and urban Japanese life. Seek this one out, particularly if you are a fan of anime, as it is truly one of the finest pieces of Japanese animations to emerge in the last decade. Hey look, there’s a full review for this one. Head on over here to check it out!

 

singstreet9. Sing Street (Dir: John Carney)

Quite easily the most feel-good movie of the year, Sing Street is a hard film to hate, and if you do then you’re probably dead inside. A charming and genuine Irish tale following young Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) put a band together in order to impress a girl (the startling Lucy Boynton). As he struggles with troubles at home, the restrictions of his school and the general tribulations of young love, he finds solace in his music, leading to a number of incredibly catchy, profoundly moving songs which have been part of the soundtrack of my year for the best part of the last six months. It is a story covers how every different relationship we have in our lives can affect who we are. A joy  to watch, and even more joyous to return to again and again.

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8. Everybody Wants Some!! (Dir: Richard Linklater) 

Richard Linklater has often proven to be a director very skilled at conveying the feeling of ‘living in the moment’, be it following a young boy for 12 formative years of his life, or witnessing a relationship form and develop in the Before trilogy. With Everybody Wants Some!! (never forget the superfluous exclamation marks), the moment is the first weekend before college statrts in Texas 1980, following the members of the college baseball team. What follows is a weekend of drinking, smoking, partying, and talking. And that’s about it, and it’s utterly charming to boot. With an easy-going wit and a cast of actors whose charm often exceeds that of their questionable behaviour. It is a film which is content in allowing you to simply ride along for its run-time, making you one of the gang with a camaraderie that is so effortless its impressive.

 

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7. Swiss Army Man (Dir: Daniel Scheinert & Daniel Kwan) 

Certainly the most original film of the year, Swiss Army Man is the sort of film that reminds you that you can still be truly surprised in a day and age when a lot of films seems content to follow a predetermined formula. Swiss Army Man has proven a hard one to describe, for the simple fact that it does just sound ridiculous. Paul Dano’s ship-wrecked Hank finds possible salvation in the form of a corpse, Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) who may not be quite as lifeless as he initially appears. It is a strange, down right weird story that ends up being all at once grotesque and beautiful, grappling with themes of depression and alienation by encouraging everyone to embrace their weirdness, as that may well prove to be the place that we find we are truly at our happiest. Not for everyone, but for those who can swallow it, Swiss Army Man proves to be a very enriching and profound experience.

embraceoftheserpent6. Embrace of the Serpent (Dir: Ciro Guerra) 

Embrace of the Serpent follows a shaman, Karamakate (Nilbio Torres & Antonio Bolivar) in two stages of his life. There is him as a young man in the 1900’s, helping a German explorer find a rare healing plant, and later as an old man helping an American botanist look for the same plant. Each journey down the Amazonian region of Columbia is riddled with mystery, threat, and occasionally madness, as we bare witness to how such a beautiful landscape can be drastically changed and pillaged. Guerra’s black and white cinematography is capable of capturing extreme depth within the jungle, as well as allowing for some images that quite truly blow your mind, all the while telling a story with displays the negative effects of the Rubber boom of the early 20th century on the landscape of a natural and stunning part of the world. An intoxicating piece of work which is leaves a significant mark come its final moments.

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5. Creed (Dir: Ryan Coogler)

In a world where everything is being rebooted, nostalgia begins to play a heavy-hand in various sequels and spin-off’s. Some of these films  have been drowned by their own legacies, failing to find the means to produce a story which feels like a natural continuation. There is one film, however, that makes it look easy, and that is Creed. As a long-time fan of the Rocky franchise, it is an utter delight to see the franchise thrive, presenting a new legacy in the form of Apollo Creed’s son, Aldonis (Michael B. Jordan), allowing for a spin-off to craft an identity that is very much all its own, all the while staying true to the spirit of the franchise. Coogler has an incredibly amount of energy and inventiveness behind the camera, he gives Creed the blood in its veins, which is pumped by the stunning cast (Stallone turns in career-best work here), giving the film the spirit to allow it to soar. A massive, crowd-pleasing, punch the air victory. Oh look, a full review can be found right here!

victoriaposter4. Victoria (Dir: Sebastian Schipper)

My poor, poor nerves. If Green Room took a machete to them, then Victoria takes a whole truck to them. In one fell take, in one Berlin night, you are taken for a ride that initially begins as something of a meet-cute romance, before developing into something that is much more of an intense and nail-destroying thriller. It is an impressive feat of film-making, made all the more impressive by a cast working off a thread-bare script, allowing for a genuine sense of human connection to be established before the more hair-raising stuff begins. An impressionable piece of daring film-making that is hard to shake off, even once you’ve been off the ride for the best part of the year. Well, look at that, there’s a full review right here!

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3. Room (Dir: Lenny Abrahamson)

This film has been hanging with me for some time now, having first seen it in October 2015. But, rules are rules, and with the UK release arriving in January, it can sit proudly in third place. It is a testament to the power of this film that it has remained in such a high position. Showing us the world through the prospective of five year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who has lived his whole life inside one room with his mother (Brie Larson), who soon hatches an escape plan with his help, allowing him to see the world outside the four walls of ‘room’ for the first time. Room tackles some dark themes over the course of its run-time, often making for distressing viewing, but it is ultimately a very beautiful story about perseverance, embracing the world and what the strength of love can truly accomplish even in the bleakest of situations. With sensitive direction from Abrahamson and two phenomenal performances from Larson and the young Tremblay, this is a profoundly rich and emotional experience. Check out my full thoughts over here.

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2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Dir: Taika Waititi) 

Ok, actually, maybe this is the feel-good movie of the year. Hunt for the Wilderpople has humble ambitions, to provide you with an adventure focusing on an unconventional pairing in the New Zealand bush, all the while supplying some laughs along the way. What it does deliver is a film with a unique sense of humour, a rich emotional core, and one of the most re-watchable movies of the year (it’s tied with Creed at six viewings. Waititi’s keen direction and witty script are both full of heart and the desire to present something that’s a little off the beaten track, with Julian Dennison and Sam Neil making for an incredibly engaging double act, equally capable of making you chuckle as warming the cockles of your soul. A rich, hilarious, and uplifting, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is like a good friend well worth paying a frequent visit to.

 

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1. Arrival (Dir: Denis Villeneuve)

If you have been following this blog (or just know me), you’ll know that sci-fi is very much my bag, particularly ones which provide plenty of food for thought. This year, such a dish came in the form of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, the type of science fiction tale which takes place in a world that is very recognisably our own, allowing it to have a very prescient power with its themes and concerns, namely that of effective communication. It is also utterly beautiful to behild and filled with narrative surprises, amounting in a cinematic experience which proved to be profoundly engaging on both an intellectual and visual level. Villeneuve has been quickly establishing himself as a true master of these kinds of stories, ones which appear to have conventional genre trademarks, but provide something entirely surprising, taking you to a place you may not have expected. Arrival is his best film to date, a film which goes a long way to show inspire and move in a profound, often mind-boggling fashion. A film that inspires hope as much as it inspires creative and stunning storytelling. More thoughts on why this is quite simply the best film of the year can be found over here.

There we have it, another year over, another list compiled. If the shock twists and turns reminded us of anythign it is that we still have the cinema as a means of escape, and this year has provided features that have made everything just that little easier to bear. Now, all that is left to say is a warm and happy New Year to you all, I hope you are all spending it with people that you love and who make you feel cherished as we move into 2017. Bring on the movies!

Enjoy this stunning retrospect, courtesy of Nikita Malko.

 

My Top 15 Films of 2015.

Happy New Year to you all! I hope everyone managed to see in the New Year as well as I did and just about recovered. With a New Year comes a reflection on the months just gone, and as always the time has come to compile ‘best of’ lists for the films which have graced our presence over the past 12 months. This list is restricted to films that received a UK release over the year, and as a special bonus to celebrate both an excellent year of Film and my 5th Anniversary writing this blog, I have decided to rank 15 films, rather than the usual starter for 10. So, sit back, relax, and gaze upon my best of 2015. 

Honourable Mentions:
Jurassic World
John Wick
The Martian
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation. 

MeAndEarlPost15. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Dir: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon)

Perhaps the most Sundance film that ever did a jaunt in the sunshine, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl may be very twee, quirky and oh so very Indie, but it is also genuinely sweet and affectingly emotional, leading to one of the more draining yet rewarding cinematic experiences from this year. Telling the tale of young wannab film-maker Greg (Thomas Munn) and his friendship with the cancer stricken Rachel (Olivia Cooke), Me and Earl revels in the chemistry of its three breakout leads, with RJ Cyler as Earl filling out the trio of endearing characters. Much of the quirkiness comes from Greg and Earl’s home-made versions of popular movies, turned into parodies with titles such as A Sockwork Orange, Senior Citizen Kane and Grumpy Cul-de-Sacs. The home-stitched quality of these ingenious titles display the films breezy energy and the acute cinephile knowledge that clearly permeates both Jesse Andrews’ screenplay and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s direction. This sense of self and the fine work from the three young actors help make Me and Earl feel unique, genuine and one that perhaps induced the most tears from me this year in one sitting. A sweet little gem.

SongOfTheSeaPost14. Song of the Sea (Dir: Tomm Moore)

From Irish Animation Studio, Cartoon Saloon, Song of the Sea is another piece of evidence to suggest that the animation house responsible for The Secret of the Kells is one capable of producing films of beauty on the level of Studio Ghibli. Tomm Moore’s expertly crafted film tells the tale of a young boy who must help his sister return home when it is discovered that she is in fact a Selkie, and is pivotal in keeping the order of nature in balance. The animation style is elegant and unique, looking like a story book that is moving on the page. It is simply a beautiful tale beautifully told and deserves every comparison to the Japanese studio responsible for Totoro and Ponyo etc. Moore’s film does have an identity all its own, one that is infused with Irish folklore and tradition, all the while not carrying one cynical bone in its body within the structure of its kindly and sweet tale of familial relationships.

SelmaPost13. Selma (Dir: Ava DuVernay)

A film from early on in the year that has some proven tenacity to appear on this list. That is in no small way due to the potent power and stirring soul of this passionately crafted snap-shot of American history. Criminally over-looked at the Oscars earlier in the year, Ava DuVernay’s film focuses on the Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, led by the strong-willed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo). Choosing a more isolated moment in King’s life rather than a full blown biopic makes for a more focused character piece as we see King in his most desperate situation, witnessing both the best and the worst traits of his character. Oyelowo’s performance remains the stand out leading actor portrayal of the year; he doesn’t seem intimidated by the daunting task of the role, as he grabs the bull by the horns and commands the screen throughout with all the dignified poise that the good Doctor possessed in life. A thunderous account of one of America’s most important and defining moments in history.

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12. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dir: JJ Abrams)

A late entry on to the list, but one that was perhaps always going to end up somewhere on here. While far from perfect, JJ Abrams opening chapter in the new sequel trilogy for Star Wars does exactly what it sets out to do; give the faith back to fans in the face of the memory of the prequel trilogy. He has crafted one hell of a satisfying fan flick that has proven to be as entertaining and as stirring in repeat viewings, opening the blast doors to a promising future for George Lucas’ franchise. Combining old favourite characters and fresh faces, Abrams has delivered a new group of engaging heroes, and the finest antagonist that the franchise is yet to produced in the form of Kylo Ren. It does so many things right that one can forgive the sense of over-familiarity in its plot and structure. This is big budget film-making at its largest and at its most bombastic. It is a huge adventure that everyone can enjoy, be they fans eager to return to their favourite universe, or the uninitiated just looking to see what all the fuss is about.

ItFollowsPost11. It Follows (Dir: David Robert Mitchell)

The Horror genre constantly throws out generic garbage over the course of the year, yet there always manages to be a breakout gem that reminds you how damn inventive the genre can truly be. Probably the year’s biggest Indie breakout, It Follows has been on the lips of many, and it is not hard to see why. Through its concept of a demonic stalker who is passed from person to person when the pursued has sex with another individual, David Robert Mitchell’s film has an unnerving knack for getting under ones skin. This is the sort of film that latches on and lingers in the mind for days on end due to its truly terrifying premise, which riffs on well known staples of the genre for subversive effect. The cinematography is key to this desired effect. Whether remaining static, framing wide scenes of suburbia, or slowly spinning as we desperately search for the unrelenting Follower, the film is alive with nerve-shredding tension, further heightened by Disasterpeace’s excellent retrograde score. At once a terrific throwback and a frightening new breed of horror, It Follows is one you definitely want to catch up with if it’s passed you by thus far. It always catches you.

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10. Listen To Me Marlon (Dir: Stevan Riley)

A quietly masterful documentary this one, Listen To Me Marlon allows Marlon Brando to tell the tale of his own life, using a collection of private audio recordings made by the man himself. It allows for Stevan Riley to orchestrate one of the most intimate and searching studies of an individual actor that you are ever likely to see. The finding of Brando’s audio tapes is an utter treasure trove of insight, with Brando discussing his most iconic roles, his star status and familial relationships with a wisdom and heartbreaking honesty at times. Here was a man who seemed to both loath the idea of success but one who could not help but continue to carve a name for himself with his immense talent, on that has never been truly equalled. The film is often hypnotic, particularly in moments when we hear Brando’s self-hypnosis tapes, recited through a 3-D recreation of the actor’s face, taken from digital scans that were recorded during his life. This is a bizarre document, but incredibly well pieced together and fascinating to behold.

Steve Jobs9. Steve Jobs (Dir: Danny Boyle)

Probably the finest ensemble cast of the year can be found right here in Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s chamber piece concerning the Apple co-founder and developer of some of the most prevalent pieces of technology in the modern age. Rather than play to the tune of a traditional biopic, Sorkin’s screenplay constructs the drama around three separate product launches in Jobs career, leading to a very definite three act structure and some wonderful scenes of eloquent dialogue for the cast to deliver. The styles of Boyle and Sorkin co-inhabit surprisingly well, with Boyle’s keen eye for kinetic visuals maintaining a sense of urgency and flair in an incredibly dialogue heavy film. Michael Fassbender turns in a stellar performance, in which he makes up for his lack of physical likeness to Jobs with great nuance and attention to movement and delivery. It may be a little repetitive in its structure, and it is an awful lot of dialogue to take in all at once, yet Sorkin and Boyle always find a way of making it entertaining, with dull moments pretty much non-existent in this creative character study of one of the most impressionable figures on the face of the 21st Century.

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8. Brooklyn (Dir: John Crowley)

A truly surprising dark horse from this upcoming awards season, John Crowley’s elegant adaptation of Colm Toibin’s novel concerning an Irish girl moving to Brooklyn in the 1950s and finding love gracefully earns a spot on this list. Brooklyn is hardly the most complex or all that inventive film of the year, but it sets out to tell a timely tale via the most emotionally affecting means possible. Much of why Brooklyn works as well as it does is down to the magnetic presence of one Saoirse Ronan. The film is designed to highlight her unique beauty, and her initial passiveness to the proceedings does a great deal for emphasising the change that Tony (Emory Cohen) brings to her experience in her new home. The chemistry between Ronan and Cohen is impossible not to fall for, as the pair radiate the screen with what truly feels like a true love burgeoning right in front of us on screen.  A fine, unpretentious and effortlessly engaging piece of cinema.

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7. Bridge of Spies (Dir: Steven Spielberg)

A Steven Spielberg film may not feel as much as an essential trip to the cinema as it once used to be, which is a shame, because he is now at a stage in his career where he is a true master of his craft, offering films that are technically flawless. His latest feature here sees him reunited with Tom Hanks and together they bring to life a very interesting and not oft told moment in the history of the Cold War. The contribution from the Coen Brothers on the screenplay can be wondrously felt, with moments of odd quirky humour, particularly when Hanks’ lawyer must head into East Berlin to negotiate a swap for an incarcerated Soviet spy and a captured US Fighter Pilot. It is an electrifying tale that requires the star power of Hanks to instil both is Americana and sense of righteousness in the face of the murkiness of espionage. It is a Capre-esque tale that one feels only Spielberg could have brought to the screen in such a fashion. An old-fashioned tale told through a dream-like gaze from Spielberg, a master of crafting iconography.

MacbethPost6. Macbeth (Dir: Justin Kurzel)

One of the more difficult films of the year is also one of the more ferocious and just damn intoxicating to watch. No other film this year has quite captured me in the same way as Justin Kurzel’s take on argubaly Shakespeare’s best work. From the blood-soaked beginning to the brooding ending, the film plays out like the most vivid fever dream. The cinematography conjures up some of the most striking images of the year, be it tracking a pursued Banquo through an icy forest, to seeking out a battle ready Macbeth on a smokey battle field bathed in a blood red sun’s glow. The performances are also masterful, with Fassbender providing a ferocious turn, revelling in the unravelling of the character’s warped psyche. Marion Cotillard is the stronger of the two, crafting a more subtle performance than we are perhaps used to seeing when concerned with the character of Lady Macbeth. The truly surprising turn within the cast though is in the form of Sean Harris as MacDuff, a turn both rageful and controlled. A stunning adaptation should you be willing to commit.

InsideOutPost5. Inside Out (Dir: Pete Docter)

This was the year that saw Pixar reaffirm themselves as the Animation house to beat, after a string of efforts that failed to truly inspire all that much faith. All it took was one fell swoop by a director responsible for two of the finest films from the studio, Docter’s own Monsters Inc and Up. Inside Out delivers a high concept tale that sees emotions brought to life inside the head of 11 year-old Riley. These emotions, who control Riley’s reactions from a control panel, may be a little limited, what with only Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear being represented, but it allows for a broader, more accessible, means to an end, an end which is concerned with charting complexities of human emotion while remaining entertaining to younger audiences. It is a balance that Pixar has always been very apt at maintaining, and with Inside Out they feel at their most sophisticated, drawing emotion from scenarios that all of us can appreciate and relate to. A hugely moving experience that remains a delight on repeat viewings.

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4. Ex Machina (Dir: Alex Garland)

Science Fiction has been my favourite genre for many years, mostly due to the range of concepts and varying scales in which it can often tell tales of complex moral and ethical philosophies. Ex Machina is one such film that deals with large important ideas on a small intimate scale. The action takes place in one location and only has 4 players involved in its proceedings, which deal with the creation of Artificial Intelligence, and what the ramifications of a true A.I. could really be in a real world environment. There is a great amount of philosophy at play here, particularly when discussing one’s relation to a ‘creator’, as well as discussing the very nature of being human. Alex Garland’s directorial début is nothing short of impressive. It is a sophisticated, highly intelligent and thrillingly chilling thriller in its ambitious Sci-Fi packaging.  The main trio of players are all on fine form, with Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac displaying why they are both in high demand. The film, however, belongs to the breakout star of the year; Alicia Vikander. She has had a great year, with this standing as the defining performance. Her AI Eva is a mysterious, curious and dangerous being with a lethal intelligence to match her elegant beauty. An instant genre classic.

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3. The Look of Silence (Dir: Joshua Oppenheimer)

Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion piece to his 2013 documentary The Act of Killing, which followed members of the Indonesian Death Squads from the Military Occupation of the 1960s as they recreate their killings of suspected communists through a film genre of their choosing, takes a much more intimate, and that much more devastating, approach to its horrific subject matter. Following an Optician whose brother was violently murdered by the Death Squads before he was born, we witness a more direct series of questioning to those who exacted terrible acts of violence in the name of the Indonesian Government. Visiting the perpetrators and their collaborators (including his own Uncle) under the pretence of an eye exam, the Optician and Oppenheimer ask truly pressing and searching questions which deliver shocking stories and incite angry protestations from those refusing to accept guilt. It makes The Look of Silence that much more intimate and more soul-crushing due the the more personal stakes at the forefront of this look at the effects of the killings on the people of Indonesia today. A devastating watch, but utterly, utterly essential.

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2. Sicario (Dir: Denis Villeneuve)

Sicario confirms what many of us already suspected, that Denis Villeneuve is one of the most exciting and startling directors breaking through Hollywood today. Following on from the bleak yet powerful Prisoners and the weird psychedelic trip that was Enemy, Villeneuve brings us Sicario, one of the most tense and darkly suggestive thrillers since Seven. The film, which follows Emily Blunt’s FBI Agent as she goes deeper down the rabbit hole of a Mexican Drug Cartel investigation, demonstrates Villeneuve’s strength at finding horror in the unseen, and crafting tension through igniting the imagination into exploring the darkest recesses of the mind. Through another partnership with cinematographer Roger Deakins, Villeneuve’s Mexican/US Border is one bleached by the scorching sun and sizzling with threat. The cast are also on fine form, with Blunt a steady focus point, Josh Brolin on wise-cracking remorseless form, and a scene-stealing Benicio del Toro making a strong case for Best Support of the year. An intense, exhilarating and hellishly entertaining rides of the year.

MadMaxPos1. Mad Max: Fury Road (Dir: George Miller)

Almost a clichéd choice by now, but for good reason. No other reboot, no other film, hit the screen with as much ferocity and bombast than George Miller’s fourth Mad Max adventure. This time, Tom Hardy takes the mantel from Mel Gibson and helps breathe new energy into a franchise that has laid dormant for over 30 years. Miller orchestrates a symphony of mayhem as we take to the Fury Road, with Max teaming with Charlize Theron’s Furiosa to escape the clutches of the warped cult leader Immortan Joe, Essentially an extended action sequence riffing on the set-up of Stagecoach, Fury Road reintroduces the dystopian outback of Max’s world with jaw-dropping practical effects that heighten the danger of this already volatile world of stricken War Boys and crazed Overlords. It is a wonderful contradiction: controlled anarchy. Miller directs with all the energy of a man much younger than his years, putting all his know how and technical wizardry on to the screen in a glory of hell fire. He is a man determined to do all he can with his creation with the modern techniques of cinema, and it is a joy to behold and has continued to awe even on a home TV screen. Nothing has come close to matching the energy that Miller an co have brought to the screen. If Max does indeed return, he;s got a hell of benchmark to push past.

That is it! In a year in which I’ve probably watched the most at the cinema in a single year, and this is what I feel truly stood out as the highlights of a strong and varied year. Do enjoy JoBlo’s  2015 tribute montage below, which mixes some of the year’s biggest hits together in ingenious ways. Here’s to another year. Thanks for stopping by.

 

My Top 10 Films of 2014!

Seasons Greetings to you all! This countdown post must of course begin with an apology, as it has been sometime since my last posting, with many reviews falling to the way-side in favour of University work (which I am still very much in the clutches of). As a result, I have chosen to reveal my top 10 in a different manner to previous years. Instead of punching out one long article, I have chosen to reveal my favourite films of 2014 one-by-one, culminating with number one being revealed on New Years Eve. This is in the hope that each instalment will only take 10-15 minutes out of my day, as well as building a lot more anticipation as we count down to my top spot. So, be sure to check back everyday until New Years to see which films have come to stand as my favourites of the year that has been 2014. That time, has now come.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: The Lego Movie, Nightcrawler, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Raid 2, 12 Years a Slave 

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10. Edge of Tomorrow (Dir: Doug Liman)

I always make a case in point of putting my favourite summer blockbuster in my top ten (Pacific Rim held that honour last year), and this year Doug Liman’s return to blockbuster film-making holds the honour. Edge of Tomorrow was marketed quite terribly, with the trailers not making enough of what marks this Sci-Fi actioner as something other than simply another Tom Cruise movie, leading to disappointing box-office returns. EofT has plenty to offer beyond the expectations of a Cruise-action picture. It has incredibly sharp humour, inventive thrills, engaging performances, a fun central concept, and an acute reverence for a certain blockbuster spirit of a by-gone era. Essentially Groundhog Day with a Sci-Fi tinged, EofT sees Cruise’s cowardly Bill Cage re-living the same day in a futuristic war being fought on the beaches of Normandy. With the help of ace soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), he sets out to be rid of his ailment, and to find the means of defeating the alien race that looks set to claim the Earth. The coupling of Cruise and Blunt leads to an endlessly watch-able pair, allowing for EofT to (ironically) become a film that holds up incredibly well on repeat viewings. Aside from an ending which is most definitely the worst any of the three credited screen-writers could have thought of, this feature stood out amongst the crowd in a cluttered summer season as one of the more refreshing outputs from Hollywood in 2014.

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9. Paddington (Dir: Paul King)

One of the most heart-soaring surprises of the year came in the form of the big screen update of Michael Bond’s lovable furry critter from deepest darkest Peru. Once again, the marketing did little to stir my interest, deciding to focus on the more slapstick elements of the movie. What the trailers failed to reveal was quite how brilliantly Paddington Bear has been updated for a 21st Century audience, allowing for fans both old and new to easily embrace this new adventure. Following the young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) as he tries to find a home in London, the endlessly inventive script has all the classic elements of the character blended with moments of humorous slapstick, gently placed emotional beats, and a welcomingly unexpected allegory concerning immigrants trying to find a place within British society. Having such a message of tolerance is incredibly important to feature in a children’s film, particular in a modern Britain in which such a party as UKIP gains a worrying following. This careful, yet well articulated allegory allows Paddington to stand up as a film that is as important as it is entertaining. And boy, is it fun. The film pops with vibrant life; feeling like a brightly coloured story-book brought to energetic life. Paul King, one of the creators of The Mighty Boosh, makes his comedic voice heard, all the while delivering the comforting family vibes expected of a film such as this (particular in the Christmas season). This is aided by the spot-on cast; Hugh Bonneville is affable, Sally Hawkins is utterly adorable, while Nicole Kidman has the most fun she has had in years. Yet it is the voice-performance of Whishaw that will win your heart, his naive and optimistic tones bringing the stunningly rendered CG Paddington to life in quite perfect fashion. All in all, Paddington stands as one of the most successful updates of a classical character in recent memory, with King et al delivering a film that is as welcome as a Marmalade sandwich (a snack one must always keep under their hat in case of emergencies).

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8. Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir: Joel & Ethan Coen)

Apologies for no postings the last two days, Christmas eating and drinking took priority. I hope you all had a wonderful, gluttonous Christmas Day, and allow me to present you the gift of three entries in my countdown of my favourite films of the year. Coming in at number 8 is a film that I initially didn’t particularly warm to, Inside Llewyn Davis, the latest offering from the Brothers Coen. The reason being that it is very much a film with an affable asshole at its lead, who seemingly cannot help being self-destructive in nearly evey aspect of his life as he bums around from couch to couch trying to make it in the Folk scene in New York’s Greenwich Village, circa 1961. But upon numerous re-visits, Llewyn Davis may very well stand as one of my favourite Coen Brothers movies, for its moddily beautiful cinematography, perfectly placed and selected folk tunes, and for arguably the best ensemble cast they have worked with. Oscar Issac delivers one of the most naunced performances of the year, doing the impossible by making us care a great deal about an individual who only has himself to blame for most of the failings in his life. Inside Llewyn Davis stands as the film that I have revisited the most this year, and each time I have come to appreciate it for its simple ambition and quite excellent production. It has also deemed a place for the fact the soundtrack has come to be present in many moments of my life this year, be it commuting, listening whilst working, or with a group of friends and a guitar; Inside Llewyn Davis has earned itself a place in this list due to the nature of its re-watch-ability and the Coen’s undeniably impressive craft.

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7. Calvary (Dir: John Michael McDonagh)

If you have seen John Michael McDonagh’s first feature, The Guard, you will be very aware of the sharp comedic voice and style he is very much capable of. Yet, his second feature is an entirely different beast. While it occasionally falls into the ‘pulpy’ genre quirks hat chraracterised The Guard, Calvary stands as a much more mature and incredibly vital piece of cinema. Taking the the burning matter of Irish Catholic guilt concerning the actions of certain Priests and the ensuing scandals that have disgraced the church and shocked its patrons, Calvary is a film of great courage, relevance, and importance. Brendan Gleeson plays Father James, whose life is threatened during a confessional, giving him a week to set his affairs in order and continue to try and be a symbol of control and wholesomeness in a town that has very much lost its way into darkness. McDonagh’s second feature is nothing short of a triumph. Mixing the deathly black comedy that played more broadly in The Guard with a hard-hitting social commentary, as well as a gallery of oddball characters, the film shifts through different tonality’s and a wide variety of themes with grace and a biting sense of a very dark reality. Larry Smith’s cinematography builds a bleak atmosphere, not as stylish as his work on Only God Forgives, but equally vital to establishing a sense of location and a gradual sense of devastation. That coupled with a sweeping score allows the subject matter of Calvary to truly resonate as something incredibly vital and pivotal to not only an understanding of the Catholic Church, but of our own opinions to religion and how the actions of individuals can affect the image of a certain group. With Gleeson also delivering the best performance of his career, Calvary is one piece of work this year that demands your utmost attention.

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6. Snowpiercer (Dir: Bong Joon-Ho)

With seemingly no UK theatrical release date in sight, it would seem Snowpiercer is destined to become a true definition of a cult movie; that high concept film which deserves a great audience, yet was never given the chance to do so. I was lucky enough to catch this movie in the summer, and have been eagerly awaiting the news of a UK release, but as it stands, VOD seems to be the only answer. Bong Joon-Ho, who is perhaps best known for the glorious B-movie, The Host, brings the French graphic novel to the screen with great flair, grit and style. Within this dystopia, the world has been plunged into a relentless Ice Age, making survival impossible on the surface. The last of the human race survive on a globe-spanning train which never stops. ON board this train, the last of the human race has established hierarchy, in which those at the back end of the train live in poverty, with those at the front living in frivolity, with little care for those at the back. Cue the revolution. Snowpiercer is an absolute marvel of production design, with each carriage of the dystopian train, which range from either being drenched in oil and dirt, or being bright, illustrious and glamorous. With a knowing sense of humour and satire, Joon-Ho creates a film of potent allegory, a rich text that I’m sure many BA undergrads will mine in the future. It is a dark and violent world in which mankind has been pushed to its very limits, making revolution an inevitability. Leading that charge is a brooding Chris Evans, the Captain delivering a suitably moody performance in a turn which reminds you that he is more than just a Marvel poster boy, he is an actor capable of delivering a performance of great depth and menace. The ensemble cast all deliver fine performances, but the stand out (as is often the case) comes in the form of Tilda Swinton’s Yorkshire bred Minister Mason. If you only come away from this list intending on only watching one of these recommendations, then make that choice Snowpiercer, a film as original as it is entertaining, and as thought provoking as any piece of pivotal science fiction of the past century.

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5. Her (Dir: Spike Jonze)

In the time that lasped across the earlier part part of the year, Her stood as my favourite film for the best part of the year. An affecting tale of man and machine, constructing a unique love story along the way, Spike Jonze’s Oscar-winning screenplay is a modest piece of genius, filled with his usual doff-beat humour, yet driven by a melancholic sense of longing to connect in a society in which communication has become somewhat limited in a technologically driven age. Joaquin Phoenix plays recent divorcee Theodore, who downloads the latest OS on his computer. This being a new breed in Artificial Intelligence, the OS called Samantha (voiced amazingly by Scarlett Johansson) exhibits the intelligence and initiative of a human being. The lines between human and machine blurred, Theodore soon begins to develop a deeper, more intimate relationship with the A.I. With Phoenix exhibiting a sweeter side than we have come to expect from him, the story of Theodore and Samantha becomes rather hard not to fall for yourself, despite the ever-knowing inclination that this is not something entirely normal. The production design brings this near-future to colourful life, as we are brought into a world in which hipsters have taken over, while the atmosphere is effectively forged through the swooning and moving score courtesy of Arcade Fire. What marks Her as an important film for our lifetime is its concern for contemporary issues, namely that of the effect of technology on communication, and how ‘wired’ in a generation we truly are. It is as much about the now as it is about the future, meaning that it will more than likely become more relevant as time passes, perhaps marking Her as a timeless product of our modern times. It may be too early to claim such a thing, but the emotion and fresh design mark Her as at least one of the most important and affecting films of the past year.

GoneGirl4. Gone Girl (Dir: David Fincher)

We all like to humour our dark side from time to time, and when I myself fancy delving into something more macabre, I often visit David Fincher in order to get my fix. Be it the mind bending twists and turns of The Game, or the seedy unseen horrors of Seven, Fincher has often conjured tales of the darker side of human nature. Gone Girl, the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling 2012 novel, can stand with some of Fincher’s best work, thrusting you into a twisted marriage and mystery and laughing devilishly as you squirm in your seat. The marriage of Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is the focus, as Amy goes missing, throwing Nick under the media spotlight as more and more evidence puts him in the frame as the man responsible for Amy’s rather sudden disappearance on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. While it may not be his best feature in his illustrious filmography, Gone Girl proves to be an example of a director who is a true master of his craft. He lashes the proceedings with humour, wrings career best performances from Affleck and Pike, and has complete command over Flynn’s screenplay. He clearly revels in the twisted relationship of the Dunne’s, as well as the vampirism of news media and the personalities often found within that industry. The editing is slick, the cinematography stylish, the music fittingly atmospheric; it is simply a flawlessly mounted film, demonstrating the meticulous nature of its director. Gone Girl is an intoxicating rumination on the notion of never knowing what is happening within the minds of those closest to you. A compelling thriller made by a true master, Gone Girl effortlessly holds a high ranking place in my countdown for 2014.

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3. Whiplash (Dir: Damien Chazelle)

Perhaps a bit of a cheat this one, as it does not come out in the UK until January 16th, but has indeed screened numerous times across the Autumn/Winter festival season. I was lucky enough to catch it at a screening at the Barbican last month as part of the London Jazz Festival, and seeing as it has been on theatrical release (for quite sometime I might add) in the States, I believe I can justify giving Whiplash a place in this Top 10. And plus, it’s really fucking good. Portraying a battle of wits between a promising young music student drummer, Andrew (Miles Teller), and his hard-ass and ruthless conductor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), Whiplash is one of the most exhilarating and pulse-pounding cinematic experiences of the past 12 months. Chazelle’s tight direction and rhythmic editing help to aptly convey the sheer pressure of playing in an orchestra, and how that pressure increases exponentially when put on the spot by the conductor. I should just be thankful that in my time playing for an orchestra I never came across a figure as intimidating as J.K. Simmons’ Fletcher. With his bulging biceps and unpredictable anger, Simmons gives his all for a performance of a life-time. His treatment of Andrew disgusts and repels, particularly when Andrew begins to sacrifice other relationships in his life in order to improve as a drummer. It is an enthralling conflict between the two, made unpredictable by Simmons, yet driven by Teller’s commitment, blood, sweat, and tears. Much has been said about Simmons (and he deserves every award coming to him), but Teller’s contribution cannot be under-sold, as he also gives 110% to convey the desire and frustration of the clearly skilled young music student. With a damn fine jazz soundtrack, unpredictable turns, and a final confrontation as tense as anything in the finest sports movies, Whiplash is a cinematic experience that will leave you sweating in your seat and screaming for more. Be sure to catch it in January.

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2. Boyhood (Dir: Richard Linklater)

A film which has topped many critics and magazines lists this year, Boyhood is undoubtedly one of the greatest successes of 2014. Quite unlike anything else produced in cinema, Boyhood was shot over the course of 12 years with the same cast. It is quite an unprecedented feat of film-making that will stand in cinema history as one of the most triumphant and enriching texts concerning everyday human life. It is utterly crazy that Linklater managed to pull it off, even more impressive when you consider he still found the time to make the likes of A Scanner Darkly, School of Rock and the concluding parts of his similarly ambitious Sunset Trilogy across the years. Hard to describe in terms of plot, Boyhood is a film better described in regards to its thematic concerns, as we experience the joys, pitfalls, and anxieties of growing up through the eyes of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) over the course of 12 years. With popular songs from the likes of Family of the Year and Goyte as some of our only indicators of time placement, as well as strangely predictive pop culture discussions, Linklater’s script is effortlessly human and moving, relying on big moments of drama very sparingly in the hope that more genuine emotions are forged between his characters and his audience. It helps that the cast is quite effortless in conveying a very natural relationship with one another. Patricia Arquette is particularly impressive, while Ethan Hawke proves that he is never better than when he is being directed by Linklater. Yet, the whole film rides on the shoulders of its young, un-tested lead, and Coltrane strides through on his cute naivety in the early years, which soon develops into a laid back charm which is very easy to engage with. While Boyhood is concerned with the tribulations of a young boy’s puberty, there is something for absolutely anyone to connect with. If you’ve ever been a sibling, a mother, a father, heck if you’ve ever been a child there are emotions and moments of experience that you can liken to your own. Perhaps what stopped Boyhood taking the top spot is its universality; it’s a very hard film to dislike and those that find flaw must really be willing themselves to nitpick. It seems odd to say, but Boyhood is a hard film to call my personal favourite of the year because it seems to belong to EVERYONE. Boyhood is a piece of cinema that we are unlikely to ever see again, a pure shot of lightening in a bottle, whose top has been carefully wound tighter over the course of its 12 year production. Just take a minute again to consider that. Consider the perseverance and commitment (and damned good luck) that Linklater managed to complete his ambitious project. Linklater deserves every accolade that is sure to be coming his way, as Boyhood confirms an inkling that many of I’m sure already had in our minds; that Richard Linklater is one of the most important, varied, and talented film-makers of a generation.

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1. Interstellar (Dir: Christopher Nolan)

Now bare with me on this one. I am very aware that Interstellar is a film that has been on the receiving end of a very mixed reaction, and that is one of the main reasons as to why it has worked its way to the top of the list. It helps that I adore it, but the fact that it has proven so divisive, giving so many people the passion to defend or rile against highlights one of the simplest pleasures of cinema. All art is subjective, and all art is made for discussion, and Interstellar proved, for me at least, to be the film where I was engaged in most debates, both with others and with myself. I was initially cautious following my first viewing (in 60mm IMAX I must add) due to the over-whelming nature of Nolan’s ideas and imagery, particularly those which arise in the course of the final act. I immediately wanted to see it again. And I did. Twice. There are films on here that I have seen many times since release, but no film quite demanded a re-visit with quite the same immediacy. Christopher Nolan had something to prove to me (and I’m sure many others) with Interstellar following his Batman trilogy closure. The Dark Knight Rises, while certainly more cerebral than common Hollywood blockbuster fare, remains a disappointing, frustratingly scripted franchise closer. Perhaps my trepidation into Interstellar aided me, but there is no denying that Nolan’s 9th feature film comes accompanied with some of his most startlingly beautiful images, that can be at once awe-inspiring and haunting, striking the sublime chord in quite an impressionistic fashion. Interstellar wears its inspirations on its sleeve, evoking Kubrick (it would be stupid to avoid mentioning the K-word in any discussion of Interstellar) through its mix of science-fiction and philosophical questioning, while it is also easy to detect a dash of Spielberg through the family dynamic on display. Reacting to his critics (which is something more directors should practice), Nolan attempts to devote more time to emotion and character, and truly does succeed in crafting an operatic adventure which is grounded in raw human emotion, namely that of a relationship between a father and his daughter. This is in no small way aided by the performance of McConaughey, who grounds the action by always ensuring that his character, engineer and pilot Cooper, keeps what is at stake front and centre as he embarks on a mission to save mankind through finding a new world at the other side of a wormhole. Interstllar may well be one of the most flawed films on this list, flaws which are almost endearing rather than frustrating in the grand scheme of the text. Its powerful cinematography, soul-shuddering score bring to the screen an adventure that only the cinema can bring to life and take you on. Despite the complex physics and theories involved, no other film quite matched up for me in terms of the epic nature of its journey, nor did any other film quite demand you to seek out the biggest screen possible in order to experience it. Interstellar stirred a passion and a wonder within me concerning space and cinema that I had not felt since Apollo 13 first inspired me to hold my thumb up to the Moon and ponder on what was to be found in the far reaches of space, I am always grateful to a film for stirring such a curiosity within me, and I am truly grateful and impressed that Interstellar managed to allow those sensations to return. It is this emotion, this feeling, this thrill, that allows Interstellar to deservedly hold the top spot of my countdown this year.

So there you have it, the count-down is complete and we can all say a fond good-bye to 2014 and look forward to the cinematic ventures that await us in 2015. I wish you all a very Happy New Year, enjoy your celebrations tonight, and all the best for the year ahead.

Enjoy this Cinematic Retrospective, courtesy of Nikita Malko.

My Top 10 Films of 2013!

2013 in film has been a year of spectacular bookends; a sandwiching of a disappointing summer between two periods of really high class cinema. Despite there being some gems within the May to August movie season, I think we can all agree much of what impressed this year in the cinema came within the first and last four months of the year. I very much feel this Top 10 will demonstrate such a notion, as well as highlighting to you, my much appreciated readers, what films are worth your time should you not have caught them yet. I have done my best in the last couple of weeks to cram a good few films in before composing this list in order for it to be as comprehensive as possible. But hey, even I can’t watch everything. Anyway, sit back, relax, and take in my film highlights of the year that was: 2013.

Honorable Mentions: Drinking Buddies, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Cloud Atlas, About Time, Rush, Les Miserables, Django Unchained

TheKingsofSummer10. The Kings of Summer (Dir: Jordan Vogt-Roberts)

As this list will go on to demonstrate, I am a sucker for coming-of-age movies. There is always something to relate to for anyone who has had to tackle the dark storm clouds of adolescence. Coming-of-age films all have the rather difficult task of differentiating themselves from the large pack of teen based dramas, and The Kings of Summer manages to find it in its unique blend of offbeat humour,  bittersweet sarcasm, and boy’s own adventure spirit. The film sees three friends; best pals Joe (soon to be seen in Jurassic World, Nick Robinson), & Patrick (Super 8’s Gabriel Basso), and weird lone-wolf Biaggio (The Middle‘s Moises Arias), running away from the stresses of suburban life and over-bearing parents into a forest, where they have built their own house together. With the plan to spend the summer on their own terms, it is not long until the realities of life and young love bring their fantasy crashing down to Earth. Everyone has had this kind of summer; the summer of unrequited crushes, the one where your parents never really know what you’re getting up to, and the summer where you just feel a burning desire to break free and discover who you are. As well as inflicting a heartwarming sense of nostalgia, debut director Voght-Roberts crafts a rather beautiful film, focusing on the natural surroundings of the lush forests of suburban Ohio, giving the film a unique visual identity to accompany its well trodden thematic path. The cast are also spot-on, with Robinson in particular turning in an impressive performance. It also feature a couple of sit-com favourites in the form of Alison Brie and the hilarious Nick Offerman. A little seen gem that deserves more love!

Frozen9. Frozen (Dir: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee)

A great surprise this year came in the form of Disney’s latest cinematic offering, and is one that can join the ranks of their animated greats. While too late to say if it is part of a new renaissance period for Disney, it marks a continuation of quality from Disney, starting with The Princess and the Frog, through to Tangled and Wreck-It-Ralph. Featuring memorable songs from Robert Lopez and his wife Kristen Anderson Lopez, Frozen takes Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen tale and crafts its own story from it, namely through the relationship between two sisters; the older magical and tormented Elsa, and the free-spirited optimist Anna. Frozen has an infectious spirit, so while there is plenty to nit-pick, its good-natured tale, charming characters and wondrous visuals win you over within the first 10 minutes alone. It is a film which lures you into thinking that you know the tale, know exactly how everything will pan out to the Disney formula. Yet, Jennifer Lee’s script manages to throw in enough little surprises to allow Frozen to stand apart from recent Disney adventures. Frozen is still at cinema’s across the country now, so be sure to catch it while you still can. Also free to check out my full review here: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/review-frozen-let-it-snow/

Prisoners Poster  8. Prisoners (Dir: Denis Villeneuve)

An icy affair in a much different way to the previous entry, Prisoners is a film of dark, brutal potency, and stands out as one of the most impressive thrillers in recent memory. After his and a friend’s daughter has been kidnapped, with the lead suspect released due to a lack of evidence, determined father Hugh Jackman takes matters into his own hands, capturing the suspect and exacting his own form of interrogation. All the while, meticulous detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) continues to lead the kidnapping investigation to find the girls as soon as possible. A tightly wound, amazingly taunt thriller, that never once loses your interest, despite a 150 minute run-time. I have not seen a thriller this efficient and stylish outside of a David Fincher movie in modern day Hollywood, with French/Canadian director Villeneuve orchestrating a nerve-shredding atmosphere of dread and despair. The film also features some of the best cinematography of the year from the master that is Roger Deakins, whilst also playing also to a powerful performance from the man beast that is Hugh Jackman. An angry performance fueled with primal rage that, in a film that has a lot going for it, proves to be the most memorable aspect of it.

PacficRim7. Pacific Rim (Dir: Guillermo del Toro)

The only summer blockbuster of my top 10 this year comes in the form of the Robot/Monster brawling epic; Pacific Rim. One of the rare original films this summer, (which in itself is a tribute to the Japanese Monster movie), Guillermo del Toro has produced a film that, on face value, looks like a film very much in the vein of a certain Michael Bay franchise. You could not be more wrong! The world of del Toro’s Pacific Rim is much more well thought out and passionately designed than any toy commercial Bay may produce. With Earth being invaded by inter-dimensional monsters (known as Kaiju) from deep within the Pacific, humanity’s last hope relies in the form of Jaeger robots: twin-piloted giant robots built specifically to battle the Kaiju to the death. Leading the final assault is Marshal Stacker Pentecoast (Idris Elba), who enlists the talents of young skilled pilot drop-out Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) to join a team who aim to end the terror of the Kaiju once and for all. The character’s are somewhat stock, but the involving action (in which you get a great sense of the physical toll these machines require to operate), gorgeous neon laced visuals, a commanding Elba performance, and all levels of weird and wonderful quirks make del Toro’s love letter to monster movies of the past the best blockbuster of the year. An action adventure powered by child-like glee and enthusiasm. In a word: awesome. Full review:https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/review-pacific-rim-domo-arigato-mr-del-toro/

Blue Jasmine Poster  6. Blue Jasmine (Dir: Woody Allen)

A Woody Allen film, despite all the great ones he has made, is still a hard thing to truly get excited about. He is one of the most hit and miss directors that one can think of. Yet, it is always easy to spot when he has delivered gold, indicated mainly by critics going a bit ga-ga. The last time that happened was Midnight in Paris, which found its way onto my top ten of 2011, and I am very happy to include another Allen gem this year. Detailing Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine’s attempts to re-organise her life after losing every penny she owns, Blue Jasmine is an engaging and witty exploration of depression and portrayal of life in a post-crash America. It is all anchored by the best female performance of the year in the form of Blanchett. Pure text-book acting, Blanchett modulates through numerous emotions within a scene with utter conviction and devastating grace. Jasmine is a modern tragic figure, who most of the time only has herself to blame for her misfortune, yet still manages to seem worthy of our sympathy. A very funny film with a sharp cynical edge that has been missing from Allen’s films of late, even his good ones. Allen hasn’t quite tapped in to the modern state of mind in such a way since the 70′, making for a refreshing change of tone and topic for him, delivered by one of the best ensemble casts of the year.

gravity-poster5. Gravity (Dir: Alfonso Cuarón)

The film that has topped many ‘best of’ lists this year comes right slap bang in the middle of mine. It is by far the best film of the year in regards to innovation in film-making; no other film this year, or for quite some time for that matter, has pushed the envelope of the form in quite the same way as Gravity. It is undoubtedly a masterpiece of technological brilliance, but in regards to emotional investment, it was somewhat lacking for me. Many more films worked much better on an emotional level, with Gravity relying heavily on its innovative effects and techniques, leaving much to be desired in the story stakes. Yet, it does not prioritize character development and story because it simply does not need to. Efficiently giving you just enough to work with, the film was an awe-inspiring experience in I-MAX 3-D. The visual spectacle of Gravity is second to none in the format, with amazingly immersive 3-D that enhanced the films visceral, nerve-shredding experience of human survival. That is what it boils down to in the end; it is a film about the strength of the human spirit in the face of danger and over-whelming odd, thematically rich in its imagery. It all amounts in the greatest visceral experience of the year, which should make filmmakers begin to look at the implications of 3-D and special effects in an entirely new perspective, with the hope being that Cuarón has inspired more creative and engaging means of employing the third dimension. Knowing Hollywood, it won’t be the case, but at least Cuarón is doing something different. And over $600 million at the box office speaks thousands of words.

Mud4. Mud (Dir: Jeff Nichols)

Another ‘coming-of-age’ picture comes in the form of Jeff Nichols third film, which also came to highlight a significant film in the rather fascinating resurgence of Matthew McConaughey as a dramatic actor. Following the young Ellis (Tye Sheridan), Mud is a modern American classic, as Ellis and his friend Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) find a wandering stranger called Mud (McConaughey). Striking a friendship with the young boys, Mud enlists their help to repair an abandoned boat and reunite him with his true love, Reese Witherspoon’s Juniper. The film embodies a strange whimsical fairy-tale spirit, with a dashing of Gothic sensibilities to deliver a film about like-minded spirits inhabiting a world in which their nature and character cannot co-exist with the reality of situations, where both a young boy and a man must face who they are and establish their stakes in this world. It is a film that does not condescend their naivety, it allows it to play its course, letting the characters grow within this distinct American environment. McConaughey is provides an emotive performance, playing highly on his character’s naivety, but also provides a great anchor for an impressive performance from the young Tye Sheridan, allowing the young actor to carry the picture with him, as both carry much of the emotional heavy-lifting of the narrative. A gorgeous, earth-soaked film with a unique visual aesthetic.

spectacular-now-final-poster3. The Spectacular Now (Dir: James Ponsoldt)

A film which will hopefully gain a wider UK release in the early months of this year when Shailene Woodley’s popularity grows as a result of the upcoming Divergent; The Spectacular Now is a coming-of-age (oh hey again) film that manages to avoid a great many deal of the pratfalls of the genre, simply down to how honest it is. Working as almost a re-working of Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything, the film follows Miles Teller’s Sutter during the summer beginning with his high school graduation. Fresh off a break-up with his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson), Sutter finds friendship in the seemingly unremarkable Aimee (Woodley). While initially seeing her as a project, Sutter begins to find that he has genuine affection for her. All the while, he battles his own demons concerning his absent father and the looming decisions he has to make about his future. The pairing of Teller and Woodley is nothing short of beautiful; both are natural and charming performers on their own but together they create something quite, well, spectacular. Woodley in particular demonstrates why her star is rising, turning in a performance very different to that of The Descendants, while also demonstrating quite how naturally beautiful she is, in a role which requires her to wear little to no make-up for most of the run-time. Teller invokes the spirit of a young John Cusack and mines surprising depths, particularly in the film’s emotionally charged final third. A film that is very much about living in the now, but mindful of how what has happened in the past, and what may happen in the future, can shape the person you are ‘in the moment.’ Irresistible, genuine, and sweet; The Spectacular Now is impossible not to fall for.

ActofKilling2. The Act of Killing (Dir: Joshua Oppenheimer)

If you only see one film from this list, then please, for the love of all that is human, make it this one. Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary is a bizarre and unique beast. The film’s subject matter concerns ex-members of state Death Squads from under Indonesia’s Military Dictatorship in the 1960’s; namely two gangsters who went from selling black market movie tickets to leading Death Squads across North Sumatra, killing anybody suspected of being a communist or who chose to disobey the regime. The two men, Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry, agree to allow Oppenheimer to film recreations of their killings through the discourse of any genre of their choosing. As Oppenheimer helped make their film, he made one of his own, highlighting the bizarre and utterly unbelievable behavior and attitudes of these men. The re-creation of the atrocities they performed on behalf of the state bewilder and disturb, as does their manipulation of people around them as they embark on making their film. What is hardest to swallow though is the demeanor and attitude that these men still have, believing themselves to be men who simply did the right thing. An uncompromising vision of a dark underbelly of human nature which also provides the most fascinating figure of the year in the form of Anwar Congo. The only man who seems to regret his past life is shown to have a crisis of self and is quite clearly haunted by the memories of his past, which are brought back to life during the course of his film-making experience, making him re-evaluate his past life. Powerful, important, and unmissable. Special thanks to Paul Mcloughlin for bringing this film to my attention.

the-place-beyond-the-pines-poster1. The Place Beyond the Pines- (Dir: Derek Cianfrance)

There you have it, my number one film of the year, and one that I came to rather late in the game, having only just watched it in the past month. Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines can easily sit as an American classic, with an utterly epic sense of scope and thematic landscaping. Accounting the tale of two men and their path of collision in life (Ryan Goslings motor-cycle Stuntman, and Bradley Cooper’s police officer), the film offers a journey of narrative complexity and invokes a macabre sense of mysticism and predetermination in human destiny. Following on from his Blue Valentine, a film that I frankly found to be something akin to depression porn, Cianfrance shows that he is a director of sophistication and filmic prowess. Every single shot of this film is utterly beautiful, easily standing as the best shot film of the year that didn’t require green-screen. Accompanied by an haunting and absorbing score and carefully measured performances, Pines is practical film-making at its most bare boned; allowing characters to form, relationships to build, and eventually crash and burn. A truly great film is measured on how much of a rewarding experience it is, and by its re-watchability, with the hope being that each time you witness it, the film will offer more secrets and even more rewards for you to un-earth. I viewed Pines twice in quick succession and found it utterly mesmerizing each time, and cannot wait to delve back into its exploration of innocence lost, familial relationships, and human destiny once again. An assured, confident, and masterful piece of film-making.

As always, to see out the year in film, I shall now provide you with a brilliantly edited tribute to the film’s of the year, courtesy of Gen Ip. I hope you all have a marvelous New Year, and enjoyed this year of film, one that has been littered with some true greats. Here’s to the next 12 months of cinematic exploits!

My Top 10 Movies of 2012!

Once again, we have come to the end of another year; a year of Mayan prophecies (good one guys), Jubilee’s, Olympics and of course… movies. This year has been a surprisingly good movie for Hollywood, with plenty of big risk decisions (Avengers Assemble, despite it’s success, could easily have gone the other way) and big event movies that had many an expectation with them due to exceptionally large fan bases (The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey). There have also been some crushing disappointments, namely in the form of our respect for Ridley Scott crashing and burning in flames in what should have been one of the best films of the year in the form of Prometheus (I know people whine enough, but it still hurts). I should point out that this list is compiled by an individual who is yet to see what have been deemed to be highlights of the year, namely The Hobbit and Life of Pi. The list that follows are my personal highlights of the year, you may agree, you may disagree, but these are the films that have helped define my 2012 in the world of cinema. So, sit back, read on, and enjoy!

Dredd-3D10. Dredd 3-D (Dir: Pete Travis)

I always find that this position in the countdown is always the hardest. There were a lot of films in the running for this tenth spot, and although this may not necessarily be the ‘best’ among them, it is one of the films that this year wholly met and exceeded my expectations to a satisfying degree. Dredd is a bare-knuckle, gritty, pulpy, unashamedly trashy movie that is truly what the 2000 AD character deserves. It strikes the perfect tone for the iconic Judge of Mega City 1, and does so in a very self-contained and controlled fashion. Sure, it’s tower block shoot-out plot is unfortunately and entirely coincidentally similar to a certain Indonesian martial arts movie that was released this year (perhaps more on that later), but it’s employment of 3-D and the world it inhabits is enough to make the film stand as a very different beast. Speaking of the 3-D, Dredd is one of the finer examples of the use of 3-D that I have seen so far; Travis and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle construct some beautifully visceral shots during scenes that depict the use of the Slo-Mo drug. It also allows for the incredibly graphic and bloody violence to be much more comical and in keeping with its comic-book roots. Karl Urban takes command of the movie and makes for a definitive Judge Dredd, truly wiping the slate clean of the memory of Stallone’s version back in 1995. Unfortunately for this version though, it has proven to be a box office failure, making only $35 million on a $45 million budget, which probably means that we won’t be seeing a sequel, at least for quite some time. Which is a terrible shame, considering that this film feels like it has merely opened the door to a much greater world, one that I would love to return to. A deadpan, brutal, comic-book movie with a satirical bite. Everyone just make sure to buy the DVD, yeah? You know it makes sense. Check out my full review here: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/review-dredd-3-d-judgement-time/

9. Chronicle (Dir: Josh Trank) Chronicle-poster

A real surprise from the earlier half the year (February I think) made enough of an impact on me to stake a place in my Top 10 of the year. Chronicle is a grand mix of genres; a teen/sci-fi/action/comedy/found-footage/ superhero movie that deftly blends all these genres together into a fresh, inventive and very smart employment of the found footage technique. Found footage is a technique that is at risk of becoming stale within the horror genre, yet Chronicle proves that there is life for the technique outside of the realms of horror. Charting the story of three friends; the trouble Andrew, the promising Steven and your average-Joe, Matt, who stumble across a bizarre meteorite and start to develop telekinetic powers. Initially using their powers for fun (as you would do), it is long before the full capibilities of their powers begin to be realized, with Andrew descending into a very dark place indeed. Chronicle is equal parts funny, thrilling and tragic in its Akira-esque character arc of Andrew. First-time director Josh Trank expertly balances these elements and makes incredible use of his modest budget with some rather stunning VFX scenes of the boys flying. The boys themselves are well-cast and are thoroughly engaging, displaying a genuine chemistry, making the outcome of certain events all that more heartbreaking. It is not afraid to go to some dark places, with Max son of John Landis script expressing a sharp film knowledge as well a s a natural sense of character, presenting a ridiculous situation through a grounded and realistic framework. Full review available via this link: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/review-chronicle-a-k-a-superhuman-activity/

The-Grey8. The Grey (Dir: Joe Carnahan)

One of the greatest surprises of the year for me, if not only for just how good it is, but of how terribly marketed this film truly was. Many people were disappointed by the unfulfilled promise of the trailers, which suggested that we were going to see Liam Neeson fight some wolves with glass strapped in-between his fingers. As cool as that may have been, we did not receive that, and thank God we didn’t, as it truly would have undermined the message of this movie. There is something much deeper at play then just Man Vs. Wolf in this film. This is Man Vs. Nature, Man Vs. his fellow Man, Man Vs. Himself. There is a great existential crisis taking place within Neeson’s character John Ottway. For a man who is supposed to be in control and leading this group of scared men towards survival, he is terribly self-conflicted, being introduced to us on the brink of suicide. And Neeson is absolutely incredible. Although he is bound to be ignored this awards season, Neeson’s performance is by far the strongest and most commanding performances I have seen this year, and it is certainly the best Neeson performance thus far. Ironically, it almost acts as a reaction to his new action-man image; he may be resourceful and have a particular set of skills but Ottway is no Bryan Mills. He is a flawed, reluctant anti-hero, who only takes on the responsibility of the group through being the only person willing to accept certain death. Certainly not the cheeriest movie I have seen this year; but it is one of the most powerful, exciting and emotionally affecting movies that I have seen this year.

7. The Cabin In The Woods (Dir: Drew Goddard)Cabin In The Woods- poster

It truly is a testament to the concept and ideas of Drew Goddard’s and Joss Whedon’s script that this film managed to emerge this year, three years after it was made, and still be thoroughly fresh and original within its wonderfully high concept. I shan’t delve too much into what this movie is about, as I would hate to ruin it for anybody who hasn’t seen it yet, but what takes place is something that you’ve never really quiet seen before. Although it may feature certain elements of the aesthetics of the genre, be rest assured, this is not a horror movie. If you go expecting that, then you’re going to be disappointed. This film is designed to take the tried and tired cliches of the horror genre and tear them to shreds, not so much re-writing the rule-book as taking a huge flaming blowtorch to it. Along with satirizing the horror genre, Whedon and Goddard subtlety address the rather concerning occupation that film-going audiences have with cinematic violence. It is still handled with a satirical edge, which may make it hard to read, but the violence in the film is so ridiculously over-the-top that it can only be read as a comment on modern American cinema and the recent slew of gore-fueled horror pictures. You opinion of the film will live or die on how you read and accept the concept, yet it is a film that I will heatedly defend to the end of my days. It is an incredibly rich subversive text that has so many ridiculous layers to it, that are set within a wonderfully designed world; a world in which you can never tell quite what to expect. Check out my review on Shock Radar: http://shockradar.org/2012/09/29/shock-radar-reviews-the-cabin-in-the-woods/

Looper-poster6. Looper (Dir: Rian Johnson)

Although I was not quite taken with this film on first viewing as I was with, say, The Grey, mainly due to the certain critics proclamations of this being this decades The Matrix and what have you. It perhaps had an unfair amount of expectation thrown upon it. I also felt that there was a few pacing issues, but all that changed with my recent second viewing. gone was the hype, and gone was the need to pay attention to the thoroughly thought-provoking concept, and now I could just sit down and enjoy the ride. With my mind more at ease and familiar with the world of the film, the pace felt much brisker and I had a much more fulfilling experience of the film. La belling it with The Matirx doesn’t make too much sense; it is a very different Sci-Fi beast, essentially a Sci-Fi gangster movie, whilst almost featuring an Akira-esque plot thread (the second film on this list to do so). I would also say that this is a much more grounded and character driven Sci-Fi movie than The Matrix, paying as much attention to character as it does to its unique concept of Loopers; too much to explain in this quick over-view, but read my full review for a more detailed explanation. It also features two of the best performances I have seen from two of my favourite actors; Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. JGL wonderfully captures the mannerism and facial ticks of a young Bruce Willis, whilst also forming a fully rounded and emotionally conflicted character. Willis goes to some dark places as well as being very affecting and equally as conflicted as his young counter-part. With a wonderfully realized world and witty script from Johnson, Looper certainly does stand as one of the more impressive and original Sci-Fi movies of the past 20 years. Full review? Oh alright then: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/review-looper-lets-do-the-time-warp-again/

5. The Raid (Dir: Gareth Evans)the-raid-poster

Now we come to that certain Indonesian Martial Arts movie. Directed by a Welshman. The Raid (or The Raid: Redemption as it is known Stateside) is by far the best full-out action of the year. I challenge you to find a more breathlessly paced and brilliantly choreographed piece of action cinema released this year, heck, in the last 10 years. Beating Dredd to the tower-block chaos scenario, The Raid follows a raid (a-durr) conducted by a Special Elite Police Squad to take down and destroy the operations of a drug-lord, who controls the whole building. It’s a fight that is going to have to take them all the way to the top floor. Chaos ensues. That is essentially all the plot that you need to knew. A few twists and turns are thrown in along the way to flesh out the characters somewhat, but you don’t really care about that. You are perfectly happy to accept the thread-bare story because the action is just astounding. The martial art of pencak silat is beyond impressive; it’s quick, endlessly inventive and incredibly physical. The violence in the film also has to be seen to be believed; it’s bloody, bone-crushingly, neck snappingly good. It’s sheer inventiveness is incredibly exhausting, yet there is no film quite like it in terms of pure sheer adrenalin.

Shame-Poster4. Shame (Dir: Steve McQueen)

Another film from very early in the year that has certainly stuck in my mind to earn a very high place in my retrospective look back. A film that deserved to do so much more business during last year’s Awards season, Shame is a provocative, emotionally driven character study that delves into the hidden underworld of both the city of New York and a seemingly normal and successful man. Shame makes you question how well you can truly know someone through the depiction of two deeply troubled siblings, stunningly portrayed  by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Both are incredibly dedicated to the material, going to rather fully exposed lengths to express the troubled psyche of their individual characters; the sex-addicted Brandon and the bi-polar Sissy. I would hate to see what their childhood was like. McQueen directs with a delicate honesty; depicting rather uncomfortable scenes through a naturalistic and bizarrely beautiful lens. The largely hand-held camerawork and natural lighting present a raw atmosphere very much in keeping with the deeply personal arcs of the characters. This film is intense, hugely thought-provoking and one that very much stays with you, particularly its ambivalent ending that certainly questions the morality of your fellow human being. Check out my full review, you know you want to: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/review-shame-fassbender-bares-all/

3. Argo (Dir: Ben Affleck) Argo-poster

A film that I expect is going to do very well this coming awards season, Ben Affleck’s third directorial effort is his best yet, taking a familiar Hollywood genre (the true life espionage thriller) without feeling the need to reinvent it, just perfecting it through highly superior film-making. Depicting the story of the early 80’s Iranian hostage crisis, Affleck expertly blends a serious human drama infused with raw documentary footage, as well as presenting a very witty Hollywood satire. The balance that the film strikes between its very real and quite serious subject matter and the satire that is portrays of the Hollywood machine is one that a seasoned filmmaker would struggle to achieve, quite how Affleck manages to do it so deftly in his only his third picture is a triumph itself. Already proven to be a confident director with Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck also reminds us of how he can be a dependable leading man. It also helps that he as a great supporting cast including the ever dependable likes of Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston. As I stated in my review, if you can go into this film with no knowledge of the outcome of the real-life events, it certainly will benefit you in terms of how tense the final moments of the movie are; featuring one of the most nail-biting final acts of the year. With stunning attention to period detail and a ever-brilliant score from Alexandre Desplat, Argo is most certainly one of the more intelligent, well-made pieces of film-making of the year. Oh hey, look, a full review: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/review-argo-ben-affleck-and-the-great-canadian-caper/

Avengers Assemble poster  2. Avengers Assemble (Dir: Joss Whedon)

Hello again Mr. Whedon! Avengers Assemble, the biggest film of the year, the biggest comic-book movie of all time was very nearly my number one movie of the year. It is an incredibly ambitious movie; grouping together a large amount of characters from various different movies to establish a cinematic universe similar to that of their comic book counter parts. A lot was riding on Avengers Assemble; apart from Iron Man, the rest of the Phase One movies only made a fairly standard $300-$400 million, there was no telling that the Avengers Assemble would go on to become the third most successful movie of all time. Whedon crafts a blockbuster that comes to represent everything that I, and I’m sure everyone else, loves about perfectly crafted Hollywood blockbusters; delicious dialogue (mostly given to the awesome Tom Hiddleston as Loki), fluid and coherent action sequences and the impressive application of special effects to serve the story. It seems so effortless, but many blockbusters fail to strike that perfect chord of popcorn entertainment, just look at this years Battleship for how not to do it! As well as being an example of perfect popcorn entertainment, it’s sheer entertainment value and light-hearted spirit makes this Marvel movie, in my opinion, the ultimate comic-book made so far, with Whedon finally finding the material to give him the huge success that he has been robbed of so far in his career. It is better late than never I suppose, and the future of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is certainly in the most capable and talented hands possible. Bring on Phase Two! Sorry no full review for this one. OR IS THERE!?- https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/review-avengers-assemble-earths-mightiest-heroes-they-got-that-right/

1. Skyfall (Dir: Sam Mendes)Skyfall-poster

There you have it Ladies and Gentleman, my number one movie of the year that was; Skyfall. Which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise should you know my love of James Bond. Having recently become the first Bond movie to make a billion dollars, Skyfall stands as a testament to the enduring nature of the 50 year-old James Bond franchise, proving not only to be the most successful, but one of the best Bond movies amongst the 23 installments of the official EON canon. It perhaps isn’t the most original movie on this list, nor the best made, but in terms of what it means for a Bond fan, the level of satisfaction and pleasure from this cinematic experience was second to none this year. So much so I’m going to see it for the fourth time this week. It got my heart-racing and a put a huge grin on my face, right from its incredible opening to its ultimate fan pleasing ending. This year was an amazing year to be a Bond fan, and Skyfall was the greatest gift for all us loyal fans! It features one of the strongest Bond villains in recent memory in the form of Javier Bardem, Craig finally hits his stride as Bond, and all the knowing winks to the franchises past are handled in a delicate manner, escaping a sense of self-parody whilst also defiantly looking forwards to a new brighter future for Bond. Mendes combines both classical Bond elements with enough freshness to present a new kind of Bond movie. On evidence of this installment, the Bond franchise has the best future in sight that it has ever had in its long history. A stunning piece of franchise film-making that delivered all that I could have hoped for, proving to be my favourite cinematic experience of the year. You know what, you’ve been good, you can have another full review: https://andygaudion93.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/review-skyfall-sometimes-the-old-ways-are-the-best/

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

TED
KILLER JOE
THE MUPPETS
THE EXPENDABLES 2

All that is left to say is Happy New Year! I wish you all the best for the New Year, and lets hope we have another awesome year of movies ahead of us. Happy watching! Here’s a wonderfully edited tribute to the movies of the year gone by:

My Top 10 Movies of 2011!

Happy New Year everyone! I apologize for my massive lack of blogging lately, I’ve been at Uni, that has kept me rather busy. I did have the intention of really picking it back up once I broke up for Christmas, but unfortunately Word Press had other plans for me, failing to load up properly, even as I write to you now it isn’t running correctly. Hence the lack of images. And that’s just not cricket. So, as much as I would have liked to have had this Top 10 list for you before the New Year, I was unable to. But now here it is, my look back over the last 12 months of film and to share with you my favourites. Let the countdown commence!

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two (Dir: David Yates)- The most successful movie of the year had to end up on this list, if not just because of how successful it has been, but because of how well it managed to round off the worlds most popular franchise to such a satisfying degree. Not only does it give the fans exactly what they wanted; huge spectacle, magic galore and heartfelt emotion to boot, but it also stands as a brilliant movie in its own right. A lot of the Harry Potter movies suffer from weak acting and an uneven pace, yet this one manages to apologize for that with an unrelenting pace and the strongest performances from its three young leads, Radcliffe in particular who carries the film on his heartfelt and quietly subtle performance. And Alan Rickman is allowed his finest moments as Snape in the films most satisfying story thread. Warner Brothers will be hard pressed to find something to fill the Harry Potter void, and I’m sure audiences will too. At least it had a fantastic send off.

9. X-Men: First Class (Dir: Matthew Vaughan)- Another franchise movie (I promise this will be the last one on this list), and also another movie which improves upon the previous entries in its respective franchise. The X-Men franchise, in my opinion, really needed a boost after the shallow mess that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Kick Ass’ Matthew Vaughan did just that. On repeat viewings, First Class now sits as my favourite X-movie, no matter how good Bryan Singer’s X-2 still may be. I find this the first film of the series which fully grasps the team dynamic of the group of mutants, even if Professor x and Magneto have opposing views. It’s not just centered on one member, as all the movies prior to this were rather Wolvie-centric. First Class is a different game all together, introducing  a variety of new characters with a fresh new style, with a fantastic soundtrack from Henry Jackman. And Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy make for two outstanding leads, with excellent support from the likes of Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence. I just hope they don’t mess it all up with the planned sequel, get Vaughan on board and I’m sure it’ll be fine.

8. Source Code (Dir: Duncan Jones)- How do you follow up a film like Moon? I expected a lot from Source Code, Duncan Jones’ second movie as director following the exceptional Moon, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. It may not be as beautifully crafted as Moon was, but Source Code works amazingly well to highlight Jones’ skills as a director, proving he can do action without selling out to the Hollywood Machine by crafting an exciting movie around a hugely complex and layered concept. Jake Gyllenhaal also impresses as the man who finds himself subject of a Government programme, in which he must take on another man’s identity in the last 8 minutes of his life to find out who bombed a train in order to prevent a larger terrorist attack. And that’s just the start of it. If you are unfamiliar with both of Jones’ movies, I strongly recommend you find yourself a copy of Moon and Source Code now to see the work of a director, who I believe may one day take Christopher Nolan’s mantle of king of the thinking man’s action movie.

7. Submarine (Dir: Richard Ayoade)- This is not a film I have reviewed this year, as it’s one I only caught whilst at Uni at the Student Cinema. Sorry. But at least I can share with you my thoughts on it now. Richard ‘Moss from The IT Crowd’ Ayoade has produced one of the finest coming-of-age movies I have ever seen, let alone one of the best British movies this year. His style may be too similar to Wes Anderson for some, but I don’t particularly see that as a bad thing, and the British sensibilities of the movie more than allow it be considered original. It’s a witty, exuberant and wholly heartfelt film which manages to balance drama and awkward situations to both hilarious and heartbreaking results as we follow young Oliver Tate (the fantastic Craig Roberts) as he struggles to manage both his love life and his parents. With great performances, an even greater soundtrack featuring original songs from Arctic Monkeys front-man Alex Turner, I can’t wait to see what Ayoade comes out with next, because on this evidence, he is definitely a director to keep an eye on.

6. Super 8 (Dir: J.J. Abrams)- Of all the summer blockbusters that came out this year, Super 8 was undeniable the one with the biggest heart, refreshingly placing character and story above special effects and spectacle. It still features some very exciting action sequences, the chaotic train crash comes to mind, but it is the characters that stay with you once the credits begin to roll. Abrams certainly is working from the Spielberg ‘How-to’ Guide when it comes to both the wholesome style and child actors, who turn in some of the strongest performances of the year (notably Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning). It may feel like a film of two parts at points, the sci-fi horror does seem to be out of place with the coming-of-age drama at times, but for the most part Abrams manages to craft a larger than life sci-fi movie around very real and human situations. It hasn’t been done in quite the same way since, say, E.T. 

5. Melancholia (Dir: Lars Von Trier)- Another movie caught at Uni, this time at the Warwick Arts Centre, and one that may be hard to recommend, but if you want to see a movie of unique beauty and imagery then you can’t go far wrong with Melancholia. The reason it is rather hard to recommend is that it is not what you’d call a happy movie. It is quite depressing, I’d go as far to say thoroughly depressing. Then again, it would be hard for a film about a self-destructive bride-to-be (the hauntingly fantastic Kirsten Dunst) suffering from deep depression, while all the while a large planet by the name of Melancholia is on collision course for Earth, to be the feel-good film of the year. However, it is one filled with stunning imagery, and is by no means as hard to watch as Von Trier’s last movie, the downright terrifying Antichrist. It is also worth a watch to see Kirsten Dunst mature as an actress right before your eyes, and also for the greatest use of Wagner since The Great Dictator. So, by all means, watch this film for a stunning piece of art and a unique study of depression, just make sure you’re in the mood for a bit of a downer afterwards.

4. Black Swan (Dir: Darren Aronofsky)- It’s nearly a year ago since I first saw this movie, so it is a testament to how good it is that it managed to make through these 12 months of film and come out with a place in my Top 5. I believe it to be, hands down, Aronofsky’s best film; more accessible then Requiem For A Dream, more focused then The Fountain and more ambitious then The Wrestler. It’s a beautifully shot film, which is at times terrifying, mysterious yet always captivating. Natalie Portman’s Oscar Winning performance convey’s the arc of Nina’s character brilliantly, moving from naive and child-like to disturbed and unpredictable. Black Swan is so much more then just a movie about Ballet, it is a study of an art form, the human psyche and the pressures of a profession, albeit in an extreme fashion. A movie which most certainly stays on the brain.

3. Midnight in Paris (Dir: Woody Allen)- Another Warwick Arts Centre movie, they show some good films there! I’m not a huge Woody Allen fan, I find most of his movies a bit hit and miss, and for every Manhattan there’s a Cassandra’s Dream, but with Midnight in Paris, Allen has crafted probably the feel good movie of the year (watch this after Melancholia then). Owen Wilson is charming as struggling writer Gil, who during a midnight walk in Paris, somehow finds himself in the 1920’s. Whilst there, he rubs shoulders with some of the greatest creative minds of the 20th Century, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali. Part of the fun comes from trying to guess all the inter-textual references and also from the over-whelming and wholly satisfying whimsical spirit surrounding the whole thing. The high spirits of all involved in the cast certainly makes an impression, resulting in a film you know is going to have a happy ending right from the very beginning, and you have a hell of a ball along the way.

2. 50/50- How do you make a comedy about cancer? That was the question I was asking myself when I went to watch this movie, and the answer? Don’t make the laughs the priority. Sure, there are some great laughs, and the script is witty throughout, but I ultimately felt by the end of this movie that it is much more of a drama, a story of a young man who should be in his prime dealing with morality and the realities of cancer, all the while finding support from friends and family, some stronger then others. It is also a movie about finding the humour out of any situation, as comedy can help you get through all kinds of hardships in life. This is a mentality portrayed by the script and the two leads, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen, who make a brilliant pair. The film truly defines the term emotional roller-coaster. One minute you’ll be laughing away and the next you could be in tears (I may have shed a little one at a certain point). It is an accessible and charming movie, which allows you to become hugely invested in the characters, which certainly makes the emotional moments hit hard. And I think I’m in love with Anna Kendrick.

1. Drive (Dir: Nicholas Winding Refn)- A true definition of a Marmite movie; you will either absolutely love this movie, or hate it with a passion (here’s looking at you Dad & Dobson). If you didn’t already know, I absolutely loved this movie. On first viewing, I found it to be a deeply atmospheric movie, a simmering pot which erupts over the boil with shocking violence as we follow Ryan Gosling’s almost wordless Driver, a man of great skill behind the wheel who tries to find meaning in his life by helping his neighbor’s (the beautiful Carey Mulligan) family, only to get further embroiled in LA’s underworld. On second viewing, the pacing was much quicker, and for some reason the tension felt much more heightened, perhaps from appreciating the subtleties of the first half even more. It is a film filled to the brim with style, evoking an 80’s cult classic atmosphere right down to its electrifying soundtrack and its costume design (who knew wearing a jacket with a Scorpion on the back could be so cool). My love for this movie is in large part thanks to this highly defined style, appearing effortlessly cool through striking images rather then high octane car chases. This ain’t no Fast and Furious. And thank God, because what you have here is what can only be described as an art-house action movie. Without a doubt, my film of the year, even if Ryan doesn’t have a lot to say about it.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Rise of the Planet of the Apes 

127 Hours 

The King’s Speech 

Hanna 

Scream 4 

Now bring on 2012! Check out this montage of the movies from the 12 months just gone. Enjoy!

My Top 5 Films of Summer 2011!

We are now at the end of the summer season for movies, and in all fairness its been a fairly mixed one. And with the news yesterday that this year saw the biggest box office earnings ever, yet the smallest cinema attendance since 1997, I’ve been inspired to over look the last four or so months of cinema. The rise in box office earnings has to be attributed to the rising ticket costs as a result of the onslaught of 3-D movies as of late, but the lack of attendance may well have something to do with the movies that came out this year. The biggest box office takings came from the likes of Pirates, Transformers and Harry Potter, all firmly established franchises. There’s been a few surprises, particularly with Bridesmaids and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but ultimately the movies which have earnt the most money have been incredibly average (particularly with Pirates and Transformers, I’m starting to believe my 3 stars for that was rather too nice). But due to them being established franchises, people flocked to see them rather then catching something a bit more original. So, what movies do I believe to be the best of the bunch from this summer’s movie season? Before I reveal my Top 5, I’ll lay down the main rule: It has to be films that have had a cinema release in the period of May to the first week of September. Let’s get on with it shall we:

5. Fright Night- Box Office ATM: $18,081,797

Sure, I may have just recently given it a three star review, although I’m starting to think I should have given it four, as theoretically that star rating places it on par with Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Hangover Part Two. I’ll have to see how I feel when I eventually watch it again, but that does say something about the quality of the movies this summer season if my countdown begins with a three star movie (it can only get better from here). However, that’s not to say Fright Night is a bad film, if you read my recent review, you’ll discover that I found the film to be a fun and refreshingly old-fashioned vampire movie, which has plenty to offer particularly in terms of its cast. And it really is a shame to see it not perform as well as I hoped. It only managed to open in 5th place in the US, and 7th in the UK. The box office does not reflect the quality of the film at all. If it did then it should be making more money then the last Transformers and Pirates combined. Now that’d be a box office taking worth talking about. But I do seriously recommend seeing this movie at the cinemas for a bit of vampire fun. And the music score alone is a reason to watch it, as it easily sits as one of the best film scores of this year.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two- Box Office ATM: $1,312,934,867

The biggest box office earner in this list, not a surprise considering it is now the highest grossing movie of this year, the highest grossing of the series and the third highest grossing movie of all time. And rightly so. The Harry Potter franchise has been huge from day one, but it seems fitting that the last installment should be the one that rakes in the most money. I guess. But it is certainly one of the strongest installments out of the whole franchise, amounting to a wholly satisfying experience that kept most fans happy (no matter how daft that prologue was). Potter was one of the main films that got both the most money and the most bums on seats this summer, as it is still holding strong in the UK Top Ten Charts. Granted, it’s at number nine, but still pretty impressive considering it’s above Cowboys and Aliens, which came out about three weeks ago. A little off topic, but I recommend watching the ‘How It Should Have Ended’ video for this film, it’s pretty funny and does bring some rather good points to light.

3. The Inbetweeners Movie- Box Office ATM: almost £35,000,000

It seems strange that two of my Top 5 Summer movies have come from the last week of the summer, but oh well, they earnt their places in this list. I caught The Inbetweeners Movie along with Fright Night during my long weekend in Jersey, and once I was sat there watching this, it was not hard to see why it has become the success it has. That £35 million has literally just come UK audiences, as the film has yet to open anywhere else. So, already, its national box office taking is nearly double the amount of Fright Night‘s worldwide takings. I’m starting to feel quite bad for old Fright Night. I’m not sure how well The Inbetweeners will do overseas, particularly in the States, but I think the creators and the cast will be more than happy with what they’ve done on the home front with their movie, which had the tiny budget of £3.5 million. And what about those recent rumblings of a sequel picking up four years later with one of the lads getting married? I wouldn’t bet on it, as the creators Iain Morris and Damon Beesley have denied these rumours rather quickly, stating that they’ve been mostly drunk since the films release, so talks of a sequel are unlikely. Personally, I’d like to see it end here, go out on a high!

2. X-Men: First Class– Box Office ATM: $352,520,467

The fifth movie in the X-Men canon came to be the biggest surprise of the summer for me. After the disappointing Wolverine movie, the franchise needed a strong entry to give it a fresh breath of energy and to get it back on track. And First Class did just that, surprisingly well. I didn’t expect it to be this good, but with an excellent cast led by the outstanding performances of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, and stylish direction from Matthew Kick Ass Vaughan, I guess there was no way this could go wrong. This is one movie that did fairly decent business in the box office, even though it did have a rather high budget of around $140 million. It’s one that certainly did more business as time went on, thanks to positive word of mouth. You can never underestimate the power of word of mouth when it comes to the movie industry. And thankfully, the box office takings and the almost universal praise from critics has inspired 20th Century Fox to move forward with a sequel! I’d be more than happy to re-visit these characters if all the actors returned and Vaughan was once again in the directors chair.

1. Super 8– Box Office ATM: $249,049,782

My favourite movie of this summer, is probably the most old school summer movie to come out in recent years. And there’s certainly no school like the old school. J.J. Abrams perfectly captures the spirit of Steven Spielberg’s earlier works, particularly the other worldly, yet human, backbone of his sci-fi classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This old fashioned style of filmmaking and storytelling may well be why Super 8 failed to make a huge impression in terms of box office takings. It was made for the tidy sum of $50 million (a very low amount for big Hollywood pictures these days) so that makes the takings look a bit better. However, the leaked copy that was owned by Howard Stern probably didn’t help the box office in the slightest, showing how piracy can have a damaging effect on movies these days. Yes, I may have not watched this in the cinema, but it was because I had no other choice and I really wanted to see it! I’m sure J.J. would understand. But if you did manage to catch this in cinemas, then I’m sure you’ll agree that this was the most emotional, personal and exciting movie to come out this summer. Some critics said it was unbalanced, true in some areas, but it’s a film with so much heart you’ll cease to care. It’s that kind of movie. Just not a billion dollar breaking one.

There you have it, my top 5 films of this summer. There are plenty of films that I didn’t manage to see that I probably would have really enjoyed and they may have well have found their way on to this list (here’s looking at you, Captain America). I wouldn’t say its been a disappointing summer in terms of movie, just one that has only had a few gems amongst a bundle of mediocrity. But there were some strong movies in the earlier months of the year, from the award season movies to the April releases of the awesome Scream 4 and enjoyable Thor. Hopefully the last three to four months of the year we’ll see some great movies, with the likes of Tintin, Mission Impossible 4 and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy heading our way in the near future. Lets just wait and see.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away… May the 4th unofficially is known as Star Wars day (actually official in L.A.) and to celebrate this day for one of the most iconic franchises in the world, I shall list my Top 6 Star Wars moments. It won’t be one from each film as I’ve just gone for my general favourite moments from the franchise. So let’s not beat around Beggar’s Canyon, here are my Top 6 Star Wars moments:

6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith- Battle of Heroes; Anakin Skywalker Vs. Obi Wan Kenobi- 

Say what you want about Episode III, it is by far the strongest of the prequels and takes the franchise into darker areas that had been promised from the prequels. And it does have it’s really great moments. This is one of them.  Anakin has now turned to the dark side (boo) and Obi Wan has come for a final showdown to put a stop to Anakin (who at this point has been given the Darth Vader title) and the Emperor’s plans to take over the Galaxy. The location is the Volcano planet of Mustafar, and it isn’t going to end well, particularly for young Skywalker. Hayden Christensen’s cringe-worthy acting aside, this is an example of the prequels very well choreographed lightsaber battles that are incredibly inventive and exciting, with a stirring score by the great John Williams. And Obi Wan’s speech at the end always gets me! Check out the saber clashing below… that sounds a bit wrong:

5. Star Wars Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back- Han frozen in Carbonite

Never trust Lando Calrissian. Especially when he seems to be the only Black guy in the galaxy (Original trilogy anyway). Because he’ll end up turning you into the Empire, nicking your spaceship and wearing your clothes at the end of the movie. That aside, being frozen in carbonite really takes the biscuit. Especially after you’ve finally gotten the Princess to like you after some heated flirting. Well, that’s just the case for the true hero of the franchise, Han Solo, who is placed into frozen carbonite as a test before Darth Vader uses the same technology on Luke. It is one of the franchises’ darkest moments from the best Star Wars movie, and really sees the stakes heightened as the Empire gets the upper hand. And Han’s comeback line to Leia’s ‘I love you’ is pretty smooth. Cocky bastard.

4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace- Duel of Fates; Qui Gon and Obi Wan Vs. Darth Maul-

Anything praising The Phantom Menace could be deemed as controversial, as many Star Wars fans see this film as the moment George Lucas sold out and tarnished the memory of Star Wars. He did get a lot wrong, the inclusion of midichlorians and adding characters in for the sake of merchandise and grabbing new child audiences (here’s looking at you Jar Jar) being just two of them . But was it really ever going to be as good as the originals? No is my answer. Particularly with that dialogue, which wouldn’t seem to go away for the course of all three prequels. But this scene has to stand amongst the best of the whole Star Wars franchise. It has some of the best John Williams music, brilliant choreography and a chance to really show what the Jedi’s could do before the Jedi Order fell. Oh, and a dual lightsaber. Seriously, when watching this as a 6 year-old at a massive cinema in England back in 1999, there was really no other film that was better at the time. So for that reason,  no matter what my less naive-self may think now, Episode I will always serve as a happy memory.

3. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope- Mos Eisley Cantina

Not only just for the music (which easily warrants it a place) but because a lot of what is iconic Star Wars can be sound in this just over 6-minute scene. It’s the first moment that we see the lightsaber used in ‘slicing and dicing’ action, we’re introduced to Han Solo and his trusty sidekick Chewbacca and the immortal quote “two droids, and no questions asked,” is delivered by Sir Alec Guinness in all his dignified glory as Obi Wan Kenobi. It also contains some great and highly imaginative creature designs amongst the paitrants of the Mos Eisley cantina, in which you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. The face off between Han and Greedo can also be found here, thus beginning the Star Wars fan argument of who shot first. This clip is from the much detested remastered additions of the original movies, and it clearly shows Greedo shooting first. Maybe that is how Lucas intended it. Dah well, Han always wins at the end of the day.

2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back- ‘I am your father!’

Clichéd choice? Definitely. But only because of how much it really means to Star Wars and everything that followed it, turning the whole franchise and story on its head. The moment is, of course, after lopping his hand off, the evil Darth Vader reveals to our clean-cut hero Luke Skywalker that he is, in fact, his father. Dun-dun-DUUUUUN! It was the movie twist of the 80’s and still one of the greatest in film history, creating speculation as to what this realisation means for Luke. Is he destined to follow in the same footsteps as his father? And what will he do without a hand? A dark twist to a dark tale, which saw the perfect set up for the concluding part, Return of the Jedi. Remind yourself below, as I doubt you’ll be reading this list if you’ve never seen Star Wars. And if you never have… then I find your lack of faith disturbing!

1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope- Binary Sunset 

My top Star Wars moment is also the shortest in this list. The Binary Sunset that Luke gazes out upon on his home planet of Tatooine, as its two Suns set on the horizon. It’s one of George Lucas’ more sombre and subtle moments of a filmmaker, yet undeniably Sci-Fi. It shows Luke longing for adventure as he gazes out over the Suns, with the hint that there more is meant for him then just living on a farm with his Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. And it’s not long until that adventure begins for both Luke and us as the audience. It is this moment that always comes to mind whenever I think of Star Wars, and therefore it defines the franchise for me. For all its special effects, space battles, lightsabers, aliens and iconic characters, it is this image that will always define Star Wars for me. A film about hope, escapism and adventure, a classic story of good and evil in Sci-Fi packaging that anyone can, or learn, to enjoy. That, is why there is a Star Wars day.

So there you have it, my top Star Wars moments. Sorry if you’re disappointed not to see any Attack of the Clones or Return of the Jedi in there, but their moments didn’t quite make the cut in my opinion, (well, Jedi nearly got in there, Attack of the Clones remains a rather dull entry in the series, was back then, still is now). The final act of Jedi has to have a special mention as Luke faces off against both Vader and the Emperor. But I think the moments above highlight some of the great moments from a franchise that will continue to live on among many film fans. Right I’m off to Alderaan, no questions asked. Thanks for stopping by, and remember, the force shall be with you, always.

My Top 5 Films of 1993!

This weekend, I will be turning 18 on the 16th April, which is also the same day as Charlie Chaplin as Spike Milligan’s birthdays. Go me. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I thought I’d do a Top 5 list highlighting my favourite movies from the year I came into the world. Looking over what films came out in this year, I was surprised by how many good films there actually were within the year. There was The Piano, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Shadowlands and that timeless classic Super Mario Bros: The Movie (ahem). The cream of the crop for me though are the following 5 movies, some that I grew up with and some I’ve discovered over the course of my 18 years. Getting old now. So, here I present my 5 favourite movies from 1993… the year legends were born.

1. Jurassic Park: Dir- Steven Spielberg

The biggest blockbuster of 1993, and the 16th highest grossing movie of all time just has to be in this list. This is certainly one I grew up, as I was once a Dinosaur fanatic, wanting to be a paleontologist like Sam Neill’s Alan Grant (saying that, my future career always seemed to change depending on what film I was in to at the time). This has to be a film that everyone has seen (if not, then there is something wrong with you), a perfect adventure in which a group of Dino-experts and scientists are invited to Isla Nublar an island just off of Costa Rica, where an ambitious billionaire has discovered how to bring Dinosaurs back to life, inventing a theme park in which to present them. This brings up all sorts of questions on existentialism and morality, but that isn’t what really matters with this movie, what matters is the Dino-action as the inhabitants of the park soon go out of control. And after the foreboding and slow-burning first half, all hell breaks loose in a glory of pioneering visual effects and excellent animatronic work by the late great Stan Winston, based on the book by the also sadly deceased Michael Crichton. It’s no wonder that this movie reached just shy off the Billion dollar mark on its initial release in the Summer of ’93. The film spawned two inferior yet still highly entertaining sequels, with the fourth stuck in what seems to be an endless circle of development hell. Which seems a bit strange, considering this is both Spielberg’s and Universal’s most financially successful film. Still, there is something I suggest you watch to keep yourselves satisfied if JP4 never materializes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-6cfumntM8 

2. Schindler’s List: Dir- Steven Spielberg

It really is a testament to your skill as a director if you can go from making a film like Jurassic Park, and then make the most personal film of your career, one that makes people take you seriously as a director, one so gut-wrenchingly emotional and vital that it is one of those films that just has to be seen. Schindler’s List is one of those films, proving Spielberg could make more than just box-office friendly blockbusters. He was over-seeing editing on Jurassic Park whilst filming this true-life tale of one Oskar Schindler (the excellent Liam Neeson), a man who enlisted Jewish workers into his ammunitions factory, in turn saving thousands of lives from the horrors of the Concentration Camps. The cast is flawless, particularly Ralph Fiennes, who is perfectly evil as S.S Officer Amon Goth, and it features a beautiful score from the one and only John Williams. It’s a hard film to watch more than once, as when are you ever really in the mood to watch a film about the Holocaust, but it’s a film made with such craft and masterful skill that it needs to be seen. It throughly deserved to sweep the boards at the Award ceremonies of this year, which it did, winning 7 Oscars, 7 Baftas and 3 Golden Globes.

3. Demolition Man: Dir- Marco Brambilla 

 On a less serious note, my third movie in this list is a daft, fun and awesome action movie which a refreshing air of originality about it. That’s pretty rare for a 90’s action movie. Sly Stallone stars as John Spartan (awesome name), a reckless cop who has gained the nickname Demolition Man due to his unorthodox policing methods, is put into a cryogenic prison after his successful arrest of madman killer Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes, also another awesome name) results in the death of hostages. Both are placed in the freezer, but when Phoenix is defrosted and sent on the rampage in the clean-cut future of 2032. The decision is made to defrost the only cop who successfully captured Phoenix, John Spartan. The amount of detail gone into the conception of the dystopia future landscape of San Angeles, in which all swearing, violence and general nasty things have been eradicated by the new order of the city that used to be San Diego and Los Angeles. Along with some fun action, good support from Sandra Bullock, this goes down as one of Stallone’s strongest action pictures. It’s also worthy to note that  Stallone had another good action flick in this year in the form of Cliffhanger, which I highly recommend as well.

4. The Fugitive: Dir- Andrew Davis

Another Best Picture contender of this year (the first movie based on a TV series to gain such a nomination), is something that you don’t really see get nominated, a quick paced action-packed popcorn flick. Harrison Ford stars as Dr. Richard Kimble, who returns home from work one day to find his wife has been murdered. If that wasn’t bad enough, the lack of evidence and a mis-leading 911 call put Kimble as the main suspect. Determined to prove his innocence and find out who really killed his wife, Kimble escapes from prison and becomes… a Fugitive. So that’s why they called it that. As Kimble investigates, he must also try to stay one step ahead of the U.S. Marshalls who are after him, led by Deputy Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). Despite a great performance, I’m still surprised Jones won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar over Fiennes this year, but the film itself is incredibly involving, through inventive action and an engrossing mystery as to the true identity of the killer. Also, fellow Scrubs fans, keep an eye out for the Janitor on the subway train scene, as once referenced in an episode.

5. Mrs. Doubtfire: Dir- Chris Columbus

Out of context, the premise for this film would seem a bit strange. A Dad desperate to see his kids cross-dresses as an old woman so he can infiltrate his ex-wife’s home and spend quality time with them. But it really is quite a sweet and funny film at heart. Despite paedophilic undertones. It is Robin Williams at his best, in the granny suit moving from slapstick to more sentimental humorous moments. Williams had a great run of movies in the 90’s, from Aladdin to Jumanji to his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting. He’s been a bit quiet in recent years (although I highly recommend his film from last year, The Worlds Greatest Dad), but those films and particularly this one highlight how much of both an acting talent and comedic talent and Hollywood superstar Williams was back in the day. Most of the funniest scenes of this movie were as a result of improvisation, and I’m sure it must have been hard for the cast (which features the girl from Matilda and a pre-Bond Pierce Brosnan) to keep up. So for daft, touching, classic Robin Williams you can’t go much wrong with this one.

Ok, that rounds out my Top 5 films from the year I was born. I hope you enjoyed the choices and have been inspired to either watch these films again or discover them for yourselves. Right, I’m off down the pub. Live long and prosper.

My Top 5 Romantic Comedies!

Or otherwise titled, 5 Romantic Comedies it’s okay to like. With it being Valentine’s Day and all, I thought it’d be nice and seasonal to do this list for you all on this day of love and stuff. Ick. I’d like to think these are fairly unconventional choices and are films which although at heart are romantic comedies, they have a lot more to say for themselves. So you won’t be finding any run of the mill Jennifer Aniston or Kate Hudson crap in this list. No sir. If you fancy a change to those kind of films then check out the following films if you can:

1. (500) Days Of Summer- (2009)

My favourite Rom-Com is also one of my favourite films due entirely to the story of one guy’s relationship with the girl of his dreams, Summer (who happens to be played by my number one movie crush as well, Zooey Deschanel). It’s very unconventional for Rom-Com’s. For one, it is from the guy’s perspective which rarely happens, whilst also featuring a non-linear timeline as the film cuts back and forth over the duration of the how long these two people were in each others lives (no points for guessing how long that is). Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an incredibly likeable lead, someone I think any bloke can relate to. I certainly did. The film is unbelievably original in an age when it’s very tough to be, with some very memorable and well constructed scenes, dance routine and the split screen sequences being personal favourites. With a memorable soundtrack to boot (featuring both The Smiths and the much more upbeat Hall and Oates) and with a wave of indie freshness, that although not at times the cheeriest rom-com, it is one that is charming and hard not to like.

2. High Fidelity- (2000)

The film that actually inspired me to do these Top 5 lists, as John Cusack’s Rob gives a number of Top 5 lists in this romantic dramedy about love, music and other great hits.  Based on the equally great novel by Nick Hornby, the movie moves the North London setting of the novel to the streets of Chicago. Rob Gordon (the awesome John Cusack) owns a record store and his life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, particularly when his girlfriend leaves him. This moment inspires Rob to re-evaluate his life and take a second look at everything. It’s a romantic comedy of self-discovery, with Cusack giving one of his best performances, always breaking the fourth wall, talking directly to us during his many monologues. Again, not the most up-beat, but a satisfying experience none the less. Definitely give both this and the book a look if you can. And this features an awesome soundtrack, loving the Beta Band and Velvet Underground here!

 

 3. Garden State- (2004)

All three of these movies so far are very much in the same DNA. Can be fairly downbeat at times, is from the guy’s perspective, quite indie and it has an awesome soundtrack. Garden State, which stars Scrub’s Zach Braff (who was also on writing and directing duties), has all these qualities. Braff stars as Andrew Largeman, a struggling actor out of touch with this life who goes on a journey of self-discovery when he returns to his home town following the death of his mother. Whilst there, he strikes up a strange friendship with the kooky-spirited Sam (a brilliantly energetic Natalie Portman). It’s an incredibly strong directional debut from Braff, who really needs to do more of this stuff, and an unusual love story. Braff and Portman make a strange couple, but they work mostly because Braff’s Andrew is so devoid of life, he needs a girl like Sam to kick-start his life. Highlights from this soundtrack include The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel and Frou Frou.

 4. Say Anything- (1989)

John Cusack’s back again! Say Anything is one of one the movies that truly established Cusack as a teen movie icon, along with all the Brat Pack and John Hughes regulars. Cusack was more for these sort of movies though, straight lined rom-coms rather than ensemble teen comedy dramas. This is one of his best 80’s movies, which is also the directional debut of Vanilla Sky’s Cameron Crowe. Cusack plays Lloyd Dobbler, a nice guy who isn’t really going anywhere in life, but is always in high spirits. Lloyd desperately wants to go out with the high-acheiving, beautiful, yet socially detached Diane Court. Sure enough, the pair hit it off and fall in love in the summer before she heads off to college, much to the dismay of her over-protective father. It’s an incredibly likeable film and Cusack is once again very relatable. It doesn’t have as memorable a soundtrack as the films above, but its got a good Peter Gabriel song in it and some good old 80’s pop. And plus the title for this film was the inspiration for the band Say Anything as well. So be thankful for that.

 

5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s- (1961)

Probably the most conventional choice on this list. But then again it is a classic. Hence why Deep Blue Something named a song after it. It’s one of the most charming movies I’ve ever seen, a film that’s very hard not to admire. Audrey Hepburn is the definitive movie starlet, lighting up the screen as Holly Golightly, a socialite living in New York, who becomes the point of interest of a journalist in her apartment building called Paul, played by future A-Team leader George Peppard. As the two get closer, Paul begins to discover a vulnerable and sweet girl underneath her glamorous persona. The film hits its 50th Anniversary this year, and if it wasn’t for the rather racist portrayal of a Chinese man by Mickey Rooney, this would be pretty un-dated and still a very fresh love story. And yes, it does also feature a great soundtrack with the classic Henry Mancini track,  Moon River, which features heavily throughout the movie and, in course, becoming the timeless classic that it is now. Much like the film itself really.

 

Looking back over this list, I’ve noticed all the films deal with characters fighting with their own neuroses. Not too sure what that says about me then. But I hope you’ve enjoyed this list and have been inspired to watch something maybe a little bit different this Valentines Day. I guess all that is left to say now is that  I hope you all have a great Valentines Day, be you single or in a relationship, I hope you enjoy yourselves. Don’t be too down fellow singletons, The Social Network is out on DVD today, so we’re sorted! Much love to everyone.