Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
So what can be said for Cinema in 2010. Was it a defining year, or did it deliver disappointment after disappointment? The truth is, is that 2010 was like every other year. A few stand outs, a few turds, and plenty of average films in between. Drawn from the entirety of films you see above, I attempted to fit in as much variety and different types of films from all over, and not just Hollywood. Now my top 10 will offer no surprises for most people. You will see most of these films making every end of year list compiled and needless to say, if you have not seen any of those films, they should be checked out immediately. Not all of those films were reviewed here unfortunately. Some missed the beginning of the blog, some I saw too late in the year, long after they had left the multiplexes and some just weren’t that interesting for me to write about. Would a goal to review every single new release I see be completely out of the question for 2011? Time and my own procrastination will only tell. It should also be noted, that some films released in Europe and this year such as ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘Up In the Air’ were originally seen last year by me and therefore I decided not to include them. Other awards season contenders out very early in 2011 have also not been released yet and will not be included here. As for now, here is my own, personal Top 10 Films from 2010 and for various different reasons, some of the more memorable scenes from the year
Completely unsurprisingly ruling the year; it offered stunning images, a head spinning plot and will be remembered as a true classic many years from now.
2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Edgar Wrights first foray into mainstream cinema, may not have set the box office alight, but it provided some of the most awe inspiring visual treats, a kick ass soundtrack and one of the most original visions on screen that no one other than Wright could ever have got away with.
A completely surprising and daring thriller; it’s first moments of ‘how are they going to sustain this?’ quickly gives way to ‘where did the last hour and a half go?’ Ryan Reynolds gives an incredible one man performance and the film is as thrilling and action packed as any multi-million blockbuster and twice as clever and exciting.
4. Exit Through The Gift Shop
Banksys hilarious debut feature documentary (or is that prankumentray?) offers great insight into modern art and features the years most endearing hero/villain.
5. Toy Story 3
Only Pixar could have made a truly fitting end to their classic trilogy and what could have been a shameless cash-in, is swiftly revealed as a touching and emotional finish for Woody, Buzz and the childhood in all of us.
6. The Social Network
The pairing of Fincher and Sorkin was a match made in heaven as Finchers technical visual expertise melds perfectly with Sorkins fluid, rapid fire dialogue. A film that in many years to come will be remembered as a defining snapshot to our times.
7. Shutter Island
It wasn’t the (admittedly quite basic) twist that made the film, but rather Scorsese’s stunning control of it mixed with DiCaprio’s heart wrenching performance. Looked on as more than a gimmick, and it is obvious the film delivered far deeper themes than what was initially expected.
8. Rec 2
The definition of how to deliver a sequel to a modern horror classic. Initially beginning as ‘more of the same’ it soon widens its scope to deepen the story and add more layers to it’s one note premise, along with some of the most heart stoppingly tense scenes this year.
9. How To Train Your Dragon
For the first time, Dreamworks step up as a very formidable opponent to Pixars all domineering animated kingdom. ‘Dragon’ mixed genuine heartfelt emotion with stunning 3D and fantastic action scenes.
10. Kick Ass
Matthew Vaughn offered the most out and out fun you could have in a cinema this year. Here the comic book heroes are either completely incompetent or slightly psychotic and the audience loves them all the more for it. In Hit-Girl, an icon is born.
Film Trends of the Year:
2010 saw the regular spate of remakes and comic book movies that are to be expected with any other year. However, this year had a few other trends running throughout. One of these was the ‘Ensemble Action Film’. From ‘The Expendables’, to ‘The Losers’, to ‘The A Team’, to ‘RED’, cinema loved getting a mismatched (and more often than not, elderly) group of thought to be down and outs to come and save the day. All of these films despite a distinctive retro tone running though them all, hardly set any action fans world on fire. They were fun, but instantly forgettable. However, if anything, it was nice to see such interesting casts assembled that relied more on chemistry and talent rather than star wattage to sell their film.
Much more successful was the ‘Single Location Film’. This was the relatively simple prospect of one location, one obstacle for our hero(es) to overcome. Most of these managed to overcome their boundaries and deliver on most fronts in their chosen genre, be it drama, horror, thriller or war. Included was ‘Buried’, ‘Devil’, ’Lebanon’, ‘Exam’ and the yet to be released ‘127 Hours’. The fact that these actually delivered what they set out to do with such minimalist ideals was quite refreshing and while the single location film is hardly new in the history of cinema, these all brought it back in barnstorming fashion. It proves that all you really need for a film is originality, good acting and talent on the directors part to overcome a potential hour and a half of visual dreariness. ‘Buried’ had one of the most heart stopping action scenes this year and that was set in a coffin in which our hero can barely move and visibility is always very low. ‘Lebanon’, set entirely in a very claustrophobic tank, offered some refreshing views on the familiar ‘war is hell’ routine and in that crying horse, had one of the more sobering images of the year. ‘Exam’ featured a fantastic cast of British actors and didn’t ponder to audiences; rather took them along for the ride, tantalisingly explaining tidbits of information both in and outside of that room and letting our imagination do the rest. And lastly ‘Devil’ showed that not everything M Night Shyamalan touches need turn to death. While nothing special, it was still a nicely diverting hour and ten minutes spent in an elevator.
The ‘Prankumentary’ also featured throughout the year. It seemed that more than ever, film makers loved toying with their audiences. A Prankumentray is not a Mockumentray along the lines of ‘The Last Exorcist’ or ‘Cloverfield’, but rather it is a film presented entirely as fact. In fact, the odd thing about these (‘I’m Still Here’ aside) is that it is not entirely certain whether these films are actually fact. So while Joaquin Phoenix went off the rails and no one cared or batted an eye lid when it turned out to be false shortly after the films release; the jury is still out on whether or not ‘Catfish’, or ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’ are. Of course to speak more about either of those would spoil the fun and surprises of both, but it is interesting to do some research after seeing both and let yourself draw your own conclusion.
While on the topic of ‘Catfish’ it is also obvious that ‘Social Networking’ made its mark in cinema this year. Of course both that and ‘The Social Network’ used Facebook heavily in their tales. 'Kick Ass’ used MySpace and YouTube to spread the word about his services as a superhero while Justin Long and Drew Barrymore used Skype in helping to enable their long distance relationship in ‘Going The Distance’. The just released ‘Chatroom’ showed the potential dark side of talking to faceless strangers online. These films and more show how much more closely cinema is using other forms of multimedia and is growing ever more connected to film. You just have to look at how important video game tie-ins are with big budgeted releases.
Lastly it should be noted at just how sick the creators of ‘Megamind’ must have been when they found that their supposed original idea of having ‘The Lead Character, be a Supervillain in a Kids Film’ concept had just been pipped by ‘Dispicable Me’ only a few short months prior. The ‘Antz’ vs. ‘A Bugs Life’ animation battle of 2010 anyone?
Best Scares: (Spoilers Follow)
While not a landmark year as far as horror goes, there were still some memorable scares. It’s lucky to see one truly good horror a year and this year my own personal count had two; ‘The House of The Devil’ and ‘Rec2’. Unfortunately I can’t truly justify including a link to ‘The House of The Devil’, as those who have seen the film will know it relies heavily on atmosphere and mood and anything taken out of context here will simply not work. While the film is certainly incredibly divisive, I will still thoroughly recommend it to those who have not seen it, and wish for something different from their horror. ‘Rec2’ however is a fantastic rollercoaster of a horror. It barely pauses for breath during its running time and fills as much nerve shredding terror as it can into it. A perfect illustration here puts the viewer perfectly between a rock and a hard place, or more specificly, an infected zombie and a bathroom.
Joe Dante’s grand return to Directing was a surprising minor success with 'The Hole'. Working as a veritable ‘best of’ of various horrors throughout the year added to its charm more than took away from it. A kids chiller the likes of which they don’t make anymore, it proved Dante still knows how to work an eerie scene. And while it may have its detractors ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ was another horror sequel actually better than the original. Following the exact same formula, it picks up before the last one ended and deepens our understanding of the original characters, while also adding more genuine action and horror into the mix, of which the first one was severely lacking. See this near climactic scene in which a Mother innocently goes to check on her baby igniting a fantastic shockwave of screams in the theatre.
Best Action Scenes: (Spoilers Follow)
The Summer blockbuster season was certainly where, without a shadow of a doubt, you could say the year was lacking. Christopher Nolan’s effort aside, no Directors really delivered on their one, very simple goal: escapism. An action scene is incredibly hard to craft. Sure, anyone can blow up a bridge as Michael Bay can attest to, but to make a truly memorable scene, you must first have a context in which to base it. Not purely action for the sake of it, if you want to give your adrenaline glands a work out, they must be invested in the characters, the story and most importantly, the stakes. The higher the stakes, the better the action scene. ‘Inceptions’ revolving hallway was remarkable for a multitude of reasons; the sheer awesome technical prowess that went into the set, the fantastic camera work, Jospeh Gorden Levitts real stunt work, and the fact that the stakes are growing higher by the minute, with everyones actions in their different state of consciousness reflecting back onto their comrades in deeper levels. When a scene is so unlike anything we have witnessed before, without the overuse of CGI, it can be truly awe inspiring.
‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World’ took the most unusual approach to fight scenes this year in Edgar Wrights filming them as if they were a musical interlude to the story. Inventive, witty and full of visual magic, they helped confirm Wright as being one of the best young Directors working today. They also served as a great metaphor for Scott’s conflicted mindset towards the girl of his dreams Ramona, and took a fascinating new take on the cliché romantic staple of fighting for the one you love; here Scott literally does fight those who oppose his and Ramonas love. Interestingly the world of ‘Scott Pilgrim’ could easily all just exist in the mind of our titular hero who has simply took a heavy overdose on pop culture, music and video games.
‘Iron Man 2’ got the Summer off to a satisfying start with this scene. Iron Man, for all his gadgets and cool fire power is really almost too strong for anyone to truly prove themselves to be a formidable threat to him. It was refreshing to see this then, in which Tony Stark finds himself at the whim of the psychotic bad guy without his suit.
‘How To Train Your Dragon’ featured stunning use of its beautiful animation in glorious 3D, however, what truly made the flying sequences work was the very simple act, that our lonely hero was finally making friends with the very misunderstood dragon. Not as twee as that sounds, I defy anyone not to get a small rush the first time Hiccup takes to the sky with Toothless.
There is something immediately stunning about the extended long take in cinema. Everything from Welles bravura opening to ‘Touch Of Evil’ to PT Andersons stunning steadicam in ‘Boogie Nights’, there is an incredible artistry to that one roaming sustained take. Alfonso Cuaron achieved stunning results in ‘Children of Men’, a film which by its sheer dedication to its world, put you in the heart of the action. This was obviously something The Hughes Brothers took on board when crafting this shoot out in ‘The Book Of Eli’. An exceptional scene in an otherwise unexceptional film.
All the action scenes featured here all did something new with their scene, so that while the context of some of them might not be anything new, it was the delivery of them that proved them being exceptional in some way. Now a basic hallway gun and fist fight is nothing new by anyones standards, but what if it’s a 12 year old girl laying glorious waste to a room full of henchmen in ultra violent fashion as ‘Kick Ass’ so ably demonstrated?
Shocking Moments: (Spoilers and Violent Scenes Follow)
I love shocking moments in Cinema for a variety of reasons. Outside of the horror genre, when these scenes hit, they hit you like a ton of bricks. Due to the fact that you are not usually expecting scenes of such force in these films, they shock all the more. For shocking scenes to truly work, they must come out of the blue, and yet be completely relevant to the story. As a result they force the viewer to become ever more enthralled in the world being conveyed and are quite hard to shake after initially seeing them. They jolt the viewer into something far stronger than a simple ‘jump’ you might experience in your regular teen slasher fare. They register deep inside. Needless to say, that all scenes that follow feature heavy spoilers and for their best effect, must be watched within the overall context of the full film for their true effect. Some scenes of a violent nature follow.
While it received some of the most glorious reviews of the year, I found ‘A Prophet’ to be slightly overrated. However, the film was a fantastic prison/crime drama in many ways, such as that razor blade scene. The brutal realism, the unflinching eye for detail and the slow pain staking build up contrasted with the release of the murder itself ensured it as one of the most nerve shredding scenes in recent memory. Malik is still fresh in the prison, young and easily relatable. The thought of having to murder someone in cold blood to save ones skin in as harsh an environment as the prison presented here is horribly realistically portrayed. The shock of explosion of violence when it comes to the fumbling and very messy deed is only matched by Maliks ‘training’ on hiding the razor behind his teeth. As unglorified a depiction of murder as you can get, it easily stands as one of the more stunning sequences this year.
‘Dogtooth’ easily must be recognised as one of the more odd offerings of the year. A story in which a Greek family is dominated over by their Father, to the point where all are prevented from seeing or experiencing life outside their home, until they lose their titular dogtooth (incisor). When life comes crashing in on the family in a variety of different ways, it makes the eldest daughter question everything she ever believed in. Caught in a world she knows to be false with a world she now cannot possibly understand or comprehend, she takes matters into her own hands by trying to get rid of her own dogtooth, by force - the only way she believes, she will ever be free. The end is as realistic (and stomach churningly) violent, as it is heartbreaking. More on ‘Dogtooth’ later.
‘Four Lions’ was certainly one of the more controversial offerings of the year. The subversive genius of Chris Morris was as evident here as it always has been; could anyone else have made a comedy farce about suicide bombers and got away with it. Morris never forgets the gravity of its theme amongst all the comedy. As events built very nicely towards a jaw dropping and hilarious climax, it was never forgotten than in between all the prat falls and misguided preachings, that bombs kill.
At ‘Toy Story 3’s’ climax events spiralled into very surprising and emotional territory indeed. The incinerator scene will go down as one of Pixars greatest ever achievements. As all seems lost for Woody, Buzz and co. They find themselves forced to deal with the fact that this may be it, and that they must confront their mortality. As nerve shredding as it is sad, the fact that such a scene happens in a kids Summer blockbuster shows that Pixar certainly don’t shy away from the bigger themes, while still never forgetting to entertain.
At the heart of ‘The Killer Inside Me’ was a stunning performance by Casey Affleck. In it he hinted at the vicious abyss of malice that resides just underneath the calm facade of his character. Throughout the film it always threatens to come out, but rarely does. As controversial as the film was, it should be remembered that it contained very little overall violence. However the two scenes in which there is, will be hard to shake for some, and show all what Lou Ford is truly capable of. The fact that the scene goes on for an unbearably long time and that previously, Jessica Albas character seemed to be one he held true emotion for, only adds to its vicious shock. A very tough and uncomfortable watch.
If there was one genre in which 2010 never really delivered on, it was certainly the comedy. There were no true out and out great comedy successes of the year. Hopefully this will change next year, it just seems that for now, Hollywood is relying on the same tried and tested materials for any of them to truly deliver. A few stand outs from the year include Zach Galifianakis’s joyless laughter in ‘Dinner For Schmucks’. P Diddys entire performance in ‘Get Him To The Greek’ or this debate from ‘The Other Guys’. Certainly one of the better comedies was the gross out absurd stupidity of ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’. However, the two funniest scenes this year involved very unexpected sex scenes. ‘I Love You Philip Morris’ featured at its heart, a very touching romance about two gay men. It was also one of the more hilariously foul films of the year featuring fantastic turns from Ewan McGregor and this scene near the start introducing Jim Carrey and the fact that he is a homosexual. ‘MacGruber’ had to be the most purile comedy of the year for the sheer display of stupidity. In many of its moments however, it was very funny including this scene, which has to go down as my favourite sex scene in Cinema history.
2010 featured a few of the most gloriously deranged films in recent memory. Usually when films are almost too eccentric to watch, it holds very little enjoyment for me. The films featured here however, somehow managed to sweep me up, get in my head and against all odds, make an impression on me. They are all, in their own way, very odd. Nicholas Cage had a fantastic come back year with ‘Kick Ass’ and ‘Bad Lieutenant’, both featuring deranged and gloriously over the top turns from him. In ‘Bad Liutenant’ in particular he outdid himself as a drug addicted cop who seems to hold, amongst other things, an unlikely obsession with iguanas. This scene is but one in a film bursting with similarly odd and very strange sequences. Mentioned earlier on, ‘Dogtooth’ is a darkly comic and surreal trip inside the house of a very closed off Greek Family. The Father has his children completely forbidden from leaving the grounds and fills them with bizarre facts about the world (zombies are tiny yellow flowers) and makes them believe that planes are small plastic toys that fall out of the sky and into the garden. Slow moving with very little plot, the film relied more on its almost hypnotic visuals to create an atmosphere and it surprisingly managed to sweep me up. This is despite the fact that it was sometimes pretentious and featured scenes of explicit violence. I wouldn’t say the film is entertaining, but it is very memorable. ‘Valhalla Rising’ started off in very familiar, albeit violent and gritty circumstances. It soon however took a drug induced trip into the surreal, as a band of Christian Crusaders soon get lost on their trip. A very tough film and certainly not for everybody. And last but not least there was ‘Trash Humpers’-surely the most deranged film ever made?
It has to be noted that 2010 featured a surge of popular artists featuring on some fantastic soundtracks. Johnny Marr contributed the dissonant guitar line on the ‘Inception’ soundtrack. Upon reading ‘The Social Network’ script, Trent Reznor decided it might be worth paying attention to this little Facebook Movie after all and along with Atticus Ross, created very impressive soundscapes to mesh perfectly with Finchers vision. Speaking of soundscapes, has there been a more perfect matching than Daft Punk to the ‘Tron Legacy’ score? Some expecting the new Daft Punk album were surprised to find that this was a fully fledged score for the film. Taking their cue from Wendy Carlos’ original, by way of John Carpenter and their own distinct electronic stylings they created a fantastic Soundtrack to the film. In fact, one half of Daft Punk, Thomas Bangaalter also collaborated with Gaspar Noé on the drug trip musing on life after death that is ‘Enter The Void’. His psychedelic flourashes no doubt helped Noé’s hypnotic visuals take hold over the viewer and couldn’t be farther from his work on ‘Tron Legacy’. For his love letter to all things related to Music and Video Games, Edgar Wright enlisted a steller line up of super cool indie stars to appear or contribute to ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World'. Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich contributed a fantastic score for one disc, while on the second Wright (with the help of the original comics creator Bryan Lee O’Malley) created a fantastic mix tape for fans everywhere, of mix tapes. Metric, Frank Black and of course Plumtree all contributed previous material while for the films fictional band Sex-Bob-omb, Beck wrote and recorded all their original material. In my eyes the soundtrack of the year.
The year was also notable for two very controversial films. Both made headlines around the world and both have since gone on to become notorious and in their own way, cult films. They were ‘The Human Centipede’ and ‘A Serbian Film’. I watch every kind of film and never turn my nose down at any genre. As a result I have got through a lot of films of wildly different tone and certificate this year. I can happily sit down with the latest animated blockbuster, (two of them made my top ten) or the new exploitation shocker. I’m only saying this so as to get a better understanding of where this piece is coming from. I understand genre and feel that whether you like or dislike any particular one, it still has its place in cinema. As a result, I feel nothing ever truly pushes me. I whooped and cheered along with audiences to the ridiculous gore on display in ‘Piranha 3D’ and ‘Kick Ass’. This will always come down to tone in a film. These two offerings, as fun as they were at times, were equal to a live action cartoon. It was hard to get worked up over the copious amounts of blood when they were delivered with such over the top gusto. Here, violence was fun. Now not to say I am desensitised to violence; I can get as squeamish as the next person over broken bones and bloody viscera, but I do recognise how tone and delivery can affect your enjoyment of such scenes in film. Scenes included earlier that shocked me, did so far greater than anything the ‘Saw’ films can muster up and I understand just how powerful a tool violence in film can be, when done correctly. The effectiveness of this was also detailed there. I intentionally left these two specific films here out of my lists. This is because they go above and beyond what cinema does and as a result of their schlocky and notorious reputation are swiftly turning from sick and highly offensive fare, to a dare on audiences behalf. The fact that for the first time in years, one of these was heavily censored by the BBFC only adds to my own personal theory that the video nasties of the ‘80’s are on the rise again. Only this time internet piracy is helping usher in a new age of it. Reputation built on by the worlds press and outraged parents and armchair pundits have taken these micro budgeted films with sick and shocking ideas at their core to the mainstream. If society doesn’t want us to see these films, then surely front page lambasting of them and outrage radio phone ins are not the way to do it? Try telling the eight year old in all of us not to do something and what effect does it have?
‘The Human Centipede’ is upon seeing it, surprisingly harmless. Its plot for those unfamiliar with it is as follows, and not for the easily offended. An insane German Doctor decides to sow together two women and one Asian man to form the titular centipede. Only the way he goes about connecting his victims, is by mouth to anus. Now as disgusting as it sounds the film does not stretch things much further than its initial concept. Violence is sparing and Director Tom Six never goes into too much detail on the operation or the scatological way the centipede must eat. Yes it’s shocking and disgusting but it is a very basic concept and the film never fully knows what to do with it when its centipede is finally surgically bonded. Hardly the stuff of ‘Most Controversial Film Ever’ as some broadsheets and tabloids have proclaimed. The film is more concerned with being a (pitch black) comedy rather than psychological body horror. It is decidedly unremarkable then and most certainly not worth the screaming headlines it has been getting, that of which I’m sure director Six is thanking his lucky stars for, as it has delivered an audience to the film it never would have seen without it.
Much more disturbing is ‘A Serbian Film’. The first film in years the BBFC has decided to cut and censor, and still awaiting release in most parts of the world. The plot as follows is not for the faint of heart. Milos, a retired porn star is lured back into the business with the promise of ‘that one last job’ setting him and his family up for life, with wealth beyond their wildest dreams. It’s not long before he realises that something is wrong, unfortunately by the time he does, it is too late and he finds himself at the whim of a psychotic director, intent on having Milos star in this snuff film. That the film is shocking is an understatement. It features explicit scenes of sex, violence and as a result, is unsuitable for most. As its makers might attest to, the film is meant as an allegory to the levels of violence and horror that they were subjected to by their countries own tortured history. In reality however, the film is an ugly and hideously depraved work. Some reviewers around the world have praised its aesthetic and proclaimed it to be while disturbing, also a work of art. Now while it is very well shot and acted, its sheer determination at breaking every taboo in cinema no matter what it is, is incredibly worrying. The film feels like exploitation writ large, except with no heed paid to social acceptance and delivered under false pretences. Now far be for me to ever say any theme is ever too taboo or in breaking of any social boundaries. Great films push societies endurance of what is acceptable on screen, not through forcing audiences to watch mankinds ugliest atrocities at its very explicit worst, but through looking inward and questioning themselves and society around them. To me, no theme is ever out of bounds. But ‘A Serbian Film’ it seems just wants to shock and in the ugliest possible way. There is simply no way to justify some of the unspeakable images this film presents us with. There are ways to justify its themes, but the almost nihilistic tone of destroying everything both in the film and those who watch it speaks of something far more negative. Its makers bred a film of all the most unspeakable things of the world, showed in all its unflinching glory and then tried to make their name and money off of it. Justifying it to those who never grew up in Serbia is simply not good enough. There are always better ways to speak of the atrocities of the world and far more effective ways to go about it.
I don’t see the walls of society crumbling to its bloody knees with the release of this film, rather am more concerned to see who will take these themes in ‘A Serbian Film’ and only exploit them further. There have been films throughout the years like this that can be found offering nothing but thoughtless and horrific mind numbing violence. Most of these no one has heard of nor do they want to. The only difference is that they have not been subjected to the media circus that these films have. The fact that people will now seek these specific films out as a result of reading and rereading just how depraved they are, can only add to their cult appeal. There is no reason to see these films only to see the heights of shocking scenes that they offer. Reports of people vomiting in theatres to ‘The Human Centipede’ and that the rolls of film of ‘A Serbian Film’ were burned in its developing labs by technicians not understanding what the film was only add to the films stature. Let the films be I say. Aside from if a film features real scenes of violence of any kind inflicted on people or animals, they should not be cut. Treat them like you would a child craving attention. Ignore them and they will go away. If you don’t want to see them and are appalled by them, then don’t see them. If the film finds its audience then so be it. Films like these are never going to inspire copy cat actions, will never be a mainstream cinema release and and should only ever be kept away from unassuming children. As for the rest of us, we are all adults, can tell right from wrong and should be let decide what is and what is not acceptable. Are the images and themes presented in ‘A Serbian Film’ acceptable? No, of course not, not to most people but no one is forcing you to watch it. And lest it not be forgotten, that the main reason you shouldn’t watch it, simply comes down to the fact that it is not very good, rather than how shocking it is.
Looking Forward: 2011
If there’s anything better than the year in film just gone, then it’s the fickle giddiness in looking ahead to see what next year has to offer. So while horrible scheduling on our side of the Atlantic means some of these have not yet hit as they have in the States, they soon will in a matter of days/weeks. Of course there will be misfires amongst this selection and more of them are blockbusters than drama/indie fare. This is only because the best little films are those that come out of nowhere and surprise you. So, in no particular order, are the films I am most looking forward to seeing in 2011.
Danny Boyles follow up to Slumdog Millionaire has already been garnering serious critical buzz across the water. Thankfully we only have a few weeks to wait until January 5th.
Duncan Jones’ follow up to 2009’s classic in the making ‘Moon’ features an original science fiction plot, a twist on the familiar race against the clock and Jake Gyllenhaal in what looks to be his best film in years. After ‘Moon’, Jones could have turned out any old rubbish and I’d be excited to see it.
As if the incredible cast assembled for the Coens return back West wasn’t good enough, how about their first reunion with Jeff Bridges in 12 years? Any Coens film is always unmissable just by them being attached to it. Remake or not, this is an early contender for film of 2011.
No one gets hype like JJ Abrams and here he ramps his secrecy levels up to heightened levels; I may be as excited as hell to see this but I haven’t got the foggiest what it entails.
For that title alone.
Darren Aronofsky has yet to fail to deliver a completely immersive theatre going experience that refuses to leave your head and when he gets all psychological undertones right, the results can be stunning. One of the most original directors going today.
Working from a script by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is good enough, but when added to my favourite ensemble cast of the year and directed by ‘Superbad’ and ‘Adventureland’ director, prospects for this are very high indeed.
‘X-Men: First Class’
After the huge misfires that were’ X-Men: The Last Stand’ and ‘Wolverine’ you could be forgiven for wondering why this might merit inclusion. Apart from the fact that series Daddy, Bryan Singer is back supervising as Producer, a great ensemble cast has been assembled, it comes from the team behind ‘Kick Ass’. Mixed with a serious budget behind them, it is not unreasonable to assume they can take the series back up to the heights set by the first two films.
Scorsese does a kids film. His name attached alone brings it up to most anticipated levels.
Line of the Year:
Jerry O’Connells immortal delivery of this line in ‘Piranha 3D’ sees this film go up as one of the more outrageously trashy, stupid and over the top fun fests to be had this year.
Scene Of The Year
The scene of the year has to be the opening from ‘The Social Network’. How better to introduce the audience to characters and style of the film than a rapid fire, five minute opening that tells you exactly what you need to know about Mark Zuckerberg. Its pithy and wonderfully humorous dialogue is spurted out at a vitriolic pace. Any qualms any last minute naysayers had that a film about Facebook could not and would not ever move them, is answered in these first opening moments. Who would have thought a relationship breakdown could be so fun?
So thats all my thoughts and musings on the year. No doubt anyone who reads this will lambast me for not including some of their favourite films and moments from the year. Write in, let me know where I went wrong and I'll see if I can do better next year!
Here’s saluting 2010 and looking ahead to 2011.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Fantastic news for fans of the modern horror classic "[.rec]" series. Two posters have debuted online for the upcoming prequel/sequel. It seems that Directing team on the first two films, Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza will split up and direct one of the two films each. "Genesis" will be released in 2011 with "Apocalypse" rounding off the series in epic and bloody style in 2012. More information can be found here.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Here's one for you: a film that is painfully long and never ending, self-indulgant and at times pointlessly gratuitous and seedy. Now imagine, said film while exhibiting these negative traits and more, is also one of the most visually dazzling and unforgettable films you may ever see. That is the conflicting mind warp of "Enter The Void", Gaspar Noé's third feature length film and his first in almost eight years. For the uninitiated, Noé made headlines in 2002 with his second feature and breakthrough film "Irréversible". One of the most polarizing and undoubtedly shocking and controversial films of all time, it was also noted for its daring linear trajection and stunning technical prowess. For some it was one of the masterpieces of the decade, and for others it was one of the most horrific cinematic experiences of their life, including me. A film that thrived on ugliness and shock tactics, it seemed to me that Noé made the film, with the intention of not actually wanting his audience to like it. Of course it didn't help that its two most infamous scenes offered extreme sexual violence and horrifically real gore. I found the film to be near unwatchable, significant only for its technical achievements. Odd then, that Noé, didn't seem to learn anything from that experience, and now presents us with "Enter The Void", a film that is also, in my eyes at least near unwatchable, however, not for the same extreme reasons its predecessor was.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Last Summer, "The Hangover" went on to become the highest grossing R-rated picture of all time in the States. Its success came out of nowhere. It was a film that reveled in its debauchery, and lack of maturity. It was also, very, very funny. Director Todd Phillips benefitted from a very strong cast with impeccable chemistry and comic timing. That was where its success lied. You wanted to go on this adventure and no matter how zany everything became, it was the cast that held it together. Wether or not Phillips can capture lightning in a bottle twice will have to remain to be seen next May when its sequel is released. For now, we will have to make do with "Due Date" unfortunately. For everything that "The Hangover" achieved, it only goes to add to the glaring errors in "Due Date". Of course, expecting another film as surprising and absurdly hilarious as that would have been wishful thinking, but considering the talent involved, would it have been too much to ask for some decent and well earned laughs during its running time. Phillips et al, seemed to think so.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
There is one very simple reason why the first "Paranormal Activity" was such a staggering success. Those people at Paramount sold their movie incredibly well. Sensing they had another 'Blair Witch Project" on their hands, they marketed their film as one of 'the scariest movies of all time'. Trailers showed just how terrified audiences were with real life camera footage (on a film about supposed real life camera footage) capturing all the jumps and scares in the cinema in all its grainy night vision glory. You were made to believe you had to see this film. As a result, curiosity changed from an original and ultra low budget indie horror experiment, to a film that effectively boiled down to a dare on the audiences behalf. And they accepted in their droves. The first "Paranormal Activity" is one of the most successful films ever made. From its original budget of a mere fifteen thousand dollars, it went on to gross over $193 million. However, with all this huge hype behind the film, the finished product could never withstand it all. I greatly looked forward to the films eventual release (I had heard about it quite some months before it was finally released) and felt it would be a very welcome surprise to see an original and inventive American horror in what seemed like a very long while. So while it was fairly original and certainly inventive, the final product just didn't impact me the way I had originally envisioned. Having said that, I can certainly imagine what it would be like walking into this film knowing next to nothing about it, and the shock it would have. But it is a tiny and very limited resource horror film. When the biggest of Hollywood blockbusters are struggling to meet the hype bar they are setting for themsleves, then what chance did this single location, zero CG effects, no name chiller have? And whats more all it had to fall back on was its gimmicky premise. Supposed 'found footage' in cinema has been going for decades now. Even more recently the marketplace (especially horror) has become crowded with them. So my opinion of the original was this: as a very cheap exercise in how to get an effective and neat little horror movie in cinemas, it worked. And at the very least the fact that the film attempted to create an atmosphere for itself, as opposed to relying on gore and cliche tricks of the genre, a lot must be said. However, as the experience it was built up to be, the film never once delivered. But with opening numbers like that, is it really so shocking that its sequel has been rushed into production in time for Halloween and in exactly a year since the first films release?
Sunday, October 17, 2010
How ironic it must be to Mark Zuckerberg to have founded the worlds biggest social networking site, when he himself, is anything but social. Now with David Finchers film bringing even more unwanted attention upon him, it must be a constant chagrin to Zuckerberg, when all he wants is to be left alone with his computer. Or so Fincher's ''The Social Network'' would have you believe. Based on Ben Mesrich's 2009 book, 'The Accidental Billionaires', the film is not, wholly based on 100% fact. This is something that writer Aaron Sorkin, or Fincher ever denied. Sorkin himself was been quite objective on his intentions. He has been quoted 'I don't want my fidelity to be the truth, I want it to be storytelling'. Sorkin wants to entertain, rather than educate his audience. Their intentions known from the start show just what they have achieved here. They haven't set out to fire out facts and events in black and white. They have set out to make a statement. It may be a document of our time, but not of the factual kind. It is yet another triumph added to the most excellent Fincher's list of impeccable triumphs.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
There appears to be a new sub genre getting ever more popular amongst film makers. That is the single location and very claustrophobic thriller. Very recently we had the horror "Devil" set entirely in a stalled elevator where one of its five occupants is a seemingly malevolent entity. In early January of next year Danny Boyles eagerly awaited follow up to "Slumdog Millionaire" is the shocking true story of an extreme sports fanatic getting his arm stuck under a boulder and resorting to desperate risks for his survival. The film "127 Hours" promises a stunning emotional roller coaster ride upon its release. Now however we have Rodrigo Cortés thriller "Buried". A film that takes a huge risk in setting itself entirely within a coffin. Cortés' genius lies in his unfaltering committal to his story. While such a small and confining space could make for a very dull nights entertainment for some films, "Buried" surprises in being one of the most heart stopping exciting films of the year, making stunning and very cinematic use of its small spaces.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Ben Affleck has made a startling career transformation in a mere seven years. It was 2003 in which "Gigli" was released, an International box office flop that had Affleck rendered a laughing stock. Parody was everywhere; with Affleck it was just too easy and like shooting fish in a barrel. That career low, coupled with his disastrous marriage to Jennifer Lopez almost left his career in tatters. Stunning then that in just two films, Affleck has completely turned his fortunes around. No longer do people wonder how much more talented his original writing partner Matt Damon is, or if Affleck ever even had any input into "Good Will Hunting"? Now his name is a byword for smart and intelligent adult dramas that are actually entertaining movie fodder for a Saturday night. He entertains the masses, but does not ask them to switch off their brain to do so. He respects character and plotting and does not shy away from harsh or gritty themes. All this, from that guy in "Reindeer Games".
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I know it is the best interests for distributers to sell a film in the very best way they know how. At the end of the day, they want to get bums on seats, regardless of how they got them there in the first place. There has been plenty of intentionally misleading trailers over the years. Recent examples like the addition of far more alien laser sights fixed on Adrien Brody's torso in the "Predators" trailer and non stop and mindless horror thrills promised from the trailer to "The Last Exorcism" are two that immediately spring to mind. People who are forking their hard earned cash over to sit in a darkened room for two hours want to know exactly what they are getting, and more often than not, these misleading promos can usually do more harm than good. Why tell audiences that the thing that they may have paid to see the film in the first place is not there at all. It is frustrating on the audiences part and the feeling of being cheated can do nothing but harm the original films chances to do what it was originally made to do in the first place. "Predators" only had three aliens, not the multiple foes as promised in the trailer, but I still didn't let it bother me as it still proved to be entertaining in its own right. "The Last Exorcism" turned out to actually be quite a clever character study and offered more in the way (until that disastrous finale) than usual horrors have been giving us recently. That the film was actually ruined by loud and obnoxious members of the audience too impatient to sit through the subtle character details, and (very loudly) voicing their thoughts on the horror that may be in store for them only left me livid and intent on not enjoying the final film on its own terms; rather why it provoked the audience to react like this, and hence why the film was not reviewed here. That this happened to me again the following week when I sat down to "Cyrus" only provoked questions of why these distributers seem intent on harming their (sometimes very precious) films chances for finding its audience. Sure, they have to get an audience in the first place, but when it comes from such a misleading direction, prompts question of when does it change from 'selling' to 'lying' to the audience? That all these examples are very fine films in their own right begs the question; why compensate for something that isn't there? Have more faith in your film, and it will find its true audience if it is good enough. Which then brings me to this review.