Thursday 31 December 2009


It was a shit year for movies...

I heard this ever so much. It was a phase that rang through my ears constantly. However, my fellow readers, you will not hear it from me. In fact I don’t fully believe in “bad years” for movies. My reasoning isn’t great but hear me out:

This year I watched over 80 movies at the cinema, and had more than enough movies to make a shortlist for my top ten. Of course there were the other movies that I found not so hot but as always the Bad didn’t outweigh the good, and until the day I struggle to create a top ten list of favourites (which I doubt considering how many films I watch) then I can’t see there ever being a “bad year”.
Of course not everyone has the time or wish to watch as many movies as myself and may only get to watch what really interests them. The problem I find however seems to be that so many people don’t truly search out films that could interest them, or films that could SURPRISE them. I mean what’s so wrong with watching something a little different?
So to those who were “disappointed” with the year I say this: It’s not always the filmmakers fault that you picked more movies that you disliked than liked. These days over 40 films are released during a month and yes, it is difficult for people to pick out some of the most independent titles, but the internet has opened up so many more outlets for people to watch, download (not illegally), stream and rent movies that it’s coming more and more impossible for a cinephile NOT have a bad year.
We as consumers have the choice to seek out a range of films that we can enjoy as opposed to being spoon fed with say another Hollywood remake or Comic Book sequel. For me, I had a blast. I haven’t seen so many movies in years and if I can equal or beat that amount next year that will be grand. If by some unfortunate circumstances I see more bad films than good I still won’t care. Why?
The Good movies will be brought, re-watched and live within my memory forever. The bad will be forgotten as soon as I leave the cinema (after the review). So without further ado shall we get on to the list?

My Ten Favourite Films of the year (No Order):

Note that I use the term favourite as these films are personal to me and not the “best” of the year. To claim that the movies that affected me the most, when discussing something as subjective as film is extremely pompous.
Horror comedy is difficult to do well and easy to fail at. Rami is of course an old hand at this and his rollercoaster ride of tension and laughs beat out any horror entry that poke it’s head out during 2009. Hated by many expecting a different beast entirely...Those who remember and loved the lighter side of Ash Williams and Co were completely down with this horror with humor combo. Also Possessed Goats are made of win.

Cynicism is rife with me when it comes to the Romantic Comedy. Quite simply, the genre doesn’t try hard enough and insults the intelligence of its fans constantly. Here however, was a quick shot in the arm of the bride wars, bridget jones and the sex in the citys that we constantly witness. Humor that stems from the characters, feelings that come from a truth place and characters that I can root for. The date movie never had it so good.

Quite simply the gutsiest movie of the year. Cameron’s Avatar may have the visuals but his ex-wife Bigalow has the tension and the drama. A sublimely crafted action feature.

Many have bemoaned that the motormouth “can’t write” any more. I don’t think it’s that, I think his writing is evolving and just not appealing to the people who are looking for pulp fiction 2. Tarantino’s film is in love with language, movies and storytelling. He also adds to this some of his best scenes this side of Pulp fiction and one of the writer directors best characters (handsomely played by Christopher Waltz) to date. Not only War as fiction but war as fun, something that shouldn’t be able to be done considering the connotations...and yet he surprised me again.

The pulsing soundtrack, the claustrophobic visuals, its grand themes and a lead performance from Sam Rockwell that would get awards if I could rig the ceremonies. Duncan Jones brings us Sci-fi that the 70’s used to make. An arresting film that well and truly knocked me for six. Somewhere Stanley Kubrick is Smiling.

With scenes that carry more pathos than many of the movies I watched this year. Pixar once again bring us a family film with thought. Ratatouille, Wall-e and now UP have made sure that Pixar make the leap from best animated film best picture contenders.

The Coens are having yet another fabulous run of movies, playing with the ideals of fate. This movie decides that even God great plan should be knocked about for a laugh. Full of Coen’s black humour, great performances from a relatively unknown cast and a plot that plays with fatalism in a way that only these two bothers can.

Due to Hollywood’s dominance in the U.K we often forget that we Brits even make movies let alone good ones, Andrea Arnold (and Moon’s Duncan Jones) wishes to change all that. With her kinetic kitchen sink-esque Drama that many have felt evoked the spirit of Loach (not that he’s dead). Arnold’s film is culturally astute, beautifully realised and features the combustible chemistry of Newcomer Katie Jarvis and Irish chameleon Michael Fassbender (also great in Basterds). A mesmerising second feature.

Problems overcome and emotions found in Spike Jonez once troubled feature. A film with not only a wonderful looks but a true nostalgic feel of childhood. Max Record’s difficult character is easy to love while the fantastically created wild things reminded me of those conflicting issues that I had as a child. The film brings a nostalgic feeling given without the need for branded toys or well known television characters, but with the fact that everyone is bigger than you and can change their emotions in a blink of an eye from fun to dangerous without you knowing why. To capture this mixture of fear, joy and amazement is a difficult one but it's one that Jonez handles with aplomb.

Likened to Spinal Tap but could really be a companion piece to Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Anvil is a loving tribute to following your dreams no matter what. Many have watch these two aging rockers playing young ‘uns and considered them sad. But if other Musicians still had has much hunger and passion as these guys at the age they are there’s be even more great music going. The film also has one of the most loving relationships I saw captured this year. How the wives cope with these two is beyond me.


The Wrestler, Frost/Nixon, Observe and Report, District 9, Me and Orson Welles

Sherlock Holmes, Fantastic Mr Fox

Review: Sherlock Holmes

Year: 2009
Director: Guy Richie
Screenplay: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg
Starring: Robert Downley jr, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

I remember when the idea of this was first announced. I could almost hear the furious tapping of keyboards from angry purists. Irate that the "hack" that is Guy Richie has decided to lay his grubby mitts (he did have relations with Madonna) on one of England's classic icons. I bet a few hard drives burned due to how angry some of the forum posts got (my knowledge of computer tech showing there).

And here we are...about a year and a bit (maybe less) since we heard the news of a new "re-imaging" in the works. It comes out at Christmas and is stopped from hitting the top spot by Jimmy Cameron and his blue people. The thing is despite all the rooftop yelling about "game-changing" effects and the was Richie's down and dirty re-envisioning of Holmes that I enjoyed all the more.

The reason behind this lies in it's script and narrative. Both films talk utilize the ideals of fear and force in order to control the "bewildered herd" that is the masses. Both are very stylized in their execution and both are made by directors who really know their target audience (teens to mid twenties methinks). I went into both films knowing little about the navi and not that much more about Holmes (yes, i know, shocking). However, after watching both I realized that Richie's film has created a world I want to know more about and characters who really, truly grew on me. In Avatar I still don't know that much about Jim's blue people nor do I care. Richie hasn't been in the game as long as the King of the world, but it's becoming great to see that how quickly he learns.

I could see Holmes becoming a catastrophe of Swept Away proportions had Richie decided to write the piece by himself. Sensing his limitations, it seems the script falls to a trio of individuals who combine their talents to create a screenplay that keeps the essentially of what Holmes is all about (and not just a hat and pipe) but jazzes the the idea of Holmes and Victorian England just right. Yes it's more "entertaining" but it's not insulting and that's the key. The dialogue fizzes, the themes are very much a product of our time but it still has the essence of the era. It's also FUN. To watch Watson and Holmes irate each other like husband and fishwife is amusing but it's also endearing. It's "bromance" (hate that word) that harks back to when we called it the buddy movie. The characters on the page gel well making the actors' life not only easier but so much more enjoyable.

Whoever decided upon placing Downley jr as Holmes deserves a bottle of champers because he is a delight to watch. A man whose intelligence is both a blessing and a curse. Downley jr loses a few of the well known tics to bring about a Holmes whose not smug, but merely frustrated with the supposed challenges placed in front of him. This is a more jovial Holmes than I can think of, and it's the charm of the actor who plays him that brings it about. His foil comes in the shape of Jude Law who hasn't been this interesting since Closer. He craftily balances a character who is not only quite handy in a fight but is every so slightly a bit camp. There's a touch of effeminacy that tries to keep Holmes' man-child in check. It's all very humorous but it's also the reason why we care about what happens to them. At one point Holmes makes light that Dr Watson's career might be at stake but it's important to Holmes that it's not tarnished because of the relationship they have. It's these tiny things that build up the sakes in the film. It's a shame that Rachel McAdams's role is underdeveloped. It is also appears to be obvious that she is placed within the film as American draw to what is quite an English affair, because despite RDJ being transatlantic, has a nice enough English accent . Also, kudos to another solid Mark Strong effort he is the right side of slimy.

How about Richie tackling all this on his biggest movie to date? He handles it surprisingly well. After the deary Rock n Rolla, and Revolver (hated by everyone but liked by me), Richie is back to making bouncy British affairs which are made for cheeky smirks and wide grins. The film is filled with CSI edited clue finding and CGI set pieces. But Richie still manages to keep a sense of fun about the proceedings. At times it gives off the feeling of an old school Bond film, and while I may of offended a multitude of people by saying that I found it true, it has that sense of adventure about it.

That sense which was strangely missing from the big bright flashy lights of Avatar, a film that feels more like a feature to admire than to enjoy. Here we have the opposite, a film that wouldn't mind being called a flick. A film with a smart script that retains that popcorn munching feeling. I would say that Sherlock Holmes is more than elementary, but of course, this is not Paul Ross' blog site.

Note: I gotta say however, from Baker Street to Tower Bridge that fast? Really? You can't fool me guys.