Archive for December, 2010

Top Ten Movies 2010

  1. Inception: When was the last time you saw a big budget summer blockbuster that didn’t treat its audience like idiots. Strangely enough it was two years ago and the movie was The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan has done it again. Inception is an intelligent and thoughtful movie with sublime acting, fantastic photography and a plot with just enough ambiguity to emphasise the existential themes. Not only the best but probably the most talked about movies of the year.
  2. The Secret in Their Eyes: Don’t be put off by the subtitles, this really is one of the best movies of the year, it was the surprise winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film and only the second movie ever to receive five stars on this very website (the first is at number one on this list). Set against a backdrop of the political instability in Argentina following the death of Perón this is as much a political history as it is a thriller but that enhances the plot not detracts from it. It also features the most impressive (seemingly) single take shot ever, even outdoing Snake Eyes.
  3. Monsters: I went into this movie expecting to see a great movie for the miniscule budget, what I got instead was a great movie. Blending the themes of an existential road movie, a monster movie, an allegorical tale about war and a love story, it could have been a mess but not only is it brilliantly constructed it also appears strangely effortless in its delivery. To quote Ross McG “there wasnt really any part of the film that didnt work”
  4. Winter’s Bone: Director Debra Granik has crafted perfectly paced taught and gritty thriller, Cinematographer Michael McDonough manages to find a strange beauty in the dark and hostile landscapes of The Ozark Mountains where the movie is set but it is Jennifer Lawrence performance that really makes this movie sensational. It isn’t a movie that you will want to watch frequently but it is certainly a rewarding experience.
  5. Kick-Ass: What would happen if an ordinary everyday person decided to become a supper hero? Haven’t we seen this one before, it was called Watchmen and it failed to find the audience it deserved last year. Kick-Ass has a lot in common with Watchmen but is also very different from it, it is these contradictions that make it so good. It isn’t really a superhero movies and it isn’t a spoof of superhero movies either. It isn’t a comedy and but it is extremely funny at times. It is a coming of age drama, a satire on human nature and modern society and a violent bloody action movie. It is also the most fun movie of the year, or is it?
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: No this isn’t the other contender for the most fun movie of the year, with images of rape and violence the film is often difficult to watch, but don’t be put off by this. It is a great movie and the most shocking and violent scenes however brutal are integral to the plot. Based on a novel by Stieg Larsson, the Hollywood remake is already in production but it is worth seeing this Swedish version for one simple reason: Noomi Rapace, having read the books I couldn’t imagine any actress bringing the character of Lisbeth Salander to life, now I have seen it I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part.
  7. The Social Network: This may not be the best film of the year but it is certainly the best written and the best directed. How they made a movie from the subject matter is a surprise, how they made such a fantastic movie is a minor miracle. The casting is nothing short of perfection with Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield giving the performances of their careers and like so many of David Fincher’s previous movies I suspect this one that will get better with time and repeated viewings.
  8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Depending on your point of view Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is either the coolest movie of the year or a flashy over edited mess that is trying too hard. Well it made it to my top ten movies of the year but only the lower reaches so I guess that says it all, I’m leaning towards the very cool argument but can see the imperfections of the movie. The casting is spot on and the action brilliantly choreographed, the script is cutting and funny but above all it is great fun, yes if you haven’t guessed this is the other contender for the most fun movie of the year.
  9. The Road: I know this is a 2009 movie but it came out in 2010 in the UK and that’s my criteria. Early on in the movie the voiceover tells us “The world gets colder week by week as the world slowly dies” This is a bleak movie but it isn’t a depressing movie. Think of it more as an exploration of mortality than a warning of impending doom. Look at the way “The Boy” has absorbed the life and moral lessons taught to him by his farther and is now able to pass them back to his farther and the audience providing a moral compass for the movie and a glimmer of hope for humanity.
  10. The Ghost: Directed by Roman Polanski with a script by Polanski and Robert Harris, the author of the book on which the film is based, The Ghost is a timely story. Released in the UK around the time of the Chilcot Enquiry it tells the story of a controversial former British prime minister as he attempts to write his autobiography with the help of a ghost-writer. All this is rolled up in an old-fashioned murder mystery thriller. The movie received some unfair (in my opinion) reviews and was moderately successful, this could have as much to do with its controversial director as the movie he has produced.

Honourable mentions or The movies I found it hardest to miss off the top ten

  • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
  • Another Year
  • Shutter Island
  • Up in the Air
  • A Prophet

A note on the selected movies. All movies received a UK cinema release in 2010 and where seen by me in a cinema.


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Ten Worst Movies I have Seen This Year

In preparation for my top ten movies of the year that will be published tomorrow here are my bottom ten. They don’t represent the worst ten movies of the year, just the worst ten I have seen.   Early in the new year I will also produce a list of all the 2010 movies I have seen.

A note on the order 1 is the worst and 10 the least bad!

  1. Shelter – The supernatural thriller that forgets to be thrilling. A plot full of twists and turns designed to confuse and surprise the audience just made me lose interest. Anyone who likes the idea of a supernormal horror I suggest you give this one a miss and go for The Exorcist or Fallen. If you really want to see Shelter look out for the things it borrows from these two movies, borrows is a euphemism for shamelessly steals.
  2. Repo Men – Set in a near future where man made replacement organs are available at a price, however if you fail to make the payments a repo man will come and cut them from your body and return them to manufacturer. Ultimately a good premise and a good cast (Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga and Liev Schreiber) are wasted in mess of a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be or what it wants to say.
  3. Devil – Five people become trapped in a lift, you probably know from the trailer what happens next. So the concept is okay, where does it all go wrong? The greatest flaw of the movie is that it uses the supernatural/Satanic twist as a substitute for tension and claustrophobia. The photography and the acting are all pretty good and the director shows some flair in a few scenes but the story really drags this one down!
  4. The Wolfman – Werewolves are cool, no arguments, its just a fact! With all the vampire movies that have been made in recent years we need a great werewolf movie to reset the balance, this isn’t it. The Wolfman makeup isn’t bad but the transformation is poor and lazy at best. There are some pretty good set pieces but there are also some really poor ones. The big problem is that it is a mess, at times it looks as if it was intended as an atmospheric Victorian gothic horror, at other times it looks like there may be an epic romance, but then there is no romance, the ending just fizzles out with a whimper. The biggest crime is the way it wastes a great cast (Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt, Anthony Hopkins, Hugo Weaving, Art Malik and Geraldine Chaplin).
  5. Ninja Assassin – Once in awhile a movie comes along that gets everything wrong. The acting is shocking, the direction is plodding, the plot is ludicrous, the dialogue rubbish, the fight scenes are ridiculously over the top and it offers absolutely nothing new to the genre, Ninja Assassin is one such film. It is unashamedly a dumb mindless action flick whose thin plot is only there to string together the violent and bloody fighting scenes. To its credit the action isn’t bad and some of the film is good fun, the film itself is relatively inoffensive.
  6. The Lovely Bones – A wishy-washy mess of a movie about a murdered girl who she finds herself in a sort of Technicolor Purgatory. Well shot but with a week plot and no real attempt to express the time and space in which the movie is set beyond a lazy voiceover. Completely devoid of the emotional attachment the movie lacks any soul and leaves the viewer with a hollow emptiness. Director Peter Jackson can do so much better.
  7. From Paris with Love – A nasty xenophobic little movie with little in the way of plot and rubbish acting and has absolutely nothing original to say for itself. The only mitigation is that it is fun at times.
  8. Edge of Darkness – Despite his much publicized problems Mel Gibson is still a good old-fashioned moviestar, for that reason alone it is good to see him back in front of the camera doing what he does best, playing an unstable and traumatized cop seeking revenge. Sadly the film is rubbish getting just about everything wrong the plot doesn’t make much sense and everything feels a little flat leaving Gibson as the only reason to see it, and I know he isn’t exactly a big draw for audiences at the moment.
  9. Valentines Day – A romantic comedy involving a group of intertwined stories, the quality of the stories and how funny they are varies hugely as does the ability of the various actors on display. Not as bad as I expected it to be but the outtakes shown at the end are by far the funniest thing about the film, that surely is a damming indictment of a comedy.
  10. Skyline – We have reached a point in moviemaking where small independent filmmakers can compete with the studios and make a low budget movie that looks like a big budget movie. That moment in time is demonstrated by Monsters and not by this movie that was neither looks like a big budget movie or was in truth particularly cheep to make, but worst off all it is just rubbish. The acting is terrible and the plot is even worse, that is all that matters.

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Tron: Legacy

In the years that follow the end of the original Tron we discover Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) returned to “The Grid” (The world inside a computer where this and the original film are largely set), then one day on the verge of what he believes to be a world changing discovery he disappeared. Twenty years later his son, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), now 27 is the majority shareholder in Flynn’s software company but has no involvement in the day to day running of the company. Then a mysterious pager message via Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) leads him to his dad’s old arcade and in turn onto The Grid. This gives him the chance to find out what happened to his farther all those years before, but first he has to survive the games much like the ones seen in the original movie. I don’t think it can be classed as a spoiler (its in the trailer) to say Bridges, plays a duel role, his second character is Clu, a computer version of Flynn with a CGI facelift making him look something like he did in the 80’s.

The movie does little to inform the uninitiated what happened in the original movie, this is possibly because it is much of a remake/reboot of the original as it is a sequel. True the story does follow directly on from the original but large chunks of the (thin) plot are basically rehashes of the original movie. This is a great shame as the plot wasn’t the strong point of the original. The setting of The Grid is such that it would have been possible to work any plot/story into the movie. Were Disney playing it safe or do they have no original ideas? Probably a bit of both. With a budget estimated at around $175million (or ten times that of the original) the movie probably needs to gross around $400million to be considered a success and the bottom line is where it counts for the studio and they probably felt safe sticking to the well trodden path. The one thing the plot does offer is a subtext. There is a theme running through the movie that comes out when Kevin Flynn confronts his nemesis/alter ego; perfection isn’t possible and even if it were, we wouldn’t want it, it is the imperfections that make us human. Without sadness would happiness mean anything? Rather than exploring any existential themes, the movie hammers home an analogy involving ethnic cleansing and the rise of fascism, subtlety was never in Disney’s vocabulary!

Interestingly the films main protagonist is Sam Flynn, with Bridges’ Kevin Flynn playing a more supporting role, this is probably an aim to bring a younger demographic in alongside children of the 70/80’s. I am not that familiar with Garrett Hedlund who plays Sam but on the whole he does a good job but lacks any edge. More cynical and self assured than Bridges’ more goofy lead in the original but a bit by the numbers. It will be interesting to see how Hedland develops as an actor, his next role is Dean Moriarty in the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road due out next year. As for the supporting cast Bridges is great playing something approaching Bill Django (his character from The Men Who Stare at Goats) mixed with The Dude, Neo from the Matrix and a Jedi Master with a bit of Gandhi for good measure. Olivia Wilde isn’t given much to do (acting wise) as Flynn’s apprentice, Quorra but does play the part perfectly, displaying naivety without appearing dippy. She also gets some of the best action scenes in the movie, this movie won’t do her rapidly rising star any harm (an article about her has been my most visited post in the past year). Having said that the movie does have its best moments before Flynn and Quorra are introduced (other than Bridges brief prologue). Shortly after they are introduced the movie loses all momentum as we move into the third act. It doesn’t regain its early energy or pace until the finale, and even then it is somewhat muted in comparison to the earlier scenes. The issues here are script related and don’t reflect badly on the actors. The same can be said for the normally reliable Michael Sheen who is Jar Jar Binks annoying as a flamboyant club owner with a Ziggy Stardust haircut. Possibly the most interesting casting is Cillian Murphy in an un-credited role as Edward Dillinger Jr. the son of Ed Dillinger, the antagonist in the original film. Why is such a recognizable and established actor appearing in such a tiny cameo? Is he a fan of the original movie and wanted a cameo, or is his appearance a teaser for a bigger part in the third movie. Will we see him going toe to toe with Sam Flynn in a game of killer Frisbee or a Light Cycle battle in a future movie?

The movie started with an explanation that parts of it are shot and intentionally shown in 2D not 3D, my immediate thought was this going to be a clever updating of the black and white/colour device used in The Wizard Of Oz. This is an interesting comparison, firstly because the first thing that jumps out at you (sorry, could resist) is that the difference between black and white and colour is far greater than the difference between 2D and 3D. The other thing is that whist some of the 3D was very good and on a par with Avatar and Resident Evil: Afterlife other parts like all 3D was poorly designed and executed resulting in me forgetting that I was watching 3D, it could be said that I was so immersed in the film that I forgot, this isn’t the case. I actually found myself wondering is this 3D or not and lifting my glasses to see. The CGI effects are also an interesting thing to look at in this movie, obviously with all the recent advances they are light-years ahead of the 1980’s original and look spectacular at times but unlike those in the original movie they aren’t groundbreaking or original. The movie does nothing visually that I haven’t seen before, just like the plot.

What it all boils down to is that there are three things that makes the movie work. Fantastic visuals, great action and fantastic soundtrack by electronic duo Daft Punk (who appear in the movie as DJ’s in the End of Line Club). Olivia Wilde’s presence in a neon lit catsuit doesn’t do any harm either! This leads to the final question, is the movie any good? The answer, I’m not sure. It has its moments and it looks great but it all feels a little shallow and hollow but over and above that I actually found myself enjoying it despite its problems and the third act lull. That is why despite all conventional wisdom telling me it is only worth 3 stars out of five I actually give it:

Four Stars out of Five.

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Last year I tried to do a best movie poster of the year post but it proved impossible. Movies have so many posters these days that I struggled to cut them down to a concise list, so what I have been doing this year is making a note every time I see one I like. To make it more interesting I have stuck to UK posters that I have seen in the UK (in magazines/newspapers, in the cinema and on busses/bus stops), some of them even convinced me to see the movie. I have limited the list to the top ten but have decided not to rank them.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I loved the original Swedish poster for this movie, although very different the UK version was equally as good. Cleverly the two sequels use basically the same poster with a simple twist.



Trucker – I saw this one in a magazine, it was the first and only thing I heard or saw promoting the movie. It allegedly got a cinema release but I couldn’t find it and didn’t see it until it came out on DVD. There is nothing original or revolutionary about the poster, it is just really well put together, just like the movie!

The American – I love this poster, it looks like it belongs to a 60’s movie, it even borrows its colour scheme from Cool Hand Look. Interestingly it made me think of James Bond but I can’t actually find a Bond poster that looks like this.

Four Lions – You need to see the film to know what this one is all about but it certainly grabs your attention.

The Karate Kid – The simplicity of this one is what really strikes me. Both this and the other poster for the movie both use a similar colour scheme to the original Karate Kid movie from the 80’s.

The Wolfman – With Emily Blunt hiding in the foreground and the silhouette of the wolfman in the background this poster contains all the elements of gothic horror that were missing from the movie itself. – It would have been so easy to do a “Beautiful Young Stars in a Row Movie Poster” but this one offers a little bit more. Each character gets their own story within the movie, this is partly shown in the poster. I also love the way London and New York are blended together.

Up in the Air – The three people in this image are clearly together and alone at the same time, stick a plane in the background and you have the whole movie in a poster, simple but clever.

Machete – There have been some great posters for this movie. I particularly like the individual character posters but this UK quad is brilliant, it perfectly blends the styles of the exploitation movies it is trying to emulate and mainstream action movies such as James Bond.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – The marketing for this movie was a bit haphazard with the evil exes and the main poster are all great but they have nothing to connect them other than the movie title. They all looked good though.

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I have an idea for a TV show. Take a diverse group of people and put them in a situation where they have to race across America in an illegal car race. Some are compelled to take part for personal reasons others are just in it for the money ($32million prize money). In the background there are darker more sinister things going on with the race organisers and sponsors. To top it all of you need a great kick ass leading man say someone like Nathan Fillion, lets not forget this is a race, so he needs a cool car, say a 1970 Challenger R/T like the one form Vanishing Point. Sounds like a good idea? It is a great idea and it has already been done, unfortunately it bombed and FOX cancelled the show.  I understand most of the action scenes were shot on green screen then blended with CGI and other filmed action, the result is pretty good and generally effective. The plot is pretty simple with the twists not particularly surprising but everything blends together to create a good fun show with a few likeable characters.

It would be a perfect show to receive the “Serenity” treatment and get a feature-length movie version. (Any reference to the characters or events after the end of the show is made up by me, other fans of the show will have there own idea where the plot has gone. I have written this from the point of view that the show was cancelled and not what would have happened had it not been cancelled) The best way to do it would be to make a stand alone movie that could be viewed without any prior knowledge of the TV show. Make up James Bond style pre-credit prologue that would also serve as a conclusion to the show. With the help of Alex Tully, detective Ehrle (Richard Brooks ) leads a team who arrest some of the race organisers stop the race and rescue Corinna Wiles, Kathryn Tully and some unspoiled other hostages.  Three years later it transpires that the people who are caught are “middle management” and the real organisers are free. Detective Ehrle Now working for the FBI is running a task force to try and catch them but it isn’t going well as they have friends in high places. An opportunity arises when some of the old competitors start receiving mobile phones in the post in perpetration for a new race.

And what of the original cast, how would they fit in?

Alex Tully (Nathan Fillion) has been convinced of crimes during and prior to the previous race and faces sentencing, he is offered the opportunity to have record wiped clean if he enters the race to help expose the people behind it. His 1970 Dodge Challenger (referred to as a 1972 in the show) is ready and waiting for him. Kathryn Tully (Amy Acker) insists on coming with him. Along the he comes across Corinna Wiles (Kristin Lehman) who has never stopped looking for the people behind the race and has attached herself to one of the competitors in much the same way as she did with Tully in the show.

Winston Salazar (Kevin Alejandro) and Sean Salazar (J.D. Pardo) have drifted apart since the end of the race. In a reversal of fortune Winston has gone straight whilst Sean is incrassated following a conviction for computer hacking. The race organisers have evidence of the shooting from the TV show (that it transpires they covered up). They are compelled to work together and join the race in exchange for the evidence not finding its way to the police. Having been working as a mechanic since the events of the show his1964 Chevrolet Impala lowrider is ready to race.

Following the death of her farther, John Trimble (Dylan Baker), Violet Trimble (Emma Stone) receives his phone and decided to join the race in his place and brings her friend (or boyfriend) along for the ride. Thanks to the proceeds of her fathers life assurance policy she isn’t short of money and buys a faster car than the 1999 Ford Taurus from the show.

Leigh Barnthouse (Rochelle Aytes) and Ivy Chitty (Taryn Manning) invited to join the race on the condition they compete together. Ivy has since learnt to drive. Along the way we also discover why the organisers wanted her “eliminated” early in the series.  Is Leigh determined to win because of Susan Chamblee’s dieing words or does she have her own agenda?

Rob Laird (Riley Smith) has been dishonourably discharged from the army and divorced Ellie Laird (Mircea Monroe) who he blames. He is offered a chance to get what he wants most, a way back into the army but there is a condition, he has to work with his ex wife but do the organisers who her secret? (for those that don’t know she was working with Allan James (Brian Bloom) an enforcer for the race organisers).

 Wendy Patrakas (Melanie Lynskey) and her now infant child are on the run after shooting her abusive husband, she is hoping to win the race in order to start a new life.



This is just a bit of fun, I can’t see FOX giving the show the send-off it deserves after all this time or even letting someone else do it but it’s a niece idea. But then who knows, who expected Serenity?

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Moviestar Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is living in the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles. Having recently completed shooting a movie and convalescing after a minor injury he doesn’t have much to do with his time. Things change when he is forced to look after his eleven year old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning).

Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003) received a bit of a backlash after its initial success, I have always defended it and placed it number six in my top ten movies of the decade. Somewhere however lacks the quality and the grandeur of Lost in Translation. I don’t agree with those hung-up on Coppola’s obsession with depressed rich people in hotel rooms, she grew up as the daughter of an Oscar winning director, actors in their private lives is her world and probably the only one she knew for a lot of her life.

Johnny seems to be drifting aimlessly almost sleepwalking. He only shows any sign of happiness when with his daughter. Is it because Johnny finds meaning in his relationship with Cleo, or is she just a more effective distraction than watching pole dancers, sleeping with random women and driving his Ferrari. This like all the other themes in the movie is hinted at but never truly explored. Despite her leading man living in a dreamlike state the movie lacks the wonderful dreamy, hazy quality that was on display in Coppola’s other movies: The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and to some extent Marie Antoinette. This is a shame, if she had been able to recapture it, it could have given the movie something extra. What she does capture perfectly is the aimless melancholy of Johnny’s existence. The same technique is effectively used multiple times where the camera stays still and the action comes and goes in and out of the frame, this is most evident in the opening scene as Johnny’s Ferrari goes aimlessly around a track, the metaphors are far from subtle here!

As mentioned above Johnny is the happiest when with Cleo, the movie is also at its best when Dorff and Fanning are together, at other times it can fall a little flat. This is probably because the characters relationships are more interesting than the characters themselves. There are lots of things the movie could be saying but it drifts from one idea to the next without developing them. The only clear message here is moviestars are just ordinary people (except with more money). One thing that can’t be faulted is the acting, Stephen Dorff perfectly captures his character and makes him totally believable, probably even more so than Bill Murray’s Bob Harris in Lost in Translation. Elle Fanning looks as accomplished as her older sister did at a similar age.

The one question I keep asking myself is would I like the movie more if I had never seen Lost in Translation, the answer would probably be yes. That said it doesn’t make the movie better, don’t get me wrong, it is a good movie, I was just expecting so much more.

Four Stars out of Five

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The nominations have been announced for the 68th Annual Golden Globe Awards. It was my intension to write an article regarding my thoughts on the nominated movies. As is often the case the UK is so far behind in realising some of these movies I haven’t seen enough to make an informed decision. Instead here are the nominations (movies only – not TV).

Key RED = I haven’t seen the movie: GREEN = The movie/actor I would vote for.  As you will notice there are a lot of movie I haven’t seen so my choices may change as I see them.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Burlesque
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • Red
  • The Tourist

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network
  • Colin Firth for The King’s Speech
  • James Franco for 127 Hours
  • Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine
  • Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Nominees:Halle Berry for Frankie and Alice
  • Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole
  • Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone
  • Natalie Portman for Black Swan
  • Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

  • Johnny Depp for The Tourist
  • Johnny Depp for Alice in Wonderland
  • Paul Giamatti for Barney’s Version
  • Jake Gyllenhaal for Love and Other Drugs
  • Kevin Spacey for Casino Jack

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

  • Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right (a close second)
  • Anne Hathaway for Love and Other Drugs
  • Angelina Jolie for The Tourist
  • Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right
  • Emma Stone for Easy A

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

  • Christian Bale for The Fighter
  • Michael Douglas for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  • Andrew Garfield for The Social Network
  • Jeremy Renner for The Town
  • Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

  • Amy Adams for The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech
  • Mila Kunis for Black Swan
  • Melissa Leo for The Fighter
  • Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom

Best Director

  • Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
  • David Fincher for The Social Network
  • Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech
  • Christopher Nolan for Inception
  • David O. Russell for The Fighter

Best Screenplay

  • 127 Hours: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
  • Inception: Christopher Nolan
  • The Kids Are All Right: Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko
  • The King’s Speech: David Seidler
  • The Social Network: Aaron Sorkin

Best Original Score

  • 127 Hours: A.R. Rahman
  • Alice in Wonderland: Danny Elfman
  • Inception: Hans Zimmer
  • The King’s Speech: Alexandre Desplat
  • The Social Network: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Best Animated Film

  • Despicable Me
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist
  • Tangled
  • Toy Story 3

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Biutiful
  • I Am Love
  • The Concert
  • The Edge
  • In a Better World

Winners to be announced on Sunday, January 16th 2011 just nine days before the Oscar nominations are announced.

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Review Catch-Up

The American

Gunsmith/assassin Jack (George Clooney) travels from Sweden to a small Italian town to lie low, whist there he is given a job that he decides will be his last. Although not looking for relationships or conections he soon forms a bond with an elderly priest, Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and a prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido).

The marketing for the movie makes it look like a James Bond/Jason Bourne type thriller, but this is a very different beast. With a slow pace and sense of melancholy running through the movie as Jack works through an existential crisis this is a million miles away from the hitmen lying low movie In Bruges (2008) that the synopsis makes it sound like. It is equally as far removed from Jim Jarmusch’s esoteric The Limits of Control (2009). It does share the thoughtful, reflective ideals of Jim Jarmusch’s movie but is much more accessible. The uses of language (both English and Italian) is concise to a point of being almost economical pushing the viewers focus onto the stunning photography. You get the opportunity to appreciate this as the camera is often kept still, the complete antithesis of the frenzy of Bourne. Mixed up in the loneliness and melancholy the ominous inevitability of Jack’s path is blended with a sense or at least glimmer of hope.

A well made, well acted movie that is both enjoyable and rewarding but not one that will appeal to everyone.

Four Stars out of Five



* * * * *



At 66 years old Danny Trejo finally gets his first and possibly only starring role: Mexican Federale Machete (Danny Trejo) is betrayed by his boss who is in the pocket of druglord Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal) and left for dead. We catch up with him living illegally as a day worker in Texas where he gets involved in a converted story involving US Senator (Robert De Niro) and illegal immigrants. To put it simply and quote the original Grindhouse trailer “They soon realised, they just fucked with the wrong Mexican”

Although it has been suggested that Robert Rodriguez has had a script kicking around since the mid 90’s this movie really started life as a fake trailer as part of the Grindhouse project two years ago. The first notable thing about the movie is the incredible cast, Danny Trejo gets two leading ladies in the shape of Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. The movie also features Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson and Lindsay Lohan all in prominent parts, also lookout for B movie legend and Rodriguez regular Tom Savini. It isn’t fair to comment on the acting in a movie like this as it is intentionally hammy and tongue-in-cheek. The person who comes out of it best is probably Michelle Rodriguez; please give her, her own Grindhouse movie! The action is brutal and violent, the humour is dark and sometimes sick. The most surprising thing about the movie is the overt story of racial politics, this is a little intrusive at times but actually very welcome at others.

It is an easy movie to be dismissive of, this is unfair. For me it is a better movie than Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse movie Planet Terror. Like the real Grindhouse and exploitation movies of the 70’s it is disposable pulp but tremendous fun pulp. In the unlikely event of a Machete II I for one would be happy.

Four Stars out of Five.



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The Tourist

Elise (Angelina Jolie) is under surveillance, the police are looking for her lover Alexander Pearce, as is Reginald Shaw (Steven Berkoff) the gangster he stole a large sum of money from. When she receives a note from Pearce telling her to catch a train to Venice and pickup a man of similar height and build to him it confirms suspicions that he has undergone plastic surgery to changed his identity. The van she chooses is Frank Tupelo (Johnny Depp), an American maths teacher on vacation. Unsurprisingly as they reach Venice the police and Shaw aren’t far behind.

An innocent man on the run after a case of mistaken identify meets a beautiful and mysterious woman on a train. Put simply it is one of the best films ever made, obviously I am talking about Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and not The Tourist. The final reveal is very similar to that of a much better movie from a few years ago (I won’t mention the name to avoid giving the plot away. But that is the problem, there isn’t much to give away, through all the twists, turns, reveals and reversals of the plot, there really isn’t that much going on and there aren’t any surprises.

It lacks the mayhem of the similarly themed Knight and Day from earlier in the year but in some ways it is better for that. Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie make a strange leading couple, they are great on their own but really lack any chemistry together, this is the real detriment of the movie.

Three Stars out of Five


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London Boulevard

Mitchell (Colin Farrell) gets out of prison and is determined not to go back. Old friend (Ben Chaplin) and Mob boss Mr Gant (Ray Winstone) have other ideas. A chance encounter with Penny (Ophelia Lovibond – only a bit part in this movie but look out for this girl she has star potential) leads to a job as handyman and minder for fragile and reclusive movie star Charlotte (Keira Knightley). Even with his newfound employment going straight isn’t going to be easy when everyone around him expects him to be a gangster.

The story is surprisingly simple but well constructed and paced letting the characters drive the story forward. The performances are all excellent with Colin Farrell giving a great performance again proving himself a likeable and charismatic leading man with great comic timing. Keira Knightley is perfectly cast and totally believable. Ray Winstone lends a little gravity with real gangster-movie credentials. But for the second time this year David Thewlis is the person to be watching as he steals every scene he is in.  Also listen out for a great soundtrack.

The only real flaw of the movie is that it really offers nothing new to the genre, most things it does or has to say were already done better in Layer Cake. This also makes it predicable. That said it is never boring so still worth watching.

Three Stars out of Five

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The Warrior’s Way

Warrior/assassin Yang (Jang Dong-gun) is the worlds greatest swordsman, he is ordered by his clan to kill the last member of an enemy clan, after killing all his guards he discovers the target is a baby girl. Refusing to kill the child he fleas to America in search of an old friend and a new life. He finds a dilapidated western town with some strange inhabitants, he reopens his old friends laundry shop with the help of Lynne (Kate Bosworth), a troubled young woman with a sad past (what other kind is there in a movie like this!). Before long both Yang and Lynne’s pasts catch up with them.

Comparisons with The Good, The Bad, The Weird are inevitable, but while that movie is totally out there bonkers fun The Warriors Way all feels a bit flat. The main reason for this lack of animation, is actually the use of animation, the vast majority of the movie was shot on green screen with all the sets and scenery added by CGI. Hugely over designed and over stylised, some of it looks good but at other times it looks cheep. If it actually were cheep, it would be the best justification for heavy use of CGI, to keep the cost down, but with an estimated budget of $42million it isn’t exactly low budget. The movie also suffers from a slow build-up, with around two thirds of the movie spend developing characters, this would be okay if they did a better job of developing the characters and if the action was worth the wait, unfortunately it fails on both counts. The characters a clichés that lack dimension and the action is over edited and relies too much on CGI.

The sad thing is that it had a enough going for it to have made a good movie. The Ninja’s versus Cowboys concept is brilliant. The cast is good and could have done so much more with some decent dialogue. File this one under Missed opportunity.

Two Stars out of Five

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American photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is working in Central America until he phones the office and is told to drop everything and ensure his bosses daughter Sam (Whitney Able – McNairy’s real life then girlfriend now wife) gets home safely. The only complication is that the movie is set against a backdrop of an “infected zone” where giant extraterrestrial creatures roam around. The American and Mexican military attempt to contain and control them causing more devastation than the creatures themselves.

We are told from the opening text that the infection and the creatures came from a crashed NASA space probe that had discovered alien life Jupiter’s moon Europa. Don’t expect to see a “monster movie” this is about the people not the creatures (I don’t think the word monster is actually used in the movie) the real story here is that of a road movie. As is often the case with road movies where the supporting cast are somewhat transient a lot rests on the shoulders of the main actors, this is especially true here as so many of the supporting cast are none actors found along the way (this really is guerrilla filmmaking!). The surprising thing is that based on their performances here I can’t believe Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able aren’t bigger stars. My only past experience of either of them is McNairy’s starring role in the brilliant indie movie In Search of a Midnight Kiss (go find the DVD if you haven’t seen it). I think that is about to change, they both have a lot of projects ahead of them.

In interviews I have heard director Gareth Edwards talking about the subtext of the movie reflecting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is all very evident but look a little deeper and he has managed to achieve something more profound and more fundamental. Like all great road movies there is an existential thread running through perfectly played out through the characters particularly Sam. Borrowing equally from Apocalypse Now, Jurassic Park and It Happened One Night it is a road movie, a monster movie, an allegorical tale and a story about life and love; all this could have been a mess but not only brilliantly constructed it also appears strangely effortless in its delivery.

There is a lot of talk about the movies budget, I have heard suggestions ranging from $16,000 to $1million, however you look at it, it is considerably cheaper than Skylines $10million or Avatars $300million. All this is irrelevant; good is good and bad is bad regardless of budget, so how good is Monsters? Let’s put it like this, unless there are six or seven amazing films released in the next two weeks monsters will appear pretty high in my top ten movies of the year.

Five Stars out of Five

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