Archive for December, 2015

A to Z of 2015

For my final post of the year, I give you my A to Z of the year:

A: Amy – documentary of the yearAmy

B: Back to the Future – we celebrated Back to the Future dayback to the future 2

C: Cate Blanchett, my performance of the yearCarol

D: Denis Villeneuve – my director of the yearsicario_dvilleneuve_rdeakins

E: Eastwood – Clint returns to form behind the camera and Scott finds his feet in front of it.The Eastwoods

F: Fast & Furious 7 – unexpectedly took $1.5billionFast and Furious 7

G: Garland  – Alex Garland debut director of the yearalex garland ex machina

H: Hardy – a worthy adaptationFar from the Madding Crowd

I: Imperator Furiosa – character of the yearImperator Furiosa

J:  J.J. Abrams – The man who awoke the forcestar wars the force awakens

K: Kingsman: The Secret Service – surprise of the yearkingsman

L: Love -BFI’s love season include cinema screenings of True Romance and Doctor ZhivagoLove

M: Mad Max – my movie of the yearMad Max Fury Road

N: Naomi Watts – putting Dianna behind her with a string of strong performancesNaomi Watts

O: Oscar Isaac – actor of the year with three very different moviesoscar isaac

P: Pixar – the first animation to make my top ten of the yearInside Out - Copy

Q: Q – Bond has gadgets again!Q

R: Roger Deakins – my cinematographer of the yearroger deakins

S: Spies – the year of the spy; Bond, Kingsman, UNCLE, SPY, Mission impossible, Bridge of Spies2015 Spies

T: Terminator – Genisys was rubbish but The Terminator got a cinematic rereleasethe terminator

U: Underperformers aka flops2015 Flops

V:  Vikander – Alicia Vikander, breakout star of the yearAlicia Vikander

W: Walking – Three movies about putting one foot in-front of the other  Walking 2015

X: X + Y – a film that deserves to find a wider audienceX + Y


Z: Zoë Kravitz – continues to impress in supporting roleszoe kravitz


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“Ah, ah,
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming!”

From “Immigrant Song” Led Zeppelin

As Star Wars continues to dominate screen time in the multiplexes there doesn’t look like there is much to look forward to until Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight finally appears on the 8th January.  Rather than go back and watch Star Wars for a third time, I am off on holiday.  With a couple of articles auto-scheduled to post over new year, you won’t even notice I am gone. holidayFor those who are wondering, above is a clue to my destination.

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Christmas Day, what better time to share my top ten movies of the year.  They are not the best movies of the year, there is no right or wrong, they are just the ones I have enjoyed the most:

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road – That’s right, my favourite film of the year is a two hour chase movie:  Thirty years after the last of the original trilogy, writer/director George Miller returns to the Mad Max universe.  Part sequel, part reboot, the film shares a theme rather than continuity with the original films.  Tom Hardy is a suitable replacement for Mel Gibson but the greatest success and biggest surprise of the movie is the way Max is overshadowed by another character, Imperator Furiosa played by a fantastic Charlize Theron in the performance of a lifetime.mad max tom hardy
  2. Sicario – So close to being my top film of the year: Emily Blunt plays an idealistic and naïve FBI agent who gets drawn into a shady joint task force in the war on drugs.  Blunt and her co stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are all fantastic.  Roger Deakins photography is a spectacular as you would expect and Denis Villeneuve’s direction is sublime.  It doesn’t have anything new to say, but equally it doesn’t tell the audience what to think.  It is an old-fashioned movie in the best sense of the term.sicario emily blunt
  3. Ex Machina – January was possibly the single best month of movies I have ever seen with three movies making this top ten and another three making my best of the rest list.  Alex Garland is the author of two novels I love from the 90’s and some fantastic screenplays.  His directorial debut is so confident that it is hard to believe it is a debut.  Aan exploration of what it is to be human, a psychological thriller or just a sci-fi drama? It really doesn’t matter, it is just brilliant.Alicia Vikander Ex Machina
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrams steps into George Lucas’ shoes and does what Lucas failed to do with the prequels, a film worthy of the original trilogy.  Large ideas and parts of the story are taken straight from the original film, this works surprisingly well.  The new characters are all good and fit well with the returning ones.  Most importantly it is a fun action adventure that gives a new hope for the franchise.star wars the force awakens
  5. Whiplash – Another movie from January: A young drummer at a prestigious music school joins the band a of a demanding teacher/conductor Fletcher.  One of the most tense and  intense films I have seen in years, more so than most thrillers.  The film picked up three well deserved Oscars including Best  Supporting actor for J.K. SimmonsWhiplash-5547.cr2
  6. Kingsman: The Secret Service – The final January movie on my list, it actually won my movie of the month:  Both a homage to and a parody of James Bond.  A film that divided opinion when it first came out, I re-watched it last week to make sure it was worth a place on the list, oh yes, it is worth its place on the list.  A well constructed film that works on every level but finds it place as fun and funny film populated by characters we want to see more of.  It is extremely violent and not always politically correct, that’s why it divides opinion, but that’s what makes it so good.kingsman
  7. Carol – Shot on 16mm film to stunning effect, a beautiful film with a dreamlike quality partly thanks to the stunning photography.  Based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith and containing autobiographical elements.  Cate Blanchett is as sensational as you would expect, Rooney Mara is a revelation and possibly the best she has ever been.  Borrowing a framing device from Brief Encounter that it uses to great effect.  There has been some debate as to the theme of the movie, for me it is a film about finding your identity, but it is both simpler and more complicated than that.  Like all great films, it is about what you, the viewer wants it to be about.Carol
  8. Inside Out – I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to animation, finally an animated film that makes my top ten of the year: Pixar’s latest and possibly greatest achievement to date. Set inside the head of an eleven year old girl in crisis, the characters are embodiments of her emotions. A fun adventure film the very young, and more sophisticated story for the rest of us.
  9. John Wick – The most trashy film on the list, reminiscent of number 4 on my 2012 list, Haywire: A Bonkers over stylised ultraviolent revenge thriller.  Breaking from the current trend of fast cutting the film has some of the best fight scenes in recent memory.  Keanu Reeves is perfect taking on elements of many of his previous characters to give a more rounded character than you first notice.  A film that I don’t expect to see on too many top ten lists.John Wick
  10. The Salvation – Westerns are a dying if not dead art form, but once in a while one crops up and even more rarely a really good one appears as if by magic.  I have heard great things about Slow West, but sadly it didn’t get much of a release and I haven’t seen it.  But I have seen The Salvation, the second revenge thriller to make my top ten, it also happens to be a western:  Surprisingly for a film shot in South Africa and directed by Danish Dogme95 director Kristian Levring, The Salvation is one of the best westerns of recent years.  Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green are both excellent and the film looks stunning but there is more to it than that.  You would expect a film about a European settler in America to have a John Ford birth of America vibe but there is more a Sam Peckinpah sense that things will never be the same again, an end of innocence or just an end.the salvation

Please note all selected films were released in the UK in 2015 regardless of when they were made, released in other territories or eligible for previous years awards.

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star wars the force awakens

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The Hallow

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The Walk

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As I decide on my top ten movies of the year, here are the films I loved but didn’t make my top ten:

A Most Violent Year: Don’t be misled by the title and trailer, this isn’t a violent action movie but a classy crime thriller with fantastic performances from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.a most violent year

Amy: Director and producer Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees are back with portrait of singer Amy Winehouse.  As compelling as Senna (2010), the real brilliance of the film isn’t the telling tale that played out in front of the worlds press, but the less know and more intimate story of the tragic figure.Amy

Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance): Winner of four Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography).  Michael Keaton is perfectly cast as an actor once famous for playing a superhero trying to reinvent himself as a stage actor.  Probably director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s best film to date.michael keaton birdman

Bridge of Spies: True story of a cold war soviet spy, the lawyer who defended him and the ultimate exchange in Berlin.   Director Steven Spielberg does what he does best delivering tension and suspence as well as comedy.  Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks are both on top form.  Rylance has to be a good bet for best supporting actor Oscar.Bridge Of Spies

Brooklyn: Story of a young woman who moves from small town Ireland to Brooklyn in the early 50’s.  A surprisingly low key film but totally enthralling, largely thanks to Nick Hornby’s great script and another standout performance from  Saoirse Ronan.Brooklyn

Crimson Peak: A movie of the month winner, but it doesn’t quite make my top ten.  A spiritual successor to The Devil’s Backbone to, to paraphrase a quote from the movie it isn’t a ghost story, it is a story with ghosts.  Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston are good, Jessica Chastain is fantastic and clearly having a blast.crimson peak

It Follows: Another  movie of the month winner that just misses my top ten; Superior horror with an original antagonist.  The style and the soundtrack are reminicent of the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Maika Monroe impresses in the lead, a young star on the rise to look out for.It Follows

Man Up: British romantic comedy centring on the fallout of a woman who finds herself on someone else’s blind date.  Lake Bell is fantastic and Simon Pegg provides good support.Man Up

SPECTRE: Skyfall was my favourite film of 2012, following Skyfall always going to be an impossible task, and to say isn’t as good doesn’t mean it isn’t a really good film.  Pulling together all the elements of the previous three films to create a story arc for Daniel Craig’s Bond feels forced but taken on its own merits it really works.SPECTRE

The Gift: A confident début as feature director by actor Joel Edgerton.  What starts out looking like an 80’s/90’s yuppies in peril thriller becomes something far more interesting. Edgerton co stars with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, all three are excellent. The end has divided opinion, but I think it is perfect for the film.

The Gift Gordo

The Gift Gordo

The Lobster: Set in a strange unexplained dystopian society where single people are turned into an animal of their choosing if they fail to find a partner.  The strangest film I have seen for a very long time, I really loved it, but I am really not sure why.the lobster

The Martian: Held together by a great turn from Matt Damon but kept tripping along by director Ridley Scott who has crafted a surprisingly funny and easy going movie.  Scott’s best film since the underrated Kingdom of Heaven a decade ago.the martian

Wild: The true story of Cheryl Strayed, a young woman who decided to walk the thousand-mile Pacific Crest Trail.  We begin to understand  her motivation through flashbacks as the film unfolds.  Well constructed with great use of music and an excellent performance from Reese Witherspoon.Wild

Watch this space for my top ten of the year some time before Christmas.  

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