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Archive for August, 2016

BBC Culture recently asked 177 film critics from 36 countries to name their favourite films of the last 16 years.  Here are the top ten compiled from their choices:

  1. Mulholland Drive (2001)
  2. In the Mood for Love (2000)
  3. There Will Be Blood (2007)
  4. Spirited Away (2001)
  5. Boyhood (2014)
  6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  7. The Tree of Life (2011)
  8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (2000)
  9. A Separation (2011)
  10. No Country for Old Men (2007)

So here are a few stats from my point of view:

  • Number of the top ten I have seen: 7
  • Number of the top ten I enjoyed: 7
  • Number of the top ten that make my top ten: 3
  • Number of the top ten I have never heard of: 1
  • Number of the top ten I own on DVD: 3

I have seen a few of these lists cropping up recently.  It seems like a strange time to compile the list, why not wait for 2020 or 2025?  I have no idea, but as the saying goes, if you can’t beat them join them join them.  Here is my top ten of the 21st Century so far*:

  1. Oldboy (2003)Oldboy
  2. Mulholland Dr. (2001)Mulholland Drive
  3. City of God (2002)City of God
  4. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)Pans Labyrinth
  5. No Country for Old Men (2007)no country for old men
  6. The Dark Knight (2008)The Dark Knight
  7. Lost In Translation (2003)Lost in Translation
  8. Boyhood (2014)boyhood
  9. Memento (2000)Memento
  10. Serenity (2005)serenity
* criteria for choice: I decided to do no research, I didn't look back at what I had said in the past about a film, these are the films that immediately come to mind.   I set myself the limitation that if I didn't buy the DVD it didn't deserve a place on the list.  I didn't limit my choices to films I had seen at the cinema, but incidentally, all the films I chose, I did see for the first time at the cinema.
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Last night I visited the cinema to watch two perfect movies; Nerve and The Shallows.  When I say perfect, you may think they were instant classic movies that will contend all the awards and will rank amongst the greatest ever made.  Sadly this is not true, they are flawed movies that are average at best.  However, they are exactly what they are supposed to be,  they are disposable fun B movies.Nerve and The Shallows

The B movie started life in the early days of cinema using sets and stages from major pictures to make cheep films in an effort to maximise studios return on investment.  They were also a useful way of breaking new contract players into movie making.  The major studios were full of potential leading men and ladies, ingénue’s straight of the bus, a small number of whom would become stars.

Many of the B pictures became series, or followed a formula that would make you think they were a series.  Away from the eight major studios, the so called Poverty Row studios made nothing but B movies.  In the last days of the silent era and the early days of the talkies into the Golden Age of Hollywood, the B movie evolved into second features.  Throughout the 30’s and 40’s B movies were often genre pictures and usually clocked in at between 60 and 70 minutes for the poverty row studios and up to 90 minutes for the majors. As antitrust rules killed off second features, B movies evolved.  They continued to focus of genres; monsters, gangsters and cowboys were joined by the post war explosion in Sci-Fi.  The 60’s saw the birth of Exploitation movies.  Many of the directors credited as visionaries of American New Wave got their break in 60’s exploitation and B movies.

So back to last night’s double feature: Nerve is a teen (although most actors haven’t been teens this decade) satire on social media dressed up as an adventure thriller.  The plot isn’t as good as the concept and loses its way as it develops but is helped by engaging performances from Emma Roberts and Dave Franco.Nerve

The Shallows is an effective horror thriller about a young surfer who is stranded on rocks 200 yards from shore by a killer shark.  The surf scenes are well shot and Blake Lively manages to hold the viewers interest in a largely solo performance.  The plot is full of clichés and goofs but does feature a main character who doesn’t make the stupid decisions you usually associate with the genre.the shallows

So what is so good about the movies? They are 106 and 96 minutes long respectively.  If Scorsese or Nolan want to make a three hour masterpiece, great, they have proved they can do it, but do popcorn B pictures need to be two plus hours long? Simply NO!  Many two hour movies could be dramatically improved by being trimmed down to sub 100 minutes.  A perfect example of this:King Kong

If you watch the original, and still the best version of King Kong (1933) staring Fay Wray and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both uncredited) and run it alongside Peter Jackson’s 2005 version, you may be surprised at what happens.  The older film runs for around 96 minutes, and is ending at about the same time as Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody arrive at Skull Island.  In fact, you could watch the old film twice in the time it takes to watch the new one once.  Did beauty kill the beast, or was it boredom?

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I have been to see six movies in July, twice as many as June, half as many as May.  I have not been distracted from the cinema, there just hasn’t been much to see.  The contenders for movie of the month are:

Now You See Me 2: Now you see me came out of nowhere.  I saw it as a secret screening not knowing anything about it before going in.  It was fun thanks to a sharp script and a charismatic ensemble.  Now You See Me 2 is an unnecessary sequel that falls into every sequel trap trying to bigger and better, it is bloated and confused with is story that is overly contrived and unbelievable even within the films fictional setting.Now You See Me 2

The Neon Demon: Nicolas Winding Refn films always divide opinion, this one more than any other.  Existing in an almost dream like trance for most of its running time, it never feels real.  As a viewer you never feel like a voyeur looking in on the characters lives, it always feels one step removed, like a dream, or a nightmare.  The film oozes with influences of other directors, possibly: Lynch, Jordon, Mann, Schrader and Carpenter.  More a work of art than a movie, I can see why many people hate it, I loved it.The Neon Demon

Ghostbusters: There has been so much said about this film, mostly before it came out, that it has become nearly impossible to criticise it without being accused of misogyny.  In truth, the Ghostbusters being played by woman is irrelevant as they are largely good in their roles.  The problem is with the script, it just isn’t funny enough.  All the best moments involve nods to the original film (including cameos) or improvisation that stands out from the.  An okay but disappointing film that people who didn’t grow up with the original will probably enjoy more than those who did.  Worth seeing for Kate McKinnon who has dived opinion but stole the whole movie for me.ghostbusters

The Legend of Tarzan: Not well reviewed by critics but people I have spoken to who have seen it seem to have enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it, more than Ghostbusters.  Shot largely on green-screen, the setting looks stunning, but the animals aren’t as effective as in The Jungle Book.   Alexander Skarsgård makes a good hero but is totally overshadowed by the brilliant Margot Robbie.  Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson play Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, this is never a bad thing, no one eats or has a pleasant conversation with menace like Waltz!  It doesn’t offer anything new to the well told story but is a fun way to spend a couple of hours, and that is significant, it resists the temptation to outstay its welcome with a two hour plus runtime.The Legend of Tarzan

Star Trek Beyond:  Star Trek Into Darkness was a solid film that everyone seemed to like when it came out but rapidly fell out of love with it.  The main problem was twofold, a lack of fun and interaction between the main characters.  Like the best of the original films The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, Beyond brings back the fun and the banter.  The final act is a little Marvel in its execution but it does earn it with what goes before.Star Trek Beyond

Jason Bourne: Nine years after the trilogy seemed to be wrapped up nicely Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon decided it was time to bring him back. As with the earlier films the story is topical and reflects the time.  As you would expect from Greengrass the action and fight scenes are fantastically staged.  The only criticism, it doesn’t do anything we haven’t already seen in the earlier films.    Jason Bourne

Movie of the month is:neon-demon poster

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