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Dom 5Back for a second year of Groovers Movie awards. As with last year, no nominations, just winners. Ten categories, most of which are the same or similar to those in other awards. The award itself named the “Dom” is modelled after a Dom Pérignon bottle (you need to watch Fandango to understand the relevance) and is a virtual for a second year as Moët haven’t approached offered to sponsor the award.

Best Movie:
Skyfallskyfall
Best Director:
Ben Affleck for Argoben affleck directing argo
Best Actress:
Marion Cotillard for Rust and BoneMarion Cotillard  Rust and Bone
Best Actor:
Matthew McConaughey for Killer JoeKiller Joe
Best Screenplay:
Moonrise KingdomMoonrise Kingdom
Best Foreign Language Film:
Rust and Bonerust-and-bone-poster
Best Documentary:
Marley – The Imposter got all the plaudits but I found Marley more interesting and enjoyable.Marley
Best Looking Movie:
Life of Pi; An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Life of Pi wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.life-of-pi
Best Ensemble Cast:
The Avengers: last years Movie Stars of the year given to movie stars who had impressed in a variety of movie has been replaced by Best Ensemble Cast, this goes to: Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany who all played a part in making The Avengers great.Marvel Avengers Assemble
Fandango Award:
Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. That is why the Fandango Award goes to someone in a début or breakthrough feature: Gina Carano in Steven Soderbergh’s B movie masterpiece Haywire.haywire-gina-caranoDom 5

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  1. Skyfall: I wasn’t sure if Sam Mendes would be the right director for Bond, how wrong was I! After seeing a Bond film I have said “that was a great Bond film” on many occasions, its rare to say that’s a great film. That’s why Skyfall makes the top of my list, its simply a great film.skyfall
  2. The Dark Knight Rises: Both the most intimate and the biggest in scale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Elevated by great casting particularly Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway. A fitting conclusion to what is possibly the best trilogy ever that like all great movies leaves you wanting more.The Dark Knight Rises
  3. Argo: A spy story based on real events is going to be a hard sell but Ben Affleck has done it again. As both star and director Affleck has given us a film completely different to but as good as if not even better than his first two films. Tense and funny in equal measure and at the right times, a future classic.Ben Affleck in Argo
  4. Haywire: Possibly the controversial choice on the list certainly the “Marmite” choice on the list. Steven Soderbergh has crafted a B movie with an A list cast held together by Gina Carano, a former cage fighter with no acting experience. The antidote to modern action movies with frenetic editing an too much CGI.Gina Carano and Channing Tatum Haywire
  5. The Avengers: Joss Whedon has done the impossible. Bringing a disparate group of characters together to create an exciting and entertaining movie with just the right blend of action and comedy. Making good use of all the characters and giving the franchise a future, its far more than I expected from the movie. And he gave The Hulk the best like of 2012.Marvel Avengers Assemble
  6. Killer Joe: William Friedkin’s tale of murder set around a dysfunctional Texas family is often violent and repugnant, but it is also brilliant mainly because of a star turn from a resurgent Matthew McConaughey.Killer Joe
  7. Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson has turned his unique quirky bittersweet eye on a coming of age drama. It is as funny as you would expect from Anderson, but it is more engaging and endearing thanks to fantastic performances from both the recognisable established actors and the unknown kids.Moonrise Kingdom
  8. Life of Pi: I was a little sceptical about seeing this movie, I had heard it was a bit preachy and how interesting can a film about a boy in a boat be? I also hate 3D. I shouldn’t have worried, as previous mentioned; the 3D is the best I have ever seen, the story is great as well as being stunning to look at.Life Of Pi
  9. Rust and Bone: Jacques Audiard follows up A Prophet with a bruising and brutal melodrama. Marion Cotillard is as great as ever as is her co star Matthias Schoenaerts. Sometimes oppressive and hard to watch, at others uplifting but always emotional. A film that needs to find a worldwide audience.Rust and Bone
  10. End of Watch: Written and directed by David Ayer,. Made up of little snippets of the daily life of a pair a of cops (perfectly cast Jake Gylleenhaal and Michael Pena) working one of the roughest beats in South Central LA. A tough, brutal and believable cop film like nothing that has been made in a generation.End of Watch

A note on my selection: I have only included movies from this year. 2011 movies that didn’t reach the UK until this year have been excluded. I will probably do a redux version when I have seen all the 2013 movies in early 2013.

Don’t forget, this isn’t a best of 2012 list, it is it is simply my favourite 10 of the year. So don’t tell me the list is wrong but feel free to share your favourite films of the year.

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Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises are amongst my favourite movies of the year, but between them they cost the best part of the unimaginable sum of half a billion dollars. What can be done with a lower budget? All of the ten films listed below were made for less than $25million and are all the better for the invention and creativity that comes with limitations of a small budget. In a B movie tradition I have discarded indie drama’s in favour of genre movies: action, gangsters, sci-fi and horror.  The other notable thing, is that despite their B credentials they all received a UK cinema release.

Haywire
Budget: $23,000,000 (estimated)
Legend has it that Steven Soderbergh was sat at home late one night channel surfing when he came across a Mixed Martial Arts contest (a cage fight). He was so enthralled with one of the contestants Gina Carano that he diced to write a movie for her. Having never acted before it was a big risk, but we are talking about the director who cast porn star Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience. Taking a different approach for haywire, he filled the supporting roles with talented actors (Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Ewan McGregor), but it is the action that really sets the film apart. Forgoing the post Bourne trend of ultra close-ups and staccato editing in favour of long takes and mid length shots with lots of depth of field. It all helps show off Carano’s fighting talents. A love it or hate it film, it has received mixed reviews, personally I love it.

Killer Joe
Budget: $10,000,000 (estimated)
Back in 2006 William Friedkin made a criminally overlooked gem called Bug, it was based on a play by Tracy Letts who also wrote the screenplay. The pair re-teamed to adapt a play Letts wrote twenty years ago. Set around a criminally stupid dysfunctional Texas family it is a violent and repugnant tale. Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon are all brilliant but are in the shadow of the real star Matthew McConaughey. Often funny but the humour is truly jet black, this is a seriously fucked up film that many people will hate, again, I love it.

The Raid
Budget: $1,100,000 (estimated)
Welshman Gareth Evans is the unlikely director of this film that highlights Indonesian martial art, pencak silat. Set in a Jakarta tower block controlled by a crime lord a swat team have to fight for their lives as the story of why they are there gradually unfolds. A brutal and violent film that isn’t actually that originally but still manages to feel fresh and new. It isn’t as good, inventive or as memorable as Die Hard but it cost less than £1million, in other words less than the coffee budget from Lord of the Rings.

Wild Bill
Budget: no idea but its British so it won’t be much!
Dexter Fletcher has always been a decent and likeable actor, although never a great one, therefore it many come as a surprise, but his debut feature as a director is brilliant. Given his association with British gangster movies it is natural that Wild Bill would be set in London’s underworld. What’s great about the movie is that it avoids the usual storylines associated with this type of movie in recent years and concentrates on more personal story of an ex con who returns home from prison to find his two young sons abandoned my their mother. Being a farther is the last thing on his mind but something compels him to do the right thing. Fletcher also avoids the pitfall of casting himself instead opting for a whose who of British TV and genre movies.

Killing Them Softly
$18,000,000 (estimated)
This gritty tale of low level mobsters and hit men could have been a disaster. Not a great deal happens, it is filled with scenes of men talking around the issues of the movie. The social and political commentary have earned the movie its greatest praise and largest criticism. Directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Brad Pitt, the pair worked together on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and are both on top form again. And like all great genre movies, it clocks in at less than 100 minutes.

Lockout
$20,000,000 (estimated)
Based on an “original idea” by Luc Besson, I’m not sure there is an original idea in the whole movie and don’t think Luc Besson has actually had an original idea in a long time, but that really doesn’t matter, the movie is great. Its silly and its fun and that’s all it ever intended or indeed needed to be. The plot involves a shady but honest spy type character who is forced to rescue the president’s daughter who is held hostage on a prison in space. So basically its Die Hard meets Escape from New York, in space. The CGI is terrible and the plot is thin but none of this matters, the action is good and the dialogue is often funny. The real appeal is a surprisingly good Maggie Grace and the always brilliant Guy Pearce.

Chronicle
$12,000,000 (estimated)
The surprise low budget hit from the early part of the year. A Sci-fi movie reminiscent of Push (2009) and the TV show Misfits. I’m not a fan of the found footage genre but they get away with on the whole here. It loses its way in the final act but overall it is still an enjoyable movie. The unknown cast are good and the fact they are unknown often works in the movies favour.

Storage 24
Budget: again no idea but its British so will be well within the $25million limit.
I have suggested in the past that Noel Clarke is the most important person in the British film industry at the moment. Actor, writer, director and producer, awarded the Orange Rising Star Award at the 2009 BAFTA’s, he is the writer and star of Storage 24. Ultimately it is an alien invasion movie but without the grandeur of Hollywood movies and scaling it back to a small intimate and personal story. It plays out like a haunted house movie with a great blend of horror, comedy and action. Remembering the golden rule the creature is kept hidden for a long time and when we see it, its pretty good for a low budget movie. Criminally overlooked and underrated.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (aka Get the Gringo)
$20,000,000 (estimated)
Sadly under seen thanks to Mel Gibson’s personal problems and the lack of a cinema release in America. First time director Adrian Gruenberg worked for Gibson as assistant director on Apocalypto, the pair give us an old fashioned story of a getaway driver who finds himself in trouble south of the border. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where Gibson impersonates Clint Eastwood but long before that the film starts to resemble A Fistful of Dollars (1964)/Yojimbo (1961) and is all the better for it. Full of both the action and the dry whit you would expect from Mel Gibson of old. Ultimately it is the story of a flawed character looking for redemption, just like Gibson himself.

The Grey
$25,000,000 (estimated)
A horrible and inaccurate portrayal of grey wolves but a haunting and entertaining movie. Liam Neeson has always walked the line between serious actor and action star, originally leaning more towards actor but more recently falling on the action side of the line. When a plane carrying oil drillers crashes in the freezing wastes of Alaska the survivors are hunted by killer wolves. A metaphor for the destruction of the environment and the power of nature or just a survival thriller. Whatever you get from the movie it is well made and largely enjoyable.

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The Olympics and a couple of big releases have led to a limited number of new releases in July so I have only seen five movie, but amongst them is the best film of the year so far.

Killer Joe: William Friedkin’s tale of murder set around a dysfunctional Texas family is often violent and repugnant, but it is also brilliant mainly because of a star turn from a resurgent Matthew McConaughey.

Storage 24: For the second month in a row a movie written by and starring the one man British film industry Noel Clarke. A well designed and thought out creature and good use of the confined space make for a really good British monster movie.

The Amazing Spider-Man: A reboot surprisingly soon after Sam Raimi’s trilogy. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are perfectly cast, the action is pretty good but the thing that sets it apart is the none costume build up to the action.

The Dark Knight Rises: Both the most intimate and the biggest in scale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Elevated by great casting particularly Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway. A fitting conclusion to what is possibly the best trilogy ever that like all great movies leaves you wanting more.

Chariots of Fire: The 1981 film has been re-released in time for the Olympics. Based on a true story concentrating on two British athletes culminating with their appearance at the 1924 Paris Olympics. A seminal sports movie that is still relevant thirty years on.

Not only my movie of the month but my favourite movie so far this year:

The Dark Knight Rises

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Matthew McConaughey is a second-rate actor who appears in crappy rom-com’s with posters that feature him leaning against his co-star a stupid grin on his face. It would be easy to believe this based on some of the terrible movies he has appeared in, but look a little deeper and you will se some great performances in interesting movies.

As with many people he first came to my attention in 1993’s Dazed and Confused. Looking back now Richard Linklater’s ensemble cast looks impressive, however, the truly impressive thing is that they were unknowns at the time. The funniest and most charismatic of these, despite his reprehensible attitude towards high school girls was McConaughey’s David Wooderson. A Time to Kill is still my favourite movie based on a John Grisham novel, it is even more impressive when you consider it was directed by Joel Schumacher around the same time as he was fucking up the Batman franchise. McConaughey is perfectly cast as Jake Brigance, an easygoing but honourable southern lawyer who more than holds his own against an impressive cast including: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Donald Sutherland and Patrick McGoohan.

He followed this up with impressive performances in Lone Star (1996), Amistad (1997), Contact (1997) and a reunion with Richard Linklater in the true story of The Newton Boys (1998). Edtv (1999) was a sublime satire that is remarkably prophetic given the rise of reality TV in the decade that followed its release. It was sadly overshadowed by the previous years The Truman Show. Like his character Ed Pekurny in the show he stars in McConaughey’s is the reason to watch the movie, he is as perfect for the part as Jim Carrey was for Truman.

U-571 (2000) is a routine action, adventure, thriller, it has its issues but is largely enjoyable and gives us a first look at McConaughey in a more action orientated movie. Two films that best exemplify his action credentials are: the man v dragon movie Reign of Fire (2002) where he makes the future Batman and King Leonidas (Christian Bale and Gerard Butler) look like average Joe’s. It isn’t a great movie, but it is great fun. The same can be said for the underrated Sahara (2005). Based on a Clive Cussler novel, and featuring the character Dirk Pitt in his second movie outing (the first was played by Richard Jordan in the rubbish Raise the Titanic, 1980). A fun action adventure that is as close as anyone has ever come to emulating Indiana Jones. McConaughey has the right blend of hero and comedian and has great chemistry with co-stars Penélope Cruz and Steve Zahn. Sadly the film “underperformed” at the box-office and was beset with legal issues mainly involving author Clive Cussler making a sequel unlikely.

After a slew of the aforementioned crappy rom-com’s last year saw a return to form with an adaptation of the Michael Connelly novel The Lincoln Lawyer. Mick Haller is a sleazy defence attorney, radically different from the honourable boy scout Jake Brigance in A Time to Kill but no less charismatic. This year sees McConaughey take on three radically different roles: A cop with a sideline in murder for hire in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, a male stripper in Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike and a journalist trying to exonerate a man on death row in The Paperboy.

So next time you see a picture of Matthew McConaughey leaning against his co-star on a movie poster of a film like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past or The Wedding Planner, give the guy a break and remind yourself that he has made some more interesting movies.

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