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I see a lot of movies at the cinema, on average two a week. I know for many people DVD (and now Brue-ray) is their first experience of many movies. With this in mind here are ten recommendations of films set for release in the next few months.

12 March 2012

My Week with Marilyn: The true story of 23-year-old Colin Clark’s experience on the set of The Prince And The Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (who also directed the movie). Directed with a light touch reminiscent of the best of Monroe’s movies but the best thing about it is the fantastic acting, Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as Olivier, Michelle Williams is even better as Monroe.

19 March 2012

Moneyball: With a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Brad Pitt’s second great performance of last year does for sports movies what The Social Network did for Facebook. A true testament to the quality of the movie is that it is equally as enjoyable regardless of if you are a baseball fan or not.

Take Shelter: As a regular family man starts having apocalyptic visions he prepares for the impending doom and questions his own sanity in equal measure. A haunting movie that will stay with you long after it ends, elevated by the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.

26 March 2012

The Awakening: An old-fashioned ghost story, if you know my thoughts on horror, you will know that “old-fashioned” is a compliment not an insult. There are a few twists and turns in the plot but nothing spectacular, the real draw is Rebecca Hall who caries the movie virtually on her own proving her star credentials.

50/50: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a young man who is given a 50% chance of surviving his recently diagnosed cancer. A touching and funny movie inspired by a true story and having a perfect blend of genres and styles. The whole cast is great with a special mention for Anna Kendrick who makes every movie she is in a little bit better including the Twilight movies.

2 April 2012

Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is quite possibly his best movie since Casino (1995). The young stars are fantastic and the movie looks amazing.

30 April 2012

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Tom Cruise is back for a fourth impossible mission. The surprising thing, it could possibly be the best movie in the franchise so far. It has been suggested that Jeremy Renner’s character Brandt is intended as a replacement for Ethan Hunt when Tom Cruise retires the character.

7 May 2012

The Artist: The black and white, (largely) silent movie has just picked up five well deserved Oscars including best picture. With two months to go until its video release there is still time to catch it at the cinema, something I highly recommend you do if you haven’t already.

21 May 2012

Shame: Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tale of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good.

28 May 2012

Haywire: Steven Soderbergh’s version of a revenge B thriller stars former cage fighter Gina Carano and is amazingly the second best movie I have seen this year (after The Artist). 

TV

The five disc box set of season one of HBO’s epic Game Of Thrones is set for release tomorrow (5th March). Based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels about the seven kingdoms of the mythical land of Westeros and the families who fight for control of them. With the second season set to premier in America next month what better time to catch up on one of the best new shows of recent years.

A note on the selection: I have no knowledge or interest in the special features these discs contain (I usually purchase “vanilla” versions), my recommendations are based purely on the movies.
All dates refer to UK release dates are are correct to the best of my knowledge.

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There has been much debate for the reasons and merits of having ten nominees in the best picture category. Having any number between five and ten makes a certain sense in the event there are no more than five suitable movies. The selection of nine when many worthy movies have been overlooked does however seem bizarre. Here are the nominated movies ranked in order of my preference (*denotes unranked as I haven’t seen the film):

The Artist
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
The Descendants
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
The Help
War Horse
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close*

Had there been ten nominations which would be the tenth selection? Here are my suggestions, many of which would be ranked above the nominated films:

Drive
The Guard
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need to Talk About Kevin
The Skin I live in
Shame

Which would you chosen as the tenth nomination?

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Three years to the day after my first ever post (incidentally about the upcoming Oscars) I am here to announce the 1st Annual Groovers Movie Awards. 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 will remain virtual unless Moët want to step in as a sponsor me.

Best Movie:

The Artist: A virtually silent black and white movie with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio about the end of the silent movie era doesn’t sound very exciting. The result is totally stunning, charming and funny. The overwhelming favourite for the pest picture Oscar. 

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese for Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is a stunning film beautifully made and even achieving the seemingly impossible task of making 3D work. 

Best Actress:

Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Missing out to Meryl Streep at the BAFTAs and completely overlooked by the Oscars, Tilda Swinton was my only contender for best actress.

Best Actor:

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard: Missing out to Jean Dujardin for The Artist in Golden Globes and pretty much overlooked by other awards, Brendan Gleeson reminded us what a great actor he is.

Best Screenplay:

Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Notable not only for how well written it is, but for what a tough job it must have been given the unusual structure of the source novel.

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Skin I live in: Winner of the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language but not submitted for the equivalent Oscar (Spain chose to submit the as yet not released in the UK, Black Bread) sees Auteur Pedro Almodóvar at his bizarre best.

Best Documentary:

Senna: Not only the best documentary of the year, but the best documentary I have seen in many years.

Best Looking Movie:

Melancholia: An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Melancholia wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.

Movie Stars of the year:

Best actor and actress awards age given for the for individual outstanding performances but the movie star of the year award is given for an outstanding performances in multiple films in a year:

Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Tree of Life, The Debt, Take Shelter)

Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre)

Fandango Award:

Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout filmmakers of the year. The award is shared between two movies that interestingly were both co-written by their director and star:

Nick Damici and Jim Mickle for Stake Land

Mike Cahill and Brit Marling for Another Earth

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With just a week to go until the 84th Academy Awards Britain’s foremost film critic, self confessed Luddite and 3D hater Mark Kermode has announced his own awards The Kermode’s. For someone who prides himself on being opinionated he actually talks a lot of sense and as often as not his opinions tend to be spot on. The only hard and fast rule of the awards is you can’t win a Kermode in a category for which you have been nominated for an Oscar. Here are the winners of the statuette that appears to be modelled in equal parts after Mark Kermode, “Oscar” and Richard Nixon!

Best Musical: Directors Renaud Barret, Florent de La Tullaye for Benda Bilili!

Best Documentary: Director: Asif Kapadia for Senna.

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender for Shame.

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin & Olivia Colman for Tyrannosaur.

Best Movie & Best Director: Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk About Kevin.

I haven’t seen Benda Bilili! so can’t comment on that one. As for the others, it is hard to believe they aren’t nominated for Oscars. Check back tomorrow for the first ever Groovers Movie Awards.

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When I posted Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (ten pairs of very different movies with the same or similar titles) last year Katie from The Stories That Really Mattered commented that she “hadn’t realised there were so many movies with the same titles”! there are lots more where that came from. Here are another ten:

Convoy (1927): A silent-film set in the in the time leading up to the first world war starring Dorothy Mackaill about a New York socialite who is recruited Secret Service agent to befriend a man believed to be a spy for the Kaiser.

Convoy (1978): Sam Peckinpah’s road movie/ modern western is based on a country song of same title by C.W. McCall and stars Kris Kristofferson as an independent truck driver and Ali MacGraw as his passenger.

The Black Swan (1942): Notorious pirate Henry Morgan turned governor of Jamaica staring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara.

Black Swan (2010): Natalie Portman Oscar winning perforce as a ballet dancer on the edge in Darren Aronofsky’s physiological thriller that owns a debt t European horror movies of the 70’s.

Notorious (1946): Loosely based on the same source novel as Convoy (1927) (see above) Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant star, Alfred Hitchcock directs.

Notorious (2009): The rise and fall of rapper Christopher Wallace a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.

Shame (1968): Haven’t seen this one so my synopsis is copied from IMDB “Ingmar Bergman’s psychological study of how humans react in a situation of war. The film takes place on Gotland, where invasion forces arrives.”

Shame (2011): Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good in Steve McQueen’s portrayal of a man living with sex addiction.

Heat (1986): Burt Reynolds was for a time one of the most bankable stars in the world, this Las Vegas set mid 80’s crime thriller came shortly after that time.

Heat (1995): Focusing on two men on opposite sides of the law, Michael Mann’s crime thriller is both the directors finest hour and the last great performance (so far) from both Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.

Crossroads (1986):Director Walter Hill’s little known gem sees classical music student (Ralph Macchio) teaming up with old bluesman Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) on a road trip to the Crossroads where Robert Johnson made his deal with the devil.

Crossroads (2002): Britney Spears vehicle about a group of friends who go on a road-trip to LA to take part in a karaoke contest. Originally dismissed as a movie for Britney fans only it is actually now more significant for an early appearance by Zoe Saldana.

Jersey Girl (1992): I had not actually heard of this Dylan McDermott, Jami Gertz romance until Mark Kermode mentioned it. I have no plans to see it!

Jersey Girl (2004): The other Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez movie! The good news it is considerably better than Gigli. It doesn’t live up to Kevin Smiths earlier films but has its moments and Liv Tyler is good.

Twilight (1998): A retired ex-cop turned private detective gets involved with a twenty year old Hollywood murder case. Worth a look for Paul Newman who is as great as ever and Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman who provide good support but the plot is a little to thin and it runs out of steam.

Twilight (2008): Catherine Hardwicke’s surprisingly good adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire yarn.

The Avengers (1998): Disastrous movie adaptation of the classic 60’s TV show.

The Avengers (2012): Due for release later this year, the origin of Marvel’s team of superheroes.

Wonderland (1999):Michael Winterbottom’s stunning social realist movie that features a stunning performance from Gina McKee.

Wonderland (2003): The true story of porn star John Holmes and the wonderland murders.

Check back soon for Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood 3

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With just a couple of days to go until BAFTA Awards here are my thoughts on who I think will win and who I would choose.

  • Best Film
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: The Artist
  • Other nominees: The Descendants, Drive, The Help
  • Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the Year
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: We Need to Talk About Kevin
  • Other nominees: My Week with Marilyn, Senna, Shame
  • Best Actor
  • Who I think will win: Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice: George Clooney for The Descendants
  • Other nominees: Jean Dujardin for The Artist, Michael Fassbender for Shame, Brad Pitt for Moneyball
  • Best Actress
  • Who I think will win: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady (2011)
  • My Choice: Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
  • Other nominees: Bérénice Bejo for The Artist, Viola Davis for The Help, Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Who I think will win: Kenneth Branagh for My Week with Marilyn
  • My Choice: Christopher Plummer for Beginners
  • Other nominees: Jim Broadbent for The Iron Lady, Jonah Hill for Moneyball, Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Ides of March
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Who I think will win: Octavia Spencer for The Help
  • My Choice: Jessica Chastain for The Help
  • Other nominees: Judi Dench for My Week with Marilyn, Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids, Carey Mulligan for Drive
  • David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction
  • Who I think will win: Tomas Alfredson for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • My Choice:Lynne Ramsay for We Need to Talk
  • Other nominees: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, About Kevin, Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive, Martin Scorsese for Hugo
  • Best Screenplay (Original)
  • Who I think will win: The Artist (2011): Michel Hazanavicius
  • My Choice: The Guard: John Michael McDonagh
  • Other nominees: Bridesmaids: Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig, The Iron Lady: Abi Morgan, Midnight in Paris: Woody Allen
  • Best Screenplay (Adapted)
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
  • My Choice: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan
  • Other nominees: The Descendants: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash – The Help: Tate Taylor – The Ides of March: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon – Moneyball: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
  • Best Cinematography
  • Who I think will win: War Horse: Janusz Kaminski
  • My Choice: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Jeff Cronenweth
  • Other nominees: The Artist: Guillaume Schiffman – Hugo: Robert Richardson – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Hoyte Van Hoytema
  • Best Editing
  • Who I think will win: Senna: Gregers Sall, Chris King
  • My Choice: Senna: Gregers Sall, Chris King
  • Other nominees: The Artist: Anne-Sophie Bion, Michel Hazanavicius – Drive: Matthew Newman – Hugo: Thelma Schoonmaker – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Dino Jonsäter
  • Best Production Design
  • Who I think will win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Maria Djurkovic, Tatiana Macdonald
  • My Choice: The Artist: Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
  • Other nominees: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan – Hugo: Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo – War Horse: Rick Carter, Lee Sandales
  • Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music
  • Who I think will win: The Artist: Ludovic Bource
  • My Choice: The Artist: Ludovic Bource
  • Other nominees: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – Hugo: Howard Shore – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Alberto Iglesias – War Horse: John Williams
  • Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
  • Who I think will win: Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine, Diarmid Scrimshaw
  • My Choice: Tyrannosaur: Paddy Considine, Diarmid Scrimshaw
  • Other nominees: Attack the Block: Joe Cornish – Black Pond: Will Sharpe, Tom Kingsley, Sarah Brocklehurst – Coriolanus: Ralph Fiennes – Submarine: Richard Ayoade

A note on my selection. I have seen all the nominations mentioned above. The categories I haven’t mentioned are either because I haven’t seen the enough of the nominated movies or else I’m not that bother red about who wins. A could of categories I would like to mention are Best Film not in the English Language and Best Documentary, I have only seen one movie in each (The Skin I Live In and Senna) but as they both made it to my top ten movies list of last year, I would love to see them win.

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From speaking to American movie fans and reading their blogs I understand that January is a bit of a lean month full of crappy movies. Here in the UK things are very different, with indie gems and Oscar contenders coming out, for example last January I saw: 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, Black Swan and Blue Valentine. Unfortunately I also saw Season of the Witch! So what did I see this January?

The Artist -The story of the end of the silent era told in the format of a silent movie, stunning!

The Darkest Hour – Alien invasion movie, a good concept poorly executed.

The Iron Lady – Great performances from Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent can’t save what is an ill judged mess of a biopic of form British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Shame – Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tale of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good.

Haywire – Steven Soderbergh gets his hands dirty with a revenge B thriller and a new action star is born in the shape of former cage fighter Gina Carano.

War Horse – Manipulative, sentimental and clichéd, but surprisingly enjoyable. What do you expect for Steven Spielberg.

Underworld: Awakening – Kate Beckinsale returns in her trademark catsuit as the war between Vampires and Lycans has taken a new turn. Disposable but fun. It would have been better without the 3D.

J. Edgar – Uneven but interesting biopic of J. Edgar Hoover. The main draw is a great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Descendants – With his wife in a coma following a powerboat accident, an Hawaiian lawyer has to reconnect with his daughters. A fantastic family drama that surely makes George Clooney favourite for the best actor Oscar.

The Grey – Surprisingly good adventure thriller about a small group of drillers oil workers who survive a plane crash in Alaska only to find they are in the middle of the kill zone of a pack of wolves.

Like Crazy – A British student falls for an American classmate, things are complicated when she is deported for overstaying her visa. An honest and believable story beautifully told and with a fantastic young cast.

The movie of the month is:

And an honorable mention for a movie that is far better than I ever imagined it could be:

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The BAFTA long-list has been announced today. The list is made up of between five and fifteen nominations in each category, it will be whittled down to five to create the actual nominations announced on the 17th of this month. As the British equivalent to the Oscars often has a strong home-grown leaning it is no surprise that My Week With Marilyn and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy lead the way with sixteen inclusions each.

The thing I find surprising is some of films that have been included: The Artist, The Descendants, The Iron Lady, War Horse, J. Edgar, Shame, Young Adult and Carnage. The problem isn’t that they are bad or undeserving films, it is that it haven’t seen them. Or to be more precise, that I haven’t been given the opportunity to see them yet. Two of the films I refer to went on general release today, the rest are yet to be released. This is a bizarre state of affairs for an award ceremony that is supposed to represent the best films seen in UK cinemas during 2011. A quick look at the BAFTA website explains the loophole in eligibility:

“Films must be released theatrically in the UK, within the Academy awards year: 1 January to 31 December 2011. Films that open between 1 January and 10 February 2012 inclusive may be ‘qualified’ by Distributors by being screened to Academy Film Voting Members by Tuesday 20 December 2011”.

I can only speculate the reason for BAFTA’s desire to include otherwise ineligible movies. If asked they would probably tell you that they want to be inline with the original release date of the movies and other award ceremonies. My opinion, they relish their new importance as the forerunner to the Oscars. While I don’t have a particular problem with either possibility I cant help thinking that if distributors want their movies to be eligible for awards they should show them during the “awards year” so ordinary cinemagoers like me can see them.

I also have another fear for the strange practice; providing they don’t screen utter crap, the voters could be unduly influenced by a film being put forward in this way. This already happens to a small degree by the time of year that a film is released. In last years best picture category (nominations: The Kings Speech, Black Swan and True Grit, Inception and The Social Network) three of the five nominated films were released after 31st December 2010 and none of the movies were released in the first half of the year. It isn’t just about the BAFTA’s, along with other early award ceremonies like The Golden Globe (awarded by the Starfuckers of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) the awards help influence the nominations and ultimately the winners of the Oscars.

Aside from the complaining, I would like to express my delight at a some of the included films: Drive (isn’t a typical award film), Senna (I didn’t know documentaries were eligible in the best picture category). And in the acting categories: Antonio Banderas – The Skin I Live In (none English performances are often overlooked), Brendan Gleeson – The Guard (line foreign language, comedy are often overlooked), Christopher Plummer – Beginners (released back in July – the academy have short memories).

As mentioned the nominations will be announced on 17th January and the awards will take place on Sunday 12th February.

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With just two more movies to see this year: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (making a total of 108 movies seen at the cinema this year) I am already looking forward to the new year. I am led to believe the early part of the year can be a bit of a barren time for American cinema goers but here in the UK the new year is often the time to see the Oscar bait movies that week get a few months later.

With two academy awards from sixteen nominations, nothing says Oscar like Meryl Streep. The Iron Lady tells the story of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. From the clips and trailers I have seen, it looks interesting, the only doubt, the directors, Phyllida Lloyd’s only other feature appears to be Mamma Mia!

I have heard nothing but good things about Shame despite the unusual and controversial subject matter, sex addiction. After the excellent Hunger (2008), the re-teaming of director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender must be a good thing. The addition of co star Carey Mulligan and I am really looking forward to this one.

Clearly Ralph Fiennes’ doesn’t believe in making life easy for himself, making his directorial debut with an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The updated setting is reminiscent of Richard Loncraine’s Richard III (1995), looks interesting.

I understand J,Edgar has had mixed reviews on the other side of the Atlantic but with Clint Eastwood in the directors chair and Leonardo DiCaprio in the starring role it has to be worth seeing.

There is already Oscar talk about George Clooney in The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne (Election 1999 & Sideways 2004). I don’t know much about it but Clooney on good form remains a watchable movie star reminiscent of the stars from the golden age of cinema, I’m in!

Bizarrely, the two films I am most looking forward to aren’t going to feature at the Oscars, they are more what is (condescendingly) referred to as “genre movies”. As one of the few people who liked The Girlfriend Experience I am always interested in Steven Soderbergh’s more experimental ideas. Like with The Girlfriend Experience Soderbergh has gone for an unexpected lead actress for the action movie Haywire, former Mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano. He has surrounded her with an impressive supporting cast including: Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Bill Paxton. As I said it won’t win Oscars but it looks like its going to be fun.

There are two real guilty pleasure franchises around at the moment, we have to wait until later in the year for the next Resident Evil movie, but Underworld Awakening is out in January. Nearly a decade after the first Underworld movie Kate Beckinsale is back in her most iconic role (and costume). From the trailer it looks as dumb as the previous movies, but I really don’t care, I can’t wait!

Other movies coming out in January include: War Horse. Thanks to a really cheesy trailer, I can honestly say I have never been less excited by a new Steven Spielberg movie. I know nothing about The Darkest Hour other than what I have seen in the trailer but with director Chris Gorak who impressed with his debut Right at Your Door (2006) and Timur Bekmambetov credited as a produce I will give it a go. Another movie I now nothing about other than the trailer is Man on Ledge. The trailer makes it look a lot like Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006), that isn’t a bad thing.

Check back on the 1st of February to find out what I actually saw and what I thought of them.

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