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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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No rants, no opinions on what should win, just predictions: 

Best Motion Picture of the Year: The Artist

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Jean Dujardin for The Artist

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Christopher Plummer for Beginners

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Octavia Spencer for The Help

Best Achievement in Directing: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash for The Descendants

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: Chico & Rita

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: A Separation

Best Achievement in Cinematography: The Artist

Best Achievement in Editing: Hugo

Best Achievement in Art Direction: The Artist

Best Achievement in Costume Design: The Artist

Best Achievement in Makeup: The Iron Lady

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: Ludovic Bource for The Artist

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song: Man or Muppet by Bret McKenzie for The Muppets

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing: Hugo

Best Achievement in Sound Editing: Hugo

Best Achievement in Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Documentary, Features: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky for Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

I haven’t seen anything in the other categories so no predictions. They are:

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Best Short Film, Animated

Best Short Film, Live Action

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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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During a review film critic Mark Kermode has suggested the cinematic nostalgia of Hugo and The Artist would make a great double bill. With this in mind here are a weeks worth of double bills from last years movies (UK release):

Monday: Psychological Thrillers

Thematically very different but stylistically similar: Black Swan and The Skin I live in, two great psychological thrillers that both owe a debt to 70’s European horror.

Tuesday: Female assassins

Two very different takes on an idea. Hanna is the better movie but I don’t think it is as good as the reviews have suggested. On the other hand Colombiana isn’t a great movie but I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Wednesday: Kooky Teens

Take a teenager who doesn’t quite fit in to school and society in general and throw into the mix a first relationship and you have a kooky teen movie. There have been two great examples one British and one American: Submarine and The Art of Getting By

Thursday: Girls in asylums

Although they look very different Sucker Punch and John Carpenter’s The Ward are actually very similar films. The Ward has sadly been overlooked and Sucker Punch unfairly slated, I know I am in a minority but I like both movies.

Friday: Vampires

Vampire movies are still coming out thick and fast, the best of from this year are the surprisingly good Priest (don’t bother with the 3D version) and the original and innovative Stake Land.

Saturday: Rocky for the 21st century

Using fighting robots and cage fighting but Warrior and Real Steel are essentially still sports movies like Rocky with all the same themes and messages and like Rock Both are very watchable.

Sunday: Classic Horror

Hammer is yet to recapture the eerie brilliance of its original gothic horror in its absence comes two brilliant chillers, Julia’s Eyes and The Awakening.

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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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When I first published my top ten movies of 2011 I chose to do it a little differently to previous years by selecting films by their original release date and not the UK release date. This in theory should bring my selections in line with other top ten lists, however it presents a problem, in the UK we don’t get a some of the best movies until January. With this in mind I present my Redux Top Ten. It only has one change but it is a significant one:

  1. The Artist – Telling the story of the transition from silent cinema to “talkies” isn’t a completely original one, but it is one that hasn’t been successfully told in a long time. The ingenious thing about The Artist is the way the story is told as a mainly silent film. With charismatic leading actors and a story that is both funny and touching it is a film I couldn’t help loving.
  2. Hugo – To be called a family film these days usually means a silly kids films with a few in-jokes for older viewers but Hugo really is a film for all ages and will remain so for generations to come. A film for lovers of film by a director who truly loves his medium, he even made 3D work.
  3. Drive – This is a movie that really shouldn’t work, there isn’t much plot, its old fashioned, overly violent, the leading man doesn’t have much dialogue. For some reason it does all work and like all the best movies it will haunt your memories long after you have seen it. It missed out to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as my movie of the month back in September but on reflection it is a better movie.
  4. The Guard – What could easily have been yet another fish out water tale is elevated by prospective. Instead of focusing on Don Cheadle’s FBI agent the film is centred around Brendan Gleeson’s wiser than he first appears Irish policeman. The real star however is the script and more importantly the dialogue.
  5. Senna – The first documentary to make my top ten of the year list. A fantastic and moving story of Ayrton Senna, a man who was possibly the greatest racing driver of all time, the true greatness of the film is the number of none F1 fans who also enjoyed it.
  6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – The BBC adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is possibly the best spy thriller I have ever seen, I think the movie may just be better.
  7. We Need to Talk About Kevin – Not the easiest movie to watch but well worth the effort. Confidently directed and superbly acted (Tilda Swinton deserves an Oscar) but the real strength lies in the screenplay. Adapted from a novel with a near un-filmable format, it’s a miracle any film was made let alone such a good one.
  8. Midnight In Paris – The premise is silly and clichéd but the execution is so charming and amusing that it gets away with all its potential faults. Especially rewarding for fans of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the “Lost Generation” but entertaining and enjoyable for any film fan. Woody Allen’s best movie in a very long time.
  9. The Skin I live in – Beautifully shot, perfectly cast and brilliantly acted but most importantly Pedro Almodóvar back to his weird, bizarre best. Antonio Banderas is also back to his best and Elena Anaya deserves more roles like this.
  10. Moneyball – with a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin you expect a compelling story and snappy dialogue, I am happy to report both are present and are helped by Brad Pitt’s second great performance of the year. Reminiscent in part to The Social Network (also written by Sorkin) and that has to be a good thing.
You can see my original list HERE.

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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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As soon as the Golden Globe nominations were IMDB declared it “The Road To The Oscars”. I am never very excited by the golden globes for this exact reason, they truly are the starting point and an indicator for the Oscars but really have little or no right to be. For those who don’t know the globes are nominated, voted and presented by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. But who are the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? In the words of Ryan McNeil from The Matinee they are “one hundred or so anonymous star-fucker fans”. In the 1960’s it was revealed that the selection of winners was less than fair, suggesting that if the winner wasn’t in attendance at the ceremony, a new winner would be selected.

There have also been more other accusations made against the group, earlier this year in an article in the telegraph Anita Singh picked up on a joke make by Ricky Gervais during this years ceremony “I’d like to quash this ridiculous rumour going around that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so the Hollywood Foreign Press could hang out with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. That is rubbish. That is not the only reason. They also accepted bribes,” she went on to say “The HFPA is currently being sued for $2m by a publicist who claims its members accept lavish gifts in exchange for supporting particular films. The HFPA denies the allegations.” Having said all that I don’t think they have done a bad job this time around. Here are a few awards I think they got right this year:

  • Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy: The Artist (2011)
  • Best Actor – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy: Jean Dujardin for The Artist (2011)
  • Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy: Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn (2011)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture: Christopher Plummer for Beginners (2010)
  • Best Director – Motion Picture- Martin Scorsese for Hugo (2011)
  • Best Screenplay – Motion Picture: Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris (2011)
  • Best Original Score – Motion Picture –Ludovic Bource for The Artist (2011):
  • Best Actor – Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television: Idris Elba for Luther (2010)
  • Best Supporting Actor – Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television: Peter Dinklage for Game of Thrones (2011)

There are three possible reasons for the categories I haven’t mentioned: I haven’t seen the winning film – I don’t agree with the winner – I don’t care who won in that category.

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