P is for PomegranateAll the way back in the dim and distant early noughties Vin Diesel was being touted as the next Sly/Arnie/Bruce style big action star. Looking back over the troughs of Babylon AD and The Pacifier (avoid) its hard to believe, but his performance in the hugely underrated and exciting Pitch Black (00) show why the comparisons were made. John Hillcoat is a director very few people have heard of, which is a shame as he made a savagely brilliant Australian 'Western' in 2005's The Proposition. Nick Cave provided the sounds and the excellent screenplay while Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone caught the eye in a starry cast for such a relatively little known film. 2006 saw a pair of superb 'P' films slink through the back door into the multiplexes like a recalcitrant teen after curfew. Christopher Nolan of Batception fame delivered possibly his worst film (that is of course relative as his worst is significantly better than 72.8% of Hollywood's best) with an intriguing tale of warring Victorian stage magicians in The Prestige. While Nolan was making a film about fake magic Guillermo del Toro brought us a story of real magic and at the same time created one of the greatest films of the last twenty-five years in the matchless Pan's Labyrinth. Two worlds collide as the adopted daughter of a cruel military officer in fascist 1940s Spain discovers a world of fairies, fauns and monsters. Make no mistake though, Pan's Labyrinth is definitely not for children with its shocking violence and genuinely unnerving sequences. However, it is astoundingly beautiful to watch, while the creature design is nothing short of genius.
Q is for QuillsUnsurprisingly, there were relatively few decent films beginning with Q over the last decade so I have to be a little creative. 2000 brought us the third best Star Trek film ( for the record - 1st is Star Trek 2: Wrath of KHAAAAAAAANNNNNN and 2nd is the rebooted JJ Abrams Star Trek) which ironically wasn't a Star Trek film at all. Galaxy Quest was a glorious spoof that captured the spirit of the Trek phenomenon better than most of the films and most of the recent series too. Alan Rickman's pissed off Alexander Dane/Dr Lazarus is exactly how I imagine Leonard Nimoy/Michael Dorn must feel most of the time. James Bournd returned for his second outing as the all new 'gritty' British super-spy in Quantum of Solace (08).
Timothy Dalton ever gets cheesed off at his Bond treatment. .REC (07) was an inspired zombies-in-an-apartment-block film which had one drawback for the moron world - it wasn't in English. So Hollywood released (within a YEAR!) a shot-for-shot remake in English called Quarantine which surprised everyone by not being dreadful. The Spanish version was definitely better though.
R is for RelativismTalking of zombies, the last ten years have been riddled with zombie movies some of which have been excellent (28 Days Later) some of which have been awful (Flight of the Living Dead). A consistent contributee to the genre has been the Resident Evil franchise which started averagely with Resident Evil in 2002 and deflated gradually but entertainingly through RE: Apocalypse (04) and RE: Extinction (07). While we're on the topic of deflating gradually the Lord of the Rings trilogy came to a spectacular yet curiously underwhelming close with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2003. Despite being endowed with at least four endings too many, it was still sad to see the end of the journey. Pixar like a challenge - bugs, monsters, superheroes, undersea environments, talking toys or talking cars - anything is worth telling a story with. 2007's Ratatouille told the story of a rat who dreams of being a gourmet chef in Paris. Huh? Sounds like a crazy idea for a film, but Pixar created an absolute delight of a movie - funny, moving and sweet without being syrupy. Très Bien. At the completely opposite end of the scale The Reader (08) is the uncompromising tale of a young German man who has an affair with an older woman who he finds out in later life may be a Nazi war criminal. Kate Winslet gives a searing performance as Hanna Schmitz and deservedly won a hatful of awards. Sadly it was also the last film worked on by Anthony Mingella and Sydney Pollack who both died before it was released.
Tune in for Part Seven - S to T soon.