Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten Films of 2010 Part One: Twelve to Six

As movies have gently taken over the majority of this blog in 2010 I have decided to eschew my customary wider-ranging annual review with a look at the ten (ish) best and ten worst movies released this year.

12 (I did say ten-ish) Centurion
Neil Marshall took a break from films set in caves or films where Sean Pertwee suffers an agonising death to tell the story of the fate of the Ninth Legion. While by no means perfect, Centurion has a good cast, impressive visuals and Marshall's customary willingness to put his characters through painful and gory demises.

11 Splice
Or the heartwarming tale of two impossibly attractive scientists who splice human and animal DNA to create a curiously androgynous MONSTER called Dren. Directed by Vincenzo Natali who gave us the first Cube movie, Splice is a thinly veiled updating of the Frankenstein myth. However, this fairly disturbing (as the film nears its conclusion there are two unpleasant and unnerving sequences involving Dren and her 'parents') and stylish sci-fi horror effectively taps into very basic human fears. What happens when our children grow up (and turn into MONSTERS) and what are those pesky scientists REALLY up to.

10 Edge of Darkness
Lets not tiptoe around the elephant in the room. Mel Gibson is a massive arse; a sexist, racist, violent arse. However, removing the arse-elephant from the room, the best thing about this rather formulaic conspiracy/revenge story is a storming central performance from Mel Gibson. Director Martin Campbell does this type of film well and the supporting cast, particularly Ray Winstone and Danny Huston do some sterling work. But it really is Gibson's film, a reminder of why he's famous in the first place.

9 Shutter Island
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the first of his two labyrinthine explorations of the human psyche released in 2010. While Inception took the science fiction route, Shutter Island is a psychological horror as Leo descends into the madness of a high security mental asylum. Scorsese really goes to town with the visual flourishes and the supporting cast was probably the best of any film released this year.

8 Monsters
It's not really about the GIANT OCTOPUS ALIENS. Its a road movie/romance thing - with GIANT OCTOPUS ALIENS. Read my review of Monsters on the excellent Screen 150 website

7 Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
The best Christmas film of the last 5 years is a full-length prequel to director Jalmari Helander's superb short films Rare Exports Inc and Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions. They explore the Finnish myth of a Santa more likely to eat small children than give them presents. The shorts are definitely not for children full-stop and A Christmas Tale is certainly not suitable for young children or people who expect their Christmas films to be twee, syrupy nonsense. However, this darkly funny grown-up fairy tale is a proper festive treat - read my review on Screen 150.
6 Kick Ass
Written by Jonathan Ross' wife and the producer of Mean Machine (Vinnie Jones' prison soccer film) and Swept Away (starring Madonna - candidate for worst movie ever made), Kick Ass struggled to get studio backing. However, Matthew Vaughn wisely refused to tone down the violence of the comic book on which the film is based and financed it himself. What he delivered is a gloriously foul-mouthed and violent take on the superhero story. The fight scenes were brilliant, the villain (the ever-excellent Mark Strong) was properly villainous, Nicholas Cage wasn't rubbish and the Daily Mail were incensed.

Tune in for Part 2 where I will reveal my top five plus the ten worst films of 2010 will be dispatched in 3 withering words each.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Short Review of Rare Exports

I hate Christmas films. They are almost without exception twee, syrupy nonsense drenched in false seasonal bonhomie. However, from time to time a dark gem sneaks down the chimney

Rare Exports from Finnish director Jalmari Helander is just such a beast. It acts as a prequel to two of his early short films exploring the myth of the original Santa Claus. This dark creature has little in common with the modern cuddly Santa more likely to eat a child than offer gifts. A team of miners unearth Santa and release it's horde of sinister bearded helpers. What ensues is what you'd imagine the cinematic offspring of Santa Claus the Movie and The Thing to look like.

While some of the effects are a bit ropey and the ending a tad anti-climactic, the concept and it's execution make for a deliciously dark grown up Del Toro-esque fairy tale.

Rating ****

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Short Review of Monsters

Apparently we've been invaded by GIANT OCTOPUS ALIENS. However, because its mainly in Mexico nobody really seems to care. America builds a massive wall to keep out the GIANT OCTOPUS ALIENS.

But none of that is important, what really matters is the delicate exploration of the start of a beautiful relationship. Against a backdrop of GIANT OCTOPUS ALIENS. A grouchy and cynical photographer is ordered to escort his boss' pretty daughter back to the safety of American soil. What ensues is a genuinely touching road-trip romance beautifully shot by writer, director, cinematographer and bedroom FX whiz Gareth Edwards. Despite the periodic intervention of GIANT OCTOPUS ALIENS don't see this film expecting Independence Day style pitched battles. This odd but rather wonderful film is the world's first romantic monster movie (don't talk to me about King Kong you sick puppies) henceforth to be known as the rom-mon genre.

Rating ****

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Short Review of Resident Evil: Afterlife

Review of Resident Evil Afterlife 2D

(Or Stretching Thin Concept to Silliness)

This film is the first I’ve watched in Sparkling High Definition™

The film starts with weary protagonist Alice (played with exquisite boredom by Milla Jovovich) breaking into the bad guy’s zombie-free lair. She kicks ass – then dies. But it’s OK, she’s actually lots of clones – who kick ass and then die.

When all the clones are dead she stows away on Evil Mastermind’s planeycopter (stunning in Sparkling High Definition™). While she makes a Stallonesque quip, Mastermind injects her with something that makes her turn human (keep up). They then crash in Sparkling High Definition™ into a mountain.

Despite being human now (?) Alice inexplicably survives this inferno looking lightly singed.

Alice then flies around in Sparkling High Definition™, lands on top of a prison, fights zombies in the prison then visits Mastermind’s seagoing lair. She kicks ass, Mastermind escapes in planeycopter, then he dies.

Rating:  **