Wednesday, December 14, 2011

#This is the End....#

I've been writing this blog with varying degrees of competence and focus since 2006.  As you can see, I haven't really paid much attention to it recently and I can't see that changing.

So in the immortal words of Douglas Adams - So long and thanks for all the fish

Monday, August 29, 2011

Short Review of Limitless

The pretty one from the A-Team and the Hangover films is a ubiquitous presence in modern cinema.  Most outside the movie industry are not aware that a highly secretive contract was arranged in 2008 that requires Bradley Cooper to be given first refusal on all roles offered to all actors in Hollywood.  Rumours that a snappily-dressed man with red horns was acting as his agent have been strenuously denied.  Interestingly, this deal also includes all roles offered to female actors as Cooper is so very pretty that he can easily pass for a woman.  He recently turned down the lead female role in One Day which led to the second-choice Anne Hathaway getting the nod.
All of which brings us to Limitless; a movie with a very important message.  Ready kids? DRUGS ARE BAD.  Especially when they make you handsome, clever, popular, talented, powerful and rich.  The film's macguffin is an experimental  drug that apparently enables a person to access the 90% of the brain that they don't currently use.  Which is nonsense of course, there is no way we only use 10% of our brains, with the notable exception of Jedward who only use 8% between them.

Limitless is an entertaining ride, despite the rather ludicrous opening idea that Bradley Cooper is a useless loser; giving him straggly hair and dressing him drably doesn't change the fact he still looks like a movie star.  There are some interesting visual flourishes (one particular fight sequence seems to have taken several cues from the magnificent hammer fight scene in Park Chan-wook's Oldboy) but the over-reliance on tired tropes like evil Russian gangsters and machiavellian businessmen is disappointing.  Robert De Niro delivers his best performance for some time and Cooper has an undeniable charisma and likable presence in the lead role.  However, there is something of a mixed message at work here.  Limitless does go out of it's way to show the physical and mental downside of drug use but Cooper's character finishes the film revelling in the exceptional abilities that he only achieved through abusing the miracle drug in the first place.

Limitless further cements Bradley Cooper as the New Tom Cruise(tm) and the world can look forward to his starring turn in Eat Pray Love 2: The Nourishing stepping into the Julia Roberts role.

Rating   ***

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bright Club Manchester

Last night I had the privilege of being compere at Bright Club Manchester for the following clever bods:  
  • Jon Pearson talking about  the Mind of God
  • The Right side of the Bright Club Mind Hannah Mosley thinking about tattoos.
  • Carrie Mosley speaking about Mind over Matter and firewalking.
  • Engineer Kevin Brohan on reverse engineering the human brain and creepy tool-using crows.
  • Stand up Conor Aylward on being a therapy survivor.  See more of him here.
  • And music from Hayley Fay and Sarah from the band Hook.
 The next Bright Club Manchester is BCM9:Crossover at Nexus Art Cafe on 20th October.  Then on 27th of October BCM10: The Big One will be at the Deaf Institute as part of Manchester Science Festival 2011.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Short Reviews of Source Code & Battle:Los Angeles

Battle:Los Angeles (2011)
A truly horrendous film.  It's a slice of badly written, poorly executed jingoistic nonsense that pitches Aaron Eckhart's squad of marines against an alien invasion in the ruins of Los Angeles.  The dialogue is painful (the last line of the film is supposed to be heroic but "We already had breakfast sir" is an epic fail) and the characters are little more than stereotypical cyphers - inexperienced lieutenant, haunted long-serving NCO, innocent country boy private,  tough and sassy latino female soldier.  Eckhart is a much better actor than this film deserves and he does at least have the grace to look embarrassed.  He should probably fire his agent after getting him this gig.
Rating:  *

Source Code (2011)
Duncan Jones sidled on the scene in 2009 with the downbeat sci-fi masterpiece Moon.  If that was Jones' 2001, Source Code is his Groundhog Day/Terminator mash-up.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a soldier with a mission to find a bomb hidden on a passenger train.  So far so Steven Seagal.  However, the twist is that Stevens is from the near future and through the magic of the eponymous MacGuffin is inhabiting the body and the last eight minutes of one of the train's passengers over and over again.  The director marshals a uniformly excellent supporting cast but this is Gyllenhaal's film.  Source Code is an exciting and cerebral thriller that is only slightly spoiled by the Spielberg-esque gooey ending.
Rating ****

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Short Review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2011

Oh hello blog.  Long time no see.

The Planet of the Apes films perfectly illustrate the movie law of diminishing returns.  The first film is an undoubted and much referenced classic, but it's sequels became increasingly ridiculous until the unnecessary Tim Burton reboot in 2001 put what seemed like the final nail in the simian coffin.  Slinking in to the cinema with the somewhat unwieldy title Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Rupert Wyatt's second feature after prison-set modern classic The Escapist answers a question not many of us were asking.  How did the apes take over in the first place ?  And possibly, how long till Andy Serkis gets an Oscar for one of his motion-capture performances?
A plank of wood masquerading as James Franco stars as a scientist RECKLESSLY CUTTING CORNERS to try and save his father from a slow decline into Alzheimers.  The film meanders gradually until Franco's super-intelligent chimpanzee Caesar has become fully grown and morphs into a stunningly motion-captured Andy Serkis creation.  From this point on, the film becomes a genuinely exciting and intriguing experience as Caesar continues to grow more intelligent and increasingly aware of his fundamental difference to everyone he meets.  Wyatt bravely allows Serkis/Caesar to hold centre stage and his journey from surrogate child to 'King of Apes' is funny, moving and on one notable occasion when Caesar tricks a stupid and cruel jock to come closer with a disturbingly human gesture, remarkably creepy.  The film builds to a spectacular and exciting conclusion with an utterly thrilling assault on the Golden Gate Bridge by an army of liberated apes.

It would not be a surprise if this film leads to more Planet of the Apes films, if that is the case one can only hope that they continue the good work of this flawed but surprisingly high quality entry into the Apes canon.

Rating  ****

Sunday, May 08, 2011

9/10ths Full of Movies Part Ten. Y to Z

Welcome to the tenth and final part of my entirely subjective and drawn out reflection on a decade in cinematic exploits. Click here to see Parts One to Nine.

Y is for Yam
 Ewan McGregor chose to mix his noughties Alec Guiness impressons in the Star Wars prequels with the odd appearance in far more subtle fayre. In 2003 he took the role of mysterious drifter Joe in Young Adam, a bleak and downbeat film that showcased his considerable acting chops. The elder statesman of the Coppolla clan shyly offered up his odd but striking meditation on time and love Youth Without Youth (07) to somewhat mixed critical reception. While Francis Ford makes some bold choices and the source material throws up some fascinating possibilites, the film was terminally dull. Also in 2007 Russell Crowe and Christian Bale (the intensity levels on set could probably have powered Michigan for a month) starred in a remake of classic 1957 western 3:10 to Yuma. Bale was especially good in the role of disabled rancher Dan Evans and Crowe clearly revelled in the chance to play a proper bad guy. Erstwhile comedy cult leader Danny Wallace spent an extended period of time saying 'Yes' to everything and recorded the ensuing shenanigans in a book. Hollywood couldn't resist such a quirky concept and proceeded to turn it into big, shiny, sugary Jim Carrey vehicle Yes Man (08). Surprisingly, it turned out to be a rather sweet and genuinely amusing tale helped significantly by a tuned-down Carrey and a luminously quirky Zooey Deschanel.

Z is for Zoetrope
Ben Stiller lit up 2001 as a really really ridiculously good looking male model in the comic tale Zoolander. Featuring Owen Wilson as a fellow dopey supermodel and a magnificently silly turn from Will Ferrell as the dastardly Mugatu, Zoolander was riotously entertaining. From the ridiculous to the sublime with Takeshi Kitano's 2003 epic Zatoichi which was based on a series of 26 classic Japanese TV and film dramas (imagine Inspector Morse crossed with Robin Hood - with samurai swords). The film unashamedly plunders elements from the great Japanese directors of the past and is as equally comfortable with comedy slapstick as with blood spurting violence as it follows the adventures of a blind swordsman committed to helping the poor and weak.  Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (06) is a leftfield choice as the vast majority of football films are dire (When Saturday Comes, Escape to Victory, Goal, There's Only One Jimmy Grimble are best avoided). However, Portrait focuses it's attention entirely on Zinedine Zidane's performance in real time in a single game for Real Madrid as captured by 17 different cameras. With a soundtrack provided by Scottish musical wizards Mogwai, the film stands as the perfect record of the man's peerless talent and penchant for self destructive on-field misbehaviour.  David Fincher has made a career out of showing the dark and often horrifying results of men's obsessions in films like Seven and Fight Club. In Zodiac (06) he explores the effect of Robert Graysmith's (an excellent Jake Gyllenhal) obsession with cracking the unsolved Zodiac killings of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fincher expertly marshals a stellar cast and delivers a slow-burning masterpiece of modern cinema.
And that's the end.  Begun back in the mists of January 2010 it has been over a year in the writing; the 9/10ths Full of Penguins review of cinema in the Noughties is finished.  It's spectacularly arbitrary and almost completely useless.  I've enjoyed every minute of doing it and rediscovered some great movies (and some terrible ones) along the way.

Friday, April 22, 2011

# A Soundtrack for Life#

Stepping away from my customary movie fixation, I was tempted to follow Manchester blog luminary Benjamin Judge's example and partake of the the following meme/game thingymabob.  Now according to him (and he should know) all the cool people did this about two years ago, which means now is my time!

Follow these instructions - if you don't God and/or the Tooth Fairy will know and look disapprovingly down upon you.
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that’s playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool…because you’re not!
7. Stick the soundtrack on your mp3 player and listen away during the day.

Here is my list - go and feast on the wealth of links.  Why not listen to something you've never heard before?  I dare you...

What It Should Be
Opening Credits:
Waking Up:
First Day At School:
Falling in Love:
(Yes – that's right)
Fight Song:
Breaking Up:
Radiohead – How to Disappear Completely 
(Distressingly perfect choice)
(see what I mean)
Life’s OK:
Getting Back Together:
Birth of Child:
(You know, from the VW advert...)
Final Battle:
Funeral Song:
(I promise this is totally random!)
End Credits:
Bon Voyage – Never Coming Back
(Honest! I'm not cheating)

Friday, April 08, 2011

9/10ths Full of Movies Part Nine. W to X

Welcome to Part Nine of my entirely subjective and drawn out reflection on a decade in cinematic exploits. Click here to see Parts One to Eight. Please do chip in with any obvious omissions or disagreements.

W is for Wallabies
Nick Park is to the movement of plasticine figures what Miyazaki is to hand drawn animation.  In 2005, his favourite characters Wallace & Gromit finally made their big screen bow in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit; a film crammed with the cream of British voice acting that oozed fun and old-school creativity.  I may have mentioned how good Pixar are at delivering gems to the cinematic table.  Wall-E (08) failed to break that trend with it's audaciously dialogue free yet beautifully compelling opening and the cutest movie robot EVER.  I may have also made reference in the past to my regard for the frankly bonkers Russian masterpiece Night Watch.  Director Timur Bekmambetov made his Hollywood debut in 2008 with an adaptation of Mark Millar's graphic novel Wanted.  Liberally sprinkled with stardust (Freeman, Jolie & McEvoy) it was a stylish and beautifully shot movie, but lacked the exuberant joy of his earlier Russian language films. 

Micky Rourke's face is an extraordinary thing,  it seems to erode faster than the years progress - almost as if he has a Dorian Gray-style portrait that works in reverse.  The Wrestler(08) was a film that suited his lived-in fizzog perfectly, director Darren Aronofsky had a first stab at his Black Swan story with the tale of a faded professional wrestler that was both delicate and brutal.  2009 brought two contrasting adaptations of beloved books to mixed critical reactions.  Where the Wild Things Are bottled both the spirit of Maurice Sendak's original book and the essence of childhood; as a result watching it was like reliving all the wonderful memories of long summer holidays.  Zach Snyder's Watchmen on the other hand was a very different kettle of badgers; crunchingly violent, morally ambiguous and visually stunning.  Adapting Alan Moore's legendary graphic novel was always going to be nigh on impossible and many directors have tried and failed in the past, but Snyder made a noble effort.  While Watchmen doesn't come close to doing the novel justice, it was still a superior action movie.

X is for Xylophone
There was a paucity of films beginning with X in the Noughties which meant that writing this portion was an exercise in barrel scraping. Let's begin with the third best James Bond inspired movie series of the 2000s - xXx (02) and xXx: The Next Level (05).  The hero of xXx was essentially an extreme sports version of Her Majesty's finest spy but the films were stymied in their success by two factors.  Firstly, the launch of the infinitely superior Bourne franchise in the same year and secondly, that they were moronically* awful on just about every level.  Bryan Singer holds a rare accolade, he is one of the few directors that has delivered a sequel that is superior to it's predecessor.  X2:X-Men United (03) was an exciting and well-made comic book movie that helped open the doors to the current torrent of comic adaptations. Sadly, Singer then bailed and handed the reins to 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand to another which resulted in the law of diminishing returns reasserting itself.  And finally 2008 brought something that no-one had been asking for; another X-Files film, in this case the massively underwhelming I Want to Believe.  There were no aliens, just a creepy Billy Connelly pretending to be a psychic.

The tenth and final part coming soon...the end is nigh.
*I'm not sure this is an appropriate adjective, but I rather like it so it's going to stay...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Short Review of Season of the Witch (2011)

Nicholas Cage is an enigma wrapped in a mystery with a blanket of inconsistency.  He's capable of delivering a searing performance such as his extraordinary turn in the rebooted Bad Lieutenant.  But then he is equally likely to appear in drivel like The Knowing or Bangkok Dangerous mumbling and bumbling like a first year drama student. 

Season of the Witch falls squarely into the latter category.  It tells the tale of two Crusaders who on having a conveniently sudden attack of morals; desert and attempt to return home.  On their way back they are waylaid and coerced into escorting a witch to a group of specialist monks who will be able to stop the plague she has released on the country.  While having reasonably high production standards, the visuals and setting are reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (you fully expect to hear Eric Idle shouting "Bring out your dead!").  The casting of Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman as defiantly American Crusaders would be perfectly acceptable but for the woefully scripted banter and hapless attempts at showing the camaraderie between them. Ron Perlman can do this type of thing in his sleep and still be watchable, but Cage is especially dreadful.
However, despite it's many flaws, as the film progresses it becomes more and more entertaining until it reaches a fabulously ridiculous finale. Suffice to say, it involves a race against time, cod-Latin incantations and possessed zombie ninja monks.

Rating:  **

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Short Review of True Grit (2010)

True Grit is a quintessentially Coen Brothers movie.  It's crammed with richly rhythmic language and is bleakly beautiful with flashes of dark humour and light whimsy.

It's also their first proper western and their second remake after the the disappointing Ladykillers.  This new True Grit is a very different and arguably far superior animal to it's 1955 predecessor.  Much attention was focused on Coen stalwart Jeff Bridges' performance as grizzled marshal Rooster Cogburn but 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld more than holds her own.  Her depiction of the revenge-set daughter aged before her time by the murder of her father is funny, touching and remarkably assured.  Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and and a wonderfully eccentric supporting cast populate a sparse and coldly beautiful landscape.
True Grit 2011-style is an excellent film but two things hold it back from greatness.  Firstly, the ending feels somewhat contrived and almost un Coen-like in it's neatness.  Secondly, having Jeff Bridges in a major role is a reminder of the last time he and the Coens played out; the peerless The Big Lebowski.

Rating:  ****

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Short Review of In The Name of The King (2008)

Are any words less welcome in the movie lexicon than 'inspired by the video game...'? In the Name of The King is based on the role playing Dungeon Siege games. Directed in a manner completely devoid of aplomb by Uwe Boll, it's catastrophically bad. The cast is surprisingly starry with the mighty Jason Statham as the hero, Clare Forlani as his kidnapped wife, Hellboy's Ron Perlman as his mentor and a mind-boggling Burt Reynolds as the titular king. However, there is something about this film that elevates it into the fabled 'so-bad-it's-good' category; Ray Liotta's turn as evil wizard Gallian. It's a tour-de-force of epic overacting as Ray chews insanely on every piece of scenery he can get his chubby hands on. 
Add in the terrible script, inept fight scenes and cut-price orcs and you have a film so hysterically bad it becomes compulsive viewing. It cost $60m and took a total of $10.3m worldwide and is widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made. Incredibly, there is a sequel on the horizon in which Dolph Lundgren plays an ex-special forces soldier thrown back in time to fulfil a prophecy. I'm not kidding

And I can't wait to see it...

Rating *

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Manchester Blog-Meetery

If you blog in Manchester, why not bob down to Common in the Northern Quarter for the Manchester Blogmeet tonight?

Give me a good reason you say? Very well, I will give you three:

1) The opportunity to meet your fellow Internet scribblers
2) Specially made cakes
3) Free booze-beers

Look with your eyes here for more details. Blogmeet site

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

9/10ths Full of Movies Part Eight. U to V

Welcome to Part Eight of my entirely subjective and drawn out reflection on a decade in cinematic exploits. Click here to see Parts One to Seven. Please do chip in with any obvious omissions or disagreements.

U is for Ukelele
It's getting hard to believe that M Night Shyamalan used to make good films.  His recent output has been awful, but the noughties began with arguably his best work, the hugely underrated proto-superhero film Unbreakable(00).  The actions of terrorists on the 11th September 2001 profoundly influenced the ensuing decade and it's not surprising that the movie world has been generally reluctant to mine such a recent tragedy for inspiration.  There have been some exceptions to that including the appalling World Trade Center (06) by Oliver Stone (read my thoughts from 2007) and the infinitely superior United 93 from the same year.  Bourne helmer Paul Greengrass told the story of United Airlines Flight 93 whose passengers and crew decided to fight back against their hijackers.  United 93 is a difficult film to watch but is a captivating and heartbreaking memorial to the heroism of the passengers on the plane.  In 2009 Pixar gave us the story of an old man who refuses to let his house to be demolished, so he ties helium balloons to it and floats away to have adventures with talking dogs and a pudgy boy scout.  Up's audacious opening which follows the main character from his childhood through falling in love and getting married to the death of his wife is one of the most devastating emotional sequences I've ever seen in an animation.  This gives rest of the film a certain poignancy that frames the laughs and the thrills perfectly.

V is for Velma
M Night Shyamalan continued his slow dive towards ignominy with The Village in 2004, the same year also saw the potentially interesting monster-mash Van Helsing mix Frankenstein, the Wolfman & Dracula with a horribly miscast Hugh Jackman to underwhelming results.  Mike Leigh gave us what could have been a harrowing account of a 1950s backstreet abortionist in the magnificent Vera Drake (05).  However, the powerful performances of the cast, especially a career best turn from Imelda Staunton and Leigh's celebrated realist approach make the film a defiantly human take on what is often portrayed as a black and white issue.  In 2006, the Wachowski brothers released their follow up to the Matrix trilogy; a dark and stylish adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta.  As with all Moore adaptations, it can't come close to matching the complex and rich source material but the Wachowskis had a damn good go.  In a post-9/11 climate pitching a movie where the central hero is a bomb-wielding terrorist is a fairly bold move.  The end of the decade saw a mini rush of viking movies.  Pathfinder (07) and Outlander (08) mixed native americans and entertaining aliens respectively with our Norse friends to mixed affect.  However, 2010's Valhalla Rising took a different path and told the tale of a mute viking warrior in an intriguing exploration of good and evil.  One Eye, a mysterious man of almost supernatural strength, escapes from his captors and throws his lot in with a group of Crusaders.  What ensues is not an action movie, but a bleakly beautiful (if occasionally brutal) journey into the heart of darkness (*cliche alert*).  The film is very ambiguous about One-Eye; is he just a man caught in the wrong place, or is he an instrument of vengeance on the repulsive crusaders sent to take them to hell?

Part the ninth coming soon...the end is nigh.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Short Review of Star Trek 2:The Wrath of Khan

Star Trek 2 came out in 1982 after the first movie outing in 1979 failed to strike the balance between pure sci-fi and crowd-pleasing action adventure. Proper director Nicholas Meyer got to play with the cast before they became antiques and had the franchise's best villain to chase them around. Ricardo Montalban chews the scenery with aplomb and drenches the dialogue in his fabulous accent as the eponymous grouchy protagonist. 

Rather than the frenetic screen-filling battles of JJ Abrams' Trek, Meyer gives us tense scenes more reminiscent of submarine combat. It's the sparing use and reminders of the cost of violence that raises Khan over all other Trek films. The cast get to show some range as they face the loss of new recruits and old friends alike. The easy interplay among Kirk, Spock & McCoy is funny and touching and the film also has the most imitated Shatner moment ever – KHHHHAAAAAANNNNN! 

Rating ****

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Short review of Ponyo

I’ve loved Hayao Miyazaki’s exquisite anime creations since catching Princess Mononoke by chance on a damp October afternoon in 2000.  I was entranced by this window into another culture’s legends.  Since then I’ve watched all his films and I’m continually impressed by the creativity Studio Ghibli cram into each creation. 

Ponyo is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid.  When a fish-girl is rescued by a boy named Sosuke and christened Ponyo, she decides that she wants to become human to be with him.  She escapes from her overbearing father and accidentally releases his stored magic into the ocean, endangering the entire world.   This film is simply magical, especially in the sequence where Ponyo rides the rising waves from her home to Sosuke’s island which is a leaping, soaring masterpiece of hand-drawn animation.  Although it's technically a kid’s film, Ponyo will delight the young and the young at heart in equal measure.

Rating ****

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The King's Speech is Alright

I have written two reviews of The King's Speech for other blogs.

The Kings Speech at the re/action blog.  All long and serious like.

The King's Speech at Screen 150.  All short and a bit frivolous, with a silly hand drawn picture from me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Duel of Directors

There are some directors who never really break the boundaries of their chosen genre.  Consider if you will the varying outputs of the Andersons.  Wes Anderson rarely leaves the quirky ground he has claimed for himself in The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore and The Life Aquatic.  Paul WS Anderson on the other hand has almost exclusively confined his output to videogame adaptations such as the Resident Evil franchise, the dire Alien vs Predator and the epic Mortal Kombat (not actually epic).

However, there are others who do bravely switch between genres and often generate quality whatever pool they are paddling in.  I've chosen the four best examples of these mainstream style-hoppers and selected what I consider to be their best film in a number of categories.  The winner is the director with the highest number of stars awarded.  So, going toe-to-toe are Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle and Stanley Kubrick.
Blade Runner (1982)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) ****
Sunshine (2007)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) *****
Gladiator (2000)
Amistad (1997)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Legend (1985)
Jurassic Park (1993)
E.T (1982)
Millions (2004)
True Story
White Squall (1996)
Munich (2005)
127 Hours (2010)
Spartacus (1960)
Robin Hood (2010)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) *****
Trainspotting (1996)
Thelma & Louise (1991) *****
Catch Me If You Can (2002) ****
Shallow Grave (1994) ****
The Killing (1956)
A Good Year (2006)
1941 (1979)
A Life Less Ordinary (1997) ***
Dr Strangelove (1964) *****
Black Hawk Down (2001) ****
Saving Private Ryan (1998) *****
Full Metal Jacket (1997) *****
Alien (1979)
Jaws (1975)
28 Days Later (2002)
The Shining (1980)
Body of Lies (2008)
The Color Purple (1985) ****
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) *****
Lolita (1962) ****
37 stars
48 stars
33 stars
47 stars

Spielberg by Amir Taqi

So the victor is the mighty Spielberg (although to be honest, Kubrick managed only one star less despite having 3 fewer films in the list so it could be argued he's the better director).  A purely imaginary trophy is currently winging it's way to Hollywood-land with Mr Spielberg's name badly inscribed by my own fair hands.

(In case your wondering Paul WS Anderson with Shopping, Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Resident Evil, Alien vs Predator & Death Race would have scored a paltry ten stars)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top Ten Films of 2010 Part Two: Five to One

Welcome to the second part of my review of 2010 in movie-land.  Find Part One here.   In this installment I will unveil my top five films of 2010 plus the ten worst dismissed in three words each.

5  The King's Speech
At first glance this film seems the type of Oscar-desperate snoozefest I can't stand.  Intense and wordy, packed with character actors and a main character with a disability or disfigurement.  It's the type of film that the Academy voters seem unable to ignore.  However, the film is a well crafted, well acted and genuinely uplifting tale of the reluctant king with a stammer overcoming his shortcomings with the help of Geoffrey Rush's unconventional speech therapist.

4  Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Edgar Wright's first 'Hollywood' movie was clever, inventive, fun and unique.  As a result it bombed at the cinema on both sides of the pond (let's not forget that the execrable Clash of the Titans was the 10th highest grossing film of 2010 - we should be ashamed of ourselves). However, it's insane (if imperfect) mix of stunning visuals, clever flourishes, nerd-friendly gaming references and kick-ass fight scenes should ensure it has a lasting cult appeal.  This battle of the bands fight scene between the eponymous hero and the villainous Katayanagi Twins is a work of visual genius.

3  Toy Story 3
Second best kids film for adults in 2010 or the second best grown up kids film in 2010 - I'm not sure which. Either way, Pixar carried on it's golden run with the simply wonderful Toy Story 3.  The last story of Buzz, Woody et al was funny, exciting and capable of making grown men cry (or at least get a lump in their throat).  While it doesn't scale the emotional heights of the gorgeous Up or reach the comedy plateau of The Incredibles it's still the type of movie Dreamworks wish they could make.

2  Inception
Right,  it's about dreams within dreams OK?  It's not as clever as some people said it was, but it was definitely more exacting on the brain than Clash of the Titans.  Christopher Nolan took a break from making Christian Bale gargle gravel in a cape to encourage Leonardo DiCaprio to look suitably haunted as dream thief extraordinaire Cobb.  The supporting cast were top class (including one of the final appearances by the late Pete Postlethwaite) and the special effects were spectacular.  Watch this impressive gravity defying fight scene then watch the equally impressive how-they-did-that.

1  The Secret of Kells (click here for the gorgeous trailer)
I know this choice seems willfully obscure, but it is genuinely my favourite film of 2010.  Technically it was originally released in 2009 but Secret of Kells got a limited cinema release in 2010 so it counts.  This animated adventure tells the story of a young monk called Brendan whose life changes for ever when he meets Aiden of Iona who is creating the magical Book of Kells. Set against the constant fear of Norse invasion this beautifully drawn fairy tale does not dwell on any religious material (The Book of Kells is probably the most famous illuminated Gospel in the world) and follows Brendan as he ventures from the safe walls of the abbey.  He encounters dangers but also experiences the wonder of the forest as he meets the magical sprite Aisling and battles the fearsome Crom Cruach before facing the ultimate threat as the Vikings arrive at Kells.  Directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, the film is animated in an unusual manner somewhat reminiscent of the Kells illuminations.  This is technically a kids film but tackles some dark moments (the Vikings in particular are faceless, blood-drenched shadows) while holding onto a sense of fun, wonder and delight at the world that sticks with you long after the film has ended.  It was rightfully nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2010 Oscars and you should definitely seek out this little-seen gem for yourself.
Turkeys of the Year in 3 Words
Knight & Day - Lots of Teeth
Jonah Hex  -  Josh Hates John
Salt - Angelina Try Harder
Clash of the Titans - Giant Scorpions Suck
Burlesque - Cher Looks Old
Hot Tub Time Machine - Men Get Wet
Legion - Angels Gone Bad
Sex & The City 2 - Sand and Dresses
Skyline - All About CGI
The Wolfman - Hairy Let Down

Monday, January 03, 2011

Short Review of the Expendables

Review of the The Expendables (Sylvester Stallone 2010)

I have always had a soft spot for 80/90's action movies. Cliffhanger, Total Recall, Die Hard and Predator are classics of the genre. They haven't aged well seeming overblown and surprisingly over-violent even to our jaded modern palate. But just when you thought the days of Timecop and Cobra were gone, Sly Stallone gave us something that no-one asked for: 2010's third elite-team-of-super-soliders movie.

It's worse than you can possibly imagine. The script is appalling, the action sequences are badly choreographed bloodthirsty nonsense and the performances from the unnervingly teak-muscled old geezers would shame a plank of 2x4 . Witness this sparkling interplay:

Arnie: “Whhyyyyy doooooon't weeee haaaave dinner”
Sly: “Sure, when?”
Arnie “Innn a thowwwwssannnnd years”
Sly: “Too soon”

I really wanted to like this film, but the wit and fun of the A-Team movie easily overshadowed the wheezing efforts of Sly, Dolph & co.

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