Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 Over

Blah blah blah, another year done with, blah blah, isn't mainstream cinema shit, waffle waffle, I like weird films, I wish my local cinema would show more fucked up shit etc. etc. blah blah, here's the good ones and the bad ones.

10 Favourite New Films That I Saw On A Cinema Screen

The multiplex continues to suffocate under wave after wave of banality, what I saw wasn't of particularly high standard and what I didn't see speaks a whole other story (Movie 43, Warm Bodies, Haunting In Connecticut 2, Identity Thief, Jack The Giant Slayer, The Last Exorcism 2, GI Joe 2, Scary Movie 5, Hangover 3, After Earth, White House Down, Turbo, RED2, Smurfs 2 etc. etc.), despite this there's still plenty of great films out there. There's still the usual high standard festival fare, refreshing oddities still appear on city multiplex listings and a few gems even manage to creep into the local fleapit now and again. Here's 10;

1: Gravity
Who'd have thought after all my bitching about the ingrained growing rot in the multiplex that a mainstream one-two of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in space would be my film of the year. Well it is, so either you can wipe that judgemental look off your face or you can fuck off.
(Trailer)

2: Big Bad Wolves [Mi mefahed mezeev hara]
Peadophiles are not funny. Torture is not funny. Corruption is not funny. And yet this film, armed with these themes, milked genuine belly laughs from me. This then made it all the worse when moments later it began punching me in the gut instead. Outstanding.
(Trailer)

3: Spring Breakers
Look at all my shit. Look at all my shit. Look at my one dimensional tits, beer and partying. Look at all my shit. Look at my imperceptible slide into mania. Look at all my shit. Look at my gentle shimmering dream states. LOOK at all my shit. Look at my rich textural examination of the human condition via Britney Spears covers. Look at all my SHIT.
(Trailer)

4: A Field In England
A remarkable power-play ably handled by an excellent small cast. You know you're watching something special when a grinning man walking out of a tent in slow motion terrifies you, and this is before you have to get through the climactic mind-blowing hallucinogenic meltdown.
(Trailer)

5: Only God Forgives
Neon light, stylish ciphers, and inventive swearing. Enough for me.
(Trailer)

6: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
I think that a considerable amount of effort would have to be invested to fuck up a Partridge movie. Fortunately all that effort seems to have gone in to making it brilliant instead.
(Trailer)

7: The Congress
To begin with I marvelled at the courage behind attacking Hollywood's studio system with your first American movie, then I marvelled at the invention found in creating a future where the party drug of choice turns you into animation, finally I marvelled as the fast unravelling threads of insanity were skillfully brought together and tied into a neat ending. Originality isn't dead yet.
(Trailer)

8: the Stone Roses: Made Of Stone
Regardless of your opinion of the band in question, it's impossible to deny Shane Meadows' ability to not only capture but also directly communicate raw human emotion. Here joy and elation palpably spills from the screen to smother you with nice.
(Trailer)

9: ABCs Of Death
With 26 short films there's invariably going to be a couple of stinkers. The solution on offer here is to make sure there's also a high proportion of excellent ones and then sprinkle in a few that will destroy minds. 'L' still swims through my darker thoughts now and again.
(Trailer)

10: Trance
Unlike other heist movies that rely on wit, charm and glamour, Boyle's effort relies on bodily harm, confusion and shaved genitalia. Boyle wins.
(Trailer)

5 Favourite Films I Watched On A Little Screen

Proving the rude health of film in 2013 three of these should have been in the big screen 10, but time and/or distance were prohibitive so I watched them on my telly instead.

1: The Act Of Killing [Director's Cut]
You know that satisfying moment in an argument where realisation dawns on the other person that they are actually in the wrong and they're forced to relent? This is kind of like that, only on a gigantic humanitarian scale that's quite breath-taking to witness.
(Trailer)

2: It's Such A Beautiful Day
Manages to stretch from the minutae of existence all the way up to the really fucking big issues and then ends with a response to everybody's greatest fear that is simultaneously uplifting and soul crushing. All communicated via a stick man called Bill.
(Clip)

3: Who Can Kill A Child? [¿Quién puede matar a un niño?/ Death Is Child's Play/ Trapped/ Island Of The Damned]
The finest of JoeFest. Avoids all the usual exploitation trappings in order to present a genuine cloying insidiousness. If you've ever asked yourself if it's good form to cheer on somebody as they gun down hordes of children, then you need to watch this to get the slightly unsettling answer.
(Trailer)

4: Hidden [Caché]
My fifth Haneke and no lesser a film than the other four masterpieces. I'm now happily convinced of this man's genius and have the rest of his canon lined up in the watching queue.
(Trailer)

5: Upstream Colour
An exposition free joy. Hollywood take note, you don't need to explain fucking everything. If this film is anything to go by, you don't actually need to explain anything just make sure your film is really fucking good and involves some weird shit with pigs.
(Trailer)

10 Shittest Films

And of course the bad ones. What actually constitutes a bad film is becoming increasingly harder to define these days. With a confusion of intentionally bad films, excellent films with poor production values and excellent production values being squandered on piss poor nonsense it can be difficult to judge the true worth of a piece of cinema. My criteria is if at the end of a film I gently shake my head and mutter "Jesus Christ, that was shit." then it's fucking shit. Here's the worst;

1. A Good Day To Die Hard
It gets my goat when people complain of a film raping their childhood (see Star Wars prequels, Indy and the bollocks Skull etc.). Get over yourself, your childhood is both fine and intact all that happened is somebody made a shit film. Far more distressing is watching A Good Day To Die Hard in which Bruce Willis visibly rapes himself. I'm fairly certain I even heard him whisper "Here's the real reason your vest got grubby" into his own ear. I never want to be made aware of the existence of this film ever again.

2. Bleeders [Hemoglobin/The Descendant]/The Dunwich Horror [Witches:The Darkest Evil]/Leprechaun In The Hood
The worst of JoeFest all lumped together in one place. Our edict was to watch some appalling barrel-scraping exploitation fare, and we really outdid ourselves with this selection of pure shit. To be fair to Joe two of these films I picked. And I was also the one to convince him we should watch Leprechaun 5. Gotta take the rough with the smooth and all that.

3. The Croods
A film that could only be improved if it had a neck so you could grab it and smash it's face off the nearest sharp edge.

4. Evil Dead
It's one thing to fail to understand the film you're remaking, it's quite another to fail to understand the mythology that runs throughout your film like words through seaside rock. A bit like watching somebody make a cake by throwing all the ingredients in a bin before pissing in it whilst punching themselves in the face.

5. Gone
Exhibits such a chilling level of stupidity you wonder if half of the names on the cast and crew list are people employed to stand next to the other half and whisper "breathe" every couple of seconds lest they collapse.

6. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Made all the worse by Charlotte reading the book a month later and intermittently telling me all the amazing stuff that was either hopelessly mishandled or just completely left out. Also retrospectively makes Percy Jackson And The Sea Of Monsters all the more impressive as you realise what a clusterfuck they had to untangle whilst also trying to tell a story of their own.

7. Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl [Kyûketsu Shôjo tai Shôjo Furanken]
I know the point of these crazed Japanese monstrosities is to be shit (see also Robo-Geisha, Machine Girl, Dead Sushi etc.) but even so a line has to be drawn somewhere. This easily runs full pelt across wherever you choose to draw that line.

8. Lockout
I got the really funny joke about Guy Pearce being hopelessly miscast about 3 minutes into the film. Then I realised that they were going to stretch this joke across 90 minutes. And then I realised it wasnt a joke.

9. Goblin
Not here because it's cheap, not here because it has awful production values not even here for the acting comparable to pine furniture. No it's here because to defeat the titular evil the protagonists required a magic spear, kept safe for a random number of years by the town drunk. If you have no money, production values or actors then a magic fucking spear is not going to save your shitty half-baked film.

10. Red Lights
The plague of surprise twists sparked by M. Night Shyamalan's inexplicably excellent debut seems to now finally be dying down. However, before we can get back to telling stories sensibly without a giant "BUT!" at the end, here's one more film with a last-five-minute curveball that makes no fucking sense, undermines the entire film and leaves the audience with a face like they've just had a hippo shit into their brain.


On to the next year. I think I need a drink.
 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Silent Night


The Santa of Silent Night, Deadly Night who slaughters naughty pornographers, but rewards nice old ladies with money, clashes with two comedy policemen and a bereaved policewoman. Plenty going on but tonally all over the fucking shop.
 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

The Rage

 
Gamely does the best it can with the severely limited resources available, resources that mainly consist of people pretending to be actors and rubber vultures.
 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Harry Hill Movie

 
Silliness of the purest strain saved from being completely asinine by an over-enthusiastic Julie Walters and a glove puppet voiced by Jonny Vegas.
Charlotte loved it and managed to make me laugh more talking about the parts she found funniest than I did during the movie.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

 
As impressive as Jackson's fifth foray into Middle Earth undoubtedly is, this time around there's visible stretch marks caused by the plethora of extraneous additions. For a film called The Hobbit I expected there to be a lot more Hobbit action going on.
 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Indie Game: The Movie

 
An entertaining look at the stresses and elations of independent video-game design though occasionally it feels more like an 8-Bit Rain Man.
 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

It's Such A Beautiful Day

 
Takes on awkward meetings, bad dreams, leaf blowers, mundanity, mental breakdown, genetics, life, existence, time, death and the eventual end of the universe.
A most remarkable piece of animation.
 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

The General

 
They don't make them like they used to. There's not a single wasted moment here, a masterclass in how to captivate an audience.
 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Oldboy [2013 Remake]

 
Spike Lee strips away Chan-wook Park's idiosyncratic bombast but fails to replace it with any flair of his own leaving a bland mush.
 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Two Front Teeth

 
Uses a healthy dose of humour in an attempt to offset the film's myriad defects. Unfortunately the film's myriad defects all stem from it being extremely cheap and extremely shit and no amount of humour is gonna fix that.
 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Frozen [3D]

Disney avoid cliche and drop constant visual delight but still shoehorn in two songs too many.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Post Tenebras Lux

 
A muddled attempt at being arty that just about works as a video gallery of film photography but fails as a film.
 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Texas Chainsaw 3D [2D]

 
Hideous nonsense about a girl who inherits Leatherface. Consistently ridiculous.
 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Dust Devil - The Final Cut

 
A good take on the serial killer tale unfortunately laden down with cod mysticism and a constant overbearing voiceover explaining what's happening and why it's mystical.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

La planète sauvage [Fantastic Planet]

 
A mesmerisingly weird animation about how if we continue to domesticise wild animals they'll find where we go in our dreams and destroy us. That or it's about how everybody should live together in harmonious peace. Or it's about drugs. Probably all three.
 

The Birds

 
A stodgier than usual Hitchcock sprinkled with intermittent episodes of birds acting like absolute bastards. The springboard for a huge swathe of horror cinema.
 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Cat Returns [Neko no ongaeshi]

 
A young girl has an adventure in a kingdom of cats, a place which has a lot more forced marriage and on-the-spot execution than I was expecting.
When asked why she liked this one, Charlotte responded with "because it has subtitles", which made me feel parentally proud until I realised that there's every chance she's got subtitles confused with cats.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Gravity [IMAX 3D]

 
Near enough flawless.
I left grip marks in anything I could get ahold of.
 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Straightheads [Closure]

 
Dana Scully and Danny Fackin' Dyer attempt to illustrate a complex moral justification for rape all the while failing to realise that there is no moral justification for rape, it's an abhorrent act. Fools.
 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Thor: The Dark World

 
SCENE: A gaggle of idiots sit around a big shiny table.
 
IDIOT 1: We're thinking of doing a new Marvel movie but need to come up with some representation of purely destructive evil.
 
IDIOT 2: How about a big CGI cloud of flashing lights that swirls around a lot?
 
IDIOT 3: Yeah, and then we can get the actors to grimace whilst arching their back and the computer guys will make it look like it's flowing INTO THEIR FACE.
 
IDIOT 1: This is reason alone to make this movie.
 
Everybody continues to discuss ways of hurling distressing quantities of money at pointless cinema-suffocating tosh. Fade to black.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

 
Could've been a halfway decent family adventure if it were shorn of its clumsy swearing, thuggish violence and ludicrous cartoon gore.
 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Goblin

 
A host of shitty actors get menaced by a phantom that looks eerily like a man under a blanket before somebody stabs it with a magic spear, I shit you not, a magic fucking spear.
No idea what that thing on the poster is, it never made an appearance in the film.
 

The Debt

 
By the time I managed to come to terms with the fact that not only were Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren meant to be the same person, but also an Israeli person, I felt unable to give a shit as to why this should be.
 

Take Shelter

 

Two hours of trying to decide if Michael Shannon is insane. "But of course he is, it's Michael Shannon!", ah but IS HE?, and repeat.

 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa

 
Not the best thing that ever tumbled out of the Jackass vaults, but it did remind me how good it feels to laugh at Johnny Knoxville willingly subjecting himself to unnecessary pain and humiliation.
 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Black Water

 
Standard tale of randoms in peril. This time the peril is provided by crocodiles in Mangrove swamps which translates to lots of shots of muddy water juxtaposed with shots of people staring at muddy water whilst displaying a range of facial expressions varying from mild concern through to slight agitation.
 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

 
A bit like an extended episode of a harmless sitcom focussing on the pecking order of various stereotypes, this particular one is about older brothers.
 

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 [3D]

The stylised silliness that occasionally charmed in the first one begins to grate very quickly and is never enough to hide what's wrong with the film, which is fucking everything.
Charlotte liked the film because she liked the talking food, despite the fact that there isn't any talking food in the film.

Friday, 18 October 2013

J.S.A.: Joint Security Area [Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA]

 
A brilliant tale of forbidden friendship that takes place across the Korean DMZ, told through an unnecessary flashback structure.
 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Zero Theorem


The futility of attempting to achieve complete understanding embedded perfectly in another fabulously garish Gilliam retro-future.

Under The Skin


Faber's novel is boiled down to a high concept sentence which Glazer then tries to obfuscate with ponderous but gorgeous imagery in order to look clever. A terrible shame.

The Double


A successfully weird amalgam of Brazil, Eraserhead, Fight Club and Single White Female.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

All Cheerleaders Die

 
Schoolboy wank fantasy that has obvious charms but coming from a post-Woman McKee feels a touch disingenuous.
 

Jodorowsky's Dune


In which Jodorowsky comes across as a charismatic tornado of insanity dragging all around him into its vortex. I'm almost glad his vision was thwarted because otherwise I'd never have been able to listen to him telling me all about the craziness.

The Congress


A brain scrambling, visual orgasm wrapped in layers of profundity.

All Is Lost


A singularly unique survival/disaster movie in that every shred of the eyeball rolling, forehead slapping melodrama that normally plagues the genre has been stripped away leaving an intelligent protagonist taking intelligent action in order to engage an intelligent audience.
Also made me need a wee quite a lot.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Gate

 
A fully formed gem that popped out of the wellspring of eighties horror aimed at teens. Includes some of the best forced perspective ever.
 

Monday, 7 October 2013

Filth

 
A whirlwind of hard drugs and wanking that ably catches the hedonistic spirit of Irvine Welsh at his most nauseous. This is a compliment.
 

Compliance

 
Creates an uncomfortable rift between the sheer implausibility of the characters actions and the mind blowing fact that every event portrayed in the film actually happened.
 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Mirror Mirror


A witty reordering of the tropes found in every telling of Snow White all wrapped up in Tarsem's trademark visual splendour.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Frenzy

 
In which Hitchcock playfully invents the Coen brothers movie.
 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Blood Night: The Legend Of Mary Hatchet

 
Deeply distasteful bollocks about a ghost whose massacres are dictated by her menstrual cycle.
 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Red Lights

 
Bland mess with an ending like getting to the last in a bag of Maltesers only to find it's a turd.
 

The Arrival Of Wang [L'arrivo di Wang]

 
The CGI has ideas way above its station and both script and performance suffer from first film enthusiasm, but the ideas at the core suggest there's an amazing film to be had out of this if it were to be remade, in the seventies, with Gene Hackman, and a young Jeff Goldblum as the alien.
 

Friday, 27 September 2013

Phantom Of Death [Un delitto poco comune/An Uncommon Crime/Off Balance]

 
Michael York fiercely plays a world famous pianist in his thirties who suddenly succumbs to an extremely rare disease that rapidly ages him in the space of months. This sends York insane causing him to kill every woman he's ever loved. He then goes on to struggle with an ongoing collapse of identity whilst taunting the police, who are unable to catch him because of an age discrepancy with evidence found at each crime scene.
King.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

 
Jack Brooks doesn't actually slay a monster until an hour and fifteen minutes in, by which point the ending has effectively been given away by the title.
 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Upstream Colour

 
A deeper than words hybrid of David Cronenberg and Terrence Malick.
Excellent.
 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Wayward Cloud [Tian bian yi duo yun]

 
An arty allegorical look at love, sex and hardcore pornography where love is represented by water, sex is represented by watermelons and hardcore pornography is represented by steely, emotionless hardcore pornography.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Pain & Gain

 
Stupid, racist, homophobic tedium populated with repugnant characters that looks like it was edited by a drunk and yet is still far too long.
Better than Transformers 3.
 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Calvaire [The Ordeal]

 
Christ allegory rendered as an extreme art-house, backwoods psycho, torture 'n' bestiality movie.
 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Frightfest 2013 Reflection

My third full Frightfest and this time it was like slipping on an old, comfy hoodie.
 
This year I managed to run a full gamut and see 26 films across the five day festival, though not all on the main screen. For the first time I had a go at venturing into the Discovery screens, this involved extreme queueing/sleep deprivation on the Saturday due to the Willow Creek effect but on the other days was just a case of rocking up at the counter. On the main screen I missed Hammer Of The Gods (by all accounts not up to much), I Spit On Your Grave 2 (by all accounts apalling shit) and the We Are What We Are remake (by all accounts one of the best films of the festival, can't win 'em all).
 
The festival was introduced by Bobcat Goldthwait further confusing the decision to put his film into the tiny Discovery screens, a decision righted by changing Willow Creek's second screening to a screen roughly five times the size. Other assorted guests accompanied the films as usual, some enlightening (Chucky 6, Dark Tourist), some just shuffled about looking confused (In Fear) and some bought massive entourages from around the world (Dead 2, Big Bad Wolves). They all had Q&A's as usual though this year people reined in their stumbling nonsense and the questions were usually of interest. Then there was they guy who explained that Child's Play 3 was his all time favourite movie, he's got an awful lot of cinematic discovery head of him, makes me feel slightly jealous.
 
There was an extended interview with Ben Wheatley, which was incredibly illuminating and showed just how much boring as fuck, hard graft the man has done to perfect his craft. There were previews of a few films, most interesting of these was Glazer's Under The Skin of which we only saw 2 mins of clips but plenty of weirdness, The Raid 2 of which we saw a girl with a pair of claw hammers and plenty of violence and the upcoming 2000AD documentary of which we saw a bunch of talking heads and plenty of awesome comic art.
 
The short films this year were split up and redistributed about at the start of features, presumably to get them exposure denied to them when they were lumped together on a Sunday afternoon. The best of these was an animation called Chuck Steel: Raging Balls Of Steel Justice which came off like Wallace & Gromit if they'd been intravenously fed Chuck Norris' entire back catalogue whilst having Red Bull injected into their eyes. Also worth mentioning were Shell Shocked, a neat WW2 Boys Own tale with a twist introduced by director Paddy from Emmerdale and Crazy For You which managed to turn the gouging out of one's eyeballs into a happy ending.
 
And the films. Standards were higher again than years gone by with nothing plumbing depths like last year's After or Night In The Woods from the year before. The flipside though was that there wasn't a great deal of epoch making genius going on either. Found footage continues to dominate and continues to be a crutch for film makers to direct without having to consider shots, framing, lighting etc. just stick a camera in an actor's hand and get them to do it. Most galling of all is there are now films that are shot like a found footage movie despite not being found footage at all (Banshee Chapter), for fuck's sake film makers - MAKE SOME FILMS. I'm not suggesting all found footage is thoughtless crap mind, there's plenty of directors still using it effectively and finding new ways to scare with it, something which is reflected in this years lists:
 
5 favourites;
1) Big Bad Wolves
2) Cheap Thrills
3) Willow Creek
4) V/H/S/2
5) The Last Days [Los últimos días]
 
5 not favourites;
1) Dementamania
2) Banshee Chapter
3) R.I.P.D.
4) No One Lives
5) The Dead 2: India
 
Thanks to Joe, Ted, Ali and newcomer James for prodding me from cinema to fast food joint to pub and back again. Now back to reality, ho-hum.