Tuesday, 14 December 2010


Hello all, its that time of year again as we get closer and closer to the beginning of a new year that we look back at this receding one and what we can remember of it.  Luckily, i can recall most of what i have seen. And it is tinged with certain regrets over the films I have not seen but grateful for the ones I have.  So in no particular order the films of the year from me, the populist cinemagoer are:

INCEPTION (Christopher Nolan, US, 2010)
TOY STORY 3 (Lee Unkrich, US, 2010)
THE TOWN (Ben Affleck, US, 2010)
MADEO (Mother) (Joon-ho Bong, South Korea, 2009)
EASIER WITH PRACTICE (Kyle Patrick Alvarez, US, 2009)
KICK-ASS (Matthew Vaughn, UK/US, 2010
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders, US, 2010)
FORBIDDEN (Frank Capra, US, 1932)
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (John Sturges, US, 1960)
SALT (Philip Noyce, US, 2010)

The films may not all be new, but nevertheless in the last calender year these are the films that have thrilled me and entertained me and will grace you a brief description of them all.

INCEPTION - Christopher Nolan follows up 'The Dark Knight' with another bohemoth of a film that is large in scale and subject matter, dreamscapes abstract onto landscapes as dreams become reality and vice versa.  Matched by astounding central performances none more so than DiCaprio as the man who may or may not be locked in his dream world.  Vast in its idea, and brilliant in its execution; Nolan returned with another summer blockbuster that entertained and treated the audience with respect rather than popcorn fed dunces.

TOY STORY 3 - The trilogy is complete, with the film that could mark it down as the greatest third film of any trilogy (sorry Mighty Ducks 3).  Woody, Buzz, Jessie Rex, Hamm all returned in a film that was as much about acceptance of your lot in life, so careful in its depiction of ageing and mortality. Yes, it made me cry and anyone who did not was a person of stone.  Full of memorable moments; the Great Escape parody, the talking phone as informant, the Spanish talking Buzz and the greatest reach out and touch someone moment in cinema history.

THE TOWN - When you have so many films to see, you miss out on some. I still have not seen 'Gone Baby Gone' which was Affleck's directorial debut, it might have given me some briefing on his style, but if his sophmore effort or difficult second album is anything to go by, Affleck conducts himself as a director of great competence and assurance handling a very generic cops and robber film with great purpose and vigour, even throwing in one of his best smouldering performances to boot.

MOTHER - First seen at the LFF in 2009, and seen again on release this year, the film is mesmerising in its depiction of a women who would go to great lengths to protect her beloved son.  Featuring a great performance from TV star Hye-ja Kim as the synoymous mother, another example of South Korea slowly becoming a powerhouse in world cinema and producing distinct cinematic works.

EASIER WITH PRACTICE - I always have a soft spot for small independent American cinema that can connect with people universally, and this picture starring the brilliant Brian Geraghty ('The Hurt Locker') as Davy who answers his motel phone one night and changes his life when he connects with the voice on the other end. A road movie, with no clear end but one that is helped by a great lead role that is witty instead of relying on gross out American humour . I hope this film finds a wider audience to appreciate it.

KICK ASS - Matthew Vaughn's eventual stab at Hollywood comic book cinema (after his removal from X-Men 3) was a film that took you by surprise as you did not thing it would be that good.  Visceral in its violence, laugh out loud funny in its knowledge of the genre and endorsed by Nic Cage doing his best Adam West impression along with help from Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, Chris Mintz-Plaase and the scene stealing Chloe Moretz as 'Hit Girl' the cussing true kick ass star of the film.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON - Odd I know to have two animated pictures in a year end poll, but this Dreamworks effort from the directors of 'Lilo and Stitch' gave us a film that was a little grower on you, in that it took itself on directions you did not expect.  Taking a hero who has flaws but finds respect in his peer group through his use of initiative; a role model for the youth of today who is not afraid to wear his battle scars in public, a nice nod to the serving military in Afghanistan of the allied forces.

FORBIDDEN - The BFI ran a complete career retrospective of Frank Capra's oeuvre from his work with Mack Sennett and the Keystone cops to George Bailey via Barbara Stanwyck.  Offering a rare opportunity to see his films on the silver screen in all their glory.  I afforded myself the pleasure of a matinee showing of this forgotten gem from 1932 in which Barbara Stanwyck fights for the love of the married Adolph Menjou versus the advances of the whimsical Ralph Bellamy.  A political storyline with her as the other woman in a marriage is quite perscient at the time due to the expenses scandal and other political shenanigans of this current climate.  The shooting, editing and acting went hand in hand with the Columbia trend of the early 1930s, but it is astonishing to see how he developed from this to the eventual triumph of 'It Happened One Night' and the other Oscar winners.  Just as astonishing is the neglible influence this film must have had on 'Citizen Kane' that many are either unwilling to testify for or just will not believe in terms of plot points, camera shots and general feel. A gem that I will always remember, as much for the experience than the film.

THE MAGNIFICIENT SEVEN - A treat for my father who is a big Western genre nut, and can recite passages of this film off by heart.  Seen countless times huddled round a small television in my youth, a pleasure to see on the big screen by the Southbank.  All sat there quietly, the curtains draws back and Elmer Bernstein's unforgettable score roars off the screen and my Dad sat by the aisle (the original aisle seater) is greeted by the other six people in his group all looking at him to see a big smile grow upon his face.  Fascinating screenplay in its economy of words, acting of the highest order, McQueen duelling with Brynner for screen time but losing; adapted from Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai' and itself influencing countless generations of filmmakers and audiences are still encountering due to the general power of its filmmaking.  A highpoint for so many involved in it, a highpoint for this year.

SALT - An admirable effort by Philip Noyce to sex up spy films with Anglina Jolie as the is she/isn't she a Russian spy.  To think this was originally intended for Tom Cruise (who lifted motorcycle stunts for 'Knight and Day'), Jolie creates the role of Evelyn Salt for herself, becoming her and in so doing, creating the necessary franchise that every Hollywood starlet should have. One of the better action films of this year, and to think it was written by the same pen that gave us this year 'Law Abiding Citizen' one of the lesser action films of the year, that embraced violence as a form of retribution.

The Other Guys - a let down in that I found many of the punchlines flat and unoriginal, Will Ferrell to be at his annoying shouting worse, Mark Wahlberg criminally miscast and a shame that Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson are underused in their all to brief cameo.

Date Night - again another American comedian shouting a lot, this time Steve Carell who along with Tina Fey seems lost, it tells you something when the best punchline was in the post-credit gag reel.  A bit of a mess that makes 'Dude, Where's My Car?' look like Dickens and after the previous years success with 'The Hangover' coupled with the above title, 2010 was a step back for American comedy cinema.

The Wolfman - was going so well until the reveal of the truth, and then the poor CGI which delayed the original release date and so should have been an improvement, meant this film that had a decent turn by Benecio Del Toro soon descended into an unnecessary monster mash up that does not give you nightmares.

Gentleman Broncos - an unfortunate mess considering it was written and directed by Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and the talent he had at his disposal, you expected something akin to Galaxy Quest and instead you get sub-par sci-fi mumbo jumbo.

I hope you like my thoughts and thank you for taking the time to read them.  Regards

Monday, 6 December 2010


Tron (1982) is the typical cult film, in the fact that even though you may not have seen it in its entireity, you feel as if you have because it has been parodied and spoofed in many shows and cartoons as in 'Family Guy', coupled with the famous one-sheet poster, with its pop icon imagery of frisbees as weapons, motorbikes in a computer grid and the now brilliant casting of Jeff Bridges as a zen-like maverick of computer technology.

Bridges returns in the film as Kevin Flynn, the patriarchal creator of the world where all the action takes place as it enters the thousandth cycle of its being.  We enter the film at 1989, Flynn is sitting with his six year old son, Sean in his bedroom having to go to work late again.  Flynn never returns, presumed missing as if vanished from the face of the world; Sean (Garrett Hedlund - smouldering) grows up to become the major shareholder of the company, EnCom, which is about to enter the Japanese stock market but Sean attempts to rebel and cause a meltdown of the company using his technical ability to hack and hijack the programs.

His surrogate father and Flynn's long-time friend, Alan (Bruce Boxleitner) approaches Sean after his latest hijinks saying he received a page from Flynn from a number that has been disconnected for 20 years.  Sean goes down to his fathers office at the old arcade (full of nostalgic games including the spin-off 'Tron'), after finding a hidden wall to his office and intialising the last run program, Sean is beamed into the world of Tron.

Confronted by people who capture him, the world learn he is a user/human, and so after a series of survival contests - set pieces reminiscent of gladiatorial warfare involving said frisbees and then the trademark motorcycle variant of 'Rollerball'. After these set pieces whet your appetite in glorious 3D we are then thrust into a father-son relationship film as after being hoodwinked by Clu (a computer version of Bridges), whom has taken over control of the world from Flynn, Sean finally comes face-to-face with his father in a room not too dissimilar from the end room of '2001'. This is Flynn's sanctuary in the outer regions away from the mess of Tron that he is established with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), who may have answers to the future of our real world in terms of religion, science, philosophy.

They attempt to get back to the portal that Sean came through, before it close and the chance has gone.  And so the film becomes a chase film and reminiscent of those films from the original film's era 'Battle Beyond the Stars' and even the original Star Wars trilogy; a motley crew going against an ordered system to gain victory without a hint of irony in the sense of sacrifice that may be committed. 

With the help of a great scene involving Michael Sheen as Zeus, a deal maker in this world, that could make the journey easier, Clu tracks him down and the pursuit is ongoing.  Sheen pouts around the stage in his 70s Bowie persona, using his identifiable cane as a character in his own right to make him more memorable; and even the music producer Daft Punk are afforded a cameo as his personal DJ's in the 'End of the Line' club; one of those bars that will go in movie folklore such as the Mos Eisley cantina and the Milk Bar from 'A Clockwork Orange'.

Directed by debut helmer, Joseph Kosinski (an architecture major, but geek at heart) with great clarity and purpose, in the fact that he takes a lot of the action and exposition with a pinch of salt; a sense of general disbelief would be appreciated in this film.  But the film, whilst it will not win a barrow load of awards, is nevertheless good action/sci-fi cinema.  A script that is brisk and bouncy, characters that are believable helped in part by the commendable actors; Bridges brings his Dude-like persona to the party ('You're really messing with my Zen, man.'); Hedlund injects just enough vulnerability into his would-be rebel in need of a father and Wilde gives doe-eyed innocence to a role (similar to Daryl Hannah did in 'Splash' ) by the film's conclusion, as she takes a look around the world she is now a stranger to.

The promise of a sequel to this film itself the longest gestated sequel is foreboding, but necessary when you consider the possibilites of an uncredited cameo of Cillian Murphy (wearing his evil glasses) going up against all-American Hedlund on this Earth.

With so many people invested in a film that happened so long ago, the prospect of them falling flat in their collective faces could so easily have happened.  However, it must be said that the film is a triumph and a good box-office banker; thrills, spills, laughs, action, adventure and a kick-ass soundtrack from the people born to do it.

It is formatted for 2D, 3D and IMAX, but whichever form you see it in you will not be disappointed by this roller coaster action yarn; science-fiction action film is back with a bang; from a film we thought that had disappeared without a whimper.

Released nationally on December 16th.