Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 on Film

All the 2016 releases I saw, from worst to best. Enjoy- and thanks to all for reading this year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Top 5 Time Travel Films

Characterized by puzzling plots and an often irreparable focus on science which hampers the human drama of the conflict that time travel can inflict, this is a sub-genre that very often churns out either hyper-intelligent work whose effort is lost in the mess of its own story strands or laid-back odysseys which leave the sci-fi to the side and focus on other elements which were sparked by the use of the time-travel gimmick. Which is better...?

Where to Start With: Martin Scorsese

In this series, I’ll be taking you through some of the great minds of 20th century film-making and trying to offer a ‘way-in’ for those who want to explore films of the past but don’t really know where to start. As the list goes on, the films become progressively less ‘accessible’ to first-time viewers, so work your way through them or if a story summary really grabs you then start there and work around it. Some may be for you and some won’t strike any chords regardless of how many times you see them- but you gotta start somewhere, right? This time around: Martin Scorsese, the man with the music.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

2010s Reviews: The Counselor

I’m honestly not quite sure what was going on in The Counselor. Written by Cormac McCarthy, a man famous for his vicious execution of crime stories and westerns like Blood Meridian, directed by Ridley Scott and packing names like Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Dormer and S- it’s a venture whose chances of failure were on paper about as close to zero as humanly possible.

Noughties Reviews: Synecdoche, New York

Following a death-obsessed playwright who chooses to spend his MacArthur genius grant staging a colossal moving production of New York City, Synecdoche is infamous for puzzling some and enthralling others with its continuously flowing memento mori. Sadly, all the often brilliant Charlie Kaufman’s directorial debut did was infuriate me.

80s Reviews: Elm Street 2 - Freddy's Revenge

Subverting the story of Freddy directly attacking Elm Street teens by instead having him possess a new occupant of a survivor’s old house- I was absolutely stunned by the end of Nightmare 2, most notably because I wasn’t sure if I preferred it to the first. 

Saturday, 17 December 2016

When the walls come crashing down

Watching The Wolf of Wall Street again got me thinking: There’s a beauty in destruction, isn’t there? When it all comes crashing down around our protagonists and we’re left in the rubble, some laughing, others sobbing- all reveling in the spectacle of it all. The sublime ‘Mrs. Robinson’ scene struck me but Scorsese has done even better in the likes of GoodFellas: synergising an unmatched montage of the macabre with Layla’s piano theme to form the film's finest sequence; and then later on he does it again with the eight-minute coke-fueled frenzy backed by Jump Into The Fire- watching our hero’s mentality slowly crumble down into little pieces and those final fragments be curb-stomped, as was inevitably going to be the case, by the long arm of the law. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

80s Reviews: Jason Takes Manhattan

Based upon Jason suddenly deciding to ditch Camp Crystal Lake in favor of stalking a girl who once swam there all the way to the Big Apple, I whole-heartedly love everything about Jason Takes Manhattan. The name itself is enough to make anyone crack a smile but what awaits within the walls of this enigmatic slice of pure entertainment (accidentally or not) really has to be seen to be believed...

80s Reviews: The Right Stuff

Tracking the story of the first manned space-flight by the US and the seven brave test pilots who were pooled into the project, The Right Stuff may have lost the Oscar to Terms of Endearment but it certainly feels like a Best Picture movie: Its long, star-studded and unmistakably American. For better, or for worse...

Noughties Reviews: Waltz with Bashir

An autobiographical war-story which sees a man explore his part in a massacre, Waltz with Bashir is one of the most unique and bracing animations to be released outside of Ghibli and Pixar. That being said, it’s not without its problems…

Noughties Reviews: 5 Centimeters a Second

Following two lovers throughout three key stages in their long-distance lives, 5 Centimeters per Second lags in the middle- but manages to make up for it with a surprisingly lifelike drama. 

Sunday, 11 December 2016

70s Reviews: The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Following Robert Mitchum's eponymous retired bank-robber facing a two year prison sentence he can only dodge through dealing with the Police, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is the closest I've ever seen a Hollywood film come to replicating Jean-Pierre Melville's immaculately restrained style of film-making. 

70s Reviews: Barry Lyndon

A period-set parable of the eponymous Irish hero's various triumphs and tragedies at the hands of fate, its taken me a while to fully assess what I feel about Barry Lyndon. After 4 attempts at perceiving its greatness, I've finally reached a conclusion. Kubrick fans be warned: It isn't a pretty one...

Friday, 9 December 2016

My Sight & Sound Top 12

A Man Escaped
Directed by Robert Bresson
The Seventh Seal
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Andrei Rublev
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Marketa Lazarová
Directed by František Vláčil
Army of Shadows
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Directed by Roman Polanski
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
The Ascent
Directed by Larisa Shepitko
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
Come & See
Directed by Elem Kilmov
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Directed by Gaspar Noé

Thursday, 8 December 2016

80s reviews: Hellraiser

Tracking a family who have recently moved into a house in which holds a deadly secret, Clive Barker's Hellraiser genuinely impressed me. Having only ever heard of the dregs of this soon-to-be 10 film spanning franchise (!), the original entry was both hilarious and genuinely frightening. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

50s Reviews: A Night to Remember

Exclusively relying on eyewitness testimony of real events, personalities and even specific lines during the disaster, A Night to Remember tracks through the sinking of the Titanic, a naval catastrophe which, in 1912, saw 1500 people lose their lives.

80s Reviews: Mona Lisa

Following ex-con George after a 7-year-stint in prison as he tries to make a living driving around a high-class escort, Mona Lisa delivers yet another incredible performance from Bob Hoskins as well as neo-noir grit and visual sensibilities I thought had been sadly lost in the early 70s.

70s Reviews: Silent Running

Bruce Dern’s lonely botanist cares for the last of Earth’s plant life on colossal carriers out in space, harried by an unsympathetic crew. When the order comes through to destroy the plants, a crisis of conscience emerges. Douglas Trumbull, who was famous for his work on the effects in 2001, mounts a worthy directorial effort- sadly dwarfed by the monumental impact of his earlier work.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Noughties Reviews: Flight 93

Made in the same year about an identical tragedy and even featuring similar names, it’s hard not to compare Flight 93 to Paul Greengrass’ better known United 93. Harder still considering the colossal gap in quality the movies endure. That in mind, for a small-scale TV production tackling a difficult issue at a time many were denouncing as “Too soon!”- it at least does the events of 9/11 dignified justice.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

90s Reviews: La Haine

Following three teenagers’ path through an outburst of community violence against the Police after they hospitalised a young man, La Haine is yet another contemporary gangland flick which belittles the impact of City of God. I’ve never thought much of Lund and Meirelles’ much-touted work and for those who love it I heartily suggest checking out La Haine.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

5 re-makes that were better than the Original

We've grown accustomed to shoddy re-makes in recent years so, as a refreshing change to an ugly monotony, let's look at five that were superior to their predecessors...

5 Great re-makes to Superior Films

We've grown accustomed to re-makes of being shoddy and poorly done but, every so often, there comes along a film which manages to improve upon its solid base. 

What fascinates me most, however, is movies which work as a solid tribute to their predecessors- but do not eclipse them. Four of the originals below rank among the finest I have ever seen and, somehow, all of these works manage to give them at the very least the respect they deserve and then strike out on their own path. Let's celebrate some worthy, if still inferior, re-makes. 

Friday, 2 December 2016

Noughties Reviews: Russian Ark

“Next Tarkovsky” Alexander Sokurov’s ambitious attempt to condense centuries of Russian history into an uninterrupted 87 minute take which flows freely through time in an ornate hermitage, Russian Ark is tedious, confusing and fails to transcend what I originally defended as more than a gimmick.

2010s Reviews: Black Swan

The story of a committed, psychologically fragile dancer attempting to get to grips with her lead role in Swan Lake, Darren Aronofsky’s flick has become a staple of challenging cinema from the 2010s and has generated a huge amount of praise since its release six years ago. Finally seeing it, whilst not without merit, Black Swan was a little disappointing.

90s Reviews: Delicatessen

Generally tiresome pair Junet and Caro’s sophomore attempt, Delicatessen follows a post-apocalyptic France in which (not dissimilar to the recent High_Rise) the people which pepper an apartment building struggle against their situation. The movie which signalled their unique voice to the world, Delicatessen has not aged well if you’ve ventured into J & K’s world even once before.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Director Retrospectives: Jean-Pierre Melville

The master of silence: Jean-Pierre Melville rules the crime genre with a slew of classic capers chambered in thievery, murder and an ice-cold palette. His career begins on a bender, but gradually calms down to deliver a remarkably vivid portrait of an artists discovering their vision.

It was fascinating to watch the man's unmistakable style develop over the course of his mid-period movies, honed into perfection by the passage of time. Don't get me wrong: His body of work is marked with a few notable flaws- but the many films that work are utterly immaculate. 

Finally: I just want to profess my love for the way he ruthlessly ignores the audience's catharsis of seeing the hero emerge triumphant (and alive) at the end. Good or bad, there's a high likelihood that if you sign up for a Melville film... you aren't going to survive it.