Tag Archives: Best Films

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The 50 Best Films of 2014 (Part 3)

In recent years many different trends have emerged when it comes to making movies. Be it franchises being birthed from the pages of popular Young Adult novel series or classic television shows being adapted into gritty dramas (well to be honest that one’s been happening for a while thanks to Brian DePalma). The fact is Hollywood seems to be in a kind of rut lately and while I wholeheartedly disagree with churning out movies with little thought to whether or not they are actually worth making it must be said that the remakes, adaptations and continuations of popular franchises have been remarkably good. The Marvel universe has released two cracking additions to their roster Peter Jackson finished up his Middle Earth adventure with a satisfying but flawed final piece. Overall its been a good year for big budget and a bad one for smaller films, something you may have noticed so far on this list. So here are numbers 30-21, a section of the list devoted to the big budget film it seems.

DIVERGENT

  1. Divergent – Divergent has a step up on other YA adaptations right from the get go because its story isn’t something that has been seen in its entirety on film before. The first Hunger Games is a censored version of Battle Royale with some pretentious political trappings and the opening instalment of Twilight feels like any supernatural teen drama you wish to compare it to. Divergent feels new although at a push you could compare it to films like Gattaca and thats not bad company to keep. The ‘choose your own destiny’ storyline works well, the films complex mythology is easy to follow (although remembering peoples names and such may prove difficult) and Shailene Woodley has an instant rapport with her costars as well as the audience. However the most important part is the fact that the film deals in peoples thoughts and dreams and the surreal way it is shot and displayed makes the film hum with a strong sense of tension making me thoroughly disappointed director Neil Burger will not be returning for the sequel.

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  1. Wish I Was Here – There are some things that Wish I Was Here improves upon when it is compared to Zach Braff’s feature film debut Garden State. It’s story is weightier than just young love and regrets from the past. The film follows Braff’s Aidan as he must contend with his dream slowly dying along with his father, his wifes (Kate Hudson) progressing dissatisfaction at how their lives have turned out and his brothers lack of any desire to grow up. His attempts to keep his family ticking over at first seem foolish, his ideas childish but across the course of the film its easy to realise that sometimes the answer to problems isn’t to face them head on, its to make light of them and have a little fun from time to time. Braff writes a compelling story for why being a kid (at least some of the time) is a damn good thing and how it can keep you in check when the chips are down. However the film lacks cohesion and the ending is written by the end of the 1st act meaning everything that comes after feels obvious. That being said the cast keep things interesting and Braff, Hudson and Joey King who plays Braff’s teenage daughter Grace are excellent and well worth taking the time to watch.

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  1. The Equalizer – Who thought an adaptation of a campy 80s television series could be developed into a brutally violent vigilante crime drama thanks to some stunning direction and a great lead in Denzel Washington? Everything about the film is stylised and while that sounds like a bad thing, it really isn’t. The action is dynamic but not the usual Bourne-esque combat you expect from films today as the film uses slow motion to accentuate what is happening, not detract from it through overuse like in 300: Rise of an Empire. The instant camaraderie Washington can create between every character in the film despite the fact some of them he has just come to kill makes Robert McCall one of the years most complicated and delightful characters given his penchant for reading, mourning the past and kicking ass for the little guy. If anything the only part of the film that lets it down is the fact its lead villain is so over the top and obnoxious that its hard to bear any scenes he graces with his presence. Then again it does add to the films ending as watching him get royally screwed over in an almost hilariously dark fashion kinda makes it all worth bearing him.

Film Review The Lego Movie

  1. The Lego Movie – Truth be told, I really liked The Lego Movie but to get every meta joke or silly sight gag I’d have to watch it again because it was so crammed full of material I’d be surprised if I got half of it. Therefore I can’t really say much about the film apart from there is never a moment that the lego interferes with the action, comedy or any part of the film. It’s fully realised and uses the little bricks to great effect making moments funnier, more destructive and ultimately more entertaining because of it. Cameos by actors like Liam Neeson and Charlie Day keep things lively and surprisingly the film ends on a compelling and unexpected note that really describes why Lego is so important to both children and the families they inhabit. It really is something special.

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  1. X-Men: Days of Future Past – I’ve said it plenty last year to anyone who would listen but here goes again. Days of Future Past is the best X-Men film since X2 and its easy to understand why considering this marks the first time original director Bryan Singer has returned to the directors chair since X2. Be it the well remembered Quicksilver (Evan Peters) moment in the pentagon or the great finale that built to a satisfying conclusion for long time and newly interested fans. The film concentrated heavily on the Magneto/Xavier connection that was sorely missing from The Last Stand and unfortunately First Class, a movie that tried but ultimately failed at recapturing the spark of the original films. The only real downside to Future Past is the inclusion of Mystique in the story. Sure I like Jennifer Lawrence as an actress, especially when she skews away from blockbuster fare but she seems like a cash cow at the minute and Mystiques role in Future Past is limited at best despite the writers trying to convince you otherwise. The film is really a film about a broken friendship and the pointless struggling to regain what is already lost with some badass time travel elements thrown in for good measure and thats why its such a return to form.

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  1. 12 Years a Slave – There is something to be said about a film that is willing to show every little horror of a tale without flinching or cutting away from the graphic nature of it. Then again there is also something to say of overly stylised shots that take you away from what is happening on screen so much that it seems almost fantastical. 12 Years a Slave has this problem as it constantly wavers on this line, dipping its toes in each side of the water until you really can’t decide what the film is ultimately trying to point out, that slavery was a horror we will never truly understand or that slave owners were akin to fictional villains, monsters you find in Brothers Grimm fairy tales. However the film has so many fantastic performers and individual moments its almost easy to forgive its tonal issues as it proves easy to mention scenes from the film as ‘horrific’, ‘graphic’ and ‘gritty. The film ticks all these critical watchwords but never really brings them together but boy is the film a must watch for acting reasons.

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  1. Belle – Another film on the list that has trouble deciding what it is about and yet again the film resolves to tell a tale about race. Belle however tells the story of a mixed race woman who is of noble birth on her fathers side and is brought to live in England but the welcome she receives is one she wasn’t expecting and would never forget. Belle takes a dark and contentious moment from British history and comes ever so close to turning it into a soap opera, a glorified episode of Downton. However what saves the film from its overly sickly ending is Gugu Mbatha-Raw and the way she brings strength and fear to the forefront of her depiction of Belle. She plays the two sides of the woman perfectly and in a less political race she would be up for an Oscar in February despite the films conventional trappings. Tom Wilkinson is also excellent but he gets sucks into the films ending and his conflicted character becomes morally good almost instantaneously as if struck by some divine moment of clarity. Bottom line, watch the film, roll your eyes at the ending.

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  1. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – This almost made it to the next section of my list but then I watched it again and realised that Peter Jackson despite having made a satisfying conclusion to his Hobbit Trilogy has completely lost touch with what made the series so compelling. The film has many great scenes and the long distance cinematography really displays the gravity of the films final brawl but when the film gets up close and personal CGI combat takes over and none of it looks even remotely real. Jackson’s use of CGI has taken the tension out of the story in a way that he cannot bring it back as the people dying in this tale, we are reminded, never really existed at all. Then again the film saves itself with some personal and emotional side stories such as the burgeoning love between Elf guard Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and pretty boy dwarf Kili (Aiden Turner) as well as the confrontation between Dwarf king Thorin (Richard Armitage) and loyal companion Dwalin (Graham McTavish). Jackson always excelled when he has his feet grounded in the emotions of the story instead of when he is experimenting with technology and despite my qualms there is a lot of emotion here, more than enough to entertain but not enough to love.

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  1. 22 Jump Street – I have to admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of 21 Jump Street. I mean sure it had its moments and the meta comedy was done so well that the film felt original and ultimately special but it just didn’t get me on the edge of my seat, it didn’t have my sides splitting. 22 is a huge improvement on its predecessor as it improves the films undercover tale with an even bigger dose of meta comedy and a bigger focus of Channing Tatum’s Jenko. Cameos by Nick Offerman and The Lucas Brothers provide more than enough laughs while the latter manage to fit themselves into the film’s central plot as Schmidt and Jenko begin to wonder if they really are as close as they believe they are. Tatum and Jonah Hill are just as wonderful as the lovable idiots but the films much more expensive looking action and the faster pace work in the films favour as Benny Hill jokes punctuate the films action. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller have one upped themselves and it would be surprising if they can do better.

A Walk Among The Tombstones

  1. A Walk Among the Tombstones – It’s been a while since Liam Neeson did a film that had a serious core to it. Either he has found himself hunting people hunting his family across the streets of Paris and Istanbul or he has stopped crime on airplanes with light bright colours and not a care in the world. A Walk Among the Tombstones reintroduces Neeson to the darkness and he thrives in it. Not only is the film brutal and fast paced, it has a sense of good and evil hidden behind all the violence, macho grandstanding and dismemberments. Neeson plays Matt Scudder, a former police officer and recovering alcoholic who works as a P.I for people willing to pay but when he is hired by a drug dealer to find out who murdered his wife he finds himself returning to the kind of police work that drove him to darkness in the first place. The film deals with the idea of collateral damage and repentance and all the while fitting in a compelling and sadistic tale of murder and psychosis. Directed to perfection, this was one of the big surprises of the year and its more than worth seeing just for a top notch, unexpected Neeson performance.


The next list, numbers 20-11 will include a bit of everything, in fact it is a very varied list where not one film is like the other. Come back soon to see what they are.

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The 50 Best Films of 2014 (Part 2)

I spent a lengthy time over the last few days looking at other lists compiled by fellow film fans and what I found was plenty of love for films released late into the year and the odd few summer blockbusters. However the next 10 films on this list were mostly summer releases that made me laugh so here are numbers 40 – 31.

Warning Spoiler Alert

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  1. How to Train Your Dragon 2 – It cannot be overstated how much I adored the first How to Train Your Dragon. It was smart, cute in just the right ways and most of all it had a great insight into the idea of the relationship between fathers and sons. The sequel expands upon this idea of distorted families but by expanding the world Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) spent the majority of his time changing it feels almost like a step back. The introduction of many new dragons with their own unique personalities took time away from Hiccup and Toothless and therefore made their interaction less special. That being said, the sequel is still beautifully animated and thought out and a major twist late into the films run has just the right emotional weight to work but it is followed up by a rushed finale that while poignant doesn’t feel complete. Then again those looking for some adorable Toothless antics will not be disappointed and although the film doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor its a darn sight better than most films out this year and although I quibble about some points this was still more than enjoyable enough to make the list.

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  1. What If – When Harry Potter ended I assumed much like Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe would just return to some hole in the ground, never to be heard from again. However in the years since he has made a name for himself with some impressive little indie pictures like The Woman in Black and Horns. What If also fits into this category. While some may see it strictly as a rom com, What If is a clever little character study of friendship and the complications that can arise from any kind of camaraderie. The film follows Radcliffe’s Wallace as he pines for Chantry (Indie darling Zoe Kazan), a girl he meets and instantly connects with but is in a relationship. What makes What If so captivating besides the great turns by Radcliffe and Kazan is the friendships they have outside of their own. Be it Wallace’s disturbingly sexual conversations with Allan (Adam Driver) or Chantry’s bitchy yet loving conversations with sister Dalia (Megan Park), the script manages to make each character charming in their own way, warts and all. Although you can predict the ending from the very start the film is all about the journey and the milestones in each relationship and the memories that cling to you even if you don’t want them to.

Film Review If I Stay

  1. If I Stay – Although the central premise of If I Stay is a little played out it cuts together its story in a delicate and heartfelt way that makes it more than worth a watch. The film follows Chloe Moretz’s Mia as she is forced to watch the aftermath of a tragic car accident that takes the lives of her entire family from a place between life and death. The films title and central premise is whether or not she should move on with the rest of her family or stick around to be with the remainder of the people who love her, including her grandfather (an excellent Stacy Keach) and Adam (Jamie Blackley), the boy she loves. It’s all very high school but there is a delicacy to the story that raises it above your average manipulative drivel. Moretz grounds the fantastical story in a sense of realism and the constant cuts to the past to add colour to Mia and everything she has lost in one horrific moment frame the film in a way that transitions the film through various stages of grief. If there is anything negative to be said its that the ending, although expected would have been much more powerful without that final moment. Her awakening damages the films overall message and the viewers interpretation of the film despite giving you a happy ending. Sometimes they just aren’t needed.

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  1. Draft Day – This Kevin Costner starrer may be a family friendly film but it shows a character at his very lowest without him even realising. The film follows the day of the NFL draft and General Manager Sonny Weavers attempts to get his team out of the dog house that he found himself in after taking over from his father. The film may seem to be about football but in my eyes it was a film about guilt, the guilt Sonny has for pushing his father out of a job he loved (even if it was for the best of reasons), the guilt he has for the way he has treated his girlfriend and fellow co-worker Ali (An understated Jennifer Garner) as well as how he has cut out his employees and avoided any kind of constructive criticism. Sonny isn’t the best of company but everyones assumption that he isn’t a decent guy are completely wrong. The film dives into his character completely through his love of the game that he has worked so hard to celebrate during his tenure at the Cleveland Browns. It doesn’t hurt that the last 30 minutes are rip roaring fun as the draft kicks off and Sonny goes to the races with trades and manipulations until he has everything he could ask for. The side story about his impending fatherhood feels tagged on but ultimately it doesn’t impede the story or the filmmaking it just another aspect of a surprisingly deep film.

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  1. Need For Speed – Most critics loathed Need For Speed because it was either a unnecessary video game adaptation or the films story could be shoehorned into about 30 minutes of an over 2 hour film. What they failed to see was a film that didn’t care how much story it had to tell as long as it told it well and accompanied it with some excellently filmed car chases. Sure the film has the perpetually bad Dominic Cooper in it as the main villain but watching him get royally screwed over is enjoyable because well, he’s just that bad. In fact the film works because the actors involved look like they are having a whale of a time making the movie and it adds another layer of fun to the film despite the dark revenge fantasy that lead character Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is playing out. Imogen Poots is also an entertaining addition to the film as the assistant to a motor mogul but really the film is all about fast cars, ridiculously over the top crashes and a whole lot of constipated driving faces and thats why its so damn entertaining.

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  1. A Million Ways to Die in the West – This is another film many were unsure about when it was released but for the average viewer its a hoot. Sure a few jokes don’t work and fart humour never really works in the way people want it to but the film has two excellent performances by Seth MacFarlane and Charlize Theron as two born in the wrong era jokesters that hate the west and everything it conceivably do to you and not for you. Be it the ridiculous cameos from the likes of Ryan Reynolds and Ewan McGregor or the out of time references, there is plenty here to find entertaining and as a follow up to Ted it avoids most of the expectations by changing up the genre but not the humour. Sure it probably would have been funnier with a talking teddy bear as well but it does its job well enough without and MacFarlane has plenty of fun spoofing the western genre while ensuring he doesn’t play into Blazing Saddles territory too much.

Veronica Mars

  1. Veronica Mars – The first of two Kickstarter funded movies on the list, Veronica Mars brings back a much loved television character but this time on the big screen and while the film does feel like an extended episode of the show there are many reasons to praise it also. Not only does that cast return from their extended hiatus on top form but creator Rob Thomas hasn’t lost Mars’ distinctive voice and sass along the way. The film may have been made on a shoestring budget thanks to donations from people all over the world but it doesn’t look it, in fact it looks just like any other big budget picture with a whole new colour tint to go with it. The shows bright shiny yellows are replaced with a darker blue to represent the darker Neptune that Veronica (Kristen Bell) is returning to. The film feels like the next step, the logical progression for this new grown up Veronica and while she will still be good for a snappy one liner this Veronica doesn’t seem as cynical and yet she also isn’t naive either. She could always think for herself but the film does a good job of showing how much she has grown in the time she’s been away. Although a side story within the film about corruption in Neptune is brought up and dropped from time to time as if its groundwork for a sequel if Warner Bros see fit to make one, it doesn’t really add to the feel of the film. The darkness in this world we once remembered so fondly has crept in and we don’t need an attempted murder to tell us that, we can see it all over the characters faces. Overall though, I loved the series and I liked how the film acted both as a progression of the series and as its own entity for anyone to enjoy so I advise you do.

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  1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – I have to admit I hated Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I hated almost everything about it from James Franco’s smug scientist to the way suddenly all apes were intelligent just in time for the big action set piece despite the fact it took Caesar years to gain his knowledge. An action set piece I might add that looked like it was designed on Flash. Dawn however is a far superior film and a damn enjoyable one at that. Not only are actors like Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis doing incredible work in it but it has an entertaining parable about good and evil and the ways intelligence has brought about a primal kind of evil in the Apes that the humans oddly enough had tried to suppress all this time. The film flips the idea of the end of the human world on its head as the apes start the inevitable conflict that many saw coming but hoped wouldn’t. Director Matt Reeves must be commended for a finale so bold and action packed and human light that this finally felt like an Apes movie and not some drivel designed to line James Francos pockets with gold. But Dawn will always be remembered by most for a giant ape riding a horse at a tank, dual wielding machine guns and looking like hes having a blast doing it and why shouldn’t it be remembered for it, it looked awesome.

LET'S BE COPS

  1. Lets Be Cops – I’ve never been a huge fan of Jake Johnson as an actor, he always reaches too far with his acting and his comedy always feels ever so slightly smug but his portrayal of man child Ryan in Let’s be Cops is a stroke of genius. It’s equal parts tragic, hilarious and smug that it works perfectly opposite Damon Wayans Jr’s cowardly Justin. The two of them decide to pretend to be cops for a costume party and it spirals out of control from there. Sure the film is childish but so are they and the comedy works because they give themselves over to the films stupidity completely. Be it Justin trying to infiltrate a weapons dealers hangout while tripping out on crystal meth or Ryan trying to avoid wrestling a 300 pound naked man, the film manages to make fresh some very basic comedy. Where the film falls down is how its side characters are represented. They are almost as stupid as this duo of slackers and the fact they play into their delusions that they are in fact good enough to be cops is almost enough to ruin the film but Wayans and Johnson make it work well enough to ignore the idiocy of the premise. Another plus is a cameo by up and coming comedian Keegan Michael Key whose rastafarian gangster is the opposite of what you would expect in all the right ways. The film works just right if you block out your sense of reality and just enjoy the ride.

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  1. Bad Neighbours – I didn’t know what to expect from this Seth Rogen starring comedy and although the first 20 minutes made me expect one of the worst films of the year with almost no comedic moments at all it suddenly perks up when Zac Efron and Dave Franco show up and outshine Rogen at his own game. Featuring one of the funniest fight scenes I have seen in a long time, Bad Neighbours really shines when the film concentrates on the fraternity that moves in next door to Rogen’s family and starts causing mayhem. Be it Franco imitating Robert DeNiro with surprising skill or Efron impersonating batman, the film works when they share the screen. However it must be said that Rogen is equally entertaining when riffing with Efron as well as he appears to bring out the best in his costars, much like he does in That Awkward Moment. The only weak note is Rose Byrne who tries her hardest to keep up but never really feels part of the fun despite her many scenes to suggest shes just as fun as the rest of them. The film may start badly and 20 minutes is a long time in comedy to go without laughing, the rest of the film is more than enough to stick around for and more than enough to make it onto the list.

 

The next part which will hopefully be up tomorrow barring complications is a mixture of all kinds of films including the first Superhero movie, an oscar winner as well as a Young Adult adaptation that really surprised me. See you then.

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The 50 Best Films of 2014 (Part 1)

In my worst film list for this year I wrote that this hasn’t been the best year for film and that it may reflect in my 50 best films of the year list. Thats not to say that any of these films are bad, they just aren’t perfect and while I’d expect some disagreement about some of the early choices (and some of the later ones knowing the internet) I will tell you that I enjoyed all these films, some just a little more than others. So here is the first 10 films of my 50 best films of 2014 list.

 

Warning Spoiler Alert


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  1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 – I’ve never been a huge fan of The Hunger Games series, be it the first films avoidance of the dark elements the film should have concentrated on or Catching Fire’s decision to just rinse and repeat the events of the first film with no changes or way of differentiating the two. Mockingjay Part 1 however is my favourite of the series as it moves away from the trappings of the games in favour of the brewing rebellion that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has become the beacon of hope for. The film uses the politics of war as a jumping off point and delves into the darkness of propaganda as President Snow (an excellent Donald Sutherland) starts an all out political war against Katniss and master political manipulator Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who will appear again later on this list). The film worked because it was different, it didn’t pretend that the characters were fearless in their resistance as Katniss and fellow Hunger Games survivors Beetee (Jeffrey Wright) and Finnick (Sam Claflin) suffer from the aftershock of their experiences. The film is all about the little things in war we forget and while the film loses steam in its final act this is a top notch way to really make us care for the films characters before we enter the final act.

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  1. Under The Skin – Its hard to put into words the reasons I liked Under The Skin, a bizarre little feature starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien given the task of seducing  unsuspecting men for nefarious purposes. From that description you might expect a conspiracy film with some reporter or police officer looking for answers into the various disappearances. Thats not the kind of film Under the Skin is, in fact there is nothing conventional about it. There are long moments where no dialogue is used as we must try to enter the mind of this creature as best we can as she begins to see the beauty and terror of our world for the first time. Her time away from completing this endless mission allows for our culture and sensibilities to seep into her (it?) influencing her journey in the final act where she encounters all the good and bad that this world has to offer. The film, i believe at least, serves as an allegory for us on the whole as we are dumped on a world we know little of and must crawl and scratch our way into understanding only to be ripped out of this world when we still have so much to do/learn. The idea that our time here is important is taken from us in the final moments as the creature’s presence is literally burned away to be forgotten by this planet as if she never existed in the first place. The film may seem to be saying that everything is meaningless but I believe its telling us that no matter what we do the outcome is the same so we should brave every experience and learn for us, not for what we want people to see us as.

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  1. Maleficent – Although I am reaching my breaking point when it comes to fairy tales being reimagined with new aspects due to a huge quantity of them in recent years I can’t help but find myself ever so slightly enamoured by Maleficent, a new take on the story of Sleeping Beauty. First off the film doesn’t take itself too seriously like other reimagined tales (I’m looking at you Snow White and the Huntsman) and it doesn’t treat you like a child like others (Jack the Giant Slayer), it finds the right blend of drama and comedy to find a workable balance. However thats not why the film works, it works because Maleficent (A surprisingly impressive Angelina Jolie) is a far more interesting character than Aurora (Elle Fanning). The film ultimately turns Aurora into a two dimensional presence early on in the film by dictating what and who she will be through magic (you’ll understand if you see it) where as Maleficent is allowed to flit back and forth with her emotions and actions, be they good, bad or somewhere in between. Jolie tucks into the role and yet manages to imbue the villain with enough pathos for you to truly care about her and the role she has to play in Aurora’s slumber. While Sharlto Copley pops up to chew scenery and annoy viewers he is barely around long enough to cause any lasting damage but the film does feel a little long and never really manages to lose its fairy tale persona, no matter how hard it tries. The film tries to avoid it but you will always remember what this story is really about which might leave you cold at the films sunny ending.

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  1. Fury – This Brad Pitt starring war flick is a complicated pick as when I first left the cinema I was conflicted as to whether or not I actually liked it. David Ayers latest exercise in morbidity is a clever film in the way it manipulates its viewer but there is no denying that is what it does. The film tries to convey the horrors of war through its characters but all it really does is lead you to conclusions instead of allowing you to interpret the film. The ultra violence doesn’t add to the film in the same way as Saving Private Ryan as the moments it is used are over the top (someone literally explodes from what looks like the inside out) and it almost ruins certain action sequences. There is a lot to critique in Fury but the film is full of excellent performances, a bone chillingly brutal ending and some stunning visuals including a tank battle that is wonderfully executed. It’s true the film tries to enter the ring with Spielberg’s classic thanks to where the film is set but it manages to separate itself enough to be its own monster and I’d be impressed if you weren’t completely shocked and impressed by an extended sequence in the middle of the film that really cuts to the core of war in a new and unique way, one that feels as devastating as it should and connects you to the characters in a way that the preceding 30 minutes somehow failed to do. All in all Fury isn’t about war, its about being proud of yourself when the end finally comes around and for most of the characters in Fury, the end inevitably comes.

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  1. The Purge Anarchy – The first instalment of The Purge wasn’t perfect because it tried to convince people it was a horror film when it really just wanted to be an action film and by the end thats exactly what it became. Anarchy takes a different tack where it sticks itself firmly in the thriller camp and it manages to thrive because of it. The world that has been built around this idea that crime is legal for 12 hours every year is wonderfully realised and yet harrowing at the same time. The way the rich, the poor and everyone in between respond to this exercise in barbarism is part of the fun of the series and while concentrating on one family in the first film was an interesting way to introduce the concept there was much more to be seen. The open world aspect of Anarchy really brings the series to life and the idea that crime can be used for good is more believable this time around as the unnamed Sergeant (Frank Grillo) searches for vengeance but finds redemption instead while racking up one hell of a body count. A sequence in the middle of the film threatens to ruin the film thanks to its racist undertones but thankfully it wraps up quickly and the film gets back into the exploration of this world. Most of all, Anarchy is balls to the wall entertainment and even if you liked the horror aspects of the first film, you will still find plenty here that you can sink your teeth into.

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  1. 3 Days to Kill – I’ll put it out there first that 3 Days to Kill is one of the cheesiest films of the year. The film follows the story of a CIA agent (Kevin Costner) who is forced into retirement due to an incurable disease and must return to his estranged family to make amends. However when a mysterious woman offers him a cure he must go on a 3 day killing spree across Paris to catch a terrorist while trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). What I haven’t said about the film is that it has an extremely dry wit that director McG plays into with some playful direction. Be it Costner interrogating a cowardly Italian only to require his help with pasta sauce or him asking for help from his latest targets teenage daughters when his goes missing, the film takes every chance to humanise him. However the film really works because of the chemistry between Costner and Steinfeld who make the films cheddary moments seem more bearable thanks to their believable interactions. In fact I’d go so far as to say you will go into it for the action but stay for the surprisingly heartfelt story of regained family. A massive improvement on McG’s last film, the horrendous This Means War.

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  1. Out of the Furnace – When I watched this in January I thought this would be one of those films that would stay in the list until Oscar season but would promptly drop off once the truly great stuff emerged. Unfortunately this is 2014 so it clung to the list. Thats not to say its a bad film, in fact it has some killer performances from an almost unrecognisable Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck that elevate the film above its very basic vengeance storyline. The parts that make the film worth watching is the way it presents a small town community on the brink of bankruptcy and the shocking underbelly that has emerged to fill in the gaps. The film both embraces the beauty of the rural area around the industrial town as well as the dilapidated centre. The film makes a powerful point that these kinds of towns are reverting back to the rural areas they once used to be as the local factory looks to be on its last legs and everyone has reverted to fending for themselves in a very primal way. The only real downside is the film tries desperately to make you care for its lead character played by Christian Bale and by the films end you can’t really understand why you ever could. Be it that or the presence of perpetually bad Zoe Saldana this film is a mixed bag but its photography is stunning and you can relax and take it in like a soothing balm to the other problems.

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  1. That Awkward Moment – This Zac Efron starring relationship drama isn’t the most original of films, it tells relationship stories that are as old as time but the way the characters walk, talk and interact with the world around them is so real and well thought out that it just had to be on the list. The trio of leads, be it Efron, the underutilized Michael B Jordan or Miles Teller, are fantastic as they mix the script and their own improvised ideas into one coherent story as they each try and court a different girl, each of whom has fun playing with the films style as well. The film however really belongs to Efron whose misogynistic party boy character is a delight from beginning to end even if he does some pretty questionable things along the way. His struggles feel important and his relationship with Imogen Poots Ellie is the best part of the picture, not only because they play off each other so well but because of the way the simple thread of commitment issues feels fresh when in the hands of these performers. It might not be the most unique idea but if you do something right it doesn’t have to be.

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  1. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – This is a bittersweet film for many different reasons, be it its story of a man willing to compromise his beliefs for his people but not for his family or the way the film glosses over some of the more interesting elements to paint a particular picture, one that might not shine a light on the real Mandela. The early moments concentrate on the cosmetic elements of the man, his likes, his dislikes. Lets be honest, when we think of a film about Mandela we don’t particularly want to know he was a fan of boxing, it just doesn’t feel relevant to the story. It does paint him as human but to be honest so does the fact that HE WAS HUMAN. The film’s final moments also gloss over the man in favour of the myth, the man we all hear about but know nothing about. It’s the middle of the film that matters and that really hits home, be it his time in prison while his family flounders on the outside and his wife (Naomie Harris) is punished more harshly than the man serving a life sentence. She is emotionally tortured and while hard to watch it is captivating at the same time. In fact Harris is the main draw, not to diminish an excellent Idris Elba, but the heart of the film comes from the unintended side effects of Mandela’s idea of freedom. By the end he had caused huge change in a country that needed and corrupted the soul of the one person he held dear to the point where she was unrecognisable to him. The film doesn’t delve into their divorce and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of Mandela’s reaction to seeing what his wife has become but you can feel the pain, the hidden impact has become more than real thanks to Harris and Elba.

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  1. Transformers: Age of Extinction – Ok, bear with me on this one. I can tell many of you are thinking what the hell is this guy smoking for putting this up here but hear me out and I’ll explain. The 4th instalment in the Transformers saga is arguably the best of the bunch as it carries on the tradition of exquisite action set pieces but manages to give them a much more human touch thanks to an actor who actually wanted to be in the films. The film follows Cade (Mark Wahlberg), a wannabe inventor who finds himself embroiled in a plot to destroy the planet when he comes across a powered down Transformer. What makes the film worth watching isn’t robot dinosaurs although they are fairly entertaining. What makes it worthy of the list is the fact that director Michael Bay has actually given the various characters (both human and metal aliens) personalities and character traits beyond the fact they are big, loud and capable of destruction on a massive scale. Although there is all of that you actually care about people in the film. The budding relationship between Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) and boy racer Shane (Jack Reynor) should have been cut for its gag inducing elements but beyond that this is just pure entertainment and a cameo performance by T.J Miller provides some much needed comedy early on.

 

Come back Sunday for part 2 of the list which includes a big dollop of comedy as well as the first of 3 animations to grace the list. See you Sunday.

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 5

So here it is, the final 10 films in my top 50 of 2013 and in this batch there are two from some of my favourite directors, a feature film debut that blew me away and a English language debut that had a similar impact. However the top spot is an unconventional choice to be sure but one I hope some people will agree with. Here are numbers 10 – 1.

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10. The Broken Circle Breakdown – This Dutch film isn’t the whimsical film you might imagine, it’s a very dark family drama with a deeply religious core. The film follows the love story of Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) and Elise (Veerle Baetens), two like minded souls who only differ on their belief in god. When their daughter gets cancer they both find their beliefs shifting as they seek to find answers to a situation without any. The heart and soul of The Broken Circle Breakdown is the films ability to make viewers understand the importance or at least the benefit of belief is. The film uses bluegrass and country music as a way of conveying emotion in a very real and unusual way as Didier and Elise perform as a way to get away from their problems and stay connected to each other. However this is a dark film, one with moments of joy and levity, but a dark twisted tale that picks you up and tosses you aside, leaving you with a hopefulness about the films outcome, an outcome that relies upon the belief the film gives you.

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9.Zero Dark Thirty – Released in January this Kathryn Bigelow directed thriller is a film of constant tension, the kind that at times you want to rip your own skin off. Not only does Bigelow manage to control the action in a way that it heightens every little paranoid aspect of your mind but she also has carefully edited the film so that the film is low on answers and high on questions. The film constantly leaves you questioning what is happening around you, a byproduct of the intelligence community the film is trying to depict. Jessica Chastain gives one of her finest performances to date as Mia, a brutally honest CIA analyst whose mission to find Bin Laden consumes her until there is nothing but a husk left. The almost 3 hour film never loses itself, it’s constantly manipulating the viewer to his breaking point. A worthy follow up to The Hurt Locker.

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8.Breathe In – This Drake Doremus directed family drama is a story of lives not lived and inadequacies that boil to the surface when a young woman integrates herself into another family. The film follows Keith (Guy Pearce) and Sophie (Felicity Jones) as they get wrapped up in an affair of intimacies when Sophie comes to stay with Keith and his supposedly happy family. The film gives a detailed portrait of regret in each of its forms from the youngs idea of experiences not taken to Keith’s middle age view that life isn’t over but if he doesn’t act soon it will be. Featuring a tour de force performance by Pearce and an excellent if brief supporting performance by Amy Ryan as Keith’s wife Megan, Breathe In is a dark story of the corrupting force of desire and how it can ruin a good thing. Keith and Sophie’s love affair may be fleeting and complicated but boy is it good to watch.

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7.Parkland – This JFK drama tells the story of the events in and around Parkland Hospital on the day Kennedy was assassinated and the days that followed. Filled with a plethora of big name actors from Paul Giamatti to Zac Efron as one of the doctors who worked on the president the whole film is slightly overstuffed but it’s brimming with real sentiment, an idea that if the same thing happened today the same instinctive loss would be felt. Not only is Giamatti excellent as the man who filmed the shooting and helped the police and Secret Service find Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong). The side story regarding Oswald’s brother Robert (James Badge Dale) is particularly effective as he struggles to maintain his family loyalty  and balance it with his patriotism. Dale is excellent and he grounds the films more out there storylines. Well edited and shot with an admirable sensitivity to the event despite some of the more unsavory moments such as the delusional ramblings of Harvey’s mother (Jacki Weaver), the film never forgets the driving force of this tale and neither do we.

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6. Stoker – Chan-Wook Park’s first English language film is just as surreal, violent and depraved as his Vengeance trilogy but at its core this is a twisted love story, one of dark impulses, twisted visuals and a lead performance so good you might think Mia Wasikowska is actually a sociopath. The film follows India (Wasikowska) as she comes to terms with her father’s death. However when a mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) arrives to live with her and her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) she begins to have strange feelings and urges she cannot control, ones that may consume her and her mother. Filmed in a very lavish style and working from a Black List script by Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, Stoker is a stroke of genius, a tale of control when you don’t quite understand the difference between right and wrong. Kidman justifies India’s actions by being one of the worst movie mothers of all time, a self absorbed child in a womans body trying to put together the pieces that her husbands death threw apart. The whole film is constructed in a way that leaves you on edge, unsure of what to expect and what to understand, ultimately putting you in India’s shoes as she falls deeper into Charlie’s path and Goode makes an excellent manipulator. The film works so well because of its performances and Wasikowska has proved herself more than capable of carrying a film.

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5. Gravity – Lauded as the best film of the year by many, Gravity is a marvel of both modern technology and close, intimate storytelling, an odd mix by any standard. Gravity tells the harrowing story of Dr Ryan Stone, a first time astronaut stuck in space during a deadly debris storm, one that destroys the shuttle that should get her and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) back to Earth. Visually breathtaking with almost every scene being entirely CGI except for a few brief moments, Gravity keeps things real with a story that keeps this tale of survival deeply personal. Stone is an empathetic character, a victim of not only her surrounding but her past as she is forced to go through the Zero G ringer in the name of survival. Clooney’s charismatic persona fits nicely with Kowalsky, a career astronaut whose love of space makes him the perfect companion, especially considering the situation they find themselves in. Director Alfonso Cuarón manages to draw upon many different themes in vastly different ways to add a richness to the picture from the idea of rebirth to the grip religion or faith can have on someone in a life and death situation. Bullock is perfect and guides the viewer’s thoughts and fears through the film in a way no other actress could and the finale is without a doubt perfect. Both the films best popcorn movie and one of the best emotional dramas to boot.

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4. Cloud Atlas – There was a time last year when I thought this would be my Number 1, in fact it lasted until at least September. In fact when I heard the film was being made with the Wachowski siblings I just had to see it. I had read the book, a sprawling narrative set in different centuries and countries, telling vastly different stories, each about love and devotion to others and the idea that souls and lives can impact people across millennia. What I finally got was a breathtakingly beautiful film that used the book at a starting point as it toyed with the central premise and reconstructed the complex tale through themes instead of stories. From 18th century Hawaii to a post apocalyptic future where every person speaks a degenerated version of English, each section of the film adds to the grand narrative, the idea that everything matters, the good, the bad and everything in between. The films cast all play multiple roles to add to this idea of effects carrying over and actors like Tom Hanks, James D’Arcy and Ben Whishaw give terrific performances with a gay love affair between D’Arcy and Whishaw proving to be one of the films most powerful sequences. However the film relies quite heavily on the performance of Doona Bae in her first English language film and she delivers in a futuristic sequence that could only come from the minds of the Wachowski’s. The film is grand yet small, expensive yet cheap and most of all its absolutely outstanding.

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3. Short Term 12 – The Top 3 all have something in common, they are all relatively cheap indie dramas that tell small but important stories about life and the effects we have on the people around us, be it a family member, a lover or a child. The first of the 3 is first time feature director Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12, a tale about a care worker who runs a short term care facility for children without homes or kids who are in transition. The film follows Grace (Brie Larson), the head of Short Term 12 as she discovers she is pregnant, something that begins to open up old wounds as she tries to help new arrival Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) as well as many of the other kids at the centre. Cretton’s tale is one of repetition but not in a bad way. He plays with the idea that abuse and abandonment breed more of the same in the generation that follows as Grace struggles to get past her own parents. Co starring John Gallagher Jr as her lover and fellow care worker Mason, a fellow abandoned yet found child, Short Term 12 is a film of understated yet devastating performances. Gallagher is terrific, especially during a scene about halfway through the film but he doesn’t hold a candle to Larson and Dever who each deliver some of the best work of the year with Larson being a dark horse choice for an Oscar nomination. Cretton conveys these dark and depressing family stories in new and realistic ways including the personalization of a rap song by Marcus (Keith Stanfield), a 17 year old whose life has been nothing but care homes, someone who is so afraid to leave because he doesn’t know anything else. The film doesn’t set out to make you bawl your eyes out but it may just be one of the side effects.

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2. Before Midnight – It’s been 9 years since we last checked in on Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as they strolled around Paris for an afternoon as Jesse waited for his plane back to his wife and child. Before Midnight follows Jesse and Celine on a holiday in Greece as they prepare to leave and return to their idea of the real world as their personal issues start coming to the surface in a way that could ruin their once perfectly romantic union. Before Midnight is the 3rd instalment in the series but it doesn’t mean director Richard Linklater has lost what made the first two so involving. In fact chapter 3 is his best yet, a tale that isn’t just two people in playful courtship, it mixes real problems and emotions into the mix as Celine struggles with her desires to find fulfillment in her job as Jesse worries that his distance from his son makes him a bad father. Their clashes make the experience richer, more developed as we really get to see why we liked Jesse and Celine in the first place, warts and all. Both Hawke and Delpy’s ability to improvise adds realism to the story but Linklater is the real star as he brings not only the Greek countryside into the tale but he also juggles the films many themes and issues like a master. After 18 years it would be understandable that people might be bored of watching two people walk around a city discussing their lives and how they came to be where they are now but with Linklater at the helm I have no problem watching another Before film in 2022.

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1. What Maisie Knew – The best film of 2013 isn’t a big title, in fact it was barely released in cinemas over here in the UK. However that doesn’t mean it isn’t a marvel of a film with one of the best if not the best child performance in the last 5 years. What Maisie Knew is a modern day version of the novel of the same name by Henry James. The film tells the story of Maisie (Onata Aprile), a 6 year old child whose parents Beale (Steve Coogan) and Susanna (Julianne Moore) are separating and are using her against each other as the two new people in each of their lives are forced to stand by and watch it happen. Co-directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, this shocking tale of the destruction of a child’s sense of worth is a subtle story with many hidden layers with the direction perfectly hiding little hints at the films true meaning. The film relies heavily upon Aprile and she brings plenty to the table as she conveys emotion through her eyes in a unique way. However the film’s best aspect is how it messes with the idea of the conventional family, how it judges the worth of blood over devotion as it introduces two people more capable of taking care of her than her actual parents, be it Beale’s new wife Margo (Joanna Vanderham) or Susanna’s new squeeze Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard), each bring different ideas of family to the table. Surprisingly however, What Maisie Knew doesn’t make judgements, it treats its subjects fairly even if the viewer doesn’t think they deserve it, giving audiences a fuller picture. The film however is also shrouded in obscurity as everything is displayed from Maisie’s point of view as she doesn’t quite understand what is going on around her. The film is an exercise in acquiring self knowledge and Aprile makes Maisie’s self discovery exhilarating in a different kind of way making What Maisie Knew in my opinion the best film of 2013.

 

So there you have it, the top 10 films of the year. What did you think of this list? Did you enjoy reading it? Let me know in the comments.

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 4

Numbers 20 – 11 is where the first of my five star films emerges but before that point there are 8 other films from an Indie darling about self reliance, a film about a passionate lesbian love affair as well as the story of an elderly man not ready to give up his passion just yet. All in all it’s an odd bunch but full of films well worth your time. So here they are, numbers 20 – 11.

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20. Blue Is The Warmest Colour – Most of the press surrounding Blue is The Warmest Colour is about the explicit sex scenes in the film and while they are graphic and overly extended, there the worst part of this wonderfully moving French film. Starring Lea Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos as lovers Emma and Adele, this almost three hour epic follows the relationship between these two and the ever changing nature of love, sexuality and life. Exarchopoulos is a revelation and Seydoux is more than capable but the films graphic moments do have a tendency to disconnect you from the story. Ultimately though the film paints a very real portrait and its hard not to get wrapped up in it.

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19. The First Time – Never released in cinemas, The First Time is the latest romantic comedy by In The Land of Women director Jon Kasdan and much like his directorial debut, The First Time is not what you might expect. The film follows Aubrey (Britt Robertson) and Dave (Dylan O’Brien) over a weekend as Dave approaches graduation and Aubrey continues down the same path. Kasdan writes two wonderfully original characters and ensures audiences will enjoy being around them. They are remarkably verbose for teenagers but their very personal struggles still flow through their psychobabble. Kasdan has proved himself a man who understands character and The First Time is full of it.

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18. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – Ben Stiller’s most personal film in years, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, while a remake of a 1940s film, is a vivid tale of life and adventure and how sometimes life is the adventure. The film follows Walter (Stiller) as he heads on an adventure to change his life, brought about by the very real possibility he might lose his job. Co-starring Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt and Sean Penn, Stiller’s latest is a bold, bright and beautiful creation with some amazing visuals, a relatable tale and a lead who understands the nuances in the tale. Penn provides an interesting cameo on Walter’s journey but mostly this is Stiller’s show and he doesn’t let you down.

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17. The Kings of Summer – This little seen American indie feature may be an odd choice, especially this high on a list of best films of the year but at its heart, The Kings of Summer is about doing the unexpected, making it on your own with your own decisions and the film is so lovingly crafted I fell for it hook line and sinker. The story follows Joe (Nick Robertson) who leaves home and lives in the woods with his friends for the summer, much to the chagrin of his father Frank (Nick Offerman). Weaving a tale of self control and growing up, Robertson manages to make his whimsical experiment seem epic, an adventure for the ages as he gives Joe a sense of purpose. Not only that but the film’s comic timing is excellent and with some excellent cameos by Megan Mullally and Mary Lynn Rajskub and a career high supporting role in Offerman. The whole film is full of laughs right from the beginning and the transition from comedy to drama is handled naturally making for a surprisingly effective little drama.

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16. Jiro Dreams of Sushi – This documentary film follows Jiro Ono, the owner of a small Sushi restaurant in the Tokyo subway. The film shows his little operation and how chefs and critics all over the world have come to praise Jiro. It’s a film of marvels really, a tale of complete devotion to a job/ability that takes genuine talent and plenty of hard work. Jiro’s life is his food, his contribution to the world is how he changed and adapted the way Sushi is made and flavoured. The film treats the food as another one of the films many characters and shows a whole new side of the specialty. However Jiro Dreams of Sushi most of all is a tale of family, commitment and underestimating the people around you. By the end its easy to understand why Jiro’s restaurant is a 5 star restaurant but if you peek behind the curtain once more you may realise that Jiro isn’t really the hero of this piece.

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15. Django Unchained –  Quentin Tarantino’s over the top western is equal parts outlandish and playful. The cast of Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo Dicaprio and others is outstanding as they enjoy the lengthy monologues and epic conversations conceived by Tarantino in his lifelike scripts. While his many eccentricities flood out in his direction, his script is a thing of beauty, filled with wondrous moments of extreme violence and softer, subtler moments that blow you away in other ways. However without Waltz and Dicaprio, Django would be a very different film and I for one am grateful for these two talented actors.

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14. The Impossible – Directed by The Orphanage’s Juan Antonio Bayona, The Impossible is a thing of beauty and horror, each displayed in the same shot throughout a gut wrenching film of disaster and recovery. Following a family of five that visited Thailand just in time for the Boxing Day tsunami, this true story follows their quest to reconnect with each other in a country they know little about. Featuring one of Naomi Watts’ best performances, The Impossible is an acting and directing triumph, its emotionally gripping tale really feels harrowing, tense and destructive because of some skilled direction. The script on the other hand is another matter with some truly awful, clunky dialogue. However the film is remarkably dialogue light making it almost a non issue as you get consumed by the wave that takes this family on a devastating journey.

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13. Saving Mr Banks – This Disney released film about the often contentious relationship between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and PL Travers (Emma Thompson), the writer of the Mary Poppins series, is a soft and jolly little film that is much more than a simple biopic, its a tale of fathers and their children and the ways we can hate and love something at the same time, even if we don’t realise we are doing it. Thompson brings out the best in Travers, a introverted yet outspoken woman and Hanks has a good handle on the duality of Disney, the fun entertainer and the risk taking businessman. However the best parts are the ones where the two play off each other and the film really comes into its own in the final moments as Director John Lee Hancock brings together his tale of fathers to a crescendo of disappointment and release in a way that doesn’t forgive the actions of these two troubled personalities but it does justify them.

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12. All is Lost – All is Lost is an almost dialogue free film with only one character, a minimalist score and very little in terms of special effects or action. However it is a brilliant feature as it follows the life of a sailor (Robert Redford) on a solo sailing voyage who finds himself in a no win situation when his boat is hit by a floating shipping container, leaving him taking on water in the middle of the ocean.  Redford keeps you interested as adds credence to this man’s often futile attempts at finding safe harbour and rescue. Directed by J. C Chandor, the same man behind 2011’s Margin Call, its surprising to hear little to any spoken words and still be as connected to the people on screen. Much like Upstream Color, All is Lost builds a feeling of loss that permeates every aspect of the film making All is Lost a depressing but inspirational picture.

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11. Philomena – Judi Dench hasn’t won an Oscar since her supporting role in Shakespeare in Love but Philomena should put her back in the race as Philomena Lee, a real life Irish woman who went on a journey across the pond to find her long lost son with reporter Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan). Co-written by Coogan and directed by Stephen Frears, Philomena is the story of everlasting faith, be it in god or science, every version of belief is shown in this picture and Coogan has crafted a story that doesn’t pass judgement, it merely presents the facts and shows the power of a simple story. Coogan is impressive as Sixsmith but Dench makes Philomena the films touchstone, a character of constant guilt and regret whose devotion to her faith is impressive and memorable.

Now that we’re close to the top 10, what do you think deserves to be in it? Do any of the films on this list deserve to be higher or lower? Let me know in the comments below.

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 3

 

Part 3 of this list varies from the latest Studio Ghibli film to a first time director’s raunchy starting piece. Not only that but this list has films by four well respected directors, each of them changing up their styles. Here are numbers 30 – 21.

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30. From Up On Poppy Hill – The most recent Studio Ghibli film is unlike their regular fare. It doesn’t have monsters or the supernatural, hell there are no heroes or villains. From Up On Poppy Hill is a pretty conventional drama about two students, both holding immense responsibilities as they both try to protect their school clubhouse from being torn down. It sounds juvenile but the film marries beautiful visuals with a story that is influenced by the Korean War and it turns this trivial struggle into something more important, more necessary. A little emotionally manipulative at times, this is some good Ghibli.

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29. 42 – This American baseball drama about African American baseball player Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is exactly what you think it is. A film about the first black player in Major League baseball and all the animosity and hatred that came with this honour. The film follows a set course, one that is easy to predict but through its many top notch performances, Jackie’s story comes to life. Director Brian Helgeland carefully controls the racism in the film to guide viewers and Boseman makes an excellent Jackie. However the real highlight is Harrison Ford as team manager Branch Rickey, a deeply principled man driven by more than money. He elevates the whole film to a biopic with guts and gravitas.

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28. Don Jon – Joseph Gordon Levitt’s directorial debut is a sordid affair. A film about the obsession of porn and its after effects is a much more sombre film than I expected it to be. The film follows Jon (Levitt), a bartender looking to move up but carry on with his obsession of chasing women and watching porn. His relationship with Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) makes his routine impossible. Featuring some great performances by Levitt, Julianne Moore and Tony Danza, Don Jon keeps you on your toes through a rather conventional romantic comedy in an interesting way and the end product feels acceptably grimy, unhinged and messy to make the whole film feel right.

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27. Frances Ha – Shot in black and white and directed by indie director Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha is the story of growing up in a city built on dreams, no matter how unachievable. The film  tells the story of Frances (Greta Gerwig) and her relationship with the Big Apple and her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Frances is a fascinating creation. She is equal parts frustrating, lovable and naive. She has a dream, one that keeps slipping through her fingers and watching her scramble, completely unsure of herself, into a new world where nothing makes sense is both thrilling and terrifying. Gerwig makes it easy to like Frances even though she might take a lot of patience and in the end you might even love her, just a little bit.

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26. Rush – Ron Howard brings his own touch to a subject he knows nothing about and the result is slightly magical. Rush is a wonderfully vivid and colourful film with some of the best racing direction in a long while. The films story about the rivalry between racers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) is a great jumping off point to display a world of constant risk, constant pushing of the limits. Both Hemsworth and Bruhl understand their characters, their flaws and imperfections shine through the tough exteriors these drivers had to develop to survive. These two men are fascinating creatures and the film’s final moments bring about the strongest material as the two finally face each other knowing everything and it’s well worth the wait.

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25. Flight – Robert Zemeckis hasn’t done a live action film in quite some time. In fact Flight is  his first live action film in 12 years. Flight shows that in all that time he didn’t miss a beat. Flight is a shocking, devastatingly real look at alcoholism and the crumbled lives that a drunk can help and hinder. The film follows pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a  semi functional alcoholic who on one of his routine flights encounters a malfunction and through his skills he manages to land the plane. However when the investigation begins he finds himself trapped between a lie and his soul. With one of the best performances by an actor in years, Flight is shown the way through Washington and he delivers in spades with a brave and gutsy act no one else could have pulled off.

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24. Lincoln – Steven Spielberg is well known for science fiction, dinosaurs, Tintin and the second world war to name but a few themes but his most personal film may just be Lincoln, a picture that looks at Abraham Lincoln’s (Daniel Day Lewis) struggles to pass the 13th amendment of the US Constitution. Spielberg contains the action to the amendment despite the films many other themes. Day Lewis becomes Lincoln so absolutely that it would be hard to tell the difference between him or the real thing. Strong supporting roles by Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field and David Strathairn keep things rolling and a strong comedic role by James Spader provides some much needed levity to the sullen, wartime proceedings. All in all the film is a look into a man of principle but one who was more than willing to cheat the system if he had to.

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23. The Butler – Despite Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy making it’s way onto my Worst 25 of the year at number 20, his other 2013 release is nothing short of excellent. A White House drama from the perspective of one of the butlers is both a stark look into civil rights over the years and a moving family drama. The film follows Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) and his wife Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) and their struggles through a hostile America as they try to care for their two sons. Whitaker makes Cecil brim with unsaid hatred, an anger hidden beneath the calm service exterior he had built for years as Winfrey vice filled Gloria is a mess of conflicting emotions, each one used perfectly by Winfrey. Together they make a strong film better as they find the nuances in Danny Strong’s often whimsical script. It’s a look into a shocking time but the film itself and the people it represents is crafted with love and it shows.

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22.The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Peter Jackson’s second instalment in his Hobbit trilogy is a shocking improvement on its predecessor as it finally makes the exploits of Thorin (Richard Armitage), Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and co seem important. The first film felt like a playful kids film but The Desolation of Smaug turned up the tension and torment. With some excellent action sequences, a  new relationship to rival the tepid Aragorn Arwen material from the The Lord of the Rings and a new,  cunning villain in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug. Jackson has proved himself a dynamic storyteller and chapter 2 in this trilogy is a captivating action film that paves the way for an excellent and unconventional final act.

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21. Filth – I don’t think there is a film this year like Filth. The name is apt for a film thats story is comprised of sex, drugs, drinking, swearing and any other depraved and slightly taboo thing you can imagine. The film follows Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) as he tries to get the promotion he always wanted while dealing with his own twisted mind and sense of loyalty. McAvoy makes Bruce understandable, a mess of a man pushed forward by his own mental issues. However the film uses this to its advantage as it shows the twisted visuals that Bruce has in his head and most if not all of them are completely fantastic. The film has a sick sense of morality, something to be expected by a film based off an Irvine Welsh novel, and it never lets you go for the entire run as Bruce crumbles before you in the most playful way possible despite the horrific things that are happening to him and those around him.

Were there any films you hated on this list? Leave a comment and let me know.

The 50 Best Films of 2013 Part 2

Numbers 40-31 feature a modern day spin on Huckleberry Finn, an experimental sci-fi film from the Director of the equally trippy Primer and at least two big budget blockbusters to whet your whistle. Here is part 2 of my 50 Best films of 2013.

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40. Mr Morgan’s Last Love – This small budget family drama about a suicidal elderly man (Michael Caine) and the relationship he strikes up with lonely Pauline (Clemence Poesy). The film makes a compelling story of loners and lovers, one with all the victories and losses that come with such devotion. Caine and Poesy are excellent but a pointless cameo by Gillian Anderson almost derails proceedings. On the whole its a smart, funny and bittersweet affair that provides the kind of conflicted ending you never really knew you needed.

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39. Ender’s Game – This psychological thriller from director Gavin Hood is proof that sometimes films with a child cast can be surprising. Asa Butterfield stars as Ender, a genetically enhanced soldier in training for a war against aliens, one that has been coming for a long time. The film relies heavily on Butterfield and he doesn’t let you down. Filled with entertaining set pieces and more than enough twists and turns to warp proceedings, everyone comes out a little dirty in this picture and thats perfect because seeing the shades of grey infecting everyone is the best part of Ender’s Game and Harrison Ford still pulls off good grouch.

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38. Upstream Color – From director Shane Carruth, the mind warping director of Primer, comes Upstream Color, an experimental film about the circle of life and the effect it has on two ravaged souls. The film follows Kris (Amy Seimetz), a successful woman who is one day infected by a mysterious parasite. When she ends up being stripped of her free will and her cushy life she finds comfort with fellow victim Jeff (Carruth). The two end up on a journey that reveals the true nature of the parasite and the effects that the corruption of nature brings. Beautifully shot and displayed, Upstream Color is all about the viewer, the whole experience is different for everyone with a different message making it the ultimate marmite film but one well worth watching.

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37. Wreck It Ralph – The first of two animated films, this February released Disney feature was a wonderful mix of meta jokes, adventure and loners. John C Reilly makes an excellent lead as Ralph, a constantly rejected video game character who goes out in search of acceptance leaving everyone in his game vulnerable to being ‘unplugged’. With some excellent voice work by Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch, Ralph is given some good company as he searches for a place to call his own. Filled with plenty of subtle gaming jokes, Ralph is a film for everyone as it avoids the curse of the videogame film by never actually picking a game, instead choosing all of them.

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36. Star Trek : Into Darkness – JJ Abrams follow up to his world changing first instalment is more of a montage than a solo story as he embraces old school Star Trek history to tell the modern story of Khan Noonien Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the chaos he brings. Unlike his first film, Abrams has crafted a fast paced, yet emotionally stunted thriller which is impressive on a visual and dramatic level but leaves many unanswered questions. Ultimately it belongs on this list because of Cumberbatch and Chris Pine whose back and forth make this whole thing worthwhile and a hell of a lot of fun.

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35. Thor: The Dark World – Of the two Marvel films this year, Thor was by far the best with a world spanning storyline, some excellent performances by Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and even Anthony Hopkins, as well as a story that brought about one of the best action set pieces of the year. This Sci-Fi epic really builds the world of Asgard while also distancing Thor from it in a very real and entertaining way. Not only does Hemsworth seem to be enjoying every little minute of his time as the demigod but the film plays to the casts strengths with most of the films run being devoted to the comedy elements. However the film really comes into its own during the physics bending finale, a set piece so unbelievable and twisted that it brings the film together. That and a healthy dollop of sarcasm by Kat Dennings and its off to the races.

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34. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa – It’s been years since Alan has been on the television and yet he hasn’t missed a step in his transition from the little screen to the big one. Not only is the film funnier than most of the series shenanigans but this neatly plotted tale makes the best of Steve Coogan’s sardonic wit, the kind of humour Alan thrives on. The film keeps you laughing thanks to a few choice cameos, a great supporting turn by Colm Meaney and some outrageous behavior outlined by a smartly written and adventurous script.

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33. Mud – This Jeff Nichols directed story of American life next to the river isn’t just a tale of poverty and a different way of living, it’s the tale of community and the sense of belonging. The film follows two kids as they discover Mud (Matthew McConaughey) on an island just off the mainland. When they set about helping him reconnect with his love Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) things go awry. Nichols’ reimagining of the tale of Huckleberry Finn is a film that praises the lives built out on boat houses and swamp dwellings, the kind of lives filled with adventure and danger people crave. McConaughey shines as the titular antihero and supporting turns by Sam Shepherd and Michael Shannon really drive Nichols story home.

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32. Emperor – Starring Matthew Fox and Tommy Lee Jones, Emperor is the story of Bonner Fellers (Fox) and his assignment to discover if the Emperor of Japan should be tried for war crimes following the end of the 2nd world war. However the film follows Bonner’s past life in Japan with the woman he loved as the show pictures the two sides of Japan, the destroyed and what was once there. The visuals are beautiful and harrowing at the same time, Fox is on top form and Jones makes the films weaker moments shine with moral ambiguity. Overall its a beautifully poignant picture about love and forgiveness and the shame war brought two nations simultaneously.

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31. You’re Next – This B movie horror flick is as gruesome as slasher films come with some truly outrageous violence taking place. The constant disconnection of genres helps keep you off balance as a group of animal mask wearing psychopaths attack a family dinner where one of the guests is more than ready for them. Completely off its rocker, You’re Next is a surprising treat, a slasher film with a confused sense of right and wrong. The film constantly tries to make the proceedings more joyful as blood sprays everywhere. Emotionally confusing, this Adam Wingard directed film loves its control over its audience and Sharni Vinson is brilliant in it, well worth the creepy feeling the film leaves you with.

What do you think of part 2? See anything you have seen and hated? Let me know in the comments.