Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review Of 2013

It's that time again when we embrace a new year and take a look at the past. After the monster year that was 2012, I didn't know what to expect in 2013. At the beginning it was looking a bit dreary but by the end it was a brilliant year for cinema. If 2012 was for the blockbusters then 2013 was for the more independent films, as most of the big films disappointed this year whereas the smaller films did anything but. Keep reading to find out my top 10 of the year, and although in the UK we didn't get Her or The Wolf of Wall Street in December, my list is made of what I think are still some pretty impressive pieces of work. In fact, some of my favourite films of all time are on this list.

10. Thor: The Dark World
I see thee yay! Thor: The Dark World was the least disappointing of the blockbusters and Marvel films this year. What we got was a great action, adventure film that was packed full of punches, hammer time and Tom Hiddleston. The end result was great and the film was one of the most enjoyable of the year! You can read my full review here.

9. Don Jon
Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't messing around when he made his directorial debut. He's no fool when it came to casting himself as the porn addicted John who gets to date Scarlett Johansen. He's also no fool as a director and writer as he proved by making a fast paced, very funny film about a subject that has been rarely touched upon in cinema. A great piece of work, I look forward to what he comes up with next!

8.  Catching Fire
This film surprised me as I was very negative towards it in the build up to it's release. But what came was a great sequel that was on par with its excellent predecessor and even made me question as to whether I enjoyed it more than the book. Katniss Everdeen and Jennifer Lawrence herself are great role models and I can't wait to see what's in store for the character and the actress next! Read my full review here.

7.The Dirties
After hearing about the film through one of Kevin Smith's podcasts, I made sure to check it out. The found footage film genre may be getting a bit tedious but this film goes and reinvents it all over again! A great story about young filmmakers and a subject that could cause a lot of controversy, but is handled in such a great way. If you haven't seen it yet then check it out! It's a very well made, touching and funny film. Read my full review here.

6. Blackfish
This is a documentary that made me very angry but thankfully in a good way. It's one the best documentaries I have seen and came as a bit of a shock to me. If you haven't seen it then you must do so straight away. You will never go to Sea World again. A well made portrayal of a scary and shocking subject. A must see.

5. Prisoners
Prisoner is one of the best made thrillers I have seen in a long while and it contains two of the best performances of the year from Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman. A brilliant film that will have you on the edge of your seat for the whole viewing. You can read my full review here.

4. Gravity
Every now and then a film comes along that pushes the boundaries of filmmaking further than ever before. This year Gravity was that film. An absolute masterpiece of a film of the likes that I have never seen before on the big screen. Cinema at its best. Gravity was truly exceptional. Read my full review here.

3. Mud
Mud is a great example of brilliant storytelling within a film. I am a sucker for a good story and this one feels straight away like an untold american classic. Matthew McConaughey puts on a brilliant performance as Mud, the fugitive who needs the help of two young local boys to reunite him with his love. It's a heartbreaking tale of love and innocence that really struck a chord with me. You can read my full review here.

2. Rush
Ron Howard may have made his finest piece of work in Rush, the true tale of two Formula 1 drivers and their competitive rivalry. The film itself is a high speed spectacle that truly does justice to the men and their stories as well as giving us a racing film for fans and non-fans of the motorsport a like. The story is almost too good to be true, but it is! And it is one that must be seen to be believed. A superbly brilliant film. You can read my full review here.

1. Before Midnight
Although I came in late to the Before trilogy it still saddened me deeply when we finally started to see some cracks in the what seemed perfect relationship of Jesse and Celine. After falling in love with both of the characters from the previous two films, it was easy to love this film straight away but, also like the first two, it feels honest and real. Richard Linklater is a brilliant writer and director but he would be nothing without his perfect leads who truly bring the film to life with a film that made me laugh and cry. I hope we see the couple again in film 9 years from now or, if we're lucky, maybe sooner. I haven't reviewed Before Midnight on my blog fully yet but I will probably soon do a piece on the whole trilogy as they are some of the best films I have ever seen.

Now onto my favourite TV shows of the year, this definitely could be one of the biggest years for TV yet.

5. Arrow Season 2
Arrow season 1 was a bit hit and miss, with a lot more misses than hits! However after its explosive finale it seems as if the show has embraced its comic book mythology and superhero genre with every episode of season 2 being solid. Black Canary, Deathstroke and The Flash are just a few of the exciting things already being pushed in the season. I cannot wait to see how the rest of it turns out!

4. Eastbound & Down Season 4
Eastbound & Down never fails to make me laugh, like really laugh, and that is why I love it! I'm not going to lie, the finale of the show was a bit of a letdown for me but the rest of it was comedy gold. The great thing about the show is that it also has these great heartfelt moments that really make it something special. It also proved to me that TV wasn't dead after the finale of Breaking Bad. Surely this isn't the last we've seen of Kenny Powers is it? I demand a film!

3. Girls Season 2
There is something about Girls that really gets me. Although I am male, I seem to find something in all the characters that I can relate to that really makes this show close to my heart. I feel Girls is doing for my generation what Kevin Smith did with Clerks for his. It truly captures the emotions and heart of the moment in my life that I am going through right now. I cannot wait for the third series to start!

2. Game of Thrones Season 3
The Red Wedding. I think that's all I need to say. One moment that truly captured the spirit of the show. Nobody's safe and unfortunately now in its third season I am starting to connect more and more with characters, making me worry as to who is going to make an exit next. The show looks incredible and boasts one of the most well rounded series around at the moment.

1. Breaking Bad Season 5
I'm not going to lie. I love Breaking Bad  more than any film I've seen. Blasphemy from a film student I know but it truly is a gem. We will not be seeing a show like this for a while. The story, the characters, the cinematography, I fell head over heels for it all. I'm still getting over the final episode but one thing is for sure, Breaking Bad will always have a special place in my heart. It's TV at its very best, the Citizen Kane of the small screen if you will. You can read my farewell post to the show here.

That concludes my review of the year. It's been a good one hasn't it! Next we have 2014, the passing year whilst we wait for the big daddy that is 2015. However we still have some crackers to come. If you want to check out what I am most looking forward to next year then you can do so here.

What were your favourite films and TV shows of the year? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

My Most Anticipated Films of 2014

It's that time of the year where we can look to the future of films in 2014 and see which ones will be on our 'must watch' list. So before I go back and review this year, take a look at the films I am anticipating the most in 2014. And to make this list more approachable for American audiences I have not included films that came out this month in the states. If I had, Her and The Wolf of Wall Street would be at the top of my list! 

10. The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December)
Although I disliked the second outing in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy, I am still cautiously optomistic about the third and final outing. It's going to be an epic spectacle with the showdown with Smaug and The Battle of Five Armies about to commence. I look forward to seeing a trailer for this one but I am still not going to get my hopes too high.
9. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (November)
I was pleasantly surprised at how good Catching Fire was, which has made Mockingjay, the first part of a two part finale of The Hunger Games, go up on my list. It will be interesting to see what the first film contains after the studio have split the book into two films. As a reader of the books I know there are a lot more twists and turns in place that I cannot wait to see on the big screen. 
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May)
Spider-Man is my favourite superhero but after 2012's disappointing first film I am being cautious about how excited I get for this one. The trailer looks awesome but they seem to have gotten rid of a lot of ideas and themes of the first film making this look like it could be just another Raimi esque film instead of taking a completely new direction. Sony have faith in the franchise now as they have just announced they are opening up the universe with spin off films for Venom and The Sinister Six, I won't know how I feel about this news until I see the latest instalment in May. Fingers crossed it doesn't disappoint. 
7. Muppets Most Wanted (March)
The Muppets reboot with Jason Segal turned out to be one of my favourite films, it was fun to watch and very, very funny. Although we are missing our human lead in the sequel I have no doubt that it will be great. I only need to leave the cinema half as happy as I did last time for this one to be great! 
6. Godzilla (May)
Any film starring Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen will have my money but if that film also happens to star Godzilla well then thats just a bonus. Wait, the film is also directed by Monsters director, Gareth Edwards? I want. I want now. This film has the potential blow your mind, just check out the trailer. This is definitely one to watch!
5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April)
The Avengers made Captain America cool and now he just seems to be in his element after the new trailer for his second film came out earlier this year. It looks to be a lot of fun and no trailer has got me so excited for a new film like this one. I can't wait to see where they take Cap next!
4. Tusk (TBD)
Anything coming out of the weird and wonderful mind that is Kevin Smith's will put my bum in a cinema seat, unless of course it's a sequel to Cop Out. His latest film is based on an idea he had from one of his podcasts when he saw an advert on GumTree from a man asking for somebody to be his human walrus. Smith then turned this advert into an idea for a creepy messed up horror film that will see him re-teaming up with Micheal Parks to create a human walrus hybrid suit thing. It's going to weird but no doubt awesome.
3. Interstellar (November)
Any film from Christopher Nolan has my money. Any film starring Mathew Mcconaughey has my money. Well then Interstellar is a no brainer then because it has both! I think it's about space and black holes but who cares, it will no doubt be exceptional. 
2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (May)
With Bryan Singer back at the helm tackling the X-Mens biggest story yet, we will no doubt get excellence. Crossing over between the future and the past this could be an epic adventure that nothing can top. Oh wait, they just announced X-Men: Apocalypse for 2016!? The X-Men franchise is going to big places, I for one cannot wait!
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (August)
I want to see how Marvel handle this film because it's something a bit different to what we've seen before. It has a walking, talking, gun holding Raccoon. It could be awful but I have faith, especially with the leaked Comic Con footage from earlier this year looking very, very good. It tops my list because I can't picture how its going to look in my head but I have no doubt that Marvel wouldn't have invested in this risky project if it wasn't going to be amazing. I can't wait to see how Guardians of the Galaxy turns out!

What are you're most anticipated films for 2014? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Same as last year, I didn't really get excited for the new Hobbit film until it was just about to come out. We've been to Middle Earth plenty of times before and you kind of know what to expect in terms of the tone and style of the film. So it was unfortunate that The Desolation of Smaug did nothing for me in terms of bringing me back to a world that I love to watch on screen. At least An Unexpected Journey brought me back into the world that I loved in way that gave me goosebumps as soon as I saw The Shire and heard the heartwarming music. This film however, feels more like a tribute to the world of The Lord of the Rings rather than being an extension of the mythology. It's the middle of the trilogy and that is exactly what the film feels like, a middle, it doesn't really have a beginning or an end. It's just a bit boring. Apart from the dragon, the dragon is awesome!

The second film in The Hobbit trilogy picks up with Bilbo and the Dwarfs as they travel to Erebor to reclaim their homeland from the dragon Smaug. A few things happen along the way, all action packed, but everything is sorted out pretty quickly, that's about it really. Directed again by Peter Jackson, who obviously has a love for the book his films are based on, so much so he is the first person we see in the film, but he also has to learn when to let go of something and stop dragging it out... into three films. Lets just say he is suffering from something I would like to call George Lucas syndrome. Lets see why.

Although the film is still titled The Hobbit, Bilbo isn't really the main character of the film. Actually there isn't really a main character of the film, Bilbo feels more like 'just one of the dwarfs' and we see a little bit of everybody else like Thorin, Gandalf and Kili and those other dwarfs, like the fat one and the stupid one and the old one. We get a little bit of Legolas as well, he wasn't in the books but his part is pretty cool although by the end it feels like he's outstayed his welcome. A new character is introduced, Tauriel, a female Elf who has been chucked in to the very male dominated sequel. Evangeline Lilly plays her well but like most women in film at the moment, her character is more of a half hearted love interest that sets up a love triangle between her, Legolas and Kili. Yes that's right, Kili. She does kick a lot of ass though. Another new addition to the cast is Luke Evans as Bard. Acting wise though everybody is just as good as the last outing, but none of the characters are ever given enough time to shine.

The first act of the film is the worse though, we are chucked back into the story pretty much straight away in an uneven and sometimes poorly edited opening. Everything feels a bit rushed, which is weird for a film that lasts for 2 and a half hours! It does get better though, but not by much. The middle part still feels oddly dragged out and boring until the final act where things get a lot better but then it just ends. It ends in a way that would be great for penultimate episode of a TV show, but Game of Thrones this is not. We are not waiting a week to see the finale, we are waiting a whole year! I have read the book and I can see many better places to end the film, especially with The Battle of Five Armies that is going to make up most of the third film. Don't get me wrong, There and Back Again is going to epic in spectacle but I cannot see it being anymore then a war film, I hope I'm wrong.

The soundtrack is obviously just as good as the last but certain pieces play at the most obvious of times and that makes you wonder if Jackson thinks we're stupid, as if we can't tell that this bit is supposed to be happy or this is bit is supposed to be sad. I know this is what soundtracks are for but in this case it feels forced and cheesy. And while we are on the subject of cheesy, you know those cliche moments in films where it looks like your heroes are about to lose then all of a sudden somebody comes and saves them? Well this happens in the film, a lot. So much so that it gets really annoying after you've seen it for the tenth time. 

Then there's the CGI. There is loads of it and it most of the time it looks out of place. The barrel sequence you see in the trailer is one of the best examples as it is so obvious when real footage is being used and when CGI takes its place, everything just looks a bit out of place. And whenever the big white Orc turns up he looks like something out of a video game. When the Orcs are real people with make-up and prosthetics it really looks good, they come across as a lot more menacing because they look real! There is also a lot of violence against the Orcs that really do push the boundaries of the 12A certificate. I have no problem with it but it is sure to be controversial, especially with the latest study that found more gun violence in 12A's than in any other film certificate.

The best thing about this film was the dragon Smaug. He looked incredible, now he was a CGI creation that truly looked magnificent. In fact I would go as far as saying that he is probably the best dragon ever to grace our screens. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect in the role and he not only voiced the creation but did motion capture for some of the screens. As soon as we get to Smaug in the film it is awesome. If the whole film had been as good as the scenes with Smaug it would have been an easy 5/5 film. But unfortunately, this film won't be getting that score from me and it is unfortunate because I loved the previous film and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The Desolation of Smaug  was a CGI overloaded film, with bad pacing and direction. The film felt like a dragged out middle chapter with no beginning or end. I'm surprised at the critics reception to this film, with many heralding it as better then the first film, for me it is not, in any way. But that's just my opinion. I am giving the film a rating of 2.5/5. The .5 was added because Smaug was so awesome. The final film better be good!

Judging from first reactions I am obviously in the minority when it comes to my opinion on the film, so let me know what you thought of it in the comments below. Do you agree or completely disagree with me?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Quick Reviews #5

I have been very busy as of late, and haven't found time until now to review the latest instalment of The Hunger Games franchise; Catching Fire. But during the time since seeing the film I also watched Prisoners so instead of doing one big review of each, I thought I would do another post of quick reviews for the two films. So please read on and enjoy.

Catching Fire
I have been quite negative in the year heading up to Catching Fire. I loved the first film but thought they might be rushing the second one, even previous director Gary Ross left the franchise for he did not think he could make the film he wanted in the time before the release date! The first couple trailers came out and looked pretty cool but quite CGI heavy and didn't have the 'shaky cam' style of the first film, which I loved. The 'shaky cam' may have been toned down a lot but I was pleasantly surprised at how good the second film was, especially as it was based on what I consider to be the weakest book of the trilogy. In fact I would go as far as saying that this may be the first film I have seen that I believe to be better than its book as it expands upon it and I was more emotionally attached to the characters. Catching Fire picks up where the first film left off with Katniss and Peeta returned champions of the Hunger Games. But their actions in the arena have sparked riots in many of the districts that the Capitol is worried could turn into a full blown rebellion. As with the first film Jennifer Lawrence is outstanding as Katniss Everdeen, a role model for a generation, not just within the story of the films. We have some other great new additions to the cast such as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Clafin and Jeffrey Wright who really stand out in their roles. The characterisation is great and has been improved upon from the first film, as has the dodgy CGI which no longer looks out of place. The story feels as if it has been made for the big screen, with many twists and turns that lead to what some are calling an abrupt ending, but one I knew was coming and had been looking forward to seeing how the filmmakers handled it. Director Francis Lawrence has fitted in perfectly and really added to the expansion of the world. I cannot wait to see how the next book turns out which is being split into two films. Only time will tell for me whether this film was better then first but it sure was great. It's main flaw is a average first act but I am still giving Catching Fire a solid 4/5.

What seems to be a classic, 'who done it' turns out to be much more of an emotional rollercoaster ride that delves deep into our own humanity in Prisoners. Following Hugh Jackman's father character as he and another family both have a child abducted, we get to see what lengths this man will go to, to bring his daughter back. He is not without help as Jake Gyllenhaal's Detective Loki also tries to find the girls and the person who took them. This film is pretty crazy from the get go, with lots of twist and turns that will never let you fully guess the mystery behind everything. You will be on edge for most of the film but your patience will be rewarded. Jackman and Gyllenhaal give off what could be their best performances yet as both their characters get a hefty amount of characterisation that sees them as changed men for better or worse by the end of the film. I really loved this film, the camera stays still for most scenes, letting you take everything in from the great backdrop to this heart racing story. The two leads are incredible but the supporting cast get thrown to the side a bit, especially Terrence Howard's character who I believe was severely underused. The film feels a lot like Zodiac, and like that film it brings a lot to a genre which could be very by the books, creating a generic crime thriller, but Prisoners is a lot more than that. I am rating the film a 4/5.

Do you agree with my reviews? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!