Friday, 31 December 2010

My films of the year: 2010

Twenty in total and the first five on the list are in order. After that it gets a bit fuzzy...

The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher) I've seen it twice and if it wasn’t for all the other screeners I’ve had to watch over the last few weeks, I would have seen it several more times. Absolutely brilliant and ultimately wins out over Inception by virtue of the fact that I’m still thinking and talking about it on a daily basis.

Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan) See review.

Never Let Me Go (Dir. Mark Romanek) I read the book, I went on set twice, I interviewed all the key talent behind and in front of the camera and yet it took me a good half hour to speak after seeing this extraordinary and extraordinarily moving film. I still don’t understand why this isn’t more loved and why it’s been pretty much overlooked for awards consideration.

Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia) Whether you’re a Grand Prix fan or not (I am), this astounding and very thrilling documentary is a must-see, not only for the astonishing behind-the-scenes footage and gladiatorial rivalry between the late Ayrton Senna and French driver Alain Prost, but for the smart editorial decision to have Senna “tell” his own story rather than use talking heads.

Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich) See review.

A Prophet (Dir. Jacques Audiard) See review.

Monsters (Dir. Gareth Edwards) Believe the hype. What first-time filmmaker Edwards achieved for the budget was almost miraculous. Jurassic Park meets Before Sunrise/Sunset.

How To Train Your Dragon (Dir. Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders) The Avatar of kids films, I saw this in 3D at the cinema and was blown away. At home, on DVD, the story and characters hit home the more times I see it. And I’ve seen it a few.

The Scouting Book For Boys (Dir. Tom Harper) Harper’s debut feature was an exquisitely performed, lyrically shot tale of young love turned sour, from a script by Skins’ Jack Thorne.

The Disappearance Of Alice Creed (Dir. J. Blakeson) A terrifically taut and twisty low-budget thriller with the year’s best Gemma Arterton performance.

The Killer Inside Me (Dir. Michael Winterbottom). Perfect Jim Thompson adaptation and nowhere near as violent as some press suggested.

Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance) A gutsy, raw and honest look at love and marriage with blistering performances from Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling.

The Town (Dir. Ben Affleck) See review.

The Kids Are Alright (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko) Smart, adult entertainment. Nicely scripted, wonderfully played.

127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle) This stripped-to-basics survival story grips like the rock that trapped Aron Ralstron’s arm. Not Boyle’s best but damn fine filmmaking nevertheless.

The Illusionist (Dir. Sylvain Chomet) Not as immediately toe-tapping as Belleville Rendezvous, but a delicate, moving, and lovingly crafted tale.

True Grit (Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) The Dude in a western shot by Roger Deakins. What’s not to like. Thought Hailee Steinfeld was terrific too.

Winter’s Bone (Dir. Debra Granik) Powerful performances from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Dir. Niels Arden Oplev) See review

Scott Pilgrim Versus The World (Dir. Edgar Wright) Visually dazzling and a definite grower.

Stuff I've really enjoyed but which didn't make the list for a variety of reasons: Get Low, Four Lions, Exit Through The Gift Shop, The King's Speech, The Crazies, Tron: Legacy, I Am Love, Unstoppable and The Way Back.

Performances I loved in films I remain on the fence about, but in the case of the first one will give another go: Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Javier Bardem in Biutiful, Christian Bale in The Fighter.

Films I wish I’d seen but haven't got around to them yet: Animal Kingdom, Carlos, Tiny Furniture, Greenberg and Barney’s Version (watching the latter later!)

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

Have a good one. And I'll see you soon.

Rango behind-the-scenes featurette

Consider it a Christmas treat from me to you.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

End of year lists. Part one

It's that time of year again. Although, to be honest, I had to write my first top ten of 2010 list for a magazine back in October.

I took part on the IndieWIRE Critics Poll and my selection can be found here. Here's my top ten as of last week.

1) The Social Network

2) Inception

3) Never Let Me Go

4) Toy Story 3

5) A Prophet

6) Red Riding Trilogy

7) Lebanon

8) The Kids Are All Right

9) 127 Hours

10) The Illusionist

It was, inevitably, skewed towards a US release schedule — several titles were on my best list last year — but before the month's out I will post my favourite films and performances of 2010, irrespective of release dates, here on reel world matters, although I can't see my top three changing.

Hanna trailer

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Limitless trailer

With this, Rango and Sucker Punch all arriving in March, Spring can't come soon enough.

RIP Blake Edwards

Tree Of Life trailer

Oh. My. God.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Pirates 4 trailer

Sucker Punch behind-the-scenes

Sucker Punch is high on my must-see list for 2011. Here's a behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews and new footage.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Blu-ray review: Shogun Assassin

Based on the hugely popular manga Lone Wolf And Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goeski Kojima, Shogun Assassin is, in actual fact, made up of the first two films from Japanese director Kenji Misumi’s six-film adaptation edited together and reworked for US audiences. Featuring 11 minutes from Sword Of Vengeance and more than 70 from Baby Cart On The River Styx, Shogun Assassin was a cult hit on its original release and has developed a sizeable following over the last three decades although the BBFC in their wisdom once banned it as a video nasty. 

The story is a simple tale of loyalty, love and bloody revenge. In Feudal Japan, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama), the Shogun’s chief decapitator, is betrayed by his insane ruler and, following the murder of his wife, sets out on the road to vengeance — a poetic description for what, effectively, amounts to slicing and dicing anyone and everyone who crosses his path. Together with his young son Daigoro (Masahiro Tomikawa), pushed along in a wooden cart kitted out with assorted hidden weaponry, Ogami survives as a sword for hire. The result is the screen is awash with geysers of blood and bright red crimson fountains, as feet, hands, ears and arms are chopped off, bodies impaled, and heads decapitated. Originally shot in 1973-4, before being re-cut and dubbed in 1980, the film has, inevitably, dated — not least the synth-heavy electronic score — but there’s still much to revel in: from Misumi’s gutsy, furious direction and comic-strip framing, to Wakayama sublimely stoic performance and the seemingly endless shots of arterial spray.

For those of us who’ve had to make do for years with crappy DVDs, Eureka’s 1080p transfer is a godsend. It’s not perfect — there are marks on the print and the image is, occasionally, a little soft, but it looks arguably better than it did when it was originally released. The Blu-Ray includes both the dubbed 1980 theatrical version and a subtitled, original-language option, as well as two commentaries: an “Expert” one featuring Asian film scholar Ric Myers and martial arts expert Steve Watson, and a second “Production” commentary, with Shogun Assassin producer David Weisman and Gibran Evans who provided Daigoro’s voiceover for the 1980 release. Both are well worth a listen. Less informative is a brief video interview with Asian film fan Samuel L. Jackson. The Blu-ray, meanwhile, also comes in a limited edition dual format steelbook version. For fans of either Shogun Assassin or Lone Wolf And Cub, this is the Holy Grail, a gloriously presented and gory treat.

* Originally published in DVD & Blu-ray Review

Black Swan poster

I haven't yet written a review of Black Swan because I want to see it again before I do. What I will say in the meantime is that Natalie Portman is simply sensational it in. And it's her beautiful if cracked visage that adorns this striking poster.

Black Swan poster | Natalie Portman

Inception in real time

You might remember how I flipped over Inception in the summer and with the film just arriving on DVD/BR I'm very much looking forward to seeing again. This viral popped up recently and smartly edits the 40-minute "inception" sequence into something approximating real time. Needless to say if you haven't seen the film, don't watch. Then again, if you haven't seen the film yet, why are you even reading this?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Tim Burton signing a certain book

At the Toronto launch of his Art Exhibition last month.

Photo: ScreenDaily

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Mad genius

I finally caught up with Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno the other night, a fascinating and totally absorbing documentary looking at Clouzet's legendary unfinished "masterpiece" L'Enfer. In common with Lost In La Mancha, Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea's film reveals a director's vision coming apart at the scenes, although in this case it was less the vagaries of the weather and a lead actor's ill-heath, and more a filmmaker pushing himself (and his cast and crew) to the limits and, eventually, his heart into cardiac arrest. Complied from 15 hours of never seen before footage, camera tests designed to try out special lenses and optical effects, and readings from the script by Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin standing in for Romy Schneider's Odette and Serge Reggiani's Marcel, a hotel owner husband driven mad by thoughts of his young bride's suspected infidelity, Bromberg and Medrea comb through the remnants of Clouzet's extraordinary intentions, and leaving us to rue the loss of what might have been a revolutionary piece of cinema.