Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10: 2013 Reads

I may as well give up pretending that this blog exists for any real writing purpose at the moment, so in the spirit of year end here's a list, lists are the easiest posts of all.

In 2013 I've read 122 books, not quite half of what I read last year but priorities change, so my Top 10 Reads of 2013 accounts for just under ten percent of the total. Noir has taken precedence over everything in my reading as well as my viewing but this list isn't all blacker than black. I promise.

10. Fierce Bitches by Jedidiah Ayres (2013)
Jedidiah Ayres' prose is sparse and his tale is bleak as fuck, mirroring the carefully constructed locale and the unforgiving sun baked desert that surrounds it. This appears to be his first novella but its written with the skill and voice of a much more experienced man to the point that I wouldn't be surprised if this was Jim Thompson still writing after faking his death back in '77. Most impressive is his use of the second person narration, a device that can horribly backfire in the wrong hands but in this case was so perfectly done that I hardly noticed it until the chapter was over.

9. London Under by Peter Ackroyd (2011)
Example chapter titles include Holy Water, Forgotten Streams, Buried Secrets and The Heart of Darkness and every page contains at least one moment of wonder to those uneducated yet enthusiastic readers (which is exactly the target audience for this work) like myself. For a chapter or two I thought it was going to take me weeks to read due the sheer quantity of google and wiki searches I was performing to acquire further knowledge of a proffered fact whilst reading before readjusting my mindset to just let the author entertain me with his seemingly endless supply of poetic historical tales.

8. The Pirates! In an Adventure With The Romantics by Gideon Defoe (2012)
If you were to take a poll of people reading you might find a lot of votes for great use of ham in a nautical setting, there may even be several readers who enjoy the excellent names created for the motley crew of pirates but guaranteed that majority will tell you that the best bit about reading a book about The Pirates! is all the running through that happens. Just ask Jeffrey Keeten about the time he ran a man through for daring not to wear a fencing cup in school colours if you are unsure of the unique pleasures a good running through can provide.

7. Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson (1964)
This tale of small town America is littered with pimps, whores, crooked lawmen, private detectives, women no better than they ought to be, incestuous men, wife beaters, murderers, corrupt politicians, vindictive women, peeping toms, mentally challenged cuckolds, religious zealots and plenty of sex. Of course on top of that there's Sheriff Nick Corey, a noir protagonist the likes of which you may never have seen.

6. Eight Million Ways To Die by Lawrence Block (1982)
The fifth Matt Scudder takes a further dark turn in to a city plagued by demons and lawlessness, taking a pessimistic cue from the classic movie/TV show The Naked City this is the story of a dead call girl, of 2000 murders per year, of a private investigator, of an alcoholic on a path of self-destruction. During his investigation Scudder comes in to contact with all kinds of filth and degenerates, he makes acquaintances with a good cop, a good pimp, five hookers and a black albino informant. There's violence and paranoia, sobriety and alcohol related blackouts, it's a rocky ride and I shan't spoil it for you. Soon to be a Liam Neeson movie it could easily have been directed by Harmony Korine.

5. Bit of a Blur: The Autobiography by Alex James (2007)
From the opening lines I was impressed with his ability to write, weaving together a series of interesting and entertaining anecdotes with an infectious enthusiasm, granted if you can't have enthusiasm for your subject when you're writing about yourself you may as well give up writing altogether, but James is erudite and witty and incredibly frank about his occasionally abhorrent behaviour. I was enamoured from the start and James (and obviously a great editor) didn't let me down, becoming, by quite some margin, my favourite autobiography/biography that I've ever picked up.

4. The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno (2006)
A deep melancholy permeates the pages of The Boy Detective Fails, a magical little book that asks questions about growing up and growing old, the death of innocence and imagination, loss and grief via the story of an adult boy detective. People reference something called Encyclopedia Brown plus the usual suspects of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, popular characters from an American childhood that seemed too Other to me as a young man in small town England. I preferred the much more English series, The Mystery Kids, myself. But anyway take those kids who had magical crime busting adventures and crush their spirit and enthusiasm and send them out to solve the mystery of death and you've got the essence of The Boy Detective Fails. And in his straight-faced magical realist style of writing he crafted something of a Lemony Snicket for adults, something smart and haunting, laced with real pain and sorrow and wit and heart and situational humour. It's a truly surprising piece of work that deserves to be lauded and paid homage to with countless imitators who just don't have the skill to get past the original surface gimmick and imbue their novel with actual life.

3. Wake In Fright by Kenneth Cook (1961)
You know, from the opening paragraphs, that this book is going to stay with you as only the most powerful books do. Cook captures the essence of the vast emptiness of the desert, the punishing effect of constant heat from sun up to sun down and the isolation of man in a place he doesn't belong, and wraps it up in a tight little novel that suffocates the reader. I felt almost claustrophobic whilst reading, the pressure and closeness of the heat described transferring itself to me on my nice air conditioned bus. 

2. The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins (1972)
It's all fly on the way stuff with dialogue feeling so authentic you have to retune your brain to the sounds of criminal class Boston, the kind of stuff Elmore Leonard is widely praised for but better. When not in conversation TFOEC is narrated with the kind of matter of fact attention to detail you might find in a Martin Beck or 87th Precinct novel for example, it's dry in itself but the subject matter isn't. The action might largely appear to be happening in between these chapters of conversation but the combination of dialogue and narration create a portrait of the life of these people, their criminal actions, the lifestyle choice, that will certainly serve as an anthropological study and an entertaining crime read for future generations.

1. The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley (1978)
Crumley writes this stuff better than just about anyone I've experienced to date, the way he took hold of the genre, seemingly educated himself on Chandler, Hammett, Willeford, Thompson et al and crafted this masterpiece is a remarkable thing to have witnessed, it is a true shame that he isn't more widely known and respected. Having said that it is only through the praise lavished on his work from the fourth generation of hard-boiled and noir writers who claim to be in his debt that I stumbled across this work. People like George Pelecanos and Dennis Lehane have described this book as one of the best pieces of fiction written in the past fifty years. Very high praise indeed and in my experience fully justified.

How about you guys, any favourites from amongst these? How about your favourite discovery of the year? Tweet me, comment, send me a letter, whatever.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Movie Diary #17: November 2013

November has been and gone, another month of throwing myself in to the watching of copious amounts of movies as a way of coping or dealing with my failed attempts to make a movie. It's time to stop dwelling, time to stop wallowing, time to get up, get out and do something other than watch film after film after film.

November also brought about a discovery of the film criticism of Graham Greene, his collected writings from 1935-1940 were published as The Pleasure Dome and should be considered as essential reading for any wannabe critic such is the quality of the man's words and insights.

The tally reached a quite improbable 118 over the thirty days in the month of my thirty first birthday, beating my previous best of 116 in May and bringing me up to 829 year to date. I limited myself to 8 rewatches (88 YTD) but unless I can watch over a hundred films without rewatching too many in December I'm not going to make my 10% target. I plan on having a Whit Stillman day in the middle of Summer which certainly won't help matters and I've got an urge to have a weekend of only watching my favourite films too. A sacrifice worth making and not even much of one really.

I saw 17 new releases (132 YTD) with two in the highly recommended category below which features 12 films you really should see. Other recommendations include avoiding 9 films I wish I hadn't bothered watching, one of which will surely upset some people and for the first time since June I offer up 5 masterpieces which have blown me away in the past month.

Why Why Why Why Why Bother?
Qwerty (2012) Dir. Bill Sebastian
Nice idea but as with all nice but absurd ideas it really needed to be played straight otherwise, as in the case of Qwerty, you come off like a bunch of amateur arseholes TRYING to be funny.
Superman (1978) Dir. Richard Donner
They wanted Sam Peckinpah to direct this movie but Peckinpah took a gun to the meeting and waved it about. I'd much rather watch that in slow motion for nearly three hours than this merchandise shilling garbage about a concept that doesn't exist anymore. The American way of truth and justice is a sugar coated myth they sell the idiots, they actually knew that in the 70s and yet this still got made.
The Kings of Summer (2013) Dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts
A truly irritating little teenage shit of a movie that takes the very worst characters from American teen comedies and puts them in a hut in the woods where they can indulge in being "real men," adds a half assed attempt at surreal farce and romantic imagery and plays itself off as a coming of age drama. 
How I Live Now (2013) Dir.  Kevin Macdonald
You can't annoy the shit out of your audience with an awful American teenage girl and a noisy as fuck soundtrack from the very beginning and expect them to give a shit when World War 3 breaks out. Granted I didn't realise Meg Rosoff wrote exclusively for little girls before watching.
End of Days (1999) Dir. Peter Hyams
The general premise is laughable and borderline offensive and I do wonder why this film couldn't have been made without the Arnie storyline. Also the resolution is one of the worst I've witnessed.
Timecop (1994) Dir. Peter Hyams
An all round bad movie, with no redeeming features except for the initial idea. Has anybody read the comics this was based on? Are they as badly written?
The Delta Force (1986) Dir. Menahem Golan
Considering the premise of Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin joining forces to fight terrorism 80s style this is a giant sack of shit that can't get past the fact that it's a Menahem Golan movie. Robert Forster as an Arab terrorist and Hanna Schygulla as a German air hostess who seems sexually aroused whenever she looks at him are other notable casting choices.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) Dir. Renny Harlin
What the hell has everyone been smoking? The Long Kiss Goodnight is a dumb movie of interminable length, directed with all of the skill of a blind sloth. There are a few jokes to raise a half smile and Jackson does what Jackson does but beyond that the best part by far was the brief clip of Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye.
The Island (1980) Dir. Michael Ritchie
Absolute garbage. Michael Caine had no quality control on what he said yes to and puts in one of his worst performances. Michael Ritchie was a mediocre director at best but the complete lack of tension, thrills, drama, cohesive structure and well delivered dialogue combined with bizarre editing and horrific exposition must rank this as one of his very worst pictures.

Not Quite Some of the Best Movies Ever Made
Blue Caprice (2013) Dir. Alexandre Moors
Director Alexandre Moors takes a slow, thoughtful approach to his material, somewhat akin to Van Sant's Elephant but with much more substance, to what could easily be a sensationalist piece of cinema in the wrong hands. A fascinating and terrifying character study of two killers, Isaiah Washington in the perfect role for his intense brand of performance and youngster Tequan Richmond brooding his way through his first real movie gig, of the grooming of one by the other and the driving on of each other as their incomprehensibly evil plan comes to fruition.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1973) Dir. Joseph Sargent
It never really feels like a safe decision was made throughout. The characters, hostages aside, are wonderfully interesting people with their own personalities and the interactions between them dance from comic to tense and back again and it is this that is sorely lacking in modern cinema. Nobody is there to score focus group points and as such none of them are really a cliche or stereotype. If you haven't seen this version yet you really should, it's one of the best crime films of the 70s, which was by far the best decade for American crime cinema.
The East (2013) Dir. Zal Batmanglij
This is an incredibly solid little film (albeit with the assistance of Ridley and Tony Scott so not that little really) that deserves to be seen and should be highly praised, not necessarily for the things that it isn't either. I've seen how Hollywood would make this movie and time and time again I've not been impressed but Batmanglij sets a really unobtrusive tone with a slow pace from the beginning and has the luxury of Brit Marling's intense lead performance to lean on when required. Yet he is able to incorporate some really tense moments as the anti-corporation group carries out their "terrorist" plans.
F For Fake (1973) Dir. Orson Welles
In film school we took an entire year to look at the documentary, the way the borders of fiction and non-fiction can be and are blurred. We discussed many different films, including Nanook, Blair Witch and Night & Fog but at no point in any lecture or any article or any textbook was this almost definitive statement on the veracity of the documentary by Orson Welles. How can I trust any of the three years of by university education when such a travesty of an oversight occurred? Did they not know anything? And does that make my degree even more worthless? It's quite the brilliant piece of cinema, yet another one from the mind of one of the greatest men to ever work in the medium.
Nashvile (1975) Dir. Robert Altman
The pinnacle of Robert Altman's unique brand of cinema. If I'd seen this as a younger man I wouldn't have hesitated to get lost in rewatching this countless times as I did his earlier Elliot Gould-fests (Gould makes a wonderful cameo as himself here) but as it stands I don't feel like giving up days of my life to a movie about Nashville. Once is enough, to understand the grand scale of the great directors vision, to grasp the intricacies of the intertwined lives of the participants, to marvel at the audacity of it all.
Monte Walsh (1970) Dir. William A. Fraker
The late 60s really marked the death of an era for the western movie and William Fraker's adaptation of Jack Shaefer's (Shane) novel is a movie that takes a stark look at the end of the traditional cowboy era of American history. Within that framework is another traditional narrative, that of the old man struggling to come to terms with his advancing years in a world changing faster than he can possibly keep up. And Lee Marvin excels in that role better than almost any other actor in the history of American cinema.
Busting (1974) Dir. Peter Hyams
The script by Hyams is wonderfully cynical, a true classic of crime screenwriting from the 70s, that amazing period of grimey creativity that brought us 98% of all the very best crime cinema that was ever made. It is filled with wit, delivered perfectly (naturally) by Gould and another really good performance from Blake who really underplays his character, becoming almost a straight man for Gould's typical bafoonery. But Gould has an edge to him that you tend not to see in his more famous roles, a serious, determined existential edge that turns him much more in to the "sad clown" than even his bumbling private eye in Long Goodbye could achieve. He has a pretty brilliant 'tache too.
Straight Time (1978) Dir. Ulu Grosbard
Dustin Hoffman is at his subtle and intense best as a career criminal who makes his choices and is prepared to live with them. With support from Harry Dean Stanton, M. Emmet Walsh and a remarkably reined in Gary Busey this is a quality film with a quality cast that doesn't quite scale the heights it might have.
The Bothersome Man (2006) Dir. Jens Lien
The Bothersome Man is a Norwegian satire of modern consumerism and obsession with appearances, a surreal comedy and utopia gone wrong, a fable about daring to be different, an original tale of what may even be the afterlife yet still manages to recall Jeunet et Caro, Gilliam, Andersson and Wenders, even more specifically at times I was thinking of The Truman Show, The Matrix and Wristcutters. Beautifully framed using an unassuming palette of greys and blues and filled with wonderfully strange moments that more often than not will have you laughing out loud.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Dir. Sergio Leone
At nearly three hours Once Upon a Time in the West is most definitely not long enough to do all of it's many storylines and complex characters justice. It's a majestic western, visually astounding with a score to die for but suffers in the storytelling department, as have the three previous Leone films.
Crossroads (1986) Dir. Walter Hill
Colour me surprised to find that Crossroads is without doubt one of the highlights in the career of Walter Hill, this take on the legend of Robert Johnson is essentially The Karate Kid with blues guitar instead of kung fu but with real soul and no contrived fist pumping moments. Ry Cooder's soundtrack is perfectly matched to the mood of one of the best films about music I've seen.
Autumn Sonata (1978) Dir. Ingmar Bergman
Wow. Ullman and Bergman are sensational as the repressed emotions boil up and two women set out seemingly to destroy each other. Everything about this feels completely authentic. At least from watching mothers and daughters interact over in my family over the years anyway.

Blow Out (1981) Dir. Brian De Palma
Visually it is an incredible experience from start to finish; littered with incredible single shots, amazing set pieces, stunning ideas pulled off with seeming nonchalance and even the dated effects are impressive. As you would expect from a film about the work of a sound engineer the audio design is top quality too, layer upon layer of noise and silence enhancing the sumptuous visuals and the career best work from John Travolta.
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010) Dir. Edgar Wright
I'm honestly conflicted over giving this film the full marks. After tonight's screening at the Rooftop Cinema in Perth I reckon I must have seen it an even dozen times and it just keeps getting funnier. But it's a teen comedy comic book adaptation. Conflicted!
Edgar Wright has done such a great job in adapting the visuals, mood and attitude of the excellent graphic novels, the soundtrack is phenomenally well chosen and the cast all excel in their roles however small plus it seems like Michael Cera was born to be Scott Pilgrim.
I heart Scott Pilgrim so much. Full stars!
Tokyo Story (1953) Dir. Yasujiro Ozu
A devastatingly effective piece of cinema, carefully crafted with great pathos. I'd not noticed previously that it shares many similarities with another of my all time favourites, Secrets & Lies, especially in terms of structure, tone and the power held over the viewer, which has sort of blown my mind. Ozu directed what is probably the pinnacle of this little social realist drama sub-genre 43 years before Mike Leigh came close to matching him.
Spring Breakers (2013) Dir. Harmony Korine

It seems I just can't get enough of Spring Breakers. I can't believe that this film is tying with Gravity for my best film of 2013. In my head I'm doing something ridiculous, I'm including it on a list with Citizen Kane; the kind of incredible films that both entertain and leave you marvelling at the skill of the director, films with many layers that you feel like you will never come close to comprehending no matter how many times you watch them. I feel like that is wrong.
Army of Shadows (1969) Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville
Pick a WWII movie, pick your favourite WWII movie, I guarantee you it's not as good as Army of Shadows. There's a very real chance that you could pick ANY other movie in the entire history of cinema and it wouldn't be as good as Army of Shadows.
For 145 tension filled minutes Jean-Pierre Melville keeps the viewer in the palm of his hand, a director at the height of his almost magical powers, every moment exquisitely crafted in tones of blue-grey and quite aptly shadow and light.

I'm ready for the fallout, Superman fans sharpen your claws and do your worst. Any other opinions also welcome, recommendations via twitter are invited.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Movie Diary #16: October 2013

Right, now we're pretty much up to date with this stuff. October saw me return from the disaster that was my attempt to make a movie and hit the play button with abandon, really indulging myself with whatever I felt like watching and very rarely leaving the house.

After September October managed to supply 21 recommendations out of the 74 (711 year to date) films seen during the month. With my rewatch count kept to a paltry 2 (80 YTD) October was a month of comfort from quantity not guaranteed quality of "comfort" films.

I saw 16 new releases (114 YTD,) but only one is worthy of recommending but boy was it a good one. So that's 3 new masterpiece recommendations, seriously folks add them to the top of your watchlist, 8 more that are definitely worth investigating if you haven't already and 11 (an incredible 5 of which are 2013 releases) that you should never watch even if bored and it's a choice between that and staring at the wall for several hours.

Why Why Why Why Why Why Bother?

Ass Backwards (2013) Dir. Chris Nelson
Holy shit, what the fuck were they thinking? As unfunny and as excruciating as I expected The Internship to be and then some. Truly, remarkably bad cinema.
Simpatico (1999) Dir. Matthew Warchus
I might not always agree with the praise heaped upon movies by Roger Ebert but when it comes to movies that sucked he was almost always on the money. Sometimes a movie that isn't very good can be forgiven thanks to a fun idea that appeals to a small part of your non critical mind or great performances elevating a movie out of suckiness and in to mediocrity but with Simpatico there's a convoluted noir-esque plot AND good performances from great actors and still I found myself in agreement with Mr Ebert. Simpatico is a great big bore from start to finish. 
Mike's Murder (1984) Dir. James Bridges
Pretty slow and pretty dull neo-noir. Nothing happens for 45 minutes and then there's an hour of sloppy, badly written dialogue as Debra Winger "investigates" the titular event in a series of improbable moments.
Man of Steel (2013) Dir. Zack "Sucker Punch" Snyder
An incredibly boring movie that's about 2.5 hours too long. Like all of the problems with the Batman Begins origin story dragged out and expanded upon with a much less interesting character in a much uglier way, exactly as you would expect from Zack "300" Snyder. Not the worst blockbuster of the year but one of them. After watching this who would care that Affleck was Batman in the pointless sequel to a DOA original?
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Dir. Robert Wise
How boring did they want to make this?! I can fully get behind the "escape the smallness of the TV" approach also known as "celebrate the massive nature of cinema" but the seemingly never ending attempt to explore the vastness of space by using sloooooooow moving shots of the Enterprise in spacedock or the ominous cloud destroying things slowly get incredibly tedious very, very quickly.
Violet & Daisy (2013) Dir. Geoffrey Fletcher
No surprise that it took several years from it's festival appearances to get a VOD release as Violet & Daisy is a mess of attempted shiny visuals and stilted dialogue delivered by two female leads who were clearly directed to be awful. Not the worst movie of the year but it's right down there. 
The Ultimate Warrior (1975) Dir. Robert Clouse
The Ultimate Warrior promises to be a fighting movie but the fight scenes are amongst the worst I've ever seen and the actual dialogue and plot are amongst some of the most offensively stupid and naive I've ever witnessed.
Turbo (2013) Dir. David Soren
Awful CGI animation from Hollywood for kids in 2013 has a new benchmark in garbage; Turbo easily surpasses Epic as the years worst, a feat I never expected to be attained this year or any other such was the abhorrent nature of said film. But somehow Turbo manages to be both derivative and offensive, it's incredibly ugly and its message is all over the place and they clearly spent about 3 seconds (if that) on thinking about the world building aspect of garden snails working in a factory and how talking nitrous oxide powered snails would interact with the human world.
Thin Ice (2011) Dir. Jill Sprecher
There's a reason you haven't heard of Thin Ice, a caper movie starring two incredibly likeable actors, one an Oscar winner and the other an Oscar nominee, the reason is that this film is one of the very worst instances of the matchstick man conceit.
10 (1979) Dir. Blake Edwards
I'd heard tale of this being a comedy but it turns out that's more of an urban legend as 10 starts off dull and proceeds to fail at causing even a titter for two hours. Perhaps it is unfair to expect something as wonderfully joyful as Dudley Moore in Arthur but I went in with low expectations and had them pulverised by the sheer tedium of it all, not to mention the offensive nature of the concept that felt just a little too long in the tooth for 1979. 1 star for Dudley Moore.
Earthbound (2013) Dir. Alan Brennan
I can't resist a Rafe Spall movie, and so I bring crap like this upon myself every single time. It's just not funny, at all, despite trying every type of humour imaginable at every opportunity. Rafe Spall is, as usual, great and despite being an awful cliche of a manic pixie dream girl Jenn Murray has a real quality and presence about her, beyond that there's nothing to recommend. In 2013 you can trust the Irish to release a terrible superhero movie about religious beliefs without the subtle metaphors of a Zack "Sucker Punch" Snyder joint.
Not Quite Some of the Best Movies Ever Made

Bug (2006) Dir. William Friedkin
The second half of this movie was like a train wreck that somehow blows up a nuclear reactor. Horrible, shocking, mesmerising, the kind of cinema that is so far removed from the staid comfortable lifestyle most of us live that your jaw will drop repeatedly (if you manage to raise it to begin with,) you will want to vomit several times, if you think on it too hard you may find tears have sprung to your eyes and the whole time your brain is screaming, fighting to unscramble what you're seeing, to put a label on it and quantify it as a metaphor or several metaphors even, a statement about something, anything, just so long as you can classify it and deal with the fall out in a more comfortable manner.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964) Dir. Sergio Leone
Seen hot on the heels of watching Yojmbo and Last Man Standing and reading Red Harvest, it was always going to take something special in the telling of this story yet again to impress me and boy was I impressed. The combination of Leone's vision and Eastwood's performance elevate this version of Hammett's tale of corruption and a protagonist who exists in that grey area between black hat and white hat, playing two opposing gangs off against each other for the good of humanity and his pocket, above all other versions in terms of entertainment and enjoyment.
The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) Dir. William A. Wellman
A fine example of the early western-noir genre crossover that provides an awfully large amount of inspiration for the later award winning movie about mob justice 12 Angry Men; with an expected ending that still manages to pack an almighty punch thanks to some fine acting from all involved, a tight play-like script and strong directing from William Wellman. This film will place high on my list of favourite westerns.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Dir. Robert Wiene
Another one of those films I thought I'd seen in film school but had actually only seen clips of, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is incredible piece of early cinema and as important as any film ever made. The set design and the painting of shadows is wonderful all on its own but the storytelling is a step beyond anything previously seen in the medium, the combination of which makes this film still highly entertaining and an enjoyable watch at almost one hundred years old.
Paths of Glory (1957) Dir. Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick's anti-war movie is incredibly effective despite how overtly cold he painted his villains in their lambs to the slaughter attitudes. Known as an innovator of style in genre pictures I was most impressed by how he almost never allowed the camera to rest, keeping everything moving back and forth or on a constant dolly, and not in a shakeycam Paul Greengrass way either, it's something that I don't recall seeing in previous war movies and to a certain extent even the films that came after.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) Dir. Sergio Leone
TGTBATU is a great acronym, and an enjoyable enough three hour movie but it certainly didn't live up to its predecessor, primarily it is a bit too deliberately slapsticky in its humour for my liking. There's a large part of the plot that revolves around the American Civil War which felt incredibly unnecessary and only served to dilute the hipster badass on a horse plot that had served them so well in two previous outings. I can see how by the time you get to the incredible (and it really does deserved to be lauded as marquee moment in cinematic history) Mexican Standoff denouement you might be exhausted and delighted by the ending helping you to forget about the faults that came before but really this is not as purely entertaining as a standalone movie as For A Few Dollars More. Sergio Leone still does wonderful things with his camera and with the genre and never has a Quentin Tarantino influence been more obvious than here. Then there's Ennio Morricone, his work on this film has stood the test of time and there's a very good reason why, he demonstrates an awareness of his art form and the way it will be interpreted that goes beyond 99.9% of composers throughout history, IT IS TRULY MASTERFUL.
Days of Heaven (1978) Dir. Terrence Malick
There's an obvious story as far as the plot in this movie goes, large swathes of dialogue, especially the narration, is unintelligible and I find a babyfaced Richrd Gere quite unbelievable for this role, much in the same way I could never take DiCaprio seriously as the world wise drifter in Titanic BUT still there's a poetic beauty to this film that raises it above such petty concerns as dialogue and story and pretty faces to the point where you deserve to indulge yourself in repeat viewings.
Electra Glide In Blue (1973) Dir.  James William Guercio
The combination of rookie director/producer James Guerico, master cinematographer Conrad Hall and the intense Robert Blake in the lead role create a stunning mix of incredible visuals and existential angst, within a meandering plot filled with bizarre scenes that would never find a place within a more traditional movie or anything made in Hollywood after 1978 I would imagine. Yet it's these bizarre scenes and out of place rants by the characters that make the film the fascinating journey that it is.


For A Few Dollars More (1965) Dir. Sergio Leone
If Fistful was the first great film I'd seen in months then the followup is the first masterpiece; For a Few Dollars More takes all that was great about the Yojimbo clone and elevates all of it to the next level thanks to a much more interesting (perhaps not original) script and a score from Morricone that has deservedly become part of pop culture legend. Eastwood is wonderful but it is the relationship with Van Cleef that takes the acting to new heights, the importance of having more than one great actor AND character in a movie. Volonte is once more the bad guy and his memorable performance as the deranged and effeminate El Indio is almost comparable to the two Americans in terms of entertainment and quality.
Gravity (2013) Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
How nice is it to see an intelligent movie for adults that isn't deliberate Oscar bait come out of Hollywood. After 109 new releases in 2013 I've finally found one that I absolutely loved from start to finish. It's going to take something very special to knock this from the top spot. Visually impressive, Gravity has the best use of 3D I've seen and I can't imagine such a useless technology as that being utilised any better in its current guise. But it is the heart pounding tension that Cuaron brings to the table that left us jittery as we walked around the supermarket afterwards, the kind of reaction usually reserved for far too much coffee, that is Gravity's gift to cinema. In an artistic medium that relies heavily on cheap jump scares and loud sound effects to artificially create tension it is an absolute pleasure to feel like it is organically grown from a tight script, wonderful performances and a director on top of his game.
Black Narcissus (1947) Dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
I seem to be on a run of watching movies I thought I'd seen in film school but actually had only seen brief clips of, Black Narcissus was taught in a subject called "genres" take note of the plural, what we were actually taught by the angry old lady was "melodrama" which as you may know isn't a genre in itself. I, and several other students, resented this incredibly narrow approach to what could have been a fascinating three months of study and Powell & Pressburger seem to have taken the brunt of things. Until now I thought that it was a well made women's colonial picture but I readily admit that my younger self was a fool. Here's the truth of Black Narcissus, as far as I know there is no finer, more complete narrative film produced in the second half of the 40s. Compared to this everything else sort of looks and feels like early silent cinema. How it didn't even get a best picture Oscar nomination let alone the win it so rightfully deserved is beyond my comprehension. At least Jack Cardiff's stellar work as cinematographer was acknowledged.

Pretty great stuff there I must say, a really good month for movies, any favourites amongst them? Don't forget to tweet your comments at me if you'd prefer.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Movie Diary #15: September 2013

Moving on to my very short September diary. This was the month I was supposed to be filming Good Times and the intense nature of attempting to salvage a floundering film is reflected in the very small number of films seen. Naturally it is considerably higher than if I had actually been in production!

31 films seen during September left me with a year to date of 637, with only 2 rewatches keeping my YTD total down to 78, perhaps that 10% target I was aiming for is still within reach? Of the 31 seen during the thirty days 14 were new release movies, bringing a year to date total of 98. And yet none of them were particularly good.

The most disappointing, and surprising, statistic from September is the 7 recommendations I have to offer you. All 7 are firmly in the giant waste of time category with nothing even close to being a masterpiece, so please continue to avoid them if you have managed to so far.


Love Crimes (1992) Dir. Lizzie Borden
Every negative thing said and written about this movie is accurate.
The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008) Dir. Joshua Safdie
It's movies like this that give American indie cinema a bad name, these people are awful and nothing feels authentic, why don't we all just watch Silver Linings Playbook instead?
Kick-Ass 2 (2013) Dir.  Jeff Wadlow
So there's pretty much nothing good going for this movie, I can't imagine there's anyone who might take pleasure in such inane stupidity.
The Hangover Part III (2013) Dir. Todd Phillips
Potentially even worse than Die Hard 5. There isn't one single laugh in this supposed comedy.
After Earth (2013) Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
By far the worst Will Smith movie in existence at the time of writing. I'm quite saddened by this as that oeuvre includes Bad Boys 2. I'm a confessed fan of Smith and tried to avoid knowing anything about this film before watching it but the second Shyamalamalam's name got mentioned I knew to expect the worst. This however goes beyond the worst and for the most part the only blame that can be thrown at the directors feet was taking the paycheck proffered by Smith to put his name on it when apparently to all intents and purposes it was Smith in charge of this vanity project to make his son a star. I have no problem with that idea, I just have a problem that it's a deadly boring and unimaginative as this. That Jaiden is a pretty mediocre actor at best doesn't help matters either.
Diary of a Hitman (1991) Dir. Roy London
Whatever circumstances were behind the acting coach Roy London being left in charge of directing a multi-million dollar film are I'm sure the story might be one of the more interesting of relatively recent Hollywood history; there's bound to be hidden cameras and blackmail involved at some point. The fact that he was an acting coach is pretty ironic as every single actor involved in the production of this film puts in a horrifyingly awful performance.
Dead in Tombstone (2013) Dir. Roel Reiné
On their own the names Rourke, Trejo, Hall and Meyer are not enough to make me consider watching a straight to bargain bin movie but there's something about the combination of the four that made me think it might be worth while. Sadly that is not the case, the script is hopelessly bad, in particular the dialogue, and the direction is ham fisted at best. Don't be fooled in to thinking it's just a bit of fun, it's not, it's a waste of time. 
If I had to pick one film seen during Septemebr to recommend it would be the drug related social documentary Oxyana but it certainly wouldn't be for all.

Sorry I don't have anything positive to report from September but it was bad all round for me. Come discuss it with me on twitter why don't you?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 So Far (May - Aug) Top 5 2013 Releases

The final part of my assessment of the second four months of 2013 is the one most people care about I guess, the best movies released this year. I've seen a massive 64 of them and these are the best 5:

5. Spring Breakers - Dir. Harmony Korine

4. White Reindeer - Dir. Zach Clark

3. Behind The Candelabra - Dir. Steven Soderbergh

2. Before Midnight - Dir. Richard Linklater

1. The Fifth Season - Dir. Peter Brosens, Jessica Hope Woodworth

As you might expect from such a large quantity of films to choose from this was much harder than picking five films seen in the first third of the year. Honourable mentions could go to another seven(!) over the past four months and they are highlighted below in the full list.

Full list of 2013 releases seen May - Aug: I Give It a Year, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Parker, Star Trek Into Darkness, Broken City, A Good Day to Die Hard, The Place Beyond the Pines, Snitch, Bullet to the Head, Broken, Gimme the Loot, Behind the Candelabra, The Call, Stoker, Burt Wonderstone, Rapture-Palooza, Phantom, Mud, Odd Thomas, Penthouse North, Spring Breakers, Olympus Has Fallen, Redemption, The Croods, Off World, Pictures of Superheroes, A Field in England, The Fifth Season, GI Joe 2, Fast 6, Trance, Trash and Progress, Supporting Characters, White Reindeer, Europa Report, Pawn Shop Chronicles, Lunarcy!, Pacific Rim, Night Train to Lisbon, Only God Forgives, Rock Jocks, Oblivion, Klip, The Act of Killing, Before Midnight, More Than Honey, Drinking Buddies, The Lifeguard, Magic Magic, The Canyons, Byzantium, Touchy Feely, Epic, Laurence Anyways, The Heat, The Iceman, Pain & Gain, Clear History, A Teacher, The Look of Love, Empire State, Now You See Me, Prince Avalanche

What have you seen? What are your favourites from the year? Join the conversation in the comments or tweet @BBBGToby with #2013best. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2013 So Far (May - Aug) Bottom 5 2013 Releases

My roundup of the second third of 2013 continues with a look at the worst the year has offered me so far.  Having seen a scandalous 64 releases from 2013 the field was quite competitive, here are the five films I've enjoyed the least so far:

5. Olympus Has Fallen - Dir. Antoine Fuqua

4.  Epic - Dir. Chris Wedge

3. I Give It A Year - Dir. Dan Mazer

2. A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III - Dir. Roman Coppola

1. Die Hard 5 - Dir.  John Moore

So many awful movies coming out of Hollywood this year, I've been torturing myself in the hope that one of them will entertain me but it's so rare these days. It's as though they're determined to make the worst movie possible at all times, some other notably bad movies highlighted below.

Full list of 2013 releases seen May - Aug: I Give It a Year, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, Parker, Star Trek Into Darkness, Broken City, A Good Day to Die Hard, The Place Beyond the Pines, Snitch, Bullet to the Head, Broken, Gimme the Loot, Behind the Candelabra, The Call, Stoker, Burt Wonderstone, Rapture-Palooza, Phantom, Mud, Odd Thomas, Penthouse North, Spring Breakers, Olympus Has Fallen, Redemption, The Croods, Off World, Pictures of Superheroes, A Field in England, The Fifth Season, GI Joe 2, Fast 6, Trance, Trash and Progress, Supporting Characters, White Reindeer, Europa Report, Pawn Shop Chronicles, Lunarcy!, Pacific Rim, Night Train to Lisbon, Only God Forgives, Rock Jocks, Oblivion, Klip, The Act of Killing, Before Midnight, More Than Honey, Drinking Buddies, The Lifeguard, Magic Magic, The Canyons, Byzantium, Touchy Feely, Epic, Laurence Anyways, The Heat, The Iceman, Pain & Gain, Clear History, A Teacher, The Look of Love, Empire State, Now You See Me, Prince Avalanche

Agree? Disagree? What's your least favourite film of 2013 so far? Comment below or tweet @bbbgtoby with #2013worst 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2013 So Far (May - Aug) Top 10 Pre-2013 Catchup

Continuing to assess my year in cinema this is the first of three posts looking at the films viewed between May 1st and August 31st.

Of the 236 films released prior to 2013 seen for the first time during this four month period these are the 10 I enjoyed the most and all come very highly recommended.

10. Jess + Moss (2012) Dir. Clay Jeter

9. Dogtooth (2009) Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos 

8. Lorna's Silence (2008) Dir. Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne

7. Police, Adjective (2009) Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu

6. Atmen (2012) Dir. Karl Markovics

5. Damnation (1988) Dir. Bela Tarr

4. Wake In Fright (1972) Dir. Ted Kotcheff

3. The Colour Wheel (2012) Dir. Alex Ross Perry 

2. Weekend (2011) Dir. Andrew Haigh

1. Unforgiven (1992) Dir. Clint Eastwood

Anyone got a 100% success rate with these ten? How's your year going for great films? Tweet me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Movie Diary #14: August 2013

After several months away at work on a disastrous creative project and mental recuperation I'll be spamming your feed with multiple diary entries and other posts in the next fortnight. Let's start with August.

August was so far away! A mixture of pre-production on my now failed movie making endeavour and heading to England to actually make the film kept numbers lower than previous months, which may have directly influenced the amount of dodgy looking films I was willing to take a chance on. Of the 67 (606 year to date) films seen in August (9 rewatches with a total of 76 YTD) only 3 were really awful wastes of time and all 3 of them released in 2013. Whereas 9 were really very good and I even found 2 masterpieces, both recent films however.

My list of films seen released in 2013 reached 85 with a pretty hefty 18 added in August, the best of which, A Teacher, will place low on my Top 15 for the year so far.

Here's my 14 recommendations (both positive and negative) from August.

Avoid Like The Plague
The Lifeguard (2013) Dir. Liz W. Garcia
So I like Kristen Bell in this but it's all so bland and bordering on stupid and definitely unnecessary. There's an attempt to be "of the moment" in terms of structure, style and content but really it's shit like this that gives indie film a bad name, cliche ridden and handheld for no reason whatsoever.
Epic (2013) Dir. Chris Wedge
Pretty much the worst animated movie I've seen in years, ugly animation, lazy animation, terrible stunt voice casting, awfully basic storytelling.
R.I.P.D. (2013) Dir. Robert Schwentke
Well, yes, that just happened. A concept with a whole lot of potential ruined by a director who didn't seem to have a cohesive overall vision, a script that was highly derivative and lacking in FUN and some truly terribly CGI coupled with awful cinematography. This is a truly disastrous movie and here's hoping that Robert Schwentke will be dispatched to the Rest In Peace Department for terrible directors and so no longer be able to "entertain" us with such cinematic marvels as RED, Flightplan and The Time Traveller's Wife.

Minutes & Money Well Spent

Marriage Material (2012) Dir. Joe Swanberg
One of the most accurate yet subtle portraits of the differences between men and women and the way they approach relationships. You'll almost certainly find the crying baby divisive, I know I just wanted it to shut the hell up whilst others wanted to pick it up. The raw honesty that Swanberg brings to this film stands in stark contrast to the more recent Drinking Buddies and hopefully is a sign of what I should expect as I dig deeper in to his back catalogue.
The entire film is available for free via Swanberg's Vimeo page. 
Corky (1972) Dir. Leonard Horn
Leonard Horn's Corky is a true forgotten gem of 1970's American cinema. The story of an alcoholic stock car driver who still dreams big, who despite his undoubted talent is his own worst enemy, would feel right at home in the hands of David Gordon Green or Jeff Nicholls today, with its unflinching and unapologetic portrait of small town American life. Robert Blake is perfect as the titular character falling from grace in spectacular fashion, he's no Michael Shannon but very few are, and I encourage you all to seek out this movie at the earliest opportunity.
Shame (2011) Dir. Steve McQueen
Revisited because so many people have referenced this film after reading the script for my own current film project and considering I wasn't exactly gushing in my praise for this film previously it must have had a more pronounced impact on my subconscious than I realised; I kind of feel like a dirty plagiarist with some entire establishing sequences seemingly copied from Steve McQueen. McQueen really does structure his characters development very well, establishing mood as well as personality in a few simple steps and with the help of Michael Fassbender's wonderful lead performance he made one of the better films 2011 offered up.
My Favourite Year (1982) Dir. Richard Benjamin
Peter O'Toole is quite wonderful as the Errol Flynn type down on his luck drinking womanising Hollywood idol and to recast this role with Russell Brand is a much larger travesty than doing the same with Dudley Moore's Arthur, as Peter O'Toole brings a lot more to every moment than comedic likeability, his natural acting talent and decades of presence fill the screen in ways that 99.9% of actors could never hope to match, let alone "alternative" comedians slash celebrities slash big-haired junkies.
Hollywoodland (2006) Dir. Allen Coulter
Every time I watch this movie I like it more and more, there's so much to be liked in terms of content and performance. Adrien Brody leads the way as the private detective putting himself in harms way to get to the truth but the quality doesn't stop there with powerful performances from Diane Lane, Ben Affleck and Bob Hoskins in support. But it is the mood and tone of the piece that really captures my imagination, recalling Schlesinger's fabulous Day of the Locust in it's portrayal of the decay of the Golden Age of Hollywood in addition to period noir, there is so much more to Hollywoodland than mere noirstalgia.
Inception (2010) Dir. Christopher Nolan
I went from giving this film full marks 3 years ago to being barely able to get to the end. It's still visually impressive, the scope of his imagination is incredibly large, there's not a single bad performance from the huge ensemble cast and yet, really, when you get down to it, there's a great big nothing at the heart of this movie. It's all spectacle, intelligent spectacle but only distracting entertainment nonetheless.
A Teacher (2013) Dir. Hannah Fidell
Hannah Fidell's A Teacher is the second movie seen this month focusing on an older woman's affair with a schoolboy. Whereas The Lifeguard attempts to present Kristen Bell's folly in a realistic and sympathetic light A Teacher attempts nothing, it just watches the relationship, lets the audience make its own mind up and shows the very real consequences on Lindsay Burdge's teacher.
Fidell's direction is necessarily unobtrusive considering the potentially salacious subject matter and the film relies heavily on the performance of Burdge who is more than up to the task. She carries the descent from happy, functioning member of society in to a despairing wreck with apparent ease and even better none of the cliché histrionics that lesser performers might have been tempted to resort to.
For fans of the prevalent style in contemporary American low budget cinema, A Teacher is a fine film well worth your iTunes download purchase.
Truck Turner (1974) Dir. Jonathan Kaplan
Truck Turner is pretty much one long 90 minute chase scene that sets out at 100mph to entertain and doesn't let off until the credits roll. Much to my surprise Isaac Hayes is great as the eponymous anti-hero but he's not alone in a cast that features wonderfully enjoyable performances from Alan Weeks, Nichelle Nichols and of course Yaphet Kotto. 
Hard Times (1975) Dir. Walter Hill
From the opening scenes the cinematography of occasional Hill collaborator Philip Lathrop is superb, and it deserves to be seen for the way he makes each shot a piece of art but it is what it is thanks to the firm foundation of Hill's approach towards the material and the excellent casting of Bronson and Coburn. It is a film that could quite easily have been turned in to another silly caper in the wrong hands, especially if some unwise fool had opted to use the banjo on the score but Bronson barely speaks and Coburn bristles at every slight, between them they bring incredible presence and subtlety. And that subtlety is what sets this film above most others on a similar subject.


Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Straight in as my favourite film of 2011, heads a truly impressive 15 for the year.
A true masterpiece of the medium, visually stunning, a mesmerising film from first to last that piles layer upon layer of complexity and yet remains (if you choose) a sublimely simple tale of picking up a dead body from a field and performing an autopsy. Worth every second of the 150 minute runtime. 
Weekend (2011) Dir. Andrew Haigh
The first time I saw Andrew Haigh's Weekend I was so very impressed. Now I'm about to shoot my own film in similar cramped conditions I thought it was about time to revisit as "research". If anything it is even more impressive this time around. If I can make a movie half as impressive as this I will be a very happy man.
 Any thoughts? Hit me up on twitter

Friday, November 1, 2013

Blahblahblah making movies (or not)

You may have noticed that I've been away. You may recall I was taking a trip to England to make a no budget feature film. Now I'm back and I've got almost nothing to show for it.

Making a no budget feature film is a giant headache and relies on a lot of people doing a lot of work for next to no money or in most cases nothing except the experience and the pleasure of your company. In that kind of scenario you need to expect things to go wrong, or at least not as smoothly as you would like, especially in an industry that is as notoriously fraught with logistical nightmares and giant egos as film making.

I'm ready to accept that ultimately the failure of Good Times to get in to production is my own, as head of the production the buck stops with me but there's only so much one person can deal with and only so many times that person can be let down by broken promises before things reach tipping point.

During pre-production of Good Times I met some really great people who were willing to do anything they could to help my creative vision come to fruition but sadly they were few and far between and when it comes to outlining what caused my film to not get made they don't really factor in to the story, but just so you know, it wasn't all bad.

The majority of my experiences were bad, friends from film school who showed enthusiasm for the project, for finally getting out in to the world and making something that they trained for instead of sitting on the dole or in a call centre, were the first to let me down, from something "small" like not doing something they said they would do right through to taking back an offer of accommodation and leaving me homeless.

After that we move on to so-called industry professionals, and I'm talking about crew and actors here, people who didn't have the decency to return phone calls, text messages, emails or, you know, that other thing that people do when they can't make it to a meeting or simply changed their mind about a project, phone me and tell me so that I knew where I stood.

But most disappointing, from my point of view, was the equipment hire company who I was actually paying the majority of the budget to doing exactly the same thing. I can't see how a business can function with such bad service. Maybe this is just the way of the world and at 30 I'm old fashioned but to me this kind of behaviour is unacceptable in any walk of life.

So yes, no film to share, no trailer, no behind the scenes footage, nothing fun or exciting at all.

The trip wasn't a complete bust, I have one small video to share with the few of you who might care; I had the distinct pleasure of living with two members of the band The October Game whilst in England during the time they were preparing to release their third album, Balancing, and produced a promo video for them. Shot behind the scenes of the music video shoot for their first single We Built This Wall To Destroy It. I'm actually a big fan of the album and if you feel like checking it out you can find it on iTunes and direct from the label Scylla Records, something I highly recommend you do.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Movie Diary #13: July 2013

July went quickly. I've been working hard on pre-production of my debut feature film but still managed to watch 71 movies according to Letterboxd. That makes 539 YTD. 8 of those are rewatches bringing YTD total up to 67, I think my dream of limiting that number to 10% of my total is well and truly dead at this point.

I saw an incredible 23 new films in July, thanks in part to the Revelation Film Fest, this number accounts for over a third of the 2013 films seen this year. 67 is a good strong number and I think reaching 100 before January is well within my grasp. My end of year Top 15 has 11 strong candidates listed so far, despite my general disgust with the majority of new releases it's good to see that there's still some real quality finding its way on to screens.

In total I have 21 recommendations from the month, 6 that you should really stay clear of, believe me you're going to appreciate that with this bunch. 15 really great films that are close to being masterpieces and then 2 actual masterpieces, one an all time favourite and the other is possibly the best you'll see from the post-mumblecore scene.

For those of you interested in my film, it's called Good Times and it can be found at facebook and on twitter so far but there's some other social networking in the pipeline. I'd love it if you guys could like it and follow and stuff, any word of mouth on the project will be helpful.


The Croods (2013) Dir. Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
No. Just no. The trailer looked really stupid and I wasn't disappointed by the feature. It's oh so ugly to look at too.
Off World (2013) Dir. Emmett Callinan
A low budget sci-fi thriller that looks and feels exactly like a low budget sci-fi thriller, generic plot and dialogue, daytime soap level line readings and a really peculiar greyscale colorisation applied throughout. I wouldn't have been surprised if it was developed for syfy or whatever the channel is branding itself as these days.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) Dir. Jon Chu
Was this one of those movies where Bruce Willis gets paid by 50 Cent to show up for a bit to try to give a really awful film some credibility? I'd say that's possible. I expected it to be stupid and fun but this is stupid and dull which is the ultimate crime when you have a bunch of guys running around shooting stuff really. I'd watch The Rock in anything and so this was guaranteed to show up in my life sooner or later, I wish it had been much later, like when I'm over my whole "I'll watch The Rock in anything" phase.
Pawn Shop Chronicles (2013) Dir. Wayne Kramer
This movie was originally written for FRED DURST to wear a backwards baseball cap whilst directing it. Wayne Kramer didn't save it although I'm certain he's a better director than Mr Bizkit.
Oblivion (2013) Dir. Joseph Kosinski
Possibly the worst big budget science fiction movie I've seen since Surrogates. Oblivion is a dull, unimaginative, ugly, derivative, obvious, grey, overly long Tom Cruise vehicle. I hope that this is forgotten about very quickly and never mentioned again. I really wanted to say consigned to oblivion but the film was so bad it didn't deserve the pun.
Sudden Death (1995) Dir. Peter Hyams
Almost unwatchable for non martial arts fans I would say. The action is poor anyway but some of the choices Hyams makes for purposes of "tension" or "suspense" left me quite bemused. The major fault lies with the script however. Written by the guy who wrote Police Academy 3, 4 and 5 based on a story idea by somebody else?! How do you have the story idea for this? I must assume it was "lets regurgitate Die Hard without what made it special" brainstorming sessions that accounts for her moment of genius.

Really Very Good Actually

Revanche (2009) Dir. Götz Spielmann
I feel like this was a major influence on the development of the far inferior and much less subtle Place Beyond The Pines. Instead of being violent or flashy it is just a simple, slow, study of humanity.
28 Hotel Rooms (2012) Dir. Matt Ross
A love affair between two people who only meet in hotel rooms, told only when they are in those hotel rooms. It's certainly a gimmick but 28 Hotel Rooms is much more than that, it's an exploration of how we love, why we love, the restrictions we place on love, it's funny, sweet, poignant, thought provoking, it recalls all those failed love affairs in your past and reminds you of the good and the bad but mostly it reminds you of why you loved in the first place.
The Fifth Season (2013) Dir. Peter Brosens, Jessica Hope Woodworth
50 movies and six months in to 2013 and The Fifth Season has become the frontrunner for movie of the year. As Ronan Doyle said in his excellent review it really is The Wicker Man as made by Roy Andersson. It's beautiful to look at, mesmerising at times, paced to perfection and almost so subtle that you might miss the apocalyptic overtones that would mark it as another product of 2013's Year of The End. Should I trademark that?
Supporting Characters (2013) Dir.  Daniel Schechter
Supporting Characters is another in the seemingly endless stream of low budget character and dialogue driven New York feature films linked to the slackervetes group of filmmakers. It's a witty low-fi romantic comedy starring one of the unlikeliest romcom protagonists you're ever likely to meet, Alex Karpovsky. But it's not just another film for the canon, it's one of the better examples of post-mumblecore on a restricted budget.
Modern Love Is Automatic (2010) Dir. Zach Clark
A nurse moonlights as a dominatrix, her room mate is a naive and enthusiastic aspiring model who is repeatedly taken advantage of in her quest to be successful. These are not the elements you might ordinarily associate with comedy but Zach Clark seemingly looks at the world in a different way to other writers and with the help of great performances from Melodie Sisk and Maggie Ross offers the viewer an insight in to an alternative take on modern American life.

Zach Clark has made this film available to stream for free at Vimeo. I highly recommend you check it out.
White Reindeer (2013) Dir. Zach Clark
White Reindeer is somehow the 500th movie I've seen in the first six and a half months of 2013. I just felt that landmark should have been announced somewhere. I'm so grateful that it was a very good movie indeed, worthy of a milestone such as this one. Over indulgence is a Christmas tradition right?
Films like this once confirm that I do not have what it takes to review or talk about movies professionally, when I truly enjoy a film I suddenly find myself with nothing to say at all that can do my feelings justice but rest assured list lovers White Reindeer will certainly feature high in my end of year list
Blind Shaft (2003) Dir. Yang Li
Part noir, part bleak social realism, all brilliant. Fans of everything I love in cinema should be ready to be wowed by this product of Mainland China that shares as much with the great cinema of the Romanian New Wave as it does modern neo-noir such as Winter's Bone.
Only God Forgives (2013) Dir. Nicholas Winding Refn
His films may not have reached masterpiece levels just yet but Refn is consistently a top quality filmmaker that is a pleasure to watch even on his off days. I asked the question previously, where are all the Refn copycats? The answer is nowhere, what he does with the crime genre takes vision, skill and talent compared to those Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino wannabes churning out generic garbage. I can't wait to see what he does next.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) Dir. Shane Black
A first rewatch in 2 years and I'm pretty certain that Shane Black is some kind of insane genius, as that is what it would take to write and envision something as wonderfully playful as this without descending in to farce and still crafting a damned fine neo-noir thriller.
Outland (1981) Dir. Peter Hyams
It feels a little ordinary and conventional in 2013 but in a world where Alien was still new and fresh there should have been plenty of room for Sean Connery running around a space station with a shotgun taking down a drug smuggling ring with the help of a black man and an actual real female character that wasn't a plot device, a wife, or a love interest (played perfectly by Frances Sternhagen.)
No Distance Left To Run (2010) Dir. Will Lovelace, Dylan Southern
Damon, Graham, Alex and Dave were THE reason for my love of guitar based indie pop at a time when EVERYONE around me seemed to be in to some form of garage dance rave shit and to have this film as a document to refer back to that time in my life is wonderful, that' s actually an incredibly well made film that combines archive material, live footage and new interviews just elevates it to a whole new level. All of the new material is of such a high quality too.
Before Midnight (2013) Dir. Richard Linklater
I was incredibly sceptical about a third film in this series and yet incredibly excited at the same time. To witness Richard Linklater directing Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Celine is something akin to perfect cinema as defined by Andre Bazin, everything about their lives captured on screen feels so honest, a truth often attempted but rarely achieved in independent American film and I am more than ready to watch this series every 9 years for the rest of my life.
More Than Honey (2013) Dir. Markus Imhoof
Much more than stunning wildlife photography, this fascinating documentary could be enough to make you a militant vegan, a depressed anti-capitalist, a staunch opponent of America and a dedicated Western Australian based cinematographer.

Oh how beautiful my country looks on film, oh how disgusting the practices of money hungry migratory bee farmers, oh those poor little magnificent creatures, oh how dumb Markus Imhoof allows those Americans to look on film.
Sin City (2005) Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Quite unsurprisingly after 8 years the wow factor has worn away from this incredibly faithful adaptation but what remains is still one bad ass noir graphic novel complete with some of the best performances of the casts career. Frank Miller's attempt at The Spirit shows that it's not just his superb graphic novel that's responsible for the inherent quality in this production, underneath all that shiny CGI Robert Rodriguez is one hell of a director.
Brick (2005) Dir. Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson's huge leap of imagination is just as impressive today as it was 8 years ago. This high school noir homage sets the tone from the opening shots and doesn't let up until the dame swings from her pretty little neck.


The Limey (1999) Dir. Steven Soderbergh
Tell him I'm fucking coming!
Man I love this movie, one of the most important movies of my life, seeing this made me love Soderbergh, and you know how it goes from there. Between the Dobbs script and Soderbergh's direction a fantastically entertaining experiment in noir storytelling unfolds with a brilliant lead performance from Terence Stamp that breaks your heart by the time of denouement. Simply wonderful.
The Colour Wheel (2012) Dir. Alex Ross Perry
JR takes a road trip with her brother, they bicker and snipe like only siblings can. That's pretty much it. And it's a brilliant piece of American filmmaking. So incredibly and unexpectedly funny from start to finish, the double team of Altman and Perry have such incredible chemistry that they brought tears to my eyes with their mean spirited quips and barrage of inappropriateness. The grainy 16mm image and location shooting might lead you to think this is another offering from the Slackervetes school of naturalism but you'll either realise your error and go with the slightly surreal nature of the story quite quickly or hate this film completely for confusing your brain with its mixed messages.

So that's that, go right ahead and comment and tweet me and stuff, don't forget to show Good Times some love on the social networks. If you've got questions about the film or whatever I'm happy to answer them.