(Christmas) Song Of The Day
I’d firstly like to give a quick mention to what I believe to be the worst film I’ve seen in 2013; the abysmally franchise-killing Die Hard 5 or; A Good Day to Die Hard. I’m a big fan of the series, and each of the first four films has their merits. They are good films. This one just isn’t. It’s up there with the worst written and worst acted blockbusters I’ve ever witnessed, and CGI is so terribly laughable, it made me want to cry. A real nail in the coffin of a series that should’ve left it’s reputation untarnished with #4. A real bad day for Die Hard.
With that out of the way, I’ll move onto a few films I enjoyed, but didn’t quite make the list.
The good try awards go to Kick Ass 2 and The Heat. Kick Ass 2 tries to be bolder, braver and ruder than it’s predecessor, and I suppose it gives it a good bash. It’s definitely a lot of fun, but it’s a squandered effort that could’ve been executed a lot better. A lot of the film felt disjointed and uneven (See; the whole Mindy Mean Girls thing), and I wasn’t too impressed with how some of the action scenes were handled. The camerawork was too frantic for my liking. The Heat, on the other hand is surprisingly funny and could’ve been something really great if it had just a little less cheese! Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy have great fun and give it their all, and the awesome Paul Feig has some decent idea, but they’re let down by a script that just doesn’t feel fresh enough to make it anything particularly memorable.
Trance is another film that I did enjoy. It’s an odd one from Danny Boyle and takes so many left turns throughout, you’re left confused more than anything else. Stunning visuals though, and it’s probably a case of style over substance in the end. Deserves another look. This Is The End is a film that could’ve easily make the list as well, and maybe it deserves to ahead of some of my choices, but alas. It’s a clever idea and there’s some great laughs to be had where you can really see that the cast were having a good time taking the piss out of themselves. The gag rate is about 50/50 hit and miss though, and the terrific cast miss out on some really good opportunities for originality. Still, for what it is, it’s probably better than most people expected it to be. Myself, included. Monsters University was Pixar’s big one this year and although it’s not quite as memorable or as genius as Monster’s Inc, it’s a lot of fun and has as much heart as you’d expect from a Pixar flick.
I’d have much to hard a time ranking these 10 films in any sort of order, so instead I’m going to leave them unranked, and go through them alphabetically instead.
Probably the most surprisingly good film of the year for me, this one. It’s not the most original concept in the world, but there’s enough clever ideas, wit in the script and charm in Domhnall Gleeson’s lovably awkward lead performance to make this one a real winner. Genuinely funny and proper heartwarming. Loved it.
I’m a massive fan of Richard Linklater’s previous two films in the Before trilogy, and an even bigger fan of the man himself. This third film picks up 9 whole years after the previous film, and it shows no sign of ageing. It’s a beautiful thing to watch Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy’s characters relationship grow throughout the series, and it’s obvious in this one that they know each other inside out. As with it’s predecessors, the film is all about relationships and life, relying heavily on it’s superb dialogue and excellent performances that ring so true to real life. It’s hard not to be completely engrossed in the characters when the dialogue is this good.
Tarantino delivers the goods with this ridiculous cowboy, western-with-a-twist, Blaxploitation flick. The script is tight, as you’d expect from QT, but definitely not up the the incredible standards that Inglorious Basterds set before it. The cast perform very well under Tarantino’s direction, particularly a show-stealing Leonardo DiCaprio, who really deserved an Oscar over anyone else in the film. It’s a lot of fun, for sure, but QT definitely gets a bit carried away with his own ego at times, and it shows. The lengthy duration probably could’ve benefitted from a slightly shorter runtime but all in all, it makes for a great time at the movies.
Mainstream newcomer Fede Alvarez helmed this remake of Sam Raimi’s genre-denying classic, and although it doesn’t live up the the “Scariest Movie Of All Time” bullcrap marketed in the trailers, it is a very strong film, as far as horror remakes go. It takes a way more serious approach than Rami’s original films in an attempt to terrify, but it’s a case of masses of gore over genuine chills. Still, the gore is fun is you’re a fan of the genre, and the visuals are awesome with a particular credit going for the awesome lighting throughout. The cast is mostly forgettable, simple fodder, except for Jane Levy (from ABC’s Suburgatory) who knocks it out of the park. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
Gravity is an odd one for me. I obviously appreciate what a visual spectacle the whole experience is. I mean, it looks fantastic and it feels so real that it even prompted one (albeit idiotic) report to ask director Alfonso Cuarón what it was like filming in space. So yes, it looks fantastic and sounds fantastic. And sometimes that can be enough. But I will admit I did find myself bored at a few points in the film, because once the amazement of the setting sits in, Alfonso really milks it all. Some of the long shots are incredible and I loved them, but some of was just a tad too gratuitous and self-indulgent for my liking. Clooney is awesome, and Bullock is great too, but I guess how much you’ll like the film may very well come down to how much heavy Sandra Bullock breathing you can tolerate. The 90 minute runtime or so was a good choice.
Iron Man 3
I’m not as big an Iron Man fan as the rest of the universe seems to be, but I do think that it’s one of Marvel’s stronger movie franchises. And Robert Downey Jr. embodies the character so well that it’s hard not to enjoy them. It’s him again the third time ‘round that really makes the film work, with a well-rounded, pitch-perfect performance. The action scenes are pretty good, and there’s enough in the plot so it doesn’t run thin for the lengthy run-time, but it’s really the more comedic aspects of the film that make something special. It’s definitely the funniest entry in the series (light, mostly, but some darker elements too), and it seems to take a note from The Avengers in that regard. Credit must go the kid actor in the film, Ty Simpkins, who gives an astoundingly mature effort and holds his own alongside RDJ. Their chemistry is definitely one of the better aspects of the film and heightens it to something more than just an action flick.
As Alex Quinn pointed out, Prisoners is an underdog contender for film of the year, coming seemingly from out of nowhere, it came as a pleasant surprise to me just how strong it was. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal give very raw performances, with particular credit going to Jackman who gives a very well-rounded and vulnerable turn as a father desperate to find his daughter. It’s a slow-building film with a mean runtime, but you’re so invested in its tension that you hardly feel it. It’s a superbly crafted, clever script that doesn’t hold back any punches (literally) and packs a serious emotional hit too.
Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects is an odd, but enthralling film with a seemingly mismatched cast thrown together. The genre feels like it skews all over the place, from drama to romance to trippy drug film, but it’s mostly rooted in thriller. And it certainly packs the thrills, taking numerous left turns and epic twists and shocks that you honestly don’t see coming. It becomes so audacious by the end, that you can’t do anything but applaud how ridiculously entertaining the whole thing is. Rooney Mara steals the show.
I seem to tell everyone these days that James Wan is one of the best modern horror filmmakers around. Really, I’m only basing that off two or three films, but I think they’re good enough for him to warrant the title I’ve given him. The Conjuring, being his strongest film yet definitely cements it. The Conjuring, like Insidious is a haunted house/ghost-y sort of film, and like Insidious, it packs it’s fair share of jump scares. And although I’m not always one to advocate jump scares in horror films (I think they can be cheap and gimmicky), when they’re done well, I can’t deny their effectiveness. The Conjuring does them very, very well. And not only that, but it strikes a great balance between them and more subtle scares. There’s a lot of slow-building tension, and with the help of great direction, good lighting and sound, and solid performances, The Conjuring is an excellent modern horror film. We need people like Wan to keep the genre alive.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
This film, adapted from the strongest book in the series, is a superb effort and has everything fans of the book, or not could want. There’s a great sense of danger this time around, and although the film seems to take it’s time for the first third of so, there’s still a great sense of urgency about it that the first one didn’t have as much. Everything is bigger and better. The violence is upped, the tension is upped, the budget is definitely upped and the performances are even stronger. It creates a world that is both believable and incredibly unbelievable at the same time, and it does a great job of putting you right in the heart of it all. Thoroughly entertaining stuff.
|—||Professional grumpy old man Noel Gallagher isn’t a fan of Arcade Fire's latest. Although, last time we checked, Noel’s debut solo album was 42 minutes long itself so it’s a bit of a pot kettle black case.|
Listen: Nai Harvest - Hold Open My Head
Adding to the growing number of acts readying new material for 2014, Sheffield guitar heroes Nai Harvest have announced their new EP Hold Open My Head is to be released in March. This is, of course, the title track; a sublime three and a half minutes, tinged with both indie and emo influences, and a chorus which begs to be used as the soundtrack to a “Summer 2014” memories video.
The band will also be on a UK tour with Gnarwolves later this month, and will headline the inaugural Not A Summer Festival in February:
- December 09, 2013 - Devizes, Corn Exchange
- December 10, 2013 - Plymouth, White Rabbit
- December 11, 2013 - Bristol, Exchange
- December 12, 2013 - London, Old Blue Last
- December 13, 2013 - Cambridge, Portland Arms
- December 14, 2013 - Leeds, Cockpit
- December 15, 2013 - Glasgow, Audio
- December 16, 2013 - Nottingham, Red Rooms
- December 17, 2013 - Lincoln, Scene
- December 20, 2013 - Brighton, Haunt
- February 8, 2014 - Manchester, Gullivers & The Castle
Telltale’s fantastic The Walking Dead will begin its second season of episodes on 17th December, the game’s Steam listing has revealed.
Listen: Warpaint - “Biggy”
Warpaint’s eponymous sophomore album is sure to be the first major release of 2014. The record is set for release on January 20th, with first single “Love Is To Die” appearing six weeks ago, and now this; it’s unlikely “Biggy” is an ode to the late, great Notorious B.I.G, but those chunky basslines and ethereal vocals are definitely a sound for sore ears. Welcome back, ladies.