#5: Moonrise Kingdom
Director: Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson’s back with arguably his best film since The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Moonrise Kingdom takes place in 1965 on an island in New England where our protagonist, 12 year-old orphan Sam, attends a scout camp. Sam reunites with his year-long pen pal, Suzy, who also lives on the island, and together they decide to run away and build a life of their own. Hilarity, drama and excitement ensue when Suzy’s parents, the scoutmaster and the police join forces in search of the two young lovers.
Shot primarily on Super 16mm film and featuring Anderson’s trademark hand-made style sets, props and costumes, Moonrise Kingdom looks and plays out like a 60’s cartoon adventure, or a children’s book by Roald Dahl, a logical evolution from his last effort The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). Anderson’s hyper-real vision is turned up to 11 here, which may be off putting to some viewers but I go nuts for overly-stylised stuff, and the result is a revelation, a live-action cartoon – something Anderson may have been trying to achieve in previous films and here it is finally, fully realised.
If you want to feel like a kid again, if you want to view the world like a picture-story book, and if you want to see inventive film-making with “light” content for a change, set camp for Moonrise Kingdom.
#4: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Director: Benh Zeitlin
This striking effort from first-time American director, Benh Zeitlin, is a ‘ballad’ about the under-privileged fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Beasts of the Southern Wild is in many ways the best film of the year, it certainly is the most emotionally gripping, because it doesn’t rely on any post-modern, genre-conscious stylistic flourishes or multimillion dollar special effects to tell its story. Zeitlin made a bold decision in casting non-actors for his debut feature but it was this decision that ultimately made the film standout.
8 year-old Quvenzhané Wallis plays the lead character, Hushpuppy (6 years old), and she gives perhaps the most convincing, naturalistic child performance I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. It’s fascinating watching a post-apocalyptic story through the eyes of a 6 year-old girl, it makes the plot all the more easy to follow which is another one of the film’s saving graces. Zeitlin utilised the bare essentials to weave this moving story; heart-breaking performances, a simple and solid script, a beautiful and effective film score, sexy cinematography, breathtaking scenery, and NO CGI.
Grab a box of tissues (for your eyes), lock yourself away from the world and get carried away by Beasts of the Southern Wild.
#3: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
The blockbuster movie event of the year may have disappointed many but it rocked my bloody socks off! The Dark Knight Rises should probably be further down the list, behind Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom, but I’m such a fan-boy I couldn’t help myself! It’s my preferred film of Nolan’s trilogy, I do love both predecessors, each one better than the last, but I think this one has the most moving and exhilarating story. Whilst The Dark Knight is the less flawed film, it’s lack of story surrounding the caped crusader himself was a problem for me. The Dark Knight Rises ties all three films together, enhancing the resonance of the previous two stories, and ends the series with the bitter-sweet finality it deserves. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would’ve been to end a Batman franchise but Nolan did it so masterfully my arms keep extending to offer him a cuddle despite the man’s absence from my life.
There are some unfortunate plot holes/details which stop the film from being the masterpiece it should have been but that wasn’t a big enough problem to ruin the experience for me.
I saw the film twice at IMAX, the way it was meant to be seen, and that probably helped somewhat elevate my experience. It’s a BIG fuckin’ movie! There’s nothing like expecting a spectacle and getting it.
If you’re not really into Batman, or aren’t a fan of Nolan’s trilogy in particular, there is at least one very important reason to see The Dark Knight Rises…
Director: Ben Wheatley
Genre: Comedy (Thriller)
Directed by British underdog, Ben Wheatley (Kill List 2011), and written by the cast, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, Sightseers is a fresh comedy/thriller to behold. When I first heard about this genre-comedy produced by Edgar Wright, I was expecting something akin to Attack the Block (2011), or Shaun of the Dead (2004), a typical horror or sci-fi yarn with a comic spin, which I would have been more than happy with. Instead I’m served up a surprising concoction of Wright’s fusion of genre and comedy, Lowe and Oram’s unique sense of humour, and Wheatley’s eerie, Wicker Man-esque atmosphere. Sightseers is a prime example of the kind of layered brilliance you can end up with from a team of creatives as opposed to a more one-note effort you may get from a single auteur.
I won’t bother touching on any plot details. Sightseers is a film to be surprised by. Anyone looking for a challenging British comedy with some juicy murders will walk away with more than a smile.
#1: Cabin in the Woods
Director: Drew Goddard
Why? Drew Goddard (writer/director) and Joss Whedon (writer/producer) bring us a horror/comedy that explores the avenues most standard horrors fear to tread. The result is a wild deconstruction of horror, surpassing even the achievements of Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). Calm down, it’s not the better film, it simply breaks down the formulas of the genre to greater avail. The screenplay is a tour de force. The writers are merciless with their characters and limitless with their plot developments.
Cabin in the Woods is like an episode of Buffy gone mad. It certainly is not for everyone, it’s even a divider amongst Whedon fans, as its relentless plot can drive people crazy.
The bottom line is…
Cabin in the Woods has everything you lust for in a horror – it’s exciting, brutal and bloody as hell.
It has everything you expect from a comedy – it’s wild and hilarious.
It has everything you hope to get out of a new film – it’s different.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, but I strongly suggest you take a punt and decide for yourself.