CK’s Top 10 Films of 2013 – pt. 2

#5: The Place Beyond the Pines

This movie almost looks as gorgeous as I do...

This movie almost looks as gorgeous as I do…

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Genre: Drama

The Place Beyond the Pines is a sweeping crime drama told from both sides of the law across two generations. Pretty boy Gosling plays a stunt motorcyclist who turns to bank robbery so that he can provide for his son. Bradley Cooper plays the “heroic” cop who rises through the ranks whilst struggling with his own demons and proves that he too is an actor we can take seriously. So far the story probably sounds pretty familiar but to elaborate any further would “spoil” your experience.
The Place Beyond the Pines takes you on a thrilling emotional journey and is arguably the sexiest looking film of the year. If you enjoy crime dramas like The Town (2010), The Departed (2006), and/or Heat (1995) then you should most defs check this shit – even if you don’t find Ryan Gosling attractive.

#4: You’re Next

I killed your family, like a fox!

I killed your family, like a fox!

Director: Adam Wingard
Genre: Horror

The horror of the year is a comic one, much like last year’s Cabin in the Woods but not as experimental or ambitious. You’re Next sees a wealthy family reuniting at some vacation house. The festivities are spoiled when a bunch of strangers disguised in animal masks crash the party with crossbows and the intent to kill! This is one of those movies you clap and cheer in. You know those films that keep surprising you WHILST giving you exactly what you’re expecting? You’re Next is a ballsy, gruesome horror with a sharp sense of humour and a massive adrenaline shot.
And to chuck a massive cherry on top of an already decadent cake, our very own Sharni Vinson kicks absolute fuckin’ arse in this movie! Seeing a female Aussie steal the limelight in an awesome American film really gets me going… 

#3: Star Trek – Into Darkness

"Live long and suffer!"

“Live long and suffer!”

Director: J.J. Abrams
Genre:
Sci-Fi

Man that J.J. Abrams knows how to make a blockbuster! Star Trek: Into Darkness may have a shitty title and isn’t quite as amazing as its predecessor, Star Trek (2009)but when sequels are this good my faith in the Hollywood system is momentarily restored.
If you didn’t like the previous film don’t bother with this one. PS. What’s wrong with you?
Otherwise, how can anyone resist such a loveable ensemble cast, exciting story, mouth watering special effects, and emotionally manipulative music? I’ll tell you how. If you’re a massive cynic with a heart of stone. Shame on you!

#2: Upstream Color

I'm no scientist but that shit looks cray!

I’m no scientist but that shit looks cray!


Director: Shane Carruth
Genre:
Sci-FI

Some folks are enchanted by this film, others are confused by it, but many are both! Upstream Color may be the most challenging and unique film of the year and it really is a thing of beauty.
So, what is this…thing? Upstream Color can be described as a sci-fi drama about two people who start to mirror each other’s behaviour after being infected by a strange parasite. To be honest, any attempt to describe the plot does it a disservice.
This film doesn’t have a complex plot like director Shane Carruth’s previous effort, Primer, which was an extremely technical and mind-bending story about time travel. What makes Upstream Color so disorientating, and fascinating, is the peculiar way in which the film is directed and the story is told. There aren’t any characters who conveniently deliver us all the exposition we need to fully grasp the story, the camera often focuses on strange or unrelated subjects during dialogue driven scenes, and there’s lots of extreme close ups of shit growing. I’ve probably put a lot of people to sleep already! Upstream Color obviously isn’t for everyone but if you open your mind and stop worrying about plot you just might discover a new experience in cinema.

#1: The World’s End

Drink your beer and don't look so suspicious!

Alright, we can have our beers but let’s try not to look like fuckin’ weirdos while we’re at it!

Director: Edgar Wright
Genre:
Comedy

The team that brought us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz finish off their Cornetto Trilogy with a bang. 20 years ago a group of teenagers attempted an epic 12 pub crawl but didn’t manage to make it to the end. In the present day these friends reunite to try again but this time their attempt coincides with an alien invasion!
The World’s End may not be the best of the trilogy but it’s certainly the most ambitious. A lot of fans may be put off by how different The World’s End is from its predecessors but I reckon Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg made some bold decisions with this one. Their ability to mix hilarity with familiar yet moving storytelling has always been spot on and they explore darker and richer territory in The World’s End.
I’m such a fan of this team’s work that I deemed The World’s End the film of the year after my initial viewing of it. Upon second viewing, however, I was amazed, but not surprised, by the meticulousness of each shot and line of dialogue. Every scene is so thematically and comically rich it gives me nerdgasms just thinking about it.
Genre comedies, funny films with stories you can take seriously, are my most beloved type of film and Wright and Pegg have been the true masters of the genre for the last ten years. Thank God for The World’s End!

Fitting that the end of this Top 10 should be The World’s End but as much as this year hasn’t been a great film year, there are still lots of other films I liked a lot. Here are 3 such films…

Django Unchained, This is the End, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

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CK’s Top 10 Films of 2013 – pt. 1

2013 was a pretty shitty time for cinema but every year has its gems and, of course, I didn’t get round to seeing every film I should have.
For that reason I can’t rate films such as Captain Phillips, Mud, Blue Jasmine, or Francis Ha.
Also, I’m Australian which means some of my most anticipated films of 2013 have not yet been released here. Due to such international intrigue, the following films will have to compete in my 2014 lineup…
Her, The Wolf of Wall Street, Blue is the Warmest Colour, 12 Years a Slave and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Taking into consideration all of the above bullshit, here are my Top 10 Films of 2013 (well, at least films #10-#6 for now)…

#10: John Dies at the End

Damn, I really wanted to "meat" her...

Damn, I really wanted to “meat” her…


Director:
Don Coscarelli
Genre: Comedy/Horror

There’s no easy way to describe this riot of a film. Writer/Director, Coscarelli, of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep fame, adapts the surreal, dark comic novel of the same name and presents us with the stoner film of the year.
The story can be vaguely described as a twisted tale about a young man who recounts a series of bizarre and unbelievable events to a reporter, played by Paul Giamatti, and there’s a monster made of pieces of frozen meat!
Bear in mind that John Dies at the End is a small film and with that you won’t be getting Guillermo Del Toro quality CGI, but this is a perfect example of ambitious story-telling and inventive filmmaking triumphing over big budgets.
Watch this film if you wanna see some crazy shit and have a good time!

 #9: Magic Magic

I speak Chilean now, bitch!

I speak Chilean now, bitch!

Director: Sebastián Silva
Genre: Drama/Thriller

Another limited release of 2013, Magic Magic is a beautifully shot Chilean-American indie psychological thriller. We follow Alicia, a young, timid woman played mesmerisingly by Juno Temple, into the South of Chile for what is meant to be a holiday but what begins as an awkward fish-out-of-water drama slowly but magically evolves into a demented psychological trip. A remarkably unique and challenging indie-drama filled with seamlessly naturalistic dialogue and plenty of “WTF” moments; Magic Magic is essential viewing for those who desire a break from the mainstream. Hell, it’s even worth the watch just to see Michael Cera speak Chilean! The film also showcases how well Cera can perform in a drama, and now I shall watch what the future holds for him with great interest.

#8: Only God Forgives

"I don't need no mirror to tell me how good I look."

“I don’t need no mirror to tell me how good I look.”

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre:
Thriller

Most people hated this film, but I hate most people. Nah, Only God Forgives is a trying film and I can certainly see how it turned people off. If you’re looking for a dense story with twists and turns then this film isn’t for you, in fact, what are you doing watching a Refn film at all? Remember Drive? That was one of my favourite films of 2011 but it wasn’t on account of its plot. Refn’s films, at least his later works, tend to be all about atmosphere and Only God Forgives is dripping with it. Refn’s directorial flare and Gosling’s stoic performance and boyish good looks were a dynamite combination in Drive and this time round Refn jacks the atmosphere up to 11 and builds Gosling’s character up only to be broken, therefore shitting on our expectations. There’s not a whole lot of dialogue in Only God Forgives and for that reason people shrug it off as having no story, but if you allow yourself to be consumed by the film’s deliciously nightmarish atmosphere you just might find yourself on the dark, surreal journey that I didn’t want to return from once the film was over. If you think you could be seduced by sexy cinematography, hyper-stylised lighting and sublime soundscapes then dive into the macabre wonderland of Refn’s latest effort, otherwise watch Captain Phillips or something else that’ll probably get an Oscar or two.

#7: Prisoners

Can I come too?

Can I come too?

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Genre: Thriller

Phwoar! There’s nothing quite like a well executed mainstream procedural thriller. Hugh Jackman’s kids get kidnapped and Jake Gyllenhaal is the detective assigned to crack the case. A clear suspect, creepy Paul Dano, is identified but there’s no substantial evidence to keep him in custody. Enraged by all this bureaucracy, Hugh Jackman goes rogue and starts doing questionable shit to find his daughters. If I haven’t sold you on the premise already it’s probably ‘cos you’re sick of mainstream thrillers being shit. Well, this one isn’t, it’s actually great. The script is tight, the film is beautifully directed and the cast are electric, particularly Hugh Jackman in his most serious role to date. Like I said, there’s nothing like a good thriller, and Prisoners is the undisputed mainstream thriller of the year, probably even the last 3 years!

#6: Pain & Gain

Let's get a protein shake.

Let’s get a protein shake.

Director: Michael Bay
Genre:
Black Comedy

If Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines is the morally questionable yet musically irresistible song of the year, then Pain & Gain is the same for the films of 2013.
Pain & Gain hilariously depicts the outrageous, real life, exploits of 3 body builders who kidnap a corrupt franchise owner to benefit from his wealth.
You really have to be in on the joke, or at least open to appreciating the film’s superficial irony, to enjoy this movie. Despite being based on a true story, the film’s bubble-gum-pop visuals and dark sense of humour would make one think otherwise. I guess that’s where the controversy comes into play. Is it morally insensitive to indulge in the hilarity of these strange and brutal circumstances if they are, in fact, real life events? That’s for you to ponder and not for me to answer.
To exacerbate matters, Pain & Gain is directed by none other than Michael Bay! If you’re a Bay hater, never fear, this film stands out from the rest of his work as being “the arty one”. If, on the other hand, you’re a fan then it’s time to get excited about what is definitely the best Michael Bay film since The Rock (1996)!

CK’s Top 10 Films of 2012 – pt. 2

#5: Moonrise Kingdom

Film lives!

Film lives!

Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy

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

beasts-of-the-southern-wild

‘scuse me, can you show me the way to ‘Toys “R” Us’?

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Genre: Drama

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

Guess who's back?

Guess who’s back?

Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action

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

Joseph Gordon-Levitt!

 

#2: Sightseers

Anyone seen my eBay?

Anyone seen my eBay?

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

My, what big...teeth you have!

My, what big…teeth you have!

Director: Drew Goddard
Genre: Horror/Comedy

THE

UNDISPUTED

FILM

OF

THE

YEAR

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.

CK’s Top 10 Films of 2012 – pt. 1

#10: Killer Joe

killer-joe-mcconaughey

“Think I’m as handsome as my reflection?”

Director: William Friedkin
Genre: (Black) Comedy

In order to settle a life-threatening debt, a young drug dealer, Emile Hirsch, hires a corrupt cop, Matthew McConaughey, to kill his mother in order to collect the insurance money. The theatrical poster deems it “a Totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story”, and that’s exactly what it is. When you go to KFC you’ve got a hankering for some greasy, immoral, finger-lickin’ pleasure and once you’ve eaten your chicken you feel both sick and satisfied which is not unlike the experience of watching Killer Joe.
Friedkin’s return to form, he ain’t made a decent film since the 80’s, is bold and refreshing. This film is relentless in its violent and sexual content and is certainly not for the most sensitive viewers out there, particularly die-hard Matthew McConaughey (rom-com mode) fans. The thing to remember is that this film is a comedy and it is a true delight to see such twisted and controversial content taken so lightly. There’s nothing worse than “hard-hitting trailer park drama/thrillers” and Killer Joe takes that dirty, cliche subgenre, deep fries it two times over and turns it into a twisted laughing stock.

#9: The Master

the-master1

“I am The Master. Try to capture that in the lighting.”

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Genre: Drama

PT Anderson strikes again! What a little freak, right? Shot in mouth-watering 65mm film, and projected in selected theaters in 70mm, The Master is nothing short of mesmerising. More-so than Anderson’s previous efforts, The Master has been accused of being slow and boring. I won’t deny that this film can be difficult to sit through but it had all the right ingredients to keep me engaged, and I have a short attention span.
The Master explores the day-to-day activities of a cult known as ‘The Cause’, based on the practices of Scientology. Despite the fact that there are few plot developments I found it fascinating to watch the cult’s bizarre interviews and exercises play out.
The performances by the three leads are more than something to behold. Joaquin (please win the Oscar) Phoenix, back from his I’m Still Here hiatus, plays the troubled World War II veteran who is taken in by the cult. His performance as unpredictable as his character, keeps you hanging with every movement (and non-movement!). Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the charismatic and cooky ‘Master’ of ‘The Cause’. He makes the most ridiculous and infuriating concepts seem enchanting to even myself, the viewer. He is a true hypnotist. The beloved Amy Adams shows another side of her talents as she steps out of the comfort zone of her usual sweet/comedic roles as the Master’s assertive wife.
If 65mm film, the peculiar goings-on of cults, and spellbinding performances aren’t enough to tickle your fancy, then perhaps alternative maestro, Johnny Greenwood, would have something to say about that with his magical film score! It’s classic Hollywood fare with an art-rock spin.

Behold! The Master

#8: Skyfall

skyfall1

“This is old-school, bitch!”

Director: Sam Mendes
Genre: Action

As a fairly devoted fan of the 007 series I can honestly say that Skyfall is the best Bond film since Goldeneye (1995). It’s the perfect gateway film for both classic Bond fans (Connery to Brosnan) and Casino Royale (2006) fans. It continues the Daniel Craig franchise smoothly whilst injecting some of the old-school flare we’ve been missing from the classic series, and it does it with style. Whilst it shares a similar running time with Casino Royale it doesn’t feel as long. This installment to the franchise sees Bond spending less time developing romantic relationships and more time getting to know a colourful villain (Javier Bardem in yet another iconic villainous role) and playing with new (in some cases “old”) toys. Suit up for this classy Action Drama, ‘cos it’s a doozy!

#7: Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian-Sound-Studio

If I point the mic in the right direction maybe she’ll show me her boobies…

Director: Peter Strickland
Genre: Thriller

I don’t think this one’s had a theatrical release yet, I saw it at the Melbourne International Film Festival, but this is a film worth searching for. It’s about a British sound engineer, Gilderoy (Toby Jones), who finds himself recording sound foley for a giallo film in Italy. Shit gets crazy for Gilderoy when the film’s horrors manifest themselves in his reality.
!!! Think Blow Out (1981) meets Kill Baby Kill (1966), if you love giallo films and movies about film-making, Berberian Sound Studio is your ultimate wet-dream.

#6: Looper

looper4

“Here’s lookin’ at me, kid.”

Director: Rian Johnson
Genre: Sci-Fi

What a bloody show! If you wanna excite CK, release a Sci-Fi film about time-traveling assassins and cast two of his favourite actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, and get them to play each other!
For me, the deal was done with the concept. The fact that JGL was playing a younger version of Bruce Willis alone was enough to make me hot, but a Sci-Fi written and directed by indie-filmmaker Rian Johnson? Woof! The only way this film could go wrong for me was if it was poorly made, and considering its pedigree, there was no way that was gonna happen.

Looper is an awesome Sci-Fi thriller with some cool ideas and a couple of landmark sequences. It’s slickly directed and the cast are loads of fun. Unfortunately, the film is not without its flaws. Looper had the potential to be the film of the year, even the decade, but it didn’t explore its grand ideas in any great depth. I suppose if it had done so, it would have been a much smaller film and quite possibly may never have been made. You’ve gotta give Johnson credit for making a crowd pleasing high-concept Sci-Fi that is actually good. Looper may not be the Blade Runner of our generation but I’ll settle for a contemporary Luc Besson style Sci-Fi/Action yarn.

#102: Super ***Kicked off CK’s Top 100***

Nobody fucks with Rainn Wilson!

Director: James Gunn
Year: 2011
Genre: (Black) Comedy

The most underrated, and often hated, film of 2011 is Super, a black comedy about a troubled man who decides to take the law into his own hands and become a superhero.

If you’ve seen Kick Ass (2010) you’re probably thinking that you’ve seen this story before, but you haven’t. Not like this.

Kick Ass takes the story of an ordinary guy’s journey to become a ‘real’ superhero and turns it into the colourful spectacle we expect to see in most traditional superhero films. Super is Kick Ass‘ dirty uncle, presenting a more dull and gritty environment which exposes the shocking consequences of a vigilante’s actions. Violence is not slick and sexy in real life; it’s unpredictable and horrific. Not that I have a problem with glorified violence on screen; it’s one of my favourite things about cinema. My point is that Super is different, whether you like it or not. It puts you inside the head of a sick individual who feels justified in his violent actions against wrong-doers. We empathise with the poor sod, yet director James Gunn presents his scenes with enough objectivity for us to distance ourselves and see things as they really are.

The spectacle of this film is hidden within the mind of our protagonist Frank D’Arbo, played boldly by the beloved Rainn Wilson. Through him we get to experience the comic book elements you expect to see in most superhero movies and more. The excitement of becoming a super hero (in his case, The Crimson Bolt!), an emotional character journey (if you choose to accept it), and surreal dream sequences. Outside of Frank’s mind and into the arena of the film’s mise-en-scene we are presented with an odd and edgy character study. James Gunn gives us a healthy balance of comedy and drama. Whilst the story is bleak and shocking, Frank’s general demeanour provides enough laughs and enjoyment to satisfy a fanboy’s sweet-tooth.

I won’t bother going into the plot of this bad boy; the less you know the better. What I will tell you is that, lo and behold, Super is NOT based on a book, comic or graphic novel. It’s an original piece of cinema from the sick mind of James Gunn, writer of the impressive Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake and writer/director of the hilarious (and also underrated) cult sci-fi/horror Slither (2006).

Super is a unique comedy/drama with balls. It’s a true deconstruction of the superhero story with a strong character at its centre. This film is not for the squeamish, but if you’re looking for a challenging alternative to the sea of superhero films we’re being flooded with, and you don’t mind having a few laughs on the way, get Super!

CK’s Top 11 Films of 2011

As the New Year has dawned and the end of the world is near, I feel it necessary to interrupt this journey through my top 100 to take a rest stop at my Top 11 films of 2011…

#11: The Tree of Life

…the one with Brad Pitt in it.

 

Director: Terrence Malick
Genre: Drama

I’m usually the first to pass on wanky arthouse dramas, but Malick’s latest effort is an experience to behold. Much like Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Tree of Life can be considered as either long or epic, boring or full of wonder. You decide, just make sure you see it first.


#10: Drive

“God, I’m beautiful.”

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre:
Action/Drama

Ryan Gosling is so hot right now and Drive puts him in a role harkening back to Eastwood’s ‘Man with no name’ character. We are used to getting sex on a plate with Gosling, but in this action melodrama he’ll kill you before you can have a piece. Drive is like an 80’s action B-movie made with art-house sensibilities; imagine if Michael Mann directed Roadhouse. The result has been polarising amongst my peers, but for me it’s a dream. If you like introspective dramas with beautiful people and you don’t mind a bit of blood and gore, Drive in!


#9: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Heat for 2 mins on HIGH.

Director: Rupert Wyatt
Genre: Sci-Fi

I wasn’t expecting much more than a bit of fun with this prequel to the Planet of the Apes franchise, but what I got was a whole lot more. Why aren’t more action/sci-fi blockbusters this much fun? The greatest feet of the clumsily titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that it manages to make us root for the apes, thanks to very tight scripting and Andy Serkis’ performance as the lead ape, Caesar. It’s truly amazing how gripping and emotional this film is, Caesar and his posse of apes really convinced me to question my humanity and rip some shit up. More often than not, prequels can cheapen a film or a franchise by filling in the gaps for us, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes makes the plight of the original film all the more interesting. Join the revolution by watching this movie!

#8: The Artist

"We are the best people in the world!"

Director: Michael Hazanavicius
Genre: Comedy

As we approach the end of the days of ‘film’ as a format, it is comforting to see some big films this year celebrating  the art of early cinema. The Artist is a joyous comedy that explores the hardships of a great silent film star trying to survive in the rise of ‘talking pictures’. Shot as a silent picture, with some post-modern leeway in the last act, The Artist is a true delight for cinema enthusiasts.


#7: Melancholia

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my…

Director: Lars von Trier
Genre: Drama/Sci-Fi

Melancholia is a breathtaking experience that explores the desires and concerns of a family at a wedding the night before the end of the world. Lars von Trier’s follow up to 2009’s Anti-Christ is all the more engrossing and boasts the most wonderful cinematography of the year and a stellar performance from the beloved Kirsten Dunst. If you’re a bit bummed out ‘cos you weren’t cool enough to be cordially invited to the Twilight wedding in 2011, you’re always welcome to Melancholia, the venue and the people are far more attractive and if you still don’t have a date by the end of the night, don’t worry, the world’s gonna end anyway.

#6: Super 8

A sci-fi for the family.

Director: J.J. Abrams
Genre: Sci-Fi

Abrams does it again with yet another first class blockbuster, although not quite as successfully as his previous effort, Star Trek. Live-Action Blockbuster entertainment has been pretty rubbish since its golden era from the late 70’s right through to the early 90’s and Steven Spielberg was at the forefront of that movement with classics such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Jurassic Park. Abrams does his best to revitalize that magic with Super 8, with the help of Spielberg himself no less. It is refreshing to see a lead cast of kids in a serious blockbuster again and in this film the youngsters offer us an energy and chemistry we have not seen since Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me in 1986. The film’s major downfall is that Abrams spent all his efforts recreating the nostalgia of Spielbergia, but he didn’t leave enough room for a truly unique climax to this reminiscent story. Whilst I still enjoyed the last act of the film, I even teared up ‘cos I’m a massive pussy, it felt rushed and wasn’t as powerful as the first two thirds of the film. Super 8 is not the spectacle it should have been, but it is still a magical experience.


#5: Shame

"Did I leave the kettle on?"

Director: Steve McQueen
Genre: Drama

Director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender’s follow up to Hunger (2008) is a mesmerizing character study of a sex addict trying to find his place in the world. Those looking to get their kicks on root 69 aren’t going to find such pleasure in Shame; as the sex, though graphic at times, is not shot in an erotic manner, although you do get quite a good look at Michael’s ‘Fassbender’…
Whilst sex addiction is a fascinating subject, and it is explored quite well in this film, Shame could have been about anything and it still would have been as gripping. The direction and performances are so spellbinding that you are absorbed into the world of the film for its duration – and I rarely say that about adult dramas.
Fassbender is surely the actor (or man?) of the year and this is him at the top of his game. Carey Mulligan is also one to watch and here we see her taking her skills to the next level as Fassbender’s needy sister.
Another virtue of this film is that it doesn’t shove any solid messages down our throats, the character backgrounds and motivations are quite ambiguous leaving a lot to the viewers’ imagination. This way the film stays in your mind and leaves you on your knees begging for more. Shame is the most beautifully crafted drama of the year, it would be such a shame to miss it.

#4: The Muppets

Watch and learn, kids.

Director: James Bobin
Genre: Comedy

This latest installment to The Muppets franchise, by actor/writer Jason Segel and Flight of the Conchords team James Bobin (director) and Bret McKenzie (song writer), is one of the best to date. Segel’s humour is evenly wholesome for kids and laced with references for grown-ups, whilst McKenzie’s ‘Conchordian’ styled songs truley match the spirit of The Muppets.  Loaded with nostalgia for those who grew up with the early films and packed with fun for all, The Muppets is a joyous film that makes your heart leap and your eyes water.

#3: Attack the Block

Fix up, look sharp!

Director: Joe Cornish
Genre: Comedy

I’ve been watching a shitload of British TV lately and I truly believe that the BBC are giving HBO a run for their money. In the land of film, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are the champions of ‘genre comedy’ and Joe Cornish’s debut feature, Attack the Block, may be a sign that the UK is aiming a hand-cannon at the balls of the US! Well, maybe not, ‘cos no one in Australia saw this fucking movie! If you love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and you HAVEN’T seen Attack the Block, you’re missing the dynamite that’s gonna ignite your geek-spot. Attack the Block almost rivals the aforementioned films, and it absolutely blows Pegg and Frost’s Paul and Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World out of the water.
Attack the Block is a British Sci-Fi comedy that pits the chav hooligans of a South London estate against an onslaught of furry aliens that fall from the sky. The cast of unknown British youths are the balls of this film. I am usually enraged and disgusted by chavs but I fell in love with all of the lead thugs in Attack the Block. Any movie that makes you conscious of how much your mouth is open in a cinema is a true gem, and Attack the Block is a purely joyous experience.

#2: Hugo

They don’t make them like this anymore.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Genre: Drama

The most magical cinematic experience of the year has no actual magic in it, it is actually all about Georges Melies and the magic of early cinema. In this age of CGI and self reflexive parodies, it is a miracle that Martin Scorsese has graced us with the beauty of ‘Hugo’, the kind of kids movie we would expect to come out in the early 90’s, the kind that kids today would have no interest in, which would explain the film’s lame fluffy trailer. This movie is very important and anyone who is the least bit interested in cinema should see it. I know 3D can be a bit off-putting, but as the film is all about the illusions of early cinema, what better way to bring such illusions to life than to use the illusions of modern technology? Scorsese utilizes 3D beautifully in ‘Hugo’ and you’d be a fool to opt for the 2D version; you’d actually be missing an element of the film. Don’t let my preaching fool you into thinking you’re up for some artsy-fartsy bullshit, Hugo is a light and extremely moving adventure for the whole family. Of all the films in this list Hugo is the one that made me cry the most.

#1: Super

Suck me, beautiful.

Director: James Gunn
Genre: Comedy

The only film of 2011 that has made it into my Top 100. Stay tuned to read more…

Honourable mentions…

Rango, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, X-Men: First Class, Scream 4, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Paul & Bridesmaids

Yet to see…

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse, Young Adult & Kung Fu Panda 2

#Special Mention: Red Hill

“Dry me off, bitch.”

Director: Patrick Hughes
Year:
2010
Genre:
Western

Whilst this film hasn’t quite made my Top 100, I grew quite conscious of the fact that Mad Max is the only Australian inclusion on the list. Red Hill is very little seen and one of my favourite Aussie flicks, and therefore deserves a mention.

Australia finally gives us the kind of film we’re looking for and no one saw it, further illustrating the problem with our film industry.

I’m not denying that there’s a lot of great product coming from our shores but for those of us who champion genre filmmaking, Red Hill is one of Australia’s finest. Red Hill is one of those films, like Star Trek (2009), that hit all the right buttons. It’s a contemporary Australian Western which delivers us the thrills and intensity akin to No Country For Old Men (2007) and displays the kind of stylised direction seen in the works of Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino. I got more out of this film than both of the Cohen’s recent western efforts, No Country… and True Grit (2010), though it may not be quite as well written or performed, it is certainly more evocative and entertaining. Red Hill may be cheeky with its post-modern self awareness and tongue-in-cheek nods to the Western genre, but it remains a story to be taken seriously with unique subject matter that brings it closer to the more dramatic works of Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Reservoir Dogs (1992), than Edgar Wright’s comedies.

The film’s grasp of the Western genre, stylised direction, thrilling story and hot performances make it universally enjoyable. It does not contain any of the elements that people hate about most Aussie films, i.e drug addicts, horrible accents, lame humour and kitchen sinks. It does not however, pretend that it’s NOT Australian. The story and characters are 100% pure Aussie beef! Ryan ‘Sex On Two Legs’ Kwanten plays the film’s young protagonist; he’s my ‘All Australian Hero’. Look at the picture above, don’t you wanna just lick the rain off his face?
Really, it’s the film’s subject matter that makes Red Hill a true national sign post. Without spoiling the plot, the film explores what happens when an escaped Aboriginal convict, played with great mystique by Tom E. Lewis, starts gunning down the coppers of the town. Indigenous culture is a significant part of Australia’s history and Red Hill manages to handle this subject matter with great sophistication by weaving it seamlessly into a traditional Western storyline.

I suspect that the reason nobody saw Red Hill is because they didn’t know it existed due to the film’s small marketing budget. Everybody who’s anybody SHOULD see Red Hill, it’s a slick, simple action/thriller for those looking for some quick thrills, and a deliciously stylised Aussie Western for all you film geeks looking for your next hit.