Sunday, 5 January 2014

Filmdog's Film Blog 2013

Hello and welcome to The Filmdog Film Blog 2013. Here you'll find my review of every single film I watched during 2013, whether it was at the cinema, at home or in other parts of the world. In here we have new releases, old favourites, classics I missed first time around and a couple I've seen dozens of times. Feel free to make any comments on whether you think I've been too harsh or too lenient. So let's begin...



2nd Jan
Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (Sky Movies) - We start 2013 with the sequel to 2009's reboot of the Arthur Conan Doyle franchise. Guy Richie's Sherlock is slick, witty and an expert in martial arts (whad'ya know? He's like Tony Stark!). He also has an uncanny ability to foresee things before they happen which comes in tremendously handy when getting into a scrap. It's a very confusing plot but Robert Downey Jnr & Jude Law carry it along with plenty of charisma.
* * *

4th Jan
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Sky Movies) -
A bunch of retired Brits start a new life in India to see out the rest of their days where their money might go a bit further. Thought I'd turn off after 10 minutes but I kept with it. The cast is made up from the creme of British acting royalty and they provide enough to make this a fairly enjoyable but wholly unremarkable film. Take your Nan. 
* * *

7th Jan
The Prestige (Sky Movies) - A masterpiece from Christopher Nolan with one of the best twists you'll see in a film. Two rival magicians go to extreme lengths to perfect the greatest illusion possible, 'The Travelling Man'. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are excellent as the competing enemies trying to use every trick in the book to find out the other's secrets. Needs repeated viewings to soak it all in. 
* * * * *

8th Jan
Batman Begins (Sky Movies) - I enjoyed this much more second time around (like most Christopher Nolan films). Bruce Wayne gets fleshed out as we watch him undergo full martial arts training and eventually returning to Gotham as 'the Batman'. Christian Bale's growly voice wasn't quite so annoying this time around either. Worth a watch.
* * * *

9th Jan
The Good Night (Netflix) - Martin Freeman becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman (Penelope Cruz) that he keeps seeing in his dreams after becoming bored with reality. It has some good moments. None of which involve Simon Pegg's annoying best friend. 
* *

After Porn Ends (Netflix) - Documentary about what happens to the porn actors after they finish in the business. It provides a good insight into a seemingly very unhappy industry. 
* *

Jan 11th
Another Earth (Sky Movies) - Interesting indie from writer and star Brit Marling. 'Earth 2' shows up, looming in view of our own planet. In the meantime, a young student causes a tragic accident and feels compelled to atone for her error. Beautifully shot and very understated performances. You'll either like or hate the ending which leaves you wanting to know more. 
* * * *


Jan 12th
Kurt & Courtney (Netflix) - BBC doc from 1997 analysing the relationship between Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. There are interviews with old friends and acquaintances, ultimately asking the question 'did Courtney have Kurt killed'? Answer: probably not.
* *

Jan 15th
Martha Marcie May Marlene (Sky Movies) - A girl runs away from a cult commune and struggles to re-adapt to a life with very different social rules. It's told in flashbacks and is very slow. Ultimately I was let down by the lack of ending but there are good performances, especially John Hawkes as the creepy commune leader.
* * *

21 Jump Street (Netflix) -  I didn't have high hopes for this but I found it surprisingly hilarious. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are the baby faced cops assigned to bust a drugs ring trading out of a local high school. Slides effortlessly into the great buddy-cop film category. Good cameo twists at the end. 
* * * * 

Jan 16th
Life Of Pi (Greenwich PIcturehouse) - The 3D effects in this were extraordinary. A young man survives the sinking of his ship, carrying his family and zoo animals, and takes refuge on a life boat with the remaining survivors; an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger. Superb story with a lot of heart. 
* * * * *

Jan 20th
The Iron Lady (Netflix) - A thoroughly boring biopic of Maggie Thatcher. Meryl Streep does her very best to inject some life into this but despite such an eventful period in Britain's history, I found myself looking at my watch. 
* *

The Game (Netflix) - Obscenely rich Michael Douglas lives an extremely dull life. He has all the money in the world but no happiness to show for it. On his birthday he receives an unusual gift from his brother (Sean Penn), an adventure experience 'game' like no other. Once he decides to play, his life is turned on it's head as he has to follow a sequence of clues and determine who he can and can't trust. Entertaining thriller with a good twist. 
* * *

Jan 25th
Pirates...In An Adventure With Scientists (Sky Movies) - Aardman put their stop-motion wizardry to good effect on the High Seas with High Grant as the daft Pirate Captain. Amusing and very enjoyable. 
* * *

Jan 26th
The Way (Netflix) - A story about a man who's son dies while walking the Camino de Santiago and who takes up his son's pilgrimage, scattering his ashes and meeting fellow pilgrims along the way. Charming film from Emilio Estefez starring his old man Martin Sheen. 
* * * *

Jan 27th
Frida (Netflix) - Biopic of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, documenting her eventful life, her tumultuous relationship with her husband Diego Rivera (the always-excellent Alfred Molina) and her crippling injury. It's rather slow at times but it's a good introduction to a very interesting character. 
* * *

Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (Sky Movies) - Should have been called Extremely Long & Incredibly Dull. A young boy's father (Tom Hanks) is killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. After the dust has settled he finds a key that belonged to his dad and he searches around New York to find the corresponding lock. The kid got on my nerves.
* * 

Feb 1st
Apocalypse Now (Sky Movies) - A soldier is charged with the task of travelling deep into the Cambodian jungle to assassinate the crazed Colonel Kurtz (a very shadowy and corpulent Marlon Brando) who's gone AWOL. Brilliantly directed, very intense and great performances. Left a bit unsatisfied by the ending but I guess I'll have to watch the Directors Cut. 
* * * *

8th Feb
The Beaver (Netflix) - Mel Gibson has a breakdown and starts talking through a beaver hand puppet with a cockney accent. Not sure what this film is. It's very funny in parts but falls flat when aiming to hit heavyweight emotion. 
* * *

12th Feb
Source Code (Sky Movies) - There's a case of the 'Quantum Leaps' as Jake Gyllenhaal keeps waking up on a train in someone else's body and tasked with trying to stop it from getting blown up. It takes several attempts (each time the train explodes he's thrust back into an isolated metal pod where he receives instructions from Vera Farmiga's Agent Goodwin). I really like this film. Duncan Jones proving to be a great film maker.
* * * *

Drive (Netflix) - The best film I saw in 2012. Effortlessly oozing retro cool, Gosling becomes a movie icon with this performance as the stunt driver by day, getaway driver by night. When a deal goes wrong he ends up covered in blood with a bag full of cash and pursued by some gangland kingpins. What does he do? He drives of course. Fetch me my driving gloves.
* * * * *

13th Feb
Chocolat (Netflix) - Juliette Binoche stars as a nomadic chocolatier who sets up shop in a French village with her daughter and courts controversy with her liberal lifestyle and flirtation with a local band of Irish gypsies. Alfred Molina is typically good as the villainous Comte de Reynaud. 
* * *

17th Feb
Avengers Assemble (Sky Movies) - Summer hit of 2012 unites Marvels biggest names to take on Loki and the Chitauri. It balances the characters nicely, giving everyone their fair share of quips and action set pieces. I'm a big fan of Serenity so had plenty of confidence in Joss Whedon's ability to deliver a Marvel classic and he came up with the best film of the collective bunch. 
* * * *

21st Feb
Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (Netflix) - A pleasant enough, though thoroughly boring tale of fish dorks trying to set up a fishing lake in the Yemen. They do, and find love along the way. As predictable as a salmon swimming upstream. 
* *

27th Feb
Jo Nesbo's 'Headhunters' (Netflix) - Brilliant cat and mouse thriller from Denmark. A businessman and amateur art thief steals paintings in order to keep his beautiful wife in the lavish lifestyle to which she's becomes accustomed. Unfortunately for him he goes a step too far by robbing his wife's new lover (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who turns out to be a trained killer. A terrific chase ensues. 
* * * *

28th Feb
Grosse Pointe Blank (Netflix) - It's achieved minor 'cult film' status but I'm still not sure why. I've seen it several times and I always find it a bit slow and dull so I'm not really sure why I keep coming back to it. Great soundtrack though. 
* * *

2nd March
Margin Call (Sky Movies) - Brilliantly tense depiction of the 2008 financial crash. We get a real-time sense of events that led to world's financial downfall and how the Wall Street traders tried every trick in the book to save their own skins. Everyone is brilliant in this. Put this with Glengarry Glen Ross for great double bill
* * * * *

Detachment (Netflix) - Rather depressing film in which Adrian Brody battles aggressive teens as a substitute teacher trying to make a connection with his students and faculty. 
* * *

6th March
Pumping Iron (Netflix) - Gripping documentary following contestants competing for the 1975 Mr Olympia contests. First look at a young and cocky Arnold Schwarzenegger as the reigning champion, an untouchable in the world of body building. His mind games with rival Lou Ferrigno (TV's Incredible Hulk) are great to watch and you can see why the charismatic Austrian Oak would go on to have such a successful career. 
* * * *

Certified Copy (Netflix) - What is real and what is not? Art imitating life imitating art. Slow but interesting drama follows Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as they stroll through the Tuscan village of Lucignano. They start off as strangers but the more the story develops the more we realise that all might not be as it once seemed. It will confuse you immensely and it aims to do just that but it's beautifully shot and this film is one of the reasons I chose Tuscany as a honeymoon destination. Pity it pissed down with rain for the entire duration of my visit 
* * * *

7th March
Stoker (Greenwich Picturehouse) - Hitchcockian thriller about the nature of being a psychopath. Mia Wasikowska is the yound girl who grows up knowing there's something not quite right. She has a heightened sense of hearing and more questions arise when her long lost uncle shows up soon after the death of her father. Very stylish in every sense but not enough substance. We've seen the premise before as well in the tv show Dexter.
* * *

9th March
Haywire (Sky Movies) - Plenty of ass kicking but zero story in this 'Salt-esque' action thriller about a government assassin who must go on the run from her own agency for reasons that aren't quite clear. The supporting cast is stellar and there are some fantastic action sequences but the lead actress, Gina Carano, should probably stick to MMA. 
* *

10th March
Seven Years In Tibet (Netflix) - Pitt wins the 'worst movie accent' award as the Austrian mountain climber who befriends the Dalai Lama just as China attempts to take control of Tibet. Enjoyable despite its long running time. 
* * *

17th March
The Raven (Sky Movies) - John Cusack does his best Edgar Allen Poe impression as a manic-drunk while trying to solve copycat murder case. Pretty imaginative nonsense. 
* *

18th March
We Bought A Zoo (Sky Movies) - The title of this film should be punctuated by a question mark (We Bought A Zoo?). Matt Damon buys a zoo despite having no knowledge of how to run it or any expertise with animals. Luckily Scarlett Johansson is on hand to help and provide the love interest. It was surprisingly enjoyable. High on schmaltz but hey, it's a Cameron Crowe film. 
* * *

20th March
Dan In Real Life (Netflix) - Steve Carell, down on his luck (again) falls in love with his brother's new girlfriend Juliette Binoche in this formulaic comedy. This is the kind of film where Ben Stiller in the lead role would add an extra star on the review score. It's pretty forgettable stuff.
* *

25th March
Trance (Greenwich Picturehouse) - James McAvoy's auctioneer gets in way above his head when an art robbery goes awry. There's a gang of local London toughs to contend with and also a mysterious hypnotherapist who may be able to unlock the key to finding out where the missing painting is. One of the worst films I have ever seen. 
*

27th March
The Passion Of The Christ (Netflix) - Mel Gibson kicked up a storm when releasing this film in 2004, which is essentially 120 minutes of watching Jesus be flayed alive. It's pretty enjoyable despite the very gruesome scenes.
* * *

1st April
The Cabin In The Woods (Netflix) - 5 friends go for a weekend in a cabin and things go gruesomely wrong. The Sci-Fi twist makes this a little more interesting than most of the usual slasher horror films doing the rounds. This one goes for satire and is fully in on the joke.
* * *

Took a break from films for a few weeks to watch the terrific 5th season of Breaking Bad 
* * * * *

19th April
Sunshine (Sky Movies) - Danny Boyle's visually beautiful take on the Sci-fi genre is something between Alien and Event Horizon (more the latter). A team of astronauts are tasked jump-starting our dying sun by launching some nuclear missiles into it. Things don't go as planned (they rarely do) and our heroes must stay alive long enough to get the job done in order to save the freezing earth. The twist at the end is a bit unexplained but it's a decent watch. 
* * *

20th April
The Five-Year Engagement (Sky Movies) - I fell asleep I'm afraid, so bored was I with this tripe. From what I gather before my eyelids gave up, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt just can't find time enough to get married. Ah bless!
*

21st April
The Place Beyond The Pines (Greenwich Picturehouse) - This film was not what I was expecting. The trailer suggested it would be a Drive-style heist movie but this is a very different beast though no less enjoyable for it. Its epic story of fatherhood and guilt as we watch generations of two families torn apart by a tragic event. Really enjoyed this one.
* * * *

4th May
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Netflix) - Two warriors set out to track down a young nobleman's daughter who has stolen an ancient sword and is in league with a notorious fugitive. The fights are very slick and stylish as our warriors skip over rooftops and across trees but I prefer a bit more realism and bloody action. 
* * *

9th May
Master And Commander: Far Side Of The World (Sky Movies) - Simply one of the best films I've ever seen. Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany are at their finest as 'Lucky' Jack Aubrey and Doctor Stephen Maturin, Captain and Surgeon aboard HMS Surprise. While roaming the high seas of South America they are set upon by a seemingly impenetrable French man of war. What follows is a supreme battle of naval tactics as each tries to sink or take the other as a prize. I'm still waiting for a sequel 10 years on.
* * * * *

11th May
Star Trek: Into Darkness (O2 Greenwich) - Sequel to the 2009 reboot of the franchise. The crew of the Enterprise must find and capture a mysterious individual who is waging a one-man war upon the Federation. Pretty good action flick but once we've had the big reveal (who is this John Harrison?) it loses some interest for me. The ending gives too much of a nod to The Wrath of Khan. When does homage become just a plain rip-off? Enjoyable though. Looking forward to seeing what JJ Abrams does with the Star Wars franchise after this.
* * *

14th May
The Ex (DVD) - Straight to DVD comedy with Zach Braff and Jason Bateman. Unfortunately it's a real turd. 
* *

15th May
Withnail & I (DVD) - Two struggling actors decide to get away from the squalor of 1969 London and spend a weekend in the Lake District. They talk Withnail's eccentric Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths in a defining career role) into lending them the keys to his Penrith cottage but find that country life is not all that they thought it would be. Quote happy classic that demands more booze whenever you watch it. 
* * * * *

18th May
Amadeus (DVD) - F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce were both nominated for the 1984 Best Actor Oscar for this fictionalised biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the plot against him by his contemporary, the Italian composer Antonio Salieri, consumed by jealousy for his young rival's natural talent. Abraham deservedly won the Oscar but both actors are on top form and supported by an excellent cast. Too many notes? I don't think so. Play on!  
* * * * *

19th May
Copying Beethoven (DVD) - After watching 'Amadeus' I thought I'd give this a try. Ed Harris portrays Beethoven (as a real asswipe) in this dull fictionalised retelling of his 9th symphony composition and final years. Give the film a miss and listen to the symphony instead, much more fun.
* *

Wimbledon (RTP1) - Paul Bettany stars as the English journeyman tennis player who wins Wimbledon after falling in love with a very charmless Kirsten Dunst. Tennis Actually? 
* *

21st May
Frantic (DVD)- Harrison Ford is in the shower of his Paris hotel room when wife is kidnapped. She's mistakenly taken the wrong suitcase from the airport and now he must run around the city trying to find her. Along the way he teams up with a young French chick (director Roman Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner) in a bid to get his woman back. Tense thriller let down by a weak MacGuffin (an unremarkable handheld object that has some sort of nuclear weapon based capabilities) and anticlimactic ending.
* * *

Blow-Up (Portuguese Cable Channel) - 1966 London, a photographer takes some pictures in a park and may have inadvertently photographed a murder. Does this have an effect on the plot? No. Instead we just get a 90 minute advert for Swinging Sixties London. 
* *

23rd May
Klimt (Cinemateca, Lisbon) - Surreal, art house film study of artist Gustav Klimt. More of an allegory than an actual story but interesting enough if you have patience for such films. 
* *

1st June
Populaire (Greenwich Picturehouse) - Small town girl gets a secretarial job and soon finds herself entered into speed typewriting contests, falling in love with her mentor along the way. Billed as 'The Artist meets Mad Men', not sure if that's accurate but a good film nonetheless. 
* * * *

2nd June
2 Days In New York (Sky Movies) - Julie Delpy's French family arrive in New York and impose themselves on her play-it-straight boyfriend Chis Rock. He's the problem for me in this one as her family are the same quirky bunch from the film's predecessor, the funnier '2 Days in Paris', but we lose a bit of that film's charm which centred around her previous beau Adam Goldberg's fish-out-of-water Yank struggling to come to terms with Delpy's past sexual escapades. If you haven't already done so, watch that film first so you aren't disappointed when you watch this one, which pretty much just changes the scenery.
* *

7th June
The Shipping News (Netflix) - Very slow adaptation of the novel sees a repressed Kevin Spacey and his daughter relocate to his ancestral home in remote Newfoundland and try to start a new life.
* *

Dead Man Walking (Netflix) - Nun Susan Sarandon helps redeem Death Row convict Sean Penn. Great performances from both and top soundtrack. 
* * * *

8th June
Downfall (Netflix) - An account of the last days of Hitler from the viewpoint of his real-life secretary. Brilliantly intense and claustrophobic. 
* * * *

The Rock (Sky Movies) - It's dated quite badly but it's still a fine action film. Nic Cage's FBI chemical weapons expert is reluctantly recruited onto a team of Navy Seals to storm Alcatraz to take down Ed Harris' team of mercenary ex-US soldiers who have threatened to unleash their arsenal of nerve gas upon San Francisco. To break into 'the rock' they need the help of former British spy Sean Connery, the only man to have escaped the infamous prison. Cage and Connery both get their fair share of good quotes and it's up there with the best action films of the 90's. We've got green smoke!
* * * *

19th June
Good Bye Lenin! (DVD) - in 1990 a young man tries to convince his awakened-from-coma mother that the Berlin Wall never fell and she still lives in her beloved Socialist East Germany lest she suffer another heart attack. Nice premise but I found it a bit dull. 
* *

23rd June
Dark Shadows (Sky Movies) - Yet another turd from the Burton, Depp, Bonham Carter triumvirate. Too gory for kids, too unfunny for adults. Too lame for everyone. 
*

24th June
Before Sunrise (Sky Movies) - Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train and spend an evening wandering around Vienna and falling in love as he waits for his flight back to the US the following morning. Enjoyable if you're feeling romantic. 
* * *

1st July
Sound Of My Voice (Sky Movies) - A pair of documentary makers infiltrate the cult of a woman who says she's from the future. Is she for real or a con artist? Another ambiguous ending from the team behind Another Earth. 
* * *

4th July
Elizabethtown (Sky Movies) - Orlando Bloom puts his company out of business and then has to sort out his dad's funeral, falling in love with the world's most annoying stewardess along the way. If you've ever seen Garden State then there's no reason for you to watch this. 
* *


7th July
Bullitt (Sky Movies) - Steve McQueen is great as the cop who plays by his own rules. A beautifully shot San Francisco and legendary car chase make up for the lack of plot. 
* * * *


9th July
Get Him To The Greek (Sky Movies) - I really like this film. Russell Brand and Jonah Hill really work as an odd couple while Sean 'Puffy' Coombes is hilarious as the record label boss trying to get Brand's fallen rock star to an anniversary gig.
* * * *

10th July
Lola Versus (Netflix) - Greta Gerwig has relationship trouble in this largely forgettable film. Poor Greta. I like her and she's a good actress but she keeps cropping up in really dull films. Add this to her list of misfires with Greenberg and Damsels in Distress.
* *


14th July
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (ITV) - Best of the original trilogy. After a superb opening 20 minutes in which the Imperial fleet lay siege to the rebel base on the ice planet of Hoth, Luke Skywalker heads to Dagobah to begin his training with an ancient Jedi master. Meanwhile, Han Solo and Princess Leia run into Boba Fett and Darth Vader in Cloud City. Climactic lightsaber fight at the end. Thrilling stuff. 
* * * * *

16th July
Frances Ha (O2 Greenwich) - Hooray! The first good film I've seen Greta Gerwig in. Beautifully shot in black & white, the film centres around Frances, a failed dancer struggling to find her artistic calling. It's well written (by Gerwig and boyfriend/director Noah Baumbach) and it's quite rare for a film to explore the transition that young people go through when you're the wrong side of 25, the anxieties that go with realising that the party of your early 20's is over and you must now do something in life. Worth a watch.
* * * *


19th July
The Watch (Sky Movies) - Ben Stiller's neighbourhood watch team uncover an alien invasion. Plenty of laugh out loud moments in this very silly but funny comedy.
* * *


21st July
Blow (Sky Movies) - Johnny Depp plays George Jung, a pioneer of cocaine trafficking. It's well acted but I found it a bit 'meh'.
* * *


Dredd (Sky Movies) - High action ultra violence in Mega City One. Karl Urban is great as Dredd, all jaw and gravel voiced justice. Sequel welcome!
* * * *



23rd July
Burton & Taylor (BBC) - Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter play the twice divorced stars who reunite for a play on broadway in 1983. Pretty good.
* * *


28th July
Ginger & Rosa (Netflix) - Two inseparable best friends dealing with the start of the Cold War in very different ways. Plenty of drama but short on story and it just meanders along.
* *


30th July
The World's End (O2 Greenwich)- Frost and Pegg team up with Edgar Wright in 3rd of the 3 Flavours Cornetto trilogy. Slow start, terrible plot, lack of gags and rubbish aliens. My Cornetto melted halfway through Hot Fuzz.
*


1st August
Holy Motors
(Netflix) - Bizarre and surreal treat. A man acts out several different characters during one day. Why? God knows. A lament to new technology and acting craft.

* * * *


2nd August
Only God Forgives (Greenwich Picturehouse) - Beautifully shot art film. Revenge is served bloodily. Dialogue is minimal and it practically crawls along. Don't see it if you are looking for an entertaining action film or you'll be disappointed but I thought it was great.
* * * *


3rd August
Untouchable (Sky Movies) - Heart warming drama about a rich paraplegic and his unconventional straight talking Senegalese carer. Good fun.
* * *


4th August
Labyrinth (Hither Green Outdoor Cinema) - A childhood classic. Packed with humour and adventure, some excellent Jim Henson puppets and David Bowie is great as the sinister Goblin King.
* * * * *


5th August
Brave (Sky Movies) - Fantastic visuals can't make up for the lumbering mother-daughter, moral duty story. I hoped for a bit more adventuring and fighting from Merida rather than the numerous haphazard comedy skits.
* * *


6th August
Pain & Gain (Cineworld Bluewater) - Moronic bodybuilders embroil themselves in this true story of kidnap and murder. Great performances from Mark Wahlberg & Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as vacuous meatheads. Better than I was expecting.
* * *


9th August
Celeste & Jesse Forever (Netflix) - If there is such a thing as a Rom-Com without the 'rom' or the 'com' then this is it. A pair of divorcees, inseparable still due to their long standing friendship and love of childish humour (speaking with German accents and jerking off tubes of toothpaste / vegetables) try dating other people. Will they get back together? I can't remember to be honest. #crap
* *


The Bone Collector (Netflix) - Beat cop Angelina Jolie is plucked from the ranks and given forensic assignments by paraplegic hard ass Denzel Washington. Can they solve the case and work out who the serial killer is? I did. After 10 minutes. Terrible ending where Denzel fights off the killer from his bed despite being paralysed from the neck down. The film's big reveal? Denzel literally has more charisma in his little finger than the rest of the cast put together.
* *


13th August
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Sky Movies) - 2nd time around it is just as disappointing. The opening Unexpected Party sequence with it's songs and plate-clearing acrobatics is cringe worthy. The dwarves are deeply unlikeable and poorly cast (some terrible acting), the humour is childish (mentions of golf and croquet do not work in middle earth) and the action sequences are overlong with too little peril (our heroes carve their way through Goblin Town, the Goblins having the physical consistency of warm butter). I have high hopes for the sequel (Smaug should up the peril-factor) but this was a lame beginning. A poor mans Fellowship.
* * *


1st September
Elysium (Greenwich Picturehouse) - We've seen it all before in superior Sci-Fi actioners. Story is a little trite and predictable (we know our hero will sacrifice himself for the good of mankind after about 10 minutes). The bad guys, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copely, are guilty of some very terrible crimes - overacting being the most heinous.
* *


5th September
Django Unchained (Dulwich Park Outdoor Cinema) - Christophe Waltz's German bounty hunter sets Jamie Foxx's slave free in this ultra stylish and bloody Tarantino follow up to Inglorious Basterds. The main duo are excellent as master & apprentice and Leo DiCaprio makes a great villain but the film is 20 minutes too long and can't recover from the loss of one of our principle players. Great film nonetheless.
* * * *



8th September
Departures (Netflix) - A man decided to give up his career as a cellist in Tokyo and move back to his small hometown where he begins an apprenticeship as a 'coffiner' (a preparer of dead bodies for the next world), a profession looked down upon by his wife and friends. Funny and touching without doing anything special.
* * *


Oldboy (Netflix) - Cult Korean classic. A man is released from 15 years solitary confinement with no knowledge of why he was kidnapped and imprisoned. He seeks out the truth and revenge upon his anonymous captor with bloody consequences and a killer twist.
* * * *


12th September
Moneyball (Sky Movies) - Oakland A's can't compete in the money stakes with their Major League rivals so Brad Pitt's General Manager hires sabermetrics wiz Jonah Hill to implement a new way of thinking to playing baseball. Hill and Pitt hit their performances out of the ballpark. A new approach to baseball brings an inspired new approach to the sports film genre.
* * * * *


The Abyss (Sky Movies) - An extended Special Edition version of James Cameron's underwater classic. Deep sea oil workers are seconded by the US military to help in a search and rescue of a sunken nuclear sub. Navy Seal Michael Biehn is already jittery, so the arrival of unknown alien beings makes him go even more batshit crazy while our hero oil workers Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio try to overcome their broken marriage to avert global disaster. Great Sci-Fi let down a bit by the ending.
* * *



13th September
The Rookie (Netflix) - True story of Jim Morris who promised to try out for MLB at the age of 35 if his school team won the championship. They won, he tried out, and guess what? The guy can throw. Fast. We follow his rise up the leagues to play for the Tampa Bay Rays and becomes a local hero to his small town community. It's saccharine sweet from Disney but Dennis Quaid provides it with some left arm charm.
* * *



Trouble With The Curve (Sky Movies) - You could describe this film as the 'anti Moneyball'. Stats don't matter to gruff old scout Clint Eastwood who relies upon his eyes as a judge of a players talent. His eyes are going however and so he enlists the help of his baseball loving daughter to help him on one last scouting mission even though they detest each other. Timberlake is along for the ride as a rival scout and love interest but just gets in the way really. Sabermetrics are struck out by a curve ball in this romantic ode to old fashioned scouting but if I were to compare the two films, Trouble With The Curve swings and misses compared to Moneyball's Major League hitter.
* * *


Rush (O2 Greenwich) - Ron Howard directs this take on the great F1 rivalry between playboy James Hunt and the disciplined Nikki Lauda during the infamous 1976 season. The racing action is fast paced but it's the performances of the two leads, Daniel Bruhl in particular, that really stand out.
* * * *


Pitch Perfect (Sky Movies) - Glee style acapella comedy. There's not much to say really. They go from being terrible to winning the state championship (of acapella singing??!).
* *



22nd September
Ruby Sparks (Sky Movies) - Paul Dano has writers block and social issues so he writes about his dream girlfriend and she magically becomes real. He then makes various re-writes to her personality before he eventually fucks it all up. Kitsch and annoying.
* *


23rd September
The Count Of Monte Cristo (Netflix) - Swashbuckling take on Alexander Dumas' novel of jealousy, imprisonment and revenge. It's a really good version and worth a watch.
* * *



25th September
Jurassic Park (Sky Movies)- Hard to believe this film is 20 years old. I remember going to see it twice in 1993 and I still think its brilliant. Just in case you haven't seen it, a rich eccentric builds a dinosaur theme park and populates it with real dinos cloned from the DNA of fossilised mosquitos. He invites a selection of scientists to come and give the park a seal of approval but things go badly the wrong once the power goes out. Great characters and the animals still look pretty realistic even by today's high standards. Jeff Goldblum is my personal favourite as wise-cracking chaotician Dr. Ian Malcolm.
* * * * *



1st October
Sunshine On Leith (O2 Greenwich) - Dexter Fletcher directs this cheesy musical set in Edinburgh about the love lives of two returning soldiers and their families. The acting gets in the way of some great Proclaimers songs.
* *



7th October
A Royal Affair (Netflix) - Danish period drama about the Queen of Denmark having an affair with the mad king's doctor. Well done but not really my cup of tea.
* *



10th October
Jaws (Sky Movies)- Roy Scheider's Chief Brody is terrified of the water, and that's even before a 25ft Great White shows up to terrorise Amity. The film's at its best when it's just the 3 guys out to sea but there's tension all the way through thanks to John Williams' score. Even the obviously-rubber shark doesn't let the film down.
* * * *


11th October
Back To The Future (Sky Movies) - It's simply brilliant, the plot, the cast, the characters and the gags. Marty McFly goes back in time and his act of valour changes the course of history, which he must make amends for in order to save his own existence. Best of the trilogy.
* * * * *


12th October
Back To The Future II (Sky Movies) - Almost as good as Part I but takes itself far less seriously and has a lot more fun with the future and the advanced technologies (it's set in 2015. Just over a year to wait until we have flying cars. Huzzah!).
* * * *


14th October
Glorious 39 (BBC) - Romola Garai is an adopted aristocrat who discovers some mysterious secrets about her family as Britain is on the verge of war with Germany. It's set up very well but let down by a very poor climax.
* *



15th October
Aliens (Sky Movies) - James Cameron's all action sequel to Ridley Scott's space horror is a completely different beast but just as good a film in my view. Ellen Ripley, fresh out of stasis is thrown straight back into the zenomorphs lair with a team of cocky marines who have no idea what they are up against. Full of good quotes and thrilling suspense, try and watch the director's extended cut if you can for maximum enjoyment.
* * * *



21st October
Seven Psychopaths (Netflix) - Great for the 1st hour, sharp, funny but then it descends into farce for the last 30 minutes and becomes a bit boring and unrealistic. Not quite In Bruges but a good try.
* * *



24th October
Catch 22 (Sky Movies) - I saw this last year and I thought it was really interesting. The film follows the book's timeline, in that scenes jump back and forth through time, some scenes repeated several times and each time showing more and more. There's no straight narrative and plays out as an anti war satire (much like M*A*S*H), each time demonstrating various 'Catch 22' situations. Great cast and Alan Alda is excellent as Captain Yossarian.
* * * *



25th October
Gangster Squad (Sky Movies) - Cops n' robbers-by-numbers. A bunch of clich├ęd cops (the 1949 A-Team?) go after crime boss Micky Cohen. It wants to be The Untouchables or LA Confidential but in reality it's more Dick Tracey. A poor waste of a good cast.
* *



27th October
Ghostbusters (Sky Movies) - A film that doesn't really need a review. It's dated but it's still great.
* * * *


Fright Night (2011) (Sky Movies) - Anton Yelchin lives in a small Las Vegas town and suspects his next door neighbour may be a vampire.
* *



The Elephant Man (BBC) - John Hurt gives a terrific, Oscar-nominated performance as John Merrick, a man suffering complete disfigurement from birth and who is discovered by Anthony Hopkins Dr Treves who agrees to care for him at his hospital, discovering the very articulate and sensitive man behind the monstrous appearance. Shot in period black and white it's based on the real life of Joseph Merrick who died aged 27 and it's based on Treves memoirs. I thought it was quite brilliant and actually shed a couple of tears while watching (something I don't generally do).
* * * * *



3rd November
This Is 40 (Sky Movies) - This sequel to Knocked Up follows that film's periphery characters Pete and Debbie as they approach a landmark birthday. Personally I quite like Judd Apatow films and this is no exception as there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, especially from Apatow's real-life wife Leslie Mann and their kids Maude and Iris. The family banter is crude and true to life and although the film is a little too long I enjoyed it a lot.
* * * *



5th November
Parkland (O2 Greewich) - A semi-fictionalised account of the JFK assassination and the events that take place at Parkland Hospital over the next 3 days. It's interesting enough for those who want to know more about the events in Dallas but it's not a very entertaining film.
* *



10th November
Zero Dark Thirty (Sky Movies) - I thought this was very good if not a little like an extended episode of Homeland. Criticised for its portrayal of US torture methods (Hey! Don't water board people then!) this was expected to win a haul of Oscars but didn't. Jessica Chastain is very good though. Eyes peeled for light-entertainment's John Barrowman.
* * * *



12th November
Gravity (O2 Greenwich) - I left the cinema feeling a little disappointed by this but after a few days kept thinking about it and realising how much I liked it. Very disorientating, it's glorious in 3D and space has never looked so beautiful. Sandra Bullock gets better with age too.
* * *



17th November
Thor: The Dark World (O2 Greenwich) - Chris Hemsworth's Asgardian thunder god Thor goes stomping around various worlds, smashing his mighty hammer Mjolnir like there's no tomorrow, and maybe there isn't, because Christopher Ecclestone's dark elf Malekith wants to turn everything to darkness. Luckily our man and his merry band of twerps are here, in Greenwich, to save the day. It's light, entertaining and with plenty of humour, as comic book films should be. Take that Batman!
* * *


21st November
Blackfish (Sky Movies) - Superb documentary about the plight of killer whales in captivity at Seaworld and the deadly effects this can have upon the staff who train these magnificent animals. Here we focus on one particularly notorious orca named Tilikum who has been responsible for 3 deaths while in captivity and get the accounts of several trainers who worked there during the 90's. It's gripping stuff and some scenes are quite upsetting to watch.
* * * * *



22nd November
Mama (Sky Movies) - Jessica Chastain, the busiest girl in Hollywood, pops up again in this horror, playing against type as a tattooed, bass playing rock chick having to play surrogate mum to the weird nieces of her boyfriend (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, still waiting for a role he deserves off the back of his performances as Ser Jaime Lannister in Game Of Thrones) who are found in the woods. Turns out they already have a surrogate mother...Mama, and guess what? She's an evil ghost. What started as a promising film loses it's focus halfway through once the scary reveal has been made. There's a Maguffun about a box of baby bones that we never really understand and the ending is plain ridiculous. I didn't care for this Mama at all.
*



26th November
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (O2 Greenwich) - Idris Elba plays the great man as we watch him transcend from tribal boyhood to leader of the new South Africa. Mandela goes from idealistic lawyer to reluctant terrorist before spending his best years on Robben Island, all the while trying to maintain relationships with his wife Winnie (Naomi Harris is terrific) and children. To my untrained ear the accents hold up pretty well but as you expect from a film with a 2 hour 20 minute running time (and a large chunk of it in prison) it can be a little slow at times. Very interesting for those who grew up knowing Mandela was a great hero but not really understanding why.
* * *


28th November
Safety Not Guaranteed (Netflix) - A journalist and 2 interns head to the coast to follow up on a newspaper article from a man asking for a companion to travel back in time with him. Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is the lonely intern who falls for the charismatic weirdo Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who seems like a paranoid fantasist until she starts to see that he might actually be telling the truth. The characters are all nicely played and there's a subplot about the cocky journo rekindling an old romance with his high school crush but the ending could have been less rushed. Satisfaction not guaranteed but enjoyable enough for those who like an indie flick.
* * *



1st December
Trading Places (Sky Movies) - Billy-Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy as the wise cracking kid from the streets) and Louis Winthorpe (White collar, Harvard whiz-kid Dan Ackroyd) have their lives and social statuses switched by the latter's bosses to see if success is determined by genes or a product of environment. Their lives are turned upside down but the two eventually get wise and come up with a plan for revenge. One of my favourite films and 80's comedy at its best.
* * * * *


5th December
A Christmas Carol (DVD) - My personal favourite version of the Dickens Classic. Patrick Stewart's Scrooge is convincing as the black-hearted miser who is visited by a series of Christmas spirits. I watch this every Christmas and I think it's superb. Watch it, with or without a bowl of Smoking Bishop! 
* * * * *



14th December
The Sixth Sense (Sky Movies) - A good introduction to M Night Shyamalan films (when he still made good ones). People will go on about the twist which is excellent on first viewing but it still stands up even if you've seen it a dozen times. Slow-paced and Haley Joel Osment is a little annoying even though he's really good as the boy who can see dead people. Pity Shyamalan can't make all his films as good as this.
* * * *


15th December
Romancing The Stone (ITV) - Originally billed as a copycat Raiders Of The Lost Ark on initial release (despite being written 5 years beforehand) this definitely has it's own place among the great adventure film. Kathleen Turner's romance novelist is the fish-out-of-water in gangland Colombia. Luckily she stumbles across reluctant hero Michael Douglas who adds a good dose of humour and they have great chemistry (they went on to appear opposite each other in 2 more films). The bad guys are just as much fun as the good guys and I think the great characters in the film really make it work. Watch it, buy some snakeskin boots and sail off into the sunset.
* * * *


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (O2 Greenwich) - I enjoyed this a lot more than The Hobbit. We're thrown straight into the action without any songs and the action set pieces are really well done, especially the scene with the barrels. There are some problems though; Too many Orcs spoil the broth (they are barely in the book), cropping up anywhere and everywhere. Beorn is breezily skipped over despite being one of the most interesting characters and there's no escape from the fundamental issue; the unlikeable dwarves. Even Fili and Kili come across as a couple of assholes. Throw in a weird elf-dwarf love triangle and the film's in serious trouble of becoming a completely separate fiction from the text. Luckily there are saving graces; Martin Freeman's Bilbo and *Sir-Ian-Sir-Ian's Gandalf are rock solid. Bard The Bargeman (Bowman?) provides the Aragornesque humble heroism and the real winner is Smaug who is well conceived as the horrible-bastard-dragon. The sooner Thorin gets killed off the better...ok it's a spoiler but if you haven't read the book then shame on you.
* * * *
(*Check out Ian McKellen in 'Extras')

A Christmas Carol (see 5th Dec)
* * * * *



23rd December
It's A Wonderful Life (DVD) - Christmas classic about a small town boy George Bailey's desire to see the big, wide world but having his opportunities blocked by a series of misfortunes. Deeply frustrated and victimised by his business nemesis, George considers suicide before an angel, Clarence, pays him a visit to show him how he's affected the lives of the towns people for the better. It's great!
* * * * *



24th December
Die Hard (DVD) - Some misers say this isn't a Christmas film but it's probably in my top 3 for the festive season. John McClane winds up in the middle of a terrorist takeover of the Nokatomi Plaza and launches a one-man assault on the bad guys led Alan Rickman's sharp-suited Hans Grueber. Great action and plenty of humour. Quote-friendly classic.
* * * * *

Avengers Assemble - (See 17th February)
* * * *



25th December
The Sound Of Music (RTP1)- The Von Trapp kids suffer the coldness of their disciplinarian father until Maria, a nun too lively for the convent, comes to teach them how to sing and shows their father how to love again. Another family cracker for all the family.
* * * *


27th December
New Year's Eve (Sky Movies) - Awful hash of a comedy. It sets out to emulate Love Actually with its ensemble of A-list stars and interconnected storylines but it falls flat on its face. There is no plot as such, apart from, you know, it's New Year's Eve, and various characters have to be somewhere in time for midnight. It must have been Robert De Niro's lowest ebb. He probably only agreed to be in it on the strict condition that he only shared screen time with fellow Oscar winners Halle Berry and Hilary Swank (who were equally willing to phone in their parts in this humiliating turd). Please, please don't let 2013 end like this?!
*


30th December
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (BBC) - Marilyn Monroe shows off her curves and comedy skills as the blonde half of a musical double act alongside Jane Russell's straight talking brunette. There's plenty of song and dance numbers as our gals cross the Atlantic on a liner bound for France with a whole host of gentlemen suitors craving their attention. Light and enjoyable.
* * *


Cloud Atlas (Sky Movies) - Just like 'New Year's Eve', this has several interwoven stories and characters. Unlike it, this is actually pretty good. I'm not going to explain the plot because, well, I can't, but I did like it.
* * *



Raiders Of The Lost Ark (ITV) - I finish 2013 with a cracker. First of the Indiana Jones films and arguably the best (though I still prefer Last Crusade) see Indy travel to Cairo in search of the Ark of the Covenant, a mystical box said to have contained the 10 Commandments. Unfortunately the Nazis also want the ark (damned nazis!) and have employed Indy's arch rival Belloq to get it for them. I've always found the ending a bit unsatisfying but the journey to it more than makes up for it. That's all folks!
* * * * *

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