100 Favourites II — The Top 10

And so I reach the pinnacle of my list — my most favourite films I’ve seen for the first time in the past ten years. (Well, if we’re being precise, in the past ten years and three months, but not counting anything from the last three months. But that’s less snappy.)

Over three previous posts I’ve counted down #100 to #11, but here’s the perfectly rounded number everyone loves for a list: the top ten.

#10
Dark City


4th from 2008
(previously 3rd | original review)

Before The Matrix there was Dark City, which tackles some of the same philosophical issues as the Wachowskis’ trilogy, only in a less opaque and verbose fashion — and, as I said, did so first. Of course, it lacks the groundbreaking action sequences that made The Matrix such a hit, but as a thoughtful piece of stylish sci-fi noir it probably bests its better-known thematic cousins. I also reckon it’s still a bit underrated… including by me, really, because it’s nine years since I first watched it and I still haven’t got round to seeing the Director’s Cut. (Note to self: fix that.)

#9
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn


1st from 2014
(previously 2nd | original review)

Calling on the same skill set that produced the Indiana Jones movies, Steven Spielberg created an adventure movie that perfectly balances plot, action, and humour. Despite the freedom afforded by crafting the entire thing in CGI (rendered with stunning realism by Weta), Spielberg knows when to hold back and maintain a level of realism, only to cut loose when warranted. The top end of this list definitely skews blockbustery-y — well, it is “favourite” rather than some kind of “objective best” (not that that’d be strictly possible anyway) — but, nonetheless, I think Tintin is a very fine and underrated example of the form.

#8
Kick-Ass


1st from 2010
(previously 1st | original review)

As Watchmen was to superhero comics, so Kick-Ass is to superhero films: taking familiar building blocks from other films and TV series, it deconstructs the genre through a “what if someone tried to be a superhero for real” storyline, asking questions about the glorification of violence and the sexualisation of its characters — all while being a funny and exciting action-comedy. Perhaps it’s having its cake and eating it, and that leads some people to miss the point (some by enjoying it a bit too much, some by thinking it has nothing to say), but I don’t think that stops it being one of the best and most thoughtful superhero movies yet made.

#7
Let the Right One In


1st from 2011
(previously 3rd | original review)

It’s felt like you can’t escape vampires in film and TV for the last couple of decades, but trust a European movie to give them a unique spin, right? So it’s both a coming-of-age-y arthouse-y movie about two 12-year-olds and first love, and a scary horror movie about violent supernatural creatures. It works by not shortchanging either aspect, instead combining them to transcend genre boundaries. So it’s a genuinely touching, emotional and relatable drama, as well as a creepy and horrific fantasy thriller.

#6
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


1st from 2015
(previously 1st | original review)

There’s always been a bit of a ‘wannabe’ air to the Mission: Impossible films, like maybe someone thought it could fill the void left by Bond disappearing post-Dalton, only it took so long to make it to the screen that Bond himself got there first in the shape of Pierce Brosnan. Nonetheless, the series has trundled along… though I don’t want to sound like I’m doing it down too much because I’ve always enjoyed it — the second one made my first 100 Favourites list, even. But Rogue Nation is where M:I finally out-Bonds Bond. Mixing action thrills and a genuine sense of jeopardy with just-ahead-of-reality gadgets, a knowing sense of humour, and a cast full of likeable characters, it’s superb blockbuster entertainment.

#5
Seven Samurai


1st from 2013
(previously 1st | original review)

A phrase like “three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie” is going to conjure up a certain experience in the minds of most viewers. That experience is most probably nothing like Seven Samurai — although it is, of course, a three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie. On the surface it’s about a bunch of warriors protecting a small impoverished village that can’t defend itself, and it has a lengthy action-packed climax to deliver on such promise, but it rises above that thanks to its reflective attitude towards its characters and their very existence. No, wait, I said it’s not your typical three-and-a-half-hour subtitled black-and-white movie!

#4
Rashomon


3rd from 2008
(previously 5th | original review)

I’d wager most would rank Seven Samurai higher in the Akira Kurosawa canon, but I give Rashomon the edge because the form of its storytelling appeals to me. It retells the events surrounding a murder from the subjective viewpoint of each of the characters who were there, and of course their accounts differ. Its title has become a byword for such narratives, but there’s more here than just trendsetting plot construction — it’s a fantastically made film, exquisitely shot and magnificently performed.

#3
Zodiac


2nd from 2008
(previously 2nd | original review)

David Fincher’s meticulous true crime thriller may be his best movie — and when we’re talking about the man who made Se7en and Fight Club, that’s certainly saying a lot. It may look like it’s a murder thriller — it is about the hunt for a serial killer, after all — but in many respects it’s more about obsession and addiction, and how such things can come to take over your life. But if you don’t want to ponder that kind of thing, there’s always chills like the basement scene to keep you viscerally engaged. (The slightly-different Director’s Cut is the better version of the film and, if we’re being specific, would be my pick here; but I watched that a couple of years later, so it was the theatrical cut that figured in 2008’s top ten.)

#2
Skyfall


1st from 2012
(previously 1st | original review)

The James Bond films have always been action blockbusters, and more often than not immensely popular and successful ones. Skyfall changed the game though: by hiring Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes it was instantly booted into Prestige Picture territory — and still managed to deliver the most financially successful film in the series’ long history, the first billion-dollar Bond. But box office success is not why Skyfall is #2 on my list. It’s the beautiful cinematography; the way it adds thematic weight to the character without breaking the formula; the sense of Bond’s history without over-explicit reverence — and the way those aspects makes it both familiar and fresh at the same time. Plus it delivers on the action, larger-than-life villain, and one-liners just like a Bond film should. Its artistic success may be a case of the stars aligning and lightning striking (the lacking-by-comparison follow-up Spectre proved that), but Bond has rarely been better.

#1
The Dark Knight


1st from 2008
(previously 1st | original review)

Eight years and three months ago, when I named The Dark Knight my #1 film of 2008, I wrote that “I’m unashamedly one of those who believe The Dark Knight isn’t just one of the best films of 2008, it’s one of the best films ever.” It’s nice to be able to stand by such a brazen assertion. And, having thought long and hard about what I would declare as my most favouritest movie from the 1,283 new ones that I’ve seen in the last decade, I clearly do stand by it. I love superhero movies, I love crime thrillers, and I love epics, so it’s no surprise that a movie which combines all three — and does them all well — would top a list of my favourite movies.

Now: what’s a good list without some statistics?

The Best & Worst of 2016

I watched so many films in 2016 that I’d forgotten I saw some of them so recently. Going back over the list, there were films I watched as late as March that I was amazed weren’t things I’d seen a couple of years ago. I don’t know what this signifies, really, other than that watching almost 200 films in a year has warped my perspective.

Anyway, it’s now time to consider the quality of that viewing: which films were the worst? Which the best? And what did I miss?

So without further ado…



The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2016

This year I saw some films so bad that Home on the Range hasn’t made my bottom five! In alphabetical order, they were…

300: Rise of an Empire300: Rise of an Empire
300 was hardly the height of cinematic class, but this makes it look like an accomplished work of auteurism (though, considering how Zack Snyder has continued down a similar aesthetic path, perhaps it always was). It’s just poorly made, with flat performances, cheap direction, aimless violence, and CGI that wouldn’t look great in a computer game.

Cool WorldCool World
Maybe if director Ralph Bakshi had got his way Cool World would be a masterpiece. Maybe not, too. Torn between conflicting interests (it’s a kid-friendly movie with adult content) and with distractingly poor technical aspects (the animation and live action often seem mismatched), it’s an unappealing mess.

HomeHome
DreamWorks’ animated movies never quite achieve the crossover acclaim that greets almost anything Pixar spit out, which is sometimes a shame… and sometimes it really isn’t, like with this irritating movie about an irritating alien and his irritating human friend. Pixar have never made anything this annoying. Not even Cars.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp AgainThe Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
“Is this even worse [than The Rocky Horror Glee Show]? Well, that’s a bit like someone forcing you to eat a dog shit and a cat shit before asking you which tasted nicer.” Most accurate review I’ve ever written.


The Twilight Saga: New MoonThe Twilight Saga: New Moon
New Moon contains the single funniest scene in any movie I’ve seen this year. Unfortunately, New Moon is not a comedy (not deliberately, anyway) and that scene is not a comedy interlude (not deliberately, anyway). For all the Twilight saga’s other sins, I will forever love it for giving us Face Punch. (Oh, but the rest of the film is pretty terrible.)



The Twenty Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2016

Last year I commemorated the fact I’d doubled my titular target by also doubling the size of my top ten, joking about having never done a percentage increase before. But that got me thinking: what if I did? So from now on my “top 10” will be a “top 10%” — which this year means it’s a top 20 again.

My guiding principle when ranking this year’s picks became films that excited me — not in the adrenaline-pumping sense of having fantastic action sequences, but in the sense of films which left me feeling thrilled by their cinematic achievements. Not that I’m saying every film here is some wonder of Cinema, just that the notion guided some of my choices. It’s ended up with some very good, perhaps even better, films slipping down the chart. But never mind: as is usually the case with lists like this, it’s only a snapshot of my thinking right now.

Finally: as always, this list is created from the movies I watched for the first time this year, not just new releases. However, I did watch 38 films that had their UK release in 2016, and six of them are in my top twenty, so I’ve noted their ‘2016 rank’ too.

An intelligent, considered sci-fi movie that ponders artificial intelligence and its potential right to life, but also a gripping psychological thriller about three individuals locked in a bunker. And there’s Oscar Isaac’s dance scene too.

Sion Sono’s comic book epic mixes battle rap, comic grotesques, ultra violence, gratuitous nudity, more barmy notions than you can shake a stick at, and probably the kitchen sink too, into possibly the most batshit-crazy movie I’ve ever seen. Is it trash or art? It can be two things.

Wes Anderson described his typically-idiosyncratic young-love adventure as “an autobiography about something that didn’t happen”, which is possibly my favourite description of a film ever. A movie for the romantic adventurer in every childhood bookworm.

The best comedy or musical of 2015 is neither of those things, but it is one in a pleasing run of intelligent sci-fi movies Hollywood is offering these days. Trust Ridley Scott and Matt Damon to make a movie about using science to grow potatoes into a gripping adventure.

An underrated le Carré thriller starring Sean Connery as a book publisher coerced into helping MI6 and the CIA bring over a defector, alongside Michelle Pfeiffer as his Russian contact. Strong performances enliven a typically le Carré plot: grounded, plausible, unguessable, with a surprising conclusion.

2016 #6 A neo-noir crime thriller about racism featuring nudism and drug abuse… from Disney! It’s still a kid-friendly animated comedy, of course, but one that functions particularly well — arguably even better — for adult fans.

It looks like such a boilerplate indie movie that I kinda expected to hate this, but it caught me off guard with characters I related to and a story that I found affecting without being saccharine. Probably the most emotional a movie has made me feel this year.

Famed for Daniel Day-Lewis’ awards-scooping performance that is arguably one of the greatest of all time, there’s actually much more to Spielberg’s biopic. Playing like a gorgeously-shot period version of The West Wing, if you like men politicking in gaslit rooms, this is heaven.

Now we move into my Top Ten. Yeah, I know it’s #12, but I really thought these two would make it. I guess they’re kinda =10th, then; though that would be cheating… Anyway: I hadn’t even heard of this movie before this year, but the coincidence of a blog post and a Blu-ray release led me to purchase it and I was so glad I did. It’s Rear Windscreen meets Duel Down Under in a superb Ozploitation thriller.

2016 #5 Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling reveal rarely-seen comic talent as a pair of not-actually-that-nice guys who nonetheless have some morals in Shane Black’s spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. This has just as convoluted a plot, and it matters just as little — its major asset is that it’s frequently hilarious.

2016 #4 Yes, really. And, just so we’re clear on what’s going on here, neither Civil War nor Doctor Strange are in my Top 9. Is BvS ‘better’ than anything Marvel Studios put out this year? Hm. But is it a more interesting movie? I thought so. Zack Snyder made a dark, morally ambiguous, imperfect movie that reflects the dark, morally ambiguous, imperfect days we live in. Perhaps it’s just too timely for its own good? People don’t seem to want a movie that questions our heroes and our relationship towards them in a world where real-life heroes feel in short supply. It’s clearly not the movie a lot of people think they need, but maybe it’s the one they deserve right now.

Of all the films on this list, Cold in July has arguably the most surprising plot: it takes sharp right-angle turns at several points, never breaking the style and genre it sets itself in, but instead shuttling the viewer off in entirely different directions than expected. By the time it reaches its action-packed climax, you have no idea quite what it’s going to do — and how better to end a neo-noir thriller than that?

2016 #3 This may be all the way down in 8th place, but in some respects it’s #1: I’m not sure I’ve had more pure fun watching a movie this year than I did during Deadpool (The Nice Guys would be closest). Okay, so it’s a little puerile really, but the humour comes thick and fast, and the regular fourth-wall breaking undercuts not just the film but the whole superhero genre. Having talked about the excitement of great Cinema at the start, this isn’t that, but it is a fantastically good time.

Steven Soderbergh transforms a pretty straightforward revenge story into an elliptical narrative that has you constantly questioning what you’re watching — is it flashback, flash-forward, a dream, a plan, a fantasy…? In the end it’s probably none of those things, but Soderbergh’s unusual editing techniques create an arthouse/mainstream mash-up that is a uniquely querying, mystifying, yet satisfying experience.

2016 #2 In an era when Hollywood considers “science-fiction” a byword for “action-adventure”, it’s all the more remarkable that an intelligent, adult drama like this was backed by a major studio. It’s partly a timely message about the need for mankind to understand each other across nations and work together, but it’s also a thoughtful meditation on the human condition — what it means to be human, what it costs us, and if it’s worth it. Director Denis Villeneuve paces events sublimely, imbuing the alien spacecraft with a wonder and fascination that you’d’ve thought lost in modern “anything is possible” cinema, but the film really belongs to Amy Adams and her layered, affectingly real performance.

Another thought-provoking science-fiction movie (for those not keeping count, it’s the fourth in this list), Predestination has been less heralded but deserves to be better known. Adapted from a short story by genre giant Robert A. Heinlein, it’s satisfying both as a tangled time travel mystery (with some great twists, whether you guess them or not) and as a consideration of human and historical issues about things like identity and feminism.

2016 #1 I’m as surprised as anyone by how much I liked The Revenant, having not been particularly enamoured of the previous Alejandro G. Iñárritu films I’d seen, but this gruelling survival-story Western oozes excellence from every frame. Leo’s pretty good, as are the rest of the cast, but Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is the highlight: appropriately crisp depictions of wintery nature, an incredible use of natural light, and single-shot sequences that blow Birdman out of the water. By telling the story primarily with these visuals, Iñárritu has created a work of true cinema.

Like Lincoln, this is a beautifully-shot biopic about people stood around in rooms talking. The big gun it has in its corner, however, is an actual West Wing writer — its creator, no less — Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin’s screenplay is a precisely constructed marvel, brought to the screen by a quality cast capable of wrapping their tongues around his magnificent dialogue, and in Danny Boyle a director with the right visual sensibilities to make the material sing. What could have just been an Apple fanboy’s wet dream is instead a gripping character drama with a surprising corporate thriller vibe at times.

An orange to The Raid’s apple, this sequel is bigger and grander in every conceivable aspect. A sprawling crime epic, spanning many years, many locations, and many characters, it’s the antithesis of the tightly-focused first film — but all the better for it. Even with the more intricate plot, there’s still plenty of time for elaborate action sequences, crafted with even greater skill and inventiveness than the first movie. It’s surely one of the greatest action movies ever made.

In a top twenty filled with crime thrillers (see: #15, #11, #9, #7, #2), gorgeously-shot movies (see: #13, #6, #4, #3), and remarkable female leads (see: #20, #15, #6, #5), it’s only fitting that a film which does all of these so skilfully should top my list. Emily Blunt is the powerhouse FBI agent who finds herself out of her depth in a complex cross-agency investigation that leads her, and us, to some dark and morally questionable places. It’s all incredibly shot by the reliably amazing Roger Deakins. Between this and his other entry in my top ten, I think Denis Villeneuve has marked himself out as one of the most exciting directors working right now.


I always want to include this section of my post, but sometimes I’m not quite sure what to put in it — if it was just some more ranked films, I’d’ve included them above. But this year I have something concrete to begin with, because there were several films that I surprised myself by not including in my top twenty. They were films that I really liked — and, perhaps even more so, lots of other people really liked and include in their lists — but which, for some reason, when I was sorting through my options, fell by the wayside in favour of… well, in favour of the films that did make it in. I’m talking about films like Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (maybe that’s not on many other lists, but I really enjoyed it), The Iron Giant… and, of course, Rogue One. My already mixed feelings about the latest Star Wars movie were massaged by happening to read Andrew Ellard’s Tweetnotes and Film Crit Hulk’s dissection of the film while preparing this list, and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything they have to say, between them they managed to clarify and illuminate some problems I already had with the movie, and that kinda put me off its inclusion.

A shout out, too, for those less-widely-loved films that I really, really liked but couldn’t quite justify being in this top twenty — films like Crimson Peak, Dragon (Wu Xia), The Good Dinosaur, Grand Piano, Lost River, Pan, and Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights. And despite all those Shaw Brothers movies I watched, none ended up charting — but One-Armed Swordsman came close.

Finally, I can’t end this without mentioning the 26 films that earned 5-star ratings this year — especially as I haven’t actually published reviews for nine of them yet! So, 15 made it into the top twenty, but as they’re spread throughout the list I’ll name them again: Arrival, Cold in July, Deadpool, Ex Machina, The Limey, Lincoln, The Martian, The Nice Guys, Predestination, The Raid 2, The Revenant, Road Games, The Russia House, Sicario, and Steve Jobs. The other 11 were: 12 Years a Slave, Barry Lyndon, Hamlet, The Iron Giant, Macbeth, Napoleon, The Pianist, Spotlight, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Witness for the Prosecution, and Wuthering Heights. Additionally, short film The Present also got full marks.


During 2016 I watched 38 movies that were released in 2016, but of course that means there were plenty I missed. As usual, then, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films that are listed as 2016 on IMDb (unless IMDb got it glaringly wrong) that I’ve not yet seen.

They’re chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety — though I’ve decided to not include any more bloody Ice Age films on these lists, because they keep making them, they keep doing pretty well at the box office, and I keep not watching them.

The BFG
Ghostbusters
The Jungle Book
La La Land
Moonlight
Nocturnal Animals
Finding Dory
The Handmaiden
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
The Neon Demon
Silence
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Allied
Assassin’s Creed
Ben-Hur
The BFG
Blair Witch
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Don’t Breathe
Eddie the Eagle
Everybody Wants Some!!
Finding Dory
Ghostbusters
The Girl on the Train
Gods of Egypt
Hail, Caesar!
The Handmaiden
Hell or High Water
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
I, Daniel Blake
Independence Day: Resurgence
Inferno
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
La La Land
The Legend of Tarzan
Live by Night
London Has Fallen
The Magnificent Seven
Manchester by the Sea
Me Before You
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Moana
A Monster Calls
Moonlight
The Neon Demon
Nocturnal Animals
Now You See Me 2
Passengers
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Sausage Party
The Secret Life of Pets
Silence
Sing
Sing Street
Sully: Miracle on the Hudson
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Warcraft: The Beginning
Your Name

…and many more.


And that’s 2016 over… apart from the 36 reviews I still have to post, of course. I think that’s one of my worst ever. That’s what comes of not doing my advent calendar.

It’s also the end of 100 Films’ first decade, which I intend to make even more of a fuss about than I already have when the official birthday rolls around at the end of February. I’m thinking lists, and probably statistics. Any excuse for some statistics.

But, for now, all that remains is for me to thank you for reading and wish you all the best with your own film-watching endeavours. Let’s hope 2017 is a better one for us all.

2015 In Retrospect

2015 was, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, the largest ever year of 100 Films — or 200 Films in a Year, as it’s currently known. For 2015 only, I think, because I have no intention of trying to replicate that feat next year (see here for more on that topic).

How better to finally wrap up a year than with a look at the best and worst, right? As always, my picks are not culled from films freshly released in 2015, but from this list of my personal viewing. (For what it’s worth, that list includes 22 releases from 2015, as well as 37 from 2014, some of which others would count as 2015 titles… and some of them have indeed made my best-of list.)

You can also vote for your favourites from my pick, and find out which 50 most noteworthy new films I didn’t see. There might be a few surprise along the way, too.

So without further ado…



The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2015

In alphabetical order…

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher
Marvel may dominate the live-action superhero arena right now, but DC has the edge in animation — and work like this is going to do nothing to change that. An uninteresting story that’s blandly told in every regard, this is a total waste of time.

Blitz
There are a lot of very, very good actors in this Jason Statham vehicle, but it’s a terrible film that’s even below standard for the star, let alone his supporting cast. So bad it feels like a spoof, there is no good reason for anyone to watch this movie.

Jack the Giant Slayer
X-Men’s Bryan Singer is the latest filmmaker to take a fairytale and give it the Lord of the Rings treatment. That formula doesn’t work here, unfortunately. The result is a flat, cheap-looking, overlong bore. Another waste of good talent.

Parabellum
Alfred Hitchcock once said that “movies are real life with the boring parts cut out.” I guess this isn’t a movie, then, because it’s not real life and it’s boring as can be. My least enjoyable viewing experience this year.

Runner Runner
Again, talented stars (Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton) slum it in a poorly-constructed thriller with no thrills. That it’s from the director of The Lincoln Lawyer, an excellent thriller that made my top ten a couple of years ago, only makes matters worse.



The Ten 20 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2015

Given the extraordinary personal achievement in my viewing this year — doubling my titular goal — I’ve decided to also double my year-end top ten. It seemed appropriate.

Obviously I haven’t done such a percentage-related increase (or reduction) of my list before now, but then no previous year has seen quite so remarkable a change in my viewing total. In other (smaller) years, these additional films may well have made the cut, so this is a way of giving them their due. (Besides which, my list is numbered, so you can ignore #20 to #11 if you want.)

Final point: although this list isn’t limited to 2015 releases, there are six included, so I’ve noted their ‘2015 rank’ too.

2015 #6 After all the behind-the-scenes kerfuffle, Ant-Man probably had the lowest audience expectations for any Marvel Studios movie since Iron Man. Perhaps that’s what allowed it to become the mostly purely entertaining Marvel movie since Iron Man, too.

The Mission series here reconfigures itself as the modern equivalent to classic Bond, washing down espionage thrills with gadgets and humour. The result is fantastically enjoyable, and only so low on this list because of a certain other film a bit higher up…

John Cusack and Minnie Driver have never been more likeable as a guy and the prom date he jilted, brought back together by their high school reunion. Oh, and he’s now a hitman, in town on a job. Consitently funny, this is first-rate action-comedy entertainment.

An idiosyncratic crime drama from writer-director Jim Jarmusch, Ghost Dog stands alongside the otherwise-peerless Léon as a hitman movie that may not deliver enough action thrills for some, but is seeped in distinctive qualities of its own.

Martin Scorsese’s best-regarded works may hew towards the mainstream-intellectual, but here he sets his sights on genre material — specifically, a psychological mystery thriller — and produces a corker. Heavily Gothic in tone, it’s the first of several such films on this list.

A British-made India-set ‘Western’, this beautifully shot Boy’s Own adventure is rollicking old-fashioned entertainment from start to finish. It’s buoyed further by a cast of top-drawer British character actors, topped off with Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall. Magnificent.

One of the most acclaimed films of all time — if we’re talking “the history of cinema”, it’s certainly more important than anything else on this list. Almost 90 years old, it remains surprisingly accessible to modern eyes. An exceptionally affecting experience.

2015 #5 In a year overloaded with spy thrillers, this Bond pastiche stood out by, a) getting in early (it was released last January in the UK), and b) being a helluva lot of fun. Thematically questionable it may be, but the filmmaking verve is a joy to behold.

2015 #4 2015’s highest grossing film, this sequel/reboot of the beloved franchise has proved somewhat divisive. It certainly has flaws in characters and plot, but director Colin Trevorrow has bottled genuine Spielbergian awe and wonder, and that counts for a lot.

If this were only a top ten, I’d’ve slipped this in higher up, as much to recommend it as anything. In many respects it’s a familiar mismatched-people-fall-in-love rom-com (hence why its position dropped), but the uncommon melancholic tone makes it feel unique.

I’d wager it’s impossible to describe a Wes Anderson film without recourse to words like “quirky” and “unique”, both wholly apt epithets for The Grand Budapest Hotel, naturally. Others include hilarious, clever, inventive, controlled, and delightful. The last may be the most appropriate of all: this is a film full of delights, from the performances, to the dialogue, to the locations, to the design, to the camerawork. Anderson is the kind of filmmaker who has a cult following, which can sometimes be a bad omen. Based on this evidence, his fandom might just have the right idea.

2015 #3 There has been an awakening — have you felt it? Well, of course you have. Everyone outside of China has. Half of them twice. The J.J. Abrams-led return to a galaxy far, far away may have received a mixed reception, due to it essentially being the cinematic equivalent of a greatest-hits cover album, dealing in nostalgia more than it does originality… but it’s clearly been made by fans with an eye to crafting something that’s both enjoyable and recognisably Star Wars-y — two balls the prequel trilogy less dropped, more hurled to the ground. It’s a thrilling adventure with likeable new characters and, in my opinion, interesting new villains. There’s scope for the makers of Episodes VIII and IX to produce something even better off the back of this, and that’s exciting.

Terry Gilliam’s 1984 for 1985 is set in a dystopian Britain almost as bad as our current one, where mindless, faceless bureaucracy rules the day. It’s the kind of film where a typo can lead to a man’s death; where Jonathan Pryce fantasises about being a sword-wielding angel fighting a giant silver samurai; and where Robert De Niro turns up as a terrorist plumber. You know, if Wes Anderson is “quirky” and “unique”, I don’t think we’ve yet invented words to describe Terry Gilliam…

I promised you more Gothic and here it is. Director Chan-wook Park places 7th on my top ten for the second year in a row with this dark psychological thriller about a reclusive teenage girl who meets her uncle for the first time when he comes to stay following her father’s death. He’s charming, but mysterious — what are the secrets that everyone seems to know but her? Dripping with style and atmosphere, Stoker is a feast for the eyes and ears; a beguiling, sensuous, classically Gothic thriller.

2015 #2 Director George Miller returns to the Mad Max series after a 30-year hiatus for the stand-out action movie of… well, “the year” seems to undersell it. Once upon a time he was bold enough to make a chase the entire third act of a film; now, the chase is the entire movie. This is action filmmaking elevated to a genuine art form — literally, if the award season buzz is anything to go by. While the done-for-real stunts are busy boggling your mind, there slips by a story that’s surprisingly rich in theme and character. It gives added weight to a type of storytelling that could only be achieved on film — there’s a reason Miller started with a storyboard and only bothered to write a screenplay when the studio insisted.

A third dose of Gothic now, this time with a heavier dose of the “horror” element that’s so often attached to the term. Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan are mother-and-daughter vampires on the run, hiding out in a seedy seaside town, where Ronan tries to lead some kind of normal life as a perma-teen while her mother’s busy doing what she’s always done: whoring. These vampires aren’t glamorous or sparkly, but damaged and discarded. Byzantium is not a very popular film, but its tarnished charms and fatalistic stylings, powered by two strong central performances and atmospheric direction, made me love it.

Selecting these 20 films was tough, then putting them in order was just as hard, but one thing was a lock from the start: these are my top four films I saw in 2015. The only question was the order they went in, which on another day may have been completely different — any one of them could’ve been #1. This little-seen documentary (Channel 4 premiered it in the middle of the night a few months ago, although it’s available on YouTube) takes us to a small, poor town in India where the locals make their own movies, and they’re a roaring success. It’s an inspirational film about living your dreams even when the world won’t let you, though undercurrents of reality stop it from becoming too tweely self-congratulatory. I’m not overstating it when I say I believe this is an absolute must-see for any lover of film, and probably a good many people besides.

I feel like I’m being in some way Awkward with many of this year’s choices, because there’s a notable strand of films that aren’t particularly well regarded by viewers en masse (see: #11, #7, #5, now #3). Well, I’m not being awkward, dear reader: I loved all of them, and I loved this one most of all. Like several of those others, it crafts a unique mood with lashings of style, in this case inspired by ’80s movies and music. Dan Stevens is a mysterious ex-soldier who enters a family’s life and brings a load of trouble in his wake, but is he (anti-)hero or villain? Even by the end, you might not be sure. Witty, exciting, stylish, idiosyncratic, this is one guest I want to stay forever. (Sorry — it seems I can’t end any piece about this film without a terrible pun.)

34 years before Fury Road, there was The Road Warrior. A post-apocalyptic Australian Western, it sees Mel Gibson’s titular drifter drafted into defending an oil-rich community from a violent gang of fetish-attired marauders. While the film has much to offer throughout, the real joy is the third act: a balls-to-the-wall multi-vehicle chase, as Max and co attempt to escape in a heavily-armoured oil tanker and the gang give chase in a fleet of vehicles. Maybe it’s not as slick or extravagant as Fury Road, but it was done without a lick of CGI (for all Fury Road’s “done for real” claims, there’s an awful lot of computer work across that movie) and that added tangibility gives it the edge for me. Not to mention that it did it first — without Mad Max 2, we wouldn’t even have Fury Road.

2015 #1 Not as life-affirming as Supermen of Malegaon. Not as stylish as The Guest. Not as groundbreaking as Mad Max 2. Certainly not as ‘significant’ as a host of films further down this list. But from the moment the familiar beats of the famous theme tune begin to pulse over the company idents at the top of the movie, Rogue Nation engages you in a perfectly-crafted entertainment. It delivers sequence after sequence of finely-tuned action-thriller excitement, both from Tom Cruise’s crazy stuntwork and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s Hitchcockian control of espionage scenes. The plot may only be solid rather than any great shakes, but it’s supported by likeable heroes, a menacing villain, and well-pitched humour. It’s all topped off with Rebecca Ferguson, who could hold her own in a stand-off with Daisy Ridley and Charlize Theron for 2015’s most kick-ass heroine. Mission perfected.


As ever, I welcome your opinion on my top ten — not just in the comments section, but also in the form of a lovely poll. Multiple selections are allowed, so feel free to pick several favourites.

And if you feel I’ve made an unforgivable omission, I welcome your scathing criticisms in the comments.


Despite doubling the size of my selection, this was still a really, really tough year for picking favourites. Competition was harder than ever, not just because I watched 200 films (47% more than even my next biggest year) but because I made a conscious effort to watch fewer time-killers and more things I’d really been intending to see. As a result, films that I enjoyed immensely or admired intensely fell by the wayside, leaving several big guns to duke it out for the limited slots.

As if doubling my top ten wasn’t enough, the tightly-fought race got stuck for a while at 30 titles. The closest to making it in was my 1,000th film, Mark Cousin’s epic 15-hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey (so epic that my review draft is still in the form of 4,300 words of notes). It hurt to leave it out, but something had to go. The remainder of those 30 (which I guess would be #22 to #30, then) were, in alphabetical order, The Babadook, Gone Girl, High Noon, Looper, Paddington, Scanners, Spectre, Stranger by the Lake, and Wings. In most other years, any of those could’ve found themselves comfortably in my top ten.

I can’t end this without mentioning the 38 films that earned themselves 5-star ratings this year. 17 of them made it into the top 20 — I won’t list those again, so you can go find the three four-star imposters for yourself (clue: they’re right at the end… or start, in the order I’ve written it). The remaining 21 five-starers were Argo, The Babadook, Boyhood, Boyz n the Hood, Dreams of a Life, Filmed in Supermarionation, Fury, The General, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, High Noon, Interstellar, Looper, The Philadelphia Story, sex, lies, and videotape, Shallow Grave, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Stranger by the Lake, Whiplash, Wings, and The Wrestler. Reading through those again, there are several I feel should’ve been in my top 30… or 20… but what would I take out in their place? This year’s been too good, clearly.

Finally, on the same topic, there was one five-starer from each of my additional kinds of reviews (I love it when that happens — so neat). They were: non-list review 2001: A Space Odyssey, extended cut X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut, and short Feast.


Naturally, there were a considerable number of notable releases this year that I’ve yet to see. In my annual tradition, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films — chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety — that were released in 2015 and that I’ve not seen.

As is so often the case, it’s a funny old mix, because there were some films that seemed too ‘significant’ to leave out. This is why, despite recording my progress with these in my statistics every year, I’ll never, ever see 100% of them. For a current example, Minions is the 5th highest grossing film of 2015, so on the list it goes; but I didn’t really like Despicable Me and haven’t watched Despicable Me 2, so what are the chances I’ll ever decide to spend some of my time on Minions? Pretty darn slim, I reckon.

Anyway, the 50 I’ve chosen to highlight — some of which I do very much want to see — are…

Amy
Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Black Mass
Blackhat
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Carol
Chappie
Cinderella
Creed
Crimson Peak
The Danish Girl
Everest
Ex Machina
Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Furious 7
The Good Dinosaur
The Hateful Eight
Home
Hotel Transylvania 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
In the Heart of the Sea
It Follows
Joy
Legend
Macbeth
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Martian
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Minions
Pan
Pixels
The Revenant
Room
San Andreas
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Sicario
Snoopy and Charlie Brown…
Spotlight
Spy
Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton
Suffragette
Taken 3
Ted 2
Testament of Youth
The Visit
The Walk


And so, after all that verbosity, the largest ever year of 100 Films comes to an end.

Apart from the 21 reviews I still have to post, of course. (In that respect, 2014 isn’t even finished yet.) But no matter, it will be done.

For now, all that remains is for me to thank you for reading, to wish you all the best with your own film-watching endeavours (having spent several days shut away in my own world of statistics and lists, I’ve a few people’s posts to catch up on!), and to say “see you soon” for 2016 — the 10th year of 100 Films! I have some stuff planned…

2014 In Retrospect

It was 100 Films’ greatest ever year in terms of sheer size, but it was also one of the highest-scoring too, with the most five-star ratings I’ve ever awarded and the second-highest average score to date. Now it’s time to look back over the list and ask: Which were the cream of the crop? Which were the dregs? And which significant new films did I not even see?

To top it off, you can make your voice heard by voting for your favourites (plural) in this year’s top ten poll. Exciting stuff.

So without further ado:



The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2014

In alphabetical order…

Chicken Little
Disney are back at the height of their powers of late, at least as far as the box office is concerned, with the phenomenon that is Frozen. Things weren’t so rosy in the early ’00s, though, leading them to abandon traditional 2D animation for the burgeoning world of 3D CGI. Their first effort was this dross, instantly proving it wasn’t the style of animation that was the problem.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation
I only gave this two stars (as opposed to one) for two reasons: 1) the rather cool cliff-swinging fight sequence, which deserves to be in a better movie, and 2) because for some unknown reason I’d given the Team America-esque first one two stars, and this is marginally better. Really, though, it’s awful: messily told, tonally uneven, ridiculous in any number of ways. Even as a daft actioner, it’s no fun.

Ghost Rider
Ghost Rider’s maligned sequel, Spirit of Vengeance, wasn’t particularly good, but at least it embraced the trashier, grimier aspects of the character (even if it was only in a PG-13 way). This first attempt to bring the Marvel anti-hero to the big screen tried to force the concept into the shape of a trad blockbuster, ending up with a Constantine rip-off. As hardly anyone liked Constantine, that wasn’t a very good idea.

Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!
I liked the first Nativity — it’s not high art, but it’s a perfectly lovely Christmas movie. This follow-up has to switch out Martin Freeman for David Tennant, which isn’t a problem, but the new story is. Not that it’s much of a story, more a series of loosely-connected misadventures. Throw in a climactic concert made up of truly dreadful new songs and you have a disappointingly charmless sequel.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Michael Bay can make good movies, but he seems to have forgotten how. There are many things wrong with this third Transformers flick, but what’s most shocking is how ineptly it’s put together. For experienced filmmakers, there’s no excuse. Apparently this year’s fourth instalment is even worse, but it’s tough to imagine how. To quote a character in the movie: “does it suck or what? I mean it’s like a bad sci-fi film.”

Dishonourable Mention
Sin City: Recut & Extended
Not bad enough to actually make the bottom five, this recut took a film I remembered loving and messed about with it so much it made me doubt if I’d ever liked it in the first place. It could be my tastes have changed in the intervening nine years, but I suspect it’s at least as much due to the frustrating and near-pointless rearrangement of the running order. I recommend you stick to the theatrical cut.



The Ten Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2014

The fascinating story of the outrage provoked in Britain by gory horror movies in the early days of VHS. Excellently constructed from talking-head interviews and archive clips, it not only tells the tale clearly but also presents spot-on juxtapositions. Informative both for those who lived through it and those for who it’s now part of history, the important message is how easily such censorship was allowed — even encouraged — and that we must be on the look out for it again. Unfortunately it is happening again, to the internet this time, and once again is being championed via misinformation from those with a vested interest. I guess more people need to see this film…

The gang’s all here for an all-eras X-Men team-up, the original cast teaming up with the First Class lot, and led by original franchise director Bryan Singer, for a time-travelling adventure inspired by the classic comic book storyline. Some surprisingly deep characterisation, buoyed by strong performances from a first-rate cast (how many of them are Oscar nominees/winners?), rubs shoulders comfortably with witty and inventive action sequences. The series that kicked off the current Hollywood superhero obsession proves it can still hold its own among the big boys that have come since.

Darren Aronofsky’s multi-pronged narrative about the evils of addiction is sometimes cited as one of the bleakest films ever made. Even if you’re prepared for that, the verve of the filmmaking transcends expectations. Finely-tuned editing and attentive sound design gradually position the viewer for the climax, a fast-cut perfectly-scored assault on the senses that almost batters you into submission. It may ultimately be grim and without hope, but it’s so amazingly crafted that you’re left longing to experience it again regardless.

Snatched off the street, locked in a bedsit for 15 years, then inexplicably released and given just days to figure out why it happened — that’s the concept behind this dark South Korean thriller (remade in America to no fanfare and even less acclaim in 2013). Oldboy mixes what could almost be a straightforward revenge thriller with weird, almost surrealistic touches, for a whole that is ready-made to be cultish without the self-conscious Cult-ish-ness that such things are normally saddled with. It ends with twists and revelations so hard-hitting they equal even the famous single-take hammer-featuring corridor scene.

Found-footage and superheroes — two current cinematic obsessions, reviled by some and beloved by others. They had to come together eventually. Director Josh Trank keeps a handle on affairs, so that the film always sticks to concept without becoming samey, while screenwriter Max Landis reveals the true nature of his characters as he leads them from low-key beginnings to a barnstorming citywide climax that’s a bit like the ending of Man of Steel, only really good.

Why aren’t there many thrillers set inside the jury room? I’d wager because 12 Angry Men got there a long time ago and nailed it. A man is on trial for murder; we join the case as the twelve-man jury enter their deliberation room. Eleven of them are absolutely certain; one thinks they ought to discuss it. For the next 90 minutes, twelve men sit in one room and talk to each other… and it’s absolutely gripping, tense and thrilling, with moments that make you virtually punch the air with excitement. It’s a masterclass in constrained filmmaking, from director Sidney Lumet, and acting, from a cast of twelve peerless performers.

The sequel to the prequel of the Planet of the Apes takes the fad for all-CGI characters and brings it to maturity with a fully-realised ape society, played by mo-capped actors led by Andy Serkis, that is far more interesting than the human portion of the story. This is a story of interspecies relations where everything could be fine if it weren’t for past distrust and people constantly bringing guns along — like the best sci-fi, it reflects our world back at us. They claimed Avatar proved motion-captured performances should be considered alongside ‘the real thing’. Rubbish. Dawn, however, makes that case completely.

Hated by Stephen King, author of the original novel, and his most die-hard fans, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation sees Jack Nicholson and family as the caretakers and sole residents of a remote hotel over a snowbound winter, when very creepy things begin to happen… Goodness knows what any of it ultimately means (I know there are plenty of wild theories — I’ve got Room 237 recorded to catch at some point), but as an exercise in eliciting emotions of dread and almost-primal fear, it’s second to none.

The sixth feature film to star Hergé’s boy reporter (yes, really) sees the master of action-adventure cinema, Steven Spielberg, bring us the best Indiana Jones movie in over 20 years — only it’s computer animated and stars a blonde Belgian chap with a posh British accent. Rendered with incredible realism by Weta, with a screenplay that perfectly balances investigation, action and humour, and direction that knows when to maintain verisimilitude and when to cut loose with all the freedom CGI can offer, Tintin is a quality entertainment. Very nearly my film of the year, but for…

Regular readers will know I love a single-location thriller, and this is one — it just happens that the single-location in question is the entire orbit of planet Earth. There may not be much of a plot (“woman gets stranded in space; tries to get to safety”), but it doesn’t matter: director Alfonso Cuarón reminds us of his mastery of the single-take, using it to better connect us to the characters’ experiences. I’m sure people were right that it’s best in 3D on a huge screen, but even in 2D on a telly it’s spectacular. It’s also the third film in my top five that’s only been made possible thanks to advances in computer graphics — that surely says something about how an intelligent use of CGI still allows filmmakers to innovate.



Top 10 Poll

As ever, I welcome your opinion on my top ten — not just in the comments section, but also in the form of a lovely poll. This year you can pick multiple options, so feel free to vote for all your favourites.

And if you feel I’ve made an unforgivable omission, do feel free to berate me below.



Honourable Mentions

Yet another record: for the first time ever, all of my top ten films are ones I awarded a full five stars to. That’s once again testament to the quality of this year’s viewing, because I felt sure at least one four-stars-er would make the list. To be precise, that was The Green Hornet, which I know isn’t widely liked but I rather loved — I called it “one of the best superhero movies of the current generation”, in fact. On the day, though, I couldn’t in good conscience say it was better than any of the films I have included. I guess that confers 11th place on it.

In total, 27 main-list films earned themselves a five-star ratings this year. As well as those in the top ten (for which, see above, obv.), the others were After the Thin Man, All is Lost, La Belle et la Bete, Dead Poets Society, Good Morning Vietnam, Good Will Hunting, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, In Your Eyes, The Kings of Summer, Rear Window, Saving Mr. Banks, The Searchers, The Secret of Kells, Sightseers, The Thin Man, The World’s End, and Zero Dark Thirty. Additionally, both of the ‘other’ titles I watched and reviewed — The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Extended Edition) and miniseries The 10th Kingdom — also scored full marks.

There are any number of other films I could highlight here — my long-list for the top ten had over 50 movies on it, and at least 25 of those were genuine contenders — but two categories stand out. Firstly, after finishing the Falcon series earlier in the year, towards the end I made a start on The Thin Man, watching the first three out of six films. They’re excellent fun, the tonal inspiration for the likes of the Saint and the Falcon (which I’ve previously covered in full), but on the whole even better. Expect reviews before too long.

Finally, we all know superhero and comic book movies are everywhere right now, and will continue to be so if the announced plans of Marvel Studios, Warner Bros, Fox, Sony, and the rest, come to fruition. It’s felt particularly true for me this year, with not only a few well-received recent releases (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past), but also getting caught up on an array of recent entries (all but two were from the past decade, and one of those is only 11 years old). All told, there were 22 superhero, comic book, or related movies on this year’s list — that’s 16%. For a single subgenre — and not one where I’ve (say) dedicated myself to watching the entirety of one series — that does seem rather a lot…



The Films I Didn’t See

As is my tradition, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films that were released in 2014 but I’ve not yet seen. They’ve been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety. It’s biased slightly towards ones I might actually see at some point, though there were a couple of highly-successful or much-discussed ones I felt couldn’t/shouldn’t be left out. Feel free to assume which ones those are.

22 Jump Street
300: Rise of an Empire
’71
American Sniper
Big Eyes
Big Hero 6
Birdman
Boyhood
Calvary
Divergent
The Equalizer
Exodus: Gods and Kings
The Expendables 3
Godzilla
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Fault in Our Stars
Foxcatcher
Fury
Hercules
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
The Imitation Game
The Inbetweeners 2
Inherent Vice
Interstellar
The Interview
Into the Woods
Locke
Lucy
Maleficent
The Maze Runner
A Million Ways to Die in the West
The Monuments Men
Mr. Turner
Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie
Muppets Most Wanted
Nightcrawler
Noah
Paddington
Pride
The Raid 2
RoboCop
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Theory of Everything
Transcendence
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Unbroken
Under the Skin



Party like it’s Nineteen Ninety Nine…

It’s 100 Films’ ninth year — crikey, when’d that happen?

Expect more archive reposts (can I finish them before my 10th anniversary?), a third round of “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen” (it’s got a killer new acronym…), and — fingers crossed — both my 1,000th review and the official 100 Films’ #1000!

All that and hoverboards. We were promised hoverboards.

2010 In Retrospect

2010 has been kinder to 100 Films after the last two years, where I first barely scraped to 100 and then failed to reach it (not that I’ve gone on about it). This year, I made it to 100 in September before going on to a grand total of 122 — which, if you’re interested, makes it my second best year, behind the first by seven films.

But now 2010 is over — well, obviously, it finished a week ago — but I mean that 100 Films’ 2010 is over, this being the final post related to those 122 films… other than the half-dozen reviews I’ve yet to post, that is (and that too is an improvement on last year, when I had 20 left over). This final look back has my usual mix of features: a ‘Bottom Five’, a ‘Top Ten’, some ‘Also Ran’s, and ‘Didn’t Run’s too.

I’m sure you don’t need reminding at this point (but just in case) that this is all a review of my 2010 — the films I saw for the first time, not those that hit cinemas for the first time. If you’d like a list of the 122 titles that had a chance of reaching either of these lists, please look here.

Sitting comfortably? Good. Then how about:


The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2010

Max Payne
This year’s only single-star film nearly didn’t sink to such depths, but it was ultimately deserved. It’s an action movie without much action; a thriller without any thrills; a fantasy movie that isn’t meant to be one. It’s also a load of rubbish and you should avoid it. Play the game instead.

Righteous Kill
De Niro and Pacino, together, for a whole film! Cor! Except it’s more bore (see what I did there?) in Jon Avnet’s needlessly complex thriller, with filmdom’s most guessable twist — there’s a good chance you’ll’ve got it from the trailer. Watch their one shared scene in Heat on loop instead.

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
Another British children’s fantasy book series reaches the big screen, but unlike uber-success Harry Potter or the Narnia series, this is ruined the traditional way: Americanisation. Though set in Britain with a largely British cast, ruinous changes abound. A few good moments can’t redeem it.

Elektra
If you thought Daredevil was bad, don’t even consider going anywhere near its spin-off. I liked Daredevil, but I could find little to enjoy in this sloppy, ill-considered fantasy/action flick. It’s this kind of incohesive tosh that kills whole genres. How do such risible screenplays even get made?

The Emperor’s New Groove
I could’ve put something like Iron Eagle as my last choice, but I just don’t care enough about it to hate it. Emperor’s New Groove, on the other hand, is a Disney animated film — I always want to like Disney’s animated films (I guess it’s a childhood thing) and this one is rubbish. Boo.


The Ten Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2010

This year’s top ten seems inordinately coloured by comedy — perhaps, more than ever, it’s not so much the “best films I’ve seen” as “my favourite films I’ve seen”. Look out for a few more serious honourable mentions at the end.

10) Clue
I think it’s safe to say Clue isn’t the greatest film ever — indeed, I’ve ranked nine above it (ho ho), and there are certainly Better films I’ve left off this list — but I enjoyed it immensely, now that I’ve finally seen it. I can’t help but think its lowly-to-non-existent reputation means a lot of others who’d enjoy it haven’t seen it either.

9) Is Anybody There?
Comedy-drama — or “dramedy”, if you’re American — often comes in for stick for being neither funny enough to be a comedy nor dramatic enough to be drama. And, sometimes, this is rightly so. When pitched right, however, it’s like real life, and that’s the tone Is Anybody There? hits. An affecting exploration of loneliness, regret, hope, and more.

8) Sherlock Holmes
The Guy Ritchie-directed reinvention of Sherlock Holmes could — perhaps should — have been a blockbusterised disaster. Instead, he’s still the genius detective we know and love, only now with added ass-kicking abilities. No, it’s not the definitive Holmes, but it is a jolly good and surprisingly inventive take on the character.

7) His Girl Friday
Sharp, fast, intelligent, hilariously funny — they don’t make films like this any more. Quite literally. Instead, we have the risible …Movie series pumped out at us every year. Something to do with the lowest common denominator Hollywood world we live in, I’m sure, though that’s an explanation rather than an excuse.

6) Coraline
Last year two documentaries formed the centre point of my top ten, this year it’s two children’s films — but both are ready to be enjoyed by adults too. In fact, Coraline’s so dark and scary in places one might argue it’s more aimed at a slightly older audience. Plus Eamonn Holmes hates it. What more recommendation do you need?

5) Nanny McPhee
More childish than Coraline, perhaps, but there’s an awful lot to enjoy nonetheless. Far more than the Mary Poppins rip-off it looks like from the outside, Nanny McPhee rattles along through a colourful but grounded tale that imparts moral messages without battering you round the head. It’s properly magical.

4) Anatomy of a Murder
Procedural crime dramas relentlessly fill our TV schedules these days, but few can hold a candle to Otto Preminger’s masterpiece. The precision-engineered storytelling masterfully refuses to deviate from the case at hand, and who but James Stewart could be a lawyer defending a murderer and still have us cheering for him to win?

3) Inception
Christopher Nolan’s latest managed the rare feat these days of being a genuine blockbuster with an original story, and converting that into high praise and box office too (and without the ticket-selling boost of 3D). More impressively, it did this while baffling much of its audience. Remains to be seen if it benefits or suffers from repeat viewings.

2) Toy Story 3
Returning to a beloved franchise over a decade later would be a mistake in the hands of most filmmakers, but this is Pixar. Toy Story 3 is a worthy successor to its ’90s predecessors; a funny and moving tale that tackles big, emotional themes while still providing a kid-friendly adventure-comedy. It may well be the best film of 2010.

1) Kick-Ass
I’ve not had so much debate over my #1 film before (though 2008’s 2 & 3 kept me busy for a while). Despite provoking outrage in some quarters, Kick-Ass is an arresting deconstruction of the superhero myth, both as “what if someone really did it?” and how the genre has been presented on our screens. Funny, exciting, it really does… yeah, you can add the pun.


Special Mentions

As usual, I just want to highlight a few other films, for various reasons.

I normally mention the 5-star films first, but this year I found it tougher than usual (or, at least, tougher than last year) to settle on the final few slots in my top ten. The films that consequently just missed out by a sliver of fate — and the way my opinions wavered on that particular day — were The Hurt Locker, M and Speed Racer. A few others survived almost as long, but those are the ones I really struggled with.

Secondly, then, I must mention the 16 films that earned themselves 5-star ratings this year. A very respectable seven of them made it into the top ten, namely Anatomy of a Murder, Coraline, His Girl Friday, Inception, Kick-Ass, Nanny McPhee and Toy Story 3. It always seems silly to include 4-star films over some of those that achieved full marks, but that’s life. Two more are among those ‘almost’s — The Hurt Locker and M — while the other seven main listers I left out were The Damned United, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Miracle on 34th Street, Die Puppe, Slumdog Millionaire and The Spiral Staircase. Finally, from outside the main list, was The Special Edition of Beauty and the Beast — or Beauty and the Beast SE to you and I.

Penultimately, a quick mention for a few noir-ish oldies. None of them quite managed to squeeze into my top ten, but this year I’ve really enjoyed the likes of Ministry of Fear, The Outrage, Odd Man Out and, of course, The Spiral Staircase. Plus, the cake-centric intro to my Ministry of Fear review is still one of my favourite things I’ve written for this blog.

And finally, while I’m on older pictures, a quick nod to the rest of the Ernst Lubitsch silents I watched in a rather intensive week back in January. Die Puppe was my favourite, but it was great all round to indulge in a chronological run of one filmmaker’s early work. I find silent movies to be a rather rich flavour of film — there’s much to appreciate, but too many too close together and it gets a bit sickly. I rather gorged on them that week, hence why there’s been no repeat (as yet) of my Silent Week concept. Hey-ho.


The Films I Didn’t See

As ever, allow me to remind you that this hasn’t been a Top 10 of 2010 (only my 2010), but as new films do feature it’s worth considering that there were, as always, a number of notable releases this year that I’ve yet to see. Unsurprisingly — I mean, I only made three trips to the cinema and only saw seven 2010 films in total.

In my annual tradition, then, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films — chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety — that are listed as 2010 on IMDb and that I’ve not seen.

This year, I considered changing my remit to cover films released in the UK in 2010, for a more accurate account of what I might actually have seen. Using IMDb’s dates means various films fall through the cracks — foreign films that take time to get here usually, but also productions like Season of the Witch, which was made in 2009 but not released ’til early 2011. But I hate it when you see all of [X Year]’s Best Picture nominees turn up in an [X+1 Year]’s list of best films simply because over here they were released a couple of days into January instead a couple of days before it. IMDb’s year of production is, one might argue, as arbitrary a way of dividing them up as UK release date, but it does last longer in the consciousness — and it stops The Best Picture Of [X Year] turning up in a My Favourite Films Of [X+1 Year] list. I suppose I’m at a slight advantage though: by definition I don’t have to have seen these films, whereas a magazine / website / film review programme / blogger has to have had the chance to see something (and, obviously, to have used that chance) to put it in their year-end Top 10.

But hark at me, I’ve waffled on for an age about something fundamentally unimportant. Here’s the damn list.

127 Hours
4.3.2.1
The A-Team
Black Swan
Buried
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Clash of the Titans
Despicable Me
Easy A
Eat Pray Love
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The Expendables
The Fighter
Four Lions
The Ghost
(aka The Ghost Writer)
Green Zone
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Hot Tub Time Machine
How to Train Your Dragon
Iron Man 2
Jonah Hex
The Karate Kid
The King’s Speech
Knight and Day
The Last Airbender
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole
Let Me In
Machete
Monsters
Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang
Piranha 3D
Predators
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Red
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Salt
Saw 3D
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Shrek Forever After
Shutter Island
The Social Network
Tangled
The Town
Tron: Legacy
True Grit
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Unstoppable
Vampires Suck
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Winter’s Bone


Still here?

That’s the end, then. And if you read it all, you encountered somewhere in the region of 78 films (slightly more if you followed the Lubitsch link). That was worth coming all the way down here for, wasn’t it?

Right, I’m off to watch some more films. I’ve got another 100 to get through you know.

And that’s the end of my repostathon, too!
The blog’s archive is now as up-to-date as it’s ever likely to be.

2009 In Retrospect

Introduction

2009’s well and truly over (well, aside from the 20 reviews I still haven’t posted), so it’s time to reflect on what has been.

It’s been a somewhat inauspicious year for 100 Films, actually, failing to make the titular target for the first time and not necessarily seeing a great many classic films along the way. 2007’s Top Ten held undeniable classics like Brief Encounter and Citizen Kane, while 2008’s managed the likes of Rashomon, Notorious, and the 9th greatest film of all time [as of 2015, it’s gone back up to 4th]. I don’t mean to spoil this year’s lot, but it looks kinda tame and modern (70% come from the last three years) by comparison.

Equally, whereas the first two years saw just a single one-star film each, this year (as noted in my previous summary post) I’ve awarded four. Clearly my recent viewing choices leave something to be desired — indeed, for all of this I have only myself to blame.

In case you forgot…

As regular readers are undoubtedly aware — but it doesn’t do any harm to re-emphasise — both the Bottom Five and Top Ten are based on what I’ve seen for the first time this year, not what was released this year (hence why I was wittering on about not having many all-time-classics to include). To this end, you can see the list of contenders here, which I’m certain includes some that are bafflingly absent from what follows.

Each of the Top Ten comes with a further recommendation, also plucked from this year’s viewing, of a film that is in some way similar. Why? I’m not sure, it just seemed a good idea. They are not numbers 11 to 20 in my favour.

And with that out of the way for another year, here are the lists:

The Five Worst Films I’ve Seen in 2009

Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour
My original review was more verbose than this ‘movie’ deserves, so let me sum it up in one word: tosh.

AVPR – Aliens vs Predator: Requiem
AVP was pretty rubbish, but AVPR performs the impressive feat of turning its predecessor into a pleasurable memory. As I said in my original review, “the inconceivably thorough degradation of a once-great franchise is its greatest crime.”

Alone in the Dark
Makes AVPR look good. Actually, it doesn’t — I don’t think anything could — but if forced I’d still rather re-watch those franchises being destroyed than suffer through this incomprehensible and unexciting mess another time.

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic
Comedy should be funny. That’s pretty much a basic principle, I’m sure everyone will agree. Whether it’s also cutting-edge, old-fashioned, gentle, satirical, offensive or comfortable, it at least needs to be funny. Which, in this film, Silverman isn’t.

Sherlock: Case of Evil
This wins the final spot over the likes of Transporter 3, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Red Riding Trilogy and Cinderella simply because it was so wiped from my mind I had to look up my own review to remember what it was. Case of Evil is moderately passable in itself, but by being literally forgettable it earns a place here.

The Ten Best Films I’ve Seen For the First Time in 2009

10) Rage
Just sneaking in at the outside edge of my top ten is Rage. It looked like a film I wouldn’t really enjoy — a full feature-length of fashion industry people nattering to camera while exciting events took place off screen — but a high-quality cast and the fact it was free persuaded me. I’m glad it did, because I actually enjoyed it immensely. Sometimes I do like gimmicks, and this one works.
See also: The Knack …And How to Get It, because it’s the next-most experimental/arty thing (that isn’t also in this top ten).

9) Alien Resurrection
I ummed and ahhed over this, but in the end Resurrection beat the other two Alien sequels into my top ten. Is Aliens a better film? Probably. Well, certainly. But Resurrection is under-loved and, in my view, a little gem… in it’s own twisted, dark kind of way.
See also: Aliens, obviously.

8) Culloden
The faux-documentary is everywhere these days, but few are quite as original as Peter Watkins’ 1964 effort. Instead of comedically covering a fake band/movie/dog show, Watkins presents a real historical event as if it’s been covered by a modern-day current affairs programme. The concept is executed consistently and flawlessly, while even on a small BBC budget he manages to craft epic and affecting battle scenes.
See also: Paths of Glory, for more wartime miscarriages of justice.

7) Star Trek
I’m no Star Trek fan, and that’s one of the main reasons this latest franchise entry makes my top ten: it’s not the Second Coming some seem set on celebrating it as, but it’s a fine action-adventure that I actually enjoyed — more than I can say for most of Trek. It’s also distinctly fun, in the bright, colourful, occasionally a little silly vein, a quality that’s in disappointingly short supply among modern blockbusters.
See also: Avatar, also bright and colourful, but woefully over-hyped.

6) Rock n Roll Nerd
Perhaps enjoyment of this depends on your opinion of Tim Minchin, but even if you’re not a fan (yep, I hear there are some people who don’t like him) it remains an interesting glimpse behind the scenes of the world of stand-up comedy (part of it anyway), alongside the journey of a sudden rise to fame and a sweet domestic ‘subplot’.
See also: Commentary! The Musical for more behind-the-scenes-styled comedy songs.

5) For All Mankind
Two documentaries mark the mid-point of this year’s top ten, but this just edges in the lead because of its Importance and poetic beauty. The story of the Apollo missions is told effectively if sparely, but it’s the visuals that are the real joy here.
See also: In the Shadow of the Moon tells the same story, but with the astronauts’ recollections decades later.

4) Son of Rambow
There’s something about Son of Rambow… The shape of the story is familiar, the lessons learnt hardly new, and some of the sillier subplots rub incongruously against the realist primary narrative. And yet none of that matters because it’s beautifully written, directed and performed, full of skill and charm, amusing and moving in equal measure. And personally, I quite like barmy subplots.
See also: Stand By Me, another set-in-the-past boyhood coming-of-age tale.

3) Watchmen: Director’s Cut
I’ve barred myself from giving this the top spot because, as noted in my review of the theatrical cut, I still can’t be certain my opinion of the film is divorced from my opinion of the novel: so faithful is Snyder’s adaptation, so indicative was the trailer and other pre-release coverage, that even watching it for the first time it felt like I’d seen it before. It’s flawed, but it’s also brilliant.
See also: Batman (1966), an equally divisive superhero movie. Totally different, mind.

2) In Bruges
Looking over my whole top ten this year, there’s a bit of a “it’s not for everyone” theme developing. With its foul language, extreme violence, politically incorrect humour and somewhat inconclusive ending, In Bruges undoubtedly falls into that category. But for anyone who can stomach those things it’s a wonderfully entertaining film in every respect. A bit like my #1…
See also: Ripley’s Game, another Europe-set hitman thriller with a comic edge.

1) Inglourious Basterds
Tarantino’s latest seems to have been quite divisive with audiences, possibly due to misaligned expectations. As a blast — or, rather, several blasts — of pure cinema, resplendent with a cornucopia of irregular screen tricks and motifs scattered throughout with carefree abandon, it’s an awful lot of fun. Unlikely to best Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction for mainstream acceptance, perhaps, but there’s something for every kind of cineast in here.
See also: The Thief of Bagdad, equally episodic, playful and joyously filmic.

Special Mentions

As ever, I can’t end this without mentioning the 17 films that earned themselves 5-star ratings this year (including some that are yet to have reviews published). Six of them made it into the top ten: For All Mankind, In Bruges, Inglourious Basterds, Rage, Son of Rambow, and Watchmen: Director’s Cut. Normally I’d just list the others, but first I’m going to pick out two that came closer than most to cracking the top ten: The Great Dictator and The Thief of Bagdad. I suppose that makes them 11 and 12. The remaining nine included: Aliens, Anne Frank Remembered, La Antena, The Apartment, Glory, Paths of Glory, Watchmen (failing to make the top ten because of the Director’s Cut), and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Finally, the 17th was Blade Runner: The Final Cut. As with Leon last year, I didn’t feel justified including in my Top 10 a film so similar to a version I’d previously seen. As it was excluded from consideration, then, it gets its own paragraph here.

Additionally, I felt five-stars were deserved by a few films I’d seen before (The Birds, Some Like It Hot, Flash Gordon) and one alternate cut (Alien: The Director’s Cut), not to mention two shorts: The Lunch Date and Commentary! The Musical.

More randomly, well done to X-Men Origins: Wolverine for finally putting a film under ‘X’ on my review list; and to The X Files sequel for doubling the number. Just ‘Y’ left to fill…

The Films I Didn’t See

As I’m certain you’re aware, this isn’t a Top 10 of 2009 (only of my 2009), but new films do feature, and with that in mind there were a number of notable releases that I’ve yet to see.

In my annual tradition, then, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films (listed as 2009 on IMDb) that I’ve missed this year. These have been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety.

2012
(500) Days of Summer
9
The Boat That Rocked
Brüno
A Christmas Carol
Coraline
District 9
Drag Me to Hell
An Education
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fast & Furious
The Final Destination
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Glorious 39
The Hangover
The Hurt Locker
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
In the Loop
The Informant!
The International
The Invention of Lying
Invictus
Jennifer’s Body
Julie & Julia
Knowing
Monsters vs. Aliens
Moon
Nine
Paranormal Activity
The Princess and the Frog
The Proposal
Public Enemies
Push
The Road
A Serious Man
Sherlock Holmes
The Soloist
St. Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Taking Woodstock
Terminator Salvation
This Is It
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Up
Where the Wild Things Are
Year One

A Final Thought

“It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…”

See, 2010’s already begun!

2008 In Retrospect

Introduction

And so 2008 is finally at an end (really this time). It’s always odd, looking back, and seeing just how long ago January was… and yet, at the same time, how close it feels.

The films I’ve watched, numbered as they are, provide an especially concrete example of this. Take this pair: Dark City was just the second film I watched in 2008, but it feels barely months since I first saw it. Atonement, on the other hand, was only the seventh film — barely a month after Dark City — but it feels like years ago. But that’s Time for you: entirely relative.

This is why, as I go through the year watching my new films, I keep a pair of lists. The first, and longest, is the ‘short’ list for my Best Films Of 2008 — being the best films I’ve seen (for the first time) in the year past, not the best films released (for the first time) in that year. The second, mercifully shorter, is the short list for my Worst Films Of 2008 — again, ones I’ve seen. These lists are handy in making sure I don’t forget anything… and meaning I don’t have to trawl through all 100 again!


What follows…

…is quite simple: first up, my five Worst Films, in no particular order; then, my ten Best Films, in a lovely countdown. Each of the latter is accompanied by a further recommendation from this year’s viewing. These aren’t numbers 11 to 20 on my list, but instead films I’ve seen this year that are in some way similar to the one they’re attached to.

With that all over-explained, here goes:


The Five Worst Films I’ve Seen in 2008

The Baskerville Curse
This was only the second single-star review I’ve doled out in two years and 254 reviews (including the shorts). I maintain it’s an overrated Holmes tale, but it can be adapted well — I like the 1939 version more than my review suggests, and also the BBC’s 2002 effort. This needlessly renamed version wastes its short running time on the story’s less important elements (train journeys! letter writing!), depicted through low-quality animation with no atmosphere. Disappointing.

The Invasion
A slow, predictable plot and ludicrous final message scupper this effort, which is a shame because it’s the sort of allegorical sci-fi tale that’s probably ripe for a good retelling.

Superhero Movie
Lazy in every respect (so it can make do with this lazy comment).

Southland Tales
Last year I picked one film for this list that, as well as being weak in itself, stood for all the year’s disappointments. While there weren’t so many this year, this was undoubtedly one. I haven’t seen Donnie Darko for a few years so I don’t know if I’ve grown out of it (some seem to have), but it was a great experience when I first saw it in the cinema and I’ve eagerly awaited Kelly’s follow-up ever since. That he turned in such a confused mess was truly disappointing. Hopefully his next effort will be better.

Cube²: Hypercube and Cube Zero
A slight cheat, I know, but together they took an excellent, original, stand-alone sci-fi film and tried to turn it into yet another horror franchise. One might live with that if they were decent pieces of work, but both are risible, missing all the points that made the first so great. An exceptionally good example of why wholly unnecessary sequels are wholly bad.


The Ten Best Films I’ve Seen For the First Time in 2008

10) Sunshine
As this year ends Danny Boyle is garnering much praise and Oscar buzz for his new flick, but this SF effort is possibly my favourite of his films to date. Yes, it completely loses it in the final stretch — and it’s that ending that held off a fifth star from me, and I think generally damaged its critical standing too — but to that point it’s an exciting yet believable (enough, anyway) space-faring drama.
See also: The Fountain, a more metaphysical space mission as just one part of a no-doubt-meaningful century-spanning narrative.

9) Cloverfield
There’s never been hype quite like Cloverfield’s, and I was surprised as anyone when it actually paid off. Probably a pain on the big screen, it really suits your TV. It’s not the scariest horror ever (its PG-13 rating surely put paid to that) and it’s a bit slow to get going (especially if you’re any older than the protagonists, it seems), but once it does it holds impressively faithful to its high-concept camcorder style and uses it to good effect on several occasions.
See also: Russian Ark, for a whole film shot in a real single take.

8) Hellboy II: The Golden Army
I enjoyed the original Hellboy, but here del Toro perfects the formula. It’s no small feat to balance character drama (where two of the main characters are a giant red demon and a fish-man) with humour (genuinely funny humour at that), spellbinding production design, and thrilling action sequences, but del Toro does it with ease. Pan’s Labyrinth may have captured more critics, but personally I’d rather enjoy this one again. Fingers crossed that a third entry can overcome all the odds, so stacked against it, and grace our screens one day.
See also: Transformers, a surprisingly entertaining blockbuster (narrowly missing out on a place here).

7) Notorious
Notorious was one of those semi-accidental discoveries for me — “there’s a Hitchcock on I’ve not seen on telly? Let’s give it a go.” Packed with incident, and with an unforgettable crane shot, it was certainly worth it. (Hitchcock fans may want to keep an eye on the blog in 2009 — I’ve acquired almost all his films on DVD recently and may get stuck into them soon.) [I didn’t.]
See also: Rebecca, another excellent Hitchcock-directed romantic mystery.

6) Hairspray
A bit of fluff with an incredibly catchy closing number that always turns up on the Royal Variety Performance and the like? Yes — but also so much more. The toe-tapping tunes (there’s a cliché I never thought I’d use) and lovable characters make it an above-average feel-good flick, but it’s the surprising presence and assured handling of A Serious Issue that notch it up to such heights.
See also: Mamma Mia!, if you like your musicals feel-good and familiar.

5) Rashomon
My first encounter with Akira Kurosawa was undoubtedly belated, but certainly worth the wait. Rashomon is a seminal work, its title now a byword for multiple-perspective narratives, and the reputation this affords it is certainly deserved. Modern films may attempt to trade off this style, but are often nothing of the sort (Vantage Point, I’m looking at you) — Rashomon is the one true version.
See also: Throne of Blood, another brilliant Kurosawa adaptation, this time of my favourite Shakespeare.

4) Stardust
Dubbing this “the British Princess Bride” rather undersells it. Stardust is a truly magical film, packed with wit, action, delicious villains, a star-packed cast, a stirring score, genuinely special effects, British locations that look as stunning as anything New Zealand had to offer, and — of course — more. The odd duff note (Ricky Gervais, I’m looking at you) can’t detract from the pure fun on offer.
See also: Enchanted, a beautifully executed riff on a similar fantastical genre.

3) Dark City
It was a close call which film landed third and which second, and on another day it might’ve been the other way round, but Alex Proyas’ dark sci-fi was narrowly pipped at the post. It’s all but forgotten, which is a shame because it does what it does amazingly — including much of what the Matrix sequels had to offer, only five years earlier and in a way that makes sense. To say too much would be to ruin it, and I definitely don’t want to do that. A long-awaited director’s cut was finally released on DVD this year — reportedly now the only decent way to watch the film, it will surely find a place on next year’s list. [It didn’t.]
See also: Cube Zero, pretty dreadful but with a similar(ish) retro-industrial-SF production design.

2) Zodiac
David Fincher is a wonderful director, currently adding another string to his bow with the highly praised Curious Case of Benjamin Button (see #10 on this list for a similar situation). For me, Zodiac is possibly his best film yet, a thoroughly atypical serial-killer thriller that sticks to the facts over a lengthy running time, yet manages to hold your attention too. Again, the (only marginally longer) DVD-released director’s cut is likely to find a place on the 2009 list. [It didn’t, but did in 2011.]
See also: L.A. Confidential, more period-set investigation of brutal crimes thick with conspiracy.

1) The Dark Knight
No surprises here. I’m unashamedly one of those who believe The Dark Knight isn’t just one of the best films of 2008, it’s one of the best films ever. There’s little else to say that hasn’t already been said — especially as I’ve already reviewed it twice.
See also: Iron Man, this year’s other billionaire-in-a-suit superhero, with less plot but more laughs.


Special Mentions

I can’t end this without mentioning the 16 films that earned themselves 5-star ratings this year. Seven of them made it into the top ten (much better than last year, I think). Those were: Dark City, The Dark Knight, Hairspray, Notorious, Rashomon, Stardust, and Zodiac. Last year I commented that I’d since rethought some of the 5s I’d handed out; not so this year, and most of the following came very close to making the top ten: Atonement, Cathy Come Home, Double Indemnity, The Green Mile, L.A. Confidential, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Rebecca, and Throne of Blood.

There was also a 5 for Leon: Version Integrale. I’ve singled it out because it’s one of my favourite films ever, and I felt this cut was different enough from the original version to number it individually… but not different enough to include in my Top 10. Here’s a whole honorary paragraph instead.

Additionally, two shorts scored full marks for the first time this year: Pixar’s Presto, which preceded WALL-E on the big screen and can now be found on that film’s DVD; and Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death, a Christmas treat that will be getting its own DVD release. There were also 5-star re-watch reviews for Bond re-boot Casino Royale and inadvertent franchise-starter Cube. And finally, the ubiquitous Dark Knight earned itself a second full set of stars thanks to its stunning IMAX version.


The Films I Didn’t See

As has been noted, this isn’t a Top 10 of 2008 in the traditional sense (at all), but new films do feature, and with that in mind there were a number of notable releases this year that I’ve yet to see.

So, after the intense interest of doing this last year, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films listed as 2008 on IMDb that I’ve missed. These have been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim, from fame to infamy. (Most of the alphabet’s covered too, but, frustratingly, not quite all of it.)

10,000 BC
Australia
Babylon A.D.
The Bank Job
Body of Lies
Burn After Reading
Changeling
Che Parts One & Two
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Defiance
Doomsday
Doubt
The Duchess
The Edge of Love
Frost/Nixon
Get Smart
Gran Torino
Hancock
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People
In Bruges
Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D
Jumper
Kung Fu Panda
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Man on Wire
Max Payne
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
The Other Boleyn Girl
Rambo
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
Righteous Kill
RocknRolla
Sex and the City
Slumdog Millionaire
Speed Racer
The Spirit
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Transporter 3
Tropic Thunder
Twilight
Valkyrie
W.
Waltz With Bashir
The X-Files: I Want to Believe
Yes Man
Zack and Miri Make a Porno


Final Thoughts

I didn’t think I was going to make it to 100 films this year (as I may have mentioned), but it shows what a little determination — in the final stages at least — can do for you. Better luck next year, perhaps.

Maybe I’ll be able to pack in a few more unseen classics too — looking back over this year’s films to choose my top ten, many seemed almost like total-boosting placeholders. That’s not quite the truth of the matter, but it may have skewed the top ten a little (“no WALL-E?” some may ask, for just one oddity).

Still, what’s done is done. Now, to catch up on the reviews left hanging from ’08 (eleven!), and then it’s on to ’09…

2007 In Retrospect

Introduction

It may be getting on for the end of January 2008, but finally the penultimate entry of 100 Films 2007 is here! Read on for my five least-favourite films I’ve seen this year, and (more interestingly, I’m sure) my top ten — in a lovely countdown and all!

(Yes, I said penultimate entry: still to come, a statistics-tastic one!)


A Bit of an Explanation

I’d like to point out that these lists aren’t based on the ratings I gave at the time. That is to say, if I gave out precisely ten 5-star ratings it doesn’t mean those will be my top ten. A slightly strange thought I know, but opinions can change and therefore so may mine. The title of this entry sums it up: in retrospect these are the films I wanted to pick out as the best I’ve seen in 2007. Hard work it was choosing too!

I’ve included a “see also” section for each of the top ten. These aren’t supposed to be the ten next-best films I’ve seen this year, but are instead other films I’ve seen this year that are in some way related (with the briefest of explanations as to how). These are really just a chance to point out films that are of similar interest; I wanted to stress that they’re not necessarily numbers 11 to 20 on my list.

As a final note, I’ve not considered any of those controversial different-cuts-of-films-I’ve-seen-before for inclusion here. If I had then I’m sure Crash would’ve been high in the top ten.


The Five Worst Films I’ve Seen in 2007

Flight 93 (#26) 1/5
The only film all year to achieve the lowest possible score; if this list were numbered, it would surely be my worst film of the year. Nothing in it is above the level of cheap TV movie — which it is, but that’s no excuse. The script, acting, direction, effects… I genuinely failed to find anything worthwhile here, especially in light of the excellent United 93, a truly brilliant film of the same story. Some say this makes a good companion piece to the movie, but I really don’t think it does: the latter is a respectful, realistic, thoughtful piece of filmmaking; this is tacky and unrealistic, and tries so hard for an appropriate level of sentiment that it often winds up being laughable. And laughable is not something this event was. In short, don’t even bother.

New York Stories: Life Without Zoe (#117) 3/5
It seems almost churlish to pick out one segment of a film, but as it’s an anthology where the other two parts are pretty good it would be even more churlish to slate the whole film. The centre short of New York Stories, an anthology film by Scorsese, Coppola and Allen, is second only to Flight 93 as the most painful thing I’ve had to sit through this year. The characters are irritating, the performances weak, the writing twee… Sofia would obviously go on to better things (Lost in Translation mainly), but Francis Ford seems to be firmly leaving the quality filmmaking behind at this point. (As a side point, I thought Scorsese’s short in this film was decent enough, while Allen’s is utterly brilliant. The listed score is the one I gave the whole film.)

Play Time (#118) 2/5
Jacques Tati has his fans. Filmmakers such as him (especially foreign ones) inevitably do. But I just can’t fully get to grips with his style of comedy, and I suspect many truly discerning critics wouldn’t either. There are gags, but they’re slipped in among long stretches of interminable boredom where literally nothing happens, and when they arrive they have a tendency to run on too long. Tati is undoubtedly making some points about the state of the modern urban world with this, but that doesn’t make it any more entertaining. Repetitive and flat, it’s not worth sitting through for the handful of genuinely good comic moments.

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (#79) 2/5
As well as being a poor film in its own right, this represents a variety of films which failed to live up to my expectations. In this case, I was looking forward to a well-developed alternate history of America, where things were vastly different because the Confederates won the American Civil War. Instead, the film is almost solely concerned with the idea that, if they had won, black people would still be slaves. This preoccupation is unsurprising when you learn the background of the filmmakers, but the film isn’t sold as simply a “what if black people were still slaves?” piece. Most major historical events play out as they did anyway… except that black people are still enslaved! It’s far too one-dimensional.

Thunderbirds (#85) 2/5
I was left with a few potential final choices from my short list of bad films, all of fairly equal poorness. This is the worst though, because, like C.S.A., it’s so disappointing. I didn’t have great expectations for this film thanks to all the bad press it received at the time of release, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Thunderbirds is a great TV series full of wonderful and entertaining ideas, most of which are squandered in this poor Spy Kids rip off. The only good thing about it are the ship designs, which faithfully modernise all of the Thunderbird craft. Other than that, it’s a poor script, poor story, and pretty poor acting too (even from Sir Ben Kingsley, who camps it up something rotten). What a waste.


The Ten Best Films I’ve Seen For the First Time in 2007

10) Blood Diamond (#19) 4/5
Ed Zwick pulls off the impressive task of making a Moral Message Movie that is also a proper action thriller, something which (as far as I’ve seen) usually leads to a film winding up greatly more in one camp than the other. The action sequences are exciting and impressively staged, the message is conveyed but not over-played, and within this there’s still room to focus on the characters and their personal journeys. All of the actors perform well in their roles, though Djimon Hounsou can still be singled out as the best of the bunch. Important and entertaining — a rare feat.
See also: The Bourne Ultimatum, a more widely praised gritty action-thriller.

9) 300 (#101) 4/5
Pure testosterone-fuelled entertainment. That’s a pretty simply way of summing up what is, at the end of the day, a pretty simple film. It looks gorgeous, with cinematography, design and CGI combining to create a series of hyper-real, beautiful visions. The fight scenes are brutally excellent, though in danger of becoming a bit repetitive if they’re not your thing. The story is also a little slender, padded out with copious slow motion and a bolted-on political subplot in the final act, which could have been excellent if integrated better. But none of these flaws really matter, because 300 does what it sets out to, and it does it bloody well.
See also: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, an equally CGI-heavy bit of constant action.

8) Three Colours Red (#42) 5/5
This really (slightly cheekily, but unashamedly) represents the whole Three Colours trilogy. You see, while each film is completely standalone and works excellently in its own right, they still work best when viewed together, in order, at which point the ending of this (the third part) is wonderfully effective. The trilogy explores the three values represented on the French flag: freedom, equality, brotherhood; but these are clearly themes with broader resonance, which gives these films a more universal appeal. They do tend toward the slower-paced and slightly ‘arty’ end of the filmic spectrum, but, considering that’s a style I don’t generally get on with either, these are nonetheless brilliant.
See also: Hidden, another French film with occasionally similar themes.

7) Citizen Kane (#100) 5/5
Widely regarded as one of, if not the, best films ever made, Citizen Kane has certainly had to fight hard for such an accolade. But it’s pretty well deserved: almost everything about the film still stands up well today, from the engaging mysteries of the plot, to the collage of styles, timeframes and unusual camera moves that can still seem innovate 66 years on. As I said in my original review, there is masses that can (and has, and will) be said about this movie. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that if you have any real interest in films you ought to at least give it a go. For me, it mostly managed to live up to its colossal reputation.
See also: Chinatown, an acclaimed noir-ish & unsolvable mystery of America’s wealthy.

6) Brief Encounter (#76) 5/5
Most classics are so for good reason; and, chances are, the older a film oft-cited as a classic gets, the better the chance of it genuinely being one (as the lesser films drop away in favour of newer ‘classics’, you see). At 62 years old, then, Brief Encounter stands a fair chance of being a damn good film. And, lo and behold, it really is. The social conventions of a bygone age are beautifully played out — while things certainly wouldn’t go this way today, one can still oddly relate to it all. With a touching, funny script, note-perfect performances, and terrific direction, you don’t get them much more classic than this.
See also: Before Sunrise, a modern take on railway-related romance (that only narrowly missed a spot here).

5) Stranger Than Fiction (#81) 4/5
This is a wonderful conceit for a film: one day, a man begins to hear his life being narrated, as if it were a novel. And then the novelist tells him he’s going to die. To explain what happens from there would ruin it, of course (and take too long), but it’s variously fantastical, romantic, thoughtful, and fun. It’s stylishly directed by Marc Forster, who’s fast becoming one of my favourite directors (I expect Bond 22 to cement that opinion), and has plenty of originality. While some plot threads may be pretty standard fair, they’re well executed too, which makes for a highly entertaining whole.
See also: While You Were Sleeping, a quirky (though not as fantastical) setup for a rom-com.

4) The Prestige (#14) 4/5
I must confess to being a bit unsure about The Prestige at first. Not that I didn’t think it was good, just that I wasn’t sure how good. In retrospect, it’s good enough to make it this high on my list (beating off most of the films that I rated higher than it!) Nolan is a great storyteller: the chronology of the film is all over the place, yet never once is the viewer lost as to what we’re seeing when. It’s all propped up by a brilliant cast and a central mystery that is intriguing, with a number of neat twists in its resolution. The more I remember it, the more I like it.
See also: Primer, a somewhat similar mystery in a (sadly) less satisfying film.

3) Mean Creek (#69) 5/5
It’s a simple concept: a group of kids take the school bully out to teach him a lesson and it all goes horribly wrong. But it’s not a sanitised, irritating kids movie, with shiny little brats and a beautiful message about friendship; it’s an indie with a realistically dark heart, and thankfully not one that has succumbed to the “nothing happens because it’s about the characters, see” school of ‘intelligent’ filmmaking. The kids carry the movie (barely an adult is seen, and even then only briefly) and their performances are all strong, often a worry with child actors. It’s a tense, believable story, with a good exploration of the consequences of their actions, including an appropriate level of ambiguity. A fantastic little drama.
See also: Brick, another indie of middle American kids in potentially murderous situations.

2) Hot Fuzz (#20) 5/5
The Shaun of the Dead team return, this time spoofing action movies (as opposed to zombies). Many say this isn’t as good as Shaun, but I rather suspect they’re mostly the sort of people who are into the niche-y zombie films in the first place (don’t get me wrong, mind, I love Shaun). Hot Fuzz is funny throughout, has a good stab at some exciting action sequences, and the cast of British stalwarts are fantastic. It was a big hit in the UK and deservedly so. It’s set to form a loose trilogy with Shaun and an as-yet-unrevealed project, which I feel we should all be looking forward to immensely.
See also: Stormbreaker, a kid-centred slice of tongue-in-cheek British action.

1) United 93 (#22) 5/5
Paul Greengrass didn’t stand a chance at the Oscars, as Scorsese had finally got round to making another film good enough for them to finally give him an award. Greengrass deserved it more though. The Departed was a decent film, but as this is the only mention of it in this entire article you can see I was hardly blown away. But this is all beside the point: United 93 is a great film. The direction is perfectly suited to the subject matter, the storytelling appropriately tense and with a good dose of realism, and the performances utterly believable. The fact that this is endorsed by the families of those who died is the final stamp of approval. The men and women who were on board United 93 are all heroes — not in some cheesy Hollywood way, but in a very real-world way. This captures that, and feels an appropriate tribute.
See also: Right at Your Door, a fictional tale of terrorism’s potential effect on ordinary people.


Special Mentions

I just wanted to take a moment (or, a section) to highlight a few other films, for various reasons.

Firstly, I can’t end this without mentioning the 13 films that earned themselves 5-star ratings this year, as only six of them made it into the top ten — those being Brief Encounter, Citizen Kane, Hot Fuzz, Mean Creek, Three Colours Red, and United 93. Perhaps I was less certain about rating some so highly in retrospect, but, regardless, the other seven were: Chinatown, Educating Rita, Goodfellas, Heat, The King of Comedy, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Trainspotting.

As the year went on I kept a running list of potential contenders for both my bottom five and top ten. The former eventually totalled 15 films (some were shortlisted not because they were truly bad, but due to the level of disappointment involved, such as Spider-Man 3). The list for the top ten reached the giddy heights of 48 films — 37% of the total! Maybe I’m just the generous sort. As well as the top ten itself (obviously), some of these were the other 5-star-ers listed above, and several more have been named in the “see also” sections. Rather than list all the remaining 24 (you do the maths), here’s nine of them that stuck in my mind enough to warrant mentioning:

Night Watch, an entertaining epic/fantasy/horror mash-up from Russia.
Perfume, a visually pungent, thoroughly bizarre adaptation of the popular novel.
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, a classic silent urban fairytale.
Manhattan, a beautiful black & white relationship drama.
The Woodsman, an intelligent and character-centric study of a difficult issue.
Pan’s Labyrinth, an engaging blend of fantasy and cruel reality.
Bullets Over Broadway, an amusing and entertaining take on the mob and the theatre.
Octopussy, a surprisingly entertaining Roger Moore Bond film.
Basil the Great Mouse Detective, an underrated Sherlock Holmes-riffing Disney flick.


The Films I Didn’t See

Of course, this obviously isn’t a Top 10 of 2007 in the traditional sense. But, nonetheless, new films do feature, and with that in mind there were a number of notable films released this year that I’ve yet to see.

Here, then, is an alphabetical list of 50 films made in 2007 that I’ve missed. (To be fair, some of these aren’t actually out over here yet… but when I finally see them they’ll be listed as 2007, so on this list they go! Equally, a fair few films have cropped up on best-of-year lists but are technically from 2006, so have been left off.) The films listed here have been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim.

2 Days in Paris
28 Weeks Later
3:10 to Yuma
30 Days of Night
Across the Universe
Aliens vs Predator: Requiem
American Gangster
The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
Atonement
Becoming Jane
Beowulf
Blades of Glory
Charlie Wilson’s War
Control
Die Hard 4.0 / Live Free or Die Hard
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Enchanted
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Ghost Rider
The Golden Compass
Grindhouse (or its constituent parts individually)
Hairspray
Halloween
I Am Legend
I’m Not There
Juno
Knocked Up
Lions For Lambs
The Man From Earth
Michael Clayton
National Treasure: Book of Secrets
No Country For Old Men
Ocean’s Thirteen
Ratatouille
Resident Evil: Extinction
Rush Hour 3
Shrek the Third
Sicko
The Simpsons Movie
Southland Tales
St. Trinian’s
Stardust
Sunshine
Superbad
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
There Will Be Blood
TMNT
Transformers
Waitress
Zodiac


A Final Thought

It’s been very strange, looking back over this list to pick my choices. Some films I saw at the beginning of the year feel like they were just the other week; others seen more recently feel like they were an age ago. It’s quite an interesting experience — one that I’d recommend.