Archive | December, 2013

My 11 favourite films of 2013

31 Dec












It’s that time of year again, looking back with a nostalgic twinkle in the eye as you remember all the great (and occasionally rubbish) films you have watched over the past 12 months. Why 11? Why not? These Top 10 lists all need turning up to 11…

Anyway, down to business. Here are my Top 11 favourite films that were released in UK cinemas in 2013, this is THE definitive list of the best films of the year by the way, so enjoy:


A mighty and ambitious project that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as 2001: A Space Odyssey; the 3D looked great and the symbolism superb, best film of the year and perhaps the century too (big call, I know).

The Act of Killing

A harrowing and insightful documentary featuring former Indonesian death squad leaders re-enacting their killings and mass murders; the banality of evil gets a fresh upheaval in this remarkable, heavy and ultimately necessary film.

Before Midnight

The cute couple get a trilogy. This is the third film featuring the delightful relationship of Jesse and Celine as they walk&talk around scenic European locations; funny, casually profound and with a great script to boot, who says sequels supposedly decline in quality?

Zero Dark Thirty

Bigelow’s brilliance shows again as she returns to the troubled Middle East, this time higher up the chain of command and no bomb disposal teams around. Chastain delivers a knockout performance as she tries to track down Osama bin Laden by any means necessary.

Captain Phillips

Veteran Hanks and newcomer Barkhad Abdi duel on the high-seas in Greengrass’s taut thriller. His trademark camerawork is perfectly suited for this film; all about Somali pirates but also dealing with so much more; a real masterclass in suspense.

The Impossible

An emotional sucker-punch? It certainly is. Too soon? Perhaps. Another certainty are the strong performances from Watts & co. and the devastating visuals of the tsunami and its destruction. A hard-to-watch human tragedy, but brilliantly done.


Hitchcockian splendour is what Park delivers in his first English-language film based on Shadow of a Doubt. Deliciously dark and beautifully shot, this Hitchcock homage will cause wry smiles aplenty and a new take on growing up in rural America.


One of the most famous Presidents is bought back to life thanks to Day-Lewis’s invigorating performance and Spielberg’s patient and unintrusive directing. Speeches are made, fists are waved and slaves are freed in this epic of historical proportions.

Blue Jasmine

Blanchett carries Allen’s latest film with gusto and she delivers a perfect and weighty performance as a New York socialite spiralling into denial and madness whilst living with her sister in San Francisco. Even when Allen doesn’t hit the peak, he is still miles ahead.


A bleak road-trip movie shot in serene black and white. Featuring Woody as an ageing alcoholic (played by the brilliant Dern) trying to claim a $1m prize which is a couple of states away. Payne gives us another heart warmer with his trademarks of poignancy and humour in equal doses.

This is the End

This is the funniest comedy of 2013, in a year when many comedies were surprisingly lacking in the humour department (Hangover III, The Heat…etc). It has its flaws but an interesting plot and gags by the cameo-load allow a film with Rihanna in it to bookend my yearly Top 11.


Clip Joint: Fireworks

18 Dec

Bonfire Night may have been and gone but that doesn’t mean fireworks are forgotten for another year. Films provide a broad canvas for plenty of pyrocentric antics, and here are some films with memorable scenes where the sparks fly.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Smaug may not be in the Lord of the Rings trilogy but the quaint town of Hobbiton experiences a dragon of their own on the night of Bilbo Baggins 111th birthday, which opens the first film in the trilogy with a dragon-shaped bang.

2. Toy Story

In Toy Story’s action-packed ending, a firework takes centre stage, as Woody and Buzz Lightyear use a huge combustible to catch up with their owner Andy; they fly, and fall, in style. Without said firework, they would never have caught up with Andy and Toy Story 2 and 3 may have never been made. The horror.

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

More wizard magic, another firework dragon; fireworks play the role of the disruptor in the fifth Harry Potter film when the Weasley twins unleash a fiery display in the main hall right in the middle of an exam. The despotic headmistress Dolores Umbridge gets a good scare too – this is definitely one of the Weasleys’ better pranks.

4. Mulan

As well as using rockets to defeat an army with an avalanche, Mulan and her guardian dragon (there seems to be some kind of link between dragons and fireworks) Mushu manage to defeat the evil Hun Shan-Yu with a well-aimed firework, which then sets off a spectacular display to celebrate China’s victory. The Chinese did invent fireworks and Mulan teaches us what happens when you disobey the instructions and aim fireworks at other people.

5. Jackass: The Movie

Sometimes an alarm clock just doesn’t cut it, according to the Jackass crew; setting of fireworks in the bedroom, on the other hand, is guaranteed to wake up everyone in the house.

Featured in GuardianFilm:

Courier – Top 10 of 2013 (Before Midnight)

9 Dec


4. Before Midnight

Before Midnight is the third film in Richard Linklater’s series – preceded by Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – that has followed Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delphy) growing up and falling in love along the way. In Before Midnight, we meet the couple on a family holiday in Greece, with kids in tow. The subtly brilliant performances and the sharp, witty script that defined the previous films all return inBefore Midnight; a rom-com it may be, but not in the traditional sense. Laden with dialogue, often a weakness but here a strength – light enough to amuse, rich enough to compel in equal measure. Linklater does not deal in fluff;Before Midnight is certainly darker than its predecessors but no less casually profound. It seamlessly adds to one of the most charming modern love stories, watching Jesse and Celine chat feels like visiting old friends. Relationships are rarely perfect, unlike Before Midnight, which comes mighty close indeed.

Full article, with pieces by other writers, available here:

It’s a Wonderful Life – Review

9 Dec


Frank Capra’s timeless tale is for many the ultimate Christmas film. The always-affable Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey, a compassionate but frustrated businessman in small-town America. Bailey’s helped by angel Clarence (Henry Travers) as he contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve, who shows him what life would be like if he never existed over one snowy night.

Both Capra and Stewart both consider if their favourite film; it truly is a genuine classic, it improves with both age and familiarity and brings joy to all those who experience it. The original black & white version, the only way to watch it, conjures up the lustre of old Hollywood and fables of old. The word ‘magical’ is often bandied about in film criticism but It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the early pictures that deserves every letter of the word. It tackles humour, sentimentality and warming charm perfectly; it takes you through the emotional scale and is incredibly watchable. The performances are marvellous, Stewart taking the reins as the relatable small-town man with big dreams, Donna Reed – in her first major role – as the ideal American wife and Travers as the always-kind Angel 2nd Class.

Everything fits, everything works; it all comes to together so succinctly and perfectly that it is hard to aim any criticism in the direction of Capra’s masterpiece. Few films are flawless, however there always exceptions to the rule.

Heartwarmingly beautiful, It’s a Wonderful Life is the perfect Christmas film. 


Editor’s Column #4

2 Dec

Harry Potter. The Lord of the Rings. These two film franchises certainly helped shape my childhood and many other students currently working hard (ahem) at university, not just in the UK but also all over the world.


Students born in the golden decade that was the 1990s will remember growing up with Harry Potter; first the brilliant books and then the magical films. Famous franchises become part of the probably the most important part of your life. The brain is at its most absorbent and malleable during the childhood and teen years so no wonder that Harry Potter and The Lord of the Ringsbecame some of the most beloved for the 90s kids. I think everyone remembers at least one spell that Harry, Ron, Hermione and co. learnt in the classrooms of Hogwarts, right?

The 90s kids aren’t alone in the franchised childhoods though, kids from the 1960s onwards will all remember the multitude of James Bond films released every decade since; 70s kids had Star Wars, 80s kids Indiana Jones and so on. Every generation has at least one, or more, franchises that they can relate to, as well as endlessly re-watch and quote – “Wingardium Leviosa”.

What is it about franchises that we love so much? There is no definite way of truly knowing; but a combination of likable characters locked in a battle of good versus evil, along with a great story and some memorable music and actors thrown into the mix tends to create an enchanting and well-loved franchise. “Expecto Patronum”… sorry, I digress; I’ll just stop now.

Unfortunately for every brilliant franchise, there has to be one that flops at the first hurdle, where the first film is also the last one. Since the beginning of this century alone, there have been numerous failed franchises, particularly book to film adaptions, which are all desperate to replace the gaping hole left when the Harry Potter films came to an end. The Golden Compass – based on the first book in the popular Phillip Pullman trilogy – stopped before it even really started, as didEragon, also based on the first book in a popular series. The Twilight Saga and more recently The Hunger Games managed to take-off with great success, but franchises are not immune to failure purely because they are based on popular books; it is a fine line between sink and swim.

When they do well, however, they really are milestones of cinema and life, measurable in equal doses of familiarity and childhood memories.