2007 in review: Films

Okay, let’s get the easy ones out of the way first. Watching films, being part of “having fun” kind of fell by the wayside in 2007. I only saw 29 films (a five-year low), most of those in the first four or five months of the year. I have only been to the cinema once since we moved to the Netherlands, and that was to see The Bourne Ultimatum…on a trip back to Scotland.

I don’t see the situation changing any time soon, either. I know where the nearest cinema is, but lack the motivation to get out there of an evening. (Also: National Treasure 2? Puh-leeze.) The TV set-up we have here in the house is distinctly sub-optimal, and I haven’t signed up for a DVD rental service here yet. (Compared to Lovefilm in the UK, the offerings here are expensive and primitive.) Once we move house, I would really like to get a big TV, and spend some time arranging it so that sitting down to watch a film is something to look forward to.

Of the films I saw in 2007, there are four that really stood out:

Brick seems to divide opinion; some people find it boring, and are put off by the poor sound quality – some of the dialogue is really hard to make out. I just loved its lo-fi noir vision. Primer is a low-budget no-fx gem, a mind-bending time-travel film that actually works. Following is another low-budget effort–Christopher Nolan’s directorial debut, in fact. (You may remember Nolan from bigger films such as The Prestige and Batman Begins.) It’s a cunning little thriller with a sting in the tail. Finally, The Good Shepherd is the kind of spy film I like: murky, understated, ambiguous, and backstabby.

So what am I looking forward to in 2008? To be honest, seeing anything at the cinema would be a high point of my year so far. Richard Brunton maintains a fabulous site for movie lovers over at Filmstalker.co.uk, with loads of tasty bites about what’s coming soon, but I can’t actually see anything on the horizon that screams out “must see!” yet.

(Actually, on second thoughts, a European release of My Name Is Bruce would be pretty awesome.)

2006 in review: Films

My favourite film of the year: The PrestigeI only saw 58 films in 2006. This is not a particularly good count, especially considering I have a subscription to LoveFilm which provides more back catalogue than any human can reasonably handle. (As a mater of fact, of the 58 films, only 19 were LoveFilm rentals. And I’m paying £9.95 a month for this service. Although I love the idea of having 40,000 films on tap, this isn’t exactly giving me enormous value for money. I think it’s time to re-assess my subscription package.) I also haven’t been keeping up-to-date with my quick reviews, although I have made sure at least to rate everything I’ve seen.

This leaves me feeling remarkably unqualified to comment on the “best” of 2006, because I’ve missed so many films that I know would have been totally awesome. So I’ll just point out a few really good ones:

  • The Prestige
    Suspenseful story of obsession, revenge, and deception between a pair of magicians in 19th century London. If you’re put off by the apparent historical setting (period pieces are not normally to my taste), don’t be afraid of this one, because you can actually see it as science fiction. The performances are nothing short of magnificent.
  • Harsh Times
    Another amazing performance by Christian Bale. I found his transformation from Home Counties to Homeboy somewhat disconcerting for the first few minutes of the film, but after that he totally owned the screen, giving a tightly contained portrayal of an Iraq War veteran failing to come to terms with life as a civilian.
  • Holly
    I saw this at the Edinburgh Film Festival with Richard of Filmstalker (your first stop for quality movie news), and was blown away. It’s a harrowing tale of ex-pat antiquities dealer Patrick (Ron Livingston) who meets a child prostitute and becomes obsessed with the idea of saving her. You’ll be hard-pressed to actually find this film anywhere, but it’s definitely worth making the effort to catch it if you can. Read Richard’s review.
  • Zathura
    Not an exceptionally original story, just a perfectly paced family adventure film.
  • Mission: Impossible III
    Again, not especially original, just a perfectly executed action blockbuster. Great set pieces, and edge-of-the-seat tension. Loved it.
  • Syriana
    Complex political drama that crawls all over the corruption that surrounds middle-east politics and the oil trade. Difficult to watch, but important to have done so.

Remarkably, I didn’t rate any films lower than 2 stars (“disappointing”) this year. Normally there are at least a couple of outright stinkers. The greatest disappointment was Superman Returns, which I felt was dull and emotionally aimless. I have higher expectations of superhero films, and especially of Bryan Singer.

The worst film I saw all year was probably Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny, but I didn’t have terribly high hopes for it in the first place. Which means that rating it as “disappointing” weighs disproportionately strongly.

My favourite movie people of the year are Christian Bale (for Harsh Times and The Prestige) and George Clooney (for Syriana and Good Night, And Good Luck). Christopher Nolan also gets awesomeness points for putting out yet another film that is going to hit my all-time favourites list.

I haven’t really been keeping up with my movie news, but there are a few films that I am excited about for 2007:

So, is there anything I’ve missed?

Happy stalking! (part 1)

After a year of writing for the Movie Blog, my good buddy Richard has started up a film-related web site of his own: Filmstalker.co.uk. (Films talker, geddit?)


He’ll be bringing you film news and reviews, and maybe even the odd podcast here and there. Although the site will cover all types of film, Richard has a particular interest in modern horror and eastern cinema, so he’ll probably be bringing you lots of goods from those directions.

Good luck, Richard!

2005 in review: Films

I saw 78 films in 2005. Not quite the 100 I managed to catch in 2004, but still a respectable haul. However, the average rating I handed out was 3.06, which is quite significantly down from 3.23 last year. I said I needed to watch more rubbish in order to fine-tune my critical senses, and I think I’ve achieved that goal. There were some stinkers this year–three that didn’t even warrant a full star, as opposed to only one in 2004:

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Also, I only found 9 films that were worth more than 4 stars, compared to 14 in 2004:

So overall, I’d say it’s been no more than an okay year for films. I haven’t made as much use of my Screenselect membership (DVDs by post) as I thought I would–probably because I haven’t been paying much attention to my movie queue. As a result, I’ve been getting a lot of films which I’d added to my queue because of a vague inkling of a fancy, rather than because I actively wanted to see them. I think I need to spend some time just removing a bunch of titles from the 200-odd long list I’ve built up, and concentrate on picking up on some of the films I missed in the cinema throughout 2005.

Here’s the full chart.

Chart of the ratings of films I saw in 2005

So what would I pick as my top films of the year? Actually, the list above comes pretty close. Removing Adaptation and Pieces Of April because they are from previous years (and remember that although The Aviator was up at the Oscars at the beginning of this year, it didn’t get a UK release until January of 2005), my list is as follows:

  1. Crash
  2. The Aviator
  3. Batman Begins
  4. Lord Of War
  5. Wedding Crashers
  6. Kung Fu Hustle
  7. A History Of Violence
  8. Sin City
  9. Serenity
  10. Sahara

Movieblog podcast

Richard, who writes for The Movie Blog, has been trying to get an all-Scottish version of their regular podcast going for some time now. On Thursday he finally made it happen! And I got invited along as a guest for the session! So if you feel like hearing the two of us ramble on about the best and worst movies of 2005, head on over to The Movie Blog for the download.

We had some technical troubles that prevented Louise from doing her “Voice Of God” thing, the output volume has ended up quite low, and you can hear the nerves shaking our voices at times. However, given that this was our first podcast ever, I think we managed to not totally suck. Might we do it again? Time will tell…

Revenge of the Sith – a second look

I just watched Revenge Of The Sith for the second time (we got the DVD yesterday). And you know what? I think it improves with a repeat viewing. Away from the hype and the suspense surrounding the big question of how Lucas was going to wrap up the decades-spanning epic, I found that I was able to absorb the film more easily. Now that I know what’s going to happen, things make more sense when they do happen. The film’s structure and plot feel a lot more solid, and the emotional moments resonated more strongly–in particular the Order 66 sequence.

Of course, the dialogue is still atrocious, and the actors’ delivery of it is poor. But I think now that if you were to rewrite the script on a line-by-line level, while leaving the scenes in place and in the same order, it might very well rock. No doubt Lucas will be more interested in tweaking the special effects in future years, though.

When I reviewed it earlier this year, I gave it two and a half stars. I’d be happy to give it three and a half now.