“ It was a big year in cinema with hits such as the record smashing Avatar and the mind-boggling Inception. What were your favourites and why? „
So, here are my favourite films of the year that I rented on DVD, yet another disappointing 12 months for exciting and thrilling movies, one or two of these slightly older but qualifying because they are still on the expensive rack in Blockbusters. Just as online pirating has destroyed the music industry, HMV likely to join all the other high street music stores in the trash can, it looks like the theft of movies online is beginning to affect the quality and cerebral content, less money around these days in the industry to risk it on smart movies, Transformers 3 the only sure-fire winners as far as the big players are concerned. In the old days it was films like that big budget no-brainer that would subsidises smaller projects but with a shortage of capital for the big studios they are no longer taking on as many independents. Money is so tight even the new Bond film, a traditional huge earner for MGM, has been put on hold.
The most hyped DVD of the year was the twice released Avatar, a Non 3D version now showing in a cinema near you, 20th Century Fox spending more money on pre-movie publicity for this one than director James Cameron did to make the whole of his last movie 'Titanic', then considered the most expensive film of all time, costing $200 million, that, indeed, the biggest grossing movie of all time until Avatar, some double to have on your CV, the most bankable man in Hollywood the least liked in Hollywood because of. But 6 months on from seeing Avatar you have to say we all fell for the hype and the blue people and the big tree all seem rather silly now, a truly dreadful narrative and we await the equally dreadful sequel. Alas, a gross to date nudging a mind-boggling $3 billion dollars means he will be back. Titanic has taken $1.8 billion to date. I don't think Fox will be sacking the obnoxious director any day soon.
The most under-rated (and then over-rated) hit of the year was the supposedly tense war movie 'The Hurt Locker', a film that left me as cold as the Arabic stiffs blown up by the I.E.D.s our equally bombastic bomb disposal expert Jeremy Renner failed to defuse. I'm still scratching my head why so many smart people that mattered liked this, what is, essentially, a very basic war film. But the films biggest claim to fame would have to be for director Kathryn Bigalow, the first ever female to win the 'Best Director Oscar' for this, beating her ex husband to the prize - you guessed it, a one James Cameron.
Other flops included Werner Herzog's muddled attempt at film noir with the tedious Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans, a film so psychedelic and obtuse it was like suffering the same bad trip junkie cop Nicholas Cage was on all through the tiresome and weary movie. Youth in Revolt with the ubiquitous teen geek totty Michael Cera also backfired like your first car, as did Invictus, seeing the worst casting of the year with Matt Damon as the World Cup winning South African rugby captain Francois Pinner. This film only seemed to have got made because Morgan Freeman was mates with Nelson Mandela, the script, plot and dialogue not required. 44 Inch Chest, a hybrid sequel of sorts to Sexy Beast, was also a big misfire from a rusty shotgun, ham of the year awards to John Hurt and Ray Winston.
The Super Hero genre has pepped up of late and the Iron Man sequel turned out to be pretty good, enjoyable because they didn't mess it up, as they did with the Transformers trilogy. Kick Ass was great fun too, a fresh and original take on the genre, Scott Pilgrim not so good as it tried to so the same thing.
Comedy wise and what another strong year for Ricky Gervais, his British film debut behind the camera producing Cemetery Junction, a very well made and nostalgic piece of traditional Ealing comedy. We also had the 'Invention of Lying', his America project, a clever idea for a film but dumbed down to get a US multiplex crowd in. Ricky rounded off the year with the enjoyable but contrived Karl Pilkington travelogue.
Also in comedy was Zombieland, sending up the growing un-dead genre with aplomb, Woody Harleson and rising star Jessie Eisenberg really enjoying themselves killing zombies in every conceivable way to great comic effect on the coolest of road trips. Eisenberg was also good in the smart little observant comic indie 'Adventureland', about his some deadbeats working in a fairground, and then making it big with the Facebook movie, of course. The surprise comedy hit for me has to be Get him to the Greek, starring Russell Brand, a comedian I just couldn't get into before watching this. If you, like me, don't like him then this film may help. The slick and erudite George Clooney comedy 'Up in the Air' was more my thing, smart and sexy and a very grown up comedy too, something for the thirtysomethings. Swing Vote, released in 2008, was an excellent return to comic form for Kevin Costner but went relative unseen here, a bit like his bizarre oil cleaning machine he unleashed on the Gulf spill. You guys seriously need to Google that one!
What could have been the most controversial British film of the year was the puerile but fun Four Lions, Chris 'Brass Eye' Morris's tongue-in-cheek take on British Pakistani suicide bombers. But it turned out to be hilarious, a delightfully silly treat that skilfully managed not to offend any Muslims or Islam, making it quite clear it was the bombers extremely low IQ responsible for their interpretation of Jihad and so not down to Islam. As yet Morris has not been murdered in the street like that poor Dutch chap who sent up Islam. It doesn't try to be clever or satirical and just apes what we know from previous plots and attacks. It has genuine belly laughs as it does unrealistic bits but I guarantee you will be entertained. Do not miss it. The Infidel, with Britain's token male Muslim comic Omid Djalili, explored similar hates lines between Jews and Muslims and ejaculated a lovely little warm low budget British comedy.
Drama wise and 'The Reader' definitely did it for me, Oscar winning Kate Winslett as brilliant as ever playing an easily led German women who is hiding out from her Nazi past after the war, seducing underage boys to get her kicks. 'Precious', the story about the big black girl, was also cut from a controversial book, a film that tackled many black American issues black Americans would rather not see tackled, like high levels of obesity, teen pregnancy and unemployment. The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas drifted back to the Holocaust themes, a sure fire way to get good reviews, also another good screen adaptation from a popular book that made for an intelligent movie, David Thewlis back on form after along dry patch on celluloid.
Foreign films and look no further than the Swedish efforts 'Let the Right One In' and the 'Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo', both, incredibly, already remade by Hollywood because of their success here in Europe. Let the Right On In won Best Foreign Film at many of the big festivals and should have been entered into the main language categories as it was that good, certainly way better than The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock, a poor best film Oscar winner this year. Forget that puppy dog nonsense of the Twilight movies and rent this one. Fans of the Stieg Larsson books may have been disappointed with the films of the trilogy so far but if you haven't read the books (you're male!) then you will enjoy this smart twisting thriller adaptation of the boo of the same name.
Time Crimes is an older movie but erroneously qualifies for my list as I became aware of it in 2010 and watched it that year, a clever and twisting Spanish time travel movie that will have you enthralled. Also in the above category is 'JCVD', a whacky and enjoyable romp involving Jean Claude Van Damme (hence the title) sending himself up as the real life action hero returns to his native Belgium to defend his divorce case, immediately hit with a huge tax bill when he does, then getting caught up in a post office raid and taken hostage. It's a fun idea and really works, especially as JCVD is too thick to realise the only reason the film works is if the joke is on him, not the type of ego to agree to do a movie like this if he had twigged that much.
Sci-Fi through up some big winners this year with Inception doing huge business, a genuinely smart big action movie that made no attempt to read out the plot line to you every scene. Yes there were holes in the narrative and pointless interpolated shoot em up scenes just to get bigger audiences in and video game spin-offs on the market but it sucks you in and it does make you think about our own existence. But, like Avatar, a second viewing is unlikely as it is hokum when it comes down to it.
District 9, on the other hand, you would definitely see twice, robbed of the best Oscar last year by the Hurt Locker, ten times better than Avatar for me in the big special-effects category. But because it wasn't funded by the big studios and only bailed out by Peter Jackson at the last it had no publicity machine to support it and went unseen by too many people. If you're going to see something different on DVD this January then this has to be it. The Road was also an interesting (and grim) watch, the adaptation of celebrated American writer Cormak McCarthy's grim dystopian future a tough watch, so all the more satisfying, and they don't even explain why the earth is dying.
Well, that's my picks from the films I reviewed on dooyoo so feel free to make your picks so we can take your recommendations and add to our lists.