Film 2009

Without Jonathan Ross

2008 was undoubtedly a brilliant year for films with the releases of Cloverfield, The Dark Knight, Wall•E, Iron Man, Burn After Reading, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Frost/Nixon, The Wrestler and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to name just ten.

So how did 2009 do? First of all, I’ll admit that there were some major films released this year that I still haven’t managed to watch (read: Coraline, The Soloist, Public Enemies) but when Film 4 asked via Twitter what everyone’s favourite films of the year were I felt like writing down my thoughts.

Star Trek

Star Trek Screencap

I’m not what you would call a Trekkie by any means. Although I often found my eldest sister watching Star Trek when I was younger, I never became a fan of the series and so understandably I wasn’t as hyped up about this film as a lot of other people I know.

Despite this I really enjoyed JJ Abrams “reboot” of the series. Abrams managed to introduce and develop the characters in a way which allowed him to draw in non-Trekkies like myself without boring the existing fans. This was helped by a good, if at times slightly convoluted, story and some great performances from Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban.

This is exactly what I wanted from a summer blockbuster and I’m looking forward to Abrams’ sequel.

District 9

District 9 Screencap

Neill Blomkamp was due to direct a film based on Halo. Luckily for everyone that fell through and producer Peter Jackson gave Bomkamp $30 million to make whatever he wanted. The result is a brilliant sci-fi film based on Blomkamp’s original short film Alive in Joburg.

While I did enjoy this film I felt that they should have kept the documentary style throughout instead of ditching it in the latter half of the film. I also felt that the final act was a bit clichéd at times although not enough to detract from the rest of the film. This is far from your standard action sci-fi however as there is a clear message to be found at the heart of the film. The previously unknown Sharlto Copely delivers an excellent performance Wikus Van De Merwe, superbly ad-libbing the entirety of his dialogue in the documentary sections of the film. I often find that having a big name actor in the lead role in a film can have a negative effect as I see them more as the actor than as the character they are playing. After seeing District 9 I’m wondering if more films should use an unknown cast.

Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds Screencap

All the trailers and marketing touted this film as starring Brad Pitt, but in reality he’s barely in it. The film’s focus is more on the stories of SS Colonel Hans Landa and cinema owner Shosanna Dreyfus with Mélanie Laurent and in particular Christoph Waltz delivering outstanding performances.

With superb dialogue, brilliant pacing, great tension and fantastic humour, Basterds marks a return to form for Tarantino after the disappointment that was Death Proof. This is definitely his best work since Pulp Fiction.

Up

Up Screencap

Pixar have done it again, again… again. In the past, Pixar’s films have seemed to me to be stories aimed at children with some adult humour sprinkled on top so that the parents who are taking their kids to see the film aren’t entirely bored. Up feels to me more like an adult story with elements of childish humour injected into it.

The early montage following Carl and Ellie’s life together is astounding and endears the viewer to Carl who otherwise may have appeared to be a quite grumpy and unlikable character. In fact, this scene was so good that it was listed as “The Greatest Moment in Movie Animation” by Total Film magazine.

Moon

Moon Screencap

Prior to Moon I had only seen Sam Rockwell in two films, his not-so-great performance in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and his pretty decent appearance in Choke. As such I wasn’t entirely sure about him as an actor going in to Moon, thankfully his performance is superb.

Moon takes on the sci-fi genre in a different way to Star Trek, proving to be a much more cerebral experience compared to Trek’s fast-paced action. The twists and turns are all revealed gradually in a way which keeps you guessing and doesn’t resort to simple shock tactics.

It feels very 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of the overall aesthetics of the film, as well as Sam’s HAL-esque companion GERTY, but it is an homage rather than simply stealing the set designs and when combined with Clint Mansell’s score the atmosphere which is created fits the story perfectly.

So those are my favourite films of 2009, how about you?

09/12/2009

Posted in Film

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Upcoming

Films and Games I'm Looking Forward To

The summer, or what little of it we had, is drawing to a close. The nights are getting longer, the weather is getting even worse, and soon Halloween and Christmas decorations will start appearing in the shops. However, the positives to this are that there are a fair few games and films coming out over the coming months in the build up to Christmas. Here then are some of the titles which I’m looking forward to.

Burn After Reading

The Coen brothers return after No Country For Old Men with a comedy thriller in which a disc containing the memoirs of CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) falls into the hands of Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand); two gym employees who intend to blackmail Cox. CIA agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) who is sleeping with Cox’s wife is assigned to recover the disc.

The Coen brothers have a habit of making films which I enjoy (The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? to name but two) and with a cast that includes Pitt, Clooney and Malkovich I’m expecting this to be a film that gets added to that list.

Choke

Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name, Choke features Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a sex-addicted, medical school dropout who works at a colonial theme park, who has devised a scam to help pay for his deranged mother’s hospital bills: He dines at various upscale restaurants and purposely causes himself to choke mid-way through his meal, luring a “good Samaritan” into saving his life. He keeps a detailed list of everyone who saves him and sends them frequent letters about fictional bills he is unable to pay. The people feel so sorry for him that they give him money, send him cards and letters asking him about how he’s doing, and even continue to send him money to help him with the bills.

Palahniuk is one of my favourite authors, and the film Fight Club (again based on the Palahniuk novel of the same name) is one of my favourite films. Judging from the trailer the film is going to have a different feel to that of the novel but after seeing that it has won a Special Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival I’m still optimistic about it.

Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace is one of the few direct sequels in the Bond series and begins about an hour after the end of Casino Royale. Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the hunt for answers after Vesper Lynd seemingly betrayed him and died. The investigation leads him, via new Bond girl Camille (Olga Kurylenko), to a mysterious business man named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric).

I was always a fan of the Bond films, but after GoldenEye the series began to get stale. Casino Royale refreshed the series although I feel this was partly due to the success of the The Bourne Trilogy and Casino Royale showed that with a similar style of action. The Quantum of Solace trailer shows that the series is keeping the Bourne-esque action whilst also keeping some of the over the top sequences which are a staple of the Bond series.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Box Art

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Being both a sci-fi and a Star Wars fan (believe it or not I do know people who claim to be sci-fi fans and yet don’t like Star Wars) this game has been getting a lot of my attention recently. While I did enjoy the KOTOR games, turn based combat isn’t something I’m a huge fan of, and the amount of random wandering I did in those games did get me bored at times. From playing the Force Unleashed demo I get the feeling that the game is considerably more linear (which some people might see as a bad thing) and that it flows seamlessly into combat from the fact that you’re not limited to only using force powers and your weapons when in a combat situation.

The plot is set between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope and has you playing as Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, tasked with hunting down the last remaining Jedi after they are ordered to be killed by Emperor Plapatine. Described as being “pivotal” in Vader’s history, The Force Unleashed provides a link between the two trilogies of films.

Mirror's Edge Box Art

Mirror’s Edge

Mirror’s Edge is a game which has been receiving a lot of hype recently due to its innovative gameplay and visual style. The problem with hype is that it can lead to huge disappointments and it’s because of this that I’m trying not to get my hopes too high for this game. While I am excited about it, I’m worried that the development of the gameplay and visual style may mean that the story which drives the game is lacking, or that it could become repetitive and boring jumping around similar environments all the time. I’m definitely going to give this game a try, but it isn’t something that I’ll be running out to buy as soon as it hits the shelves.

Left 4 Dead Box Art

Left 4 Dead

A game where you play a survivor attempting to escape a zombie apocalypse is always going to entice me (and yet I still don’t own Dead Rising?). Left 4 Dead places four survivors (hence the use of the 4 in the title) in the middle of pandemic against hordes of zombies “Infected”.

While this game looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun, I expect it to really come alive with the four player co-op mode where you and three friends have to help each other battle through the hordes of Infected. That doesn’t just mean helping each other kill as many of the Infected as possible either, but also to heal team-mates, help them climb obstacles or pick them up if they get knocked over.

I see this being a game where I might not give it that much time as a single player game, but that is going to be great with a group of friends.

So there you have it; they are a few of the things I’m looking forward to over the next couple of months. What are you looking forward to? Any games you have your eye on? A film you can’t wait for? Maybe a new album that’s coming out some time soon?

06/09/2008

Posted in Film, Gaming

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