31 December 2010

The Mad Prophet's Top 25 Films Of 2010- #25-11

In case videos and new-fangled technology drive you mad, I thought it prudent to reward people who like to read on this here blog. Or appease people who don't want to see my face at any given point. My face features copiously in the upcoming Top 10 video, and you'll have to watch it to find out which films made the cut, but this blog post has none. What this post does have is an extra 15 films. Don't think of them as runners-up so much as extra goodness that 2010 had to offer!

As I've explained in the past, this is based on movies released in the UK in 2010- I don't count The Princess and the Frog as a 2009 film, and Black Swan won't be released until 2011. More than that, this isn't an outright Best Of list as much as it is a Best Of list tempered by favouritism and how much I enjoyed them. My outright Best Of list would be something to discuss around Oscar time...

So out of the 150 new films I saw in 2010, here are my top 25, from the Worth Mentioning at #25 to the Missed It By That Much #11...

30 December 2010

Mini-Mad Prophecies- 2010 Wrap Up

It's still technically 2010 and there are a few films I haven't yet documented. Rather than do a load of longer posts today, I'm going to do what they do to Christmas presents on December 25th in Soviet Russia and wrap them all up. In just the one post. With the worst pun in the post already out of the way, let's get right into it.

27 December 2010

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS- Review

It's as bad as it looks. And worse.

Huh.

Sometimes I just...

Right, let's start with story, shall we? Theoretically, the story of Gulliver's Travels, created by Jonathan Swift to subtly satirise government and politics so as to avoid being executed for his views, is a travelogue by Lemuel Gulliver. Gulliver is shipwrecked in a country where the inhabitants are 1/12 of his height, and variously travels to several other weird and wonderful places as the narrative progresses and Swift's critiques of the established order are embellished.

In Gulliver's Travels, a film from the makers of Shrek and Monsters vs. Aliens, the tale is modernised to centre around Jack Black as the now more implausibly named Lemuel Gulliver, an dislikeable bumbag who is never going to get out of the rut of employment he's nestled into at the New York Tribune. After resorting to shameless measures with the travel editor to bag a writing assignment in the Bermuda Triangle, Gulliver winds up shipwrecked in Lilliput. And that's where any manner of faithfulness to the text ends.

22 December 2010

LITTLE FOCKERS- Review

In doing my reading around the film before I wrote this review of Little Fockers, I realised it's been six years since Meet the Fockers was released. I was much younger, and that film was quite funny, then. Now, it doesn't really hold up, and making me feel old just compounds the crimes of this worse sequel, in my view.

The Fockers of the title aren't that big a part of the plot, but they're Henry and Samantha Focker, the young twin children of Greg and Pam. With big plans for their upcoming fifth birthday celebration, Greg's father-in-law Jack Byrnes suffers a minor heart attack. His pride and legacy on the line, he begins training Greg to take over as the patriarch of the family in case Jack's heart condition should worsen. Does that sound funny? Hell, does it even sound like a narrative?

21 December 2010

CATFISH- Review

Yes, now more than ever, this review will be SPOILER FREE, so have no fear. Then again, it begs the question of why you'd be looking at a review of Catfish if you don't want to know anything about it.

If "the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed" sounds like a ridiculous label to attach to Catfish, then you'd be right. Not because it's a bad film, but because it doesn't resemble a Hitchcock film in the slightest. It's essentially the second Facebook film of 2010, after The Social Network. Some think it's an actual documentary, some think it's fake, and people on both sides like or dislike it- some dislike and distrust it so much that they're suing the filmmakers for using their music without paying for clearance.

Basically, it's purported that filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost started shooting Ariel's brother Nev's online relationship on camera after realising there could well be a story in it. Nev's a photographer who is in contact with a creative family, and he's grown particularly close to Megan, a young woman with whom he strikes up a romance on Facebook. Inconsistencies begin to appear with the whole Facebook family, and so the trio decide to travel across country to peek behind the veil.

17 December 2010

TRON: LEGACY- Review

There is actually a sequel to Tron. And it comes almost three decades after the release of the original. We are now in a realm where all things are possible, and there's nothing Grid-like about it. I saw Tron for the first time yesterday evening, right before catching a midnight screening of Tron: Legacy. I may profess myself disappointed by Tron, but believe me, it's got nothing on the sequel as a sheer letdown.

The sequel picks up with Kevin Flynn having taken his company Encom to its peak after the ending of the first film, but then he disappears, leaving his young son Sam behind, all alone. Flash forward two decades and Sam gets a message that suggests his father might still be around, living in the computerised world known as the Grid and working on a breakthrough that could change the course of human history. Sam ventures into the Grid, and finds his father in hiding from his own digital counterpart, Clu, who rules the state with a pixellated iron fist.

15 December 2010

Satan Claus- RARE EXPORTS Review

Has anybody noticed that Christmas films are now like the also-rans at the box office each December in the same way as a festive single will fall under the wheels of the X Factor winner's single in the race for Christmas number 1? Last year, the big draw was Avatar, leaving Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol out in the cold. Then again, Zemeckis got the last bonafide Christmas hit at the cinema with The Polar Express at the end of 2004.

With Gulliver's Travels and Little Fockers looming hideously into sight in the next couple of weeks, I'm pleased to recommend the hidden festive gem of this year, Rare Exports, a Finnish horror thriller about a boy who still believes in Santa Claus. That is, the Santa Claus of Finnish folklore- an angry, naked old monster who prowls around punishing naughty children with death more than he rewards nice kids with presents. The boy's community of reindeer herders in Lapland manages to capture the monster when Santa's burial mound is unearthed by archaeologists, but Christmas is just around the corner...

13 December 2010

Go Somewhere Else- THE TOURIST Review

Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnesmarck made his mark with 2007's The Lives of Others, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. That was an arresting thriller that utterly gripped me from start to finish and had me thinking about it for days afterwards. So fuck knows why he followed it up with a limp and forgettable beautiful people vehicle like The Tourist.

Our beautiful people are Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, and their characters become entwined in the midst of a stock romantic crime thriller plot. Jolie is Elise, the wife of a British tax fugitive who's wanted by both Scotland Yard and some pissed off gangsters. None of his pursuers know what he looks like after intelligence suggests he's had facial reconstruction surgery. To give them a false trail, Elise finds Frank, played by Depp, on a train to Venice, and pretends he is her wanted hubby.

10 December 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader- NARNIA 3 Review

Because sometimes, titles are just too damn long to name a film and do a clever pun as well. After being unceremoniously ditched by Disney, 20th Century Fox distributes Walden Media's third C.S. Lewis film, The Chronicles of Narnia- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. With Peter and Susan all grown up, younger siblings Edmund and Lucy Pevensie take centre stage as they return to the magical world of Narnia.

Along with their odious cousin Eustace Scrubb, Edmund and Lucy are surprised to find they've been summoned to a peaceful Narnia. However, King Caspian soon has a mission for them, seeking out seven swords that must be laid at the mystical Jesus Lion Aslan's table in order to defeat a gathering evil. They travel the seas on the Dawn Treader, with each of our heroes being tested their enemies on the way.

9 December 2010

Mid-Class Crisis- ANOTHER YEAR Review

Looking through Mike Leigh's filmography, I haven't found a single thing I've seen. I've found a lot of films I want to see, like Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky, but I wouldn't think it unfair to say that Leigh doesn't reach a huge audience in terms of distribution. Not to dismiss anything just because I haven't seen any of his films, but because nobody has been telling me that I should have. Except for Another Year, which proves that Leigh can connect with audiences on a better level than mere cinema distribution.

Against the grain of most kitchen sink realist dramas, the central figures in Another Year are Tom and Gerri (geddit?), a perfectly happy middle-aged couple. He isn't cheating on her, she doesn't have any terminal disease- it's the people who surround the blissfully married pair that seem to have all the problems. The film takes place over four seasons, charting Tom and Gerri's interactions with their bachelor son Joe, alcoholic Ken and desperately lonely Mary.

8 December 2010

Ninjas. Damn! - THE WARRIOR'S WAY Review

We've been here before, last year with Blood: The Last Vampire, at the beginning of this year with Ninja Assassin, and now Hollywood once again takes a flying kick at integrating all that is awesome about martial arts cinema with The Warrior's Way. On the plus side, it's a Western!

Yang is our single Oriental protagonist this time around- a swordsman arriving in a derelict frontier town that used to be a successful circus. He carries a baby girl with him, the last survivor of an enemy clan that Yang otherwise slaughtered. Taking mercy on the child, he's hiding out in America, but his Sad Flute clan isn't best pleased that he has defied and deserted him. On top of everything else, the sadistic Colonel is coming back to the circus he destroyed several years prior, and a confrontation of epic proportions looks all but certain.

7 December 2010

Cold Snap- WINTER'S BONE Review

Winter's Bone is one of the Oscar darlings for this year, perhaps due to benefit from the Academy making up for lost ground, after their ignorance of The Road at the last ceremony. Both this and John Hillcoat's film are bleak, both films are acted very well, and yet one of them is somehow a lot more hopeful than the other.

It's about Ree, a headstrong young woman who lives in the Ozarks in Alabama, caring for her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings in the absence of her delinquent father. Said daddy has jumped bail and put his only asset, the family home, up for his bond. This gives him a week to show up before his bondsman takes the house away. In the sparsely populated community, everyone is related by some way or another, and Ree begins a potentially deadly endeavour to find out which of her relatives knows the whereabouts of her father.

6 December 2010

There's Always One- MONSTERS Review

Remember how District 9 dazzled everybody last year to become the sleeper hit of the year? I also remember how inevitable it seemed that a weaker copycat film would shortly manifest itself. Monsters is not that film, despite what the deceptively similar marketing techniques might have you believe. Aside from not erring too close to Neill Blomkamp's film in content though, it's also not really anywhere near as good.

Writer-director Gareth Edwards paints the America of Monsters as a post-Cloverfield continent. Alien encounters have become a routine occurrence, six years after the destruction of a space probe brought tonnes of alien spores down to Earth in Central America. This led to everything in between the USA and Mexico being cordoned off as an infected zone, through which photojournalist Andrew must escort his boss' daughter Samantha.

3 December 2010

Never Mind- MEGAMIND Review

This year, Dreamworks has pumped out three animated films. Of Shrek Forever After, there's really nothing more to say than how samey it was, but the real triumph has been How To Train Your Dragon. The first outright excellent film to come from the company since Shrek, it probably would have won the Best Animated Picture Oscar away from Pixar if it had only come out in the year where they offered Cars 2 instead of the superb Toy Story 3. Somewhere in between Shrek and the dragons, falls Megamind.

The titular blue-bonced supervillain comes from the Superman origin story, jettisoned from an exploding galaxy to Earth by loving parents when he was just a baby. The same applies to his arch-nemesis Metroman, with whom he engages in elaborate battles. He never wins, except for the day that he accidentally does. With Metroman dead, Megamind reevaluates his career in evil and realises that something has to be done to restore the old status quo.

2 December 2010

Millennium Part 3- THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST Review

The final part of the Millennium trilogy brought Lisbeth Salander's story to a close this week, in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. This review will be spoiler-free as far as this film is concerned, but it may contain minor spoilers for the first two instalments, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Lisbeth is in hospital, there to go to police custody just as soon as she's recovered, to be tried for crimes she didn't commit. With the evidence he's gathered, Mikael Blomkvist sets about composing a shattering exposé of her treatment by the Swedish government. A dastardly covert group, the Section, is prepared to do anything to suppress the truth as the case heads for trial. This shit just got as real as it can get.

1 December 2010

Freeze In Hell, Batman- Why The Snow Leaves Me Cold

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we've no place to go- fuck off, snow! Today is the day where snow becomes acceptable for 25 days, and just those 25 days, each year. If you've been following the Annual Snowpocalypse news coverage in the UK, you'll notice that the cold snap started in the dying days of November.

This, to me, constitutes Not Christmas Snow. It's not in December, so it's not acceptable. Moreover, it gets me thinking about snow scenes in films that aren't set at Christmas. Particularly this last Sunday, where I had to stay in and work all day, struggling to motivate myself to write as everybody else in the house drove me nuts. It's as close to being Jack Torrance as I ever want to get. Here are a few reasons why Not Christmas Snow leaves me cold...