20. Django Unchained – Quentin Tarantino’s latest effort is a bit silly, over uses the ‘n’ word, is a bit too long, but otherwise, it’s a lot of fun. Just turn your brain off and run with it. Heavily stylised scenes of violence and a release date that was close to another school massacre in America meant that Quentin got a lot of abuse for this one, which he did not deal with particularly well (see Ch. 4 interview), but there are lots of positives in this revenge thriller, with Christoph Waltz the stand out performance.
19. Blue Jasmine – A return to form of sorts for Woody. It’s one hit, one miss with him for the last few years, but this was an enjoyable movie based around a young woman falling from a position of luxury to an average middle class society, who only has herself to blame! Parts of it annoyed me, and the similarities with ‘A Streetcar named Desire’ were all to obvious, but some very good performances really moved it up a gear or two. From our review
It’s nowhere near Woody at his best, but Cate Blanchett and her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) are reason enough to see it.
15. Black Fish – The story of the Killer Whales in captivity and why their fins are droopy. It is a documentary told from the perspective of many ex trainers/ workers and how the fish are treated. While it is not particularly bad, these whales travel up to a 100 km per day in the wild, and are effectively living in small bath tubs. A sad tale of how one fish could be responsible for various deaths of trainers while performing. Tilikum is the whale in question, the largest male Killer Whale in captivity.
17. Saving Mr. Banks – It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s raining outside. This IS the perfect film. It’ll keep the full family happy and won’t offend your Aunt Betty. From our review – This is a sweet story of a difficult and very proper English woman who battles with Disney to maintain the core of her novel. It is funny and sad, but the scenes of her upbringing drag the film down. The main reason to see the film is the performance of Thompson, who carries it along in her brisk and entertaining manner.
16. Before Midnight – One of the more unusual movies of the year. They moved on from their format of a long conversation while walking around a city and changed it to a long argument while sitting in a hotel room. It’s well written though, and doesn’t deliver the happy ending to the trilogy that I was expecting.Written by the director Richard Linklater and the two main actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, his is a surprisingly real account of how relationships change from idealised to everyday.
15. Mud – This is a proper kids movie, with a msytery and a nice twisting plot. Matthew McConaughey has almost atoned for his former sins against film, and I will now accept him into the ranks of ‘Actors I quite like’. Two young boys find a man hiding on an island, and decide to help him in his quest to be reunited with his true love. Needless to say, it does not go according to plan!
14. The Sessions – The story of a man in an Iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity and contacts a sex surrogate to help him with the deed. It’s a sad tale but John Hawkes is great in the lead role. from our review
“this film is ace and life-affirming and, aw-shucks, I think Helen Hunt even managed to win me round me in the end! I wholeheartedly recommend this film for your viewing pleasure.”
13. What Masie Knew – Our review is here.
Neither of the parents are monsters, although there are some seriously negligent displays along the way, especially from Moore, who juggles the demands of touring with Motherhood without much success. Masie is passed from one parent/ guardian to the other and is often left in strange situations during these transitions. The introduction of a step mother and father changes the dynamic and offers Masie a chance of a normal childhood in an unexpected way. It is the type of film that will create a healthy discussion over coffee after the film ends and will leave you with more questions than answers.
12. The Crash Reel – It’s a sad tale of accepting ones limitations and seeing how easily your dreams can disappear. It deals with the level of damage that professional sports players do to their bodies and brains, showing the long term effects of these injuries in graphic detail. It’s touching and poignant and left me in a blue mood after seeing it, but sometimes life doesn’t have a happy ending!
11. Philomena – From our review
It is great that this film will cause a new generation to see the horror of the Magdalene laundry, and it is the first piece of fiction I’ve seen deal with the topic well. The question has been asked about why it took an English director and cast to make this uniquely Irish tale, but maybe it is too close to home and better handled with perspective. It’s a harrowing and shocking story, but very rewarding.