Watch List 2015


Here are a number of movies I still hope to see before the end of 2015.  I’m trying to get as many in as possible so my end of year Top Ten has more to pick from.  I think my viewing this year has had some real gems and compiling the list will prove very interesting.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron

Crimson Peak

Inside Out

Jurassic World

Legend

Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The Martian

Spectre

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Straight Outta Compton

Tomorrow Land

The Gift


Viewed – 13 August 2015  Cinema

Jason Bateman for as long as he’s been around, has never really been the sort of actor that guarantees bums on seats.  He’s been known for TV sitcoms like Arrested Development and a wealth of comedy movies such as Horrible Bosses.  Yet I’ve always liked him and always look forward to seeing him in stuff.  This latest thriller has him as a successful business man who has recently moved into a nice up-market neighbourhood with his beautiful wife (Rebecca Hall).  The perfect little life, until that is an old school friend bumps into him one day and gradually starts muscling his way into their lives.  Gordo (Joel Edgerton) seems nice, normal if a little awkward and pushy, but mostly harmless – or is he?

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Classic psychological thriller territory for sure, think The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Single White Female etc. and you’ll get the idea.  However this has a stand out performance from Bateman, who shows a depth and complexity to his character I wasn’t expecting.  Also Edgerton as Gordo (who also directs) is perfectly strange and mysterious and possibly psychotic – but balances the uncertainty well.  The GiftThe movie mostly focuses however on Hall’s character who is vulnerable and troubled, with a past hinting at something that went wrong (possibly a miscarriage) between the couple and how the new home is a new start.  I enjoyed this as it played with genre conventions, threw in a few excellent jump-scares and kept me guessing.

It’s fairly safe in it’s concept and certainly could have elaborated more on things with the odd flash back, as I came away still asking questions about these characters.  There was also potential for the story to go to much darker depths.  But these are small gripes and overall The Gift was a gripping and well written thriller that surprised and entertained in equal measure.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


Viewed – 03 August 2015  Cinema

Good to see that one of our most enduring Hollywood stars can still deliver a pulse-pounding action extravaganza even as he settles into his fifth decade on this planet.  Add to this the fact he does many of his own stunts, and actor Tom Cruise is the real deal, regardless of what some may think of him personally.

Rogue

Cruise plays super-agent Ethan Hunt who, currently in hiding and ‘gone rogue’ is trying to unmask the real identity of secret organization ‘the syndicate’ whilst back at Langley, CIA headquarters the big wigs are disbanding the IMF.  Following a lead in London, Hunt witnesses the murder of a contact and the revelation that those he believed he worked for may be involved in a global conspiracy.   Like Ghost Protocol before it, this is a confident and well directed spy movie full of fancy gadgets, intense action and lots of double-crossing.  Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) has put together what feels like the Mission Impossible movie we’ve all been waiting for – the action feels bigger, the locations more diverse and glamorous (London, Paris, Vienna etc.) and the story seems more dramatic.  Add to this a wonderful discovery in actress Rebecca Ferguson, who may be the sexiest (and deadliest) femme-fatale we’ve had on screen in years, and with excellent comedic support from Simon Pegg – this almost has it all.

Rogue NationI felt that even for an M.I. movie, sometimes the stunts and situations got a little implausible (a somersaulting car?), and some moments were just plane mad (the admitedly tense under water sequence).  Also, creepy-demeanour aside, the villain was again like Ghost Protocol, rather one-dimensional.  It was a shame to also see Jeremy Renner not be fully utilized for such a gifted actor … but regardless, this was still a shot of adrenaline to the heart and packed full of memorable moments, an amazing car turned bike chase, and an ending that made me want to stand up and applaud.  With Spectre on the horizon, I’d say in the spy movie world, this is going to take some beating.

Over to you, Mr Bond.

Verdict:  4 /5

10 directors who have shaped my movie viewing tastes


Inspired by a recent post over at abbiobiston.com, I thought I’d sit down and list ten movie directors I either seek out without hesitation, or have made some of the most affecting and inspiring movies I’ve ever seen, shaping what kind of movie viewer I am today and creating experiences that have transcended basic entertainment to actually mean something to me as a person.

Quentin Tarantino

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As a reviewer, occasional-writer and movie fan, Quentin Tarantino ignited a spark inside me that has yet to go out.  When first seeing Pulp Fiction, I knew this was the sort of material I wanted to write about, and this continued with his script for Natural Born Killers and also his debut, Reservoir Dogs.  He was a rebel, he challenged people’s ideas of what violence was all about on screen, not there for just shock value but to make you feel something.  He managed to back this up with amazing dialogue writing skills and a keen eye for pop-culture and cinema history that has continued to this day.

David Cronenberg

cronenberg

Horror for me was never just about hiding behind my cushion and trembling – horror for me was about the strange and surreal, the gruesome but in a way that made you ponder what it meant.  Croneberg has always been a master of this, of using body-horror to make you feel something you’ve never felt before, backed up by intelligent direction that more often than not has a lot of social commentary of the times we live in i.e. sexually transmitted infections with Shivers.  He has continued to shape his often controversial style into the modem gangster and crime genres to brilliant effect in movies like Eastern Promises.

Stephen Spielberg

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Probably the most famous director of all time who seems to barely put a foot wrong and can turn his hand to a wealth of different genres and subjects, from the industry defining Jaws and Jurassic Park to powerful masterpieces like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.  Assured, confident and always entertaining and thought-provoking, this maverick director continues to be a name to bet on even after almost 40 years in the business.  As long as we don’t mention the most recent Indiana Jones movie, Spielberg remains one of those names every movie fan will know and surely appreciate to some degree.

John Carpenter

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Fallen from grace he may be, but during the seventies and eighties, this guy made some of the coolest and most sort after movies I’d ever seen.  Who can argue the merits of Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China?  Although I can’t say I totally appreciate Escape From New York as much as others, I have a soft spot for lesser known efforts like Prince Of Darkness and In The Mouth Of Madness.  This guy knew how to create perfectly entertaining genre movies and although he hasn’t made much of note for years, that’s a hell of a back catalogue of classics.

David Fincher

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Although I think he’s become a bit relaxed in recent years, churning out fairly ‘safe’ movies, for the most part Fincher has still created some of the most stylish and intricately directed movies I’ve seen, namely the multi layered classics Fight Club, Seven and even Zodiac.  His directing style is crisp and beautiful even when it’s dealing with very dark subject matter, and his camera work and imagery have stayed with me long after the credits have rolled.  He’s a technical directing fan’s dream director, as for me I can appreciate every aspect of the setting, the camera work to the music and lighting.  Helps he can also pull out great performances from the likes of Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhaal to name but a few.

Stanley Kubrick

stanley kubrick

With a fairly small catalogue of movies, this director like no other has made some of the masterpieces of my lifetime.  The Shining is still the best horror movie I’ve ever seen and probably the most perfectly directed, on a technical level movie I’ve seen also.  His strong visual skill at making every shot and every camera movement look so well executed has made movies even of lesser impact like Eyes Wide Shut a work of art.  He proved again and again that careful eye for detail, iconic performances can turn even a well worn subject like the Vietnam war into amazing cinema.  I haven’t seen everything he’s done, but of the movies I have, he keeps on amazing me, and is possibly the best director on this list.

Dario Argento

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Perhaps at his best during the seventies and eighties, but this often controversial director has gained a strong cult following over the years and remains one of the most stylish and genre-defining film-makers around.  At his best he can make gruesome murder look beautiful, and his frequent collaborations with the band Goblin and musician Claudio Simonetti has helped create a brand of effective Italian cinema that still stands the test of time.  Try watching Suspiria or Tenebrae without marvelling at the camera work, atmosphere or use of lighting and music.  Argento will always be the maestro when it comes to horror, even if his light has considerably faded over the years.

Martin Scorsese

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The Don.  How does this guy keep doing it?  To this day Scorsese still manages to amaze and impress.  He has crafted true classics such as Taxi Driver and Goodfellas and still manages to churn out quality movies like Shutter Island and The Wolf Of Wall Street.  It’s always exciting when I hear he’s making another movie and even diversions like Hugo retain that Scorsese eye for style and cinematic creativity I’ve grown to love about him.  He has a tendency to work with the same actors but also manages to bring out wildly different performances from them, that give each movie their own voice.  One of the best film makers of all time in my opinion.

Joel & Ethan Coen

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In recent years their brand of southern comedy and thrillers has felt a tad hit and miss, but when these sibling directors are on form, they can make some of the best movies you’ll ever see.  Comedies like The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona offer up laughs as well as style and assured direction along with iconic performances, and thrillers like Fargo and No Country For Old Men prove they can deliver tight, well executed stories that pack a punch.  They continue to be favourites at Oscar season and amongst a huge cult audience, and with a strong visual style and often award winning performances, their movies are hard to dismiss.

Park chan-Wook

chan-wook

Another director who can explore very dark themes but make them beautiful with imaginative camera work, scene setting and particularly artistic shots.  His American debut Stoker is a perfect example of strong story, strong performances and beautiful, almost poetic direction.  His vengeance trilogy that incudes the cult classic Old Boy is powerful, gut-wrenching but extremely moving and artistic, blending classical music with striking story-telling and stunning cinematography.  Park chan-Wook’s the real deal if you can appreciate quality direction with a signature touch.

Terminator Genisys


Viewed – 02 July 2015  Cinema

I went into this with fairly low expectations.  Even though a Terminator film had never completely let me down, with the weakest entry being Terminator 3, much of the early word on this wasn’t good.  Add to this a trailer that seemed to show way too much … and I’ll admit I was nervous.

Terminator Genisys

Luckily then the final movie is anything but a let down.  Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the hero of the original movie is shown being sent back in time to 1984 to protect a young Sarah Connor, a supposedly naive waitress who is about to be hunted by an unstoppable killing machine.  But twist alert!  When Kyle arrives in the past, Sarah is already prepped for his arrival, and has her own personal Terminator bodyguard.  You see, a new timeline has replaced what went before, and now the battle to destroy Skynet once and for all begins anew as our heroes embark on a time travelling quest that takes them to an alternate 2017 where Skynet is known as Genisys, a Windows-like operating system on the brink of going on-line.

T GenisysI appreciated this new spin on the Terminator lore, and it worked brilliantly with respectful nods to the previous movies, whilst adding plenty of it’s own ideas.  I loved getting to finally see the time machine used by Skynet to send the T-800 back, and nostalgia and some fan-service does this movie a real justice.  The cast including Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, Die Hard 5’s Jai Courtney and Dawn of the Planet Of The Apes’ Jason Clarke all do a stellar job, and as a return to the franchise, ol’ Arnie is simply excellent – charismatic, funny and his aging status is well handled by the plot.  The action may not be quite as well done as Terminator 2 (it gets a bit mad) and the effects work, whilst decent hasn’t got that ground-breaking edge – but regardless this movie was exciting, imaginative and a lot of fun..  Emilia Clarke is perfectly cast as Sarah Connor, bestowing the character with just the right balance of vulnerability and ballsy attitude.  I also welcomed a small appearance by J.K. Simmons.  The new twists on the time lines also breathed life into a starting-to-get-tired concept, and overall for me … this was the best movie in the franchise since T2.

Verdict:  4 /5