Thursday, 30 December 2010

2010: Films of the Year

I must admit, the year of some lord two-thousand and ten was not a year of super-frequent cinema attendance as usual from yours truly, with a decent portion of my new release watches viewed at home, in-flight and, in the case of two Top 10 entries, last year at the London Film Festival. Nevertheless, here is a countdown of the ten films that really got me during the past twelve months – plus a rundown of some of the other titles that piqued my interest. Woweee!


Gaspar Noe’s follow-up to the incredible/incredibly upsetting Irreversible is a true cinematic experience. The packed opening night screening I went to at the Curzon Soho was the special extra-long version (160 mins) with Noe introducing, And yes there were a fair few walk-outs, which led me to wonder why anyone there paying to see it on opening night at a sold-out screening of an extended version with the director failed to understand what they were getting themselves in for. I couldn't tell if they were bored or disgusted. Probably both.

Much like Antichrist was a mix of the stunning and the silly, so to does Enter the Void create an atmosphere unlike anything else - it's languid, hypnotic, and dreamy, yet also uncomfortable, seedy, and garish.

If the story itself is peculiarly simplistic, albeit mixing the past, present, and afterlife, one could argue that it's a case of style over substance, but in many ways, the style is the narrative - without the camerawork and special effects creating the sense of the POV of afterlife, there'd really be no sense in telling the story.

It is an exhausting watch, following mostly unlikeable self-destructive characters for over 2 and a half hours of despair and pretentiousness, and no amount of visual trickery and incredible shots over neon cityscapes will make the content within anymore palatable. With all the swooping and soaring, there's a very real threat the camera's going to disappear up the director's arse at any time - and it certainly comes close (though there is a neat meta gag too). Therefore, not everyone's cup of tea. But in summation...

Profound? Hardly. Ludicrous? Absolutely. But one hell of a trip? Definitely.


This year’s Children of Men in that it’s been all but forgotten, ignored by all the awards and industry back-slappers, which is a shame, as it’s a very well-made adaptation. Perhaps it lacks tension and surprise if you are familiar with the source material, but its curious blend of bleakness and hope translates perfectly to the screen thanks to a fine cast and crew. Full review nyah.


While mainstream Hollywood sags and flags in its poorly-received attempts at the comedy spoof, it was superior sequel OSS 117: Lost in Rio and this sterling independent effort from Scott Sanders and lead Michael Jai White that proved the subgenre can still produce the goods when treated with care and attention. Wonderful music, cracking dialogue and lots of smack getting laid down. There are lulls in the jokes, when it just lets the flavour its trying to recreate speak for itself but when Black Dynamite hits, I laughed louder and harder than in any recent film. Destined to become a cult classic.


David Fincher regains his mojo after the over-egged, over-long, over-sentimental, over-everything Benjamin Button with an engaging, sparky snapshot of modern history in the making. A movie about Facebook starring Justin Timberlake sounded like an awful prospect, but by letting the story (or at least the differing accounts of the same story) speak for itself, it becomes a gripping account of how events not only changed the lives of the protagonists but, by extension, my life and the lives of the majority of those who went to see The Social Network. Maybe the Battleship film with Rihanna won’t be bad after all, right? Right?

In any case, it’s probably the one of the big award front-runners and if it snatches top prize, it deserves it – excessive CG ice-breath and misjudged trip to merry old England notwithstanding.


Chris Morris is a genius. That has been established before. But Four Lions is still a great achievement even based on his past pedigree. Both achingly funny and achingly sad, it rises above any controversies that could have easily been levelled against it with its well-judged tone and three-dimensional characters.


Not actually released yet in the UK (and a 2009 release to boot, so I don’t even know what rules I’m following any more), but what sounds like the set-up for a goofy Hollywood sex comedy (inflatable doll comes to life) is in fact in the hands of director Hirokazu Koreeda (director of Nobody Knows and Still Walking) one of the most moving and strangely beautiful films I have seen in a long time, and certainly one of the best to come out of Japan in a while. "Sex Toy Story" may be a glib throwaway summation at first, but it certainly mirrors some of that franchise's melancholy, and themes of abandonment and neglect, with elements of Pinocchio and Amelie as well. At times funny, at times unsettling, at times poignant, Air Doll is buoyed by an exquisite central performance from Korean actress Bae Doona (The Host, Linda Linda Linda, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance), with wonderful music from one of my favourite Japanese musicians, World's End Girlfriend. Ultimately, it's a 21st century fairytale about the loneliness of modern society, the objectification of women, and the nature of humanity.


While some film-makers are happy to play around with heroes and villains, goodies and baddies, black and white, Bong Joon-ho once again proves that you can still create a satisfying piece of work where nothing is clear-cut or necessarily what it seems. And the director of Memories of Murder and The Host delivers his best work to date with a constantly surprising tale of a mother (the wonderful Kim Hye-ja) seeking justice when her son is arrested. From its arrestingly odd opening onwards, it’s a low-key but stunning film that is hard to shake, months and months after my first viewing.


2010 was the year of Scott Pilgrim. Well, the box office would clearly think differently, but for geeks, it was a chance to see the film, play the game, buy the soundtrack and, most importantly, read that flaming final chapter in the comic book saga. And of course, the only reason I picked up the comics in the first place is because it was announced Edgar Wright was to direct it - without the film, I wouldn't have read the books, as I'm not a big comics reader. Same with Watchmen. So ultimately in my eyes, the film is just a happy bonus at the end of what was a very good (but by no means perfect) series of graphic novels. Still, as a fan of the comics, my final thoughts?

In adapting the film, it's clear a decision was made that in the running time you wouldn't be able to have all the character development, emotional weight and narrative arcs of the books, as well as all the fights, video-game references, and music, so they sidelined a fair amount of former in favour of the latter, which was the better decision, as it's the more visceral exciting stuff which is more cinematic and is more of 'the hook' of the comic.

There is perhaps too much sidelining of character (largely with the other members of Sex Bob-omb at the expense of the less interesting Stacey - though strangely, Young Neil emerges as one of the most rounded of the additional cast), and it would've been nicer for a few more scenes to allow the story to breathe a little. But really, if I was going to the cinema to see a Scott Pilgrim movie, I'd want to see fights and video-game references and music, and if it also managed to capture just some of the emotional noodling, episodes of self-doubt, and getting it together of the original material (which I think it did), then all the better for it.

I was concerned about Cera, but while I don't think his portrayal is exactly comic-book Scott, I think he is a fine actor, and didn't rely so much on his weedy insecure persona (except when the jokes demanded it). It probably means in the long run, I can re-read the comics and not think of Cera, and ultimately, appreciate both as separate entities, even if the development of both mediums were concurrent and shared material with one another.

In fact, I was more originally concerned about Edgar's direction, after the rather shoddy and poorly edited action sequences in (the admittedly lower budgeted) Hot Fuzz, but I think he really came on leaps and bounds as a director of both action and comedy, and I loved all the little visual clues (the repeated numbers, love-hearts and X's) that always mark his work as distinctive from the rest of today's workmanlike comedy directors.

Ultimately, it's a rich, vibrant approximation of the world of Scott Pilgrim - because of the material, you'd only be able to make a very good film, rather than a truly great one, and I feel that's what has been achieved. Hence, it’s the Todd Ingram of my Top 10.


Like five great films wrapped into one awesome one, there’s not a great lot else to say about Inception that hasn’t already been said elsewhere at great length by everyone. What I will say though to all the haters and backlashers…fuck you. Yes, you. Fuck you very much. Quit your whining, your complaining, your bitching. No-one deserves a film quite this good. Not you, not I, not anyone. Christopher Nolan adapted The Prestige, rebooted Batman and remade Insomnia – feel free to bring those to task for not living up to their original material if you so wish. But Inception is an original piece of work and your hang-ups are not justified. Stop moaning about how it’s not like what dreams are like, or it’s not weird enough, or the ending undermines the rest of the film, or the characters aren’t interesting or whatever little thought occurs to you today. Rest assured, the film is EXACTLY how it is meant to be, a work of a director with a singular and uncompromised vision. If you didn’t like it, just say you didn’t like it. But don’t take all the enjoyment out of those who did like it by waffling on about how it’s not as big and clever as it thinks it is. Go watch fucking Transformers 2 and Sex and the City 2 instead then, you pissing cockpockets.


Full review nyah, but suffice to say, Nicolas Cage is astonishing, wild and unhinged, a moral black hole, snorting and smoking his way through a murder investigation without a care in the world. It's surprisingly light and breezy, with little sermonising or counterpoint to his wicked ways, just copious amounts of substance abuse and filthy language. Hysterically funny, it's like Bad Santa with a badge and a gun.


That’s the pick of the bunch, but honourable mentions must also go to a triple Adrian Brody fix of the long overdue The Brothers Bloom, worthy follow-up Predators and the commendably weird Splice. Plus, there was the fun Whip It, the ripe and juicy Shutter Island, the spiky yet sweet I Love You Phillip Morris, the nice and neat Cemetary Junction, the atmospheric Winter's Bone, the surprising Exit Through the Gift Shop, the dark and disturbing Dogtooth, the darker and disturbinger The Killer Inside Me, and the exhilirating Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. And let's not forget scary sequel [REC] 2, silly sequel and reason why 3D can be good #1 Jackass 3D, and sorta sequel and reason why 3D can be good #2 Piranha 3D. And the reconstructed and remastered Metropolis was a highlight.

Mild disappointments included Monsters, Toy Story 3, Up in the Air and Kick-Ass, which were not really as super-awesome as the press enjoyed saying they were. More disappointing but somewhat expected I guess were video-game vapidnesses Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D ( a step-up from the other sequels maybe, but, honestly...) and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, which given the budget, cast and crew should have been at least fun, but was just plain boring.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

FILM: I Saw The Devil

Screened as part of the London Korean Film Festival, with an introduction and Q+A with director Kim Jee-Woon, I Saw The Devil sees one of the key crop of Korean film-makers (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good The Bad The Weird) put his A Bittersweet Life lead Lee Byung-Hun up against Oldboy's Choi Min-Sik, in his first film for four years, in a bloody and violent revenge tale that pushed the boundaries for even the Korean censors. With all these elements in place, a surefire success then? Well, almost.

The set-up is pretty standard fare: a special agent's fiance is brutally murdered by a serial killer, and he takes it upon himself to find the culprit. It's not long before he's identified and caught up with his target, and after a savage brawl, he leaves him for dead. Or so it appears. And it is here where I Saw The Devil takes a different approach to the serial killer thriller, as our 'hero' starts to play a dangerous game of oneupmanship with the killer, in an effort to draw out his suffering for as long as possible, and our 'villain' becomes the victim. This flipping of convention is most interestingly utilised in the familiar stalk-and-slash scenes, but in this instance, it's the serial killer who is under attack, tip-toeing in the shadows to find out what 'that noise' was. One running gag has them continually refer to each other as 'crazy bastard'.

Still, for all it's role-reversal, its central themes are hardly original, focusing on becoming a monster to fight a monster, and how the further down the path of revenge one travels, the more hollow one becomes and how it affects the people around them. Therefore, don't expect a particularly contemplative study on the nature of vengeance (particularly when Park Chan-Wook cornered that market years ago). And no surprises it's not going to end in sunshine and rainbows, then.

What it does have going for it though is in all the trimmings (and I'm not talking about the cuts in its home country). It's as stylish and assured a piece of work as you'd expect from Kim, with some exceptionally well-shot sequences (including the best vehicle interior tussle you're ever likely to see), packed with energy and enhanced with a rich pallete of colour (and yes, a lot of red). Choi Min-Sik typically gives it his all as the killer - no motive, no reason, no cute affectation or signature, just an utterly abhorrent individual with an unquenchable desire to cause young women as much distress and pain as possible. And the film is certainly unflinching in its detail; as the game between the two antagonists escalates, so to does the torture inflicted, resulting in some real 'look-away-now' moments.

But in its escalation, the situations become ever more absurd, and I Saw The Devil reveals a darkly comic vein. Of course, the balance of horror and comedy is a fine one, and amongst the yelps and screams from the audience were hearty guffaws as well as nervous titters. It is a handy trick to alleviate the tension from becoming too unbearable and Kim employs it throughout. However, sometimes the humour is incongruous with the genuinely upsetting scenes of abuse and abductions carried out by the killer, much as its venture into out-and-out horror territory towards the end feels at odds with the more grounded earlier scenes.

So, I Saw The Devil is a peculiar beast, a Jekyll and Hyde piece of work - grim but funny, predictable but unexpected, unoriginal but unconventional. Its not as deep as it thinks it is, but its still rich, thrilling, vivid and entertaining. At close to two-and-a-half hours, it may be more than the less hardy cinemagoer can take in one sitting, but if you have the nerve and can switch off the brain, it's a gripping ride.


Wednesday, 28 July 2010

FILM: Gainsbourg

As far as musical biopic subjects go, Serge Gainsbourg seemingly had it all, but considering director Joann Sfar (adapted from his own graphic novel) has stated that the film is based solely on what Gainsbourg himself had discussed in interviews, this being the 'untold story of a musical icon' as the UK posters proudly suggest is not strictly true. Yet, Gainsbourg (Vie Héroïque) is no traditional warts-and-all rise-and-fall story, nor is it a misty-eyed suck-up love-in. Instead, it's a rather scattershot and surreal look at the life and loves of one of the most influential and brilliant musicians and poets in modern times, from his days as a tiddly kiddly in Nazi-occupied Paris, to his bedraggled twilight years.

Rather than offering anything particularly revelatory or meaningful, it settles on offering us a series of snapshots and tales from the whole span of his life, leaving more of a greatest hits package than a typical narrative thread. There's the bit when he writes this famous song, and here's the bit he walks headfirst into this scandal, and then there's when he performed this classic number. It pretty much lets the man himself do the talking, through his words, his music and his actions, rather than viewing his life with any objectivity or context.

If it all sounds rather oversimplistic, it isn't strictly so, because of the various fantastical elements and flights of fancy peppered throughout. Most notably, Gainsbarre, an imaginary caricature that haunts Gainsbourg, is a latex 'inner demon' of sorts that's perhaps more prominent than it ought to have been, played by the go-to guy for becostumed prancers Doug Jones. Visualising doubts and feelings in biopics is nothing new, and while there are some nice moments where it all comes together quite beautifully, for the most part, it all feels like unnecessary.

But despite all efforts to distract, it's still a colourful and enjoyable couple of hours, even if it's a surprisingly lightweight and unsubstantial film, and a little too often preoccupied with ideas that don't quite work. Hard to know who'd be ultimately satisfied - newcomers will get a flavour of the man and his music but not much substance, while fans will appreciate the nods and references but twiddle their thumbs plodding through the well-documented episodes in his career and life. Still, it's worth a watch if only for what is a superb central performance from the uncanny Eric Elmosino. And the soundtrack, of course.


Friday, 16 July 2010

FILM: Toy Story 3

Toy Story is the film that made Pixar, the film that brought computer animation to the forefront of family entertainment and, eventually, temporarily, killed Disney's hand-drawn craft (until John Lasseter revived it himself). So to make a sequel to such a milestone in cinema history conjures an ambivalent mix of inevitability, expectation and foolhardiness. But they did anyway. And that it superceded the original was seen by many as not just lightning striking twice in the same place but that Pixar had harnessed, captured and bottled it and could now wield it to produce critical and commerical hit after hit. At least, that's the popular view. From a more personal standpoint, while Pixar have certainly produced some of the finest films of the past decade, animated or not, with Ratatouille and Wall-E particular favourites, other efforts, such as The Incredibles, Up, and Finding Nemo, have not quite matched the sum of their parts.

To then return to the holy well of Toy Story, 15 years after the original, is a startlingly bold but perhaps obvious decision, much as the decision to make the second installment was. But attitudes to these films have changed. The animation has reached a point where we no longer focus on its quality, be it hair complexity, lighting and shading or pixel counts, which is testament to just how far we have come since Woody and Buzz's debut. Now, 3D has become the issue with these films, though here it's second nature - immersive rather than intrusive, but without the show and spectacle, it all seems somewhat redundant.

Yet Pixar has always been about story, but whereas Toy Story 2 was an expansion and improvement in every possible sense, Toy Story 3 is more content to act as a retread than assert its own identity beyond signalling the sense that this is the closing chapter. The themes of growing up, moving on, abandonment and friendship all return, but with little more than a sly twist in each case to differentiate between the same themes and questions the characters long debated and seemingly resolved in Part Deux. Instead, we have to play the whole "the toys don't believe Woody", "this utopia ain't so great after all" ring-around narrative hoop-jumping we've seen all before, with some segments seemingly lifted entirely from other non-Toy Story Pixar works.

More successfully fleshed out here is Pixar's other focus of storytelling and that's character. The relationships between Woody and Buzz, between all the toys, between the toys and Andy, are all key to what make the Toy Story films a success. In Toy Story 3, it's undoubtedly impressive bringing back the characters after so long and for it to feel like a genuine continuation , as if it was always the makers' intention for the story to evolve so naturally. Not only that, but there's genuine emotion and heart throughout, with poignant asides, and subtle looks and actions, speaking volumes. If there's a more gut-wrenching climax, coupled with one of several truly exciting action sequences, in a film this year, I will be mightily impressed. Shame that the laugh rate isn't quite so high - there's a particularly hilarious call-back to part 2, but some of the running gags (Ken's "Ascot", Buzz in Spanish mode) fall at the first hurdle.

Ultimately, it's a very good, entertaining episode that's absolutely worth watching and does justice to the previous two movies, reaching a satisfying conclusion. But to replicate the great step-up from 1 to 2 here was perhaps too tall an order.


PS The short beforehand, Night & Day, is naff.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

FILM: The Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans

Last time Nicolas Cage played a 'man of the law', it was in The Wicker Man. What marks that misguided remake apart from this one (or at least that's what Abel Ferrera would suggest) is that The Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans (to give its full title) is actually intentionally hilarious and genuinely brilliant. Like director Werner Herzog, I too have not seen the Harvey Keitel-starring original, but any similarities are presumably through use of the title (to which Herzog himself was opposed) and loose thematic associations. Besides, it's not something to get too hung up when what we have here is the most gleefully entertaining depiction of moral bankruptcy since Bad Santa.

Post-Katrina New Orleans, and recently decorated Lieutenant Terence McDonagh is assigned to investigate the execution-style massacre of a family of Senegalese illegal immigrants. Suffering from chronic back pain and with prescription medicine not providing quite the relief he needs, he becomes increasingly dependent on seized narcotics, which he frequently shares with prostitute girlfriend Frankie (Eva Mendes). As his mental and physical state becomes more fractured, so too does he start to lose grip on both his personal and professional lives that are becoming ever more intertwined. Will he crack before the case does? Mmmm, crack...

Yes, The Bad Lieutenant is a very bad man indeed. An anti-hero who learns from his mistakes not in a way that he won't make them again, but when he does inevitably re-offend, he'll enjoy himself more. With his hunched walk, never-changing suit and dirty mouth, McDonagh starts off unhinged and gets progressively worse, going to some jaw-dropping and hysterical lengths to solve the crime, get out of the multiple holes he digs himself into, or just to get his next fix.

Here, for the first time in a long while, it's not a case of Cage being only ever as good as the film he is in. Unlike, say, Christopher Walken, it'll never be the case that he's the best thing in a bad movie; indeed, in many instances he'll try his very best to be just as awful as the surrounding mess and embellish terrible dialogue to Razzie-baiting depths. But here, the tables are somewhat turned. Cage IS The Bad Lieutenant, and The Bad Lieutenant excels because of him. That's not to suggest that the film itself is lacklustre. Far from it, the supporting cast are uniformly excellent, and the New Orleans setting, loaded with plenty of recent social significance, presents the perfect backdrop for McDonagh's disintegration, his moments of madness shot with style, humour, and a peculiar affinity for reptiles (the natural world clearly factoring highly in Werzog's recent work). But ultimately it is Cage's barn-storming lead performance that makes the greatest impact and proves that few other actors can quite match him when he's in wild-and-crazy mode.

By skewing grittiness in favour of the absurd, The Bad Lieutentant is as footloose and fancy free anything this sodden with substance abuse and filthy language could possibly be, and is all the better for it. Freed from the burden of self-regulatory sermonising that a lesser talent than Herzog would be obliged to include, The Bad Lieutenant is a raucuous and refreshing work that is destined to become a cult classic. Just don't try it at home, kids.


The Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call: New Orleans is released in UK cinemas May 21st.

Monday, 8 February 2010

FILM: Heartless

Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) is a lonely soul. Though close to his family, particularly his mother and always thinking about his deceased father, he longs for a family of his own. Blighted by extensive birthmarks, he has always found it hard to build relationships, particularly in the oppressive atmosphere of London's East End. One night it becomes clear that true evil lies beneath the surface of this 'world gone mad' and when tragic events take place, Jamie ventures deeper into London's hellish underbelly, encountering sinister overlord Papa B (Joseph Mawle).

The idea of the big city, especially during these 'uncertain times', as masking something far more disturbing is certainly an interesting premise (Hellraiser meets The Matrix, if you will) and combined with the 'hoodie horror' motif that worked to grim and upsetting effect in Eden Lake (less so in the rather silly and obvious portrayal of 'yoofs' in Harry Brown), Philip Ridley's film certainly has a rich backdrop to set the action. Moreover, while Heartless explores familiar genre ideas as madness, guilt, and society's ills incarnate, there is certainly enough going on to keep it interesting so as not to leave it feeling stale (no more creepy kids, wise beyond their years, though - almost as bad and as pointless as bleeding psychics).

Where Heartless becomes unstuck though is in its wildly shifting tone and direction. Choppy, rushed editing is partly to blame for the scattershot story-telling, but Ridley's claim that the film's bitty nature is to relfect Jamie's increasingly fractured psychological state seems more of an excuse for him to use disparate ideas he'd accumulated over the years rather than some grand film-making intention. Indeed, Ridley describes film-making as an 'explosion in reverse', where pieces of shiny shrapnel come together to form a, hopefully, cohesive whole. In this case, it didn't work.

The performances are fine, with Sturgess a believable lead, plus sound support from Noel Clarke, Clémence Poésy, and Timothy Spall on cameo duties, and it often looks the business, with some equally horrific and beautiful moments. But it too readily mixes serious drama and emotional upset with naive sentimentality and laboured sermonising, all to a frequently invasive made-for-film soundtrack. It's strange then that the film's two very best scenes are when it cuts loose and has some fun, with a couple of darkly comic sequences around the midway point, particularly the excellent Eddie Marsan's brilliant turn as 'Weapons Man'. But soon the giggles become unintentional and it all gets twisty, murky and silly again.

For a British genre film on a limited budget, Heartless certainly makes the most of its resources, with some very neat special effects and make-up, an undeniably arresting look, and a fair amount of talent on-screen. Unfortunately, it brings to mind the ambitious but abysmal Franklyn, as it too often becomes bogged down in its own po-faced ideas and convolusions - yet, it is certainly the far better film. For those willing to put up with occasional naffness and a peculiar sense of narrative flow and mood, there is still much to like within Heartless, but a whole-hearted recommendation is a hard one to make.


Heartless is released in UK cinemas May 21st, followed by a DVD/Blu-Ray/Download release on May 24th.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

FILM SPECIAL: Top 20 Films of 2009

Onto the movies, but why twenty? Well, simply because there were more than ten films which were pretty much equally as good as each other. So while this list is in a sort of an order of greatness, a degree of shuffling up and down could easily take place. But let's lock it down as this for now, shall we? I' ve included mini-musings on each of the 20 - they're not overviews or summations, just thoughts that cropped up when compiling the list together.

For the point of comparison, this should cover every film released in 2009 in the UK that I saw. That way you can see those that didn't make the cut and a vague opinion on them, and why I might have omitted someone else's favourite film of the year (because I didn't actually see it). So, the pick of what was actually a very fine year for cinema.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Makes a good underdog documentary double bill with King of Kong. Hysterically funny and incredibly touching.

In The Loop
Ultimately rather depressing when you think about it. Loads of LOLs and swears though! Malcolm Tucker on a big screen = terrifying.

Drag Me To Hell
Thank you Mr. Raimi! Like the most fun Spook House ride you can think of, and as close to a new Evil Dead as you could hope for.

Sam Rockwell gives the best performances of his career. A simple story elegantly and economically told. Lovely models and miniatures too.

The best vampire film of the year. Also, it's rare to see a film about blood-suckers that actually makes you feel quite so giddy from all the red stuff as this manages. Park Chan-Wook's best since Oldboy.

Let The Right One In
The other best vampire film of the year, it's chilling, it's creepy, it's a little bit weepy. Uncomfortable viewing in the best possible way.

The Wrestler
More than just The Meaty Mickey Show, the film itself is remarkably well directed. More nods deserved for all concerned.

District 9
The most amount of body-popping to be found on the silver screen since Electric Boogaloo 2, I was pleasantly surprised just how much of the film was focused on the aliens as much as the humans. Especially the intergalactic tag-team buddy break-in of MNU. Best film based on a video game that doesn't actually exist.

The Hurt Locker
Like the gripping finale to an action film over and over again and increasingly tense each time. Effectively a two-hour game of Russian Roulette. Sub-plots were a bit ill-fitting though.

Inglourious Basterds
Ludicrous but easily one of the most entertaining and rich pictures of the year that revels in its rollicking rambunctiousness. The best of QT's post-Jackie Brown trilogy of self-indulgence.

Star Trek
The only big summer block-buster of the year that was any good whatsoever, but it more than made up for everyone else's shortcomings by being so much fun. Like a big silly sugar-rush fireworks display, it should have been awful but was anything but (a couple of weak cast members and dafty plot notwithstanding).

Where The Wild Things Are
Best kids film of the year not really made for kids and amazing it ever got made, let alone finished. But it's great that it exists and will grow and grow as time goes on. If Max crying in the ruins of his crushed igloo doesn't get to you, you have an impenetrable soul.

Bit of a cheat counting them as one film, as each part definitely has a different feel and focus. If I had to pick, I do prefer the first part, if only because a rise is more fun, if not necessarily quite as deep and interesting, as a fall. Vincent Cassel makes it super-watchable (even during the nasty bits).

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The other best kids film of the year not really made for kids. And the stuff I liked the most wasn't even in the original material (the relationship between Ash and Kristofferson). I hope kids who see it now will revisit it again and again and each time find something new.

Crank: High Voltage
It's Crank TIMES 2. Or Crank SQUARED. The ante is upped in every aspect, so while it's not better than the original, it's the only possible way forward for Chev Chelios. Also, I think the guys get it just as bad as the girls when it comes to excessive nudity and violence to their person.

Slumdog Millionaire
The Little Movie That Could to most people. Another Danny Boyle film to the rest. But Danny Boyle films are always cause for some celebration. So what better way to celebrate than watch Slumdog Millionaire?

Red Cliff
Need to see the full 2 movies rather than the conjoined mish-mash cut-down released at the kinoplex. But hey! It's a good John Woo movie for a change. Actually, a great one. Big historical war epics can often leave me cold, but this is tonnes of fun, and I'll watch Tony Leung and/or Takeshi Kaneshiro in pretty much anything.

A Serious Man
Possibly their weirdest work since Barton Fink, and maybe even as upsetting as No Country For Old Men in a strange way. True moments of brilliance throughout though, and excellent performances from relatively unknown actors. Hard to find a more peculiar 'comedy'.

Not Pixar's finest. Not by a long shot. And despite the set-up, ultimately disappointingly conventional and obvious. But disappointing from Pixar is usually still pretty great, and when it's at full tilt, it's stirring and magical like few others of its ilk.

Gran Torino
Like Up with less balloons. I'd like a Walt Kowalski action figure. Squeeze him and out comes a racist grumble! Comes with shotgun and can of beer, with titular vehicle sold separately.

As for future films I saw last year, if they were to be included The Road and Mother would absolutely rock into the top 10; Capitalism: A Love Story would certainly not. The Room would trump all three as well (it had it's first cinema screening in the UK this year, so I guess it counts?). Also, The Brothers Bloom would be somewhere towards the top too (if only it'd come out over here - what is the hold up?).

Other films I liked (in rough order of decreasing likeness):
Adventureland, Watchmen, The Box, Antichrist, The Good The Bad The Weird, Synecdoche, New York, Zombieland, Frost/Nixon, (500) Days of Summer, Public Enemies, Punisher: War Zone, The Hangover

These were all a bit "okay, I guess". Still, they had their moments (with most meh at the bottom):
Bruno, Coraline, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Triangle, Harry Brown, Departures, Gamer, Tokyo!, Three Miles North of Molkom..., JCVD, Religulous, G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra

The rest were all pretty bad, some very much more so than others (especially at the end), but all hard to recommend:
My Name Is Bruce, Franklyn, Resident Evil: Degeneration, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Terminator Salvation, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

And that's the lot. I know there's still quite a few to catch up on, but that's how it looks for MMIX for now. What did I miss?

MUSIC SPECIAL: Top 10 Albums of 2009

Yes, it's listy-time! It's all redundant now, as I'm sure everyone's already picked their favourite albums of 2010 already, or would rather do a little bit of noughties-navel-gazing, but so what? Here's a selection of my favourites that you were no doubt all listening to way back in 2010-1AD, and if that weren't the case, here's your chance to rectify that pronto. So, without further ado...

01: Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Sounding both very much of its time yet beautifully antiquated at the same time, Veckatimest is an album worth getting wrapped up in over and over again, and remains rewarding on each listen.

02: Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul
Okay, so technically not a 2009 release on account of it not being actually released (sort of), but if you know where to look, it is great collaboration with many a formidable special guest, particularly from David Lynch who provides vocals on two of the very best tracks.

03: The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
Like an alien distress signal captured by government scientists in the 60s and only just released into the public, it's a distorted rambling affair but as utterly captivating as ever.

04: Franz Ferdinand - Tonight
Third time out for the Franz boys, and it's another batch of fun, cool, catchy body-jittering toe-tappers. You groovy cats, you! Easy to take for granted, but really, I don't think they've yet to put a (dancing) foot wrong.

05: Handsomeboy Technique - Terrestrial Tone Cluster
The only new Japanese album I think I listened to this year! Eek! But it's a formidable follow-up to his excellent debut. Drifts off a little towards the end, but for the most part, exceptionally lovely.

06: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
Ticks a lot of boxes with an emphatic YES in ways that are not immediately obvious, but instantly gripping. Kick-ass tuneage.

07: Hank Pine and Lily Fawn - North America
The long-awaited continuation of the titular characters' quest through the American gothic fairytale (via Canada), it eschews much of the story-telling in favour of consistenly high quality ditties.

08: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
The critical masterpiece of the year, there is much to savour on this album, and with every listen, it's easy to sink even deeper into the marvellous sounds contained within.

09: Wild Beasts - Two Dancers
Two distinctive voices + a bunch of great tunes = stirring stuff.

10: Discovery - LP
Blippy and electronic, yet warm and sunny, it's a joyous affair that sounds like pop from the not too distant future. And the future is now, kids!

Special mention as well for Compilation of the Year which was Dark Was The Night, a magnificent snapshot of contemporary North American folky-indie with a mix of new tracks, covers and traditional standards, and all for a good cause. And because I'm great, I've created a Spotify playlist sample of the above (substituting tracks from a few of my also-rans for those unavailable), something I'm thinking of doing more regularly (yay, playlists for all). Hear it yonder.

Any more recommendations or suggestions for ones I've missed more than welcome!