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Currently working on "21st Century Cinema" - a coffee table book analysing the top 100 films since 2000 using the self-created "Decinemal" system.
Over 2500 titles rated.
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I am currently working on a hardback coffee table book of this list, which comes with an explanatory essay and fun facts on each film. Hopefully, it will be available to buy soon!
Scores are subject to fluctuation, as is the full list which will be added to as new films are rated.
There are some glaring omissions but either I know little of them (Renoir, Goddard, Ozu, etc) or their body of work doesn't merit inclusion despite one or two works of genius.
I welcome comments and intelligent debate on who might replace who to make it a definitive list!
Bleed for This (2016)
Punching above its weight.
There is nothing very groundbreaking about the style or narrative arc of this wee gem; there have been more realistic and more intense boxing scenes over the years, more emotional ones too, but where Bleed For This wins is in the casting and the superb performances from Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart and Ciaran Hinds, all doing incredible character work, with hair second only to anything in American Hustle.
Directed with a fondness for the late 80s and a good eye for detail, we come to care about this story purely because Miles Teller makes us care - real, energetic and unsentimental, he takes us on the journey with him every step and every punch. That it is all very predictable and mostly lacking in tension in the ring doesn't stop it being a powerful film, just because the relationships are so well drawn.
No Warrior. No Rocky, even. But a decent small story remarkable in its truth.
Patriots Day (2016)
An entertaining but troubling watch.
I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed this film after watching the disappointing and frankly weird Deepwater Horizon, from the same director and lead actor. Leaving all political comment behind, in the main, I found this wasn't as sickeningly sentimental, dangerously racist and gung-ho as it might have been, but actually a very tense and at times moving version of events we all remember so well from the news coverage of the time.
One of the big plus points is the score by Trent Reznor, which pumps the action along very effectively. Also some nice work in supporting roles by J.K. Simmons and Melissa Benoist. On the other side of the coin, Michelle Monaghan and John Goodman may as well have phoned it in, so under-developed were their roles.
There are things in here that could be judged as borderline cringe- worthy, but it always just about gets away with it by the fact that it is a damn fine action / chase thriller. Recommended with reservations.
Certain Women (2016)
A director with confidence and maturity getting better film by film.
I have seen all of Kelly Reichardt's films since Old Joy and loved them all - for their simplicity, honesty, quietness, patience, truth, etc etc. The placement of fully believable people wrapped in their time and landscape, interacting with other human beings is fascinating to me! I could watch it for hours. Anyone who comes to these films expecting a more conventional narrative, or a fast paced edit will leave disappointed, but I equally believe to call any of her films, especially this one, boring is to show a deep immaturity, which says more about how you interact with film than anything critically worthwhile as commentary to a bone fide cinema artist.
All the performances here are sublime. So rich and detailed and real. It must be a thrill for an actor to work with Reichardt, so rarely do they get to come this close to truth in creating characters. Dern, Williams , and Stewart impressed equally, but Lily Gladstone, who was previously unknown to me, was mesmerising. Such a beautiful performance. Watching her face in silence as she drives home, experiencing a thousand emotions, will be a moment in film I long remember and talk about! So amazing to have a director that has the patience and confidence to show that.
Nothing happens in this film but life. For me that's enough. An infinite tapestry of detail is all there in Certain Woman, you just have to want to see it.
I, Daniel Blake (2016)
One of the most affecting realist social dramas I have seen, and the best since Two Days, One Night. Ken Loach is a master at this stuff, but the secret to getting on board with such tragedy is twofold - how much you relate to the subject matter, and how contrived are the situations that unfold to prove the point. The awful, heartbreaking reality of the poverty line and the injustices inherent in the failing systems that profess to be helping people is a subject I have some personal experience of and I have to say I was in pieces watching certain scenes of I, Daniel Blake. So woven through with the ring of truth it looks like it must have been easy to make. How skillfully hidden therefore is the immense talent it takes to do that!
Relative newcomer Hayley Squires is a revelation. I will never forget how deeply touched I was watching the horrific simplicity of one particular scene. If you have seen it you will know which one. Too bleak and cold for me to rate this higher than 8/10, but for the type of film it is there are few better. An important document of something devastatingly sad and unfair that is actually happening in 2016/17.
Relatos salvajes (2014)
Black comedy that translates well.
Short story collections rarely work as feature length films, usually because one strand is stronger than others or the overall message is weak or tenuous. Here the links between each tale are subtle genius and as a whole it plays beautifully. Also rare is how well the dark comedy translates from a non English language culture, so universal are the human emotions on display. A perfect blend of drama and pathos across the board. I'll definitely be watching this again and recommending it to people for many years. Well directed, written and acted. Each scenario far fetched yet thoroughly believable. A strong 8/10.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
A fine action film. Not a masterpiece.
The world of John Wick is completely bonkers - there seem to be more assassins than regular people, and not many of those seem to bat an eyelid when men covered in blood chasing each other and even firing shots in public pass by. It is a paranoid world of power-play and clandestine rules that make no sense in reality. The saving grace is that both films are aware of this and even play to it to enhance the fun. A neon noir world of super-cool, expanded from the first film mostly in satisfactory ways. The rules of this underworld are more explained here, which is both welcome whilst perhaps defusing a little of the mystique. If you can ignore how a mortal man can be so thrown around, run over, shot, repeatedly punched, stabbed and otherwise brutalised and then still walk away to do it all again in two minutes time then you will have a ball with John Wick two. Ticks all the action boxes, is smart, funny and above all a great piece of entertainment. High art? No. 7/10.
20th Century Women (2016)
Fully deserved Oscar nomination for best script.
This is a lovely, gentle, beautifully observed piece of nostalgia - perfect Sunday afternoon viewing. It also reminds you what a treasure Annette Bening is, and how easily she can create truthful, real yet conflicted female characters on the screen. The increasingly impressive Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig are also great. The icing on the cake is Billy Crudup, who always seems to make interesting choices which serve the story rather than his ego as an actor.
I loved taking the trip back to the 70s, listening to Talking Heads, imagining how exciting New York must have been around then. I loved the detail of the interconnected stories and hints at how complicated being a woman can be. Recommended to anyone with a mother or grandmother or any other woman in their life that they have loved.
Irrational Man (2015)
A Woody kinda comedy.
Another tick in the box for a Woody Allen film you can like. Not quite a classic but it has its moments and the leads are as good as the are in anything else. In terms of being a comedy, this is not going to make you laugh out loud - its more of a Woody Allen knowing smirk that stays with you throughout. Naturally it is smart, neurotic and melancholy. It plays like Crimes and Misdemeanours lite. So if you liked that one (and why wouldn't you? That one is a classic) then definitely give this a go. Perhaps most interesting as part of the journey leading Emma Stone from Superbad and The House Bunny less than ten years ago to Oscar glory in 2017.
Frustrating. So close to being great, but just falls short.
Characters on a soul-searching path to leave their pasts behind in search of a new self seems to be an obsession with Vallee, with this film following on from Wild and Dallas Buyers Club. He is clearly a talented directer, who chooses his lead actors well, but all three of these films for me, while hinting at greatness, containing strong individual scenes and moments, all fall just short of a satisfying and cohesive whole.
Demolition is full of wonderful ideas and an increasingly infectious twisted humour; Gyllenhaal again gives a terrific performance - no one I can think of is delivering such consistently interesting performances in the last five years. No one! It's just so frustrating then that this film ultimately doesn't work. Whether it's because we don't see enough of Jake's character before so have nothing to gauge his breakdown against? Or that there are too many things going on and not enough focus? I'm not sure. So close. I'd watch it again though, it may be a grower...
The Accountant (2016)
Gavin O'Connor does it again.
I watched this on a recommendation without huge expectations. I mean, I read the synopsis, saw that Ben Affleck was the lead, and thought, really, how good can it be? Trust me, it's very entertaining, nothing wrong with it at all, as long as you leave your suspension of disbelief at the door. Yes, it's preposterous, but who cares? Affleck is believable both as an autistic man and as an assassin. The action sequences are great and the little details more than make up for the plot holes.
Credit has to go to the director for elevating way above a lot of similar genre films. Before watching I had no idea it was the guy who also directed the exception Warrior. Proof he can take an idea that shouldn't work and make it human and real. He also has a great ear for a soundtrack and knows how to tweak the emotional stakes with a good tune.
I'd happily recommend this to anyone looking for two hours of escapism.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Hailee Steinfeld is going to be such a huge star.
I went into this film with low to average expectations of a mediocre time killer. I may not even have bothered with it at all if my curiosity wasn't drawn by some of the reviews saying how the central performance elevates it above most teen movies. They were not wrong - I was absolutely blown away by Hailee Steinfeld's confidence, charm and nuance in this role. She brings such life to it! I laughed, I cried, I recognised my teenage self in it; this is a really strong turn by someone so young and now I'm really excited to see what path she takes in the coming years. Very, very impressed.
The script here isn't bad either, by the way. Very honest and unafraid, also funny. Woody Harellson plays a decent supporting role too as the teacher. Not a life changing film, but check it out for those reasons.