Category Archives: film

Top Five Films of 2013

2013 has been a year where sequels and franchises have continued to dominate the Box Office. The top five films in the worldwide box office all fit into this category with Gravity and The Croods the only original films breaking into the top ten (although Frozen probably still has some business left to do).

Likewise R-Rated movies (or 15/18 certificate movies in the UK) are virtually dead box office wise. The Hangover Part III at number nineteen being the highest grossing film in this category.

Expect to see these trends continue in 2014 as audiences and studios alike enjoy the comfort that comes from familiarity.

Anyway, in all I reckon I’ve seen 52 of the films released in 2013 so one for each week of the year. I’ve managed to boil this list down to just five. So in true buzz feed style here is: The Top Five Films of 2013 only true movie fans will appreciate.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

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Before I begin the review of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, I think it’s important to address the issue no other critic seems willing to address: the title. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 is a ridiculous title, it contains far too many syllables, and you feel you need a long-run up to even start to attempt it. “Anyone want to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2?” you are about to ask, but because of the effort involved you opt for “Anyone want to see Gravity?” instead.

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What I’ve Been Watching: The Place Beyond The Pines

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In 2010 Blue Valentine changed the direction of two careers. One Ryan Gosling managed to shake off The Notebook with a performance a film with genuine emotional depth. Likewise its director, Derek Cianfrance, seems to have had no problems getting films made, having spent the decade before making documentaries for television.

The two are reunited in The Place Beyond The Pines which tells the stories of two men on opposing sides of the law. Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a young man who works as a motorbike stunt man for a traveling fair. He finds out early in the film he has a one-year old son, and makes the decision to quit his job to try and be make things work with his son’s mother Romina (Eva Mendes).

Luke soon realizes getting together enough money to look after them both is going to be a problem and decides to rob banks to get some cash together. This brings him to the attention of Avery (Bradley Cooper) a young police officer still to prove himself in the force.

If you have seen the film you will know it is difficult to talk about all the directions it pulls in without spoiling the experience if you have yet to see it. The rest of my review will contain no specific plot details, but I will not be offended if you stop reading now.

Still here?

Good, because I was just kidding about the not being offended bit. Glad I know who my real friends are.

Anyway The Place Beyond The Pines is an incredibly ambitious and sprawling film that almost feels like a first-time film. By that I mean Cianfrance seems to have condensed a million and one ideas into 150 minutes of cinema. In that way it reminded me of films like Magnolia or even Badlands, in that although it has great characters, the film seems to be reaching beyond them and serving themes, rather than story or characters.

Specifically the theme of violence and the impact it has on its perpetrators and victims. The myth of redemptive violence is something I’ve spoken about before on this blog, and it is obvious the director has an opinion on the way police officers and members of the armed forces are treated as super-human, despite committing acts that actually dehumanise them.

This means the people treated as ‘heroes’ see themselves as quite the opposite and have no outlet to express that imbalance of emotions.

Beyond that the film looks at the impact of poverty, the modern family unit, police corruption, and revenge to create a film which has a clear sense of direction even if it is not obvious until well into the third act.

If there is a flaw it is in this third act which seems to lose the momentum already established in the first two acts. In some ways the last half hour feels more like an epilogue rather than a stand out piece of cinema. Perhaps this is because it is left to the younger members of the cast to carry the movie at this point, and it is difficult for them to compete with standards set by Gosling and Cooper in the previous acts of the film.

Despite this, it is a film easy to recommend. It is of the type Hollywood used to make in its golden era of the 1970s. That is films with weighty characters, weighty stories, weighty themes and a kind of reluctant masculinity. The Place Beyond The Pines may be a little flawed, but I think it’s in a good way.

Edinburgh Film Festival: 10 Films / 10 Days

Browsing the latest EIFF Brochure one cannot help but feel a sense of both excitement (Over one hundred films to discover!) and a sense of being overwhelmed (Over ONE HUNDRED films to discover?!). Trying to choose between them is almost impossible and relies mostly on instinct and blind luck. Plus, unless you’ve had the foresight to both cancel your diary for twelve days and save up plenty of money, you’re probably not gonna be able to see everything you like the look of.

With all that in mind, I’ve decided to recommend 10 Films over the 10 Days between the opening and closing gala films, Killer Joe and Brave.

You can see the schedule and buy tickets for all the films featured by visiting Observealot’s My EIFF. A handy feature on the official site that lets you share your chosen blend of films with the whole world.

If you use My EIFF, please feel free post a link to your recommendations in the comments section below.
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1. It’s the Earth Not the Moon (Thursday 21st June)

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A documentary about a small island called Corvo in the Azores, a group of islands about 1000 miles West of Portugal. With a population of just 440, this promises to be the type of small intimate documentary one might associate with Herzog.

See this if you liked: Encounters at the End of the World

2. The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (Friday 22nd)

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Another documentary, but about an altogether different subject. Most of us will remember Paul from the 2010 World Cup, but this documentary, by the director of EIFF 2010’s The People Versus George Lucas seeks to look at why such a bizarre and absurd ‘gift’ captured the public’s imagination in such a strong way.

See this if you liked: King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

3. NFA (Saturday 23rd)

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NFA, or “No Fixed Abode”, is about a successful business man who wakes up to find himself is a hostel for the homeless and must confront the issues those with “NFA” face everyday. Using many non-actors and based on real tales, this promises to be an examination of how the poorest in society cope and are treated by those around them.

See this is you liked: Cathy Come Home, or anything by Ken Loach.

4. Rent-a-Cat (Sunday 24th)

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Sayako has an unusual job. She ‘rents’ cats to lonely people. But can Sayako ever find human love rather than just feline affection? The bizarre premise could almost only be Japanese, where strict restrictions on rented accommodation mean some animal lovers really do rent pets. The premise’s sense of innocence and imagination brings to mind Miyazaki’s animated works.

See this if you liked: Amélie

5. Young Dudes (Monday 25th)

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With the end of the world approaching, two young Taiwanese men join a Ukranian woman in setting up a new country via Facebook for anyone who is interested in joining them on their virtual spaceship. Never could the trio have imagined their site would be so successful as to attract the attention of aliens. A coming-of-age tale with a gratifying disregard for reality.

See this if you liked: The Mighty Boosh

6. What is this Film Called Love? (Tuesday 26th)

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Shot in Mexico City over six days, this is Mark Cousins’ latest project after the mammoth A Story of Film: An Odyssey. It sees him exploring the changing nature of a city while contemplating his own identity. One of the most original, insightful and creative voices in film today, this film will no doubt challenge and enlighten anyone to go with Cousins’ on whatever journey he decides to take us.

See this if you liked: The First Movie

7. Day of the Flowers (Wednesday 27th)

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A road trip movie about two very different sisters (one left-wing, the other Little Miss Popular) who go to Cuba to bury their father’s ashes. Sunshine Cleaning meets The Motorcycle Diaries via The Out-of-Towners?

See this if you liked: Vicky Christina Barcelona

8. California Solo (Thursday 28th)

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Robert Carlyle stars as a musician from the Brit Pop era who is now living the simple life on a farm in America. However, his escape to the country can only last so long as he is forced to face the demon of his dead brother and bandmate.

See this if you liked: Crazy Heart

9. Shadow Dancer (Friday 29th)

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Recent EIFF favourite James Marsh (Man on Wire, Project Nim) returns to the festival with a taut thriller starring Clive Owen as a British intelligence officer tasked with convincing a Belfast mother (Andrea Riseborough) to become an informant or go to jail. Set during the troubles in Northern Ireland, earned high praise at Sundance earlier this year.

See this if you liked: Bloody Sunday

10. God Bless America (Saturday 30th)

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Ever watched a reality show and thought “The world would truly be a better place without that person”? Frank, who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, has. So he goes on a trip across America assassinating anyone he deems too obnoxious to live. Soon upon embarking on this trip, he encounters high school student Roxy, who is not only on board, but even more enthusiastic about his mission. The two proceed to try and clean up America, and everything they deem wrong with it, once and for all. A darkly comic look at our celebrity-obssessed culture, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know this one is not for the faint hearted.

See this if you liked: Super or Kick-Ass.