TC’s Ten Best Films of 2014

The final tally of films seen in 2014 was 317, which is a handful up on last year. Felt like a better selection, with submissions to the Phoenix FearCon representing a very significant chunk of the top tier. Mind you, they would probably also feature heavily if I did a list of the bottom ten films: there were a number of cases where I seriously had to wonder, in what universe this was a movie you’d show to anyone outside your immediate family. But those are already all but forgotten, and finding the gems listed below, which we’d never have seen otherwise, made up for it. Cinema going continues to decline, with traditional theater visits contributing a whopping total of… Two: Godzilla and Lucy.

In vaguely chronological order of viewing, honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the top 10, either because they weren’t quite good enough, or I couldn’t quite squeeze them in to even my famously loose definition of what constitutes “2014”: Wolf of Wall Street, Cat Run, Daddy’s Little Girl, Final Cut, Die Wand, Nurse 3D, Big Bad Wolves, Sharknado 2 [so sue me, it was fun], The Man in the Orange Jacket, Roseville, Mirage Men, Snowpiercer, Dead Snow 2, 009-1: The End of the Beginning and Gun Woman. Said definition is “got some kind of US screening or release in 2014, in one format or another,” and links go to wherever I wrote the longest review, which may be this site, GirlsWithGuns.org or, in one case, over on AZSnakePit.com.

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Incredibly Bad Film Show: Manos, Hands of Fate

Dir: Harold P. Warren
Star: Harold P. Warren, Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Mahree

It’s perhaps surprising, given my fondness for badfilm, that I had never quite got round to watching this, often regarded as the worst movie of all time. At one point, it was thus ranked on the IMDb: though it has now been replaced there (the current incumbent is this year’s Saving Christmas, though I suspect it won’t last, and will eventually return the crown to Birdemic), Manos remains in the bottom dozen. A lot of the responsibility for this has to belong to Mystery Science Theater 3000, who plucked the film from near-total obscurity when they picked it as a target in 1993 – to the shock of the cast, who hadn’t seen it in a quarter of a century. I watched their take on the film the morning after watching the “raw” version, and certainly can’t argue with it being perfect material for their satire. But, on the other hand, nor would I necessarily say I enjoyed it more.

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Kindle Surprise: Women, by Charles Bukowski

The rules: A couple of years ago, I wrote about my Kindle, and the torrent I downloaded of 1,425 e-books. Going forward, I will be writing about each book I read off it. The aim is to expose myself to titles I wouldn’t otherwise read, from all period of history, but with a certain discipline.

  1.  I don’t get to choose the book. I’m going through them in the order they appear on the screen. This is vaguely alphabetical by author first name, but that depends on the tags applied to each file.
  2. I’m restricting myself to one book by each author.
  3. I am not permitted to skip a book.
  4. I must finish one book before beginning another, but can stop reading a book if I can write 500 words on why I will be stopping
  5. However, I am allowed to have a different book simultaneously on my phone.

“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”

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Unlawful Killing – the Princess Diana conspiracy film

unlawfulDir: Keith Allen

The phrase “banned in the UK” still has a curious lure to me, even though I haven’t lived there now for over 13 years. So, hearing about this documentary immediately piqued my interest, since it was more or less damned as far as any UK release was concerned – lawyers apparently advised the lawyers that 87 different cuts would need to be made, mostly for reasons of libel. Any US release was similarly shelved after it was was deemed impossible to secure insurance against the possibility of legal repercussions. There are reasons to be skeptical of the film, not least that it’s entire budget of $2.5 million was apparently provided by Mohammed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi, and someone who, it’s safe to say, has something of a prejudiced agenda in the case. Virtually since Day One, he has been banging the drum that the British establishment murdered his son and Diana, because they couldn’t stand the prospect of a Muslim being a step-father to the future King – and, hey, what are the odds, the film comes to exactly the same conclusions, both general and specific.

It’s hugely variable stuff. Some of the claims made in the film are basically ludicrous: such as the one that the entire legal system is “corrupt,” because they all swear allegiance to the Crown. Presumably, that would therefore include the likes of Michael Mansfield, QC to Al Fayed. There’s also no mention of Diana’s previous relationship with Hasnat Khan, another Muslim, which lasted two years and apparently met with little or no opposition from the palace. In contrast, Diana had first met Dodi less than seven weeks before her death, and had probably spent little more than three weeks together, so the claim they were intending to get married seems difficult to sustain. The same goes for the allegation she was pregnant: while the swift embalming of her body would indeed have made it harder to tell if that was the case, all the circumstantial evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

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Incredibly Bad Film Show: Rescue Force

rescueforce2Dir: Charles Nizet
Star: Richard Harrison, Bo Gritz, Peter Gold, Keiri Smith

Sing me no song, read me no rhyme
Don’t waste my time, show me!
Don’t talk of June, don’t talk of fall
Don’t talk at all, show me!

Ah, the wisdom of Alan Jay Lerner, who may well have been talking about this movie, which also tries to follow the philosophy attributed to Goebbels: “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.” In this case, the latter is exemplified by a hellaciously over-frequent use of captions to try to convince the viewer that Nevada is actually a “PLO Fuel and Ammo Depot near the Syrian border.” Saying it doesn’t make it so, any more than pointing the camera at a desk and captioning it, “CIA office, Beirut.” makes that true – though the automatic weapons hanging on the wall behind the desk there, are a nice touch.

The other defining factor of the badmovie style here is a throwback to the days of a high mistress of the genre, Doris Wishman, who couldn’t afford to shoot sync sound, so had entire conversations showing the backs of people’s heads. The same problem affects things here, but Nizet takes a somewhat different approach, getting his actors to mask their mouths with telephones. A lot. No, really: the first half an hour of the film is a rarely-broken string of phone calls, the chief CIA agent, whom the script never bothers to name, shuffling agents around Europe as if playing a game of Diplomacy on crack. Which is where the “Show me” thing comes in. At one point he tells Lt. Col. Steel (Gritz), “The trade center next to the embassy? Blown up about 30 minutes ago – there are bodies all over the place. Both of our choppers were taken out with bazooka shells not less than 10 minutes ago.” A potentially great set-piece, turned into three sentences of bland monologue. Read More

TC’s Ten Best Films of 2013

violetanddaisy

Just over 300 films seen in total during 2013, though not all were eligible for inclusion here – some were too old, even by the somewhat loose definition of “2013” that I’m using again. [Pretty much anything which had its first US distribution this year, in some way] Feels like the standard this year was somewhat lower, probably affected by us not having our film festival, so there were virtually no submissions – three of those made the top ten last year. I think I also mined rather more old films this year, or perhaps it just seems that way. Certainly, cinema-going remained at a premium, with probably only a handful of actual trips at most. Netflix likely helped fill in the gaps, along with TV shows – we discovered Game of Thrones this year – and the “unofficial sources.”

Previously, I’ve generally ordered the films simply by rating, but this time, I have adjust certain rankings, because some of the films have stuck in my mind more than others, and that should probably be recognized. Right, enough rambling. Into the top 10. Read More

Incredibly Bad Film Show: Witchcraft X, Mistress of the Craft

witchcraftx2Dir: Elisar Cabrera
Star: Wendy Cooper, Kerry Knowlton, Stephanie Beaton, Eileen Daly

It’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these – more than 18 months – but when I re-watched this, as part of our exhaustive survey of the entire Witchcraft series, I knew there was no way I could truly do this justice in a couple of hundred words. The other entries in the series are a mix of light occult shenanigans and heavy petting, set in Los Angeles. But for the tenth entry, they shifted things to London, and apparently threw everything you knew out of the window on the flight there. The results are all an Incredibly Bad film should be: it contains laughable concepts, pathetic production values and some performances that would disgrace a school Nativity play. Yet, it’s certainly more memorable and, dammit, I’d say entertaining than any of the nine preceding installments.

The core here is a British government department, Bureau 17, who have been charged with investigating any paranormal shenanigans. Their tiny staff (I blame budget cut-backs: perhaps governmental, more likely by the film’s producers) have captured Hyde (Knowlton), a mass murderer with Satanic tendencies, and are holding them pending the arrival of Detective Lutz (Beaton) from Los Angeles, who’s going to extradite him back to the States. However, the vampire Raven (Daly) and her minions, break Hyde out, because she needs his help to translate a tome that will allow her to summon the demon Morshenka, who will give her unlimited power. It’s up to white Wiccan detective Celeste Sheridan (Cooper), Lutz and the other members of Bureau 19 to stop them.

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TC’s Ten Best Films of 2012

Let’s by giving props to four films seen this year, which would have made the list, but were just a little too old to qualify (even in our new, looser definition!) for a ‘Best of 2012’ article. Topping those – and it would in all likelihood have topped the entire list – is Confessions. Probably among my favorite Japanese movies of all time [maybe behind Bird People of China, maybe not], we said it was “tragedy on an intense, Shakespearean level, that packs an enormous wallop in a way you can’t see until too late.” Hardly any less impressive was Elite Squad, a Brazillian action-thriller, with cops that redefine “zero tolerance.” Also worthy of an honorable mention are Tell No One and Eden Lake.

Also worthy of an honourable mention are the following, which did come out this year, and were enjoyed, but didn’t quite make the top 10 list. [Entries are in chronological order of when we say them, the links go to our review, or GirlsWithGuns.org, as appropriate!] Haywire, ID:A, Special Forces, The Devil’s Rock, Claustrofobia, Blooded, Naked Soldier, Zero Killed, Rec 3: Genesis, Mother’s Day, Grabbers and Resident Evil: Retribution. And with those two groups out of the way, let’s move on to the top 10…

Iron-sky-2

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TV Dinners: The Best TV of 2012

Shows which were listed in the 2010 or 2011 pieces on this topic are disqualified from a repeat nomination. I’ll probably lift the moratorium next year, on a rolling three-year basis, so that the 2010 shows – or. at least, any of them that are still being screened (Caprica, Spooks and 24 have already gone, with Fringe on its last series and The IT Crowd likely not returning either) – will be eligible to repeat. But, for now, here are ten more of the best pieces of televisiual entertainment to have graced our screens in the last 12 months.
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