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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TC’s Ten Best Films of 2011

I’ve changed things up somewhat this year, loosening the restrictions as to what counts as a “2011” movie. It could be listed in the IMDB any time back to 2009, but it just needs to have strayed in to my consciousness in some way this year. Might be a cinema release, DVD release somewhere, or even showing up on cable. My theatrical experiences have remained light, so it’s more likely a film won’t get a chance until it becomes available by some other route. I’m thus a bit more flexible, simply because I’m aware of a risk some great movies might miss out on recognition, for fairly spurious reasons.

There are, of course, a few which still missed out exactly because they did not stray across my retina in a reasonable time. Leading the way is À l’intérieur (Inside), which was probably the best horror movie I saw in 2011. However, since it came out on DVD in the United States in April 2008. that was just too much of a stretch. Two others that were similarly eliminated were Onechanbara: The Movie, and Five Fingers.

Before we get to the list, here are eight honorable mentions, which ended up getting to the final round before being eliminated. Not without some heartbreak and much agonizing, it has to be said. These are, in alphabetical order: Attack the Block, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Last Exorcism, Page Eight, Point Blank, Red State, Restrepo, Toy Story 3. And with that, on to the actual top ten. Links go to the full review on TC or GWG.org as appropriate.

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TC’s Ten Best Films of 2010

If it weren’t for the expected heady delights of Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch, it would be quite feasible to imagine a 2011 where I don’t bother going to the movies. We all but abandoned that this year, the previous issues of increasing cost, decreasing quality of cinematic experience and the rise of alternatives, all combining to work against it. With a broad seam of “treasures” from previous years waiting to mined from sites like Cinemageddon, why bother with new movies? The does make the creation of a list like this difficult, since the number of films which qualified as “2010” was probably an all-time low, even with a deliberately-vague rule on what counts. Next year “of” may be be replaced by “watched in”.

The split of how the ten were obtained is interesting. One was seen at the cinema; two were DVD screeners; two were part of our film festival; and the other five were… Well, for legal reasons, let’s just go with “not”, shall we, and I won’t say which was which. As an aside, I note that the most-pirated movie of 2010 was Avatar…which was also the most-bought DVD of 2010, with sales numbers basically the same as the most-bought DVD of 2009. And, even if you reckon every single one of those downloads personally cost Jim Cameron $10, the total amount lost was less than 6% of the film’s worldwide gross. Yeah, piracy really is bankrupting the movie-industry, isn’t it? </rant> And with that, let’s move on, shall we?

Here’s the list of my ten favorites from the year just past. Links go to the appropriate review: titles marked with a * are over on GirlsWithGuns.org, so those reviews will pop open in a new window.

The Shadow Within

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TV Dinners: The Best TV of 2010

It may be tied to the decline in our cinema-going, but we’re watching more TV at this point that any time I can remember. There have been occasions recently when our living-room Tivo has been unable to cope with the scheduling, as we try and record three programmes simultaneously – fortunately, there is also the bedroom DVR which can be used as a back-up. After jump, you’ll find the ten shows which have entertained us most reliably this year – unlike our 2008 listing, we’re just going in alphabetical order this time.

Note: there’s a couple of new shows in the fall season, Nikita and The Event, that have potential, but we haven’t seen enough episodes to be sure. They’ll qualify for next year’s listing (if I do one…).

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TC’s Ten Best Films of 2009

Movies seen theatrically in 2009: three. Yes: you could count then on the fingers of one hand, while still hanging on to your large popcorn. This continues a trend noted in last year’s review, though was exacerbated by us moving house in the middle of the year. As well as the experience occupying us and then leaving us drained of energy for the summer blockbuster season, our new location doesn’t have quite the same easy access to cinemas. Though two of the three movies did make it into the top ten – the other being Avatar – I will also admit that four of the listed films arrived in TC Towers, shall we say, in unofficial ways.

Still, when the top five for the year included not only Avatar, but also Transformers 2 and Twilight: New Moon, Hollywood largely has itself to blame for my absence. But since overall American box-office was up 10% on 2008, and cracked the ten billion dollar mark for the first time, I doubt they noticed. However, I also think this does prove that any claims the downloading of movies is killing the industry are clearly nonsense, just as the music business somehow managed to survive audio-cassettes.

As usual, links go to the most appropriate review, which may be here or may be on GirlsWithGuns.org, and I am limiting myself for the purposes of this list, to movies that got their first North American release in 2009.  But here’s also a list of films seen in the past, which might have merited cond for a previous year’s top ten (having been rated B or better]. Lights in the Dusk, Vantage Point, The Memory of a Killer, In Bruges, Let the Right One In, The Wrestler, The Insurgents, Singh is Kinng, Ils, Black Book, Traitor, Fermat’s Room, King Arthur, Stuck, El Rey de la Montaña, Man on Wire, The Strangers, Let Him Have It, Princess Aurora

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The top 10 films of the 00’s

Everyone else is doing their top ten films of the decade piece, so why buck the trend? Though I’m not even going to start getting into the whole “Well, technically, the decade runs from 2001-2010…” thing. This is based entirely on movies released in years that start “200”, with Wikipedia being the source of information on the date of a particular film.  You may notice some differences from the year-by-year lists previously published. This is mostly because some films stand the test of time better than others. The year-end lists tend to be based on a single viewing, while all the titles listed below hall gone through multiple viewings [in some case, multiple-multiple viewings], and been found to be just as effective – or even more so – than when initially seen.

Links go to the most appropriate review, either here or on GirlsWithGuns.org. Honorary mentions [in alphabetical order]: The Animatrix, The Booth, Children of Men, Finding Nemo, Gladiator, Kung Fu Hustle, Nine Queens, The Returner, The Ring, Shoot ‘Em Up, Signs, Sin City, Sexy Beast, 300.

  • 10. Sick Girl
    Horror movies should make you uncomfortable. They should make you squirm in your seat. And even the jaded horror fans that Chris and I are were made very uncomfortable by this, more so than any other of the hundreds of genre entries that strayed across our eyeballs in the past decade. Martyrs made a late push to dethrone this, but Leslie Andrews’ performance here is just so disconnected and matter-of-fact, as she carries out the most unspeakable of acts on her victims. Horror – true horror, not torture-porn – is absolute indifference to the suffering of others, and it’s this chilling effect which lies at the heart of Sick Girl and its impact.
  • 9. The Dark Knight
    Would certainly have ranked higher, if we didn’t have a strong urge to clear our throat, every time Bale’s caped crusader spoke. Otherwise, however, this is near perfect, highlighted of course by the stunning performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Every time we come across the film on cable, we have to put it on, especially if it’s in time to see the sublime “How about a magic trick?” scene. The scope and scale of Christopher Nolan’s vision is the perfect backdrop for this larger-than-life performance, which succeeds in engaging both brain and heart in a way few “comic-book” movies have ever managed to do.

  • 8. Versus
    At the risk of mixing my metaphors terribly, this fuels up on adrenalin and goes full-throttle straight for the action jugular, Ryuhei Kitamura coming out of nowhere to deliver one of the most purely-entertaining action flicks of all time. Packed with characters who can best be described as “fascinating,” it combines impressive imagination with spectacular execution on a tiny budget, punches far above its weight as a result. Zombies, swordplay, really-big guns and martial-arts combine in a delightful and heady cocktail that is quite unique. Some of Kitamura’s subsequent work has been solid; nothing has quite matched Versus.
  • 7. Kill Bill, Volume 1
    Proof that, when Quentin Tarantino reins in his verbal diarrhoea and keeps himself off-screen, he is capable of delivering a thoroughly-entertaining piece of work. He is now 1-for-6 there [not see Inglorious Bastards yet], thanks to the best action-heroine film to come out of Hollywood in the decade. Uma Thurmann’s Bride was a tornado of revenge, chewing up and spitting out any and all who got in her path, be it old friends like Vernita Green, new enemies such as Go-Go Yubari or, in the film’s most impressive sequence, an entire pack of enraged, masked Japanese men wielding samurai swords.  A marvellous swirling of popular cultures.

  • 6. Wall-E
    Not the last Pixar movie you’ll see in this list, and the studio dominated the decade as far as animation goes, in the way Studio Ghibli did the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. After a bit of a road-bump with Cars [pun not intended], Pixar roared back with a tale about a garbage clean-up robot that falls in love with a probe. James Cameron could have learned how to make non-human characters – indeed, non-organic ones here – sympathetic. They could conceivably have made the entire film without a single word of meaningful dialogue, and it would still have been eqally as marvellous. Or possibly even more so.
  • 5. Borat
    I still have absolutely no idea how this subversive piece of surrealist theatre managed to get a massive release across the entire world [except, I suspect, Kazakhstan]. Too much of what passed as ‘satire’ in this decade was toothless, but Sacha Baron Cohen hit his marks with impeccable precision, as he tore across the United States from New York to Pamela Anderson. Great satire should offend people – especially its targets – but Baron Cohen exposed not just the prejudice inherent in Western society, but also its remarkable tolerance for and patience with outsiders. It made us laugh, cringe, and think, a unique triple-play.

  • 4. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    The only martial-arts movie to ever make me shed a tear, because for once, equal attention was given to the characters as to the ass-kickery. The relationships between them had a genuine, timeless feel to them which meant the period setting was not a strait-jacket for the storyline. The amazing action sequences which punctuated proceedings, by Yuen Wo-Ping, had a lyrical grace and imagination to them which has rarely been matched: the duel between Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Zi-yi was probably the finest one-on-one fight in the period covered here, like watching water go over a cliff. Add the emotional punch of the end, and it’s a masterpiece.
  • 3. Monsters Inc.
    Oh, look – another Pixar movie. I could just copy and paste the paragraph above, about the ability to make non-human characters work.  However, this was not only a very sweet and innocent love story, it was also riotously-funny, and showcased a blizzard of pure imagination – the lifeblood of animation. This was apparent, not only in the construction of Monstropolis, but also the characters which populated it, and all the way to little things like the street signs [Stalk/Don’t Stalk]. CGI animation is no longer anything rare or unusual; however, this film transcends the medium and is simply great movie-making.

  • 2. Shaun of the Dead
    Probably counts as our most-watched film of the decade. Any time it’s on – even on a non-premium channel, where it has been been formatted to fit the screen, run in the time allotted and edited for content -we just have to watch it, rejoicing in the glorious dialogue and marvellous combination of horror and comedy, two notoriously difficult genres to combine well [many have tried – most have failed, and few things are worse than a horror-comedy that is neither horrific nor funny]. There is not a wrong step, weak moment or wasted sentence to be found in the entire thing. Makes me proud to be British.
  • 1. Lord of the Rings – Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King
    To commemorate the end of the decade, I decided it was long past time to pull out all three entries in the series, and watch them back-to-back-to-back, see if they all held up. The versions in question were the extended cuts of parts one and three, and the regular version of part two – we really didn’t feel that it was a film particularly in need of additional footage of tree pontificating. The results of this furry-footed marathon are a separate article, which can be found here.

TC’s Ten Best Films of 2008

I think this year probably marked a new low-water mark for going to the cinema, perhaps since I moved to London in 1987 – largely for economic reasons, as well as the more traditional ones of sloth and the theatrical experience gradually being overtaken by the home one. There are a declining number of films which I feel need to be seen at the multiplex, when the alternative involves soft, fluffy, pillowy goodness, snacks of our choosing and no young people talking incessantly [well, only Robert, and he has spent most of 2008 watching the complete works of Stargate in the living-room]. Why bother going out, when we can wait for it to appear on cable and Tivo it for viewing at our convenience?

darkknight

Hence, there are probably a number of films which probably would have qualified, yet have yet to drift across our retinas. Much the same way as, say Shoot ‘Em Up and The Bourne Ultimatum would have been in the 2007 Top Ten, had we seen them when we were writing it, this list should be taken as reflecting only the situation at the present time. Quantum of Solace may make it in due course: Twilight and Beverly Hills Chihuahua should probably not be holding their breath though. On the other hand, for the first time in a while (2004 was the last year), I did actually see both the #1 and #2 at the box-office at the movies, though this may reflect their dominance as much as anything. This year, only three films passed $230 million, the smallest number since 2000 [when The Grinch was top, which gives you some idea what a cinematic feast was available there]. I was quite surprised to see Indiana Jones and the Overlong Title was one of them, though the others are likely no surprise.

The top two both made the Trash City top ten too, which is something of a shock, because popular taste and my taste rarely coincide. It’s the first time that’s happened for the #1+2 in takings, since the double-bill of Return of the King and Finding Nemo topped both box-office and TC charts, five years ago. Not quite as strong a correlation in 2008, admittedly, yet anything is better than nothing. So, bearing in mind the limitations of what I haven’t seen yet, here are my favorite ten films of 2008. Links go to the full review, either here or on GirlsWithGuns.org, as appropriate.

10. The Gingerdead Man 2: The Passion of the Crust
Certainly winner of the Title of the Year award, this entertaining B-movie had few pretensions, except for a desire to skewer the world of B-movies: talk about biting the hand. With a sharp, witty script, and a host of cameos from people who should probably know better, this was simply a lot of fun, taking advantages of the strengths that low-budget movies possess, and wisely not reaching beyond those goals.

darkheart9. Dark Heart (left)
Sometimes, the best films succeed on the simplest level: the viewer wants to know what happened next. This movie demonstrates this admirably, a taut piece of work, mostly taking place in a deserted house where an Iraqi veteran is taken, after unwisely shooting his mouth off in a bar about a stash of money. ‘Hilarity ensues,’ as they say. Ok: it doesn’t, but the script is crisp and taut, and that’s the most important thing.

8. Iron Man
I haven’t been too impressed with most films based on comics before this year, but we had a couple of crackers in 2008. This one was simply enormous fun, with Downey a perfect choice for the role, and thoroughly deserving the career resurrection which resulted. Expensive, loud and packed with well-shot action, it was a rare example of a film that really needed to be seen at the cinema to be enjoyed.

7. Chocolate
Though if you wanted your action flavoured with copious amounts of bone-crunching, then you needed to unwrap a bar of Chocolate. From the director who turned Tony Jaa into a star, this starred the catchily-named JeeJa Vismistananda as an autistic girl who learns martial arts off the TV. Long story short: contains probably the most painful large-scale fight scene since Jackie Chan’s heyday. And quite a few others too.

6. Diary of the Dead
After the somewhat disappointing Land of the Dead, Romero got back to form, by going back to basics: a small band of no-name actors, pitted against a large number of hungry zombies. George adopted some of the concepts from Blair Witch and Cloverfield, but reined in the worst excesses, and was more effective than both as a result. Skewering the flesh and the media with equal enthusiasm, nice to see Romero still has it in him.

5. Machine Girl
Trust the Japanese to go and one-up Romero when it comes to the splatter. I can’t do much better than repeat my GWG recap: “For those who thought the Black Knight scene in Holy Grail was just too restrained in its use of arterial spray.” Right from the opening scene, the film was awash in the old red stuff; I think it probably counts as the goriest film I’ve seen since the heyday of early Peter Jackson. Silly, over the top, cheap, lurid and wonderful.

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4. WALL-E
When the world seems to have turned against you, it’s occasionally comforting to curl up with a feel-good flick – and no-one does them better over the past decade or so, than Pixar. Be it insects, toys, monsters, fish or, as here, robots, the studio can take almost anything, giving it heart and making you care about it, in a way most human actors and directors would kill for. Great to see them back on form.

bankjob3. The Bank Job (right)
Jason Statham had a bit of a mixed year. Death Race was lame, and working with Uwe Boll is never a good sign, though even I haven’t had the guts to sit through the 127 minutes of In the Name of the King. However, the #1 British action hero reached a new career-high with The Bank Job, which deftly spun a tale of a largely-forgotten moment in our country’s history, and gave Statham a chance to do some acting, an aspect of his talent often ignored by all but Guy Ritchie.

2. The Dark Knight
Rarely are commercial success and artistic acclaim so well aligned as here; one does have to wonder, would it have been quite so popular in either, save the untimely death of Heath Ledger? Regardless: it is what it is, and what it is is probably the best comic-book adaptation ever [though I still love Batman Returns on a number of levels]. Ledger dominates the screen in a sweeping epic that has brains, heart and soul, overshadowing even Bale’s caped crusader. If someone had given Batman a throat lozenge, this would probably have been #1.

1. Sick Girl
Chris found the trailer for this, and we immediately had to have it for our Film Festival. When we got the DVD, we had some trepidation: surely it couldn’t live up to the trailer? It didn’t. It surpassed the trailer, thanks mostly to Leslie Andrews’ completely disconnected performance in the title role. It’s a film that’s probably highly offensive, simply for daring to make the viewer empathize with a character whose idea of fun includes torture of the most sadistic kind. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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2005: Cinematic Hits and Misses

Monkey Business

2005 was a lacklustre twelve months – or perhaps it just seemed that, without an obvious standout at the top, in the way of previous years. Actual cinema-going was definitely down from 2005, not just for me but it seems in the county as a whole: an increase in ticket-prices and irritants [the parents who thought a four-year old child would enjoy King Kong should be barred from the movies for life], and the increasing appeal of home theatre, helped sap the appeal of the cinema experience.

On a personal level, this certainly meant that viewing at the McLennan Scottsdale 2 theater – that’s our living-room and bedroom, in case you wondered – reached record heights. However, my return to “proper” employment both wiped out Friday through Monday evenings; while you can work around this [Wednesdays and Thursday night have become our preferred viewing sessions] it did also prevent attendance at the Phoenix Film Festival for the first year ever. And that’s a shame, as it was always good for an unexpected gem or two.

Which is more than can be said for the box-office hits of 2005. I did vaguely want to see the #1, Revenge of the Sith, but in actuality, only five of the top 25: War of the Worlds, King Kong, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Batman Begins and – earlier tonight, actually – Mr + Mrs. Smith unfolded in front of my eyes. All competent enough, in their own way, but only one makes the top 10. As for the others, it’s not an issue of time, money or other patrons holding loud cellphone conversations. I simply see very little that I have any desire to spend money on: pointless remakes like The Longest Yard, Fun With Dick and Jane and The Dukes of Hazzard do not exactly inspire me to run to the cinema.

Things were little better on the arthouse side, with Brokeback Mountain this year’s Sideways, i.e. the critically-acclaimed darling which I have no interest in at all. I do not watch cowboy movies; I do not watch romances; I do not watch (quote, unquote) “gay” movies. So, why, exactly, would I go and see a gay cowboy romance? And if this makes me narrow-minded and homophobic in your eyes, so be it. This year’s Oscars threaten to be the blandest in a very long time as far as I’m concerned: will Miyazaki get another Oscar, being about the limit of my interest [I predict no, it’ll go to Nick Park instead].

Fortunately, a steady stream of DVDs filled the gap nicely, and a tip of the hat here to Ed, Amanda and Darrin, of MTI, The Asylum and Brain Damage respectively, who have been of much help this year – and find themselves with an entry each in the top 10. [Thanks also to Rhiannon at ArtsMagic, whose omission is largely because they release mostly back-catalog stuff, which is not eligible here. If it was, Osaka Tough Guys would certainly be a contender.]

Companies like these are why I increasingly believe that the future of movies is less and less tied to the theatre, and more to DVD, streamed downloading and other alternative methods which will allow the film-makers largely to bypass conventional distribution methods. All of these should lead to more choice and convenience for consumers to watch what they want, when they want. Though if there is a way for the studios to screw everything up, I’m sure they’ll a) find it, and b) blame piracy. Memo to Hollywood: make better movies, and people will show up. But enough of such things…

Firstly, some honorary mentions to movies which almost made the cut, but didn’t quite get in, for one reason or other. In alphabetical order, they are: Howl’s Moving Castle, Khakee [which would have been in 2004’s Top Ten, if seen a couple of months earlier], Night Watch (left), Red Riding Hood, Subhuman and War of the Worlds.

  • 10. Shadow Hunters. Microbudget film of the year, making up for in imagination what it (admittedly, often obviously) lacked in production values. Demons + co-eds + a deserted hospital = loads of fun.
  • 9. Never Been Thawed. The mockumentary is a tricky genre to get right, but this is deliciously deadpan, taking potshots at the worlds of rock-music, Christianity and obsessive collectors with equal abandon.
  • 8. The Kiss. Despite the director all but disowning this because of studio interference, it still had a warmth and genuine heart to it that came through any post-production tampering. Caused more sniffling on the TC couch than any film in quite some time.
  • 7. Dead Men Walking. The cinematic equivalent of the wood-chipper: it really only serves one purpose, but is very good at what it does. DMW‘s purpose is head shots. It is very good at what it does.
  • 6. Azumi 2: Death or Love. While not the same director as the original, and less visually stylish as a result, this was still a highly-entertaining piece of swordplay. From the writer of Ninja Scroll, there were great enemies for our young heroine to face, amid plentiful sprays of digital blood.
  • 5. Cup of my Blood. The truly intelligent horror-film is a rare beast these days (now Cronenberg seems to have left the genre), but it’s not quite dead yet. Mixed religious paranoia, sex and good, old-fashioned gore to fine effect.
  • 4. Cypher. The rest of the world got this in 2002, but America only just caught up. More fool us. The biggest cinematic Dick-ing ever – er, as in Phillip K. Dick, that is – with a mind-bending plot that defies explanation, and a nicely-rendered corporate future.
  • 3. King Kong. Okay, the first hour was awful, and as the boat arrived at Skull Island, this looked as likely a contender for the Top 10 as Are We There Yet?. But Jackson redeemed himself in spades, with the best action set-pieces of the year.
  • 2. Kung Fu Hustle. Steven Chow in top form, albeit only a supporting role, in a film that melded classic martial-arts with Warner Bros cartoons to spawn what may be an entirely new genre: kung-fun…
  • 1. Sin City. Finally, a film based on a comic-book that actually captures the unique look and feel of the medium. A slew of great stories, well-told, and with a love for the genre that was both immediate and infectious. What the cinema should be about.

 

2004: Cinematic Hits and Misses


Where Have All The Hobbits Gone?

Funny how a year changes things. This time in 2004, I was looking forward to Van Helsing and Alien vs. Predator – laugh? Why I oughta… – while the odds of Shrek 2 making it into my top ten for the year seemed slim at best. Okay, it still didn’t quite get there, but it came a damn sight closer than expected. And we’re still waiting for Constantine (now a February 2005 release) and Ultraviolet, which is vaguely scheduled for August.

But enough about films that didn’t come out. I saw seven of the top ten grossing films, the exceptions being The Bourne Supremacy, Shark Tale and Troy. The middle-named wins the 2004 TC “why is anyone going to watch this?” award, replacing last year’s champion, Bruce Almighty. Again, the usual mix of sequels and adaptations (or both, in the case of Bourne) ruled, with The Incredibles beating Shark Tale in the Most Successful Original Story category. Is animation the last refuge of imagination these days? [Best animated film of 2005: Howl’s Moving Castle (right – click on the pic to see all the luscious detail). Hey, it’s Miyazaki, so I’m not exactly going out on a limb]

It’s kinda odd to find Christmas rolling around, without a Lord of the Rings movie to see, though sure many of you will find the extended version of Return of the King in your stocking come Christmas morning. [The bad news is, of the 50 extra minutes, 48 of them are additional footage of hobbits hugging each other goodbye…] One thing this will do, is make the Academy Awards a lot less interesting. After last year’s Middle Earth domination, we’ll be back to the usual worthy-but-dull dramas, with the odds strongly against any of our favourites even getting a nod, never mind a statuette. We’ll just have to wait for the mainstream breakthrough of the next former splatter-movie director. Alex Chandon, now is your hour…

Here’s our top ten choices for 2004 – but, first, a few honorary mentions for others we enjoyed over the past year, in no particular order: The Cooler, The Great American Snuff Movie, Touching The Void, Mean Girls, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed. Shrek 2, The Hazing, and Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

#10 – House of Flying Daggers [review on gwg.org]. Okay, it’s not quite Crouching Tiger, though it desperately wants to be, but it still had the best action sequences of the year, and some of the best cinematography as well. Fluid moviemaking, the art of which seems lost to Hollywood.

#9 – Kill Bill, Volume 2 [review on gwg.org]. Not quite as good as part one, it looked like Tarantino didn’t quite keep his self-indulgence in check. But when it worked – and, for the most part, it did – it really worked. Uma Thurman’s revenge mission continued, with more style, grace, violence and irritatingly-hip dialogue than you could ever want.

#8 – The Chronicles of Riddick. A tremendously guilty pleasure, taking me back to the days when I’d haunt the SF section of my local library, devouring even the pulpiest trash with abandon. Ludicrous, overblown, nonsensical. But enjoyable as hell, with Vin Diesel proving why he’s the ultimate bad-ass, even though his acting ability is questionable, at best.

#7 – Up For Grabs. It was a good year for documentaries, though you won’t find Moore’s polemic rant listed here (post-election, it seems an irrelevance). Instead, here’s a film about a baseball, and the struggle for possession of it. And yet, it’s a metaphor for all human exis…oh, who am I trying to kid. But in the light of the increasing damning evidence for Bonds’ steroid use, this gets even funnier.

#6 – The Incredibles. Another year, another Pixar production. Another top 10 spot. But this spot is actually a drop, after two consecutive #2’s. Still funny, still intelligent, even more action-packed than its predecessors, it did feel a little lacking in heart – but only in comparison to their other masterpieces. By any other standard, this was an instant classic.

#5 – Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer. Nick Broomfield is the best documentarian currently working, – Michael Moore isn’t fit to load his camera. This creepy follow up to his early film about serial killer Aileen Wuornos finishes the story by covering the days up to her execution with an unflinching, neutral eye. Both those pro- and anti- the death penalty will find much food for thought here.

#4 – Noon Blue Apples. Ah, conspiracies. Yet while The Da Vinci Code film gets all the press, it’ll be hard pushed to capture the paranoid anxiety of those who delve into the world of secret and forbidden knowledge. That’s something Noon does almost perfectly, and your head will be spinning like a top by the time you get out. If you do…

#3 – Aan: Men at Work. Certainly the biggest surprise of the year, who’d have thought our first-ever excursion into Bollywood would make this list? We certainly didn’t, and were delighted to find a fabulous mix of influences, hot bullet-squibbing, martial arts action and – of course – song and dance numbers. If Korea is the new Hong Kong, cinematically, India is the new Korea…

#2 – Bloody Mallory. Lions’ Gate have been sitting on this one for at least two years, but I’m damned if I’m going to let it be ignored any longer. Sure, it’s not technically a 2004 release, but it should have been, so I’m including it here (hey, it’s my top 10!). Go to Ebay right now, and get one of the unofficial copies. For energetic, imaginative, visually striking horror-action, this is the best film since Blade II at the very least.

#1 – Shaun of the Dead. The first British film to win the coveted #1 spot, Shaun not only lived up to all expectations, it surpassed them. You’d have to go back a very long way (Evil Dead 2? Re-Animator? Brain Dead?) to find a horror/comedy that worked so well on both sides of the slash. Repeat viewing makes it even better: seen it three times already, and that’s before getting the DVD. Now, can I get any of you cunts a drink?

Vague plan for 2005, is perhaps to get round to updating the Trash City Top 50 Films. It’s been five years since the last time this was done, so it’s well past due. Though since this task will likely need to involve re-viewing all the current candidates, plus any new contenders, it’s obviously going to be a lengthy, if unquestionably pleasurable, operation. Of course, normal viewing of new movies will also continue!

  1. Shaun of the Dead
  2. Bloody Mallory
  3. Aan: Men at Work
  4. Noon Blue Apples
  5. Aileen: The Life & Death of a Serial Killer
  6. The Incredibles
  7. Up for Grabs
  8. The Chronicles of Riddick
  9. Kill Bill, Volume 2
  10. House of Flying Daggers