Coming soon...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of...

BOOM! Cheesy puns aside, here's a brand new image (from the upcoming issue of Empire magazine) from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Indy has a new weapon in his arsenal and it seems to be an RPG. What, or who he'll use this against ain't exactly clear yet, but it's great to see an image of the (supposed) family all together!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Tim Burton film that featured the gloriously dark and twisted style of his earlier films. Some had criticised Burton for being a one-note director, but myself, I liked his style of movies, and I thought this criticism was unfair. To that end, it’s great to see him return to that gothic style with his adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. This musical sure ain’t family fare, as it’s the story of a serial-killing barber and his quest for revenge against the man who had him deported and stole his family.

Benjamin Barker was the best barber London had to offer. He was a naive man with a beautiful wife and baby daughter. But Judge Turpin, a cruel man, was jealous of Barker’s family, and using his power, had Barker arrested and deported and took Barker’s family for his own. Fifteen years later, Barker returns to London under a new guise, that of Sweeney Todd. Todd has one thing on his mind, and that is revenge. He arrives at Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop, home of the worst pies in London. With Mrs. Lovett, Todd concocts an elaborate scheme to get his revenge on Turpin, and turn around the fortunes of Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop. But his desire for revenge becomes an obsession, and his plan faces peril as some people see through his guise and recognise the man he used to be.

When you think of musicals, you tend to think of the happy go lucky musicals of the forties and fifties. Images of Gene Kelly dancing through the streets singing about how happy he is. Sweeney Todd is the complete opposite to this. While there is a little dancing in the musical, it is in no way a happy story. There are very few musicals that feature a straight razor wielding serial killer and cannibalism. And such a story needs to be adapted by a director with the sensibilities of Burton. His dark, gothic style, seen in the likes of Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands fits the story to the ground. Indeed, both these films were collaborations between Burton and six-time leading man, Johnny Depp, and Depp is in the driving seat here again. It’s this collaboration that adds to the quality of Burton’s films, and it certainly helps here.

Johnny Depp once again uses the English accent he has become accustomed to while doing the reprehensible Pirates of the Caribbean films, but that’s about the only thing that Todd and Captain Jack have in common. Depp plays the brooding Todd very well, permanently scowling, and clearly consumed by his obsession. His singing is quite good, seemingly taking on a David Bowie edge to his voice. It’s a good move to have the lead actors sing their parts, as dubbing would have detracted from the performances. Especially considering almost the entire musical is sung.

Supporting Depp as Mrs. Lovett is Burton’s fiancee, Helena Bonham Carter. She made her name with a series of period pieces in her earlier career, but in the last few years, Carter has made a name playing more eccentric roles. She’s perfectly suited to play Mrs. Lovett, and while slightly mad, shows a tender side as she cares for Toby, the abused ward of Todd’s rival barber. The rival, Signor Adolfo Pirelli is a small cameo, but it’s played very well by Sacha Baron Cohen, clearly establishing a name for himself as a character actor. It’s a role that does seem like something Cohen could have come up with himself after Ali G and Borat, but that’s not to take away from the performance. He provides a good bit of comic relief, and can hold his own in the singing stakes.

Alan Rickman seems to have been born to play the villain. While he’s not given very much to do here, the scenes that he is in, he’s as brilliant as ever. His sidekick, Beadle Bamford is played by the brilliant Timothy Spall, who captures the extremely creepy nature of his role very well. Spall also has a great knack for playing villains, and he’s cast very smartly against Rickman. The only reservations I had in the cast were the roles of Johanna, played by Jayne Wisener and Anthony, played by Jamie Campbell Bower. Although I think that was more down to the weak love sub-plot rather than the actors’ performances.
One of the big stars of the film is the production design by Dante Ferretti. Ferretti, who won an Oscar for his work on The Aviator is on top form, creating the dark world that the characters inhabit. It’s a formula that works very well with Burton’s style. In fact, the whole look of the film is a visual treat, with plenty of claret spilled to fill Burton’s dark Victorian London. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Feretti will get his second Oscar for his work, and it won’t be undeserved.

While Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a very entertaining film, it’s in no way Burton’s best. In some ways, the character of Sweeney Todd could almost be seen as a grown up version of Edward Scissorhands. And so, for that reason, Sweeney Todd is the natural successor to that film. Having said that, it’s no where near as good as Edward Scissorhands. And the Oscar nomination for Depp does seem a little odd. It’s not a bad performance, but I still think it’s not Oscar worthy. Not for the kids, Sweeney Todd is still visually stunning, entertaining musical.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS (1999) - Shane Meadows

Over the last ten years, Shane Meadows has proven himself to be one of the finest writer-directors not just in England, but in the world. His films are stripped of gloss and glamour and retain the gritty realism that his stories call for. Since Twenty Four Seven, released in 1997, Meadows films have gotten steadily better with each release, but that’s not to say his earlier work is any weaker than the likes of Dead Man’s Shoes and last year’s This Is England. A Room For Romeo Brass, Meadow’s follow up to Twenty Four Seven retains the hallmarks of Meadows’ style and marks his first collaboration with Paddy Considine.

A Room For Romeo Brass follows the fortunes of two young friends, Gavin and Romeo played by Ben Marshall and Andrew Shim. Romeo is an outspoken kid, who’s father has walked out on him, his sister and mother. Himself and Gavin get into a fight with some older boys, but are rescued by Morell, a twenty five year old eccentric man. Morell starts to hang around with the boys, and takes a shine to Romeo’s older sister. But after she rejects his advances, Morell starts to show a dark, dangerous and obsessive side to his personality. A side that threatens now only Romeo, but his family, and his friendship with Gavin.

As with the other films that Meadows has done, the look and feel to A Room For Romeo Brass would make some think that it is a low budget, amateur piece. And while the first part of that statement is true, the later part is in no way true. Meadows’ script and characterisation are very tight. The dialogue is witty, and at times, the film is very suspenseful. Quite a part of that must be credited to Considine’s performance as Morell. At first, Morell comes across as harmless, and you feel quite fond of him. At moments, his naivety is endearing, and you can feel sorry for him. But then it becomes clear that this kind of naivety can be dangerous, as Morell loses control of his actions. Considine’s performance is as good, if not better than that of Richard in Dead Man’s Shoes. It’s difficult to chose between the two performances, as they’re incredibly different. Considine seems to completely change physically between the roles, and it’s this that shows just how good of an actor he is.

Also collaborating with Meadows for the first of many times is Andrew Shim as Romeo. His performance needs to be strong, playing against Considine, but it’s no problem for Shim. He captures Romeo’s cock-sure nature very well. It’s easy to see why Meadows continues to work with Shim, as he’s quite comfortable in the role. Meadows has the knack for drawing great performances from his actors, who quite often are not professionals, and while the rest of the cast aren’t as integral as Considine and Shim, each of the actors is completely at home in their roles.

While A Room For Romeo Brass might not exactly be the type of film you’d expect to fill the multiplex, none of Meadows’ films go for that kind of audience. There’s no glitz or glamour to them. They present quite a grim view of their characters’ environments, but despite this, each of the films are steeped in reality. For first timers, Considine and Shim, their performances are outstanding. The script for A Room For Romeo Brass is tight, funny and suspenseful. The direction is excellent, and not a moment is wasted. While A Room For Romeo Brass isn’t as good as Dead Man’s Shoes or the truly outstanding This Is England, it’s still a brilliant film, and definitely worth getting your hands on.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

Today brings the sad news of the passing of actor Heath Ledger. While details of his death are speculative and not for me to comment on, what I can say is that this is a great loss. Ledger was a very talented actor with some fine roles under his belt, including his Oscar-nominated role in 2005's Brokeback Mountain, and only last year in I'm Not There. Never an actor to go for blockbuster roles, Ledger's choices in roles were always interesting and challenging. We can only speculate as to what great performances he'd have delivered in the future.

A great loss for film fans everywhere.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) - Ethan and Joel Coen

It’s been a long time coming, but the Coen Brothers have finally found a return to the brilliant form the cinema audience had come to expect from them. After such brilliant films as Raising Arizona, Fargo and The Big Lebowski, the Coens seemed to hit a creative wall in the early 2000s after The Man Who Wasn’t There. Intolerable Cruelty and the remake of The Ladykillers saw the Coens produce films that, while not terrible, weren’t as good as the rest of their body of work. But with the release of No Country For Old Men, they have given us another outstanding film, and what some are calling the finest film they have made.

No Country For Old Men follows three men, who are on a path that will see their destinies cross. Firstly, we are introduced to Anton Chigurh, a ruthless and merciless bounty hunter. Within a few minutes of being introduced to this character, it is clear that he is not somebody to be trifled with. Even when in handcuffs, he is incredibly dangerous. He’s single-minded, and will kill pretty much anybody he encounters, with a few having a lucky escape thanks to the toss of a coin. Llewelyn Moss is a welder who, while hunting the plains of Texas, stumbles across a drug deal gone bad. Everyone involved with the deal is either dead or dying. Moss finds thousands of pounds of heroin and a case containing two million dollars, which he takes for himself. It’s a decision that leads him down a dangerous and potentially deadly path. And finally, we meet Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the Texas sheriff who is hunting for the killer of a policeman, and who’s jurisdiction the failed drug deal has come under.

The film is adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel of the same name. The story deals with chance and predestination, with the paths of the three men being able to be traced back to one decision. Chigurh, mentions to one character how the coin and he have travelled a road that has led to that moment in time. He is the character who seems the most in tune with the idea of predestination. In one particularly chilling scene, he plays a game of chance with a gas station attendant, and it becomes clear from this not only that he is obsessed with chance, but also how cold blooded he can be.

It’s Javier Bardem’s performance as Anton Chigurh that really is the highlight of the film. Aside from his bizarre hairstyle, which only adds to the character, Chigurh’s almost expressionless face only ever cracks into a smirk when he’s about to do something particularly nasty. It’s a totally compelling performance, and in time will probably be viewed as one of cinema’s great villains. Tommy Lee Jones brings his dry wit to the role of Sherriff Ed Tom Bell. He’s the character who is most uncomfortable with how things just ‘ain’t how they used to be.’ He’s been around a long time, and is decidedly uncomfortable with how society and the landscape aren’t the same as when he first became a Sherriff. It’s a pretty comfortable role for Jones to play, but that’s not to take away from his excellent performance.

Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss. Brolin’s career is going through somewhat of a resurgence in the last year with two excellent performances in this, and American Gangster. Contrasting his villainous role in American Gangster, in No Country For Old Men, he’s the hero of the piece. He’s a Vietnam veteran (the film is set in 1980) and life has had it’s affect on him. But the discovery of the money and the problems it brings, brings some life back to him, and he becomes quite an interesting character. Kelly Macdonald puts in a career-making performance as Llewelyn’s wife, Carla Jean. While it isn’t a huge role, Macdonald seems completely at home with the southern drawl and her performance should see a great many more roles being offered to her. Woody Harrelson also turns up in a great cameo as Carson Wells, a rival bounty hunter to Chigurh.

The cinematography in the film is stunning. Roger Deakins, who shoots his second western since the beautiful The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, once again captures the vast emptiness of the west. While there was an almost golden sheen to The Assassination... his cinematography in No Country For Old Men captures the starkness of the modern western and the emptiness of the desert perfectly.

I haven’t read McCarthy’s novel, but from what I’ve been reliably informed, the Coens have presented an almost perfect adaptation. The ending of the film, which divided some audiences remains in tact, and is not a comfortable ending. Nothing really seems to wrap up neatly, and this is one of the strengths of the film. It would be all too easy to end things with dramatic logic, but I would have felt somewhat cheated. This isn’t a conventional film, and it doesn’t really warrant a conventional ending. That isn’t to say it’s not satisfying. It totally makes sense in the context of the story.

Like I’ve said, it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a great Coen brothers film. But No Country For Old Men changes that. Is it their best film? It’s certainly arguable that it is. It’s not my favourite, that’s reserved for The Big Lebowski. But it’s certainly their most accomplished film. It leads this year’s Academy Awards with There Will Be Blood, both with eight nominations each. And with Bardem deservedly in contention for best supporting actor, it should prove for an interesting (if pointless, really) competition with Paul Thomas Anderson’s apparently amazing fifth film (something I’ve yet to see).


2008 Academy Award nominees

Well, another year of Hollywood back-slappery comes to a close with the granddaddy of all ceremonies, the Academy Awards. Never a way of judging the quality of a movie or performance (Titanic, anyone?), the Oscars never the less brings everyone together for a few hours of faking gratified disappointment.
Occasionally, the Academy does get it right, and those films that truly deserve awards-based recognition get the statuettes. But then, the whole concept of competition in art is a little farcical. Nevertheless, here are the major nominations...




Paul Thomas Anderson- THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Jason Reitman- JUNO




Julie Christie- AWAY FROM HER
Marion Cotillard- LA VIE EN ROSE
Laura Linney- THE SAVAGES
Ellen Page- JUNO


Philip Seymour Hoffman- CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR
Hal Holbrook- INTO THE WILD


Cate Blanchett- I'M NOT THERE
Saoirse Ronan- ATONEMENT



So there you have it. The major awards (leaving out Documentary feature, and the shorts). The one thing that really pisses me off about this year is the fact that other than Casey Affleck's nomination, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford is almost completely overlooked, and yet Michael Clayton has garnered so many nominations. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a terrible film. But Brad Pitt's performance was better than Clooney's. Andrew Dominik's direction was far superior to Tony Gilroy's. And it was just a better film. Ditto goes for David Cronnenberg and Eastern Promises. Anyway, February 24th is D-Day for the Oscars. Thoughts, and who should REALLY have won will come then!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR (2007) - Mike Nichols

Based on a true story, Mike Nichols’ new film, Charlie Wilson’s War is a flawed, but entertaining examination of one man’s crusade to help the people of Afghanistan fight the Russian invaders, a decision that would have repercussions for the United States years after the conflict ended. The Afghan war in the 1980s is a subject rarely tackled, with the only other really notable film tackling the subject being the lamentable Rambo III.

Charlie Wilson is a congressman representing Texas. He’s doesn’t cut the form of what you’d expect from a congressman, and spends his free time cavorting with strippers, womanising and being an all-round player. He drinks whiskey like it’s going out of fashion and uses his position within the government to benefit his social life. While at a coke party in Las Vegas, Wilson watches a news report about the Mujahedeen fighting the Russian invaders in Afghanistan. Wilson is intrigues by this and sets about finding a way for the US to help these rebels. He is contacted by Joanne Herring, a billionaire widow who has the similar goal of helping the Afghans. Meanwhile, Gust Avrakotos, one of only a few CIA operatives interested in helping the Afghans stop the communists contacts Wilson to ‘thank’ him for doubling his department’s budget. Wilson and Avrakotos, funded by Herring’s money and contacts set about helping the Afghans get the training and weaponry they need in the biggest covert operation the US has ever undertaken.

First off, let me just say that the subject matter of Charlie Wilson’s War is pretty fascinating. It’s very interesting to see just how Wilson was able to raise billions for the Mujahedeen and help them defeat the Russians. However, it’s a common misconception that the US defeated communism, when in fact, the communist USSR was crumbling under it’s own weight and was only months from a complete collapse. But that point aside, Charlie Wilson’s War is a good, if flawed film.

Mike Nichols no stranger to political films, having directed the excellent Wag The Dog. While Wag The Dog was an excellent satire on spin and how to divert the public’s attention away from the real issues affecting the government, this satirical style doesn’t quite work for Charlie Wilson’s War. It seems at times that the film is a farce. And while this may be all right for a fictional film, this film is a true story, and the style just seems really out of place at times. The script, written by Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing fame moves pretty quickly and the dialogue is very sharp. But the overall film doesn’t quite fit the story it’s trying to tell, and it’s this that is the weakness of the film.

The acting from pretty much everyone is top notch. Tom Hanks is as brilliant as always playing the slightly sleazy but lovable rogue, Charlie Wilson. It’s good to see Hanks playing someone who’s maybe a little morally questionable, as Hanks is somewhat known for playing clean-cut romantic leads (when he’s not delivering awards-worthy dramatic performances). But he seems very comfortable playing Wilson and he’s on top, as always. Julia Roberts, who I don’t really like as an actress at all, is also quite good playing Joanne Herring. However, the show is stolen, as always, by Philip Seymour Hoffman as Gust Avrakotos. Hoffman is simply a fascinating actor to watch. Every role he plays, he seems to take on a physical and personal change. He completely embodies each of his characters, and always is the one thing on screen you cant help but watch. He’s loud, brash and extremely abrasive as Gust Avrakotos, but that’s the role, and he plays it fantastically. The only member of the cast who seems somewhat wasted is Amy Adams. It’s only a matter of time before she becomes a household name, and it feels that she’s not given enough to do here.

All in all, Charlie Wilson’s War is a good, but not great film. The film ends just after the Russians withdraw from Afghanistan, and the ending seems a little abrupt. During a party celebrating the success in Afghanistan, Avrakotos gives Wilson a serious warning about what happens next in Afghanistan. Knowing what we do now, this warning is even more grave. But this part seems to be brushed over, and at a running time of 97 minutes, you are kind of left feeling there could have been a little more in the film that explored this. Charlie Wilson’s War is quite entertaining, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is amazing to watch. It’s a flawed film, but worth a watch.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Romero's back

George A. Romero, the legendary filmmaker that began Hollywood's extra-marital love affair with zombies when he made the brilliant 1968's Night Of The Living Dead, brings us another undead flick this year with Diary Of The Dead. The fifth film in the 'Dead' series (after Night, Dawn, Day and Land Of The Dead), this film sees things get a reality-TV kinda edge to things as the film comes across as a kind of Blair Witch for zombies. Fingers crossed it'll be a whole lot better than that though! Diary Of The Dead hits screens in the next 2 months.

Here's Stan Lee... I mean George to tell us all about it!

Diary of the Dead - Exclusive Trailer

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

LUST, CAUTION (2007) - Ang Lee

In recent times, Ang Lee’s films have caused quite a bit of controversy. Whether it’s annoying comic book fans with an arty adaptation of Marvel’s Hulk, or releasing a gay cowboy film in Brokeback Mountain, it seems that controversy and Ang Lee are quickly becoming synonymous with each other. Lee once again courts controversy with his World War Two espionage thriller, Lust, Caution. A film that really raised the eyebrows of the Chinese government due to the explicit sexual nature of some of the scenes in the film, we European filmgoers finally get a chance to see what the fuss is all about this month.

Lust, Caution opens in Shanghai in 1942. A well dressed woman enters a cafe and calls people who appear to be part of the Chinese resistance against the Japanese occupying forces. In a flashback, we go back to 1938. The woman is not as well off as she is set to become and is instead, Wong Chia Chi a poor student who’s father has left her behind in China after the outbreak of hostilities with the Japanese. Wong Chia Chi falls in with an amateur drama group in university, who stage a patriotic play which garners quite a bit of praise, especially for Wong Chia Chi. Wanting to take their patriotism one step further, the group decide to assassinate a member of the collaborationist government, Mr. Yee. It is up to Wong Chia Chi, who now goes under the guise of Mrs. Mak, the wife of a business man. However, Wong Chia Chi is a little too good in her role and as she gets closer to Mr. Yee, she finds her feelings compromised.

Ang Lee has a talent for taking short stories and developing them into epic films, as seen with Brokeback Mountain and again here, with Lust, Caution. The film is adapted from Eileen Chang’s short story, and in Lee’s hands, it feels like the kind of noir thriller you’d expect from post-war US cinema. And while this is filmed in Mandarin, it is not for a second inaccessible to English-speaking audiences. It deals with universal themes of identity and betrayal, and while you may have to speed-read some of the more dialogue-heavy scenes, you’ll never find yourself lost. It’s a slow-paced film, but deliberately so. It draws you in slowly and builds in tension as Wong and Mr. Yee fall into a very dangerous relationship.

In a film of this kind, casting is essential. And in leading lady, Tang Wei, Ang Lee has made something of a revelation. She is absolutely brilliant as Wong Chia Chi. It’s remarkable to think that this is her first acting role, as her performance is so delicate and nuanced. It’s not an easy role to play as at any one time, Wong Chia Chi is herself playing a number of roles. She’s the member of a highly illegal resistance force, something that would see her sentenced to death if caught. At the same time, she is playing the character of Mrs. Mak and finds herself getting consumed by her target, Mr. Yee. It’s a difficult role, yet Tang Wei handles it perfectly.

Playing opposite her is Tony Leung as Mr. Yee. Leung will be familiar with those who have seen Wong Kar-Wai’s utterly brilliant In The Mood For Love where he played the sympathetic, shy Chow Mo-Wan, a man who’s wife was having an affair. His role in Lust, Caution is a polar opposite to that role, this time he is surprisingly vicious and unsympathetic. But he’s not a one-dimensional character and once he stops being seeming so evil, he becomes a fascinating character. His performance brilliantly contrasts that of Tang Wei. Lee has once again shown his flair for casting and his actors never fail to deliver.

The films is gorgeously shot, and deals with an aspect of the second world war that not many films have covered. Yet the period is recreated quite authentically (with the possible exception of an anachronistic taxi which I have found out did not appear in China until well after the war). The film did in fact on several occasions remind me of In The Mood For Love, although it’s not quite as good as that film. The sex scenes, the reason for the controversy surrounding the film, are quite graphic, but they’re not in the film purely as a matter of creating controversy. They punctuate the story quite well, and while starting off quite violent, they do take on a tenderness as the story develops. Hopefully, the film wont be remembered purely for these scenes, as it is an excellent espionage film. It’s a slow-burner for sure, but that’s all part of the story. An excellent film, and a great start to 2008.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

David Lynch on the iPhone

David Lynch, the legend behind Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks does his bit to promote the new Apple iPhone.

And considering his views on product placement in films, I think we should be seeing the spanky new must-have product in his latest film-

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Vanity Fair does Indy

Vanity Fair has posted an article covering Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Three of the most powerful Hollywood players of all time.

Confirms what we all thought in the lead up to this movie...

Blanchett plays one of the villains in Indy 4.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Year that was 2007. And what's in store for 08?!

2007. The Year Of The Three-quel. Sequels aren’t something that inspire confidence in the movie goer. Sure, to the studios, it means guaranteed ticket sales. But in an age where sequels are hammered out as quickly as possible in order to make a quick buck, the quality of these films leave something to be desired. This year we had sequels from a whole host of franchises, and to be honest, most of them were pretty poor at best.

The crop of films in the first half of the year made many label 2007 as the worst year for film in a long, long time. Indeed, as the summer drew to a close, and most of the blockbusters proved to be one long stream of disappointment, I tended to agree. But, as with 2006, the later part of 2007 saw the release of the best of the year. The blockbuster season had passed and finally we saw the release of the films that weren’t going to pull in the biggest audiences because, well, there was thought put into these films. Some of them, shock horror, didn’t have one single explosion in them! Good lord, how would we be expected to maintain concentration?!

2007 also saw a return to form for the western. Both 3:10 To Yuma and The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford were very different films, but each were fine examples of the genre. This trend continues somewhat in 2008 with Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. Again, it’s a very different example of a western, but with the success of these films, perhaps the western will become a regular fixture on the big screen.

So without further ado, here are the Critical Mass Top 10 Films of 2007-

10. 3:10 To Yuma- The first of two westerns in the top 10, 3:10 To Yuma was the more action packed of the two, with Christian Bale as a Civil War veteran escorting Russell Crowe’s condemned criminal to the train of the title and then execution. A study of what makes a man, the film has two brilliant performances from two of the best actors working.

9. American Gangster- Yet again, Russell Crowe delivers the goods. This time he’s on the side of the law, playing honest cop Richie Roberts, who’s job it is to take down Frank Lucas, the most successful drug importer in US history. Ridley Scott recreates 70s New York in stunning detail and delivers one of the best gangster films in years.

8. Ratatouille- One of the best animated films in years, and proof that Brad Bird is one of the top directors working today. The story of Remy, a rat with a talent for taste, Ratatouille is simply gorgeous to look at. Pixar hold onto their title as the world’s best CG animation studio with another great film.

7. Zodiac- After 5 years in the wilderness, David Fincher returns in fine form with this chronicle of the Zodiac murders and Robert Graysmith’s obsession with finding the serial killer. Like American Gangster, Fincher brilliantly recreates 1970’s San Francisco. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jnr. all put in brilliant performances as the cops and reporters obsessed with finding the Zodiac killer and how their obsession affects their personal lives.

6. The Darjeeling Limited- The most critically panned of the movies I’ve chosen, I personally couldn’t understand what their problems were. Wes Anderson’s films are a matter of taste, I’ll admit. But this tale of three brothers travelling across India trying to reconnect is one of Anderson’s better films. And gorgeously filmed with Anderson’s unique and oft imitated sense of humour and skewed outlook on life.

5. The Bourne Ultimatum- Something unique for 2007, a sequel that was actually good. Paul Greengrass, possibly one of the best directors working at the moment, delivers the final part of the Bourne trilogy with Jason Bourne getting to the route of who he is. The best action film of the year, the best of the trilogy, with the rooftop chase in Tangiers possibly being the scene of the year. Better than Bond!

4. I’m Not There- A biopic of Bob Dylan that’s not a biopic, Todd Haynes’ film studies the life of Bob Dylan without ever mentioning the singer himself. Also an examination of the biopic itself, I’m Not There is by far the ‘artiest’ film on the list. Six actors all play aspects of Dylan’s life brilliantly. But it’s Cate Blanchett’s Jude Quinn that is the standout performance of not only the film, but also of 2007.

3. This Is England- Shane Meadows’ semi-autobiographical film about skinhead culture in 1980s England, This Is England continues to show Meadows’ ability to capture reality extremely convincingly. The film doesn’t tackle British nationalism on a grand scale, but instead focuses on it’s effect on a young boy who lost his father in the Falklands War. With a brilliant performance from newcomer Thomas Turgoose, This Is England is yet another brilliant and utterly realistic film from Meadows.

2. Eastern Promises- David Cronenberg teams up once again with Viggo Mortensen in their companion film to 2005’s A History of Violence. The violence is sporadic and graphic. The pace is deliberately slow. And the performance from Viggo Mortensen as Russian mobster, Nikolai is brilliant. Choosing between this and the following film for the best of 2007 was a very difficult job. Eastern Promises is utterly brilliant, and only just edged out by...

1. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford- The second western released this year is also for me, the best film of the year. Andrew Dominik’s film about the last days of Jesse James, and the man who became notorious for killing him is a melancholic and beautiful film with two incredible performances by the actors playing the leads. Brad Pitt puts in a career best performance as Jesse James, the notorious killer who seems to be waiting for death. And Casey Affleck becomes more than just ‘Ben Affleck’s little brother’ as Robert Ford, the man who is obsessed with James. Brilliant in every way, script, direction, acting and cinematography. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford rightly deserves it’s spot topping the best of 2007.

Before I begin the alternate list, let me say that there were one or two movies that wont appear on this list. Films so inherently awful looking that I could not bring myself to watch them. So the likes of Good Luck Chuch and I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry (in fact, you wont ever see any film with Rob Schneider in any list I ever do) wont be here. And so, without further ado, here is the Critical Mass 10 Worst Films of 2007-

10. The Golden Compass- The book may be universally praised, but the film, directed by Chris Weitz is painfully boring. And all the elements about atheism which pissed off the Catholic church have been removed, making the condemnation by the church all the more ridiculous. Boring.

9. Die Hard 4.0- Just because Bruce Willis is in it, and just because his name is John McClane, that does not for a second mean it’s a Die Hard film. McClane goes from blue-collar cop to ridiculous over the top action hero in a film that is big on explosions but nothing else. Call it what you like. Just don’t call it Die Hard.

8. Transformers- The only, ONLY thing worth praising about this film is the quality of the CGI. But what else would you expect from a film with a huge budget and backing from Steven Spielberg. Michael Bay cements his reputation as one of the worst directors of all time with this appalling adaptation of the 80’s cartoon.

7. Hitman- Further proof that video games make rotten movies. And Timothy Olyphant shouldn’t be the lead in a film. So bad, I was not arsed doing a review of it.

6. Shrek The Third- The first Shrek movie was brilliant and subversive. The sequel was a little tamer, but was still entertaining. The third movie is a pure cash in by the studio and it shows. As funny as Michael Bay is artistic, there is little in the movie to keep even young kids entertained. And I’m sure there’ll be more sequels. The worst example of the power of money over art.

5. The Kingdom- An overlong episode of CSI Middle East disguised as a political commentary film, The Kingdom quickly loses focus and ends up as a shoot-em-up. Has the unique distinction of making Jason Bateman, the star of Arrested Development, not only desperately unfunny, but also the most infuriatingly punch-able character in a serious film.

4. Spider-Man 3- How do you take a universally praised series of superhero movies and turn it into a laughable poor movie? I don’t know either, but somehow Sam Raimi achieved this with Spider-Man 3. Plot holes galore and too many villains, the emo-strutting scene is woefully misjudged. Terrible.

3. Premonition- Terrible. Awful. Rubbish. I can’t believe I wasted money on this movie. Sandra Bullock does the whole supernatural thing again after learning she can’t pull it off with The Lake House. And Julian McMahon should stick to television where we can at least switch over.

2. Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End- As much as I despise this series of films, it somehow wasn’t the worst of the year. But that’s not saying very much. How the Pirates trilogy has garnered so much praise is a mystery. Even Johnny Depp, arguably the best actor of his generation can’t save this film, but then his Captain Jack performance is appalling. Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly are as wooden as ever. The script calls for every character to stand around explaining what’s going on to each other. A film bogged down by an unnecessarily weighty script, characters whose motivations make no sense, performances that are for the most part appalling and a final battle that is absolutely anti-climactic. But saved from being the worst film of the year by the fact that the special effects are quite impressive.

1. Hostel: Part II- I’ve watched my fair share of horror movies. Some brilliant, some awful. But very few are as bad as this immature, puerile, distasteful piece of filmmaking. A horror film that isn’t even remotely frightening, Hostel: Part II does nothing but bore you to death. Which, if that is what director Eli Roth is going for (he does seem to be obsessed with torturing people to death), he hits pretty close to the mark. There is nothing, not one thing, redeeming about this film and therefore, it rockets into the top spot of the Worst of 2007. Shame on everyone involved.

So there you have it. The best, and worst films of 2007. To be honest, it was a pretty bad year in terms of films. I managed to get a top 10 of the year, but these films were the extreme exception to the norm this year. Most of the year in the cinema was spent staring blankly at the list of films and wishing there was at least one film that grabbed my attention. The later part of the year was slightly better than the earlier part, but that doesn’t make up for six months of boring fare.

2008 has a few pretty interesting films on the horizon. Some of these, you lucky Yanks will already have seen. The two that pop straight into mind are The Coen Brothers’ adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel, No Country For Old Men, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil, There Will Be Blood. Both films have garnered a lot of praise in the US, and I know there are many of us over here that are waiting with bated breath for these movies.
Tim Burton’s adaptation of the musical Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has had many calling it the film of 2007 in the US. It sees Burton teaming up once again with his long-time collaborator, Johnny Depp. With Burton going back to his trademark twisted gothic style, Sweeny Todd should make for interesting viewing.
The year sees quite a few blockbusters coming our way. First up is the much anticipated Cloverfield. After a very interesting advertising campaign, we await to see if Cloverfield lives up to the hype the campaign has generated. All we really know is it’s a monster movie. Whether it’s any good remains to be seen.

The trend in comic book adaptations continues this year with two new Marvel adaptation on the way. Iron Man sees Robert Downey Jnr. donning Tony Stark’s super armour in the first big screen appearance for this superhero. On the other hand, Marvel has another shot at bringing The Incredible Hulk to the screen with... The Incredible Hulk. This time Edward Norton plays the green one with Louis Leterrier, the director of... The Transporter behind the cameras. Makes a huge difference to 2003’s much derided (but I liked it) Hulk which had Ang Lee directing. Lee also has a film coming out this year with Lust, Caution, a film that was heavily cut in China due to it’s graphic sex scenes.

In other comic book releases, Guillermo Del Toro brings Hellboy back to the screen with Hellboy II: The Golden Army. And I’m sure I’m forgetting something...

... Oh yes. The Dark Knight. That’s released this year. Anticipation of this film has reached fever pitch, and from what we’ve seen so far, we shouldn’t be disappointed.

After 19 years, Indiana Jones returns to the big screen in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Probably the most anticipated movie of 2008, it’s an apprehensive time for fans. Indiana Jones is a much loved character. It’s a big gamble bringing him back to the screen after so long. But even Harrison Ford has said this is the best film they’ve done with the character. Whether this is true or not, we’ll find out in May.

It’d be a strange year without a Pixar movie, and 2008 is no different. WALL-E hits the cinemas in July, and after seeing the teaser, it should be a gorgeous movie. Another film with a sci-fi edge to it... okay, completely sci-fi, is J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie. Abrams restarts the saga with a whole new cast of characters playing the original crew embarking on their first mission. The casting has been a little cryptic so far, but we’ll have to wait til December to see if it pays off.

Other films to look out for include the World War 2 Tom Cruise thriller Valkyrie; Mark Millar comic adaptation, Wanted; animated movie Persepolis; Michael Haneke’s remake of his own film, Funny Games; and Steve Carrel comedy Get Smart.
Whether 2008 is a success or not depends on the quality of these titles. There’s a lot to look forward to, but there could be a lot of disappointment. What’s for sure, is that 2007 shouldn’t be THAT hard to top. It’s there for the taking!