apuffofJack’s End of Year Film Awards 2012

2012 has been a very solid year for film. We’ve had Bond’s 50th anniversary in all its glory, we’ve had the unwanted news of the new Star Wars films by Disney being planned, and we’ve had a swarm of re-releases adding 3D into the mix. No films this year have made it into my top 10 of all time, which is surprising and also a shame, but that’s not to say it didn’t have its moments. So here we are, end of year awards time: here is my personal awards ceremony for the best, and worst, of 2012 in film-making.

Best Film of the year: Looper

Looper was a gem. An absolute rollercoaster of a movie, and enjoyably brilliant and original sci-fi, Looper was set in a world where the future has no way to kill people without getting caught, so they send them back to the past to be assassinated. But when the assassin’s time is up they send  the assassin’s future self back to ‘close the loop’, and when Joseph Gordon Levitt’s future self, Bruce Willis, avoids the close, a dark and haunting adventure begins, and so does one of the finest and most original pieces of sci-fi in decades. Nothing short of a masterpiece.

Runners Up:

Skyfall

The Dark Knight Rises

Worst film of the year: Taken 2

This film was just a complete disaster. Set not long after the original film, it failed to come up with any sort of original ideas, with a half-arsed plot about Uncles or Fathers looking for revenge, or some bollocks. The direction was woeful, the brutality was cut out and any sort of enjoyment was destroyed with the fact they actually tied Liam Neeson up in a dirty room for most of the film. Not that he was any good. In fact, no one was good. It was like watching a parody effort, that was designed to make you laugh. Which I did. A lot.

Runners Up:

The Phantom Menace 3D (It shouldn’t count, but it’s so bad it has to really)

John Carter

Director of the Year: Christopher Nolan

Probably my favourite director who is still alive, his work this year was minimal but pure genius. To end such a loved series with The Dark Knight Rises was wonderful to see, the supposedly impossible to match The Dark Knight nearly getting trumped, and the most perfect of endings being given to us. From the man who brought me my favourite ever film in Memento, redefined the Superhero genre in his rebooted Batman, and gave us the movie of 2010 in Inception, I expect nothing less.

Runners Up:

Sam Mendes (Skyfall)

Peter Jackson (The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey)

Best Actor: Javier Bardem

A surprising choice I’m sure, but the right one. Simply put, Javier Bardem made himself the best Bond villain ever. Brilliantly playing off Daniel Craig, he delivered a charm-filled and sinister element to the film, making him guiltily likeable. He was everything a Bond villain should be, and was the main reason why Skyfall stands tall with the best Bond films. Skyfall, and 2012, wouldn’t have been the same without him.

Runners Up:

Andy Serkis (Gollum- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

Michael Fassbender (David- Prometheus) 

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway

Most people will hate me for this one. It’s not because she’s hot. She is hot. Especially in the suit. But for a woman who I really just knew as that goofy assistant from The Devil Wears Prada I was surprised at her casting as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. She defied all my expectations, pulling off a masterclass alongside Christopher Bale and Tom Hardy, almost pulling the rug from Hardy’s bulky feet and completely stealing the show. I really enjoyed this performance, and while it won’t be winning any awards soon, it certainly gets them with me.

Runners Up:

Judi Dench (M- Skyfall)

Kara Hayward (Suzy Bishop – Moonrise Kingdom)

Worst Actor: Taylor Lautner

This guy will win this award for years to come if he doesn’t pack it in and become a model. He’s got the body for it, and ideally, he doesn’t need to talk in that line of work. Coincidentally, the Twilight films became steadily worse as they went on, the quality dipping dramatically in the second instalment New Moon. Why? Taylor Lautner. The guy can’t act. I’m not even sure he can feel emotions. Not to mention when the hideously creepy part I had been waiting for came around this year, where his character falls in love with a two-minute old child. In the book this is at least done with some assurance he isn’t a paedophile; in the film he just grins madly at a kid, and states he loves her. Creepy.

Runners Up:

Adam Sandler (Donny Berger- That’s My Boy)

Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills- Taken 2)

Worst Actress: Kristen Stewart

I’m not even sure Kristen Stewart is a human. Everything about her performances are awful. I don’t even know why she was ever chosen for the part of Bella in Twilight. I actually liked the books until she came along. She also added insult to injury by taking part in Snow White And The Huntsman, an appallingly boring film re-imagining the classic fairy tale of Snow White. She isn’t an actress, she should never have been an actress, it’s hard to say anything good about her work. She beat Rihanna to this award! Rihanna, who is a singer, had a part in the blockbuster film Battleship, and was better than Kristen Stewart! A singer was better then Kristen Stewart! What more proof can there be?

Kristen Stewart Hot in Her Transparent Shirt & Suggesting Her Bra at Variety Studio Awards (Photos)

Believe it or not, this is her ‘Surprised’ face. 

Runners Up:

Rihanna (Cora Raikes-Battleship)

Natalie Portman (Queen Amadala-The Phantom Menace) (She deserves it again)

Biggest Disappointment: The Bourne Legacy

No getting away from this one. The Bourne series is one of my favourite trilogies, brutal and a welcome diversion from the lack of any James Bond. Hopes were high for this sequel, despite the lack of Matt Damon in the lead role, but I told myself that if there was ever the perfect man to replace him, it was Jeremy Renner. It wasn’t enough though. Despite some good action sequences and some welcome old faces returning, the film wasn’t anywhere near the lofty standards of the previous trilogy. It wasn’t bad by any means, it was just really, really disappointing. A missed opportunity.

Runners Up: 

Life of Pi

John Carter

Biggest Surprise: The Amazing Spider Man

What a treat this was! Completely blowing Sam Raini’s original Spider Man trilogy out of the water, this was one of the greatest reboots of modern times, delivering style, witty dialogue and a superb performance from Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. The direction was absolutely brilliant, one scene with Spider Man creator Stan Lee in the school library a particular highlight. I was hoping for good, I didn’t expect great. The definition of a successful reboot, and with Jamie Foxx cast as Electro in the next film, and another one to follow after that, it looks like the character of Spider Man is finally being done justice.

Runners Up:

Star Wars being sold to Disney for $3 billion

The Hobbit being turned into a Trilogy

Visual Effects of the Year: Life of Pi

The power of CGI is finally being realised. While I thought this film fell down on some of the basics, its use of special effects was mind-blowing in execution, and this is easily the most beautiful film ever made. Never mind the film’s shortcomings; it deserves some recognition for being so staggeringly beautiful. Ang Lee was the right man for the job, and his brilliant appreciation of the natural world saves this film. Not much more than a visual treat overall, but a wonderful experience none the less.

Runners Up:

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Prometheus 

Worst Title for a Motion Picture: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

I’m not even sure the pun is intended. Enough said.

2013 Most Anticipated: Django Unchained

Looks like another Quentin Tarantino masterpiece is on the horizon. I realise this is already out in the US, but here in the UK I am still waiting with bated breath. Rave reviews and what looks like a fantastic cast promise a wealth of entertainment, and hopefully this is a return to form for the great director.

Runners Up:

Lincoln

Wreck-it Ralph

And there we have it, my personal awards ceremony is over. A lot more tongue in cheek then what I normally do, but it’s the end of the year, and some fun is needed. If you disagree, or even agree, please comment below! And even if you hate it, press the share button! Onto 2013!

Life of Pi- The Review

Sometimes a book really is unfilmable. Life of Pi is the new film from Ang Lee, the most suitable director that could possibly do the cult book of the same name justice. Life of Pi, both in book form and adapted for the big screen, is beautiful. It’s a heroic tale about how a young boy Piscine (‘Pi’) survives his ship sinking, killing all his family and humans on board. He is left with a lifeboat full of supplies, an Orangutan, a Zebra with a broken leg, a Hyena and a Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. The cast is set for an extraordinary adventure, but can the wonder and sheer beauty of the book follow through into the big screen? Yes and no.

Let’s talk about the good things first. Life of Pi is a wonderful experience. Ang Lee delivers everything he possibly can to try and make this work, and his direction technique carries the film through it’s rough points and sometimes poor performances. But more on that later, the thing everyone wants to hear about: the stunning visuals. And they are a treat. Not since Avatar has visuals had such a huge role in a film, creating some of the most stunning visual moments Cinema has ever produced. As the trailer shamefully ruins, you will see a whale burst out of the ocean, a shoal of flying fish swarm the tiny boat and the vast sea and stars presented in a way which no other film can match. This is the definition of a CGI run film, a film where even the inclusion of a lead actor seems pointless, a world which is for mindlessly enjoying and not questioning. Behind these visuals is a message prominently focusing on religion; a story that ‘will make you believe in God’. I am deeply interested in religion, but an Atheist, so I was curious to see how this message would be adapted for the book. To be honest, it’s not really conveyed at all. Apart from where the film explicitly states its messages about religion, it’s the least thing on your mind when the screen is throwing fish in your face and attempting to stun you with a mirrored sunset on the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes the film is mindless in it’s visuals, and this is a disappointment. However much it shows these incredibly beautiful visuals and very clever 3D, this can completely smother a lot of the emotion at times. Is Life of Pi moving? In a way I suppose it is, but so many more films have involved me emotionally and tugged at my heart then this, and this is a life lesson for film; that you can’t supply emotion through stunning CGI.

The film is in no way bad though. It does most of what it sets out to do, and in terms of making ‘the unfilmable filmable’ I think Ang Lee does a superb job. The direction is very clever, and the shot which replicates the striking cover of the novel is a highlight. No other director could have made such a good job of this material, his appreciation of the natural world and its wonders are unparalleled. The world, through CGI and Lee’s direction, does come to life, and such a beautiful film cannot be compared to anything else really. Even Avatar, in it’s wonder and genius, cannot really be compared to Life of Pi. I would highly recommend you go and see this film, just for the visuals. They define the movie, proving its biggest hero and worst enemy. Life of Pi is what it is because of the visuals, but this undoubtedly leads to some diminished emotional attachment with the characters, particularly the lead actor. This film reminds me of 127 Hours, a brilliant film, as it relies solely on one actor to carry the film. James Franco did that in 127 hours, but this young actor playing Pi finds it more difficult, understandably as he is only 19. I don’t think he quite gives the performance the role deserved. A shame, but overall not a disaster. That’s coming up.

A note on the 3D. I deliberately saw the film in 3D to get the full experience, and it’s clearly a movie designed to be seen this way. Overall I would recommend it over the 2D, being mostly subtle and also quite intense when it needs to be. The reason that I deliberately mention this is because of the ‘flying fish’ scene. Yeah, we all saw it in the trailer. What I was incredibly disappointed at in this scene was the horrendous use of 3D, Ang Lee letting himself down by just constantly chucking fish in your face, and for some reason the screen actually gets smaller in this scene. I wasn’t happy at the start at the screen width, but then the height actually goes down in this scene, it just defies belief! The story and any sort of emotion takes a backseat, as the very intense 3D ruins what could have been a breathtaking scene. I found myself actually commenting to myself about how poor this scene was, and I really shouldn’t be doing that in a film of this quality and budget. A real shame, and at least in the hyped Whale scene the 3D takes a backseat to an extent and allows the viewer to revel in the wonder of the movie. An avoidable mistake, and the two faced nature of 3D continues.

Best Bit

The scene where nothing happens as the sun sets on the Pacific Ocean, a scene of unprecedented beauty and wonder. Leaves the busy action sections in its wake as at one point at least, the book is given total and unfathomable justice by Ang Lee.

Worst Bit

The ‘flying fish’ scene. What should of been a highlight turned into an overly busy 3D mess, and a part of the magic and wonder of Life of Pi was broken in its reminder that this is just a film, and I’m in a cinema wearing glasses.

Overall

A film full to the brim of CGI induced wonder and magic, slightly let down by the mixed use of 3D and a lead actor that can’t quite carry the film on his own. While Life of Pi does its best to capture the emotions and feelings the book portrays, the half-arsed attempts at religious messages and deep emotional feelings falls short. The overriding feeling that I am being harsh still remains, comparing my view to the overwhelming critical acclaim the film has gained since release. For me, Life of Pi is a very enjoyable and solid film, and perhaps the most stunning use of CGI ever. The claims that the book is ‘unfilmable’ is valid, and sometimes its best to leave the source material alone to the world of literature. Maybe this was one of those times.

3/5

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- The review

Only while sitting in the cinema did I realise how incredibly excited I was for this film. The beautiful music, the stunning visuals and the whole world that J.R.R Tolkien had created made me excited and captivated in its genius. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tokien’s masterpiece, had been adapted for cinema several years ago now, and its predecessor/prequel is finally here, after years of director changes, cancellations and delays. Is it worth the wait, and the hype?

I believe so. The Hobbit is a treat, and despite the cracks and over-long nature it just about manages to not beat, but nearly match the wonder of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. Martin Freeman was a strange but now proven excellent choice for the young Bilbo Baggins; he displays the confusion and fear, but then bravery and courage that Bilbo develops so well, a remarkable performance by a brilliant actor. He just seems perfect for the role, and although it’s classic Martin Freeman, a very similar character to his roles in the Office and Sherlock, he feels right for the part, and you won’t look at him in other roles without imagining those funny little Hobbit ears. Inspired casting surely, although that’s not to say he steals the show. Ian McKellen reprises his role as Gandelf the Grey, giving a warm and loving performance as the famous wizard once again. There is no sign or mention of some of the more famous characters of the Lord of the Rings, for which I am glad. I’m sure Peter Jackson was sorely tempted to have a mini Legolas or Aragorn run about as a cheeky reference to his past work. Thankfully he doesn’t, and the series saves its dignity. Sadly though, none of these performances mean much when compared to the reprisal of Andy Serkis as the tortured creature of Gollum. He steals the show, bringing a CGI induced brilliance to the role, brilliantly portraying the split personalities and working off Martin Freeman exceptionally well. Some would say Andy Serkis’s part is minimal, because Gollum is a CGI creature. I disagree. I don’t think the character, or indeed the film, would be quite the same without Andy Serkis. Consider the show stolen.

What of the visuals? They never disappoint. Whether it is a deliberate distraction from the sometimes lack of meaningful story is a debatable issue, but nothing but wonder can be exclaimed for this film. Probably the most stunning film I’ve seen since Avatar, and The Hobbit also uses the same brilliantly subtle 3D that Avatar did to bring the world to life. Unlike a lot of 3D films, this isn’t constantly chucking things in your face to remind you you are in a cinema wearing stupid glasses. It uses subtle 3D, like insects flying around or birds to make you feel totally immersed in the world. Only once or twice did I actually go out of my way to notice the 3D, and that was when the film threw something in my face, an axe here or an Orc there. But this was kept at a minimum, and the decision to pay extra to see the film in 3D proved to be the right one. Superbly well crafted by Peter Jackson, and the CGI boys deserve a big pat on the back. Visually stunning, and some would argue this saves the film.

There are flaws to the formula sadly. The main complaint is that every penny is being forced out of me for this experience, for such a small, and originally intended children’s book, a trilogy seems incredibly unneeded. The book is actually shorter then The Fellowship of the Ring, which Peter Jackson managed to convert into one film with absolutely no trouble at all. Why, ignoring the obvious reason of a money making scam, Peter Jackson couldn’t do the same for this, is a mystery. At times this film seems forced, as if Jackson is making up stupid situations just to make it seem like something is happening. Plot twist! Bilbo left his hanky at home! Good two minutes wasted there Jackson. At times it was actually noticeable how forced the film was, and yet at the end of it a fair part of the book had been covered. The encounter with Gollum, a very important part of the book, has been completely covered in this film. How they can properly fit the amount left into a trilogy I’m not too sure, and the fact that this film feels much too long makes me question some of the decisions made here. At one part, with about two and a half hours gone, I was happy because I thought the film was about to end perfectly. Oh wait! Another huge and epic battle is being squeezed in. Hooray! At parts of this film it feels like we are watching an extended cut, where the director put in all the deleted scenes. Some of this really needed to be cut, and does take away enjoyment of the film.

Worries for the future of the trilogy aside, is there anything glaringly wrong with this particular film? The fact it lasts so long is the main issue, but that aside there is not a lot here you won’t enjoy. Some of the characters are very weak, a few of the dwarf members in this fellowship of sorts are nigh on invisible half the film, serving only for a few cheap jokes. A large part of the film is back story and flashbacks; while these are very enjoyable they do sometimes feel like time wasting by Jackson. Overall however, the film is incredibly well made and enjoyable, for the most part better then I could have hoped.

One point I do feel strongly about however is the ordering of Tolkein’s work. I personally feel that the decision to make the Lord of the Rings trilogy first and then have the Hobbit second brings with it suffering to emotional impact. If we had known Gandelf like this first, would we have had a stronger response to his ‘death’ in The Fellowship of the Ring? Undoubtedly. If we had seen Saruman as the wise and great chief wizard in this first, rather then a good guy for around five minutes in the Fellowship of the Ring, would we have reacted stronger to his switch to Sauron? Yes! And if we had fallen in love with Bilbo like this, and fleshed out his story with such detail before the Fellowship, would we have been sadder and more shocked at his fragile and possessed state? Of course! Instead, the characters didn’t matter as much when these events happen, and now we finally begin to know them it’s too late. Although it’s a minor suffering, it’s a real shame. Even Gollum would have been seen in a different light. I do think that this would have improved the franchise as a whole, and if they had done it as Tolkien intended (he wrote the Hobbit for his children way before he wrote the Lord of the Rings) I think the benefits in terms of characterization and emotional impact would of been huge.

Best Bit

Seeing Gollum and Martin Freeman engage in a battle of Riddles, just as the book intended. I nearly jumped off my seat and shouted “Perfect!”, as it was just as I had imagined. Superbly done Peter Jackson.

Worst Bit

The overwhelming feeling the film is made to swipe your cash more then to live up to J.R.R Tolkien’s works. The prospect of three more three hour long films for such a short book is ridiculous. A scary prospect for what the series will become.

Overall

A film that just about lives up to the hype, albeit it with some flaws. The casting and particularly the CGI is superb, with the Bilbo and Gollum scene standing up there with the other incredible Middle Earth moments. However, it is way too long, and the prospect of a trilogy is genuinely frightening. An epic, but ever so slightly flawed masterpiece. With a heavy heart I cry “Bring on The Desolation of Smaug, Peter!”

4/5