I may not have seen many films in 2013, but I did see some new ones that weren’t released last year. This post is dedicated to those films, and here’s the top 10 new-to-me non-2013-released movies:
Honourable mention: Pitch Perfect
Pitch Perfect gets the honourable mention slot mainly because I didn’t expect much from it, but it really surprised me. The premise comes off as Glee: The Movie; Beca (Anna Kendrick) starts at university and joins The Bellas, an all-girl acapella group, who enter a singing competition against their all-male rivals, The Treblemakers, but she finds The Bellas’ more traditional stylings need some serious updating if they have any chance of winning, but all thoughts of the TV show (which I admit I don’t hate, mainly because of their affinity for Journey) are soon disspelled after the first bout of projectile vomitting, and once we meet Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy. Some of the characters are basic stereotypes – the bitchy one, the slutty one, the crazy one – but the musical performances are all great – particularly Beca’s cup song, and the riff-off – and damn if this film wasn’t funny, especially the world-ending gravitas given to the line “I’ve got nodes.”.
10. Kill List
Ben Wheatley is an English director I’ve recently become aware of, and last year I saw two of his films, Sightseers and Kill List. Sightseers is a fun black-as-coal comedy about a couple caravanning around the UK, killing anyone who annoys them even slightly, but it’s Kill List that I’ve been thinking about more since viewing. It follows Jay (Neill Maskell), a former soldier whose boredom with his marriage to Shel (MyAnna Buring) has driven him back to working as a hitman alongside his friend Gal (Michael Smiley). The job they take is a list of people Jay and Gal must kill, but the further down the list they go, the weirder everything seems to get, culminating in a climax that’s equal parts mental, unforgettable and deeply disturbing.
I watched this 1920 silent German expressionist film as part of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, and it’s one of the best new films I’ve seen from the List. It isn’t necessarily about the plot – a circus act brings a sleepwalking zombie-like figure to town, and possibly begins killing people with it – it’s more about the overall atmosphere, provided by off-kilter sets, painted shadows at odd angles and striking visuals everywhere. Plus, despite this film being almost 100 years old, the ending came out of nowhere for me.
This one, an early Peter Jackson zombie horror/comedy, I watched for a Lambcast episode, as it was successfully elected Movie of the Month at some point last year. It was immensely fun and ridiculous, combining many movie elements I enjoy – over the top gore, insane zombie deaths, demon babies and ludicrous fight scenes, to name a few. The arse-kicking vicar was awesome, but the blood-drenched finale was the real draw for the film. That, and the custard scene.
A double bill of horror-homaging stop-motion animations from 2012, I’m annoyed it took me so long to watch either of these gems, both of which I’ve since bought (though I haven’t re-watched FrankenWeenie yet, for reasons unknown). I’m a big fan of animated films, and I’ve got a special appreciation for all the time and effort that goes into making them in stop motion, plus both of these feature elements of classic horror films, and one has zombies and the other a re-animated dog! Seriously, what took me so long? Of the two, I think FrankenWeenie is probably the better film, and it marks a return-to-form for Tim Burton, who really should do more of his original stories more often, rather than crappy adaptations. ParaNorman has an interesting premise that’s an amalgamation of others we’ve seen before elsewhere – an outsider kid can see ghosts, and he’s the only one who can save the town when the dead are raised from the graves – but it falls apart a little towards the end. Still, it’s beautifully made, with a great voice cast, and is definitely worthy of your time.
6. Moonrise Kingdom
I finally caught up with Wes Anderson’s 2012 quirkedy about two kids who run away from home – on a tiny island – and the worried adults who go hunting for them. The story didn’t capture me as much as the visuals and cast did; Edward Norton is so earnest, Bruce Willis uncharacteristically deflated and Tilda Swinton her usual austere self. Anderson has yet to miss with me, so I’m looking forward to The Grand Budapest Hotel so much that I may even go and see it in theatres.
As I mentioned in my kind-of-review (see link above), this film really hit me on a personal level, far more than I ever could have expected. In fact, it pretty much destroyed me emotionally, and left me utterly dumbfounded, for reasons I can’t really explain, other than a true affinity with Logan Lerman’s lead, Charlie. The ending came out of nowhere, and I haven’t been able to build myself up enough to go back to it, but I vow to do so sometime. Ezra Miller and Emma Watson were also both brilliant as Charlie’s fellow outcast friends, and I really cannot understand why I haven’t watched We Need To Talk About Kevin yet, as I’ve had the DVD for over a year now.
4. The Invisible Man (1933)
Another film watched for a Lambcast, the original Invisible Man was seen for the Universal Monsters look-back, although it’s on the 1001 Movies list too, I just never got around to writing a review, so I’ll just have to see it again (yippee!). This was my favourite of those films, of which I’d only seen Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein before, mainly because of the special effects that, even now, I cannot fathom how they were achieved, considering this was made in 1933 (granted, my vision of the early 1930s is not dissimilar to The Croods, so I may be doing them a disservice). I’d have loved to have worked on this film, back in the day, trying to work out how to get a bicycle to pedal along on it’s own (which I cannot stop thinking about how uncomfortable it must have been for the invisible man (Claude Rains) to ride a bicycle naked). Yes, you can see the line in the snow that it’s cycling along, but still.
3. The Raid
Seen as part of my catching up with the 2013 films I’d missed plan along with the aforementioned Perks of Being A Wallflower, Moonrise Kingdom, Pitch Perfect, FrankenWeenie and ParaNorman, The Raid was bloody fantastic, almost topping my best of 2012 list if I were to recreate it now. It’s basically a few minutes of set-up – some brief character introduction, before establishing there’s a bad guy in a tower block, and a team of cops are going in to get him – and after that it’s one long non-stop kick-ass action sequence that is so bloody awesome that mere words will not describe it. Just understand that there’s a massive grin on my face at the moment, and all I’m doing is thinking about it.
The most recent entry to this list is a film I’d heard a lot about but never gotten around to seeing, despite it being on the 1001 list. So when Blueprint: Review offered up a screener of the new Blu-Ray release to be reviewed, well I jumped at the chance, and boy was I rewarded. It’s a film all about the changing ways of cinema, and one boy’s love for it as he grows up under the tutelage of the surly projectionist. It’s another film that reduced me to tears (I’m getting very emotional in my old age) and one that I look forward to going back to time and again.
There was pretty much no chance that I wasn’t going to love The Bridge on the River Kwai, seeing as films like The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen are amongst my favourites. Give me a classic epic war movie with some heavy-hitters in the cast and you’ll leave me gleefully engrossed for around three hours. Alec Guinness is phenomenal as the British Colonel is a Japanese Prisoner or War camp who is charged with building a bridge to help the enemy, but who gets so lost in his work he forgets what side he’s really on, whilst William Holden’s American soldier escapes, only to be forced to return to destroy the very bridge Guinness is building. The film doesn’t put a single foot wrong – the only reason I gave it a 9/10 was because this was my first viewing, and I’m weird like that – and rest assured I will be buying this soon and watching it again. Dammit, there’s just so many great films out there, and so little time to watch them in!