I’m Not A Serial Killer

I Am Not a Serial Killer' Has a Refreshing Moral Center | Cinema Faith

A delightful little movie which came from nowhere and remains underseen and under valued even six years after its release, I’m Not A Serial Killer is an adaptation of the first book in the John Cleaver series by Dan Wells, and follows a teenager with sociopathic tendencies who is self-aware enough to understand that he holds many of the same traits of the serial killers he is obsessed with as he battles his own demons and investigates a series of murders in his hometown. It’s like Dexter, if Dexter was interesting.

Max Records is fantastic in the lead role of John, an atypical disaffected youth who lives with his mother in a funeral home which he uses to both live out and restrain himself from his growing urges. After witnessing some weird shit at a murder scene and learning about an identical murder shortly after, John suspects the town is housing a serial killer and believes this killer to be his elderly neighbour Bill Crowley, played with relish by Christopher Lloyd. As John becomes more obsessed he begins to infiltrate Crowley’s life more, and the line between killer and hunter is blurred.

There’s a lot to enjoy and unpack in I’m Not A Serial Killer, beyond its performances and central idea. The film takes on an unexpected supernatural slant early on which some people may be put off by, but while it may be unnecessary it personally enhanced an already gripping premise. It’s a film which chews on its contradictions and doesn’t mind where your allegiances lie. Both John and Crowley are fascinating characters and you get the impression that their story could just as effectively been developed over the course of a six episode series as in a sub 2 hour movie. It’s self aware, funny, and suitably tense and grim. It doesn’t take the subject matter lightly, yet doesn’t treat things as anything other than thought-provoking entertainment. It’s a shame the film hasn’t done as well as it deserves, it’s a shame that it did not grow into a series considering the number of books there are, and it’s a shame that Max Records gives a star-making performance but hasn’t made another film since.

Let us know in the comments what you think of I’m Not A Serial Killer!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1987!

Original 1987 Documentary from Masters of the Universe - He-Man World

Greetings, Glancers! You may know that 1987 is my favourite year for movies. If you look at my favourite movies of that year list, you’ll see how much love I have for the year. Like any year, there are still duds, movies I didn’t enjoy, and movies I actively hate.

Baby Boom

Most of the films I’ve chosen for this list are not bad films – they are simply the films which always seemed to be on every Sunday evening of afternoon when I was hoping for an Indiana Jones or 007 movie, and as such they come with negative associations. Baby Boom however, is one of those random movies which was forced on me and seemed to have no redeeming features to a young boy who wanted guns, monsters, and action, and watching again as an adult it’s simply another in the long line of vapid Diane Keaton vehicles – worse, it was one of the precursors to what is now an unfortunate sub-genre of its own, the ‘high-powered career woman’ realises that babies are cute/men are cute/other things are more important’. It’s an idea which is still saturated in media today, and one which has neither matured or progressed a single degree in the last few decades.

Batteries Not Included

When I wanted Goonies, I would get this. It’s fine, but doesn’t have the action, the humour, the thrills of what I look for in a Sci Fi movie

Fatal Attraction

A soft-core porn movie with no sex, a thriller with no thrills, and just a scorned lady with a thing against lupines. Doubling down on the populace’s need for salacious scandal and titillation, Fatal Attraction is a well-acted but failure of a thriller which Basic Instinct would later surpass.

Harry And The Hendersons

This was one of those movies that I always wanted to be more. It’s too light and fuzzy – the laughs are neither frequent nor funny enough, the action is uneventful, and the heart is sub-Hallmark. Good costume, good Lithgow, but I prefer my Lithgow completely off the rails.

Jaws The Revenge

The only truly bad movie on the list, this is such a departure from the first two movies that it’s ultimately disrespectful that it carries the same name. As awful as the third movie is, at least it as some shark action. This is nothing, and even the memes and the so bad it’s good moments are not enough to save it – one of the worst movies of all time.

Mannequin

A Rom-com, so I’m halfway out the door before it begins, but it does have a good central premise. The 80s at least were good for doing something different with the genre every so often – though this is a slighter twist on Splash. It’s fine, but again it was on when I wanted Back To The Future. 

Masters Of The Universe

I was a huge fan of the He-Man cartoon in the 80s – it was essential viewing. When we learned there was a movie, my brother and I quickly demanded a trip to the video shop to see what was sure to be the most important Cinematic moment of the century. What we got was a pre-Skeletor Courtney Cox teaming up with a monotone Dolph Lundgren to save earth from a variety of furries and baddies, with the help of other furries and goodies. It.. has some visual appeal, and Skeletor looks genuinely scary – Lundgren looks the part too, but when anyone opens their mouth or anything happens… it’s embarrassing when a children’s cartoon created to sell toys has a smarter script, more engaging action, and stronger ideas than a full blown Hollywood thing.

Roxanne

It’s Steve Martin with a funny nose.

Let us know in the comments what your least favourite movies of 1987 are!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1987!

20: A Chinese Ghost Story (HK)

Regular Glancers will know I grew up with Bruce Lee movies, and as such I would hunt out anything which sounded like it would have people knocking seven Tibetan shades of shite out of each other. If it had a Horror element – even better! I didn’t know what to make of A Chinese Ghost Story when I first watched it – was it going to be a straight horror movie, was it going to feature zany kung fu masters tackling creatures from Chinese folklore I had zero experience of? It’s all of those things, none of those things, and more. It’s weird. It’s funny. It has a love story. It has trees. It features the gorgeous Joey Wong and the legendary Leslie Cheung in some of their most famous work. It’s one of Tsui Hark’s best movies. It stars Cheung as a nobody, a debt collector who happens to stumble into a rural temple to find somewhere to sleep, falls in love with a tortured ghost, and tried to rescue her soul from Hell. It’s not the first movie to start with in your Hong Kong Cinema journey, but it should be one of the first ten.

19: Withnail And I (UK)

You’ll have seen from my Least Favourite Movies posts, that I’m not a fan of British Comedies. TV shows – absolutely – we’re the best in the world in that regard, but when it comes to movies the reliance on self-titled quirky characters and romance leaves me cold. As with anything there are exceptions – Withnail And I being a prime example. There’s no attempt to hold a sign over a character’s head to scream ‘I’m the quirky one’, there’s no romance in the traditional sense. It’s just two blokes heading away for a weekend in the country so they can get drunk and moan about being actors. Japes occur. It’s all about the performances and the dialogue. It looks (purposefully) shit, the soundtrack is great, and it barely has an ending or a plot, but it’s brilliant.

18: City On Fire (HK)

There was a decided turn in the 1980s away from period action movies, costume and history oriented martial arts fare, towards contemporary, gun based action. Tarantino famously borrowed several scenes and pieces of dialogue from City On Fire, a Ringo Lam movie starring Chow Yun Fat as an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of robbers and ends up in a Mexican Standoff in a warehouse, with police surrounding them outside. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have the quirks and cools and non-linear framing of Reservoir Dogs, but it has Chow Yun Fat and a tonne of action and energy. It was one of a series of the heroic bloodshed type movies which came out of HK in this era, and is one of the best.

17: Planes, Trains, And Automobiles (US)

Likely to be the only Steve Martin vehicle to grace any of my Favourites lists, this one succeeds because of John Hughes, John Candy, and in spite of Martin. Who, to his credit, is fine but plays the same plain white bread guy he always does. Thanksgiving doesn’t mean shit to anyone outside of the US, so I always viewed this as a Christmas movie. Chicago in November looks like Christmas anyway. As its John Candy you can expect lots of zany laughs, and as it’s Hughes you know you’re in for an offbeat heart-warming tale.

16: Good Morning, Vietnam (US)

Robin Williams, letting rip, completely off the leash.

15: The Princess Bride (US)

I always start any conversation about The Princess Bride by saying I’m not its biggest fan – mainly because there are those who worship the thing. I like it, it’s great, but there are better movies, and I have more favourites – many more this year alone. I love the story in a story nature of it, and it’s another in a line of excellent fantasy oriented kids movies which don’t feel like they are patronising its intended audience. While much of the humour also suits adults, it’s still not a movie for that age range. It’s strong enough, funny enough, well acted and written enough to be enjoyed by all ages, but at its heart it’s an escapist adventure movie for lonely kids.

14: The Living Daylights (UK)

A lesser loved Bond movie, Dalton led the series into its grittiest, darkest period, many years before Zack Snyder misinterpreted overlong running times and blue tints for emotion. Dalton’s Bond may have still quipped, may have still got the ladies, but he was doing a job for Queen and Country, his humour of the gallows, a defence mechanism of being exposed to death and mayhem in all its ugly forms. In The Living Daylights, Bond is embroiled in a Soviet Tug of War, and ends up faffing about in a Cargo plane in Afghanistan. It’s not the most exciting story in the series and it’s unlikely to be anyone’s favourite, but it sets the darker tone, re-establishes the formula, and gives Dalton a chance to shine.

13: Lethal Weapon (US)

A number of genres, in their own way, signify the 1980s. The Buddy Cop movie is one of those, and Lethal Weapon is probably the most famous of the genre, establishing and cementing cliches, the laughs, the action, and the ‘buddiness’. Gibson is the unhinged wildcard set alongside Glover’s close to retirement, by the book veteran. Together, they investigate the apparent suicide of one of Glover’s friend’s daughters. Initially wary of each other, their respect and relationship grows, and jokes and action, and a fair amount of introspection and darkness pours out. It’s one of those movies which epitomises the decade – over the top, big budget thrills, violent, fun, stylized, but it’s the script and the cast which make it memorable above the pretenders.

12: Full Metal Jacket (US/UK)

Stanley Kubrick takes on War again, and again crafts a seminal piece of Cinema. Similar to Westerns, I wasn’t into War movies in my youth, feeling too stilted and macho but lacking any flair or action. Full Metal Jacket was one of those movies, along with The Great Escape and Platoon, to wise me up. It would become the archetype of many movies to come – not merely in the War genre – dividing into two distinct parts with a bootcamp/training section, and a battle/War section. There’s more to it, but that’s one of the most famous aspects of the film which people continue to bring up. The Dirty Dozen had done something similar two decades earlier, but Kubrick uses both to show the horror of the institution over and above the horrors of war. Supremely acted, written, and directed, it’s one of the most must see movies of the decade.

11: Evil Dead 2 (US)

A sequel, remake, and one of those in-betweeny things, Raimi, Campbell, and fans return to up the ante and double down on the slapstick humour of the first movie. What it loses in scares, it makes up for gore effects, and Raimi continues with his inventive camera techniques and visceral insanity. One of the great ‘modern’ horror movies.

10: The Untouchables (US)

Somehow such an underrated film, especially when weighed up alongside the big boys like Goodfellas and The Godfather, which I have always felt deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those. De Niro is hamming it up and having the time of his life, Kevin Costner is melting hearts as a moral, upstanding husband, daddy, and good guy, Sssshean Connery is the grandad, and Andy Garcia is fucking awesome as always. Charles Martin Smith is at his best, Billy Drago is one of Cinema’s finest henchmen, the soundtrack is excellent, the suits are on point, but it’s DePalma’s movie; he cranks up the tension, controls the mood and tempo, and ensures that it’s a film about family as much as, but in a vastly different way from, The Godfather and Goodfellas are.

9: Hellraiser (UK)

Arguably the film which has come closest to showing us what a nightmare looks and feels like. Hellraiser, like much of Barker’s work, is about ideas; Barker’s worlds and words are brimming with ideas, invention, puzzles, and dubious morality – a constant ebb and flow between opposing, looping factions. Hellraiser concerns a family moving into a new home and resurrecting the bloody corpse of a murderous relative who wishes to continue from where he left off, exploring the darkest desires of humanity for his own enjoyment. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for us, there are others beyond our world who enjoy pleasure and pain more than he, and take great delight at dragging it out of his flesh. It’s such a grime and dirt ridden, low-budget film that it’s extraordinary just how extraordinary it looks. The cast look like they’ve survived a Tim Burton dream he was too scared to finish, the Cenobites are a fantastic inclusion to the Horror world, and it’s bloody, bleak, and beautiful in its own horrific way.

8: The Running Man (US)

One of Arnie’s more maligned movies – it’s neither the big action smash of Predator nor the family friendly fun of Twins, but it’s somewhere in between, a loose adaptation of Stephen King’s nihilistic tale of a broken society, interspersed by James Bond one-liners. An early Battle Royale. It’s a future where gameshows and TV are still the primary form of entertainment, but rather than winning a million quid by answering questions (Who Wants To Be A Millionaire), or gaining adoration for being a racist sex hungry asshole (Big Brother), society has regressed to a more bloodthirsty, gladiatorial time. Criminals (guilty or otherwise) are thrown into an expansive game arena and pitted against a variety of games and fan-favourite warriors in a literal game to the death.

It’s such a lot of fun – the one-liners, the costumes, the cast, the idea of all these muscle-bound boyos duking it out for freedom or the adoration of the baying crowd. There’s an epic head explosion in the early moments, there’s Richard Dawson hamming it up, and there’s such an ugly 80s coke-fuelled haze over it – wonderful stuff. You just know when they remake it, they’re going to take all of the fun out.

7: Dream Warriors (US)

Speaking of fun, Dream Warriors is the most entertaining film in the Elm Street franchise. We largely ignore the events of the second movie, and instead re-unite cast members from the original with a new breed of tormented kids. Freddy is back, and he’s stalking the kids of some kind of medical/psychiatric institution. Nancy learns of this and comes back to finish off Krueger once and for all. While the first movie introduced the idea of a killer attacking you in your sleep, Dream Warriors doubles down on the dream logic of fighting back – in your dreams you can be a super-powered version of yourself and therefore the kids each use their own strengths and character traits to go on the offensive. Patricia Arquette and Lawrence Fishbourne appear, Langenkamp and Saxon return, and of course Englund is on top form. It’s inventive in its look and effects, is peppered with one-liners and interesting ideas, and it moves it a rip-roaring pace. It’s not exactly haunting or scary in the same way as the first movie was, but what it lacks in scares it makes up for in action.

6: Citizens On Patrol (US)

I’m an unashamed Police Academy fan. As a Cinema fan, they’re not exactly high art, and outside of the first film they’re barely coherent entertainment. But I love them. COP is my favourite sequel, giving us more of the original bunch, the return of Harris, more Zed, and fun new characters. It’s ridiculously silly, but there are more laugh out loud moments here for me, than probably every comedy released in the last ten years. It’s a capsule to my childhood, it’s nostalgic outside of my own experiences, and it’s good old fashioned summery, carefree Hollywood escapism.

5: Prince Of Darkness (US)

It’s in my TTT John Carpenter’s post

4: Near Dark (US)

TT Of The Decade.

3: The Lost Boys (US)

TT Of The Decade.

2: Predator (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)

TT Of The Decade.

1: Robocop (Top Ten Of All Time) (US)

TT Of The Decade.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1988!

The Apt Guinness Book Of World Records Honor Rambo 3 Earned In 1990

Greetings, Glancers! Like a Manchester Utd fan/player, we’re back once again to wallow in a hovel of mediocrity and shit. Actually, there are not too many films this year I didn’t enjoy – those listed below each have their moments but I wouldn’t be keen to see any of them again. They’re either movies that were on a lot when I was young and therefore pissed me off, or were disappointing after I was hyped for them.

Buster

This is a movie which a family member had on VHS, and any time I was taken to their house for some sort of party and the kids were stuck in a room with a TV, this was the tape we were given. Luckily, they also had a VHS of The Running Man/Pumping Iron, so we would watch that instead if we could find it. If not, we were subjected to Phil Collins prancing about in a twee retelling of The Great Train Robbery.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

This felt like such an old man’s Comedy when I was young, I’ve never been a fan of Caine doing comedy, and I’ve never been a fan of Martin at all. It has…. some swimming pools.

A Fish Called Wanda

One I should enjoy, but outside of a couple of scenes it’s a chore for me to get through this. I put that down to not being a fan of Kevin Kline, it being British, and it not being the Python spin-off I hoped it would be. Has none of the anarchy I wanted, and precious few laughs.

Rambo III

I loved the poster for Rambo III when I was young, and there was an arcade machine of the movie permanently placed where I spent my summer holidays. It wasn’t until years later that I actually saw a Rambo movie, having grown up with more access to Arnie movies than Stallone. Rambo III was always the movie I was most hyped for – it seemed to have the biggest guns, the most bad guys, the best action – but sadly I’d imagined most of that. I loved the first two movies and by the time I got to part 3, my hype levels were off the charts. Part 3 ends up being bland and uneventful, even with it somehow being rated as ‘the most violent movie ever’ for a while. You wouldn’t guess it. It lacks the intensity of the first two parts, and dare I say it, the smarts. Plus there’s the whole working with The Taliban thing, but sure. I think I need to go back and watch it again and see if the action feels better in today’s CG world.

Working Girl

This year’s Rom Com – though most of the movies on my list are Rom Com-ish. At least this one has Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver which makes it tolerable, and it has more of a cynical edge than most. However, it also has Melanie Griffith and Joan Cusack who negate the qualities of the others. I’ve no idea how this was so successful or so well received by critics and Awards types, but it’s worth a one off watch.

That’s it, short list today. Do you enjoy any of these? Which films of 1988 would you class as your least favourites? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 1991

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

We start as always with a brief slurp over the froth dripping away from 1991’s bountiful cup. Backdraft is that rare thing – a fun movie about firefighting, complete with almost sentient flames tickling Billy Baldwin’s arse. It shouldn’t be good, but Ron Howard brings plenty of tension, action, and even emotion, and it has a damn god cast – Kurt Russel, Rebecca De Mornay, JT Walsh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Scott Glenn, Donald Sutherland, and one Robert De Niro. An equally impressive cast elevates Oliver Stone’s controversial JFK from conspiracy-bait court drama to absorbing thriller – notable names include Donald Sutherland (again), Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ed Asner, John Candy, Joe Pesci, Michael Rooker, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Wayne Knight, Kevin Bacon, Sally Kirkland, and Laurie Metcalf.

Sticking with epics, we have two of the best coming out of Asia in 1991, the Martial Arts Historical opus Once Upon A Time In China, and Zhang Yimou’s gorgeous drama Raise The Red Lantern. Jumping over to France we were treated to Jean Pierre Jeune’s debut Delicatessen, the incredibly odd yet visually memorable tale. Marc Caro co-directs this post-apocalyptic version of Sweeny Todd. Cape Fear accomplishes the difficult feat of at least meeting, if not exceling beyond, the excellent original with Martin Scorsese bringing together the original cast in part roles and letting Robert De Niro go full tilt alongside Juliette Lewis, Jessica Lange, and Nick Nolte.

In keeping with much of the unsavoury material released this year, The Silence Of The Lambs became the year’s critical darling, picking up a bunch of Oscars and reminding critics that Horror and genre filmmaking was just as worthy of praise and attention as straight dramatic fare. Barton Fink saw the Coen brothers further cement their names as a partnership to watch, blending a number of genres together and unleashing a madcap John Turturro and John Goodman on the world.

In the Indie space, a series of lesser known names and films made a huge splash. New Jack City took a grimy look at the Drug war underworld while Boyz N The Hood saw John Singleton tackle gang and youth culture in South Central LA to devastating effect. My Own Private Idaho saw both Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix trying to break from their respective moulds, playing hustlers trying to find meaning and a future in their lives. My Girl, everyone’s favourite childhood tearjerker follows Anna Chlumsky as she struggles with coming of age in the 1970s, growing up in a funeral parlor and befriending nerdy outcast Macaulay Culkin. Often mocked now, it’s still an effective, thoughtful, and funny look at childhood. Finally, Naked Lunch is… well I still haven’t quite figured it out.

10: Drop Dead Fred (US/UK) Ate De Jong

Who Ate De Jong? I’ve no idea, but I hope he was tasty. The world suffered a massive loss when Rik Mayall passed. He made an indelible impact on British comedy, but is remembered for fondly for his TV work rather than his big screen outings. Drop Dead Fred was released around the height of his powers and is his most successful movie release. It was a modest hit, was critically panned (particularly in the US), and went on to become a cult film. Rik Mayall’s physical, anarchic style is perfect for British humour, but US sensibilities never had a widespread punk cultural movement and as such his antics don’t seem to translate. The humour is juvenile yet deals with sophisticated and progressive concerns, the film is silly yet emotionally touching, and while Mayall is unleashed, the likes of Phoebe Cates and Carrie Fisher give their own levels of grounding and sarcastic flair. It’s a film which speaks to both the child and the free spirit adult.

9: Double Impact (US) Sheldon Lettich

There was a joke about Double Impact when I was in school. It was a boob joke. If you’ve seen Double Impact, you probably have your own version of that joke. Outside of boobs, this is the most famous example of JCVD playing multiple characters. Here he plays two very different twins separated at birth a la Mary Ann Benedict, after their parents are murdered. They grow up and have very different lives, Chad runs a dojo and is a bit of a polite ladies man, while Alex is more of a thug. Things happen and the pair meet, clash, learn about their parents, and plot revenge. Then there are fights and guns and boobs. It’s fun. It’s not top budget Van Damme, but it’s among the best of the rest and remains a lot of silly, violent fun.

8: The Doors (US) Oliver Stone

All musicians and writers go through a Doors phase. We get into the music, the lyrics, the mystique, and if you’re like me, yo visit Jim’s grave in Paris. Oliver Stone’s biopic is one of his lesser seen movies of his most successful period, and focuses on the formation of the band, their success, and their demise following Jim’s death. It weaves an ethereal moody vision of the 60s, complete with the requisite music and fashion, and while it never feels exciting or revelatory, it’s watchable thanks to the stellar cast led by a flawless Val Kilmer. Elsewhere, Kyle Maclachlan, Kevin Dillon, Michael Wincott, Meg Ryan, Frank Whaley, and Kathleen Quinlan are all memorable, and it’s a vital, if inaccurate watch for Doors fans.

7: Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey (US) Pete Hewitt

For Metal and Rock fans in the 80s, the Bill And Ted movies were a rite of passage and watched on a monthly if not weekly occurence. I always preferred the original, but the sequel has Death. Both a ridiculous, stupid, but fun, and filled with references for young fans to spot or chase down. The sequel sees the pair being killed by a terrorist from the future and replaced by evil robots – the good Bill and Ted go to Hell and must defeat the Grim Reaper in order to return to Earth, win back their babes, and ensure that the Wyld Stallyns’ music survives. It’s weird.

6: Thelma And Louise (US) Ridley Scott

There’s no obvious reason why a young me should have enjoyed this movie, but I’ve loved it since day 1, and therefore had the benefit of growing up to not be an asshole (in some respects) and of knowing who Bradley Pitt was before he hit the big time. Naturally, it also gave me a lifelong crush on Geena Davis. It’s a perfect movie to me, from the lead 4-5 performances to Scott’s direction and Khouri’s script.

5: Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves (US) Kevin Reynolds

This film was a monster, and was accompanied by one of the biggest songs of all time. Kevin Costner was a leading man, Alan Rickman was at his hammiest, and standalone action spectacles were getting more grandiose. This is the most entertaining version of the Robin Hood story for me – sword fights, arrows, castle walls being scaled, terrible accents, romance, wizened old crones and creepy sub-villains, and lots of swinging about in trees. Plus they actually had people from Maid Marian And Her Merry Men in the film! It’s easy to ridicule now, but it’s still wildly entertaining and cheesy, complete with unnecessary cameos and breaking the fourth wall moments, and also features Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

4: Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead (US) Stephen Herek

I always put this in the same bucket as Wayne’s World and Bill And Ted – it has a similar vibe, similar characters, but the humour is less juvenile, and the plot is less like a series of vignettes. It also features a young Danielle Harris, so it was a must see for me when I was young. It stars Christina Applegate as your typical teen on the verge of adulthood but somewhat directionless. When her mom goes away on business, rather than being left in charge of her 400 siblings, she is left with an elderly babysitter with tyrant syndrome. As the title suggests, the babysitter dies, and the kids decide to get on with life till mom gets home. This means a lot of partying, messing around, boyfriends and girlfriends; eventually, for Applegate this means a job and responsibility. Lots of great one liners, amusing famous faces popping up, good soundtrack, and it’s a seminal coming of age movie for me.

3: The Last Boy Scout (US) Tony Scott

I’ve covered this in my Top Ten Bruce Willis and Tony Scott movies. It’s wonderful.

2: Beauty And The Beast (US) Disney

It’s my favourite Disney movie of all time. Covered in my Top Movies of the decade.

1: Terminator 2 (Top Ten Of All Time) (US) James Cameron

Covered in my Top movies of the decade.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three (The Top Three)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Movies Of 1992!

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

I start today with a few brief comments on some of my favourite films of 1992 which didn’t make the Top Ten cut. Alien 3 is an undoubtedly flawed pseudo-final entry to the Alien series. Notably marred by scripting and production problems, it’s perhaps a miracle the film turned out as good as it is. It has glaring problems and is not as entertaining or scary as the first two movies, but it remains a gripping and downbeat Ripley movie. Bad Lieutenant is as grim as grimy as movies get – hardly surprising given it’s an Abel Ferrara movie. Harvey Keitel is at the top of his game, but it’s not exactly the sort of movie you put on for an evening’s polite entertainment.

As grim as Bad Lieutenant is, Benny’s Video makes it look like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Michael Haneke isn’t known for holding back, and Benny’s Video is a shocking look at violence and how crimes can be perpetuated and hidden through time and by family. If you don’t mind matter of fact and upsetting explorations into subjects which mainstream entertainment avoids like the plague, there are few more impactful. You might want to follow it up with something lighter – Ferngully is one of the best non-Disney animated movies of the 90s, with a great voice cast, solid look, decent tunes, and important message.

Glengarry Glen Ross is one of those cult films which Film Nerds eventually find and wonder why no-one seems to talk about it. A superb cast and even better script, it’s essential viewing. Singles is another neat cult hit with a cast of up and comers and that indie vibe which was so prevalent in the early 90s. Unforgiven is maybe Clint Eastwood’s premier masterpiece, though as a director and actor he’s had more than a few. The Western was dead by the 90s – this rips its skeleton out of the closet, fires it with both barrels, and shoves it back in.

White Men Can’t Jump is just a hell of a lot of fun, with Snipes and Harrelson playing beautifully off each other. It’s bizarre that a film like this exists and was such a hit. Passenger 57 continues the Snipes love as the dude attempts to step into the macho man action movie space, exploiting the gaps left by Seagal and Van Damme. That’s not to say those guys were slouching at the start of the decade – Seagal getting his only genuine smash with Under Siege as he slaps Tommy Lee Jones about and avoids Erika Eleniak’s tits. Finally, why not take another descent into sickening violence and glee? Man Bites Dog is notorious, influential, and hard to stomach, while simultaneously being wildly engaging and dare I say, funny? It’s a film you need to see at least once.

And now, the top ten:

10: Aladdin (US) Disney

You all know it – Disney’s Renaissance well under way with a group of writers and performers swinging their mojo about the room, knocking pretenders off their ascent to the throne. It may be Robin Williams’ finest hour, it features one of Disney’s finest ballads, and it took the Company into a whole new world (really?) of culture and storytelling.

9: Universal Soldier (US) Roland Emmerich

What Arnie and Sly could do, Van Damme could try his hardest to emulate. Helmed by Roland ‘better than Michael Bay’ Emmerich, it pits Super Soldier against Super Soldier in a battle which starts in Vietnam and ends with tankers plummeting off the Grand Canyon. It’s big budget, big muscles, big ‘splosions fun.

8: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (US) Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola doing horror? Great. He had dipped his toes much earlier in his career, but he doubles down with this gorgeous, gothic retelling. Bringing together a mixture of youthful stars and beloved veterans, his version of Stoker’s vampiric tale nails the atmosphere of the text while focusing on obsession. It’s maybe the definitive movie adaptation.

7: Candyman (US) Bernard Rose

Bernard Rose is something of an enigma, starting out with music videos and TV before jumping between fantasy, horror, and historical epics, usually gaining critical recognition but not commercial success. Candyman brought both, even as it wasn’t a huge hit at the time, but it is as enigmatic and alluring as both its director and writer. Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen lead this noir horror love story, twisting an urban legend into reality and bringing a lyrical quality to a genre often maligned for being base and simplistic.

6: My Cousin Vinny (US) Jonathan Lynn

I’m not a fan of legal dramas or movies which are set in the courtroom; they almost always follow the same template and any drama is often negated by the unreality of the situation. Therefore it makes sense that a comedy set in the same world would be more up my alley if handled correctly. My Cousin Vinny doesn’t go down the route of satirizing the genre and instead is a weird, unique, not quite character study. It’s little more than an excuse to let Joe Pesci off the leash while almost being outshone by Marisa Tomei. It’s funny from start to finish, with Pesci and Tomei at their best, ably backed by Gwynne and Austin Pendleton. It’s also a hell of a lot more accurate than most legal dramas.

5: Wayne’s World (US) Penelope Spheeris

One of the more seminal movies of my childhood, by the time I saw this in the cinema I was already a Metalhead Alice Cooper worshipper. Over time more of the jokes have come to make sense to me, but that initial joy of finding a film which kind of got my love for an often ridiculed and ridiculous genre, while in turn gently poking fun at the genre itself, has never worn off. It’s stupid, quotable, and charming.

4: Braindead (NZ) Peter Jackson

This was one of those movies spoke of in hushed tones when I was a teenager. I knew of its legend, of how gory it was, and how difficult it was to come by. Then one of my mates got his hands on a VHS and it was spread around school, kicking off weeks of adolescent worship by our new coven of disciples of the most kickass of Lords. It’s Jackson’s finest non-LOTR work and rivals American Werewolf In London as the greatest Horror Comedy ever, even if it leans much more into the comedy than the horror. Jaw-droppingly bloody, it’s a bizarre sight to behold.

3: Reservoir Dogs (US) Quentin Tarantino

Lets get the elephant in the room out of the room – it’s a remake of City On Fire, no two ways about it. Even with the dialogue Tarantinoed, some of the exchanges from Ringo Lam’s movie remain in place, not to mention the overall plot and quite a few of the key scenes. That’s perfectly fine, but it’s important to mention given so many people are not aware of the fact and may not even be aware City On Fire exists. This is still my favourite Tarantino movie, it’s Tarantino in his most diluted form, obsessed with film and the spoken word, mixing pop culture, dialogue, music, and violence with a nerd-literate quality. Great cast, iconic moments and quotes, and the heralding of maybe the most influential Hollywood voice in the last thirty years.

2: Fire Walk With Me (US) David Lynch

It’s in my Top Movies Of The 90s list.

1: Hard Boiled (HK) John Woo

It’s in my Top Movies Of The 90s list.

Let us know in the comments your favourite movies of 1992!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2001!

2001, Baybee! I had left school and started University and the world was my oyster – sitting mouth agape and waiting to be scraped asunder. As always, lets get the almosts out of the way: Brotherhood of The Wolf was the first Christophe Gans movie I ever saw. On my way to and from University in those days, the city centre HMV would always have 2 DVDs for 10 or 20 pounds and every so often they would include movies from the foreign section. I think that’s where I first picked this up and saw it. It’s one of those rare movies which mixes horror and martial arts action – but it’s also a serious historical drama too. Plus you get Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Philipe Nahon, and Mark Dacascos. Enemy At The Gates is just  great WWII movie which I came to quite late, one with a more unique premise which pits a couple of snipers against each other in Stalingrad, and the various interactions and relationships involved. It has a terrific cast too – Jude Law, Ed Harris, Rachel Weisz,  Joseph Fiennes, Ron Perlman, and Bob Hoskins.

Spirited Away is another one I came to late – it took me a while to catch up to most of the Ghibli movies as I stopped caring about any animated stuff towards the end of the 90s. It’s one of Miyazaki’s best – of which he has a bunch of classics – and it has plenty of unique stuff you don’t usually see. Donnie Darko I got to see very early on some sort of screener, but I just thought it was an interesting, quirky movie. Once it became this ig cult hit I had to revisit it to see what I was missing. I still don’t rate it as highly as the superfans, but it’s undoubtedly a cool and interesting movie. Y Tu Mama Tambien is another example of me watching as much foreign cinema as I could at the time – sure, part of it was an excuse to get some non-porn sex all up in my eyes without feeling guilty about it, but I also discovered plenty of legitimate gems. At its heart it’s a coming of age film, set in Mexico, as well as being a road movie – two of my favourite sub genres, and has a fantastic trio of performances in Diego Luna, Gael Gabriel Garcia, and Maribel Verdu.

Monster’s Ball is not a good time. It’s grim, downbeat, and is one of those non-horror movies which I relate to Henry Portrait Of A Serial Killer in look and tone. It is ugly and the colour is drained, and there are no easy answers or happy endings – it also has some career best performances featuring the likes of Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, Heath Ledger, and Peter Boyle. The Happiness Of The Katakuris was Takashi Miike at his peak of weirdness and output. It’s a zombie musical, sort of, with Miike merging the likes of The Sound Of Music, with something like Fawlty Towers. It is completely bizarre and you won’t have seen anything like it. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is Kevin Smith attempting to close out his View Askew Universe by throwing as much fan service at the screen as possible – and as a fan, I am thankful.

10: The Majestic (US) Frank Darabont

I’m not sure what I was expecting of The Majestic. By the time I saw it, Carrey had been through a few flops or hits which I didn’t care for. The Majestic instantly appealed to me as it felt like a Twilight Zone episode, but one of the less horror focused ones. He stars as a man who has lost his memory and who stumbles into an all American patriotic town only for the residents there to recognise him as a lost, presumed dead, war hero. In actual fact, he was a jaded Hollywood writer up for Communism charges and it isn’t until he has become a part of this new town and helped restore their Ye Olde Cinema that his memories come back – all the while the Feds are looking for him since his disappearance. Normally, I shouldn’t like something like this due to the overt political nature of the film and the fact that it all drives towards an ‘America, fuck yeah’ climax, but it is so sweet and wholesome and charming, with all the 1950s ideals and Americana that I can’t help but enjoy it. Frank Darabont is a master at this stuff, and aside from sterling work from Carrey, Darabont brings his usual pals along for the ride – Laure Holden, James Whitmore, Jeffrey DeMunn, Bob Balaban, Martin Landau. I think I can ignore both my own cynicism and the sentimentality  is due to the fact that the politics here is not so gung-ho, but almost more Humanist in that it supports those small town, hard-working, respectful ideals which seem a million miles away now regardless of where you sit on a political spectrum.

9: Ichi The Killer (Japan) Takashi Miike

Another Miike film, and one of his most violent. Dispensing with such niceties as subtlty, as exemplified in Audition, Ichi The Killer is a balls out Yakuza WTF-fest as it follows a crying mummy’s boy assassin slicing and dicing his way through ranks of bad guys all while a Yakuza tough guy with a sad0-masochistic love for pain hopes to meet the guy so he can get his rocks off. The violence here ranges from Kill Bill levels of gushing to more extreme and stomach-churning skin torture which Miike would return to in his infamous Masters Of Horror episode Imprint. As with most of Miike’s work, you’ll be chuckling, gagging, and wondering what the hell is going on for most of it, but it’s all shot with such confidence and style that you charge along with it.

8: Session 9 (US) Brad Anderson

Session 9 is one of the most atmospheric horror movies, or any genre actually, ever. On top of that, it is an exercise in dread and mystery – two tools which so many films strive for but never get close to achieving. Much of this is down to sound work, to Anderson’s direction, and to the setting. It’s a shame still that this is not as widely known or acclaimed as the more well known and critically received horror movies, but it’s right up there with the best.

7: The Mummy Returns (US) Stephen Sommers

If I’m right, I saw this before I saw the first Mummy. I saw this at release with one of my besties from School (‘sup Leone), and she enjoyed it as much as I did. It was just an old fashioned Indiana Jones style adventure, fast moving, nifty effects for the time, and a likeable cast uttering plenty of quips. On the plus side, the villain of the piece is fairly sympathetic too. The effects don’t hold up as well today, but it’s still a fun, rip-roaring watch that I would choose over most big budget comic fare nowadays.

6: Frailty (US/Germany/Italy) Bill Paxton

A terrific performance as actor and director by the late great Bill Paxton. Frailty is a mood piece with a lot in common with Session 9. It’s another film which presents its tone and atmosphere early, and nails it throughout. It’s a story told in flashback, as Matthew McConaughey relates to Powers Boothe his and his brother’s involvement in a serial killer case. Through flashbacks we see the boys’ childhood until the strict religious rule of their father, Bill Paxton, who thinks God has given him the power to kill demons (who happen to be disguised as humans). It twists and turns all over the place and even though it feels procedural at points, it remains swift and stylish and engaging similar to something like Zodiac. It’s another underseen film deserving of credit, made by a Hollywood legend who left us before his time.

5: Bully (US) Larry Clark

I’m not sure what it is about Clark’s movies that make them so damn watchable, when they always deal with thoroughly ugly characters in a grim, hopeless world. I’d go as far as saying Bully is his best film, and I think a large part of this is down to the excellent young cast who have rarely been better. In fact, it may be the performers in Clark’s movies, who give a realism to the sordid stories which make his films the sort of thing you can’t look away from even though you know you probably shouldn’t be bearing witness. Bully depicts the real life murder of Bobby Kent by his best friend and associates. Kent is played by Nick Stahl, and is portrayed as a gruesome, preppy, charming bully. He frequently abuses his best friend Marty (Brad Renfro) physically and mentally, while also indulging in a bit of the old rape with his girlfriend (Bijou Phillips). After years of this abuse, Marty is prompted by his girlfriend (Rachel Miner) to murder Bobby, an act which the group are ill-prepared for. The actual murder is a shambles – a literal bloody mess, and the group struggle to keep their lips shut. It’s not an easy watch – it takes no delight in showing how messy killing someone can be, and yet there are plenty of absurdly and darkly funny moments – maybe that’s just me. Michael Pitt and Leo Fitzpatrick show up, Clark once again has no issue showing the debauchery of criminal, forgotten youth, and he perfects the mindset of this hopeless teenage world which I saw plenty of around the same time. It’s a truly wonderful film, but absolutely not for everyone.

4: Visitor Q (Japan) Takashi Miike

From a film which isn’t for everyone, to a film which isn’t for anyone. Visitor Q is the film which the word ‘masterpiece’ was designed for, at least to the extent that people like me should use it. I think this is Miike’s best film – in a year which saw three of his movies make it onto my list post. I’m not sure who I can recommend it to – it begins with a man having sex with his own prostitute daughter as he attempts to make a documentary about modern Japanese youth. The film, literally, asks a number of questions – not the sort of questions anyone has ever asked of course, and then proceeds to answer them. We meet a rather dysfunctional family with a wild set of problems, and then they are infiltrated by a mysterious stranger – Q – who acts as observer and instigator. What follows are handheld digi-cam scenes of murder, sex with corpses, self harm, physical abuse, and lots of lactating. It’s a film unlike any other, and yet it’s ultimately hilarious, and oddly beautiful and affecting. I have no idea how Miike does these things so well, and why I love them so much.

3: Mulholland Drive (US/France) David Lynch

Is it David Lynch’s best film? There’s certainly an argument for that, but then he also has Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man. In any case, it’s a near flawless film and hits that neat blend of Lynch weirdness and accessibility. It’s a twisting journey which ends up feeling more like an experience and once it takes its 2001 turn you’re already sold on the Naomi Watts character that you can’t help but go wherever Lynch takes you. It’s on my Decade list, so read more there.

2: The Fellowship Of The Ring (NZ/US): Peter Jackson

Again, it’s on my decade favourites list – check there for more.

1: Amelie (France/Germany) Jean Pierre Jeunet

And once again, it’s in my decade list.

Let us know your thoughts and favourites in the comments!

Children Of The Corn

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I can’t be specific on dates, but Children Of The Corn was one of the first horror movies I remember discovering. Like I mentioned in my Creepshow 2 review, posters can have a powerful effect on a growing, inquisitive, impressionable mind. Over time I somehow gained information about the story and the movie and began to form my own version of it in my head, but I didn’t get to see it until years later. There’s a danger of being let down after consciously or subconsciously hyping a movie, but where Children Of The Corn is concerned, the mystery and tone conveyed in the opening portions of the movie aligned with the picture I’d created in my mind. Watching again years later, it’s clear that there are better King adaptations and it that it has plenty of shortcomings. I still feel that it captures the essence of the unknown which juvenile and growing horror fans find so alluring, even if it doesn’t have enough bite to hold an adult audience in its thrall.

Adapted from King’s 1978 Night Shift short, Children Of The Corn is the first of (somehow) ten movies in a series which I can only assume grows increasingly <corny> as it progresses. King wrote the original screenplay, but as was normal for the time another writer would come in to usurp the script and focus more on violence than drama. The original story is a simple one – a bickering couple are driving through the US heartland, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, only to become lost and encounter a savage backwater. The key difference here being that the savages are a bunch of kids, creepy religious zealot kids who follow an unseen God known as ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’. The movie keeps the basics in check, albeit offering less in the way of marital distress and more in the way of heroic dads and wholesome family dynamics.

We open in pleasingly creepy fashion, as Isaac – moon-faced pre-teen leader of the group sends the crazed Malachi and friends on a poison and murder spree through their hometown, Gatlin. It’s a simple farming town, and the crops have been failing, which Isaac takes to mean their God is not pleased. And we all know how to appease an angry, malevolent God. Cut to a few years later and a ‘just about to be famous for Terminator’ Linda Hamilton (Vicky) and boyfriend Peter Horton (But) heading up river to start a new life. Driving through endless miles of nothing, their subdued fears about the future are disturbed by the sudden appearance of a child bouncing under the wheels of their car. After initially thinking they hit and killed him, they come to understand that he was already dead. The boy was trying to escape Isaac and his murderous ways, but ended up being sacrificed to the God of Buick. Should they leave him and go on their way? Should they drop the body off in a local town? Should they take him to a big city hospital, or the Police Station in local Gatlin? This being a horror movie, the pair make the wrong choice and quickly find themselves in a world of pitchforks and pasty teens.

The film isn’t as shlocky as some early King adaptations, surprising perhaps given the subject matter. Likewise, it isn’t anywhere near the level of his biggest films of the period – Carrie or The Shining. To its credit, it isn’t all silly surface scares – that sense of the unknown and of being lost permeates the atmosphere in the opening scenes and its an atmosphere which works for me personally having been a child with a heightened fear of being lost or left behind in a new place. Outside of personal feelings, the film is an obvious parable for religious fundamentalism and the dangers of allowing any cult to take power. I like this angle, as ham-fisted as it may be delivered here, and I’m sure a more dedicated experienced director and writer combo could do something stronger with the material viewed in this way. There are of course numerous departures from the source material, fleshing out the cult and delivering a less downbeat ending for example. It’s well enough shot, using the open and wide landscape to decent effect, and by and large the cast serve their purpose – all the more impressive given that many of them are kids. Hamilton doesn’t get to show off her later chops, but is more than the withering lead lady of the piece you might expect from such a film, and gets just as much screen time and action as Horton. They work well as a couple and spend much of the film apart dealing with various factions within Gatlin, again equipping themselves admirably.

Is it top tier King? No, but that’s generally reserved for his more classy material or when a classy director gets a hold of his work. But it’s serviceable enough for most viewers to get something out of it, and good enough that many King and horror fans might rank it as a second tier adaptation. In any case, in this strange time of locked doors and empty streets we find ourselves in it’s worth a watch to remind ourselves what the outdoors look like – and that what’s out there may want us for lunch.

Let us know what you think of Children Of The Corn in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2008!

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2008 was a great year for cinema – quite a few of my picks here made my end of decade post, and a number of the more obvious choices will appear on many critics’ best of lists. Lets get the almosts out of the way first:

Son Of Rambow is an early Will Poulter showcase – he continues to be a star in the making but hasn’t quite caught on the way he deserves to have yet. It’s a funny and charming coming of age film about two friends – both outcasts in their own way, and from different social backgrounds as tends to be the way with these films. The hook is that they’re both Rambo fans and decide to go make their own homage movie. The best moments are just the boys arsing about trying to do stunts and make an action movie. Director Garth Jennings would go on to make Sing but is perhaps best known in Britain for his various comedy performances and involvement with some of the biggest names. You know he’s respected when the likes of Edgar Wright, Jessica Hynes, Adam Buxton, and Eric Sykes all pop up here. Wall-E is, well you should know it by now. I didn’t love it first time around but came to enjoy it more when watching it with my kids later. A film of two distinct halves – the first being Wall-E alone on Earth and the second an ever more realistic vision of a future where we’re all fattyies 100% reliant upon technology and entertainment. Fred Willard even pops up later, so extra points there.

Equally charming is another Ghibli treat – Ponyo is the delightful tale of a boy and his… fish. A magic fish of course. It’s basically The Little Mermaid but without the forced romance and drag witch. It’s Miyazaki so you know you’re in for a beautiful, heart-melting experience. It’s just a sweet story with enough imagination to charm viewers of any age. The Informers on the other hand is not about charm. It’s all about disgust, malaise, debauchery. And it’s wonderful. I almost had this in my top ten, and in truth I feel like adding it in there instead of number ten, but why bother. I don’t really understand why this film has flown under the radar. For the sleaze balls you have any number of Amber Heard nude scenes, and for everyone else it’s a Bret Easton Elis story directed by the guy who made Buffalo Soldiers. If you need more, and I get why many will, just check out the cast – Brad Renfro, Kim Basinger, Billy Bob Thornton, Winona Ryder, Lou Taylor Pucci, Mickey Rourke, Chris Isaak, Rhys Ifans. The film received almost universal shrugs and derision with most people completely missing out on the fact that it is supposed to be one big nightmare – a satire on vapid existence, on wealth, and not so much the pursuit of fame or money – just the complete lack of meaning behind it all. It might not be for everyone, but it honestly deserves for recognition.

10: Johnny Mad Dog (France/Liberia) Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

Johnny Mad Dog is the film that I kept saying ‘Don’t you mean Johnny Mad Dog’ to when people began talking about Beast Of No Nation. It’s almost the same film – the main difference being the lack of an Idris Elba. If I can say anything to convince you to watch it, it’s just that – Beasts Of No Nation, but earlier. If anything it’s more gritty, more brutal, and the fact that almost all of it focuses on the kids makes it all the more upsetting. There’s also a definite sense of the bizarre given some of the antics the child soldiers get up to – not to mention their costumes.

9: Pontypool (Canada) Bruce McDonald

Even though I’ll watch any old rubbish horror movie, it’s the ones with an interesting premise that pull me in and stick with me. Pontypool has one of the most intriguing you’ll ever hear – a disease (?) is spreading and seems to be passed on via language – certain words – and those who succumb become slightly more sentient versions of the 28 Days Later creatures – manic, violent, and equally likely to kill themselves as batter you to death. On its own that’s enough to get me invested, but throw in the setting – an isolated radio station where a late night DJ and his skeleton staff suspect something is amiss as they  receive unusual calls. It’s still fresh now, and it plays admirably with its low budget and central ideas.

8: Cloverfield (US) Matt Reeves

The big surprise of the year, though looking back the biggest surprise seems to be that everyone was surprised by it. Buoyed by an excellent marketing run, Cloverfield also uses the hand-held fashion of the time to craft a literal Escape From New York. My problem with the film was always the characters – there isn’t anyone here you give a shit about and if we’d been allowed to feel an ounce of affinity with them this would probably be higher up my list. The story is simple – something crash lands in New York City and begins attacking everyone and everything. It’s some sort of gargantuan alien creature scene only in brief glimpses on news reports and through flashes between skyscrapers. I have zero problem with the shaky cam – this is the perfect film for it even though the whole ‘I have to document this’ excuse falls apart pretty quickly. The shaky cam heightens to war-torn confusion of it all – people don’t have any idea what is happening in the middle of a battlefield – you’re only concern is getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible, and that’s what we see. It’s a rollercoaster ride, wisely helped by the inclusion of smaller aliens and while it doesn’t live up to the promise, in reality could we have expected much better?

7: Rambo (US/Thailand) Sylvester Stallone

Who’d have thought it – the return of John Rambo? And who’d have expected it to actually be both good and faithful? When Stallone wants to, he can still pull it out of the bag. This is just ridiculous carnage – an 80s Action movie with an 80s Action hero, but with the violence blown up to 11. The plot is almost irrelevant – Rambo is helping out a bunch of missionaries who get caught up in an Asian war zone – but at least it isn’t completely vapid. The supporting cast contribute well – Julie Benz and Graham McTavish the obvious standouts. Stallone keeps the pace ticking along until the brutal climax and there’s simply something comforting about seeing an old character resurrected from your childhood, whether they’re standing on stage, swinging a lightsaber, or in this case, ripping out throats with their bare hands.

6: Ip Man (HK) Wilson Yip

From ripping out throats, to jabbing them 48 times in one second. Donnie Yen has been a beast for at least thirty years now, but the Ip Man series may be his crowning achievement. Beyond being a showcase for his badassery, and beyond hitting that personal sweet spot for me of being both a martial arts movie and telling a (sort of) history of Bruce Lee, you have Wilson Yip – the director who seems to know how to get the best performance from Yen. Yip and Yen have teamed multiple times and have a shared understanding of choreography and character to the extent that, and I know it’s a cliche, but that watching the fights are more akin to watching a dance – with the added benefit of it not being a fucking dance. The fights in Ip Man are so painstakingly practised and directed that each one is a thing of beauty – all heightened by the fact that we come to care for the guy and his family.

Ip Man is a martial arts teacher in a very large pool – at this place and point at time it seemed like every street in the vast city has multiple competing martial arts schools – each with their own styles, fighters, masters, and rivalry. Ip Man stands out by being almost invisible – he isn’t interested in getting into disputes or proving he’s the best, but simply wants to train, learn, and live out a peaceful existence. It’s not necessarily a unique story when it comes to the genre, but in Yen we get a sympathetic human we can stand behind rather than the standard faceless pile of fists and feet. When the Japanese invades, Ip and his family lose their home and business and he is forced into mining to make ends meet. It turns out that the Japanese are offering additional food to the Chinese if they take part in unsanctioned fights – except that the Japanese military have been killing some of the Chinese fighters when they lose. Ip is understandably enraged and wipes out a number of the Japanese fighters which attracts the attention of their General.

Plot is often secondary in Martial Arts movies which generally means ridicule for the more discerning critic. Placing this in a ‘genuine historical setting’ (seen from the Chinese side) helps matters and this becomes a standard enough story of heroism, patriotism, glory, and family values that you’ve likely seen before in Chinese Martial Arts. But it’s the fights, the nuances, and the performances which raise this above the myriad others. I’d probably recommend starting here for anyone interested in Donnie Yen and it’s a high budget, classy starting point for anyone keen to gateway into the genre. As someone who has seen the dregs on offer, this is light-years ahead and offers incredible, breathless action.

5: Let The Right One In (Sweden) Tomas Alfredson

So far the horror films on my list this year haven’t been out and out scare-fests, but have rather been subtle, introspective, or done something new with an old favourite. Let The Right One In captures each of those points – taking the vampire mythology and offering new twists, yet makes it a character piece, a romance of sorts, a coming of age story, and drip-feeds us dread, unsavoury pedophilia subtext, while being shot through the lens of abandoned beauty. This was one of the first modern horror movies which truly cared about how it looked and sounded and how both were portrayed – the current wave of so called elevated horror all owe something to Let The Right One In.

Like Ip Man, this is something of a sweet spot movie for me. I love vampire movies and horror, and I love coming of age films – especially ones which feel genuine, ones which I can relate to. I didn’t know too many vampires growing up, but isolation, bullying, looking for close friendships are things I know all too well as do many others. The film downplays much of the horror and mythology and the darker elements of the novel and focuses instead on the friendship and loneliness and need. Oskar is a boy with no friends, no confidence, bullied into fantasizing about bloody revenge. Eli is a vampire who needs to feed and tasks a familiar with killing on her behalf so that she can keep living. For much of the film Oskar doesn’t know the truth, and even when he does their established friendship works, even if it does take on some sour, manipulative notes. Hell, who wouldn’t want an all powerful vampire in their corner?

The film doesn’t take a jumpscare approach, rather relying on the horror inherent in its ideas – needing to kill, needing to protect a killer, bullying, abuse. It all looks gorgeous too – there’s something wonderful about snowy nights and landscapes on screen, about quiet moments shattered by sudden violence. It’s a horror movie for critics to appreciate, for non-horror viewers to get on board with even though they’ll brand it a thriller, and it should of course please horror nerds. With two great lead performances, a career defining directorial from Alfredson, and shot by Hoyte Van Hoytema who earned Her, Interstellar, and Dunkirk from this.

4: Departures (Japan) Yojiro Takita

As the 2000s went on I began to side more with South Korean cinema than Japanese. After the J-Horror bubble burst, only the obvious big hitters like Koreeda and Miike and Sono were repeatedly bringing the goods. Departures came out of the blue, surprising everyone to win the Best Foreign Oscar this year over some front-runners. It, and the three movies remaining on this list are covered in more detail in my end of decade favourites list. It’s a film which caught me off guard and may do the same for you – the director I only knew from the decent enough Hiroyuki Sanada vehicle Onmyiji, and out of the cast it was really only Ryoko Hirosue I knew – from her days as a Nintendo model and Wasabi. It’s tender, heart-tugging, funny, and has one of the best soundtracks of the decade.

3: Martyrs (France) Pascal Laugier

So, America had the whole Torture Porn market cornered. Then Spain came along and said ‘hold my scalpel’. Then France beheaded the lot of them with a baguette and farted in their general direction. There’s a reason why there is a whole movement called French Extremism, and Martyrs is the peak. It’s just brutal, exhausting, and difficult to get through yet utterly compelling, impossible to forget, and once its over you know you’re going to be drawn back to it again to experience the twists once more. It made my end of decade list, so read more there. Quite simply, if you’re a horror fan you need to see it. If you’re not… it might put you off the genre forever or become one of your all time favourites. There are those horror movies which even the most ardent anti-horror film critic can’t deny – this is one of them.

2: The Dark Knight (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

It’s one of the biggest, most popular, and best movies of the decade – of the last two decades. You know it, you love it.

1: Love Exposure (Japan) Sion Sono

There are some movies you want everyone to see. Each of us finds a small handful of movies each year that no-one seems to know about and you tell all of your friends and co-workers and anyone you can get your hands on because, dammit, those movies need to be seen. Love Exposure is near the top of that list for me. It’s just perfect and is everything I love about film, somehow. It’s… not really anything. It’s not horror, it’s not action… it is a bit of comedy, a bit of drama… it’s just a bit of everything shat into a blender and squirted out into a four hour long cup, whatever the hell that means. Sion Sono, like other madcap hero Takashi Miike, does whatever he wants it seems. There’s just no way any other person on the face of the planet at any other time in the history of the world could make the films these guys do. Sono in this case has dealt with suicides and cults in Suicide Club, revenge in Hazard, comedy in Into A Dream, horror in Exte, drama in Land Of Hope, musical in Tokyo Tribe, and brutal thrillers in Cold Fish and Guilty Of Romance. Love Exposure trumps them all, with its panty obsessed fetish ninjas, budgie-shouldered cult leaders, daddy-pleasing pervs, child-slapping religious nutcases, and all the rest. I suppose in the end it’s a romance – my kind of romance. It should have been at the Oscars for Best Picture, Sono should have been down for best director, and Hikari Mitsushima should have won Best Actress. But who cares about awards – if you love Cinema, even if you have a passing interest in movies, you have an obligation to see Love Exposure. I know most people hate it when someone one really pushes a movie onto you – I get that too – but believe me when I say that your life will be better with this in it.

Let me know your favourites of 2008!

Captain America – The First Avenger

Cap

I have a habit of writing an introduction to my movie reviews long before writing anything else. For example, I’m writing this opening paragraph on 27th October 2017 – I probably won’t write the rest for a few months after and then post the thing months after that. As I write, I have really only started to embark on my Marvel Movie adventure, having never really been swept up in the whole universe. I’m pretty much the prime target audience, having grown up with these characters in their various guises. However, none of the movies I’d seen really reached out to me in the way that say, a Batman movie, or The Crow, or 1978’s Superman did. I’d seen The Avengers, the first Iron Man, some of the early Hulk movies where there was a new actor each time, but they all felt identikit and meh. Lots of ‘splosions and lots of meandering plot which really boiled down to big man saving world and/or girl from big bad man. I didn’t go in to The First Avenger with too many expectations, but I was nevertheless keen to see what the fuss (of the extended universe) was all about.

Our story begins in present day as a mysterious aircraft is discovered in The Arctic. We flip back to the 1940s and get a battle scene where Nazis are doing a bit of mystical treasure hunting – finding something called The Tesseract which can grant them massive power. Cut to the US and we meet the scrawny Steve Rogers, your typical old school white patriot who wants to sign up to the Army to help in the war but is turned down for being sickly and weak. Impressed by his resolve, he is snapped up by a US experimental intelligence team who give him some magic juice, turning him into a Super Solider – a much stronger and faster version of himself. He is now Captain America and while acting as a symbol for all that is good, holy, and American, he chases down the evil Nazi (who also took the magic juice but something went wrong with his experiment) and lots of fights and ‘splosions happen.

First the positives – good effects, good attention to detail in all aspects, especially in creating a believable 1940s world. Not being a fan of Chris Evans beforehand, he is good in the role and abandons all of the annoying ticks and quirks from his earlier movies making him a well-rounded, if a little bland, action hero. The rest of the cast do their jobs as expected, Hugo Weaving having fun as the villain and Hayley Atwell adding some spunk as Peggy Carter. That’s pretty much it – it works as a world building movie and all the expected cameos and geeky nods are there. As an origin story it ticks all of the boxes. The main negative, as I alluded to in the intro all those months ago (now writing on 20th July 2018) is that it’s all so plain. Maybe I’m not the target audience anymore – I’m not wowed by anything, the geeky nods don’t do a lot for me, and there’s an air of ‘seen it before’ about it all. The conflict never seems real, we know how the film is going to end, and try as they might to form some sort of tortured love story, it never comes off. There’s not enough here for me to sink my teeth into. In another world this would be just a very average action movie – it is a very average action movie – but in our world that’s seemingly enough to warrant making almost half a billion dollars at the box office. I can’t come off as too critical – clearly a lot of work goes into a film on such a grand scale and clearly a lot of people love it – it’s fine, I just need something more these days.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of The First Avenger!