1. Cabin In the Woods
Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard created a mini masterpiece. Hilarious, scary and about the art of film itself, it questions what we love about violent films. A bunch of teenagers set out on a camping trip in a cabin, and they are soon attacked….but by what? and why? It’s a horror for those who hate horror, with the two funniest performance of the year from Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford. Also two of the most holy shit moments of the year – one involving a motorbike, the other a big button. But anything more is spoiling this wonderful puzzle of a film.
2. Holy Flying Circus
Another fun film with a really strong message. A BBC telemovie about the banning of Life Of Brian, it is a Monty Python film about Monty Python. It is, of course, hilarious, and the performances – Darren Boyd as John Cleese in particular – are perfect. I love letter to Monty Python, but also a stand against this culture of offense that we are trapped in. The film asks – why can’t we be offensive? In the era of oublic apologies for Tiger Woods, David Petraeus and the Jonathan Ross fiasco – should we give a shit that people get offended? Are people who get offended inherently shit? We need offensive humour more than ever, and a reminder that people are often stupid and we should rally against the idiots.
There’s no trailer so here’s a key clip.
3. Moonrise Kingdom
I love Wes Anderson, and the films that people don’t like, I love. So it’s weird to see one that everyone likes, which has all the elements of Anderson that people usually hate. It’s perhaps the sweetness of the story – two kids on island runaway and build their own fantasy life – while the adults around them fall apart. It’s high fantasy, on an Amelie-esque level, but it works perhaps it’s easier to swallow when it’s a kid’s fantasy. Anderson is on fire – the scene where Sam and Suzy write letters – is the kind of thing that only Anderson can pull off.
4. 21 Jump Street
This is the funniest film of the year. This is Zoolander/Anchorman level humour. Every second line is awesome, dozens upon dozens of laugh out loud moments. There’s no reason for this film to be this good. But every cliche is popped, but it’s a well made teen drama action thing. It doesn’t blow minds like Cabin In the woods, but it’s just funny. Channing Tataum, who I’ve never seen before, is the funniest thing in the film. And the greatest cameo of the year. Put it on, turn your mind off a little and just laugh.
5. We Bought A Zoo
I saw this on a plane, on my own, thinking a lot about people dying. And Cameron Crowe, for better or worse, can really tap into heart strings. Based on a true story about a family dealing with loss by buying a zoo, it’s a family film with cute kids and cute animals. But above all that is those moments that make Cameron Crowe such a crowd pleaser. When Matt Damon explains how he met his late wife, it’s one of the more heartbreaking and sweet scenes you’ll ever see. The film goes exactly where you expect – it’s happy, quiet heroism. But done really well and again, much better than it needed to be.
6. The Master
Long, rambling, and there’s no story to speak of. But it’s brilliant. Always captivating, every frame is a winner, and nailed down by Joaquin Phoenix, who I normally hate, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Phoenix in particular is totally lost in his character. For my part, it is the struggle for control – a man who wants the world to bend to his image, and the impossibility of people being tamed. As much as it’s denied by the filmmakers – it is a tale about religion, and the struggle of religion. Weird, wonderful and you hold your breath the whole time.
7. The Avengers
In a lot of ways, the fact this film exists is a miracle. It’s easy to pull apart the elements that don’t work, but it terms of pure superhero joy, it doesn’t get better than this. A big colourful spectacle, with big laughs, air punching moments and just enough sophistication to lift it above the summer blockbuster. The praise for this film mainly comes from the fact it’s not utterly terrible. I’ve never loved the Avengers, or any of the films before it, but the pay off was completely worth it.
8. The Raid Redemption
A brilliant martial arts film. A group of police men raid a slum tower, hoping to get to the boss at the top. But they are trapped and the entire tower turns against them, and they have to fight their way out – or to the top. It’s one big video game of a film, but it’s the action – old school martial arts film with some of the most inventive fight scenes you’ll see this year. It’s never indulgent, very cool characters and a great ride of a film.
This probably should be higher but it came out in January in Oz, and these kinds of lists are awlays tough on January stuff. A love letter to the silent era, it’s a fairy tale of a boy who lives in a Parisian train station, trying to build a clockwork robot. But it quickly turns the magic of robots into the technical magic of film. Surrounded by fun chracters, and set in a time and place that I love, it’s just a quiet thrill of a film.
10. To Rome With Love
I love Woody Allen, and I’m utterly biased. His humour just gets me, and as soon as he’s on screen, it lights up. The film is big and silly – four stories set in Rome that have little connection – but it’s chance for Rome to look pretty, some fun escapism, people looking sexy, and killer one liners. Nothing deep – it’s a throw back to Allen’s weird, funny films.