Mild Ranting

Review Of 2012: The 10 Worst Movies I Saw In 2012

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It’s that time of year when I feel the Christmas spirit. No, wait, it’s actually sympathy kicking in for actual film critics, who have to watch whatever is put in front of them, rather than picking and choosing. But at least they don’t then suffer a crushing disappointment when something they were hoping would turn out to be good – or at least not unspeakably awful – turn out to be as enjoyable as getting a prostate examination from Captain Hook.

So this isn’t the list of the ten worst films of the year; even though the number one on the list I scored 1/10, my lowest possible score, there must have been ten worse films released this year, I just had the common sense to avoid them. (Although there was a period of about 20 minutes when I was considering doing a double bill of The Three Stooges and Keith Lemon: The Movie, before thankfully I came to my senses.) What this is, then, is the list of the ten most disappointing films out of those I chose to see this year, and a brief word of explanation as to what possessed me. (If there’s a hyperlink on the title, then you can click through for the full review.)

This Means War10. This Means War

Reason I watched it: more in hope than expectation.

If This Means War achieves one thing from its unfortunate existence, it does manage to prove conclusively that two wrongs don’t make a right. You cannot take a sub-standard rom-com and bolt it uncomfortably to a sub-standard action movie and hope to have anything other than one giant disappointment. I would like to say I expect more of Chris Pine, but that’s pretty much based on being Captain Kirk; I absolutely feel I’m entitled to expect more of Tom Hardy at this point in his career, but they should both have known better with McG’s name attached. The saddest thing is either that Chelsea Handler is the best thing in this, or that she’s the best thing despite acting like she’s reading all of her lines off of Reese Witherspoon’s forehead.

9. Paranormal Activity 4

Reason I watched it: I have a Cineworld card and I’ve seen the first three. I know that’s more of an excuse than a reason…

The juggernaut finally runs out of steam. After a film making effectively creepy use of its single camera set-ups, then somehow repeating the trick in a sequel with multiple cameras, then growing slightly tired by the time that the third entry rolled around with only a moving camera to add to the box of tricks, the best that this unwanted fourquel can offer is some infra-red malarkey using an Xbox. Tired, scareless and witless, it’s also hamstrung by the continuing need to impose a mythology, and also the need to return somewhat to the present after travelling back in time over the course of 2 and 3. This is very much a tween entry in the film, and taking an age to get to a minimal payoff will only work so many times; which is why, of course, we’re getting Paranormal Activity 5 next year. Will someone please drag me off backwards before it gets here?

8. Battleship

Reason I watched it: It had Liam Neeson in. Nowhere near enough, as it turns out.

It’s all very loud and full of hardware, but Battleship takes itself far too seriously for the most part with only odd flashes of the joy that flood through the best blockbusters. The set pieces are underwhelming, the best members of the cast are sidelined for long stretches and the alien ships are either covered in water or shown in EXTREME CLOSE-UP. It successfully captures the feeling of watching two other people playing the board game without remembering how dull that is if you’re not participating. Also, those expecting logic or motivation should check those expectations at the door. The occasional moment of wit or invention is blown apart by long stretches of dullness or idiocy. DID I MENTION IT’S VERY LOUD?

7. The Iron Lady

Reason I watched it: It was the first film I saw this year, and just wanted to have an opinion on Meryl Streep for the Oscars. My opinion? She didn’t deserve to win.

Meryl Streep is eerily hypnotic when in full flow, but it’s just one of the film’s many failings that it spends as much time with her doddering around under the effects of dementia as it does powering through cabinet meetings and raging at the weak men populating the House Of Commons. Some spectacularly misjudged casting (Anthony Head as Geoffrey Howe anyone? Thought not) and poor direction don’t help matters, and the failure to either revere or condemn its central figure leave it sitting on a dull and uninteresting fence that might teach you less than you already know.

6. Tulpa

Reason I watched it: It was part of the day I spent at FrightFest this summer. Thrillingly/ excruciatingly, members of the cast and crew were in attendance while the audience laughed themselves silly.

Well-meaning might be the best thing I can say about Tulpa, which is odd for a film looking to reinvigorate those giallo horror traditions of Italy. Unfortunately, after a reasonably creepy and sadistic opening, it then calls upon all of the worst traditions of the genre, including having all of the cast speak in English, even if it’s clearly not their first language. While this isn’t uncommon for a giallo, the relatively high production values (at least comparably) throw the other failings into much sharper focus, and the unfortunate comedy highpoint of this comes in the form of Michela Cescon’s Joanna, poorly acted and even more poorly overdubbed, so that she appears to be reacting to grave news as if she’s just seen a cute kitten video on YouTube. It’s about the worst thing I’ve seen this year in reality, but it’s heart was in the right place and it didn’t really know it was that bad, so I’ve slightly taken pity on it.

5. Electrick Children

Reason I watched it: It was distributed by Picturehouse’s distribution arm, who’d distributed Cave Of Forgotten Dreams. (They also distributed Miranda July’s The Future, which I loathed so much in 2011. Hey ho.)

An insufferable road movie that goes precisely nowhere, Electrick Children assembles an eclectic cast from the likes of Rory Culkin to Billy Zane and promptly gives them nothing interesting to do. The idea sounds intriguing on paper (girl becomes pregnant listening to a tape, then goes searching for the “father”) but the execution is shocking, meandering through contrivances and searching for a rebellious streak that, when found, would make John Major look like an ultra-radical. Devoid of any interesting characters or memorable dialogue and despairingly predictable, Electrick Children lacks spark and energy and fails to deliver on pretty much any level.

4. Dark Shadows

Reason I watched it: Because I desperately want Tim Burton to be making good live action movies. This was just desperate…

Not only the worst Burton-Depp collaboration of the eight they’ve made, but a strong contender for Tim Burton’s worst film yet, which from a man who made the Planet Of The Apes remake is especially dispiriting. The tone veers wildly from high camp to sub-gothic horror and spectacularly fails to nail either with any level of success. The characters are to a person both contemptuous and uninteresting, and it often feels as if Burton’s striving for in-jokes he’s not prepared to let anyone else in on. The Seventies setting is hackneyed and wasted, scenes with the likes of Christopher Lee add nothing while jarring terribly and the charisma vacuum engulfing the characters kills interest stone dead by about half way through; not even a convoluted final reel that throws in unconvincing plot developments can resurrect it from the grave.

3. The Wedding Video

Reason I watched it: I’d actually gone to the cinema to see a double bill of The Bourne Legacy and The Expendables 2, but having been delayed en route I missed Bourne and had nothing better to do for two hours. Turns out sitting in the car would have been preferable… (Once again, the curse of the Cineworld card.)

Why do makers of supposed romantic comedies believe that the best way to show a couple getting together is to show them arguing and bitching in a totally unfunny manner? I still have nightmares about the Vince Vaughn / Jennifer Aniston “comedy” The Break-Up, and The Wedding Video plumbs similarly excruciating depths. I feel genuinely sorry for Lucy Punch, who carries on manfully (womanfully?) while the rest of the film disintegrates around her. It’s desperately lacking in laughs for a comedy – I counted one, and that’s generous – and the acting of the male stars leaves a lot to be desired, especially Rufus Hound who has an air of really bad sixth form revue about him. Also, the stupidity of the ending beggars belief, even considering what’s gone before.

2. House At The End Of The Street

Reason I watched it: It had Jennifer Lawrence in it, and at the time it had a good rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I’d been so obsessed with the Cambridge Film Festival I’d missed that this didn’t screen for critics, so that those rating were probably from the film critic for Kangaroo Weekly in Tasmania and Armond White. (Ask your mum and dad if you’re not sure who Armond White is. They’ll help you Google him.)

The acronym used in the promotional material for this film was HATES, which not only doesn’t work as an acronym but is also an unfortunate prediction for my reaction to the shameless rehash horror. Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actress, as she’s proven time and time again, but here you can see the desperation in her eyes, not driven by a psycho killer but instead the realisation of what she’s let herself in for, and by the mid-point she’s clearly dialling her performance in. There’s a total lack of scares, characters commit the worst kinds of horror movie stupidity to move the plot forward and it’s so poorly shot that any remaining interest goes out the window. Elizabeth Shue and Gil Bellows do enough supporting grunt work to just about keep this from the ignominy of being my worst film of the year, but it’s a close run thing.

Seven Psychopaths1. Seven Psychopaths

Reason I watched it: Two manky hookers and a racist dwarf.

Yes, Martin “In Bruges” McDonagh, who gave us one of the comedy classics of the Noughties, has managed to produce something so far at the opposite end of the spectrum they may have to get two spectrums and staple them together to allow for the drop off in quality. Where In Bruges sparkled with crisp dialogue, bristled with emotion and even managed to squeeze out some pathos, Seven Psychopaths feels lazy, but actually then attempts to justify that lack of effort through a self-reflexive journey through the mind of a movie-maker. What results is a film which feels nothing more than an active and agressive insult to the intelligence of the viewer, as every single plot development becomes predictable and trite and the whole enterprise slowly and excruciatingly disappears up its own backside. I can only hope this is a brief aberration in a fine career rather than a sign of what’s to come, but Seven Psychopaths – it genuinely pains me to say – was my worst film of 2012.

Previous years:

The 10 Worst Movies I Saw In 2011

Review Of 2012: The 10 Most Resolutely Meh Films Of 2012

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What you tend to find at the end of the year is an avalanche of lists celebrating the best films of the year. No-one ever sets out to celebrate those films for which the middle of the road is the best they can hope for, and for good reason; awards are there for the pinnacle of achievement, not the also rans. However, democracy is a bad idea as, in general, people are stupid (not you, dear reader, of course; you’re actually giving up your time to read what I’ve written, so you are a genius), and not all the right movies get the credit they deserve. There are some that seem to have garnered high praise, where moderate acknowledgement or general apathy would have been more appropriate. So here’s the list of the ten that have, in my humble obviously correct opinion, received an entirely incorrect amount of credit this year.

For each film I’ve shown the score from the aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, showing the level of general critical consensus. A reminder that a score of 60% or above is Fresh, below is Rotten.

Margin CallMargin Call – Tomatometer 88%

What the critics said: “A shrewd and confident drama.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Chock full of terrific performances…” – Ian Freer, Empire

“Easily the best Wall Street movie ever made…” – David Denby, New Yorker

Why they’re wrong: The biggest mistake in Margin Call is the oversimplification of the financial crisis. What this amounts to is then a series of men in suits looking at screens and looking concerned, then acting as if the implications of that were obvious. While many of the two or three handers that follow are dramatically engaging, it’s about as satisfying biting into a Scotch egg to discover a hole in the middle. The drama simply doesn’t work with nothing to bind the meat around.

HaywireHaywire – Tomatometer 80%

What the critics said: “A rollicking good ride” – David Jenkins, Time Out

“A fresh, muscular payback movie” – Simon Crook, Empire

“Watching Carano kick, spin, flip, choke, crack and crush the fiercest of foes… is thoroughly entertaining, highly amusing and frankly somewhat awe-inspiring” – Betsy Sharkey, LA Times

Why they’re wrong: Another instance of great moments with no foundation, but this time instead of a central concept it’s actual drama that we’re missing. Gina Carano is attractive, feisty, just about a good enough actress so as to not be distracting and kicks huge amounts of ass, but it’s less interesting than a walk down a one-way street, so utterly bereft is the narrative of any sense of drama, plot or anything to engage more than one part of the brain.

Pirates!The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! – Tomatometer 86%

What the critics said: “Sure footed, witty and zany fun” – Claudia Puig, USA Today

“A clever piece of business that is a complete pleasure to experience.” – Kenneth Turan, LA Times

“Another Aardman triumph.” – Olly Richards, Empire

Why they’re wrong: Aardman have a reputation for delivering fantastic animation with heart, soul and plenty of laughs, and while all are present here they’re served in much smaller portions than usual, replacing belly laughs and wild inspiration with moderate chuckles and the odd flash of wit. It’s a shame, as it feels like there was the potential for a classic within the material, it just wasn’t exploited to its full potential.

BraveBrave – Tomatometer 78%

What the critics said: “A rousing, gorgeously animated good time” – Pete Travers, Rolling Stone

“…packs a level of poignancy on par with such beloved male-bonding classics as Finding Nemo” – Peter Debruge, Variety

“A hugely entertaining, properly magical adventure” – Matthew Turner, View London

Why they’re wrong: Pixar have had a fantastic run, and you can’t fault them for wanting to try something different; it does feel slightly misanthropic to criticise it when that doesn’t come off, but this push into a true fairy tale ironically loses some of the magic that we associate with Pixar. Again, a lack of real laughs doesn’t help, but the setting and the lack of sympathetic characters at the start also make it difficult to truly engage the magic.

UntouchableThe Intouchables – Tomatometer 76%

What the critics said: “This is not a film that will change the whole world, but one that just might charm it.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“The Intouchables is simply irresistible” – Ed Gibbs, The Sun Herald

“The cliches are so skillfully navigated only the heartless will fail to be charmed” – Matt Glasby, Flicks.co.nz

Why they’re wrong: A case of almost too much of a good thing, The Intouchables has all the right ingredients for a light souffle of a movie, but proceeds to bake them together into a cynical, leaden frittata instead. Pretty much every cliché you can imagine turns up, to the point where the last act is just a soul-destroying progression of predictability and cheese. The last kicker comes when the real life counterparts are revealed, and they look and act nothing like their filmic equivalents; it’s not inconceivable to think that their story was nothing like this, either.

Killing Them SoftlyKilling Them Softly – Tomatometer 76%

What the critics said: “A caustic but thoroughly impressive kick in the teeth” – Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph

“A juicy, bloody, grimy and profane crime drama that amply satisfies as a deep-dish genre piece” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

“It is outstandingly watchable, superbly and casually pessimistic” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

Why they’re wrong: There’s a wonderfully grimy crime thriller at the heart of Killing Them Softly, but oddly for a man whose previous film lasted about four days it’s far too slight, feeling undercooked at just over an hour and a half. Additionally, there’s a political subtext that’s so heavy-handed you can practically see the hand prints where it’s been slapped around by director Andrew Dominik. Despite a few great performances, Killing Them Softly never gets out of third gear.

Beasts Of The Southern WildBeasts Of The Southern Wild – Tomatometer 85%

What the critics said: “Beautiful, funny, timely and tender, this is the American arthouse movie of the year.” – Damon Wise, Empire

“This film is a remarkable creation” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Treat yourself to the experience of this perfect storm of a film” – Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine

Why they’re wrong: Sure, there’s a lot going on here, and much of it is moving, even close to magical, but there’s almost too many ideas, and too many rough edges that don’t fit together. It almost feels that the removal of the most overtly magical elements and some quick editing might have made something more efficient out of this, but in its current form its ramshackle charm kept me only mildly engaged, rather than truly winning me over.

Silver Linings PlaybookSilver Linings Playbook – Tomatometer 91%

What the critics said: “Dramatic, emotional, even heartbreaking, as well as wickedly funny… a complete success from a singular talent.” – Kenneth Turan, LA Times

“…the exuberant new movie from David O. Russell, does almost everything right.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times

“…the scenes between Pat and Tiffany are sculpted with an almost David Mamet-like sharpness.” – Justin Chang, Variety

Why they’re wrong: The seemingly random portrayals of mental illness (let’s pick a description and assign it to a character, whether or not that’s what the character’s actually suffering from) don’t serve the characters or the story particularly well, and that means that the final moral of “cheer up and do a bit of dancing and everything will be fine” is borderline insulting. All the more unfortunate that the cracking performances, from the powerhouse of Jennifer Lawrence to the restraint of Chris Tucker, get lost in the misguided plotting.

End Of Watch – Tomatometer 85%

End Of WatchWhat the critics said: “A visceral story of beat cops that is rare in its sensitivity, rash in its violence and raw in its humor.” – Betsy Sharkey, LA Times

“…one of the best police movies in recent years…” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“End of Watch cuts past the cliches of standard police procedurals” – Peter Debruge, Variety

Why they’re wrong: The cops are fine, the action sequences are often great, and even Anna Kendrick does fantastic work as the new wife of Jake Gyllenhall’s grounded cop. But the movie makes far too much effort setting up a self-filmed visual conceit that recalls found footage, then abandons it when the going gets tricky, and the bad guys feel like they’ve been written by troubled five year olds with a dictionary of bad guy cliches that they’re having trouble reading. It then becomes impossible to take any of it remotely seriously, and the ending is left fatuous when it should be deeply emotional.

And the one where people were wrong the other way:

John CarterJohn Carter – Tomatometer 51%

What the critics said: “I felt as if someone had dragged me into the kitchen of my local Greggs, and was baking my head into the centre of a colossal cube of white bread.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

“It feels less like a revival of a classic saga than a rip-off twice removed.” – Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

“Considering it stems from a story that helped define a genre limited only by imagination, John Carter is a curiously dull film.” – Jordan Farley, SFX Magazine

Why they’re wrong: Admittedly it does take a little while to get going and it’s a little po-faced initially, but once it does John Carter is an old fashioned romp that’s a lot of fun. It’s actually the film you feel George Lucas was trying to make with large parts of Attack Of The Clones, which maybe is why everyone took to it so badly, because who wants to be reminded of that? And spare a thought for Taylor Kitsch, who got this and the genuinely awful Battleship. He deserves more luck in 2013, even if a return trip to Mars seems somewhat unlikely.

Further reading:

Review Of The Year 2010: 5 Movies Which I Didn’t Like That Much, But Most People Seemingly Did

Why the Olympics make me fear for the future of British film

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I suggested a Blackadder sketch but Tony Robinson turned it down…

It’s all over bar the shouting (and the Paralympics; actually, it’s probably only half over, isn’t it). Yes, after seven years of hope and expectation – the latter mainly that, like most things British, it would be more a Fawlty Towers writ large than a testament to organisational efficiency – the Olympics have come and gone in a flash, with the triumphs and tears still close enough to touch, but soon everything will fade into memory and Rio will come round much sooner than you think.

You might think that I’ve found all of these sporting events an irritating distraction to my normal hobby,  but on the three occasions I got to the cinema during the Games there were a fair selection of people there, not full houses by any means but far from empty. I did pick two occasions when British medal hopes were unlikely, and that proved to be a safe assumption. But other than that, I’ve been wrapped up utterly in the drama of the Games, every single medal and event proving as exciting as the last.

But actually my love affair with the Olympics goes back much further; I was fascinated by them as a child, to the point where when I had to give a talk for my GCSE English Language on a subject of my choice, the Olympics was the most obvious selection (and I got top marks for it, too). I even saw an episode of Mastermind once where the contestant had selected it as a specialist subject, and I had outscored him; if only the general knowledge questions hadn’t been quite so fiendish, and if someone hadn’t just stolen my potential specialised subject, I could have been in there.

There’s something compelling about the Olympian ideal as encapsulated by their modern founder, Pierre de Coubertin, that it’s not the triumph but the struggle that’s important, not necessarily to have conquered your opponent but to have fought well. It appealed to me as a youngster to the extent I managed to get bottom marks for achievement and top marks for effort at my grammar school’s Physical Education lessons, before I was eventually relegated to the role of scorer. It didn’t win me any prizes, but still gave a certain sense of self-satisfaction. That sense can still be seen in the likes of Hamdou Issaka, trailing in three minutes behind the rest of the field in a six minute race during Eton Downey’s rowing events, but for many the pressure is much greater, carrying what they believe to be the hopes of a nation and unable to control their emotions when only able to deliver silver or bronze when they thought nothing less than gold would do.

It’s that sense of golden glory that has actually come to define these Games for Britain. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a second of it, but I struggle to believe that we’d have seen these Games as quite the success had we taken home the seven gold medals that Australia did, rather than the twenty-nine that our athletes so thrillingly made their own. That success has allowed the nation to revel in the sense of being a major power for the first time since the fall of an empire, and doesn’t a little power feel good? I don’t think anyone would begrudge Britain its moment of glory, as unless something miraculous happens we’ll drop down the medals table next time like every other host that’s then lost its home advantage.

But that gold rush has also allowed us to market ourselves as a nation to the world, and the politicians of the nation have all been out in force, looking to capitalise on some of that good will. David Cameron has already made a commitment to elite sport, confirming that £125 million, the current annual budget for that elite sport, will now be guaranteed for the next four years, rather than the next two. It’s wonderful to see, but without the investment in sport in our primary schools and sport at a grass roots level in this country, there’s a risk that the supply line just won’t be there.

The other triumph in many eyes of the past two and a bit weeks has been the opening ceremony, which did much to highlight to the world just what we think makes Britain great. The arts have sat comfortably next to sport for the duration of the Games, and as well as highlighting Britain’s great musical heritage, the Games have also shown us as a nation how much film means to us, from James Bond and the Queen’s parachute display team to the Bean-influenced Chariots of Fire skit (and the music from that film playing over 300 times during the festivities, until everyone I spoke to was pretty sick of it, so ingrained in the British sporting and cultural psyche it’s become), and even the sight of Gregory’s Girl projected onto the side of a house that later flew into the air to reveal the creator of the world wide web underneath, the Olympics was like a stick of rock with the letters “FILM” running all the way through it.

My fear though, and I can only hope it’s unfounded, is that the same pressure and funding ethos being brought to bear on British sport is what we’ve already seen applied to the British film industry. On the 11th January this year, just prior to a review published on government funding for the film industry, the Prime Minister stated that the film industry should primarily be supporting “commercially successful pictures”, a view that was widely decried at the time, but one that seems scarily similar to the elite prioritisation being applied to Games funding. It’s the gold medals, and the gold statues, that bring prosperity to the economy, but what risks getting lost in the rush to glory is that without the likes of Danny Boyle and smaller British films like his debut Shallow Grave, there’d be no-one to go on and make Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire or his Olympic opening ceremony.

Already there are too many British films getting lost in the mix and struggling to find distribution or funding, and with a country in recession and sport likely to claim a larger proportion of a diminishing pot for the next few years, it’s going to be just that little bit harder for those trying to keep the British film industry going. Let’s encourage British film makers to their craft without feeling that they need to be striving for box office success or Oscar glory every time they turn on a camera, and that they do their best in their own endeavours, and let’s just hope they don’t have to put up too much of a fight to continue to make British film the success that helped to put it at the heart of one of the most uplifting two weeks that this country has ever seen.

The Kindest Cut Of All – Time To Lose The 12A Rating?

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Yet another person who said it was just like Battle Royale was about to face the wrath of Jennifer Lawrence.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: The following blog is rated 18 for strong language, imagery, and a discussion that’s probably not going to interest anyone much under 17. Seriously, if you’re even the slightest bit squeamish and haven’t seen David Cronenberg’s The Fly, read on with care.

Forget your Harry Potters and your Twilights, they’re old news. The latest tweenage sensation, the young adult novel The Hunger Games, will be unleashed on us all in just a week. Well, strictly speaking, 99.92% of The Hunger Games will be released on the UK in just a week, for the distributor has taken the decision to take out seven seconds to receive a 12A rating instead of a 15. This isn’t the first time that this has happened this year, with The Woman In Black similarly cut for its release last month, this time losing six seconds of its run time. Should we care that we’re losing an amount of time that isn’t really practical enough to do anything with?

Read the rest of this entry »

People Are Idiots

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Hand ME the keys, you f****** c**ks***er! Oh, is it not that kind of line up? Sorry.

If ever you wanted proof that democracy is an inherently flawed concept and that we should all move to a glorious dictatorship, then the announcement of today’s Orange Rising Star Award is a case in point, a catalogue of idiocy that reflects poorly on you, me and everyone we know. Most awards ceremonies are content with allowing 40-50% of their decisions to look bad at the time and worse on reflection, but the BAFTA film awards seem to have come in for a particular level of stick, as the recent announcement of the longlist seemed to please precisely no-one.

But the Orange Rising Star award, the one publicly nominated award at the BAFTA ceremony next month, has taken the cake, the biscuit and various other types of confectionery for levels of general stupidity, and no-one is free from judgement here.

1. The Orange Rising Star award is stupid

I don’t disagree as such with the idea of a rising star award, as if you’re going to hand out glittery baubles to people for being in films, you might as well reward newcomers. But in the six years it’s been handed out so far, the Rising Star award has largely been given to people who’ve somewhat, er, risen. Over the last three years, it’s gone firstly to Noel Clarke, who’d been on screens in Doctor Who for four years, and was nominated on the strength writing and directing a sequel to a film that he’d also written, two years earlier. Two years ago, Kristen Stewart was hardly fresh faced when she won on the strength of several Twilight films, and last year was Tom Hardy.

I have a heterosexual man crush on Tom Hardy almost as big as the one I have for Ryan Gosling – i.e. huge – but he was the bad guy in a Star Trek film ten years earlier, had won an Evening Standard Theatre award in 2003, and even his turn in Bronson was the year before his smallish part in Inception finally got nominated for the award. Tom Hardy, Rising Star in 2011, was 33 at the time he picked up the award. Whoever thinks these people are rising stars are idiots.

2. The voting process for the Orange Rising Star award is stupid

The announcement today was of the final shortlist. This is a shortlist of five that’s been selected from a longlist of eight. It’s difficult to consider this to be anything other than a shameless marketing exercise on the part of Orange, as if you’re going to ask a panel of experts to pick a list of eight people, then eliminate only three of them in the first public vote, why not just get the experts to pick five in the first place? Or cut from eight to three? Asking the public to vote twice, for something with little return for their second vote, just feels overly cynical. Whoever put together this process is an idiot.

3. The five choices out of the eight nominees are idiotic

Jessica Chastain. Remember her? My top ginger of 2011, she went from relative obscurity to worldwide stardom in 2011, having been in… (deep breath) The Tree Of Life, The Debt, The Help, Texas Killing Fields, Take Shelter and Coriolanus in the last twelve months. Surely the textbook definition of someone whose star is rising. If the Queen of Gingers isn’t to your liking, though, then consider Jennifer Lawrence. Unbelievably powerful in Winter’s Bone, she followed it up with a scene-stealing turn in the X-Men prequel this year, and has nabbed the starring role in the next big Harry Potter / Twilight type thing, The Hunger Games.

Sadly, both of these up and coming talents (and Felicity Jones) have missed out on the final five, at the expense of the people in the picture at the top. If you know numbers one and four in that line up on sight, then you’re doing very well. Any award ceremony that puts them in (and they are Adam Deacon and Eddie Redmayne) above Chastain and Lawrence has committed a fail of the most epic variety. And whose half-brained decision was that, exactly? Ours, of course. The public failed to vote in big enough numbers to keep the right people in, or indeed to have the sense of taste to work out who the right people were. People are idiots.

4. Anyone who didn’t vote and who allowed this injustice to happen is an idiot

I didn’t vote. I’m an idiot.

Think! Get Angry! Run!

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People of Britain, your country needs you! Despicable deeds are being perpetrated up and down the country, and it’s down to the civilised few to recognise this injustice and stamp it out, once and for all! We spoke to a middle-aged ginger man in Cambridgeshire who told us of once such unfortunate incident.

“Yeah, I was at my local Cineworld for The Ides Of March, and I walked in and sat down. Ryan Gosling looked as if he’d lost a load of weight and gone really pasty, but then I realised the film was being projected in the wrong aspect ratio and they’d left the house lights up.”

“Were you the only witness to this unspeakable crime, sir?”
 

“No, that’s the worst thing about it, in a way it was more terrible because everyone else was just sitting there, like they really thought Ryan Gosling really did have a really thin head, or that films were supposed to be shown with the lights on.”

“Dashed awful, frankly. But surely this must be the first time you’ve witnessed such a crime?”
 

“‘Afraid not. I’ve been to over a hundred films this year, and I’ve seen one film projected on the right ratio on the curtains, two with the sound too low and one where they left the door of the projection room open and a bright light in the corridor lit up the entire cinema.”

“Whatever did you do, sir?
 

“The projection room incident happened at The Tree Of Life, and to this day I don’t really know if it’s any good. It had Brad Pitt shouting at some dinosaurs on a beach, I think, I was too distracted to take it in. For all I know it might have been The Flintstones.”

Situations like this are occurring all over the country, as cinemas increasingly find themselves relying more on technology and less on real human beings like you and me. When Mr Robot gets it wrong, it’s down to you, Mr and Mrs Britain, to put things right again. So don’t be afraid to act! Here’s your simple guide to know what to do to avoid being caught in a panic when disaster strikes.

1. Think!

Correct Gosling.
Upsetting Gosling.

Examine your surroundings. Is everything what it seems? Can you tell the difference between these Goslings? Until you can learn to tell the difference between these instantly, you’re of no use to your country. But once you’ve mastered this step, only one test remains. Turn the light on, then turn it off. If you can tell the difference, you’re ready for step 2.

2. Get Angry!

Scores of people suffer in silence because they’re too embarrassed to admit there’s a problem. Admittedly it’s very British to keep a stiff upper lip and suffer in silence, but it’s even more British to fight injustice and to help your fellow man and woman. But one needs motivation to leave a film for which one has paid good money, so you may have to get angry. Rail at the injustice of a cinema so uncaring of your needs that it doesn’t even care if it projects the edges of your film over the curtains! Demand satisfaction when your film is so out of focus that you think you’ve been possessed by Mr Magoo! Be prepared to speak up if you can’t hear any of the voices on the soundtrack! The only way you’re going to put right what has now gone wrong is to have a deep desire to voice that concern, but the blasé, the indifferent and the apathetic need not apply.

3. Run!

Now, you’ve spotted an injustice, and you’re about to burst out of your clothes in a furious rage! But the longer you leave it, the more of the film that you’ll miss, or have to suffer being poorly projected. So put down the popcorn, discard the drink and run to the front as fast as those legs will carry you. If you stay in your seat, nothing will happen, and if everyone waits for someone else to go, everyone will stay in their seat, Gosling will stay skinny and you simply won’t enjoy the film. But if you do complain to the management, then you can enjoy the rest of your evening, safe in the knowledge that you made a difference to the world.

So remember, whenever you see poor projection or end up in a cringe-worthy cinema, you know what to do:

Think! Get Angry! Run!

This has been a public service announcement. Thank you.

Always Read The Fine Print

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I’ve always been a fan of action movies, but as I’ve gotten older my tastes have broadened out. I can’t imagine the 14 year old me being interested in Mike Leigh or Michael Haneke, but the 14 year old me didn’t like broccoli or chicken either, and thankfully I’m now able to watch more mature movies and eat Nando’s. But the action movies of my teen years were missing one thing that today’s explosionfests have, and that’s proper actors.

The likes of Schwarzenegger, Van Damme and Stallone might have all become icons to a generation, but (possibly Stallone excepted) they’ve never been renowned for their thespian skills. So the idea that we can live in an enlightened 21st century where people renowned for their talent as well as their ability to look good rolling around on the floor while firing two guns fills me with joy. The idea of a film where Tom Hardy and Chris Pine, the soon-to-be-Bane and the hopefully-will-be-again-Captain-Kirk in an action film, even an action comedy, makes me feel like we’re living in a more enlightened time, where films can be the best of both worlds. Eat your heart out, The Renaissance.

But while it sounded great in concept, the trailer that was released this week seemed to be lacking something. Actually, the poster on iTunes that accompanied the trailer wasn’t great – Pine and Hardy look like they’re auditioning for a Twilight remake and Hardy not only looks like he’s sporting a failed comb-over but has the dead-eyed look normally associated with bad motion capture, possibly because the photo was taken after he signed his contract. Things were looking up in the trailer – for at least the first thirty seconds or so, which looks to have all the requisite explosions, moody looks and men and cars diving off high places. But then…

Two minutes of mirth-free, cringe-enducing mugging follow. Jokes fall so flat you imagine that the CGI budget’s been spent on removing the tumbleweeds and the kind of embarrassing set-ups that make even Jennifer Lopez rom-coms look the height of sophistication. Yes, at one point, the dastardly Tom Hardy shoots Chris Pine with a tranquilliser to cause him to fall asleep mid-date. Oh, the hilarity. If you’ve recently had any kind of surgery in which you had to have your side split in order to reach internal organs, rest assured that nothing in this trailer will leave you in any danger of your wounds re-opening or those stitches coming out.

So what could possibly have gone so wrong? I watched the trailer again, in the forlorn hope that actually I was in a bad mood, and that this was a quality action comedy which I had just misjudged, but no, it unfortunately looks so toe-curlingly desperate that it could set the careers of both its stars back five years. But on re-watching the trailer, I noticed one very small name in the end credits.

Oh. That’ll be it then.

If you still don’t believe me, watch here, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

One Of The Signs Of The Coming Apocalypse

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Yeah, I screwed up X-Men and now I'm after the Oscars!

Brett Ratner has today been announced as the co-producer for the 2012 Oscars telecast. The man that brought us Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand and Red Dragon will be bringing comedy (apparently) to the shiny gold man fest in Hollywood next February. In other Oscar news, Oprah Winfrey is getting one, seemingly for being a nice person. Anyone else want to book a holiday for late February?

Why I Don’t Sit Up For The Oscars Anymore

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Tom Hooper, that’s the reason.

OK, maybe I should qualify that a bit. This weekend has been a fascinating series of contests, fought by competitors at the top of their respective fields, producing some scintillating viewing and some incredibly close, and unpredictable calls. Then after that, we had the Oscars. Yes, for anyone who loves their sport almost as much as their film, and is as English as The King’s Speech is British (i.e. very), then this has been a great weekend: England earning a hard fought victory over France in the Six Nations rugby, and an even harder fought tie at the World Cup cricket against India. Thrown in Luke Donald’s triumph over Martin Kaymer at the WGC Match Play golf, and the Carling Cup final’s amazing comedy ending between Arsenal and Birmingham, and this weekend of sport has had it all.

The theme throughout all of that is that the best person or team won. In the final case, it came down to an extraordinary piece of bad luck, but live television means that we can see every stage of the competitive process, almost feel the sweat dripping from the pores of the exhausted competitors as they struggle for one last ounce of effort. Of course, justice isn’t always done in sporting contests, but by and large this weekend the right results came out, and watching them was tense, very dramatic and ultimately worthwhile.

It’s been a while since you can say the same about the Oscars, which have now become pretty much the antithesis of a sporting contest. Already the poor reviews for James Franco and Anne Hathaway’s hosting gig are turning up in large numbers; if you’re going to have a three hour awards ceremony, you think you would at least want to make the watching of it in some way enjoyable, but all that’s left is to watch who carries off the awards, and most of them have been entirely predictable. For the second year in a row, Best Actor and Actress have been nailed-on certainties for weeks prior to the awards, and the only acting Oscar where there there was any doubt was Supporting Actress. As it turns out, even a disastrous self-funded ad campaign didn’t dent Melissa Leo’s chances.

Consider that I'll drop an F-bomb accepting the award. Now do you want me?

But every year, hoping against hope, I still cling to the increasingly naive belief that some sense of justice will be meted out at the awards, and not in a Jeff Bridges going round and offing the poorer nominees while wearing an eye-patch kind of way. The majority of people this year seemed to be predicting a split of the top two nominees, for Best Picture and Director, and that’s what BAFTA had done only a few short weeks ago, giving Director to David Fincher for The Social Network but The King’s Speech picking up Best Picture. It wouldn’t have been the first time Oscar did that, though, with Ang Lee (for Brokeback Mountain) and Steven Spielberg (for Saving Private Ryan) as examples where the seeming favourite picked up the Director statue, only for another, less critically acclaimed film to steal in and take Best Picture (Crash and Shakespeare In Love, in case you’d successfully wiped that horror from your memory).

But no, this year a man who cut his teeth on Byker Grove and who just turned down Iron Man 3 has taken the award, at the same time his film got Best Picture. Given its capturing of the time it was made in so perfectly, it is somewhere between disheartening and heartbreaking that The Social Network’s only real love was for Best Adapted Screenplay, a deserving Aaron Sorkin picking up that one. But the injustice goes deeper than that.

If you look at the Best Director category, and then consider the directorial effort and achievement, separated from the film itself, then it’s a hard job to argue that the best five got the nominations. Within his fellow nominees, I can’t help but feel that both Fincher and Aronofsky were more deserving of the award. When looking at the other five Best Picture nominees who missed out, then Danny Boyle, Debra Granik, Lee Unkrich and especially Christopher Nolan all probably deserved slots more than David O. Russell or the Coen brothers, or even Tom Hooper, but their films weren’t serious contenders for the top award, so they missed out. Others who excelled in direction in overlooked films, such as Mike Leigh or David Michod, also didn’t get a look in.

Unfortunately Fincher, who is now 0 from 2 for nominations, is in good company. (Spare a thought for Christopher Nolan, who’s yet to even get a nomination.) While Mike Nichols, Warren Beatty, Ron Howard and Barry Levinson all have a shiny gold man to put on their mantlepiece, the directing efforts of Quentin Tarantino, Alan Parker and Mike Leigh (2 nominations each), Ridley Scott, David Lynch, James Ivory, Ingmar Bergman (3 each), Peter Weir, Sidney Lumet, Federico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick (4 each) and Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock (5 nominations each) have never been directly rewarded by their peers for their efforts in a particular year, although Mr Oscar has occasionally put his hand in his pocket and given out a special award for those who’ve been snubbed a little too often.

And this is why I no longer make the effort to stay up for the Oscars. Despite the fact that it’s in the exact middle of the night for us, thus rendering staying up late or getting up very early as impractical options on their own, and that the accompanying awards show has all the charisma of an elderly dentist with halitosis half the time, it might still be worth it if the awards themselves generally found their way into the hands of the most talented individuals in each case. As long as the Tom Hoopers of this world continue to win, then I’ll be sleeping soundly in my bed come Oscar night.

Christopher Robin Has Terminal Cancer!

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It's OK, Tigger, it's just an attention-grabbing headline.

My wife is very tolerant of my movie addiction, so I’m always keen to get her opinion on things I think she’ll enjoy. Sometimes that’s a greyer area, as there are certain things in life which have meant a lot to her and if one of them finds its way back into popular culture, that can be a potentially sensitive area. Take, for example, the new Winnie The Pooh trailer which ended up on internets everywhere earlier this week.

I know that Winnie The Pooh has a tender place in her heart, not least due to her father reading her the stories so often when she was young, that he knew every word off by heart, from heffalumps to woozles. Not of course, this Winnie The Pooh:

It's like being in the Disney shop.

Or indeed, this abomination against nature that surfaced a few years ago:

It's legally quite OK to use Darby dolls for voodoo purposes.

But, of course, this Winnie The Pooh:

Old Pooh. (Insert your own joke. Use "piglet in rear" if struggling.)

I will confess that when I became aware that a new Pooh movie was on the way and that John Lasseter had helped guide its direction, from the descriptions I was mistakenly expecting something like the latter image. Silly me. Of course it looks very much like the first of the three, in the style of the classic Sixties movies. So much so, that the only thing that distinguishes it as being contemporary is the Keane song that’s being played over it – a track so maudlin that, when I solicited my wife’s opinion, her reaction was, somewhat unexpectedly, “It’s so sad – it’s like Christopher Robin has terminal cancer or something!” Keane, you have a lot to answer for.

I can only hope that Lasseter knows what he’s doing – hand-drawn animation is struggling, and it’s certainly a brave move to put such a movie with such a distinctive style back in cinemas, and I personally hope that the story is nearer Pixar’s more recent output than Disney’s, while still retaining something of A.A. Milne’s original intent. Whatever happens, it will be fascinating to see how this one pans out. Get well soon, Christopher Robin.