City Island

Review of the Year 2010: 10 Movies You Should Have Seen And Probably Didn’t

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Over the past few years I’ve become more and more of a cinema obsessive, which is why you’re reading this blog now. But this year has made me realise how truly lucky I am; a loving wife, two low maintenance rabbits and a slightly petulant cat, all my own hair and three quarters of my own teeth, the rest sadly rotted away on a diet of cinema popcorn and fizzy drinks when I was younger. But for the last three years, I’ve really expanded my horizons and seen the films that looked interesting, even if they didn’t look like they’d be especially popular. It seems I’m pretty much on my own in doing that, or at least sometimes it feels like it.

If you live in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, then you have my sympathy. But if you don’t, then you really should have been getting out this year to see more films like this. I see my job as to helping to encourage the masses on a similar journey to widen their horizons – thankfully, being able to write stuff like this on the internet saves me physically having to drag people off the street. (Although don’t think for one minute I haven’t given it serious consideration.) Next year, no excuses, and if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution, then I suggest going to see at least one film that looks like your kind of thing but that you wouldn’t normally make the effort for. To help you in your decision making process, here’s 10 you should have seen this year.

10. City Island

You have to feel sorry for Andy Garcia. He hawked himself round what passes for chat shows on British TV these days, from everything from Top Gear to Loose Women, and for what? His best performance in nearly 20 years, an excellent Italian-American modern day farce with a wonderful cast, and the showing I was at – on a Saturday night, in a major multiplex – had four other people in, all of whom left after 20 minutes. Whoever you are, you missed a treat.



9. Chico & Rita

I saw my first surprise film this year, at the Cambridge Film Festival, and listening to the buzz from the audience beforehand, you would have thought it would be anything from Despicable Me to The Social Network. It turned out to be a rather grown-up animation about jazz in the Forties and lost love, but it would seem that springing this on people as a surprise is not only the best way to get people to see this, it might well be the only way.


8. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

In a year when readers of Empire voted Die Hard as their favourite Christmas movie, it’s clear that modern audiences like something a bit different in their Christmas stockings. I can only hope that more of you got to see this than at the screening I attended, which was sparse to say the least – this is a real Christmas treat, but one for those who still embrace a little of the cynical Ebeneezer in themselves. When Christmas is as commercial as it has become, then a little Finnish horror satire goes down a treat.



7. Skeletons

Here’s a movie that fought like a tiny David against the Goliath of cinematic distribution, creeping into art houses for occasional screenings whenever it could and spreading as much as possible by word of mouth. When one of those mouths belonged to one of the supporting cast, the excellent Jason Isaacs (and hello to Jason Isaacs, by the way), you would have thought people would be keen to track down a genuinely satisfying slice of Britishness. Well done to the special few who did.

6. Black Dynamite

So many American comedies these days end up being just “meh” rather than “ha-ha-ha”, so when one comes along that is consistently laugh out loud funny, it’s just unfortunate that the fact it’s a blaxploitation spoof seems to mean it struggles to get an audience. It’s a key example of where keeping an open mind (mainly about the fact that you only need the most passing of familiarity with the source material to get pretty much all of the jokes) can open you up to new and worthwhile cinematic experiences.



5. The First Movie

This is a prime example of keeping your eyes peeled for special events coming up at your nearest flicks, because there are often some hidden gems. Mark Cousins toured his wonderful documentary of his visit to an Iraqi village and his introduction to the power of cinema for the local children. Over twenty cities around the country were lucky enough to get not only the film, but to quiz Mark after the screening, and to understand the true passion that cinema can drive. If he can go to Iraq to do it, then surely a trip to your local cinema isn’t too much to ask.

4. The Secret In Their Eyes

There was much consternation when this beat out both A Prophet and The White Ribbon to the Foreign Language Oscar last year, mainly from people who freely admitted they hadn’t seen it, but it’s easily fit to sit in the same company as those other two (even if, admittedly, I would have given the Oscar to Haneke. But I digress). It’s a murder mystery and a love story that span twenty five years, and has probably the most audacious single shot of any film in the past few years. I can only assume that most people had decided that A Prophet and The White Ribbon must be better, and decided not to bother. Shame on you, frankly.


3. Dogtooth

Now here’s a prime example of a movie that’s a hard sell. It’s Greek, kind of a drama but kind of a comedy, it creates a world and then makes its own rules and then exploits the possibilities of those rules to the fullest extent. It’s completely bonkers, vaguely incestuous and an incredibly uplifting but also savagely violent ending, like a sadomasochistic Shawshank Redemption. I can tell you’re tempted just by reading that, aren’t you? Well, some things defy marketing (just look at the poster if you don’t believe me) but everyone I’ve spoken to or read who’s seen this thoroughly enjoyed it. So how do you get people to watch it?


2. Mary and Max

This is where I get so utterly frustrated at the distribution model we have in this country, and how hard it is for quality product to get an audience. This is a movie that graced barely a dozen cinemas in this country – it got to my local, but for one showing only. That showing was sold out, and was packed full of people, like me, blubbing their eyes out at the end of this incredible Plasticine animation, which tackles the difficult subject of mental illness head on and combines humour and sadness to impeccable effect. At the time of writing, it’s sitting at number 218 in the IMDb Top 250. Of all time. So why is it such a struggle to get people to watch?



1. Of Gods And Men

But you know, it’s not too late. You might still be seeing the poster for this in your local cinema. The poster with quotes including “beautifully told story of bravery” and “an outstanding ensemble cast” on it. The poster with the fact that it won the Grand Prix at Cannes this year slap bang in the middle of it. That poster is still in 31 cinemas around the country as we speak. If it’s in one near you, then don’t miss out. (It’s got the French bloke off of The Matrix and the bad guy from Moonraker in it, if that helps. No?)

If you’ve read this, then thank you. Now help to restore my faith in humanity – please comment if you’ve seen at least one of these movies this year in a cinema. If not, then you know what your resolution needs to be.

The Half Dozen: 6 Most Interesting Looking Movies for July

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Blimey, month two of my trailer countdown already. You may remember last month I picked out six movies that looked interesting, although not necessarily good, and I’m pleased to say in the interests of my blog that I’ve done, oh… embarrassingly badly – from that selection, I saw two 8/10 movies, a 5/10, there’s one I’m intending to see next week (The Brothers Bloom), and two (Tetro and The Time That Remains) that just didn’t hang around for long enough for me to catch. Apologies if it feels I’ve not really put the effort in on that one – I can only hope that the rest of this blog isn’t as half-arsed.

Guess it helps this month that I have tickets for two of these already? Not making the cut this month are The A Team and The Karate Kid, both of which look kind of interesting, but not enough to make the list, and The Concert, which doesn’t open near me until August, although it might be near you sooner. Click on title for trailer, y’see?


I’m interested in this, primarily for trying to work out if the world really needed another Predator movie, or if this is just an attempt to undo the bad karma of the two AvP movies. If so, it would help to explain why Ridley Scott is also making more Alien movies.

London River

Not sure if she still does, but Brenda Blethyn used to live in my home town. Other than that, she’s been in a few interesting movies, and maybe the time is ready for a 7/7 movie after all the 9/11 ones.


If excitement was a pie, then this would be one of those world record size pies with 100 chefs that you sometimes see on Guinness world record shows. It would also be made of that fancy steak that comes from cows fed on beer and filled with the finest wines known to humanity. Christopher Nolan made 3 of my 20 favourite movies of the last decade, including my number one (The Prestige – didn’t see that coming, did you?) and if he made a movie out of the phone book, I would watch it because I trust him implicitly. Also, it looks awesome.

Toy Story 3

This is in the top 10 movies of all time on IMDb, it’s the sequel to the two finest computer-animated movies of the nineties and early noughties, has already taken flipping great wodges of cash where it’s opened and frankly, if you’re not excited by this, I don’t want to play with you any more. In three weeks, I will be seeing this and Inception on the same day, in IMAX, if I don’t literally explode with excitement first, covering all around me in fragments of ginger movie blogger.

City Island

Interesting looking cast, including Alan Arkin? Check. First review on IMDb uses the word dysfunctional in its first line? Check. Will this get an airing anywhere near me if Shrek and the Twiglet saga are still sucking up all the spare screens not showing the above two movies? Er…


I still have nightmares to this day about Species, and how toe-curlingly awful it was. That anyone in it still has a career is testament to people’s exceptionally poor memories and willingness to give people a second chance. This looks a bit like it, and some people have enjoyed it. So what they heck, I’ll probably give it a go.

Right, that’s your lot for this month. If anyone’s looking to take bets on how many of these I manage to see, I’d think four would be a strong contender.

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