Monday, 31 December 2012

My Top Five Films of 2012

2012 was destined to be the best year of cinema since 1999. And we needed a good year, especially after the trainwreck that was 2011.

In many ways, 2012 was the Year of the Franchise. Franchises ended (Twilight, The Dark Knight), franchises were launched (Hunger Games, Jack Reacher), franchises were re-launched (The Amazing Spider-Man, Dredd), franchises continued (The Hobbit, Skyfall) and Marvel's five-film uber-franchise finally culminated in Marvel Avengers Assemble. Plus, no franchise news was bigger than the announcement of a new Star Wars trilogy. Thank you Lucasfilm and Disney!

So did 2012 live up to expectations? Well... mostly.

We had a solid Oscar season with The ArtistThe DescendantsWar HorseShameThe Iron Lady and the rest dividing the judges.

There were plenty of unexpected hits, with the indie circuit offering us Silver Linings PlaybookThe Perks of Being a Wallflower and Chronicle.

And even the expected hits managed to win the crowds over despite the burden of incredibly high-anticipation. The HobbitThe Dark Knight Rises and Marvel Avengers Assemble all deserve a round of applause.

Spider-Man and Dredd were given stylish reboots, Channing Tatum reinvented himself as a comedy genius in 21 Jump Street and The Muppets won an Oscar for Best Song. Best of all, the Twilight saga has finally come to an end!

Sadly, 2012 was not without its share of disappointments, none more devastating than Prometheusand John CarterYoung Adult marked the first misfire for director Jason Reitman and Aardman's Pirate Adventure lacked their usual spark.

Even some of the better films fell slightly short of classic status. Skyfall slowly edged back towards the camp days of Bond, Brave was far from Pixar's best and the much-hyped The Raid grew tiresome after the first hour of ass-kicking.

But this is being picky. 2012 will be remembered fondly.

So, like many cinephiles, I write a Top Five every year. I have only included films that were released in 2012. There are also plenty of big films that I have not seen. For instance, I cannot give an opinion onBeasts of the Southern WildL'AmoreMoonrise Kingdom and Bourne Legacy.

There are lots of great five-star films and guilty pleasures that didn't make the top five. The two closest reserves were The Artist and the brilliantly-clever, meta-horror Cabin in the Woods.

Anyway, here are my Top Five Films of 2012:


Alexander Payne returns to the director's chair with another Oscar-standard indie, although it was criminally overlooked by the Academy. George Clooney delivers another world-class performance (dramatic, heart-breaking, hilarious), whilst newcomer Shailene Woodley steals several scenes as his daughter. The Descendants tackles big issues with a light-hearted approach and offers great acting, original writing and a life-affirming sense of humour.


This sleeper hit of 2012 was a mash-up between Cloverfield and X-Men... or possibly Carrie for the YouTube generation. Debut director Josh Trank gives superheroes the found-footage treatment, casting a talented group of unknown actors and capturing the super-powered antics through home videos, CCTV footage and any available Smartphone. Chronicle is refreshing, captivating, edge-of-your-seat film-making.


A welcome return to Middle-Earth packed with the humour, horror and heart that we now expect from Jackson's Oscar-winning team. The Hobbit seamlessly embodies everything that was great aboutLOTR, whether it be grotesque monsters, over-the-top action or stunning scenery. And Martin Freeman is perfect as Bilbo. Bring on the dragon.


a beautifully-presented coming-of-age drama based on director Stephen Chbosky's own critically-acclaimed novel and driven by a talented trio of young actors. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller each reinvent themselves, crafting unforgettable characters and deserving of award recognition. This is Lost in Translation for teenagers. Feel-good, magical cinema.


After years of franchise-building, Avengers finally happened. Josh Whedon assembled the greatest superhero film to date and certainly the most fun. This is perfectly-balanced, laugh-out-loud, dream-come-true Friday night entertainment and proof that crossover comic book franchises can work on the big-screen. Marvel's faith in both the Avengers and in Whedon has paid off. Anyone for shawarma?

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Looking Back... October 2012

October in a Tweet: the festival hits arrive in cinemas alongside numerous Halloween animations and Bond proves he is still nifty at fifty. Happy Birthday 007!

Everyone was talking about... Disney purchasing Lucasfilm and announcing Episode VII for 2015! A game-changing bombshell dropped at the end of the month.

Best Film: The Perks of Being a Wallflower - a sweet, perfectly-acted, feel-good, coming-of-age drama. Lost in Translation for teenagers.

Best Actor: Javier Bardem as the literally jaw-dropping villain, Raoul Silva, in Skyfall.

Best Director: novelist Stephen Chbosky makes a strong directorial debut with Wallflower, adapting his own novel and crafting a beautiful-looking film.

Best Twist: M (Judi Dench) dying in Bond's arms in Skyfall. A bold move but understandable and a necessary kick for the fifty-year old franchise.

Best Scene: the tunnel scene from Wallflower to the tune of David Bowie's Heroes. Wonderful.

Other Best Scene: Silva's rat monologue as he strolls towards the camera. A spectacular entrance.

Worst Scene: CGI komodo dragons dragging off henchmen in Skyfall. There goes the gritty, realistic Bond era.

Best Line: "I'll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pyjamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field." - Q (Ben Whishaw) arrives with some snappy dialogue.

Missed Opportunity: killing Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva was a waste. Bond needs a new Blofeld and Silva was the best Bond villain in years. A shame he won't be returning.

RIP: Harris Savides, the award-winning cinematographer, died of brain cancer. Savides had worked with Gus Van Sant, David Fincher, Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen and Ridley Scott during his long career. Notable films include Elephant, Milk, Zodiac and American Gangster.

Films Seen: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Skyfall.

Average The Big Fairbanski Star Rating: 4.5

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Disney Star Wars Merger

This week, Walt Disney bought the rights to Lucasfilm for a cool $4 billion.

So, yes: Disney now own Star Wars.

The decision is understandable. George Lucas, CEO of Lucasfilm and creator of Star Wars, explained: “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.”

This is a big deal. Lucas has handed over his legacy.

Naturally, this has caused some outrage amongst Star Wars fans but most of these complaints are unfounded. A common fear is that Disney will tarnish the franchise, delivering films aimed at Disney’s trademark younger audience. But Lucas himself did that with Episode I and if the franchise can survive Jar Jar Binks then it can survive anything.

Some Star Wars fans have voiced their concern that Disney will milk the franchise for every last penny with huge amounts of spin-offs and cash-ins. But those people should be asked: where have you been living for the past 45 years? This is Star Wars. It practically invented movie merchandise. Lucas himself has happily expanded his universe into a TV series, re-releases, novels, comics, toys, computer games, fancy dress, Lego, Pez dispensers and everything in between. And why not? Star Wars would not have achieved such immortality on the basis of six movies alone. There is not much left for Disney to add, except possibly a theme park, and which self-respecting Star Wars fan could resist riding a Millennium Falcon rollercoaster?

The truth is there is no-one better suited than Disney to inherit Star Wars. Arguably, there is no-one other than Disney to inherit Star Wars. The House of Mouse has the far-reaching infrastructure to handle the acquisition, both logistically and creatively. Other studios would crumble with the magnitude of the task.

So where do we go from here?

Well, without wasting any time, Disney has announced that Star Wars Episode VII is due out in 2015.

And so we arrive at the truly controversial point of the handover. Presumably, Episode VII will be a sequel but what else is left to explore? Following Return of the Jedi, the Empire had crumbled, Palpatine had been chucked into the heart of the second Death Star and Vader found redemption. Plus, any sequel is likely to override the Expanded Universe, laid out in the novels. After all, the novels have chronicled the Star Wars universe for thousands of years after Return of the Jedi (Han and Leia have grandchildren, Chewbacca has died and so on) and this history is now accepted as canon. To suddenly dismiss this Universe will upset a lot of fans (and novelists).

But Star Wars began with films and that is where it must return in order to guarantee another 45 years of lightsabres and droids.

And think of the possibilities. Disney also own Pixar and Marvel. Obviously, don’t expect to see the Avengers flying around in X-Wings any time soon or WALL.E making a cameo alongside R2, as fan-pleasing as those big-screen mash-ups would be. 

However, the real opportunity here lies in the creative mash-up.

Disney now has an arsenal of top creative talent amassed through their collaborations with Pixar and Marvel. Imagine an Episode VII directed by John Lasseter and written by Joss Whedon with a story provided by Lucas. It is an exciting possibility.

But regardless of your feelings, there is one important thing to focus on: Star Wars will live on.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Looking Back... September 2012

September in a Tweet: the mainstream goes up against the festival circuit, as the likes of Dredd and Looper take on Holy Motors and The Intouchables.

Everyone was talking about... the Paralympics! But also the highly-anticipated Skyfall song, leaked one week early.

Best Film: Looper - Rian Johnson delivers his third film and confidently blends the action, science-fiction and indie genres.

Best Newcomer: young Pierce Gagnon managing to be both cute and terrifying in Looper.

Biggest Surprise: Dredd - it won over the 2000 AD fans and left audiences wanting more.

Best Scene: the various drug sequences in Dredd - beautifully-rendered and a great use of 3-D.

Other Best Scene: a future looper rapidly loses his limbs as his past self is chopped up by henchmen. Utterly horrific.

Best Cameo: Jeff Daniels acting against type as a time-travelling mobster in Looper.

Best Line: 'Ma-Ma is not the law... I am the law!' - Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) in Dredd. We knew it was coming but it sounded good coming from under that helmet.

RIP: Michael Clarke Duncan - suffered a heart attack at the age of 54. Duncan will be immortalised by his Oscar-nominated performance as John Coffey in The Green Mile.

Films Seen: Dredd, Looper.

Average The Big Fairbanski Star Rating: 4.5

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Looking Back... August 2012

August in a Tweet: Hollywood loses Tony Scott, whilst cinema gains plenty of unlikely heroes: talking bears, Scottish princesses and gun-toting OAPs.

Everyone was talking about... the Olympics! But also the apparent suicide of British director Tony Scott, who died after jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles.

Best Scene: Flash Gordon actor Sam Jones hilariously riffing himself at a house party in Ted.

Best Cameo: Chuck Norris tells a Chuck Norris joke in Expendables 2.

Best Line: 'Chris Brown can do no wrong!' John (Mark Wahlberg) in Ted, during a flashback to 2008.

Other Best Line: 'I'm back!' Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) saves the day in The Expendables.

Missed Opportunity: instead of casting Jean-Claude van Damme as the villain, they should have recruited some young action heroes like Taylor Lautner to play the bad guys. That way, we would cheer even louder when the crusty old veterans win.

RIP: Tony Scott - the world paid their respects to the director of Top Gun and True Romance.

Films Seen: Ted, Brave, Expendables 2

Average The Big Fairbanski Star Rating: 3.33 stars

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Looking Back... July 2012

July in a Tweet: summer blockbusters reign supreme as Scrat breaks the continents, Bane breaks Batman and Spider-Man breaks in his web-slingers once more.

Everyone was talking about... Bane's voice! I can't understand him! He sounds like Ian McKellen! And so on.

Best Film: The Dark Knight Rises - a darker, superbly-cast, masterfully-executed swansong to Nolan's Bat trilogy.

Best Actor: Andrew Garfield, The Amazing Spider-Man - Garfield's Peter Parker is much more charismatic, engaging and believable than Tobey Maguire's interpretation. Finally, we have a Peter Parker every bit as watchable as his web-slinging alter-ego.

Best Actress: Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises - those hoping Bane would be another Joker-esque villain were disappointed but Hathaway's Catwoman is the next best thing: crowd-pleasing, wise-cracking, ass-kicking and she looks stunning in a catsuit.

Best Director: Marc Webb did a terrific job reinventing Spider-Man but this accolade could only go to Christopher Nolan who has crafted a satisfying conclusion his Bat trilogy against insurmountable expectation.

Best Scene: Bane versus Batman in Gotham's sewers. Brutal.

Other Best Scene: the revelation regarding Ras Al Ghul's child. A brilliant twist, well-delivered.

Best Line: "So that's what that feels like." - Batman turns around to find Catwoman has vanished without saying goodbye.

Missed Opportunity: Martin Sheen's Uncle Ben and Denis Leary's Captain Stacy were the best supporting cast members in The Amazing Spider-Man. And both were killed off. We knew their deaths were coming but why not save them for a sequel?

RIP: Oscar-winning Hollywood veteran Ernest Borgnine passed away at the age of 95.

Films Seen: Ice Age 4, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises.

Average The Big Fairbanski Star Rating: 4.33

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Looking Back... June 2012

June in a Tweet: Tom Cruise rocked out and Ridley Scott sold out (Prometheus is the new marmite) against a backdrop of forgettable horrors and comedies.

Everyone was talking about... Prometheus. The Facebook newsfeed was divided into lovers and haters.

Best Film: The Raid - rightfully-dubbed the Indonesian Die Hard. Thankfully I saw this in June or I would have little to choose from.

Biggest Disappointment: Prometheus - barely recognisable as a relation to Scott's superior 1979 Alien.

Best Actor: Michael Fassbender, Prometheus - Fassbender's android David was the saving grace in a film loaded with two-dimensional, uninteresting characters.

Best Director: Gareth Evans, The Raid - Evan's stylish direction of Iko Uwais' hectic Pencak Silat deservedly earns him the reputation as a rising maestro of action scenes.

Best Scene: David killing time whilst Prometheus' crew are in hyper-sleep: basketball, cycling and impersonating Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.

Other Best Scene: Rama and Andi take on Mad Dog in The Raid.

Missed Opportunity: Prometheus needed some twists: Vickers should have been an android, David should have been human and the classic alien should have appeared much sooner or not at all.

Cinema Anecdote: upon walking out of the cinema after watching Prometheus, I overheard a guy saying: "I bet they make a sequel." Mate, they made the sequel thirty years ago. It's called Alien and it is way better.

Films Seen: The Raid, Prometheus.

Average The Big Fairbanski Star Rating: 2.5

Best Excuse for not going to the Cinema: my honeymoon.