Thursday, 9 January 2014

My 2013 Telly.

I’m sorry Mad Men, Step aside Breaking Bad and please forgive me The Wire and The Sopranoes, you are all wonderful television, but 2013 belonged to Doctor Who. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Doctor Who is still the best, most original, ground-breaking and unique television show there is, which still surprises and excites like it did the day it was aired, well maybe not the day, but definitely the week. To celebrate 50 years of my all-time favourite television I have watched every Doctor Who episode right from the very beginning, most of them for the very first time, and when I say every episode I mean every episode including stills reconstructions of missing episodes, even the stories that were found later in 2013 and even stories like The Abominable Snowman, which I could barely make sense of. That, gentle friends, is dedication. 

From the very first episode, An Unearthly Child, Doctor Who was as fresh as the morning after the rain, and just as wonderful. A children show made by grownups, who might not know much about children, but know a hell of a lot about television, with little money, even less faith from everyone around them, superb cast and a concept like nothing before it, this grownups who knew nothing about children, delivered instant quality and joy and the children were hooked.

The show has passed many hands, and don't expect me to remember the many names who made Doctor Who, I'm not that kind of fan sadly, some might argue that it completely changed since the jolly ol’ days, but after watching it all Doctor Who remains unified, continuous and still the same show only developing, to my eyes. Yes the Doctors are younger and prettier, yet they manage to come across older and wiser and make Hartnell look almost a child. Indeed there is a lot more smooching in the TARDIS these days, but Hartnell’s Doctor had a granddaughter, and have you seen his cheeky, carefree, flirting with an Aztec elderly lady while Ian fights for his life, Barbara faces an impossible moral dilemma and who knows what kind of stuff Susan is learning from the Aztecs. Besides, of course we ladies are going to fall in love with the Doctor, no matter how old and alien he is, he’s a genius with a time machine that’s bigger on the inside, all you need is a pulse! The important things, the things that makes Doctor Who such an important television show are still there. 50 years later it is still a children television that is like no other, original, ahead of its time, a trend setter even, and delivers quality for both children and those who were children when it first started. 

Undoubtedly, Doctor Who has suffered some bad episodes, we only have to look to the recent Christmas Special and the 2011 The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe, to find episodes that would be enough for one to turn their backs on Doctor Who for good if those were the only episodes one watched. But in the end the bad episodes, even the bad seasons (David Tennant’s first, don’t ask me what number Tom Baker’s, Colin Baker, I can go on) are worth it, not just because better episode would come and blow your mind, but because the bigger picture, Doctor Who as a whole, the Doctor, the TARDIS, the companions, the monsters, the adventures, everything, on the whole is worth it. Trust me I watched it all, and much like after I read all of Kafka for the first time, after watching Doctor Who I felt that I learned, I have grown as a person and I was inspired forever. Sounds dramatic for a, not-so-simple-anymore, sci fi telly, but such is Doctor Who and such is myself.

Despite those aforementioned Christmas disasters and a few others we shall speak no more of, Steven Moffat is, in my view, one of the best TV writer today. Russell T. Davis, even though I haven’t seen anything he wrote this year and despite Torchwood - Miracle Day, is another. Mark Gatiss, who after seeing him play a heart-breaking Meninus in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, listening to his radio play and watching League of Gentlemen for the first time this year, is a brilliant man of many extraordinary talents. Moreover, in addition to a history of top British writers, Doctor Who nurtures fan writers, Paul Cornell and James Moran are the first two to pop into my head, and the array of audios, books and other kinds of creativity Doctor Who has and still does inspire and it continues to be a source of talent, imagination and originality. And in the end forget the Christmas special the 50th anniversary special was fantastic!

Though a difficult act to follow, there was some other television in 2013 that was a great watch. Unfortunately, partly my fault, not enough British TV, something I intend to rectify in 2014. 

Breaking Bad 
I have deliberately avoided writing any reviews about Breaking Bad in general, because my friend writes about it much better than I ever could and frankly I slightly fear its fans. That said, despite an incredibly disappointing ending, which to me was completely untrue to the series up to this point and also reflects some of the other writing problems I had with Breaking Bad over the years, the fifth season was mostly glorious. Ignoring the very problematic female characters of the series, something I may write about in a general article about infuriating female characters on telly, Breaking Bad was a masterclass of acting, drama and tension. It’s hardly the nine o’clock news that Brian Cranston is a revelation and a superb actor, but nevertheless it has to be said, because, a bit like Matt Smith in Doctor Who, even when things got a bit annoying Brian Cranston was worth a watch. In general the men of Breaking Bad's Albuquerque were, one by one, superb! The tension and drama of Walter White’s stand-off with the rest of the world was absolutely brilliant, it’s just a shame that it didn’t pay off and in the end remained a predictable American mainstream. However, the original idea, the men’s character development and some excellent “villains” (the quotation marks are because the definition can be somewhat confusing in this one) make Breaking Bad one of the best shows that end in 2013. I can only hope one day my friend Nathalie would translate her Breaking Bad episode by episode analysis to English, because it is brilliant. 

Justified 
From one American desert to, it's probably the same one, Justified is one of my favourite TV shows these days and despite what everyone else say, to me it has been consistently fantastic. Often quite bonkers, but definitely good. Not to be confused with Justin Timberlake’s debut album, Justified is actually a brilliant modern day western TV series based on the stories of American novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard, who passed away in August 2013. Full of old school action, awesome characters, men and women alike, and witty dialogue, Justified is beautifully cinematic, exhilarating, suspenseful and superb to watch. The latest season, following a somewhat crazy third season, opened with a beautifully bizarre scene that could have easily could have been taken from a Felini film. It continued with excellently elaborated plots full of twists and turns, maintaining wonderful pace and suspense building up as all great westerns do. I can hardly wait for season five to begin! (January 7th). 

Person of Interest 
To begin with I wasn’t entirely sure about Person of Interest. Its concept is so good and intriguing and my love of Jonathan Nolan's previous work is what made me stick with the series despite one of the leads, John Reese's insistence of speaking in Batman’s bedroom voice. It always had enough interesting characters, a consistent stinginess of arc development details and good action to keep it alive and going strong. In the latest season, which started in 2013 Person of Interest has gone wild and entered the big league of top American television. Similar to Minority Report, but without the exploitation of humans, the premise of Person of Interest is that following 9/11, a genus, Harold Finch, built a machine that can predict acts of terror for the government, but the machine also predicts crimes, which the government tosses aside as irrelevant. The genus and a collection of rouge “crime fighters” decide to use the information to try and prevent crime. The machine only gives a social security number, it could be that of the perpetrator or the victim, it’s up to the team to find out. The premise alone is a wonderful idea, but perhaps what makes Person of Interest so good to watch, particularly in the latest season, is that a whole lots of things happen, plenty of drama, action and layers of revelations, and yet the machine, who is a character that develops quite dramatically over the end of season two and the current season, and the genus behind it remain a mystery and every time a layer is uncovered, one can’t help feel that it is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Mad Men 
I have written about Mad Men and why I found it unique before. Season six continued to develop brilliantly with the new characters bringing the wind of change. James Wolk’s character, Bob Benson, echoing Bryan Batt’s, Salvatore Romano, almost claiming revenge in his name. Ted Chaough, beautifully played by Kevin Rahm, standing against Don Draper, representing a different kind of man, but is her really? And for a moment it is unclear who influences who in their unusual bromance/rivalry. Don’s children, especially Sally, grow up and get to know him and his world is slowly crumbling as the sixties starts to climb towards its end. As I said previously, Mad Men is a brilliant piece of brave and fascinating writing, reflecting on a defining period in American history. As I hoped, the next season, which will be the end of the decade (1969-1970) will be the last of the series and will close this sad and beautiful story of a decade. 

Supernatural 
2013 started with the main portion of season eight and towards the end of the year we got the first and quite dramatic instalment of season nine. The Winchester boys are forever a joy to watch and the selection of wonderful characters, really I don’t think there is one character that I don’t like in Supernatural, which is rare even in my all-time favourite television programme, just make the series all the more fun. One of the best bromaces of telly, quite possibly because they are actually brothers, wonderful humour and a generous dash of Meta, give Supernatural that little extra cool to add to what was naturally there in a story of two American boys travelling the Americas fighting demons and Mark Sheppard being the King of Hell. 

The Big Bang Theory  
For quite a long time, The Big Bang Theory was one of my favourite television comedies, only surpassed by Miranda. The format is well known, classic even some (I) would say, and yet somehow, within this format, Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady still manage to surprise and be different, fresh and quite funny, to me at least. In this old fashioned format, none of the lead men are alpha male, one of the women earns more than the man she is married to, both working within the scientific world, the “pretty one” is not the successful one and the successful women look dress normal and not like an anorectic Kelvin Cline model from the 90s. (Ahem… Friends… Ahem, not that I don’t love it, but you know what I mean). The Big Bang Theory is a show that celebrates science, knowledge, most of the sciency stuff in the show are real/true, including the mathematical or physics jokes, and “geekness” including the related TV and films homages. I am not ashamed to admit that together with Professor Brian Cox, The Big Bang Theory had a little something something to do with my new found interest in science. 

Castle 
I started watching because of Nathan Fillion and the endless references to Firefly and I stayed, because despite Fillion’s serious weight gain and the fact that the shows premise is an idea that has been done before and probably better, Castle is just fun to watch. Whether it is the Firefly love, the glitz of it all or Ryan and Esposito, I don’t know which one it is, but it’s just an enjoyable watch. Season five, a large portion of which was aired in 2013, was fantastic, back to what makes Castle the light-hearted fun show that it’s meant to be. Now, it’s just about time for Castle to say goodbye and indeed I’ll be surprise if there’ll be another season after the current sixth one, it is only so long that this formula can be stretched. Though a tepid beginning to the season, I am looking forward to what I hope would be its last fun season. 

Criminal Minds 
Yes, it’s a procedural and one day I will write an article to explain why procedural is not an offensive or a derogative word, but for now I’ll suffice in writing Criminal Minds praises. Perhaps the thing that amazes me always anew is just how psychotic and disturbing the cases they bring every week can still be after nine season, and indeed it seems that human malevolent knows no limits. Apart from a few cases in its first season, Criminal Minds is never about “who done it” and more and more there are episodes in which we get to see the criminal’s actions in parallel to that of the FBI’s Behaviour Analysis Unit. Like in most procedurals, there’s hardly any character development and even if one or more characters had some story arc over a season or so, they are mostly forgotten of or are there to pop up and induce another story. Nevertheless, if you do follow the series as religiously as myself, there is a subtle reward. Last season’s arc involving mine and anyone who watches the show with any sense, favourite character Spenser Reid (the brilliant Matthew Gray Gubler) broke my heart. In addition to the lovely quotes at the beginning and end of each episodes, which might be a bit over doing it, but in my opinion they work really well, it is clear that the creators of Criminal Minds or someone in their high places have love for cinema and Hitchcock in particular and every now and again comes a wonderful Hitchcocian or other references like Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde and more, or you get to see James Van Der Beek or Will Wheaton in what is a one off and probably the best performances of their careers, and it makes me want to run into the screen and hug everyone involved in making this show. 

Suits 
When I first heard of Suits, which was only at the end of 2012, I thought that it’s going to be a sci fi show where aliens, from space, used people, lawyers, as “suits” and the name is a play on the word because lawyer and business people who wear suits and are called “suits” but also their bodies become suits for the aliens, who for some reason have decided to open a law company in New York. Therefore, I was watching the pilot episode in great anticipation for the big reveal at the end... I am still convinced that this is a great idea for a television show, but a different one perhaps. Despite the lack of aliens, Suits proved to be a great little drama, very sleek, glam and shiny. Everyone is beautiful, witty, smart and deep down they are probably good too. Like a few other TV series’ these days, Suits works because of the lovely bromance in its centre, but it also has awesome women power. When Gina Torres is the big boss you know the women in the series are going to be awesome and not as awful as some of the many other male centric series’ have paraded. And finally, if nothing else tickles your fancy, Suits is worth it for the legend that is Louis Litt. For no apparent reason Suits suddenly stopped mid-season, actually closer to the end of the season than to the middle, on quite a dramatic cliff-hanger and for ages! The last episode aired was in September, and I just discovered it won’t be back until March 2014! Come-on Mr Korsh, stop toying with us in this way. 

The Michael J Fox Show 
I’ll be honest, it’s not brilliant. It’s an old fashion family sitcom that offers nothing new, has no irony or self-awareness and really not that funny. The only twist is that the father of the house has Parkinson. None of the characters are anything to write home about and it is quite surprising that such an outdated sitcom is still being made. That said, I find myself enjoying The Michael J Fox Show immensely. I hardly laugh at it, but the minute I see Michael J Fox, Parkinson or not, I am transported back to the 80s and I’m in love with him all-over again. It seems that whatever power he used to commission this sitcom works on me as well. Michael J Fox was and forever will be a hero and as such can do no wrong in my eyes. 

The Crazy Ones 
When Robin Williams and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) are paired together as father and daughter running an advertising agency, there’s a good chance I’m already interested, when you put Mad Men's lovely boy, James Wolk, in the mix, my love is almost guaranteed. Indeed The Crazy Ones did not disappoint and so far it’s been a quick paced sharp comedy that not only utilises Robin Williams’ talent in the best possible way, but also showcases the lesser known actors’ talents, the aforementioned James Wolk, Newsroom’s Hamish Linklater and Gossip Girl’s Amanda Setton, who manage to keep up and match Williams speed and madness as the outtakes in the end of each episode, which are a treat, show. 

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 
Many Whedon aficionados I know are not impressed with the family’s latest claim to fame. I, on the other hand, am going to make a controversial statement and say that so far I have enjoyed the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D more than I did the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. True Buffy has developed to be a masterpiece television, long before vampires became the new black, but to begin with it came across to me as nothing more than a quite simplistic role reversal with nothing much more to offer, it’s only later on that Buffy became the dear show it is to me. It’s not that Agents, shortening the name to save typing S.H.I.E.L.D over and over again, is the best television to come on our screens, or that it is particularly brilliant in any way, but it is enjoyable and I keep coming back. Many have pointed out it’s predictable, I’m not entirely sure what is meant to be unpredictable in it, but what do I know, I didn't see the Angel finale coming. My one grievance is that I don’t particularly like Skye, I still prefer her to Xander. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, yeah well I already started typing the S it was pointless to go back, has a collection of lovable characters, good action, some looming arc and so far quite good story/ies. I’m looking forward to see how it develops, and given that Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon are involved, I am eagerly awaiting a musical episode. 

Miranda 
Miranda is my favourite sitcom and Miranda Hart one of my favourite comedy actresses. I can and did watch Miranda over and over again and still roll on the floor with laughter every time. Above all, Miranda is just the funniest of them all at the moment. But more than that, Miranda Hart is just so endearing and warms the heart I just can’t help loving her. Heavily influenced by Eric Morecombe, Miranda’s nods to the camera as well as her conversations with the viewers at home throughout the series is delightful and uplifting. Hers and Stevie’s (Sarah Hadland) slapstick abilities are superb and put Miranda Heart high up in the clowns' list, a female equivalent to Laurel and Hardy, or Morecambe and Wise if you will. The third series of Miranda ended on a dramatic cliff-hanger, what’s up with that television? And given Miranda’s lengthy gap between series two and three and her wish to continue with Call the Midwife, we are unlikely to see new Miranda before 2015. I will have to start watching Call the Midwife to fill in the void. 

Horrible Histories 
This brilliant children’s sketch show has sadly ended in 2013 and the talented ensemble went on to make Yolander for us “grownups”, which hasn’t made it to this list simply because I have yet to watch it. The opening theme song says it all:

Terrible Tudors, Gorgeous Georgians
Slimy Stuarts, Vile Victorians
Woeful Wars, Ferocious Fights
Dingy Castles, Daring Knights!

Horrors that defy description
Cut-throat Celts, Awful Egyptians
Vicious Vikings, Cruel Crimes
Punishments from ancient times!

Romans, rotten, rank and ruthless
Cavemen, savage, fearsome, toothless
Groovy Greeks, Rainy Sieges
Mean and Measly Middle Ages!

Gory Stories we do that
And your host's a talking rat
The past is no longer a mystery
Welcome to H O R R I B LE   H I S T O R I E S… 

Dancing on the Edge 
Beautiful and sad five-parter murder-mystery story about a black band in the 1930s, an idealist magazine editor/writer/everything and their brief affair with England’s aristocracy. Full of wonderful music and a hell of a lot of atmosphere and theatricality, in a typical Stephen Poliakoff fashion, Dancing on the Edge tells a good story in the style of an olden days evening of high culture, putting on a dramatic show. The performances are superb all around and I’m pretty sure, without even seeing the film, that Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose Othello performance at the Donmar has made a great impression, is on his way to Oscar nomination and quite possibly win in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave. Dancing on the Edge is a well-crafted drama that takes its time and is beautiful to look at. 

Luther (may contain spoilers!)
Another series that came to an end in 2013 and wow! How I love Luther and the final season was superb! Including a truly scary first episode. Idris Elba, forever charismatic and brilliant to watch and Neil Cross, who wrote one of my favourite episodes in the recent Doctor Who series, The Rings of Akhaten, is rapidly becoming a writer to watch out for. I secretly wished for Paul McGann’s character to come back as well as Ruth Wilson’s brilliant Alice, simply because when Elba and McGann were a brilliant pairing and absolutely wonderful to watch. Despite my pining for McGann’s return not being fulfilled, Luther's last series was fantastic to watch. 

Atlantis (may contain some thematic spoilers)
What a lovely little series that is full of naked men! (I’m not sure all nakedness is for the best mind, but still…). If you’re looking for historical accuracy this is not the show for you. Mixing up mythology and Greek history of a sort, not to mention the time-travelling submarine at the beginning, Atlantis is a good and much needed adventure TV that is pacey, funny, fun and shows off a lot of man flesh, have I mentioned? I’ve been enjoying Atlantis quite a bit so now I might just check out Merlin. 

QI 
I decided to mention QI in my year’s summery, because it’s not usually a programme that gets mentioned in any kind of summery, that gets any kind of awards. People got so used to it being on that it is often forgotten and overlooked. It is not only a brilliant show almost literately, but also an important one. For over ten years now, QI (Quite Interesting) has been going through the alphabet, we have just finished series K, and introducing interesting facts about a certain subject beginning with the series’ letter, series K included episodes about Killers, Knowledge, Knees and Knockers, Kinky and many others. Stephen Fry, himself a source of great knowledge, is the wonderful host and Alan Davies, the regular panellist, is the representative of us little people who think we know a thing or two until they watch QI and realise that everything they knew is most likely wrong. Maintaining its scientific credibility, the wonderful QI Elves (the nickname Fry gave the series’ truly amazing researchers) often check back their facts and give or take points according to new discoveries, (famously people get points deducted for answers they gave in previous years and in one of the recent shows the matter of the half-life of facts was discussed, which means a large percent of known fact will turn out to be wrong with in several years, and Alan Davies received over 700 points. That was a happy day). 

Television I watched for the first time this year: 
Line of Duty 
Started in 2012 and finally coming back this year. This is an excellent internal affairs police drama as only the BBC can make. Excellent. 

Smallville 
Some may say it’s kitsch, corny and lost its charm towards the end, I say give me more! Smallville was fun, addictive and did well for Superman’s otherwise problematic reputation. I was surprised by how Tom Welling fits Clark Kent so perfectly, now I can’t see anyone else in that role. 

League of Gentlemen 
Shame on me for not seeing this brilliantly insane show! Hilarious and twisted, League of Gentlemen helped cement Mark Gatiss as one of my favourite writers of our day and a bloody talented man! Now please, don’t ever stop writing Sherlock and be magnificent! Thank you. 

Star Trek, Star Trek the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine 
I’m not sure how much of this still going project was watched in 2012 and how much in 2013 therefore I put them all together here. As an avidly loyal Who fan I had trouble believing I would ever be able to like any other sci fi show. But it seems that Gene Roddenberry had other ideas. Due to the year of Doctor Who this project, watching all of Trek, had to be put on the back-burner for a little while, but I will get back to it very soon. Currently, I am somewhere in season seven of Next Gen and somewhere in season two of DS9, which for now doesn’t do it for me quite as much as Original Series and Next Gen, but I’m waiting in hope. 

Need to watch and hope to catch up with in 2014: 
Call the Midwife, Ripper Street (MUST), Last Tango in Halifax, The Thick of It (MUST), Toast of London, Broadchurch, The Shield, Arrow and finishing Trek (TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise and all the films) project as well as watching Babylon 5. The list is far longer than this, but these are my current top priorities. 

Looking forward to the most in 2014:
New Line of Duty, Last episode of series 3 of Sherlock, new Atlantis, The Musketeers, new Suits, new Justified and of course anticipating most of all the new Doctor Who with a brand new Doctor, the brilliant Peter Capaldi. 

      

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

My 2013 in Films





I haven't seen Sharknado, Despicable Me 2 or Prisoners, I want to, but you know what I mean.


I am not really a person that makes a top of the pops type of lists, nor am I a person who does New Year’s resolution, but if I were to have one it’ll be to write more, so I decided to start with a top-of-the-pop-list of my 2013 films highlights. Well, not exactly a list, more like an overview of my impressions of the 2013 cinematic crops. My disappointments my loves, some surprises and also films I should have seen a long time ago, but only saw them last year for the first time. They are divided to categories, but are not in any order of levels of loves, or hate. For the films I wrote a more in depth review in this blog, there will be a link in their title.

First my disappointments of the year. I thought I'll get rid of these first and leave the best for last: 

A Good Day to Die Hard 
Why Bruce Willis Why??? I love the Die Hard franchise, well, most of the Die Hard franchise. I got so excited in anticipation to see Bruce Willis kick some ass old school style, that I got me a ticket to a Die Hard marathon at the IMAX. Hyped from all the testosterone fun, I shelled off a few more quids to see the first midnight screening of what I hoped would be a climax to that awesome action series. Ay, I wish I never did.
Bruce Willis barely even phoned it in and I can barely even remember what happen in this film to make any comment about the script. There was a very long car chase, which had potential, but was rubbish. This is probably the biggest disappointment of the year. Shame on you Bruce Willis and John Moore, I hope you are facing the wall, thinking hard about what you’ve done!

Hitchcock (released in February 2013 in the UK)
It is a bold decision to take on this film genus and could potentially be an interesting one, if it would have offered any new exciting insight or an in depth look into the man and his work. Alas, John J. McLaughlin is far from being bold and the film is reduced to a boring melodrama with good actors who are wasted, which is slightly better than the TV movie The Girl, a Sun like scandalous gossip film about Hitch. Can you call it a disappointment if you expected it to be rubbish? To make a good film about Hitchcock would require another Hitchcock, or a Martin Scorsese. 

Cloud Atlas (released February 2013 in the UK)
Here’s a shocking confession that might get me in trouble, I was never a big fan of The Matrix. The brilliant effect covered a very superficial approach to well-known philosophical ideas, also presented more intelligently in Total Recall and partly in the more recent and brilliant Inception. Maybe it's all the hype around the film and maybe is my general disinterest with Keanu Reeves, but I wasn’t that impressed with the first film and I never bothered with the others, from what I heard I made the right choice. Run Lola Run was a gimmick, a nice one, but still a gimmick and as such it lost its charm and value quite quickly. With Cloud Atlas, once again, our cheerful Matrix pair are delving into the highbrow philosophical ideas and indeed the film is quite ambitious. But in the end the result is a pompous and simplistic and mostly tiresome film. 

The Wicker Man – Final Cut (contain spoilers!)
I was so looking forward to watching this film, which alluded me for many years. Not only do I love horror, but the thought of a young Christopher Lee was just as exciting. Alas much like Nick Clegg’s promises, The Wicker Man’s were empty and remained unfulfilled. Granted, Lee’s charisma, unlike Clegg’s, is always a pleasure to watch, and the film tries very hard to be eerie and maybe it was in its time, but now, what is left is a lot of naked women dancing, because this is what 60s pagans did and that's what "love, peace and happiness" means. Tut tut! At least in Hairthe men got naked too, in the name of love peace and happiness!
While I didn’t particularly like Edward Woodward’s character, Sargent Howie, I felt that burning him alive was a bit harsh. In fact, I didn’t really care for anyone or about anything that happened and therefore not only was the film not scary at al, but also it was mostly boring. Unlike the fantastic Count Dracula, Christopher Lee’s film from a few years before, which I have seen for the first time this year, The Wicker Man, final cut or not, doesn’t stand the test of time I’m afraid. Not even sure I would have cared for it in its day. 

Elysium 
The next few years, in which Jodie Foster’s career would hopefully end, would be enough of a statement regarding her… well some people might call it acting but I don't, in this film. But perhaps the real tragedy of this film is that it could have actually been a really good one. There are some good suspenseful moments and what could have been some interesting ideas, but all was lost in a downpour of clichés, awful camera work and, well, Jodie Foster. And I liked District 9 so much! What happened Neil Blomkamp? 

The Fifth Estate 
Another much awaited film, for me at least. I knew very little if anything about Julian Assange or the WikiLeaks and if nothing else at least I now know, more or less, what was it all about. Like many of the films in this part of the overview, this is a film with much promise, interesting subject and fantastic cast and yet somehow at the hands of Bill Condon, whose Dreamgirls I absolutely adore, The Fifth Estate ended up being a dull film. I kept hoping Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl would kiss, it definitely would have helped the film. 

The Counsellor 
No doubt the separation from Russell Crowe and quite possibly the collaboration with Cormac McCarthy has done good things to Ridley Scott, who ever since Gladiator and his inexplicable affair with Russell Crowe hasn’t been a filmmaker that interested me. Indeed The Counsellor is an improvement to Scott’s recent repertoire, but in the end it is not a great film. There are some funny moments, mainly thanks to the wonderful Javier Bardem and some random unclear nods to Breaking Bad (why?), but on the whole the film is all over the place, heavy on the dialogue, which I wouldn’t have minded if it was written by Woody Allen, Quintin Tarantino or Kevin Smith, but as it were the dialogue was tiresome and meaningless. Finally, I just didn’t get what the film was about and that is why this film finds itself in the disappointing part. 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 
Not quite as big a disappointment as A Good Day to Die Hard was, but still I had such expectation after the first film, which wasn't bad, just needed a bit more edge. Sadly, Catching Fire is not but a repeat of the first film with even slightly less edge than the first. I still have a complete girl crush on Jennifer Lawrence, our love will last forever I'm sure, which is why I really wanted to love this film, but I didn't. 

Side Effects 
My relationship with Steven Soderbergh is a weird one. None of his films ever made a deep impact or impression over me. While I like some of the Ocean films, they were never more than a nice to look at and admire the craftiness. I disliked Traffic and Solaris felt to me as pompous as Soderbergh himself came across in a Q&A event he did a long time ago. This year has been an interesting one when it comes to Soderbergh. On the one hand here is Side Effects, such a disappointing and forgettable film I’d rather use this occasion to speak about Soderbergh than this film of his. But on the other hand there was Behind the Candelabra, which was so surprisingly wonderful it made its way to the other part of my films of the year overview.

Before I move on to my favourite films of the year I’d like to take a moment to write a few words about Star Trek Into Darkness, which I feel I can’t put in either section of my overview or put it in both. I shall explain. My initial reaction after watching it was that it was great, not necessarily a great Star Trek film, but a good film nonetheless. 

It is clear, from the first Star Trek film he did, that J.J. Abrams not only is not a fan, but just doesn’t get the series and what’s good about it, and I broke my brain several times trying to justify the existence of an old version of Spock in Abrams alternative universe and eventually decided to let it go, despite my problem with its plausibility and the fact that the old Spock has now become a lazy narrative tool. It is a shame that he got to do it and instead of a Star Trek film we got what I think is a preview to his upcoming Star Wars franchise. It is hard for me to believe that Abrams actually watched the series, I get the feeling he watched a film or two and took it from there and that is a pity. However, that said and ignoring the Star Trek name that is attached to those film, I find myself enjoying them quite a bit. I think what Abrams did manage to get is the moral problems that Kahn poses. Both films lose points for putting Spock in a relationship, making McCoy nothing but a one liners, poor imitation of DeForest Kelley, Into Darkness for missing the whole point of the KAAAAAAAAAAHN moment and therefore reducing it to a joke in a place where there isn’t supposed to be one, and completely ignoring the McCoy, Kirk, Spock trio relationship. And yet, as just films they are fun to watch and Into Darkness has some excellent action, particularly the fight between Spock and Kahn. I wrote a little something something about Star Trek: Into Darkness here.

And now for the favourites, the pleasant surprises and the little cinematic treasures of 2013, because I much rather write about them.

Jack Reacher 
True it was released at the end of 2012, but I only saw it in 2013 and I was very pleasantly surprised. Good old school action and Tom Cruise is excellent as a rough rogue fighter of justice. Maybe when he’s had enough Mission Impossible, Tom Cruise will make Jack Reacher into a series of films, it has excellent potential and could even compliment the Mission Impossible ones I think.

Django Unchained (released in the UK, January 2013)
The minute the credits ended I wanted to watch the film again straight away. Thrilling, exciting, an excellent western and definitely my favourite Tarantino to date. His skilful revenge story storytelling, extravagant gore and cruelty and the superb dramatic tension are at their best in Django Unchained. The simplicity yet originality of the idea makes this film wonderfully crude and delicate at the same time.

Lincoln (released in the UK, January 2013)
Very much complimenting Django Unchained and yet quite different. Not and afternoon special about racism as one might expect from Steven Spielberg, one who knows nothing about Spielberg might I add, but rather a delicate story about the man and the politic he was making. Daniel Day-Lewis is one of those rare actor who transforms into the character he plays and you almost forget it is Daniel Day-Lewis (I actually had to remember) because he is so much and in every way for the duration of the film Abraham Lincoln. One of the many talents of Mr. Spielberg, which is perfectly demonstrated here, is his ability to make dialogue, of which there is a lot in this film, beautifully cinematic. Another one is his magnificent ability to turn a historical congress vote, the result of which is well-known, into a thrilling suspenseful drama.  Phewa! 

Les Miserables (like many of the Oscar films this too was released in the UK, January 2013)
I have never seen it on stage or read the book, yet I already knew a lot of the songs from it, before I went to see the film, and I absolutely love them. Finally Hugh Jackman gets to showcase his singing ability on the big screen and the Les Misarbles songs are not easy to sing, believe me I tried, and Jackman is fantastic. The film is so wonderfully sweeping that I could almost forgive Russell Crowe for ruining one of the best songs and not really conveying the drama and tragedy of Javert. Personally, Eddie Redmayne’s Empty Chairs didn’t quite have the effect that John Barrowman or Michael Ball has, but by the time we reached the reprise of Do You Hear The People Sing, I was completely under the film’s spell, tears in my eyes and everything was forgiven and forgotten. The magnificent Anne Hathaway delivered a heartbreaking performance and Samantha Barks as Éponine and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras, were a revelation. But the film won me over by giving a sense of a theatrical show and a dreamlike performance. Incredible! 

This is 40 
Judd Apatow is the man who put romantic comedies back on the map and gave them the respect they deserve. It is hard to do the kind of comedies Apatow makes and keep them fresh, fun and most importantly really funny and without being dumb or making the viewer feel dumb as so many do.  This is 40 is one such lovely film that had me crying with laughter. 

Oblivion 
Now there’s a film that took me by surprise. Despite ripping off several films, it was a very enjoyable. The music is fantastic and say what you will about Tom Cruise, I may question his mental health myself, but he is a fantastic actor and managed to bring excellent acting subtleties even in this random action film. 

Iron Man 3 
Little did I know, when having a drink with Shane Black at the after party for his lovely film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang at the London Film Festival, that he would go ahead and make the best Iron Man film. Flavoured with a bit of MacGyver and a dash of James Bond, Shane Black brings us an exhilarating fun and an excellent film! To all those who complained that there is not enough Iron Man in it, well, tough, it’s still better than the previous ones! 

Behind the Candelabra 
Now there's another surprise. Apart from an annoying camera work and the occasional clunky dialogue, which feels like forced information drips, Behind The Candelabra is a wonderful film, in fact I'll go ahead and say it is my favourite Soderbergh film. Both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are on top form and some fun cast appearances planted throughout. The fantastic 70s look of the film seems to suit Soderbergh more than anything he has done so far and I fell in love with Liberace and the film. 

Pacific Rim 
As always Guillermo Del Torro’s visuality is sublime. The fights, both CGI and real ones are beautiful and thrilling. It is as if the whole film has a flowing choreography which leads the film in a smooth pace forward. There’s a wonderful mash of Transformers, Iron Man and Jurassic Park, in Pacific Rim, but it’s like none of those films. It was a particular joy for me to see the excellent Burn Gorman, untypically cast and showing off his talent. True the dialogue is a little bit cheesy at times, but Guillermo Del Torro orchestrating giant robots fighting giant aliens? What’s not to love? 

The World’s End 
The thing about the Corneto trilogy is that one can actually imagine Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg just having the time of their lives and The World’s End is not different. It is funny and fun, the music is good, the dialogue is wittiest in the three (“Let’s booboo” "Oh fuck off you big lamp!" and my personal favourite, “smashy smashy egg men”) and as with all the Cornetos it is also tender and poignant. 

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa 
And the winner of best comedy of the year is Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Step aside This is 40 and I'm sorry The World's End, but no one make me laugh and pulls on my heart string quite as much as the pathetic lovable Alan Partridge. I always thought that Steve Coogan is the alter ego of Alan Partridge. With all its pathetic-ness and cringiness, long before David Brent from The Office might I add, Alan Partridge was always more comfortable with himself than Steve Coogan, very relaxed and never realising his own sadness. That makes him kinda sexy in my eyes, which is why I'm the only person I know who finds Alan Partridge every bit as hot as Steve Coogan. It is often worrying when a successful TV show is made into a film, particularly so when it’s a comedy. I cannot remember that any television comedy has been successfully turned into a film, but Steve Coogan succeeded and Alan Partridge is funnier than ever, more youthful and full of life. A real joy to watch even if you haven't seen anything from him. 

The Way Way Back 
The fantastically talented Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who won an Oscar for The Descendants, are back with another lovely and sensitive comedy drama that tenders the heart. Sam Rockwell is always delightful and oh so lovable, wouldn’t you want to live in and manage the best water park ever? Sadly I think the film went slightly under the radar in the UK and perhaps didn't even open worldwide, I hope I’m wrong, because it’s a beautiful little film that people should see. 

Rush 
Ron Howard is a bit of a cinematic odd ball to me and I never know if his next film is going to be an amazing one like Frost/Nixon or a horrible film based on a horrible book by Dan Brown. It was a relief that Rush is more like the kind of film I would love to see Howard make all the time. Two big, strong and fascinating male personalities in a brilliant battle. Such was Frost/Nixon and such is Rush. Hemsworth, whose body in Rush is much more to my liking than the pumped body he needs to have to play Thor, and Brül ooze charisma tear the screen with fantastic acting and for 123 minutes car racings and those two champions were the most exciting thing in the world, that is one of Ron Howard’s unique talents. 

Blue Jasmie 
Woody Allen’s version of A Streetcar Named Desire would hopefully bring the superb Cate Blanchett a well-deserved Oscar. Me, I love Woody Allen, even at times when everyone else seems to hate him. He is inspiring and brilliant and I will even watch a bad film of his over other films. But if you are not like me you would probably say that with Blue Jasmine Allen is back on top form. Indeed Blue Jasmine is a brilliant tragic comedy that would break your heart. 

Don Jon 
My love for Joseph Gordon-Levitt knows no limits and there is very little that he can do wrong in my eyes. His initiative, hitRECord is owe inspiring and freaking amazing. The man’s talents and love of films are endless. His directorial debut is with a delightful romantic comedy with porn! 

Saving Mr Banks 
The story of the process in which Walt Disney finally managed to buy the rights for Mary Poppins from writer P.L Trevers, becomes a beautiful Disney story, full of heart and Disney magic. Emma Thompson shines, as always, as the difficult Trevers and Tom Hanks is right at home with the character of Walt Disney, the kind of characters he is so good at and should play more often. A little tip for when you watch it, cause you should – stay for all of the end credits, because throughout there is a recording of the real P.L Trevers, who insisted of recording all her meetings with the Disney people, and it’s well worth listening to. 

Philomena 
Philomena is not a ground-breaking cinematic achievement, it can be watched on telly and the story has probably been told before in one way or another, and yet it is a marvellous little film worth watching if only for the pleasure of spending 98 minutes in the company of these two extraordinary characters played by extraordinary actors. 

Thor: The Dark World 
Unlike the rest of the internet, Tom Hiddleston doesn’t really do it for me. I think he’s a good actor, but so is Chris Hemsworth, and really Christopher Eccleston puts them both in his little pocket with one look. I just don’t really go gaga over Hiddleston, I apologise in advance. Worried that the Hiddles obsession would turn Thor into a Loki fest, I was somewhat reluctant to see it. Imagine my delight to discover a great, fun film with many a funny moments, excellent Hemsworth fighting, really why is he not doing more film where he does a lot of fighting? And a good story! It’s a real shame that Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, is such a boring character that is redundant and flat, but at least Frigga’s awesomeness restore some gender balance to the Thor universe. Finally a tip: there are TWO clips at the end of Thor:The Dark World, one through the end credits and one at the very end of them, worth the stay. 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 
When I heard this was also a Danny Kaye film first I was worried, after all Ben Stiller is nowhere near Kaye’s league or talent. However, Stiller has proved me wrong. His Walter Mitty is beautiful, gentle and he manages to carry the film on his own not only without his regular entourage, usually made out of more talented actors, but also without reverting to his annoying facial gestures. Stiller is honest, poised and better than he ever was in any film. The film is visually stunning and full of heart, love and LIFE. 

Gravity 
If I must choose one film of 2013 of course it'll have to be Gravity. This beautiful cinematic poetry that is breathtakingly thrilling is the film of the year because of its cinematic value. Many have discussed the motherhood and rebirth existentialist metaphor, and yes it is existentialist, yes the motherhood and rebirth are issues that the film approaches, but above all, Gravity is a pure cinematic experience like no other. It is one of the only two films that merits a 3D viewing and that is because creator Alfonso Cuarón, like Martin Scorsese before him in his brilliant Hugo, took the time to learn and understand 3D. Cuarón’s 3D man is THE world expert in 3D filming and he and Cuarón seem to understand the value of slow camera movements and fast action, which solves the strobbing issue without the 48 frames per second nonsense that requires special screenings! But first and foremost, Gravity is unique and can only be experienced in full at the cinema, not that it loses its value outside it, but the cinema is in its heart.

I will also only  mention these last few films, because really I must stop writing this blog at some point: The Great Gatsby, which I liked very much, but quite possibly it is because I didn’t read the book. Enough Said small and lovely, not that important, but like Philomena is worth it for the company of the lovely James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dryfus. Finally Nebraska, not the best Alexander Payne, but quite lovely.

"Now for something completely different..." Sorry I couldn't resist. Here are films I've been meaning to see for a while and only got round to seeing them in 2013 and one rewatch, though I had many rewatches, this is the one I chose to comment on. Because they are older I shall try and stick to one word review. 

Limitless – It’s ok, good ending, but not as exciting as people made me believe.
Tangled – Nice, not my favourite from Disney.
Mildred Pierce – Excellent film! Surprisingly daunting. 
Tomorrow Never Dies, GoldenEye and The World is Not Enough – as part of my James Bond project. GoldenEye is the better of the films, but Pierce Brosnan is not my James Bond I’m afraid. 
This Means War – Rubbish! 
Warior – Superb! Better than Rocky! Yes I went there! 
The Incredible - Decided to rewatch after I realised many people liked it a lot more than I did the first time I watched. I liked it a little better this time, it’s definitely an excellent and original idea, but the main problem is that that I liked the villain, Syndrome, more than the heroes and in fact, I think he made a valid point! 
Insomnia – Not the best Christopher Nolan films, but still, it’s Nolan. 
Bronson – Tom Hardy is superb and probably worth the otherwise meh film. 
Lawless – I liked it. 
Forbidden Planet – Can’t believe I haven’t seen this one before! Brilliant! 
A Matter of Life and Death – “But my dear boy, war starts at midnight!” it is shameful I haven’t seen it before. Superb! My favourite from the amazing pair Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. 
The Servant – the last act in the film is a bit of its time and doesn’t really manage to move beyond it, also the women folk are badly portrayed in this film, but still a good film and Dirk Bogarde  and James Fox are fantastic to watch! 
Sucker Punch – Awful! Can’t believe it’s from the same man who made Sin City and Man of Steel! 
Seven Psychopaths – Overrated! Rubbish! 
Hot Tub Time Machine – Rubbish! 
Machete – Fantastic! Must watch Machete Kills. 
Dances with Wolves – Meh. 
Zack and Miri Make a Porno – Superb! 
Invasion of the Body SnatchersWicker Man, for your attention please, how to make films that do stand the test of time! 
Mulholland Drive – It's good, I miss David Lynch films. 
From Here to Eternity – How have I not seen this film before??? Wow! 
The Sapphires – Fantabulous! 
Scarecrow – Wonderful! (I’m running out of adjectives) 
Galaxy Quest – Shame on me for only seeing it this year. Brilliant! 
Mystery Man – So much fun that even Ben Stiller didn’t ruin it. 
Once Upon A Time in America – Beautiful! 
Local Hero – Just lovely! 

Here is to a year of wonderful films, glorious 2D, more IMAX and people, audiences and cinema staff respecting films and each other, helping to prevent ruining everyone experience by not talking or playing with their phone while you're watching a film. 

Happy New Year full of films!