Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies
(and more)
2023

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2023, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add / sort.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/23 and 31/12/23.

This version includes re-releases, but those aren’t numbered. It’s hard to imagine movies improving on Powell and Pressburger’s i know where i’m going or The Red Shoes, Powell’s Peeping Tom or Von Trier’s Melancholia.

In addition to re-releases, this version also includes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2023.

The star ratings may occasionally differ from the star rating I gave a particular film at the time of review.

Beyond the first 25 numbered titles, there may be numerous errors (missing links to reviews where I wrote one, year of release, country, and maybe more). All this will be fixed in time, but I wanted to get something online in the holidays.

Finally, last year’s list is here.

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2023

Please click on titles to see reviews. (Links yet to be added.)… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

There’s Something
in the Barn

Director – Magnus Martens – 2023 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 100m

*

An American family immigrates to Norway where a relative has died and left them a farmhouse with a barn… and there’s something in the barn – badly misjudged horror comedy is out in UK cinemas and on digital download from Friday, December 1st

I have watched this film so that you don’t have to.

Incidentally, it has some of the best film stills I’ve ever seen. They are truly great. Don’t let that fool you: it’s a rotten movie.

One year after the unpleasant death of their Norwegian relative, the Californian nuclear family of dad, step-mum, son and daughter arrive at his farmhouse and barn in Norway which they’ve inherited. The unpleasant death is intriguing and workable if unoriginal horror fare; there is indeed something in the barn, and it’s not happy. So not happy, that it kills the relative.

But once the Californian family appear, the film undergoes a huge shift of tone from straight horror to pretty embarrassing comedy. Or, more accurately, alleged comedy because the laughs (or laugh – I think I may have laughed once) are (is) few and far between. Dad Bill (Martin Starr) is a happy-go-lucky, irritating, nerdy caricature; his new wife – and therefore step-mum to his kids – Carol (Amrita Acharia) is an equally annoying, former self-help guru.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Breaking The Waves

Director – Lars von Trier – 1996 – Denmark, Sweden, France, Norway, Finland, Italy, Germany, US – Cert. 18 – 160m

*****

NSFW.

A mentally vulnerable, young woman in an austere Scots religious community marries an outsider only for her husband to be severely injured working on an oil rig – out in a 4K restoration in UK cinemas on Friday, Aug 4th

Divided into a series of chapter headings in which locked off camera shots are accompanied by popular 1970s rock songs which cut off or fade out before they reach their end, like much of von Trier’s work this is not a film for the faint-hearted.

Young woman Bess McNeill (Emily Watson) is questioned by the priest (Jonathan Hackett) of the local, austere Calvinist community before its elders as to her understanding of matrimony and warned against entering into that institution with an outsider. Nevertheless, she proceeds to marry non-religious oil rig worker Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgård). Their relationship is extremely carnal and she is deliriously happy until the time comes, as it must, for Jan to return to work on the rig. She finds his absence almost unbearable.

Then disaster strikes, with Jan seriously injured in a rig accident whilst trying to help an injured fellow worker.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Sick Of Myself
(Syk Pike)

Director – Kristoffer Borgli – 2022 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 95m

*****

Fed up with the attention her successful artist partner is getting, a woman deliberately consumes dangerous prescription drugs to make herself the centre of attention– out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 21st

Young Oslo couple Thomas (Eirik Sæther) and Signe (Kristine Kujath Thorp from Ninjababy, Ingvild Sve Flikke, 2021; The Burning Sea, John Andreas Andersen, 2022) have an unhealthy relationship. He is a compulsive thief, stealing luxury items such as expensive wine and designer furniture from restaurants and showrooms, respectively. She is a compulsive liar and attention seeker. They somehow co-exist in a state of unstable equilibrium. They are on a collision course because he has a potential celebrity career while she does not. He is an artist having his first show at a major gallery, while she works at an ordinary coffee shop.

At a celebratory gathering with friends, she is constantly belittling him, constantly talking down his achievement through judicious use of fact coupled with any fiction she might care to invent. At a restaurant meal with his gallery owner and assorted invited guests, she invents an allergy, ‘absent-mindedly consumes a small amount of Thomas’ food and suffers an allergy attack, immediately becoming the focus of attention on what should be his evening rather than hers.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Middle Man

Director – Bent Hamer – 2021 – Norway, Denmark, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland – Cert. 15 – 95m

****

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… A man in a heartland American town becomes a middle man, whose job it is to convey bad news to local people – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 10th

Curiously for an English language film set in a small American town, this one was funded by a variety of European countries and Canada. While its visuals clearly owe much to the films of David Lynch, particularly Blue Velvet (1986) and Lost Highway (1997) with their heavy night time interiors filled with dark, impenetrable black spaces, it eschews the over the top moments of sex and violence with which Lynch peppers these films with something much less jocular and more deadpan. Like Lynch it feels distinctly odd, yet in a completely different way. Unlike those films, it’s adapted from (part of) a novel.

Opening images. Factories in a town belch smoke. A small, industrial town on a river. This is Karmack, USA.

Frank Farrelli (Pål Sverre Hagen) is the second interviewee by the three person panel (the local sheriff, pastor and doctor played respectively by Paul Gross, Nicholas Bro and Canadian regular Don McKellar) for the town’s job of middle man, the person who has to deliver bad news, e.g.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Holy Spider
(Ankabut-e Moqaddas,
عنکبوت مقدس)

Director – Ali Abassi – 2022 – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

An Iranian lady crime journalist poses as a prostitute in an attempt to uncover the identity of a serial killer justifying his killing spree in the name of Islam – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th

2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Leaving her small daughter at home, a woman goes out into the night. She changes into high heels in a lavatory then goes onto the streets to ply her trade as a prostitute. She tells a streetcrawler to “fuck off”. In any encounter with male sexuality, violence is never far away; in a frenzied coupling in an apartment littered with the awards of a successful entrepreneur, a client tells her, “I’m going to tear your pussy apart.”

Another man refuses to pay more than half for a blow job when police are seen near the car in which she’s performing the service, preventing him from climaxing. A further man asks her onto his bike, but later in the stairwell to his apartment she thinks she may have made a mistake and tries to excuse herself.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Holy Spider
(Ankabut-e Moqaddas,
عنکبوت مقدس)

In God’s name

Holy Spider
Directed by Ali Abassi
Certificate 18, 116 minutes
Released 20 January (UK cinemas), 10 March (MUBI)

The year 2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Prostitutes are being targeted by a killer who is justifying his crimes with Islamic rhetoric. With the notable exception of her editor Sahrifi (Arash Ashtiani), the journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) investigating the case encounters sexism wherever she goes, and it’s hard not to draw parallels between these everyday attitudes of men towards most women and the atrocities being inflicted on a small number of them on the social margins.

A number of the killings are shown, in unpleasant detail, and are difficult to watch. (This film is an 18 for a reason.) [Read the full review at Reform magazine…]

[Read my longer review on this site…]

Holy Spider is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th.

Trailer:

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies
(and more,
excluding re-releases)
2022

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2022, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/22 and 31/12/22. Prior to 2020, I’d never included online releases (well, maybe the odd one or two as a special case) but that year saw the film distribution business turned upside down by COVID-19. The movie business is still changing, and the dust hasn’t yet settled.

This version excludes re-releases (Psycho, Paris, Texas and Pickpocket, not to mention the first six Bond movies, would top everything here). It has been an amazing year for re-releases including one or two incredible, old movies being released in the UK for the first time on Blu-ray. This is the year I get to rank all 25 Eon Bond movies, and why not? A link to that longer list will be added here in due course.

In addition to re-releases, this version also excludes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2022.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Burning Sea
(Nordsjøen)

Director – John Andreas Andersen – 2022 – Norway – Cert. 12 – 104m

***

An underwater technician attempts to rescue her lover who is trapped and probably dead on an oil rig amidst impending ecological disaster – out on digital on Monday, May 30th

The Norwegian title translates literally as North Sea, so renaming the film The Burning Sea makes it sound more dramatic and ups the ante considerably. That increased selling point comes at a price, though. Instead of an oil rig disaster movie, you’re now expecting a sea on fire movie which doesn’t happen ’til the last reel. Still, director Andersen’s films include the impressive disaster movie The Quake (2018) while the writing team of Harald Rosenløw-Eeg (The Quake, 2018; The Wave, Roar Uthaug, 2015) and Lars Gudmestad (Headhunters, Morten Tyldum, 2011) looks promising enough. Unlike those films, however, this one lapses fairly quickly into cliché.

It spends its first 10 minutes largely on romantic drama with Sofia (Kristine Kujath Thorp from the wonderful Ninjababy, Yngvild Sve Flikke, 2021) content to be living her life with lover Stian (Henrik Bjelland) and his pre-teen son Odin (Nils Elias Olsen) at a distance rather than living together permanently with them.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

a-ha The Movie

Directors – Thomas Robsahm, Aslaug Holm – 2021 – Norway, Germany – Cert. 12a – 108m

***

The rise and career of the enduring, three-piece, Norwegian band a-ha – out in cinemas on Friday, May 20th

Norwegian trio a-ha are arguably best known for two songs. They swept to fame on the strength of their first hit Take On Me, which features extensively in this documentary. They were later asked to do the title for Bond movie The Living Daylights (John Glen, 1987), which gets only a few minutes screen time somewhere in the middle here, so I’ll get that out of the way first. The band write their own material and found themselves having to work with legendary Bond composer John Barry as their producer on this gig who, as they saw it, was used to having musical input and getting his own way. They talk about recording the song in such a way as to get round him.

Perhaps what this best illustrates is that musicians (artists, composers, bands) often work and operate within their own sealed worlds and if they have to work with rivals, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this instance, it doesn’t sound a good experience for either party.… Read the rest