Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Lovely Dinner

As the window closes on getting my favourite short film, Into White, out there, I realised that I had made public but never properly shared my 2010 short film, Lovely Dinner.

From a script I really liked, it was my little love letter to gore fests like Braindead, while giving cuddles to the cannibal genre (which I predict will have a brief comeback with the release of Eli Roth's latest flick, The Green Inferno). This is a horror comedy about a man of creepily nervous disposition, George, who is having a dinner date with socially awkward Penny. But, little did she know, she is the dinner. Mwhahahaha. 

I made it in 2010 (in fact, we shot in February, so almost 2 years ago exactly) as my graduate piece. It actually had a nice little life for itself, appearing at the Cork Corona Fastnet Short Film Festival and the big Galway Film Fleadh, as well as loads of other fests I foolishly didn't keep track of and can no longer remember (I really need someone to help me with the promotion of these things, I am useless). Great performances and some great crew work here. You may recognise my severed head icon on the internet tab from this flick. Not a perfect film, but hey, it's a bit of blood-soaked fun. 

Enjoy (and for the love of God, share!). Happy Sunday.

Lovely Dinner from Richard Waters on Vimeo.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Jumping on the Bandwagon: Lazy writing and arrogance today

You know what annoys me? People jumping on the bandwagon.

Let me be clear from the outset, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and in creative areas like film, music or other arts, there are no ways to argue with someones personal taste. How and ever, sometimes, probably more often than you'd like, you will come across someone who cannot formulate their own opinion, and instead, go with the majority ruling, even if they can't back up the reasons why. These people are annoyances, certainly, but it happens. What happens less often, and is far less forgivable are morons who not only side with popular opinion, but lash out in as outlandish a manner as they can, using a respectable public forum, yelling so loud that you could almost be forgiven for thinking they know what they are talking about. Sometimes you know something is off with what is being said, but dismiss it and move on with your life. However, if you take a moment to examine just what it is that is catching you, you can normally find a loudmouth who not only has no facts, but also thinks they are witty and clever with just how loud their noises are. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I begrudgingly introduce you to the hack-writer of, Sean 'Keanu Grieves' Hanson

If you click on that link, you will be taken to his review of the latest Leatherface flick, Texas Chainsaw 3D. This film has taken a hammering by critics, dramatically falling from the US box office number 1 to quickly disappearing into the distance. Now, this film definitely isn't anything to write home about, but after all the reviews I read, I was expecting the biggest turkey this side of Chernobyl Diaries. Imagine my shock when, after eventually throwing my arms in the air and figuring there was no point in taking this seriously so I might as well just enjoy it, I actually came out from the film finding it a relatively fun cinema outing. Sure, the characters are thin on the ground and you could drive a semi through the plot holes, but the film felt like something poorly executed by people who loved the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (you can read Joey's review here. We had very similar feelings on the film).

So, obviously my viewpoint and Mr. Hanson's differ greatly. That's no big deal. People don't agree with me often. And awful lot of people didn't like the film. What is a big deal is his writings about it. If you are a casual TCM fan (Ok, I'm a bit more than a casual one, I have to admit), then his review should make your blood boil. Not because he is dissing the horror icon or the latest garden tool melee, but because his review is extremely insulting, and extremely wrong. Factually. As in, those things that are indisputable. And arrogant. His review is that also. 

Let's just skim the surface and go for the most outrageous claims;

'Texas Chainsaw 3D exists only as a shameless cash-in masquerading as a work of artistic loyalty'  
You cannot make this claim without mentioning the Michael Bay produced remake and prequel. THEY were cash-ins. I have always enjoyed them and found them gorgeous, but upon re-watching, the Jessica Biel star vehicle is even more thin on plot that this installment. This one has the added advantage of having the respect to have several of the original cast have brief cameo appearances (Gunnar Hansen has never appeared in any  apart from the original because producers normally refuse to pay for him). It might not have Hooper and Henkel, as Hanson wants, but they have both made new entries, so it's fair to say the combination of cast or crew recapturing the original's magic has been covered. And the film tries something new with its plot. Instead of kids getting trapped in house with cannibal family, it actually gives a motivation for carnage. The effectiveness of this is questionable, but shameless it is not. The film is downright admirable in how it ISN'T being too loyal to the original (a problem pretty much every other entry has).

'Texas Chainsaw 3D... reaches a whole new level of badness, combining overall incompetence, scenes of unjustifiable cruelty and the assumption that the audience won't give a shit and neither should the filmmakers'
 Ok, I don't think the film is particularly well executed, and even though it had a budget bigger than the remake it isn't nearly as pretty, so I can't argue there, but where is this unjustifiably cruelty? The level of violence was in keeping with the rest of the series, but in no way near as mean-spirited as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. You want something with unjustifiable cruelty? Then don't leave the elephant in the room out of the equation. Heck, by any sort of horror movie standards, this film is pretty tame.

Hanson then goes on a check list of problems with the film. There's spoilers here, but let me point out most  (not all) are very typical cinematic contrivances an audience is asked to accept, and this is nothing more than nit-picking to fatten up a rant. He even takes issue with a moment involving crashing through a gate that goes against the grain. I found the moment ridiculous, but also couldn't fault it, since it was a new and realistic turn on what we normally see. Our reviewer also seems to take issue with simple character motivation and understanding that anyone who took more than a second to think about would realise is sound. 

'...negating The Texas Chain Saw Massacre's iconic framing scene, in which deputies scour a horror-house for evidence while narrator John Laroquette matter-of-factly introduces the film as a piece of documentary.'
YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THE WRONG FUCKING FILM. In Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original, with a space between 'Chain' and 'Saw'), Laroquette reads an opening title roll. The Marcus Nispel remake, Texas Chainsaw (one word) Massacre has the quoted 'iconic' framing scene. Unless pop culture had a meeting while my back was turned, nothing about this remake is remarkable, let alone iconic.

'His incompetence surfaces again for the carnival scene, which -- for all its promise of grand guignol carnage on the scale of Piranha 3D or The Collection -- exists without payoff.' 
One shot in the trailer and suddenly everyone thinks this should have been some big moment in the film? It is what it is; a brief scene that serves its function. People getting their knickers in a twist over it have no one to blame but themselves. Also, call me crazy, but the Ferris wheel was a pretty nice payoff.

'...while chasing his sister.'
It's his cousin. Why did you get this wrong? It's pretty much the only plot point in the film. This is just lazy writing. I hope this guy wasn't paid for writing this article, because with stupid errors like this, you'd definitely be wanting your money back.

'...this film takes the unprecedented step of making Leatherface sympathetic, a hero and a tragically misunderstood monster in search of his Dr. Frankenstein even though he likes to dismember his victims slowly while they're hanging off meathooks before he wears their faces as masks.'
Yup... This film, and every other TCM film, make him sympathetic and tragically misunderstood, BECAUSE HE IS!!!! He isn't Michael Myers, killing mindlessly. He isn't Freddy Kruger, hellbent on revenge. He is someone with mental problems trying to protect his family and doing it in the way they taught him. It is all about family. There has not been a single film in the series that has not made it clear that he does these things because of what he is told to do and that he knows no better. Hell, TCM2 even hints that he could still function normally if given a chance.

I could write thousands more words on this article, and the ilk of writer behind it, but I'm done with it. This is nonsense. If someone is going to make the centrepiece of their article a bashing on a film everyone is already bashing, then you'd better at least get your facts straight, especially if you are wanting to be so righteous about it. TC3D has plenty of problems with it, and Hanson rightly touches on some of them, but he then bases so much of his vitriol on false facts and redundant assumptions. The cherry on top is just how arrogant he is about it. He decides that his opinion must be fact (something I bet he feels safe in, since it is currently widely spread across the net), and outright insults people who go against it, such as Variety's Joe Laydon and The Onion's Scott Tobias. God forbid someone enjoys a flawed but worthy film.

This is a good example of lazy writing being caught out. Plain and simple. Hanson may well be a typically talented writer, and in no way can I say he isn't a stand up guy. For all I know, he does charity work in soup kitchens and is a modern day saint, but that's not my point. My point is you don't have to agree with me and like the film, but I can tell you why I did and didn't like it, and will respect those who have their own opinion, but the second you decide your opinion is better than others, then you had better be ready and able to back yourself up, because people like Joey and I will see it, and we will be the fucking iceberg to your idiotic Titanic.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

HMV: A Tragic End

Very bummed about HMV closing its doors in Ireland. As we all know, most businesses don't come back from receivership... I'm sure some people will go on about big business and how no one acts like this for the little guy, but really, HMV has played such an important part in the film and music world, both massive and small artist alike. And it has almost romantic connotations for a lot of us. Finding new favourites, rekindling acquaintances with old, sharing with friends or surprising loved ones, the place has been integrated into culture, and the thought of this era passing is just tragic...

Got this DVD from the Grafton Street branch just the other day, can't believe it might be the last from em...

Thursday, 10 January 2013

5 More Best Practical FX In Horror

Joey has done a great list of the best effects films not to feature computer generated images, in honour of the upcoming Evil Dead remake's promise to be CG free. Check out her piece for some lovely words, and now see as I add on some of my own.

For those too lazy to click the link (seriously, check it out), here are her top 5 practical FX films:
5. The Evil Dead (original)
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (original)
3. An American Werewolf in London
2. Gremlins
1. The Thing (again, the original, of course)

That's a pretty mind blowing list, and there is no way to better it, but I can certainly add some well deserving names to it.

Echoing Joey's sentiments, I am a massive fan of practical FX. Maybe a big part of it comes from me growing up to see the development of CG effects, so it is easier for me to pick them out in a film, but I also think that films not only reached their peak with these effects about a decade ago (around the Lord of the Rings), but that the effects have actually gotten worse as the movie making machine pumps films with more effects wall-to-wall in considerably condensed time frames. 

Before Jurassic Park opened the floodgates for the digital revolution, there was a latex revolution, and what a mighty fine revolution it was. Nowadays, the only limit to a film is the filmmakers imagination, but with this accessibility comes a massive sense of unease. I have yet to watch a film with CG effects that have felt as visceral as the real-life prosthetics and puppetry of days gone by. There is no weight to the 1s and 0s, not like some stretchy rubber has. Even though we all know that moments like the chest-burster scene in Alien are fake, they still have a sense of realism that the millions of dollars of computer renderings in Alien Vs Predator could never hold a candle to. 

There is plenty written on the uncanny valley that can explain a lot of this, but hey, let's not focus on the now, let's lovingly look back in time at some other amazing films that were responsible for defying reality before computers were even portable.

5. The Exorcist
The one that shocked em all, with breathtaking effects by Dick Smith. Heads spining, puke projecting, bodies being thrown in ways they were never meant to. The stories of just how brutal the shoot was have passed in to legend, with lead Ellen Burstyn coming out with permanent back problems, but hey, this one made a generation not just scared, but left some fearing for their very souls. Have an CG shadows done that lately? Didn't think so.

4. Ghostbusters
Alright, this one dates quite badly. Even the matting is obvious in this age of hi-def video transfers, but there is something spectacular about this constant classic's use of composited in puppets. The librarian and Slimer are obviously on the plush side, but still, they have an undeniable charm to them that I would take over some PS3 reject any day of the week. And the Gozer dogs and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Just suits, but you never cared. And now that you know, you still won't care.

3. Videodrome
Pretty much all of David Cronenberg's films up until Naked Lunch could apply, but I'll keep it to his best examples. Videodrome blends in latex effects with their surreal settings; where a man falls into an unreality of a bizarre TV station. The film has a man reaching in to his own stomach, a gun fusing to his hand, a shape reaching out from the TV set and a man deforming on stage. Videodrome does not always hit the realism button, but its effects could never be matched by a computer rendering. We are physically experiencing a mental breakdown, and even though we know what is happening cannot be real, we can touch it, feel it, it must be. 

2. Aliens
This could be a double barrel here. Both films had different effects and designs going in to their special effects, and both come off flawlessly. In terms of realism, these can't be bet. But let's stick with James Cameron's action tour de force. You might never really think about it, but image just how complicated it is to have the facehuggers run around and jump, but it is completely worth it. And again, our monsters are guys in rubber suits, but they have a life to them that the elegantly designed xenomorphs from Resurrection onward lack. Possibly the best example of use versus need is the Queen Alien and her intimidating and thunderous movements as she leaves her hive and battles the powerloader in Aliens. Alien Vs Predator wanted to one up this by having her run around, but it comes off looking silly and cheap. 20 years later, and it still couldn't be beat.

1. The Fly
Another David Cronenberg entry. Let's just say he isn't the master of the body horror for nothing. The Fly is a grotesque display of the scientist's transformation into a human fly after a failed experiment on himself. He loses teeth, ears, limbs, you name it, until becoming the thing of nightmares. And let's not forget about the arm wrestling scene. Both this and Videodrome would be considered far out in their visuals by today's standards, but for films the guts of 30 years old, they both hold up not just remarkably, but exceptionally.  The Fly is realistic in its approach, and often reaches gut-churning level, never once giving us the safety of a Shrek-like poorly done character to distract us from this horrorshow. 

Nope, the latex revolution may have passed, but it can be said it was certainly for convenience as opposed to development. The above examples are just a small portion of what was an era where you could worry what you were seeing could physically be under your bed, not just sitting in a hard drive waiting to be booted up. Let us hope the Evil Dead remake brings these glory days back.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Last Exorcism Part 2: Bending Over To Impress

The trailer for The Last Exorcism Part 2 has dropped.... AND HERE IT IS:

Ain't half bad, is it? And this is coming from someone who was really disappointed by the first installment. Well, I should say first PART. That word is a nice way to get around such a definitive title as The LAST Exorcism. 

The obvious talking point here is that the film abandons the found footage angle and instead goes for the slick approach, which seems like it will be in its benefit. An awful lot of found footage franchises abandon the gimmick once they get their toes in the water, so this probably won't be too big a deal.

The first film also had a brilliant trailer, and was a complete let down, and I can almost feel this one shooting its load in the foreplay (that may be the creepiest way to describe showing too much in the trailer ever... you're welcome). I could be crazy, but this films central plot, the girl who was 'possessed' in the first film is being pursued by demons as she tries to move on with life, seems to contradict the first films ending, but then again, everyone felt cheated by The Last Exorcism's ending (this was before the days of The Devil Inside, back when we didn't know how lucky we were to have a final act). There are very few returning names here, including new director and writer, so this very well could be a cash-in with loose ties to the first film. Time will tell. Anyway, the poster is cool.

As with the first one, I have high hopes, but as they say; once bitten, twice shy.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

EVIL DEAD 2013: Daring you to see it

Well, it's all abuzz on the internet now; here is the RED BAND trailer for the new Evil Dead remake. Keep in mind, this gets pretty grisly!

My thoughts? I love it.

I'm a massive whore for the original films (well, the first two), and think Drag Me To Hell is a spiritual sequel to Sam Raimi's cult classics. Skepticism for the remake is definitely abated by the fact that Raimi, other original producer Rob Tapert and original star Bruce Campbell are on board and being guiding lights in the production. I don't think the film can ever feel like a true part of the Evil Dead mythos, but that is more down to just how much time has passed and how far cinema has gone. Seeing a bloody vomit, head in bag, Book of the Dead wrapped in barbed wire, a woman being kicked into a cellar, and the return of the rapey trees (man, I sound so misogynistic!) makes me think this film won't pull punches and will hopefully be as much of a hoot as the original film. I doubt it will be quite as quirky as Evil Dead 2, though there does seem to be some deeply dark humour to be found in the trailer, so maybe the film will be peppered with that.

One of the most annoying trends recently has been trailers giving too much away (see Sinister for a prime example), and I fear that this trailer is so good that that may be what is the case here, but then again, most of the demonic action seems to focus on just one woman, and as we all know from the original, each member of the group is tortured one by one, so here's to hoping.

Evil Dead coming in the next couple of months? Yes, please!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

You MUST Know What I Think! Worst of 2012

And now, we get into the nitty gritty. After my Best of 2012, you know you have to go for a good aul rant for the worst. This one even stays with horror, for the most part, though I like to think all of them are terrifying in their own special ways. Don't worry, I've limited the list to 5, to spare you your eyeball muscles.

Watch this space for the noncommittal list that is The Spaces In Between, where a good deal of films that otherwise would have ended up here, are spared owing to some things that just about justify them. this list is very genre-non-specific. 

5. The Wicker Tree
The semi-sequel of The Wicker Man, the original cult classic, not the Nic Cage woman-punching film, returns to similar themes of paganism and sacrificial rituals he explored decades earlier. The difference this time? He made a film so unbelievably dull that I'd say it must be seen to be believed, but there is a high chance you will fall asleep during it. Even if this exact film had been made back in the 70s, it would still have been tame and slow paced. I have an awful lot of respect for director Robin Hardy, but unfortunately this film packs little in the way of bite, action, scares, intrigue, interest, plot, good dialogue, cinema. The trailer is a better watch than the film, since it promises a film where a popstar is born-again and travels to a remote island to convert its heathen inhabitants. You can read my descent into insanity as I watched the film right here.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man
Here is one I have taken a lot of slack for, but fuck it, this film reaaaalllllllllly sucked. I could go in to detail, but my friend Tim does a very eloquent job of it right here. I read that before going in to the film, but I kept an open mind. The trailers were lame ducks, but they did seem to promise an almost Batman-like level of rebooting after Sam Raimi's admittedly poor Spider-Man 3, so off I went, Spidey fan, open-minded. And good God, Lemon, did it suck. Again, see Tim's rant for full info, but he is 100% right. As a fan, I hated it. People keep saying Andrew Garfield is a much better Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire, but they are wrong. This is a fact. He is a brilliant actor, and I hope he does many more great roles, but this isn't one of them. He has NO character arc, is a smug-faced wise-ass from the get-go, and almost seems to get the superpowers just be to more of an asshole. Really, the only way this film can actually work for his character is if the sequel reveals he is actually the super-villain all along, because it is pretty much going that way. Even as normal Pete, his flirting with Emma Stone's great Gwen Stacey is just cringy, in the wrong way. If I could, I would have punched him in the face right there and then. They even get the trademark costume wrong.

What are the redeeming factors of the film? Well, Stone and Martin Sheen are pretty cool, there is that knife joke from the trailer, and it is cool to see the Lizard realised in a live-action movie (even if he looks faker than the Goombas from the Super Mario Bros film), but that's it. Fuck, the film can't even follow its own clichés for more than a few seconds. A crippled Spidey must swing across town, but his leg is in too much agony. Then all the cranes arrange just for him. And he can do it! And is then fine! Wait... Why couldn't he swing when it was his leg hurting? And why is it then a nonissue? The film didn't jump the shark, it arranged the cranes.

And as for gritty? Not here. The film looks a bit more Batman-esque than Raimi's series, but that is it. It halfheartedly wants to be cool, and that is exactly what comes across. The film feels like some execs saw a chance to try capitalise on The Dark Knight's success, and threw scenes than their tweenage audiences thought would be totally rad (is that still a thing?). Well, it is a fucking soulless film. It is a cash whore. It is insulting to the audience and humanity everywhere. And shame on all of us for giving it our money. And now there is a sequel on the way. Well, congratulations, we reached a peak with The Avengers, and have quickly fallen down to The Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-Man 3 isn't looking so bad now, crotch thrust and all.

3. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
It isn't even as good as the first installment. Do I need to say more?

2. The Devil Inside
Ahhhh, here is one everyone has taken shots at, and I have been looking forward to my chance. This film had massive buzz around it, and a pretty damn good trailer that got me excited for it. Then the film came out. Well, kinda. They famously forgot to include an ending. Instead, you go to a website to find out more of the story, where you are treated to... nothing. I'd almost prefer if there was a Giff of monkeys pointing and laughing at me, because then at least I'd know the filmmakers had been smart enough to know how well their tricks had worked. It actually is almost clever not having an ending to the film, since it is found footage, and realistically, most people wouldn't film past a certain point, but this was a fucking cinematic experience. People payed a LOT of money to see this, and were very openly heisted. I could forgive the film if it was a brilliant film otherwise, and the lack of ending was almost an Inception-like mindfuck, but no. This film blows throughout. Let's be clear here, there is NO WAY to make priests intimidating subject matter (bar the obvious closed-doors naughtiness). When you see them taking demons and possession seriously, it's like watching a kid pretend they are in a rocket to the moon; entertaining but completely fantastical and childish. 

So, the plot the film wants us to take seriously is stupid. But oooh, there is a woman actually possessed, and her daughter is with the team of priests filming this (who are unintentionally hilarious every time they take things serious). Scares abound, right? Nope. We get the mother being loud. And then showing an inverted cross in her mouth. Now that bugs me. Maybe in the 70s you could get away with that, but not now. How many films and TV shows have pointed out the inverted cross isn't satanic at all, but the way St. Peter was crucified as a sign of respect to Jesus Christ? If a film based around religion can't get this simple fact right, what chance does the rest of it have? Not much. The entire thing is near incoherent and stupid beyond belief. It will insult you. It will demean you. But two things it won't do for you? Entertain or scare you.

1. The Chernobyl Diaries
I have already written a massive warning for people to avoid this film, and make sure if anyone asks me about any good films knocking about, that they steer clear of this one. One thing all the above bad films have in common is that they tried to be decent. Even if they were insulting to the audience, or simply trying to grab your cash, they all at least had the respect to make it seem like they could have been good somewhere along the line but then just lost the plot. The Chernobyl Diaries, though? It is a ridiculously bad film. I cannot for the life of me figure out how they got it so wrong. I mean, some tourists get trapped near the reactor where the Chernobyl meltdown happened, and it turns out they are not alone. Sooooo simple. And it gets it completely wrong. Have a watch of the trailer, then don't ever give this film any more thought in your life. See how the trailer is found footage? The film isn't. See how the trailer promises some sort of menace? The film fails to deliver completely. See how the trailer has some scary moments? The film even fucks those up. See how the trailer seems some way exciting? The film isn't. It is, in fact, long, boring, beyond cliché, and head-wreckingly poor. The only thing that I liked was a jump scare involving a bear, but that happens early on, and in any other film wouldn't be such a stand out moment.


Well, there you have it, my worst of the year. There are an awful lot of films left off this list, but you can expect a lot of them to show up in tomorrows The Spaces In Between. What did you make of this list? Did you find these wrecks as bad as I did? Or did you actually love a film I knocked here? Let me know below.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

You MUST Know What I Think! Best of 2012

Well, it is that time of year again; The BEST of films from the year. 

Actually, it's about 2 days too late, but blame constantly exploding laptops. But for now, I am back on my trusty Dell, which never disappoints, unlike this previous year in horror (oh ye, nice segue). Last year, I promised this list would be more horror populated in 2012 since it seemed like such a promising year, and I even have a post of what was then on its way to the silver screen that was exciting me. Unfortunately, just like my promises of consistency, this list strays from the path of horror immensely. In fact, this year I will be following up with not only a WORST of 2012 post, but a SPACES IN BETWEEN, for those films that weren't bad, but overall disappointing. There are some glaring omissions here, since I haven't seen some films like The Hobbit or Paranormal Activity 4 yet, but hey, what good would I be if I was fully prepared for this post?

So, for the year the world kept turning, 2012, here is what I thought was the best on offer.

10. The Woman In Black
I wasn't a massive fan of the film, finding some inconsistencies, but I think the majority of those problems can be put down to the fact Daniel Radcliffe is a terrible, awful, wooden actor who was the worst case of stunt casting I have ever seen. I initially found the film itself middle of the road, but am in hindsight thinking it is quite fun, but the more and more I look at it, it seems that Potter drags down some immensely powerful talent around him to be a horrible putrid zit on an otherwise not too bad looking face.

9. Cosmopolis
I'm a massive fan of David Cronenberg, and hope he will return to his genre roots eventually, but until then, he seems to be pumping out films for critics to call 'high-brow' or 'unique'. Cosmopolis is definitely these things, but probably not in a good way. The trailer plays up the sex, drugs and violence of the film, which are certainly elements for Robert Patterson's despondent business tycoon in the back of a limo, but the film is all a monologue of a detached millionaire. Feeling very staged with long periods of inactivity, the film is actually pretty interesting, up until it reaches its climax, where it almost edges in to typical Hollywood, but then plays out almost 10 minutes too long. The film isn't a standout in Cronenberg's oeuvre, but is certainly an interesting piece for those looking for an inner struggle in a decaying world.

8. The Hunger Games
Battle Royale is one of my favourite films, so Hunger Games automatically loses points for basically being a candy-coated version of the Japanese classic, but the film on its own merit is enjoyable, engaging and biting from a satirical point of view. I'm not going to stand here and say it is high art or anything, but the film has a universal message of the wealth divide that it sends to the PG-13 crowd effectively (and heavy-handed). Though somewhat predictable or cliché in places, this actually benefits the film and its ability to appeal to all. THIS is a much more appropriate replacement for Harry Potter than the Twilight series.

7. Absentia
Technically a 2011 film, but only released on DVD in the UK in 2012, this is a micro-budget flick about a woman whose husband shows up years after inexplicably disappearing and being presumed dead. He appears disheveled and paranoid of a tunnel near the house, which we find is home to some otherworldly portal where demons can kidnap the living. Though it shows its low budget pedigree in many places, it is a very strong film with a consistent heavy tone. The former drug addict sister of our main character is fantastic, as is most of the cast. An idea that could have been hashed out and replicated in dozens of bargain bin flicks, this one stands out as something that has more of a heart than any of its low budget peers.

6. Dredd
I loved this film. It is simple. It is a shoot em up. It is a popcorn movie. There is nothing complex about the famous Chaos AD character, Judge Dredd, getting trapped in an apartment complex and hunted by a drug dealer's gangs, but this is the biggest plus of the film. I know some people are annoyed that none of Judge Dredd's 20+ year history is brought up in the film, but that is why this film is so good. It isn't trying to inject plot, or shoehorn a message in. Dredd is an officer who upholds the law, and executes those who break it. Plain and simple. You want deeper plot? Go watch the Sylvester Stallone version. What I was hoping for was this film to be a hit, and there to be a massive series (like 12 films) so we could go deeper into this character slowly but surely, but I guess that is never going to happen since the film didn't do impressive numbers. Stylistically, the film is probably up there with the next entry as most beautiful film of the year, and number 1 for best 3D. 

5. Moonrise Kingdom
Wes 'I can't help but make incredible films' Anderson returns with the story of a scout and a young girl who run off together on a small American island as the worst storm of years is about to hit. If you haven't seen this film, it is the one you HAVE TO see. Anderson's films always are unique, but this one feels like it was made from your grandfather's shag rug while reminiscing as Bill Murray walks in every now and again. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton will blow you away with roles that are fantastically awkward and hilarious.

4. The Cabin in the Woods
Many people have gone to town about this one and how good it is, and I agree. It is the best 'horror' I have seen this year, though I use the term horror loosely. In it, we see the stereotypical college kids go to the titular Cabin, where they are attacked by supernatural beings, but the twist being there are being watched and manipulated by a government-like organisation. I hated the trailer for this one, but was so pleasantly surprised when I saw it. The film is witty and amusing, and is a loving elbow to the ribs for horror fans (incidentally, if you liked this, check out Tucker and Dale VS Evil. A lot more silly, but brilliant). It is self-referential, as the Scream series was, but in a totally different way. Whereas those films were played straight with realistic characters who knew the horror rules, Cabin in the Woods are more the movie horror characters who find out why they do stupid things like run upstairs when chased, or call out 'who's there?'. I bring this up because there are 2 definite camps with this film; those who love it as a tongue-in-cheek nod to typical and worn horror troupes; and those who think it is a failure as a horror film and full of itself. I agree it isn't a good horror film (I would almost prefer to stay with the mundane organisation behind the whole operation than the action with the kids), but for me, it is a ridiculously fun film, keeping in line with Joss Whedon's sardonic humour of Buffy, Firefly or even The Avengers.

3. The Avengers
Speaking of Joss Whedon. You all know what The Avengers is about; some of Marvel comics most well know characters (well, if you exclude Spidey or the X-Men), plus some ones you mightened know, trying to save the world from a Demigod who is hell bent on ruling the earth. The film is big budget and explosive, and the wet dream of comic fans everywhere. This isn't a heavy experience, it's about sitting in your seat and letting the action hit, with it being punctuated by fantastic wit and gags. The first act of the film is poor, and every now and again, I did find myself going 'these people are in stupid costumes', but once Robert Downey Jr shows up on his mission to steal every scene, the film never lets up. Steve Rogers, one of the weakest of the 'pre' Avengers films, Captain America, shines bright in the ensemble, playing well as the clean cut, modest patriot to RDJ's cocky and egomaniacal Iron Man. This is a highlight in a genre of comic book films hit by diminishing returns, and a sign that the golden age of the comic book movie may have life in it yet.

2. Prometheus
Here's one a lot of people hate. Not me. There's a lot of points people make of the film that are easy to argue (certain things people think are plot holes which aren't, thinking of it as a horror when it clearly isn't nor ever was supposed to be), and some that are not so easy to. Most people were let down, since they were expecting a great prequel to Alien. Even though director Ridley Scott had always said it had started as a prequel but no longer was, everyone knew he was just trying to give us a show. But it is a very different kettle of fish than his face-hugging original. This film obviously happens in the same universe, but has little to do with the rest of the series. In fact, it has far more to do with Blade Runner. The film's faults are some of the clichés that come through in the characters and plot, though some of these feel more like they were there but truncated in the edit. As far as action films go, it lets the side down, but this is the thing, Prometheus isn't a typical action film. In fact, the film is all very symbolical, hidden underneath the veneer of a typical multiplex mainstay, and annoyingly, too well hidden for a lot of people. It is a pondering on what it means to be human, and what if it actually means nothing. I can see why people don't like it, but for my money, this is a film that gets better and better every watch, and one that will be essay worthy for many academics, you just wait and see. 

Scott has stated there is also going to be a sequel to Blade Runner 2, and there will be a sequel to Prometheus. Through some small lines in the BluRay extras, it has been established that Blade Runner and Prometheus actually exist in the same universe, and I am theorising that these 2 upcoming sequels may in fact be one and the same. Now THERE would be a twist.

1. The Dark Knight Rises
A lot of hate for this one from a lot of people, but I'm sorry, it is enjoyable and the best film of the year for me. People were let down because, really, it isn't as good a film as The Dark Knight, but whereas The Dark Knight is an amazing crime thriller about a criminal mastermind and the balance between good and evil, The Dark Knight Rises is what happens when that balance fails and order is thrown into chaos. Like Prometheus, TDKR suffers from a lot of information passing too briefly, making it seem a bit poorly thought out, and I imagine there exists a cut that adds in half an hour of footage to the first hour of the film. So much happens in this film, it could only benefit by a Lord of the Rings-style extended edition. Not to add in scenes, but to play what is there out slower. Beyond that, it is brilliant. There are some moments here and there that are questionable, but people have been making a bigger deal out of them because they were expecting so much from this film. As a whole, Batman's villain, Bane, is as identifiable as The Joker (ok, the voice is a bit funny, but in a perfectly recognisable way), and puts the caped crusader through both personal and public trials. The Dark Knight stripped away Batman's loved ones, The Dark Knight Rises is about breaking the Bat himself. 

Great film. Number one.