And so we reach that time of year again when we film buffs look back on the year that was and reflect on the gems, surprises, disappointments and downright clunkers and stinkers that filled our cinema screens. While the summer proved to be downright humdrum for the blockbuster, these last few months have seen a wealth of terrific movies hit our screens.

Unfortunately, not being a paid, full time film critic, I have not had the chance to see all that has been on offer this year, so forgive me for any notable absences from this list. Alas I have yet to see Her and  The Wolf of Wall Street, both of which could have made this list easy, that I have no doubt.

Anyway, without further delay, I now present my Top Ten Favorite Movies that I’ve managed to see in the year that was 2013:

(POTENTIAL SPOILERS LIE AHEAD)

10. Saving Mr. Banks

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With it’s sentiment and cheery attitude and the somewhat lackluster Australia flashback scenes, it’s easy to by all snippy and cynical about Saving Mr. Banks. But putting all that to one side, there has not been one other film this year in which I’ve left the cinema screen with a bigger smile on my face. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are both monumental, while Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith’s screenplay is pitch perfect, with the final monologue being more exhilarating than any set piece any  summer blockbuster had to offer. Plus if you’re not dancing inside during the “Fly a Kite” scene then your heart truly is welded in ice.

9. A Field in England

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For me, Ben Wheatley is by far the most exciting British filmmaker working today. From Down Terrace to the chilling Kill List (I have yet to see Sightseers), Wheatley has established himself as a definite talent. In this British Civil War era film, Wheatley has crafted yet another surreal, often times disturbing look at obsession and death as told by a group of deserters out looking for buried treasure and an ale house. Creepy, chilling, frightening in one of those pit-of-your-stomach kind of ways, you’ll be hard pressed to find a creepier movie this year. It’s going to be very interesting to see what Mr. Wheatley does with Peter Capaldi’s first two adventures in Doctor Who next year.

8. Gravity

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If you managed to see a better looking film than Alfonso Cuaron’s space epic, then I applaud you (also, what is that film, because I would love to know. And if you’re like one of my friends and say The Lone Ranger, then go away now) Gravity is one of those visually, awe inspiring movies that is guaranteed to inspire some young whippersnapper to pick up a camera and begin their voyage into filmmaking. For if there is one thing that cannot be denied, it is that Cuaron’s film is truly spectacular cinema. The film is also a rollicking good ride, with it’s epic 13-minute one shot sequences, and Sandra Bullock giving it her all in what is essentially a one woman show. This is not only a technical marvel, but absolutely thrilling, awe inspiring cinema.

7. Wadjda

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Notable for being the first feature film shot inside Saudi Arabia and the first feature film shot by a female Saudi filmmaker, the film is a remarkable coming of age story of one young girl’s quest to buy a bicycle so that she can race her friend. The story sounds simple, but like its inspiration, Bicycle Thieves, Haifaa al-Mansour’s film uses its story to highlight wider issues around Saudi politics and gender issues. Waad Mohammed who plays the young, rebellious Wadjda, is a revelation, bringing a strength and spark to her performance that highlights her performance as one of the best child performances of all time . A wonderful, criminally under-seen work that needs to be checked out.

6. Inside Llewyn Davis

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Just when you think you know the Coen Brothers game, then they go and pull something like Inside Llewyn Davis out of the basket. Despite being loaded with all the usual Coen eccentricities, Inside feels wholly different to anything the Coens have done before. With beautiful cinematography and loaded with the usual bizarre characters and seeming randomness that has come to signify their work, Inside Llewyn Davis is a film in which its seasoned filmmakers are operating at the top of their game who still maintain the ability to surprise. Oscar Isaac is terrific as the folk singer, just struggling to get by and make sense of it all, while his cat sidekick gives the best animal performance of the year.

5. Captain Phillips

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Paul Greengrass proved that he was the modern master of suspense with this brilliantly gripping true life tale of an American cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates. Tom Hanks delivers one of the best performances of his career as the titular Captain Phillips, but it is his Somali counterpart Barkhad Abdi who steals the show as the leader of the pirates. Terrifically tense, nerve shredding from beginning to end, with possibly the finest final ten minutes you’ll see in any movie this year, Captain Phillips is a masterclass in suspense.

4. Cutie and the Boxer

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One of those films that simply come out of nowhere to take you by surprise, Zachary Heinzerling’s wonderful documentary is a masterful account of the life affirming and sometimes destructive power or art and love. In chronicling the trials and tribulations between artistic couple Noriko and Ushio, Heinzerling’s film captures the complexity of love and expressing oneself whilst overcoming addiction and struggling to come to terms with the pain and joys of a relationship. A joy from beginning to end, the film will make you smile, laugh and cry all at the same time.

3. Short Term 12

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Another film that took me completely by surprise this year, Destin Cretton’s film tells the story of Brie Larson’s social worker working with troubled kids at the short term foster care facility. What makes Cretton’s film rise above other films of a similar nature is not only its expertly crafted and beautifully written screenplay, nor the masterful direction of its young cast, but the wonderfully nuanced performance of its lead, Brie Larson. Having been merely a bit and supporting player up until now, her performance in Short Term 12 should hopefully be enough to propel her to star status. If there is any justice, there should be a few nominations lying in wait for Larson somewhere down the line. Easily one of the best written films of the year.

2. The Act of Killing

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Quite possibly the most remarkable and most powerful documentary I’ve seen in a long time, Joshua Oppenheimer’s disturbing and fascinating documentary sees former Indonesian death squad members reenact their actions for a “filmic piece” and the results are quite simply, startling to witness. To at first view these men, somehow reclaim their humanity as they go about recreating the events that they continually justify throughout makes for truly remarkable filmmaking. From its surreal opening, to its startling conclusion, The Act of Killing is by far one of the all time greatest documentaries. Has to be seen to be believed.

1. 12 Years A Slave

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You would be forgiven for thinking that Steve McQueen had been directing for years after watching 12 Years A Slave. But no. In only three films, Steve McQueen has truly come into his own as a filmmaker. With this adaptation of Solomon Northup’s memoirs, McQueen’s film is a haunting look at one of the great atrocities in human history. Featuring a stunning central performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor and a terrifyingly villainous Michael Fassbender, McQueen’s film features hauntingly powerful sequences and provides a chilling look at a shameful moment in our past. A remarkable film, that will no doubt clean up come awards season, and so it should.

So there you have it; my ten favorite movies that I’ve managed to see this year. Agree, disagree, it doesn’t matter. What will 2014 bring?

Following on from part 1, as promised, here is part 2 of my rundown of films to look forward to in 2014. Wow, that was probably the most pointless introduction to anything ever. Seriously, beginnings are hard, man. Cut me some slack. Anyway, on with the next twenty five movies that we can look forward to in 2014:

26. How To Train Your Dragon 2

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The first How To Train Your Dragon movie was a wonderful surprise from Dreamworks animation. A magical story of friendship, courage, a beautiful message at its heart and complete  with wondrously glorious animation. Seriously, if you didn’t fall in love with Toothless, then there is seriously something wrong with you. Naturally, like all good things, a sequel is on its way next summer. The first trailer showcased the starling animation that Dreamworks are capable of, promising more of the high flying action and dragon bonding that we loved between our heroes with the second trailer promising something far more epic in scope. Here’s hoping the sequel recaptures some of the magic of the first movie.

27. Ex Machina

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Alex Garland, the novelist and screenwriter behind such films as 28 Days Later, Dredd, Never Let Me Go and Sunshine, takes the director’s chair for Ex Machina, a film that promises to be a more thinking man’s sci-fi than wham bang shoot em’ up. The story follows Caleb, a young coder who, after arriving at a strange remote mountain retreat, discovers that he must partake in a fascinating experiment, in which he must interact with the world’s first artificial intelligence. Naturally of course, this intelligence is housed in the body of a beautiful young woman. For his first movie, Garland has assembled quite a sprightly young cast with Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb and Alicia Vikander as the artificial intelligence, with Oscar Isaac providing support.

28. Big Eyes

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Tim Burton’s recent output has been, shall we say… questionable at best. Dark Shadows was a bust and Alice in Wonderland, despite being a smash hit, should have been far better than it was, but Frankenweenie reminded us of why we fell in love with Tim Burton movies in the first place. It seems he’s taking a more dramatic approach with his latest, Big Eyes, an autobiographical film about artist Margaret Keane and the subsequent legal difficulties she faced with her husband after he claimed credit for her work. With Amy Adams and Christolph Waltz portraying the Keanes, and Burton’s signature visual style a clear fit for Keane’s work, this could be something of a dramatic shift for Burton, harkening back to his Ed Wood days.

29. Edge of Tomorrow

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Tom Cruise’s last venture into the realm of science fiction was the entertaining, if ever so slightly underwhelming Oblivion, but for his second sci-fi movie in a row, Cruise seems to have picked a project with a far more intriguing premise. The film finds Cruise’s Colonel William Cage who, having been confined to a desk for his whole career, suddenly finds himself on the front lines in an alien war. After being killed within minutes, Cage wakes up to find himself in a time loop repeating the same fateful day over and over again. The concept sounds a little too video gamey at first glance, but the first trailer looked promising with decent visuals, some great looking battles, and a badass Emily Blunt kicking all kinds of alien ass. Adapted from the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, this could be the dark horse of the summer. Doug Liman is behind the camera for this one.

30. Everest

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Movies love come in pairs. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Dante’s Peak and Volcano. This past year we’ve had two “Die Hard in the White House” movies, next year we’ll have two Hercules movies (notice how they are not here) and we’ll also see two competing Mount Everest movies. The second movie is a standard bio pic about British climber George Mallory, but the first is from Baltasar Kormakur and stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin in what promises to be an all out adventure/survival movie. The story follows a hiking expedition who are suddenly devastated by a severe snow storm. With the director of this year’s 2 Guns at the helm, expect more survival action, possibly some male bonding over survival and stuff and some crazy mountain action.

31. Wish I Was Here

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It’s been a long wait for Zach Braff’s directorial follow up to Garden State. A full ten years in fact, but next year Braff brings us his second movie as director. Braff caught some heat earlier this year when he did the Veronica Mars thing and went to Kickstarter to acquire funding, something that brought some blowback to the actor/director when it was revealed that he had decided to forego studio funding in favor of the crowdfunding site. I was a fan of Garden State when it came out, and I am looking forward to more purposeful life affirming soul searching from Braff and company. Wish I Was Here will have its premiere at Sundance next year.

32. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was far more enjoyable than I had expected it to be, with Andy Serkis proving once again, why he deserves every award under the sun for revolutionizing motion capture performance. Now, next year we have a follow up. Rupert Wyatt has vacated the director’s chair and Cloverfield and Let Me In director Matt Reeves is in. Serkis is back as Caesar, the intelligent ape who has now gathered his army of apes in the woods, while the deadly virus that we saw hinted at the end of the last film has all but wiped out humanity with only a few pockets remaining. With a new group of humans thrown into the mix, including Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell, the recently released teaser looked incredibly promising hinting at a more epic scale than the first movie, with Serkis and his ape pals evolving into the dominant race that they will eventually become.

33. Into the Woods

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Featuring one hell of a starry cast, including Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick and James Corden, Rob Marshall’s adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical could be the holiday hit of next year. I haven’t seen the musical so I have no idea what to expect, but Marshall has experience in this sort of thing, and with a cast this reliable, you’d be hard pressed not to be excited about this come next Christmas. Unless of course you hate musicals, and also if you weren’t fans of Rob Marshall’s last two musical adaptations (Chicago and Nine) then this will probably be one to skip. But come on. Look! Meryl Streep! As a witch! Singing! Like Mamma Mia and stuff… Yeah, probably not so good. But Meryl Streep!

34. Jersey Boys

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The vastly popular stage musical makes its way to the big screen, directed by none other than… Clint Eastwood? Yep, you read that right. Clint Eastwood is making a musical. Anyone who saw Paint Your Wagon can rest easy as old Clint won’t be stretching the vocals himself, leaving that to more capable hands. Jersey Boys has been a phenomenon on stage so it was only a matter of time before a film version headed to the screen. Adapted by John Logan and featuring a cast of relative unknowns, this should be a treat for fans of the musical (or a grave disappointment). Plus, the prospect of seeing Christopher Walken singing and dancing is enough to get anyone excited. Just watch Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice video or John Turturro’s Romance and Cigarettes if you don’t believe me.

35. Our Kind of Traitor

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John Le Carre’s tales of spies and espionage always provides decent source material and tends to make for quite decent cinema. The first of two adaptations on this list to hit next year is the usual tale of espionage and intrigue, but the book is terrific, the story following an ordinary couple caught between a Russian Oligarch’s intentions to defect, the Russian Mafia and the British Secret Service. Naturally of course, nobody can trust nobody in Le Carre’s world. Ewan McGregor is the only one signed on so far, with Susanna White calling the shots.

36. Transcendence

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Wally Pfister has been Christopher Nolan’s go to DP since Memento but now, Pfister has decided it was his turn to sit in the director’s chair with what sounds like an intriguing and incredibly ambitious debut effort. According to IMDB the story follows two leading computer scientists who work toward the goal of Technological Singularity, in which computers can transcend the human brain. And for an ambitious effort, Pfister has acquired a fine cast, with Johnny Depp taking the lead, with support from Nolan alumni Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall and Cillian Murphy, with Paul Bettany and Kate Mara thrown in for good measure. Luscious looking visuals are a definite, and hopefully Pfister can weave a decent story to go with them.

37. The Boxtrolls

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With Coraline and ParaNorman, Laika Animation firmly established themselves as a worthy contender in the animation world. And come next year, Laika look set to make it three for three with The Boxtrolls, the adaptation of Alan Snow’s children’s book. The story follows a young orphaned boy who, having been raised by cave dwelling trash collectors the Boxtrolls, tries to save his bizarre family from a nasty exterminator. The first trailer, despite being merely a teaser, was a joy to watch, with the same signature animation that marked Laika’s last two efforts. Featuring the voice talents of Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Sir Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette and Nick Frost, this could be the animation of 2014 to beat.

38. Inherent Vice

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It’s always great when a new Paul Thomas Anderson movie comes out. Love or hate his movies, there is no denying that his movies always spark interest and debate. His latest, based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Pynchon, follows drug fueled detective Larry “Doc” Sportello as he investigates the death of a former girlfriend in 1970s Los Angeles. Joaquin Phoenix reunites with Anderson to play Sportello and the film also features Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, Benecio Del Toro and Martin Short of all people, in what will surely be another beautifully poetic yet highly divisive film from Anderson.

39. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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The first film in the rebooted web-slinger’s franchise, may have changed faces, but was ultimately the exact same story as Raimi’s original 2002 entry, basically repeating the exact same origin story beat for beat. Now that all that the introductions are done and over with, things can now really get down to business for the sequel, and Marc Webb’s follow up promises to put Spidey through the absolute ringer. The first trailer looked great in my view, but with Rhino, Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx’s Electro on villain duty, one can’t help but be reminded of the villain overload that was Spider-Man 3. In trying to keep up with Marvel Studios’ world building, and with reports of a Venom and Sinister Six movie in the works, could Sony be biting off more than they can chew with Spidey’s own cinematic universe? We’ll just have to wait and find out.

40. Foxcatcher

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Originally scheduled for an awards season release date, Bennet Miller’s true story of Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz’s murder at the hands of John DuPont, is now set for release early next year. A shame really, as it looked as if it really could have shaken up the awards race. The first footage from the film seemed to show a wholly different side to Steve Carell than we’ve seen before. Heavily made up with a fake nose, it seemed that Carell has given his absolute all to play the unstable John DuPont while Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo look to be on form as the Schultz brothers. Miller’s got a great track record with true life stuff already with Capote and Moneyball so I have a lot of anticipation for this one.

41. Frank

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Director Lenny Abrahamson made a splash this year with the release of What Richard Did, a startling coming of age tale that I implore you all to see as soon as possible. Abrahamson goes for something on the more comedic side with his next film, Frank. The film follows Domhnall Gleeson’s young musician who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an eccentric pop band led by Michael Fassbender’s mysterious and enigmatic Frank. That’s Fassbender wearing the big fake head in the picture. Domhnall Gleeson is certainly making the rounds, and it will be interesting to see Mr. Fassbender play a more eccentric and comedic role for a change. One to seek out.

42. Gone Girl

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Gillian Flynn’s novel is one of those books, that if all your friends have read and you haven’t, they’re probably talking about it to no end, annoying the hell out of you, before totally excluding you until you’ve read it so you can then rejoin the friend circle. With twists and turns and a seriously dark edge, what better director for such material than David Fincher. With Ben Affleck’s credibility on the rise once again, he takes the lead opposite Rosamund Pike as the “gone girl” this could be a return to the dark thriller that made Fincher a household name.

43. Fury

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Up until now, writer-director David Ayer has been known pretty much for movies set in or around LA involving corrupt cops and guys driving around in cars, lamenting about the streets. Next year he has two films out. The first, the Arnold Schwarzenegger led Sabotage which frankly looks quite poo and this one. For Fury Ayer heads back to World War 2, for a tale of an American tank crew heading into Nazi Germany towards the end of the war for a dangerous mission. Brad Pitt stars as the tank commander with his crew headed up by Jon Bernthal, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and copycat extraordinaire Shia LaBeouf. Expect action, tanks, and Shia LaBeouf copying his fellow crew members notes.

44. A Most Wanted Man

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The second John Le Carre adaptation of the year is by all accounts a more interesting prospect. Featuring a great cast led by Rachel McAdams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the film is being directed by Anton Corbijn, the photographer turned filmmaker who directed the sublime Control and 70s inspired The American. The latter was something more of a contemplative, slow burning affair and considering Le Carre’s style, it would seem that this could be a perfect marriage between director and source material. Definitely a thriller to keep and eye out for.

45. The Double

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Richard Ayoade’s first feature, Submarine, was a warm and funny coming of age story about the  utter awkwardness of growing up and everything that goes with it. Ayoade is changing gears somewhat for his second outing as director. Based on the novella by Dostoevsky, The Double finds Jesse Eisenberg’s mild mannered Simon whose life is suddenly turned upside down by the appearance of James, Simon’s more confident and charismatic doppelganger. The trailer looked great and seemed to be a step in the right direction for Ayoade’s evolution as a director, yet the film so far has received decidedly average reviews. But still, for anyone who saw Submarine (and you really should if you haven’t) then The Double should be very high on your “must see” list.

46. Winter’s Tale

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I’ll admit, when I watched the trailer for Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut the first time, I barely could fathom what the hell this movie was. I’ve watched it a few times now, and I still have no clue as to what this film is. Yes, it has romance, but it’s also got time travel, fantasy elements, Russell Crowe as a weird demon like devil person, Colin Farrell as a thief who travels through time or is reincarnated or whatever after falling in love with Jessica Brown Findlay’s heiress, then gets help from Jennifer Connolly and it all seems a little insane, but oh look… Love, awwwwwwwww. Yes, this is first and foremost a love story and could be one of those tearjerking romances that could spark a many date nights for years to come.

47. Godzilla

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The last time we saw the great lizard on the big screen, he was being camped up by Roland Emmerich humping it in New York City and giving birth to little mini godzillas and basically pissing every one off in the process. But next year, the big of lizard is back with a vengeance. The first trailer of Gareth Edwards reboot managed to banish all memories of Emmerich’s incarnation. Utilizing a sample of Gyorgy Ligeti’s music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the trailer showed that Warner Bros. risk in hiring Edwards, whose only previous experience was the micro budget Monsters, has paid off big time. With promises to harken back to Japanese original and putting the focus on the human characters in the film, Edwards’ reboot could be the blockbuster of the summer. And I haven’t even mentioned the terrific cast which includes Aaron Taylor Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins and Elizabeth Olsen.

48. Jupiter Ascending

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If there is one thing that cannot be denied, it is the sheer ambition of The Wachowski siblings. Their last film was the insanely ambitious Cloud Atlas which was, depending on who you talk to, an epic masterpiece or a complete disaster. But there is no denying the scope of its ambition, and the Wachowskis ambition continue again next summer with Jupiter Ascending. Not based on any existing material, this is a wholly original sci-fi tale. And from the quite stunning first teaser, this looks to be pure space opera. Luscious designs, alien worlds, robots, Channing Tatum in weird make-up; all the ingredients necessary to fashion a grandiose sci-fi tale. Like almost all the Wachowski’s output (apart from The Matrix) this will no doubt be divisive, but there is no denying the appeal of an original sic-fi movie that isn’t based on a comic book, that isn’t a remake or sequel.

49. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Apart from a couple of exceptions, the X-Men franchise kind of went downhill following Bryan Singer’s departure from the franchise. The Last Stand was a let down, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was just… ugh. Thankfully X-Men: First Class and this year’s The Wolverine managed to keep things afloat. But now Singer is back in the director’s chair for one of the most celebrated story arcs in X-Men lore. It is also the most ambitious film of the X-Men franchise to date combining the original cast with their First Class counterparts. Not to mention, time travel, sentinels and everything else along with a cast of about a million, Days of Future Past is already on course to be the biggest X-Men film yet. Hopefully Singer can do his X2 thing and keeps all the proverbial balls in the air.

50. Interstellar

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Now that he’s finally done with Batman, Christopher Nolan can finally get away from comic books and do his own thing, even though if his own thing was once in the hands of Steven Spielberg to direct. Scripted by Nolan’s brother Jonathan Nolan, all we know about Interstellar is that the story follows a group of explorers as they make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage. The first recently released teaser didn’t even go that far in letting us know that much, but we did see a rather melancholic looking Matthew McConaughey, which is by no means a bad thing given that man’s recent career resurgence. With a great cast, as is the standard for a Nolan film, this will no doubt be the most anticipated movie of next year.

First of all, let me apologize for the sheer lack of activity on this blog over the last several months. Life seems to have gotten the better of me, as you can imagine, what with Graduate school and trying to forge a career and all that malarkey blah blah blah. But now, yay, I have some time to post a couple of items, and just in time for the brand spanking new year as well.

With 2013 almost behind us, it is time to look ahead to see what treats and disappointments, the world of cinema has in store for us in 2014. So, like all good film bloggers and writers around this time, as well as putting together my Best/Worst of the year lists, I have put together a list of fifty movies that we can look forward to in 2014. Let’s get this show on the road.

1. The Monuments Men

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Boasting an all star cast, including the likes of Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Jean Dujardin, George Clooney’s latest directorial effort,  promises to be a classy old fashioned Hollywood affair with extra charm to boot. Originally slated for a December 2013 release, the film was pushed back to February 2014 when Clooney asked the studio for more time to finish up with post production. The move could prove beneficial, having now been removed from the already crowded awards race. Based on a true story, the film follows a group of unlikely heroes (is there any other kind?) tasked with rescuing stolen artworks from the Nazis towards the end of World War 2. Everything we’ve seen in the trailers promises an effortlessly classy affair with a top draw cast to boot.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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With Thor: The Dark World scoring a whopping $600 million plus worldwide, the Marvel cinematic universe seems to show no signs of slowing down. Come April, Marvel Studios unleashes the next installment in their plan for blockbuster domination, with Captain America’s second solo adventure. Captain America: The First Avenger was a bit of a lame duck in the Marvel canon, but now that old Cap is firmly rooted in the present, things look set to get a whole lot more complicated for Chris Evans’ shield waving patriot. The trailer looked all kinds of impressive, especially considering this is from the Russo brothers, the guys whose CV sports the likes of episodes of Community and You me and Dupree. Not the first names you think of when it comes to comic book blockbuster movie, but they seemed to have nailed the look and the spectacle in this movie. Plus with the addition of Robert Redford in a key role, and a plot in which it’s not clear as to who the good and bad guys are, this could be one of the more interesting of the phase 2 Marvel movies.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

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And speaking of Marvel, the fourth and final film in their Phase 2 plan, seems to be the riskiest and potentially most bonkers movie out of all the Marvel movies, cinematic universe or not. Anyone who stuck around for the mid credits sting in Thor:The Dark World would have already had a glimpse of the kind of thing we can expect from director James Gunn’s movie, with Benecio Del Toro gleefully hamming it up as The Collector. Featuring the likes of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista and a talking tree called Groot and a gun toting raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper, this looks set to be one of the more insane and potentially brilliant blockbusters of next summer.

4. Only Lovers Left Alive

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It’s time for vampires to be cool again and what better director to take that challenge that Jim Jarmusch. Seriously, Jarmusch tackling vampires? With Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as the titular lovers? Who wouldn’t get excited about that? Making the rounds on the festival circuit earlier this year, Only Lovers Left Alive seems to be pure Jarmusch. With great minimalism and beauty, the likes that only Jarmusch can muster, the film looks set to take the vampire myth and put a stake through the memories of those sparkly ones. With Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston playing the two lovers, and boasting support from Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt, Only Lovers Left Alive is set for release early next year.

5. Jane Got a Gun

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Making headlines for all the wrong reasons, the behind the scenes documentary would probably be far more fascinating to see than whatever it is we eventually get to see on screen. Originally slated to be directed by Lynne Ramsey before she unexpectedly went MIA on the first day of filming, the film is now under the guidance of Gavin O’Connor. With an ever changing cast, production troubles the film somehow managed to to finish filming and now looks set for release August 2014. One must be feeling for star and producer Natalie Portman who stuck with it throughout the whole shenanigans. No matter how the film turns out in the end, it will simply be a success for making it to the screen at all. This will undoubtedly be case of the behind the scenes shenanigans being far more interesting than the final product.

6. Divergent

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With the exception of The Hunger Games, the YA bubble was in considerable danger of finally bursting this year. With The Host failing to capitalize on the Stephanie Meyer brand and both Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal InstrumentsCity of Bones failing to make any kind of impact at the box office, it seemed as if the YA adaptation had finally had its day. Divergent however, could be the one to step up and challenge Miss Everdeen for her crown. Based on the first of the best selling series by Veronica Roth, Neil Burger’s adaptation stars Shaileene Woodley as a member of dystopic society, while people are separated into factions based on personality traits. All the ingredients of a classic YA are here; young tough female protagonist entering a strange new world, finding her strength, making out with buff guys with their shirts off, and battling evil doers. This looks set to be a hit with its core audience and could reignite the YA box office bubble.

7. The Maze Runner

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The second YA adaptation of the year seems a far more interesting prospect. Once again, set in a dystopian future (of course) this one focuses on a group of lads, who are thrown into what is essentially a prison like community with their memories erased. Surrounded by a strange maze like structure, our hero, Thomas, has to become a titular Maze Runner in order to navigate and escape wherever it is that they have been placed. Featuring scary ass monsters and plenty of intrigue, this could prove to be a far more intriguing prospect than the usual YA adaptations that we’ve been accustomed to. Starring the likes of Will Poulter and Thomas Brodie Sangster, along with Patricia Clarkson and Kaya Scodelario, The Maze Runner could prove to be the male alternative to the so far female centric YA adaptations.

8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

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But of course, the queen of the YA adaptation (for the next couple of years at least) is still Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss. Doing the now standard thing of splitting the final book into two parts, there’s no doubt that the first part of the finale will be just as massive as the first two entries, despite being the less well regarded of the three books. I was not a fan of the first movie, but I have to admit I was mightily impressed with Catching Fire. New director Francis Lawrence seemed far more comfortable with the material than his predecessor, while Jennifer Lawrence firmly cemented the role of Katniss as her own. Now that Katniss is done with the games, the first part of the third part (yes, that is ridiculous) will no doubt be another global hit and promises actual revolution and high emotion next time around.

9. The Hobbit: There and Back Again

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Some are still questioning the necessity of adapting a 3oo page book into a nine hour trilogy, but there is no denying the appeal of Tolkien’s world and Peter Jackson’s interpretation of it. While the first installment had its flaws, The Desolation of Smaug was a vast improvement, reminding us of Jackson’s skill at pure epic fantasy filmmaking.With dragons, and a huge battle involving five, yes that’s right, five armies yet to come, the final part of The Hobbit trilogy could be the epic swansong that we’ve been hoping since The Lord of the Rings ended in 2003.

10. Transformers: Age of Extinction

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Okay, first of all, let’s be clear: the first three Transformers movies were not that great. Pretty awful in some cases. So stupid and ridiculous in fact, that Michael Bay himself has apologized (or not, nobody’s really sure) on more than one occasion. But now, with a brand spanking new cast lead by Mark Wahlberg, and with promises from Bay himself of eliminating the “goofiness and cheesiness” from the movies, could the fourth Transformers movie be more than a giant toy advert with explosions and gratuitous pervy shots of young good looking people? Probably not. But let’s face it, nobody does explosions and yellow camera filters better than Michael Bay. Plus, sometimes one needs to see giant robots beating ten times of crap out of each other. Oh, and did we mention, Dino robots?

11. The Lego Movie

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Okay, I have to admit, when I first heard that a movie was being made from Lego, I was hugely skeptical. Like a massive miserable skeptic man, whose superpower was being a miserable old bastard. But lo and behold how times change with the release of a trailer or two. From the guys who brought us 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, it’s easy to know what we can expect from the movie featuring everyone’s favorite childhood toy. The trailers make the movie look fantastic, with voice work from the likes of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, the film looks to a blast from start to finish. Also, Will Arnett as Lego Batman= pure genius.

12. 22 Jump Street

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21 Jump Street was a surprise hit, both commercially and critically. Hilarious from start to finish, it was enough for the studio to warrant a sequel and so now we get the aptly titled 22 Jump Street.  With our intrepid heroes now having graduated from High School, we find them undercover as freshman in college. Expect hijinks galore involving dorms, coed showers, weed, and whatever else young freshman get up to in college these days along with riffs on every college movie cliche in the book. The first red band trailer just released promises more of the same which is in no way a bad things. If it is anything like the first movie, then this could be comedy of the year.

13. Veronica Mars

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After the historical Kickstarter project from Rob Thomas and co. the Veronica Mars movie is actually finally happening. The will of the people have spoken and the film adaptation of the cult TV series is set for release next March, with all the major principles returning, including a few new faces. For fans of the short lived show, which ran for three seasons, this movie is a glorious thing, something that for a long time was nothing more than a pipe dream. But oh technology and crowdfunding and kickstarter, yay. Hopefully the film manages to capture the magic of the TV show and live up to fans expectations.

14. The Raid 2: Berandal

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Gareth Evans first Raid movie came out of nowhere in 2011, punching and kicking its way into movie history as an instant action classic. A hard act to follow, no doubt, but Gareth Evans and star Iwo Ikais have not let expectations deter them as the sequel looks set to hit screens early next year and looks set to be just as bloody and brutal as the first movie. Supposedly picking up a mere two hours from where the first movie ended, the first teaser promises action as insane and crazy as the first. Evans proved himself a true action director with The Raid, so here’s hoping he’s been able to evolve his talents for the second movie and deliver something that transcends even the quality of the first one. A tall order for sure, but I feel confident he has.

15. Noah

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Darren Aronofsky always manages to make interesting and visually compelling films, regardless of what you may think of them. I personally believe that The Fountain was one of the most visually stunning movies of the last decade. The sheer prospect of a director like Aronofsky tackling a biblical story as epic and iconic as the Noah story is something to truly get excited about. Reports of troubles behind the scenes are to be expected with a director as unconventional as Aronofsky, but that should not deter from the fact that this could be an epic in the truest sense of the word. With Russell Crowe in the title role with ample support from the likes of Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins, this might be one not to miss come March next year.

16. Exodus

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And speaking of biblical epics, Aronofsky is not the only director taking on the old testament. Ridley Scott takes on the Moses story in Exodus with Christian Bale taking on the title role supported by a cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Sir Ben Kingsley and Aaron Paul. With Scott’s visual panache, we can most certainly expect grandstanding epic visuals, worthy of such a story. However, with Scott’s last two movies, Prometheus and The Counselor proving gut busting disappointments, some may have lost faith in Scott’s ability to produce compelling storytelling. However, with this cast and this kind of material, who knows. Then again, that’s what I said about The Counselor.

17. Rosewater

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If you are fans of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, you may have noticed that regular host Jon Stewart took a break this summer to go away and shoot a movie. However, this is not a political satire as one might expect from the late night news satirist, but rather a tale of political imprisonment and survival. The film tells the true story of a journalist detained in Iran for more than 100 days and his brutal interrogation he experienced at the hands of his captors. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, it will be interesting to see how Stewart handles the material in his first major directorial effort.

18. The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson returns to our screens next year with what could possibly be his most entertaining movie yet. Boasting his most unique visual style and wit, The Grand Budapest Hotel looks pure Wes Anderson in all its glory and then some. Ralph Fiennes looks to be on top form, exercising some rare comic talents that we haven’t had a chance to see from the actor before (unless of course you count Maid in Manhattan but you’re not are you, not). The starry cast is full of the usual Wes Anderson regulars, including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartman and Tilda Swinton plus a whole bunch more. For Anderson fans, this looks like a pure delight. For everyone else, well… This looks like a pure delight.

19. Nymphomaniac

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Ah Lars Von Trier… Always a talking point. Good or bad, the man knows how to stir up the hornet’s nest. Whether or not his films are actually worth any kind of artistic merit or are simply made to garner a shock reaction out of people, will no doubt be debated for years, and no doubt that question will be asked again when he unleashes his latest opus upon us. Charting the sexual history of a woman through her entire life, the first trailer promises scenes of intense visceral scenes that only a director like Von Trier is capable of. Sure to make headlines when it premieres at Cannes next year, it will no doubt be the movie that almost everyone will be talking about this time next year.

20. How to Catch A Monster

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Ryan Gosling may have made a name for himself as one of the coolest and just really really good looking leading men of his generation, but now he’s decided to step behind the camera for his first directorial effort. Described as a fantasy neo-noir, How to Catch a Monster tells the story of a single mother who enters a dark lifestyle, while her son uncovers a road leading to an underwater utopia. It all sounds very mysterious and surreal. No doubt a first trailer will shed more light on the kind of thing that Gosling is going for, but one can imagine it won’t be your usual fantasy neo-noir, considering the kind of directors Gosling has worked with in the past (I’m looking at you Winding Refn). With a cast that includes Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn, Saorise Ronan, Christina Hendricks and former Doctor Who himself Matt Smith, file this one under one of the more intriguing prospects of next year.

21. Dark Places

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Anyone who’s read the book knows what kind of thing to expect when Gilles Paquet Brenner’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s brilliantly compelling novel opens next year. Dark Places follows Libby Day (Charlize Theron), the only surviving witness of a horrific massacre that took her mother and sisters. Believing the slaughter to be the work of a Satanic cult, Libby testifies in court against her own brother. 25 years after the murder, she remains haunted by the gruesome violence of her past when she meets a group of amateur investigators who call themselves “The Kill Club”. In order to help them, Libby must unearth painful memories of the event, and learn that her past may not be what it seems. The brutal massacre that provides the catalyst for events of the film, leads into a comment on poverty and marital abuse. With a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Chloe Moretz and Nicholas Hoult this is most certainly a contender for thriller of the year.

22. Animal Rescue

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Enough Said may have shown the greatness that James Gandolfini was still yet to achieve following his untimely death but Michael R. Roskam’s film will mark the great actor’s final appearance in a film. Not only notable for that, the film looks intriguing nonetheless. The story is centered around a pit bull, a scam artist and a killing. With Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace taking lead roles and featuring a screenplay from crime writer Dennis Lehane, this could prove to be a melancholic swansong for Gandolfini and also a damn good crime drama to boot. And if this cutesy picture of Tom Hardy and a pit bull isn’t enough to make you want to see the movie, then your heart is made of ice.

23. Child 44

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The second film of 2014 to feature both Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Once slated for Ridley Scott to direct at one point, the film, now being helmed by Daniel Espinosa, set in Stalin era Soviet Russia, tells the story of Leo Demidov, a disgraced MGB agent sent to investigate a series of child murders, which could have connections to the very top of party leadership. Tom Rob Smith’s source material is a cracking good read and is the first in a trilogy of novels featuring Hardy’s and Rapace’s characters. Featuring an all star cast, including Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinneman, Vincent Cassel and Paddy Considine, the film is set for release at some point next year.

24. Maleficent

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Out of all the Disney villains that have terrified and enthralled us over the years, only one stands above all others and that is Maleficent, the iconic witch from Dinesy’s Sleeping Beauty. Now it seems, she’s getting a film of her own. Touted as the “untold story” the film stars Angelina Jolie as the iconic villain (early prize for most perfect casting of the year), and promises to tell the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of our favorite black horned witch. The first trailer revealed some nice Disneyfied visuals and could be a far more intriguing prospect from the mouse house than most fare they’ve put out before. Hopefully the film is as interesting as Maleficent herself.

25. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Okay, I’ll admit; I have such mixed feelings when it comes to this movie. Firstly, being an absolute TMNT fanboy, I welcome any kind of TMNT film that hits the screen. But this, this thing… Okay, first of all, the whole alien thing. Apparently that’s been thrown under the bus, which is fine, then there’s the whole Jonathan Libesmann directing thing. For someone whose best movie to date is Battle: La, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when it comes to handling the greatest cultural anything ever invented by mankind. Then there’s Michael Bay… Nuff said. But hell, it’s a TMNT film. William Fichtner is playing Shredder. That’s already pretty damn awesome. Plus it’s TMNT, on the big screen. Who isn’t excited about the prospect of a new TMNT movie?

Check back later for the second part of the 50 Movies To Look Forward To in 2014

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First of all, let me apologize for being so slack with my blog posts lately. I suck, I know. Things have just gotten away from me the last few months. From finishing up my first year at Tisch, to writing new plays and screenplays, to rewriting old plays, screenplays and everything else, my blog has become a somewhat poor neglected Dickens-esque child, coughing and sputtering in the corner begging for more.  But now I’m on summer break (yay) and in between writing and rewriting and my upcoming trip to LA, I promise to spend more time with my blog and the few readers that it has out there in the big old internet thing.

As you can no doubt distinguish from the title of this post, I recently saw Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach’s latest offering of independent cinema joy, co-written by and starring the wonderful Greta Gerwig. At first I was skeptical for the simple reason that I just really really don’t like Noah Baubach’s work. He just makes the most frustrating movies all populated with the most detestable group of pseudo intellectuals ever assembled. I actually didn’t mind The Squid and The Whale. The characters were deplorable but maybe that was the point. Margot at the Wedding I just all out hated precisely because I wanted to gouge the eyes out of all these characters and Greenberg, well… The less said the better. So my overall feelings towards Noah Baumbach were a little… negative let’s say. But Frances Ha had been recommended to me by a friend and in the case of this particular friends she has relatively good taste in movies, plus the film itself was getting great write ups in the trades from the likes of Todd McCarthy over at the Hollywood Reporter and Pete Travers at Rolling Stone whose opinions I respect very much. So I thought, alright I’ll give it a shot. Plus if I didn’t I would be going against my own movie watching ethic of never going into a film with any preconceived notions beforehand.

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Now believe it or not, I want to like every movie that I watch. I really do. I don’t want to go in and want to be annoyed by movies or actively seek to hate a movie. No. No way. I love movies. I want to love every movie I see, otherwise why am I doing this. Even the movies that I know are going to be shitty. I want there to be at least one thing in there that I can derive enjoyment from; and I really really wanted to like Frances Ha. Honestly I did…

But alas… Twas not to be… Instead what I witnessed was the most annoying and frustrating movie of the year so far. Dear God…

If you haven’t seen the film then here’s a quick breakdown and just so you’re aware, spoilers ahead from this moment out. The story revolves around Greta Gerwig’s Frances; a twenty-something aspiring dancer/choreographer living in Brooklyn trying to figure out her life while her best friend is growing up and getting married and moving on with her life, while Frances remains stuck in a twenty something bubble of quirkyness and living with self absorbed douchebag types who hang out and live in a cool Brooklyn apartment, living free life and writing Gremlins 3 specs and having fun, until Frances realizes “Oh shit, I need to get my life figured out” and then well… you know where this shit is going. This is of course all done in hipster indie cool black and white cinematography to a now obviously stereotypical cool “indie” soundtrack that is synonymous with independent movies. Yes, this is one of those films.

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First, let’s start with the positives, because of course there are some, and I don’t just want this post to just be a rant about my annoyances with the film. This is not what one would necessarily call a “bad movie”. It’s perfectly well made and it looks nice and such. It’s made by people who know what they’re doing, which in our youtube, digital age, is a nice thing to see. Greta Gerwig, of course, is sublime in the lead role. She is but another example of what seems like a never ending conveyor belt of terrific young actresses who are taking this industry by storm at the moment. She encapsulates all the self deprecation and quirkyness of an annoying twentysomething Brooklyn semi-artist (in this case a dancer) with all the gusto, charm and warmth that just about makes this film tolerable enough for me to sit through its entire ninety minute runtime.

Yet even with Greta Gerwig’s great central performance, this film is still fricking annoying as you can probably tell from my lame attempts at trying to put a positive spin in that last sentence there.

From the get go we’re informed that Greta’s character, Frances, is a bit of a quirky one. She and her quirky roommate have playfights in the park, run around doing all kinds of quirky stuff, like busking by dancing and then giving the rewards to more buskers and running off hand in hand laughing like annoying little shitty children. They sit on fire escapes drinking, talking in their really cool quirky apartment, while cool music plays over what they are saying. They’re young and free and being all New Yorky and young and quirky and all that palava. All doing it to a nifty indie soundtrack and black and white cinematography. It seems that life is good for these quirky gals.

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Frances is the type of girl who is just too damn quirky for her own good. The type of girl who randomly starts dancing in the street to an offbeat s”indie” soundtrack, which apparently makes her endearing.  She’s so damn quirky in fact that her boyfriend breaks up with her after he asks her to move in with him. So damn quirky that she ultimately becomes distant from her best friend who decides that she just can’t be quirky anymore and needs to move on and get married and be an adult and live in Tribeca. But Frances can’t live in Tribeca because she’s poor and she’s poor because she’s quirky and she’s quirky because refuses to grow up and everyone else is just a snob or a bore or a privileged hipster type guy blah blah blah blah blah fuckig blah. Elongated Sigh…

It was at this point in the movie where I started to become annoyed. Why? Because all this quirkyness is just so god damn frustrating. Apparently this is supposed to be a reflection on my life and countless other lives o twentysomethings who are pesudo intellectual artistic types. But my God these people are fricking annoying.

Now Lena Dunham’s Girls does something similar in this realm. Althought Lena Dunham does it with skill. She knows how annoying these damn quirky girls can be and she plays on that. Now, I’m not personally a big fan of Girls but I can respect the writing and the conviction on which it bases it’s principles. But Frances Ha…

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Frances is just another damn quirky girl who is just too damn quirky to fit in this world. Apparently this makes her “special” in some way or something. Because she is quirky she hasn’t got her shit together and this is a bad thing, all because she is quirky and everything. She dances in the street and makes awkward conversations during dinner at a snobby intellectual dinner party, but no-one really understands her and gets her because she’s quirky and weird and apparently this is supposed to be endearing.

So as the film progresses, we see Frances’s life slowly descend into more and more desperate circumstances etc. She can’t pay the rent on the apartment that she is living in with two, obviously privileged trust-fund boys, she ends up waitressing at her old college, all the while it seems her friend is married and is a responsible adult and whatnot. Basically Frances needs to grow up stop being so quirky and get her shit together.

Apparently, the major revelation to emerge from this film is that guess what, nobody has this shit figured out yet. All that matters is that you remain true to yourself as a person, never compromise who you are and yeah, you know, things will work themselves out no problem. Frances never changes throughout this movie. She remains exactly the same. She remains her bouncy quirky self. All that changes is she gets a job and an apartment of her own. (Slow clap). Woo hoo. Thank you for that. Thank you for putting me through 90 minutes just to show me how Frances gets a job and still remains her quirky self. Thank you for telling me that people grow up and become adults. Revel-fucking-ation.

No matter who you are, you will never have this stuff figured out. But it’s okay, because if you remain quirky enough and dance along in the street and do weird awkward stuff in stuffy, intellectual boring people homes and never compromise who you are, all along to an offbeat “indie” soundtrack and in black and white cinematography then yeah, you’re golden. Life is your fricking oyster man. Only if your remain quirky though.

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You see, this is the kind of film that appeals to that new kind of audience. The “cool kids”. It’s trying to be one of those cool, hip New York indie movies about a quirky twentysomething growing up and learning that being quirky and artistic is awesome and hard at the same time.

I don’t know, maybe I’m being too harsh on the film. I don’t mind quirky people. I don’t. I said, I respect Lena Dunham and what she’s doing with Girls. I actually like New Girl and even (500) Days of Summer. But Frances Ha… It’s like an independent movie made on committee. Quirky character: check. Offbeat soundtrack: check. Offbeat cinematography: check. Characters are pseudo intellectuals/artists: check. Cool, hip young cast including Adam Driver from Girls essentially doing the exact same schtick he does in Girls: check.

It’s like somebody took all the elements that make an “indie movie” and blended it all together and out came this annoying piece of mush. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just not down with Frances and her quirky ways. Maybe I’m not the right audience. Okay I’m not a gal, but I live in New York, I’m a struggling artist (writer), and I like to think of myself as a little bit quirky. I’m sort of pseudo intellectual. I’m twentysomething. I’M THE PERFECT FUCKING AUDIENCE FOR THIS MOVIE.

So why oh why did I find this movie so God damn annoying…

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Maybe because it was just I’d felt like I’d seen this a million times before. There was nothing profound about this movie. Frances herself as a character doesn’t change or go through any life shattering revelations. She just gets a job. And an apartment. Maybe people find that endearing, that she doesn’t compromise who she is. I mean, it’s easy to like her I guess (if you’re not me of course). Greta Gerwig is an incredibly likable presence and like I said, if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think I would’ve made it through the film’s 90 minute runtime.

Maybe the film is too hip for me, what with the soundtrack and the black and white. Maybe it’s because that the big revelation of this film is that as long as you remain quirky, everything will be alright. Maybe all these writers and filmmakers who seems to be obsessed with pseudo intellectual artist young people types, living in New York, just think that being quirky is cool and fun and special. Maybe I’m the one who is not getting it. Maybe I should be more quirky.

I don’t know. All that I know is that I found Frances Ha to be the most annoying film of 2013. Not the worst film by any means. Just the most annoying.

 

 

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It feels like an age has passed since I turned in the final draft of the screenplay for my short film Black Cab, but the other day I finally manged to get my first look at the final finished film, in all it’s sound mixed, colour graded festival circuit ready glory. Yes, after months of scripting, production delays, funding issues yadayada ya, Black Cab, the short film which I wrote and my good friend Leopold Hughes directed, has finally been completed.

Finally, seeing the whole completed movie for the first time was a strange, nerve wracking experience. You see, apart from writing the thing, I had missed out on everything else. As soon as I handed in the final draft to Leo, that was it, I packed up my things and buggered off to New York and to Tisch. It was the first of my short films to get a full on proper professional production with a proper sizable budget and craft services and everything; and I had just buggered off to New York. Kudos to Leo and the rest of the team for working their arses off to get this film off the ground while I was swanning around in New York. I know that it’s not proper practice for a writer to be on set during production and whatnot, but still… I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to be there.

I had written scripts before that had produced before but not on a professional level such as this. Those other scripts, including a few shorts and a feature I co-wrote, was butchered and produced in such an unprofessional and haphazard manner that they never really counted as anything but learning experiences. Black Cab was the first script of mine that was produced to a high professional standard. No student directors who hadn’t read the script properly this time around, no lackluster production methods, no no no… This one had funding and everything; including a level of professionalism that hadn’t existed on those previous productions.

And I had missed all of it…

I had only reread the script once since handing in the final draft. To say that I wasn’t cringing all the way through as I read would be a huge understatement. I couldn’t help but see glaring flaws in the narrative, cursing myself at every single line of dialogue, second guessing every single one of my decisions, coming up with better ideas in my head, belittling myself at every opportunity, condemning myself as a failure and that I would never achieve anything as a writer and blah blah blah whine whine whine oh woe is me and all that malarkey. But it was too late. Nothing I could do now. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. I mean, Leo said he was happy with the script. He believed it was strong enough to go into production with it and numerous third parties who had read the script had said they liked it. I trusted Leo. I knew that if he wasn’t happy or if he thought the script wasn’t all it could be then he would have said so and asked me to make some changes in that ever so nice friendly and polite manner he has. But he didn’t. He was happy, therefore I was happy. I could forget about it, finally put Black Cab aside and focus on my other projects. Which is exactly what I did. But what if Leo was stupid? What if I had been fooling myself all along and he had no idea what he was talking about? Luckily he knew exactly what he was doing but that’s not the point. The point is, that I was very very nervous about everything. But I put it out of my mind and went off to New York and let Leo do whatever it was he needed to do to make this thing.

Leo went off and assembled the crew, acquired funding and in October 2012, went into production of Black Cab. Leo had been great it giving me updates as production progressed and I knew that the project was in very safe, secure, capable hands. Hell, it was Leo’s story. Of course it would be in safe hands. He had sent me details of the crew, audition tapes of the cast etc. Everything was moving along nicely. I felt safe in the knowledge that Leo had this thing nailed to the ground and I could sit back and worry about all the other projects that I had impending deadlines for.

But as production neared, a longing had invaded my heart. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be there on the first night of shooting as the first AD called action, as the camera and the lighting team set up shots, as the cast went over their lines and prepared for their roles. Hell, I just wanted to meet the cast and the crew. To this day I’ve only met a couple of members of the crew. I haven’t even met the wonderful two actors who played these characters I had lived with in my head for several months over numerous painstaking drafts.

It was probably best that I wasn’t there in all honesty. As a screenwriter, it’s important to let go. As writers, it’s easy to get tied down and protective of the words you’ve slaved over for months on end, but like any other collaborative medium, especially film, you have to trust your director, trust your crew to do the damn best job they can. Luckily Leo is a very collaborative director and kept me in the loop throughout the process, trusting me to deliver and do my job to the best of my ability. I had to put trust in his ability, had to trust him to do his job to the best of his ability and I knew that he would. In all honesty, if I was there on set during production, I probably would’ve added unnecessary tension and pressure, acting as backseat director without meaning to. Maybe, but who knows for certain. I wouldn’t do that. Well… I might but I wouldn’t. Who knows. I know I wouldn’t.

I wouldn’t. Just so everyone is aware. Can I emphasize that point any more?

As the first set of production stills came in, a wave of sadness passed over me. My first professional production… And I missed it. I would’ve been happy with one day, hell even an hour on set. Just to be there. It’s only a short film but still, it was a short film that I was passionate about, a short film with a proper budget, a professional cast and crew, and I wasn’t there. Shame. But it was amazing to see this project finally go into production, to actually go in front of the cameras, to hear people say they liked it enough to actually put money towards it, something that at one point I thought would never happen.

I followed along with the twitter and facebook updates and email updates from Leo right up until the final announcement of “THAT’S A WRAP ON BLACK CAB”. It was a surreal feeling considering I had not met most of these people who were bringing my script to life and more surreal in the fact that I had not been there and only seen a few production stills of the shoot itself. I think I was just happy that the movie actually got made.

Then… Trepidation began to set it.

The updates became sparse as the film went into post production. At first I didn’t notice as I was so inundated with my own shit, and plus I had such trust in Leo that I didn’t much worry at first.

But then I had a Skype conversation…

Leo was giving me an update and telling me about how great everybody had, how chilled out the shoot was and how professional and terrific the whole experience had been. From what I was hearing everything had gone swimmingly, everything had been great… But then Leo mentioned that he had cut out two pages of the script. My stomach lurched a little. He said he had cut out two pages of script as they were just… “waffle”. Waffle? WAFFLE? Not very tactful, Leo. Well, he knows better now, as I had a word, but at the time I found myself rather annoyed. If you’re  a director don’t tell the writer that the words you had slaved over for several months and every single line had a reason for being there, were nothing but “waffle”, after you yourself had signed off on it and shot the film already. Tell the writer during writing or delete those scenes later after you’ve shot them. This was my thinking at the time. I was annoyed by this revelation and Leo then showed me a few of the rushes and I would be lying if I said viewing these rushes managed to settle my nerves. They didn’t. It definitely didn’t look like the film that I had had written and had already directed in my head.

But this wasn’t my film. This was Leo’s. He was the director. It was his vision. We were all part of a greater whole. That whole was Black Cab.

I was nervous, but I trusted Leo. From the start Leo knew what film he had wanted to make and I had to trust in his vision as he had trusted me with his story, as he had trusted me to turn in the best damn script I could. So I kept quiet, trusted Leo and let him get on with things.

And so he did. Then came the screening. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the screening as I was stuck in New York, which meant I would miss the big cast and crew party and therefore not meet anyone who had worked on this film once again. So I missed my own premiere. Cheers.

Then the other day, I finally got a chance to see the film. I had just gotten back from New York and was visiting Leo who was putting on a very lovely Sunday roast for a few friends and now I finally had the chance to sit down and see the finished product. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. A part of me was terrified. So much so in fact that I asked to be left alone to watch the film before anyone else.

I tried to relax, calm myself, threw back a couple of beers, had a nice chat and waited for the moment to arrive. When I finally sat down to watch the movie, I was a lot more relaxed than I had been. This was probably due to the beers in my system but still, I was in a far better place to see this film then I had been when I first arrived.

And so it started… and fourteen minutes later, it ended.

It was a weird feeling. Strange at first. A weird mixture of… I don’t know. Pride? Closure?

When the end credits began to roll on Black Cab, I felt… proud. I was actually happy. This son of a bitch had turned out fricking great. Better than that little shitty voice inside my head was telling me it would.

Leo has done a tremendous job with the film. Truly fantastic. It was his vision, through and through. He had made the film his own and created a truly tense and gripping experience. I actually didn’t miss the two pages he cut. In fact it probably improved upon things. It made things tighter, added tension to the situation. Leo imparted his own vision on the project. The photography was fantastic and the performances more than matched what I had in my head. In fact, towards the end I had forgotten I had actually written the script myself and found myself just watching the actual movie.

Obviously there were moments where I was cringing as I heard my dialogue spoken out loud but that’s natural for any writer. The point is, Leo, along with his fantastic cast and crew had crafted something that worked. I had been part of something that I could be proud of for once. Gone were the memories of that shambles of a feature that will never see the light of day, all those shorts that I had written that had fallen flat on their faces. Leo has done a grandstanding job with the film, more than I could have asked for.

It didn’t matter that he had altered some things, cut some things, rearranged things. In film or anything collaborative, a writer should not be a slave to their own material. Everything in film and even in theatre is a process. Art is something that is always in flux. It’s a process. As writers, we have to let go and learn to trust the people we are working with. We can moan about how our words are changed blah blah blah, but in the end that doesn’t help anybody. We’re creating something together. I wrote my version of Black Cab and then Leo took it a stage further and imparted his vision upon the project making the best damn film he could with the best damn script I could deliver at the time.

I didn’t expect to be as happy with the final product of Black Cab as I am. There’s a thrill you get when you watch something that you contributed creatively to which you feel genuinely proud of. It’s a good feeling. It’s the first time this has happened. A feeling I hope to repeat long into my career as a writer.

Overall, this Black Cab experience has been a truly remarkable one. We’ve had ups, we’ve had downs, I was even worried that I would be replaced as the main writer on the project but luckily that was my own paranoid delusions setting it, but overall this has a tremendous experience. My best so far in working in film in any capacity that wasn’t just me writing my spec scripts and plays alone in my room.

Now, we are about to do the rounds on the festival circuit. Here’s hoping.

Onwards… into that night sky, towards those glorious stars…